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Everyone is born a Socialist

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Evolution by UConn

The blessings of liberty are not our birthright. Nor are they a gift of the markets. Liberty and freedom were created by society. Liberty is an emergent phenomenon of advanced civilization. Freedom was born of society, freedom is, in fact, an aspect of socialism.

To be clear, I'm not speaking here of communism or any of the various and sundry dictatorships that called themselves "people's republics." Freedom and liberty were never their purpose; at best, the goal was benign regimentation, and they failed even at that. People won't regiment without being enslaved, and slavery is never benign. Those so-called socialisms failed because they were inhuman, they were anti-social, they destroyed personhood in the name of The People. They were a contradiction in terms and they wound up in the place Marx assigned to their predecessors, the dustbin of history.

Yet humanity is profoundly socialist. Our every impulse pulls us there, our every human impulse. Our primitive, lizard brains are pure selfishness, but they don't define us. Not even the greediest capitalist is free from his socialist impulses. It's in his genes, because every human starts as a socialist.

We are all born into a state of total dependence. When we are born, we are not endowed, by the creator, with the blessings of liberty. We are born helpless. We have no freedom. We are all need. Those needs are either met by other humans, usually by our parents, or we die. And we have nothing whatsoever to exchange for our lives, nothing of economic value, nothing but love.

Every one of us is born a welfare queen or king, an absolutely useless, needy consumer of scarce resources to which we can contribute not a thing. For the better part of two decades our very existence is a net minus, we are a drag upon our family, community or tribe.

Yet for over two million years we have survived; this species with a life expectancy (until yesterday) of thirty years, half of which was spent in immaturity, helpless and useless as larvae, has succeeded so wildly that we now threaten to choke the life out of every other species on the planet.

I point this out to remind those who think that all human activity is best explained by, and governed by, economic transactions and the workings of the market, that they are utterly wrong, wrong from the beginning, wrong from the moment they first drew breath.

We are creatures of welfare; we owe our existence to altruism; we are all, literally, love children.

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If, and only if, our welfare is nurtured long enough and well enough that we reach adulthood, and we begin to sustain our own lives through our own, conscious efforts, can we become suitable vessels for the blessings of liberty. Not before. And not even that is enough. Civilization must grow along with us.

As a child must mature to receive the blessings of liberty, so must a society. Nobody is free in a primitive clan of hunter gatherers, they are all slaves to starvation, perched on the knife edge of life and death, every day. Only one person is free in a primitive tribe; the strongest man with the biggest club owns everything and everybody. More and more people become free as society and custom evolve through warlords, dictatorships, kings and noblemen, oligarchy and aristocracies of race, class, religion. The circle of liberty widens ever so slowly with history, but never and nowhere wide enough yet to encircle all society. We still have a lot of growing to do.

And that is the point and paradox. Without society there is no liberty, without altruism there is no society. The jungle isn't free, the law of the jungle, the market, isn't free, they are hunting grounds, the inhabitants free to be prey. Only within some form of collectivism, that despised word, that terrifying concept, can liberty be created, protected, and expanded.

If the lack of government was the measure of freedom, Somalia would be the freest nation in the world. In that light, all the asinine talk about big government versus small government fades away. That argument is a shell game; it means big government for the big and small government for the rest. The powerful always have all the government they need. And that is just another name for the abuse of power.

It is that power which an evolved society seeks to curb. It is, to use another despised word, the redistribution of power that is at the heart of the liberal project. If we want to point the arrow of history towards liberty, we should remember what gave it, and us, birth. Socialism.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)

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The conservatives claim the constitution for their... by Allan Goldstein on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 7:08:47 AM
Sounds like yet another roundabout rationalization... by Natalie Oberman on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 11:24:28 AM
Yet is the conservatives that want to create laws ... by Wayne Brumley on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 11:25:36 PM
Could it be that you're "fear mongering" --- to bo... by Natalie Oberman on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 2:37:09 AM
If you're going to get specific, without relying o... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 6:37:34 AM
You seem to be awfully intent on trying to pigeonh... by Natalie Oberman on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 7:14:46 PM
In these examples from your link:"CEOs get face ti... by Jim Arnold on Monday, Jan 31, 2011 at 7:00:55 AM
What an elegant, thoughtful, sweeping essay, as al... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 12:06:22 PM
You conveniently choose a very limited definition ... by Wayne Brumley on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 11:44:56 PM
Tyranny is created by people.. People create con... by zonie on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 1:15:34 PM
Your thought out argument (?) is "the further away... by Robert S. Becker on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 4:53:38 PM
And it meant exactly what it says.I'm ignoring the... by zonie on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 6:40:11 PM
appear remarkably socialistic to me. They help one... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 5:58:51 PM
we arrived on the scene in the Holocene without an... by zonie on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 6:44:22 PM
but we mammals no longer live in the Holocene. We ... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 8:41:13 PM
The Holocene IS the age of extinction.Psssst......... by zonie on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 10:20:07 AM
Facts are stupid things!You got me good on that, a... by Daniel Geery on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 12:04:43 PM
It is called the Mormon Church. I envy their helpi... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 5:56:55 PM
Those temple garments....eek....scratchy.... by zonie on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 6:14:16 PM
I can piece together, but the Mos say they're very... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 12:59:59 AM
For the ER RN. :DHave you ever tried to remove a... by zonie on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 10:05:54 AM
but one of my sons is a paramedic, and I heard som... by Daniel Geery on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 10:18:18 AM
Me a clear thinker? I dunno about that....just wh... by zonie on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 11:21:01 AM
But those fumes are what you are fighting for, the... by Wayne Brumley on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 12:13:52 AM
and I fear it is more confusing than the article i... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 11:28:07 AM
by ma'am....but....SIR?Let me spit first.....Now..... by zonie on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 1:11:15 PM
In regard to the overall article, I was thinking w... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 2:01:29 PM
and mean to others who do not conform to the ideal... by zonie on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 6:03:23 PM
A learned behavior, I would submit. No, it is not... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 7:04:26 PM
How would you describe the political arena there..... by zonie on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 8:19:24 PM
But that is because of the administration. As for ... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 10:31:29 PM
Indeed, a baby cries, expecting to be fed for no r... by Karl_D on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 at 8:56:46 PM
Great post, great points ....... stick around Karl... by Natalie Oberman on Friday, Jan 28, 2011 at 11:36:57 PM
Thanks Natalie, I will. The comment sections on th... by Karl_D on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 11:37:02 AM
A market is a social institution. Ayn's selfishnes... by Jim Arnold on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 12:49:26 PM
Jim, very interesting profile, quite a renaissance... by Karl_D on Saturday, Jan 29, 2011 at 1:26:59 PM
I am glad you approve of the unregulated way the b... by Wayne Brumley on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 1:07:35 AM
Karl, thank you for the recommendation and explana... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, Jan 30, 2011 at 6:10:41 AM