What 'socialist' and 'capitalist' mean

Socialists won't like this entry. Please understand, although I have a pet peeve against socialism, this isn't against people who have compassion for others and want to help them. I think that's great. I'm all for helping people when the help actually makes sense and has results.

The problem is, it's really difficult to actually help. What passes as helping is all too often a soft-hearted, woossy-feely naivete that leads to the helper being carelessly exploited by the helpee, which doesn't change the person being helped and in the long run just tends to make things worse. It's really very difficult to help someone because most times when you try to help you have really just consented to a game of Victim/Rescuer (see Eric Berne's excellent Games People Play). And this is a destructive game. For an example, just look at any guy who's 30 and still living with his parents. The mother "helps" by making lunch, cleaning his room and doing all the laundry.

When I say I'm against socialism, I'm not against helping people do the best with their lives. I'm very much in favor of actually helping. What I'm very much against is dysfunctional thinking that socialism usually is, and which I can sum up as "Let's sacrifice our future to give all who are feeling needy things for free today!"

However, I won't go into a rational analysis of why this fails, now. Instead, I'd like to facilitate the right part of my brain and look at the meanings of "capitalist" and "socialist" from a word-play perspective.

Capitalist is derived from capital. Capital means investment. Investment means to spend time and resources today in a way that will give benefit in the future. It's like doing work to sow seeds in the autumn in order to have a harvest in the spring. That sounds not only reasonable, but necessary, doesn't it.

On the other hand, socialist is derived from society. But what is a society? It would have to be a group of people sharing similar characteristics, values or interests. But on the level of a state, this is a fiction that simply does not exist. We are all individuals, and very different. Some bright, some slow; some capable, some incompetent; some talented in one thing, some talented in something completely different, some not talented at all. So, if we are socialists, and society is not possible, what do we do? Well, we create it! And how do we do it? Well, by making people more equal! But you can't make a slow person bright, so what do you do? Well, you make the brighter person stupid. You can't make an untalented person talented, so what do you do? You make talent irrelevant by frowning on people who use it and removing opportunities to do so. Or if you're Stalin, why not just kill the brigher and more talented?

That's socialism, in a nutshell. Creating a "society" where there wasn't any by dumbing everyone down to a lowest common denominator.

What is communism, then? It derives from community, which is a group of people having close interpersonal bonds. But for people, the Dunbar number is about 150. What this means is, we cannot handle the interpersonal bonding required to hold together a community of more than about this size. This means that a community beyond some 200 people cannot exist. And that's why communism can work pretty well for small communities, but fails miserably in a state. The closest approximation of it is socialism, but if you read the preceding paragraph, you already know what that means.


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