Friday, September 11, 2009

Progressives don't do voluntary

A fair few years ago - long before I started writing this blog and not long after rediscovering Christianity - I had an argument with a friend who, trying to convert me back to socialism, insisted that "Jesus was the first socialist".

This annoyed me for several reasons. Not least because I found it hugely offensive for my friend to attempt to impose a political doctrine on an historical figure who was particularly apolitical. I don't wish to make the same mistake, but if anything Jesus was a small c conservative - certainly socially and morally. That said, many socialists - particularly old school ones - remain socially and morally conservative themselves.

But the reason it annoyed me more than anything is that it simply is not true. My friend claimed that Jesus was in favour of wealth redistribution - which is true - but what he neglected to say was that Jesus believed it should be entirely voluntary. Further more, it is quite clear from the Bible that Jesus believed that tax collectors were "sinners" who had to be saved and from that we can deduce that Jesus clearly was not a socialist.

Socialism doesn't do voluntary. Perhaps one of the biggest myths about socialism that has grown out of the last 50 years or so is that it is all about "fairness". The idea that progressives have some sort of hegemony in fairness is ludicrous to conservatives like me - but it depends entirely on what you define as fair.

For example, progressives don't think it's fair that someone well off should have a nice house in a nice area, good quality clothes and a smart brand new car in the drive while someone less well off has to make do with a run down council flat, cheap tat from a supermarket and run a ten year old, fifth hand Ford Fiesta.

Someone like me, on the other hand, doesn't think it is fair that those who work hard to provide for themselves and their families should have more and more money forcibly removed from them under threat of imprisonment just so that some lazy, feckless good for nothing can continue to live their lives of indolence. What that does not mean is that I believe that those who are genuinely in need should not receive some sort of help - far from it.

But I believe that the vast majority of that help should come from voluntary sources and not through state coercion. Over the last ten years or so we have seen an increase in the number of so-called "charities" which are nothing more than agencies of the state. Most, if not all, of their funding comes not from voluntary sources, but is handed to them by the government - and the government, as we know, does not have any money. It all comes from the taxpayer (note: taxpayers are only from the private sector. There are no taxpayers in the public sector as they receive their salary out of taxation in the first place. Taking £10 and giving £2 back does not make you a contributor!).

Part of the reason for the government doing this is that, over the last 50 years or so the amount of money voluntarily given to charity fell considerably. However, that is not a surprise to me. Indeed, it is an inevitable consequence of an increasingly socialist society whereby the burden moves from the voluntary to the coercive.

Jesus was no socialist and progressives are no more "fair" than conservatives. Socialism will always make society less less voluntary and more coercive and that is the biggest difference between conservatism and progressivism.


Bob's Head Revisited said...

I could not agree more. Excellent post, Stan.

Roue le Jour said...

Hear, hear.

I always understood the "poor are always with us" text to mean that giving to the poor was Good, but not at the expense of your friends and family, and that you certainly shouldn't expect to eliminate poverty.

Socialism, on the other hand, believes you should give at the expense of your own kith and kin, and that you can eliminate poverty.

So far, Jesus, not socialism, has be right.

Larry said...

Why can't the George Galloways and Tommy Sheridans of this world understand what you just said, Stan?

Anonymous said...

I'm no socialist, but it is not true that there are no taxpayers in the public sector. Some contribute their labour for the common good (the binmen, doctors, nurses etc.): in any new world those jobs would still exist, and any tax liability would fall equally on them as much as on what I presume you see as morally superior "wealth producers".
Their labour is taxed, it is useful labour, you cannot just write it off because they are paid from taxes.

Stan said...

I made no judgement on the "value" of the work people in the public sector do nor did I write anyone off, anon - but it is absurd to suggest that anyone who works in the public sector is a net contributor to taxation. They are not. Many of them do valuable work for society - many many more don't! - but that is irrelevant.

Nobody who is paid from the public purse is a tax contributor. If you take £10 out and put £2 back in you have not contributed a bean to taxation.

Larry said...

Very true, Stan. Not to mention the fact that a public sector worker now gets paid around £2200 more per annum than the equivalent private sector worker, plus all the pension benefits, perks & extra hols that come hand in hand with statist positions.