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Monday, October 1, 2012

Socialism and the Book of Mormon

I've seen several references to the "socialism" taught in the Book of Mormon (and the Bible). I can see where these people get this idea, but there is certainly more to it, because socialism is not taught. At all.

First of all, you must understand that those invited to live a communal lifestyle in the scriptures were members of the Church of Jesus Christ, and called Saints because of their devotion to following Jesus Christ, who taught people to turn the other cheek, love each other, and live a higher law. This communal lifestyle worked if and only if the Saints put others before self. This is hard. Everyone has to want to work hard for the benefit of others or the society disintegrates. In the New Testament, Ananias and his wife plotted to cheat the Saints and were struck dead for their selfishness. Humans are naturally selfish. The communal order only works if selfishness is rooted out - by putting off the natural man.

Evidence of that is plain in the history of the early Latter-day Saints, who were not prepared to live selflessly enough to make a communal lifestyle work long-term, and throughout the history of each and every socialist country. In this kind of society, a work ethic doesn't get you anything extra so work ethics disappear by the wayside. Only in a selfless mindset where everyone works hard can a communal society thrive. Rush Limbaugh loves to tell the story of the Pilgrims, who lived communally for the first year and didn't have enough food to last them the winter without the kindness of the Native Americans. The next year they switched to a capalistic model and had abundant food, enough to share with the Native Americans.

If you visit Eastern Europe or China you will immediately notice that the lack of free enterprise (capitalism) means less products, fewer services, lower quality, and lower quantity. Why? Without an incentive (profit) to working hard, people are lazy and selfish by nature. Kind of like some union labor. People are paid the same whether or not they work hard, so most in these kinds of unions are pretty lazy and do the bare minimum. The socialist mindset is exactly like that. The iphone wasn't invented in a socialist country nor could it have been!

You can see the ill effects of redistribution in the United States already. I've lived in South Chiago and I've seen how the welfare system is abused. Getting on welfare is the ultimate goal for a lot of people, because it means they'll never have to work again. They seek welfare of all kinds by hook or by crook. It creates an incentive for teenage girls to get pregnant and drop out of school. It creates an incentive for people to overeat and get on disability from their obesity. It creates an incentive for people to get into government housing, food stamps, and healthcare because what else do they need? Chicago adds a spending account for those (approved) without a job, meaning it creates an incentive for them to not look for any other income. This in turn leads to an increase in crime because so many people are idle and into drugs (with welfare money or dealing) and gangs, etc. They honestly don't think they have something better to do with their time - like working a job! Is this where you want your taxes going? I don't. Imagine if all of America got lazier to get paid to do nothing but make trouble (not that they all do). Who would keep paying after the takers exceed the payers? The government is already spending more of our money than they have to use.

This is all selfish. The government is selfish for taxpayer money. The welfare state is selfish for taxpayer money. The taxpayers want to keep more of their own money (selfish) so they can use it how they want instead of being forced to hand it over to the government. But the welfare state requires more and more taxpayer money, and our government has already spent more taxpayer money than exists in all of our salaries - $16T is not a small number! Who do takers think will pay the bills once the government checks bounce? They've already been downgraded, after all. And QE3 will add to inflation making the cost of living go up. Again. Meaning we'll have to stretch our dollars even further.

Obama is allowing states to get rid of the work requirement for welfare. This is bad for America. It will kill the American Dream. It fosters further laziness which never has, will not now, and never will create economic growth or abundance or shrink the deficit. Entitlement is not compassion (use the link if you don't understand or disagree). I'd rather they give my money to the people who really need it than people who just want to be freeloaders.

This is the fundamental difference between the two political parties: one believes that charity can and should come from individuals rather than government. As it has for centuries. And the other believes that only the government could do the job, but simultaneously increases the overhead, decreases the efficiency, and takes the individual heart out of giving. Who wants to pay taxes compared to giving to someone in need? One is mandatory and you write the check only because you could go to jail if you didn't, and the other you do out of the goodness of your heart and it feels good. One adds to economic malaise making everyone (except the takers) worse off; the other adds to economic prosperity by sharing the wealth and jobs and growth.

The numbers concur with the Republican model, not that the liberal media reports those numbers because they're in the tank for big government and big taxes. They're out there, all the same.

3 comments:

  1. There is a lot of hair splitting that goes on with people who try to insist that "socialism" isn't advocated by Jesus, or in The Book of Mormon.

    First, you are making the common mistake of conflating "socialism" with "welfare-ism". Socialism is conceptually about central planning and wealth distribution (not re-distribution, but distribution in the first place), whereas welfare-ism is about wealth redistribution. Welfare-ism is not a by-product of either socialism or capitalism, but is bred out of perception of morality that has nothing to with the classic debates on efficient production.

    Socialism does fail in my estimation, to account for some level of human motivation which is tied to notion of "incentives". Even more however, socialism is sound model only from an accounting perspective based on skills and capabilities, where happiness is the end result of consumption. It is taken as an assumption that work is misery, so to be "efficient" in satisfying our goal to be happy, we should produce so as to limit our misery while increasing our consumption. Sounds good in theory, but it fails to understand that human happiness is actually tied to much more than just what the economist’s call "consumption". Achievement for example, freedom (the ability to pursue interests that make me happy, even if those interests do not represent the maximum use of my skills and talents from the standpoint of net-output), etc. This is where Capitalism gains it's advantage over, socialism. Not necessarily in the maximizing of output, but in maximizing personal control over personal happiness. This also leads to greater variance in outcomes, because I also have greater opportunity to hinder my own happiness. Still, I find the element of individual control a worthy trade for the risk.

    Secondly, as for your use of scripture...well, there really wasn't much of that. When I read of the United Order in sections 42, and 72, or when I read 4th Nephi, or about the City of Enoch. I see an ideology of central planning being advocated. There is also a sense of altruistic welfare-ism, where welfare beneficiaries are circumstantially such, but do contribute to the fullest of their limited capabilities. I doubt this as a plausible reality, but the ideal that welfare-ist's delude themselves into accepting. Additionally, you acknowledge incentives in capitalism as a driving force in innovation and production, but somehow fail to see this incompatibility with a selfless society. There should be no reason to expect that the incentives of "greed" that drive capitalism would be effective if society were compelled less by incentives for personal gain. Instead, a society that truly was selfless would more likely see the wisdom in cooperation and central planning as their vehicle for production. I don't think that's realistic, but I do think that is the altruistic model advanced by scripture.

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    1. There is no 'incompatibility' as you say. Capatalism works for the natural man. Socialism/United Order does not work for the natural man. Have you been to Eastern Europe? North Korea? China? Russia? Read or learned much about them? You say welfarism and socialism are not the same, and they aren't, but one is an extention of the other. You say that the United Order and socialism are the same, but they have far more similarities than you give them credit for.

      The place to practice the United Order (or socialism) is not in an entire society that is not committed to God. Look at the results of so many countries.

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    2. I think you misunderstand if you think I am advocating socialism. It's a fine point, but I bristle when I see socialism being equated to welfare-ism. I am not a socialist, my reasons are explained in the third paragraph of my previous comment. Both socialism and capitalism are systems for production, not welfare. Welfare-ism is an attachment that can be applied to either system.

      As for the United Order, I see a lot of discussion where the system is contrasted against socialism on the basis of systemic altruism, ie, each individual member of the society contributing collectively to a shared altruistic vision. I understand what is being proposed theoretically, but I struggle to see the distinction between the two models. After all, your distinguishing factor between socialism and the United Order, is not central planning, but rather it is the model's compatability with certain social groups, ie those who are "committed to God" vs those "not committed to God". If we use your argument, then the problems with socialism are not systemic, but cultural. Additionally, we can easilly refute the examples of North Korea, China, and Russia, as examples of poor management rather than poor strategy. In reality, I think this partly true anyway, as you picked the worst examples of socialism in favor of nations such as Sweden or Norway. The distinction between these and yours being largely oppression by management. However, I'll be the first to admit that socialism lends itself to attracting bad management (far more than it lends to welfare-ism), which is another reason to oppose it practically. Still, that is true of theocratically governed socialist regimes. In our ideal, Jesus would never be a tyrant, but I think many pretended altruists who would behave in his name would-yet, the loyal and faithful would refuse to acknowledge it as anything other than divine justice.

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