History has shown that socialism has been mortally discredited on economic grounds, this has been apparent in the economies of every socialist country in the world. The recent downturn of the American economy and the subsequent resulting downturn of the world markets show that their socialist economies rely on American capitalism. But for many people and as poll numbers show this has not been discredited on moral grounds. It is ironic how often people say, while socialism doesn’t work in practice it is good in theory.

How is this possible? If something is disproven in practice how can it make a good theory? This is akin to a scientific hypothesis failing repeated experimentation and people still wanting to test it. One would think that a system which needed secret police and censorship of press would be morally disqualified.

People regret that socialism doesn’t work because deep down they believe in fairy tales. They want a utopian dream, where people are truly altruistic. The regret about socialism turns out to be regret about human nature.

Originally socialism promised a superabundance of goods — so much of everything that no one would have to do without anything. Sharing would be unnecessary because scarcity would be abolished. Wasn’t that an appeal to acquisitiveness, even gluttony?

Socialism of course did promise to reconstruct humanity, but the message was always mixed. It promised to subordinate the individual to society while liberating him to be fully himself — free of the necessity to make a living. Leon Trotsky wrote that “Communist man . . . will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx.” But the nice Bolshevik also said, “In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.”

Was the new Socialist Man to be a self-centered achiever or group-centered worker bee? It was never clear how both could be accomplished.

Maybe people when they lament socialism’s impracticality, is because they held out hope for an end to material inequality. I think that people long for fairy tales and children’s stories. Where Robin Hood steals from the evil rich and gives to the good poor, where Scrooge has a life changing experience and gives away the money he’s viciously hoarded. In reality, if the scrooges of the world gave away all their money, the next thing they’d do is fire all their employees, because they wouldn’t be able to pay them.

The ugliness of socialist theory now comes into focus. Under individualist and capitalist theory (and practice) each person is free to determine his own needs and, through the division of labor and voluntary exchange, to produce what’s required to satisfy them. Under socialist theory the individual’s needs are determined and satisfied collectively. Dissent and venturing out on one’s own are not options. As Trotsky acknowledged, everyone is an employee and tenant of the collective — that is, the state.

It’s a mystery why anyone would find that theory beautiful or regret that it doesn’t work in practice.