From the Cradle to the Grave

When during the last presidential election campaign Mitt Romney suggested that some 47 percent of Americans choose to be dependent on the government, he seems to have been right.  (The exact number is probably impossible to ascertain.) And at this time, the Democrats are pretty much hoping that at least that many Americans believe they are the beneficiaries of government wealth redistribution, consisting of welfare payments, subsidies, Medicare, unemployment benefits, public works, public education, etc., etc., which they will secure for them.


rights-to-govt-handoutsA slightly adapted ad for socialism


To generalize this, let us simply take it that a very large proportion of the citizenry sees itself as dependent on government support.  This is how most people in Europe and elsewhere around the globe see themselves.  They require cradle to grave handouts.  The rest are the producers, people who take the initiative to be productive, creative, and so forth.  It is this latter group that supplies the resources from which the former take the wealth they require for their survival and flourishing. So Mitt Romney had it roughly right.


Mitt Romney: it was impolitic of the rich guy to say it out loud, but it was one thing he did get roughly right. If you wonder whether the Democrats really dream of a “cradle to grave” nanny state, just consider Obama’s comically helpless and utterly creepy Julia

Photo credit: Jewel Samad / AFP / GettyImages


What is one to make of this?  Well, before we can answer we need to figure out if those who depend on government support in their lives have it right — do they have it coming to them?  Do the others, the productive ones owe them the support they require and gain?

The Democrats evidently think so.  But they have a problem: how is the support to be supplied?  After all, both groups are in need of sustenance and if only one group supplies the resources, will the support be sufficient?  And will those who produce it be willing to continue to do so?


The Deciders

Socialists believe that the society is just one “organic body” and as with all such entities resources are used indiscriminately by the organism so as to support its various functions, organs, faculties, etc., never mind who produces and who consumes the resources; those are for the whole system to use as is needed: “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need!”

Trouble is some of the people will have to decide about all this.  It is not automatic, contrary to what Marxists think. And here is where the politicians and their appointed bureaucrats enter the picture. So called democratic socialists give the impression that there can be some grand democratic process that handles the administration of the distribution of responsibilities and uses, who must produce and who may consume.


Karl MarxKarl Marx somehow neglected to mention that someone will have to decide who will get what in the socialist State. So someone else will make those decisions for you. What will qualify him to do so? Naturally most supporters of socialism think they will be among the deciders. A grave error as many tend to find out once it is adopted.


And that tends to foster internal conflict within the society subject to the democratic socialist process.  After a while those who take from the system will insist that those who produce in it need to work harder.  Or enormous debt will be accumulated that member of future generations must shoulder.  And the willingness to do this may not be forthcoming after a while.  Inter-generational conflict will arise.

Marx and other communists thought that the distribution of responsibilities would occur automatically and peacefully, but he was counting on a new human being, “the new man,” he called it, to emerge, but that is a myth.  No such new man is in sight.  So ordinary human beings, for ordinary human beings, must handle the administration of the socialist system etc., etc.  No magic will be forthcoming.


workers-soviet-socialist-realism 2A bunch of socialist supermen, gazing sternly toward the future. The socialist superman was a myth Marxists propagated for decades…no longer would humans be plagued by human nature, so the story went…


Ordinary human beings, however, don’t stand for being coercively used by their fellows, so in time there will be clashes.  At first they will do this politically but in time coercive force will arise.  The gulags will be utilized, to rid the system of people who don’t want to be used.  So democratic socialism degenerates into Soviet style socialism.


150809_bernie_sanders_ap_1160_956x519Bernie Sanders, don’t kid yourself!

Photo credit: AP


If he really believes that socialism is the solution, then he is misguided – even though his criticism of oligarchic cronyism is justified (we will discuss the problem with modern-day democratic socialism in more detail soon).


Image captions by PT


Dr. Tibor R. Machan has recently been appointed senior fellow at the Heartland Institute (Arlington Heights, IL) and has worked as a Hoover Institution research fellow, is Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Auburn University, Alabama, and has held the R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics, Chapman University from 1997 to 2014. Smuggled out of Hungary in 1953, Machan spent three years in Munich and then came to USA and became an academic philosopher after four years in US Air Force. His memoir, The Man Without a Hobby (2006) tells it all.




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22 Responses to “Bernie Sanders, Don’t Kid Yourself!”

  • No6:

    Socialism is evil.
    A socilaist society is an evil society.
    We live in a socialist society.

    • VB:

      No, you don’t live in a socialist society yet. Trust me, I’ve lived in one. As bad as you think your current situation is, it is by far not as bad as it can get in a socialist society.

  • Mark Humphrey:

    I love this essay, because it highlights perfectly the devolution from the myth of socialist nirvana to communist hell on earth.

    Bernie Sanders and every other socialist are both ignorant and willful. It’s as though they imagine they don’t have to be realistic. Socialism is their precious fantasy that transforms vices into virtues; so the power hungry and most dishonest types are irresistibly drawn to it. I know a socialist, not well but enough so I’ve formed definite opinions about this person’s motives over the decades we’ve been acquainted. It is disturbing.

    Trump, whatever his considerable faults and shortcomings, is infinitely preferable to Hillary, Liar Liar, Pants suit on fire. So was Romney, incidentally, who made himself wealthy speculating in buyouts. There was nothing dishonorable about Romney’s financial career.

    Thanks for this fine essay.

    • Crysangle:

      Disturbing it is , like some kind of psychotic ideal that certain people like to take out on others . The apparent ineptitudes I have found to be purposeful attempts , much like a shark nudging its prey . I can handle that from a straight authoritarian , as they tend to place value on your reply . Socialists on the other hand already have the answer they need in their beliefs , and you are merely there to subscribe . Socialists will go out of their way to attack you , as they are defending their beliefs . There is no wonder that extreme nationalism may have a similar approach though based on slightly different concepts , nor that it combines or interlaces with socialist principle at times , it just has a different idea of the society it wants to socialize , and how that socialization should be managed .

      Socialists tend to abuse the hard earned respect law has obtained , a respect that is naturally always on the brink of failure . I have sat and had to endure lectures and menaces and coercions , totally unwarranted and often definitely illegal , this in European countries , by what I would call the front workers of the social state , the social services . Frankly it defies description , it is only when you come into contact with these people that you realize how the socialist machine works though . They are not inept , they are convinced, and there is little to be done about it but try to publicly draw attention to mistake.

      On a level field they would not behave like that , as they know that they would be reproached as unfit or be laughed at (most likely worse) , if they did not realize beforehand and adjust the absurdity , arrogance and insult of their approach . Yet as stands they continue with their way , and quite possibly they will be the ones to pick up the baton and ultimately exorcise the discontent they inspire in society by eliminating its holders , and not the cause , themselves.

      • rodney:

        Sadly, the more their belief system fails, the more radical the belief system gets …

        • Crysangle:

          In the old days overt torture was considered legitimate, Tibor speaks of gulags for example , now the methodology and architecture is much more refined and sinister and is embedded in society in forms which are advertised and believed as acceptable , as ‘best solutions’ which ‘normal’ society coexists with . You can tell the extent of socialist presence in the western world by the level of opacity of responsibility and the depth of the layer of excuse in policy .

          Sadness will do them fine . Misery , poverty , you name it and they will be there making everyone happy … and when they don’t … there is always … bicycle repair man

  • Belmont Boy:

    Mitt Romney?! Please!!!

    What the hell did this guy ever do that was productive? A “first receiver” of new “money” (as per Cantillon) if ever there was one. Talk about depending on government for wealth redistribution!

    Bernie is a dope. To make that self-evident point, you needed to waste your time, and your readers’, with this clunky piece?

    • John Galt III:


      Romney went to Harvard Business School. Try getting accepted there if you are so smart. When he graduated he was offered a job at Bain.

      I went to Harvard Business School around the time he did and I can tell you only the smartest guys went to Bain. Politics aside Mr. Romney is an accomplished man who deserves every penny he received.

      To me Romney is a RINO manager type and I prefer a lot of others to him, but you have no idea what you are talking about,

      • Belmont Boy:


        The academic credentials game is for chumps. If you insist on playing, you will lose. Your beloved Harvard, along with Princeton, Yale and a slew of others will smother all rational discussion with their dazzlingly “qualified” statist economists, climate-saving “scientists,” and masters of an array of disciplines whose very existences make no sense.

        Romney thrived on obscene leverage that depended upon monstrous governmental “money.” He exploited a system that should not ever have come into being, he never repudiated it, and he didn’t so much as hint he would he would dismantle it if he got elected.

        As for Professor Machan: it’s nice that there are a few academics who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid. But like the rest of them, he comes across as an over-impressed-with-himself know-it-all. He piles up a list of his credentials at the end of his articles much as you invoke the awesome Harvard M.B.A., as if to proclaim the possession of an alphabet soup of degrees legitimizes. The fact that I am quite comfortable with my point of view has, I assure you, nothing to do with my Ivy League B.A. (cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) or my Ivy League M.D.

      • Mark Humphrey:

        Thanks Galt. Belmont Boy, why don’t you actually read one of Machan’s books?

      • wrldtrst:

        JG3 … has it been 4 days yet?

    • Tibor Machan:

      What Mitt Romney did was to tell an important truth. That’s more than most politicians achieve.

    • Tibor Machan:

      Just throw around some ad hominems and that’ll do the trick, right?

  • VB:

    The author is slightly misguided. The moto “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her need!” applied to (theoretical) communism, not to socialism. It was supposed to happen in some mythical future when the advances in science and technology would increase productivity so much that there would be plenty for everyone (to satisfy their needs), without the need for anyone to decide who gets what. In other words, people were supposed to do whatever they liked and could do best, just for the joy of it, and take whatever they needed. The moto of socialism is somewhat different – “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her work!”. The reality, of course, was “do what you’re told and take what the Party decides to give you”.

    I still think that the people in the USA will come to their senses and elect the lesser evil – Hilary. She is corrupt, and a criminal, and a liar, and she will probably start yet another war and destroy whatever is left of the US economy – but, hey, at least it won’t be socialism!

    Unless, of course, they elect Trump, who will probably start a global thermonuclear war. The upside of that will be that there won’t be socialism, or any other form of human society, for that matter, till the end of time.

    Because anything is better than socialism.

    • John Galt III:

      “I still think that people in the USA will come to their senses and elect the lesser evil – Hillary”.

      Let’s assume its Hillary vs. Ben Carson, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. You still stupid enough to want a corrupt socialist like Hillary?

      Thermonuclear war won’t end life on earth. Want to know why? No one will bomb Ecuador, Chile and the rest of South America. Central and South Africa will escape and so forth. The radioactivity will dissipate harmlessly over the years in the bombed areas. Now be a good little girl and find a map and figure it out for yourself.

      • VB:

        Hilary and Trump are the only ones with real chances. Hillary isn’t a socialist – she is a liberal (which is bad enough) but she is a capitalist. She supports the banks and the other cronies. I’m not saying that this is good (it isn’t) – only that it is by far not as bad as socialism. As I said – the lesser evil.

        The nuclear arsenals available are sufficient to extinguish all life on our planet (not just human life) 30 times over. Chernobyl is some 680 miles away from where I live, yet when it blew up, it caused a spike in cancers in my country. Can you imagine the impact of a regular nuclear weapon? Let alone a nuclear war? The fallout, the nuclear winter, etc., etc. Even a local conflict with tactical weapons will be bad enough. A global war will wipe out everything, even if it’s just the countries that have nukes nuking each other.

        • Tibor Machan:

          People who support the banks aren’t therefore capitalists. If you read her book, It Takes a Village, you will find that she is indeed a near-Marxist socialist.

          • VB:

            Then obviously you have no idea what Marxism is.

            • Crysangle:

              From what I gather Marx looked at the accumulation of excess production by a tier of society, that then provides motive for social discontent by the working class , leading to a more equal distribution of ownership … socialism or communism . I am not sure he was really an ism .

              I read these things , as a layperson like the rest , but when I stroll around all I see is people doing whatever , with whatever justification suits . The only people who bother me are those that intervene when you are innocently going about whatever your business is .

              Did Marx proscribe intervention , or is his inspiration/non inspiration simply an appropriate philosophy for those who wish to intervene ? I seriously do not know .

              Either way , if you follow ‘Marxists’ in some modern confrontations , about the only thing communal seems to be getting hold of money in the name of distributing it . Maybe capitalists are Marxists also , after all , their wealth is not stashed under the settee at home , but is almost always distributed into the hands of others , mostly at their behest or with their agreement . Banks like to distribute everyone’s money too , they can’t help it – put some money in and hey presto it’s in someone else’s hands .

              Or is the whole argument about who has the last say ?

              No one does , but people like to punish each other because they cannot handle that truth , because being humble isn’t all that impressive .

              That is the error of socialism , its solution to the equation is making everyone equally worthless by taking away their actual say.

  • Tibor Machan:

    Don’t get it, sorry!

  • rodney:

    A slightly adapted ad for socialism

    Reads like sarcasm to me …

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