Contemplations on the Origin and Future of Socialism

One of the ideas I have been toying with is that socialism cannot survive without the creation of “new” wealth. To be differentiated from other wealth distributions such as “to the victors belong the spoils”, socialism has a moral purpose. At its core socialism is a method of distributing the wealth fairly. The problems is how to get yours hands on the wealth and how to distribute the wealth fairly. During the Industrial Revolution the economic gains flowed to everyone but in particular to a disproportionately small group of people. The moral argument for socialism is that the wealth should be distributed across a broader section of the population. Socialism wants wealth distribution to be fair.

For the last 200 years the Western world has been very successful at creating new products that directly resulted in greater economic efficiencies and more “new” wealth. In this positive atmosphere the wealth creators have been receptive to distributing some of wealth created even though they questioned the fairness of the allocation. Ultimately they agreed and their philosophy was best epitomized by JFK when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats”.  This continual growth in “new” wealth has allowed socialism to thrive and grow to a proportionately larger size of the economy. Recently I was surprised to see that the real return for the last decade was ”“3.4%. When you combine this with slow or no economic growth predictions for the next few years, can socialism survive without “new” wealth creation? Redistributing existing wealth is a completely different problem than redistributing “new” wealth. If the socialism based on redistributing “new” wealth is asleep or possibly dead, what will the new socialism look like? Jay Cost wrote an excellent article, The Politics of Loss in National Affairs that goes much farther on the politics of wealth redistribution.

When political scientist Harold Lasswell, writing in the mid-1930s, defined politics as the decisions society makes about "who gets what, when, and how," he might as well have been describing the debate over taxes and spending in the United States today. Butwhat happens when the focus of the political debate changes from who gets what to who loses what? This concept is unfamiliar to Americans, who have enjoyed more than 100 years of (mostly) uninterrupted economic growth.