At the end of this post is a quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski that puts the best possible face on the monstrosity that is socialism. In a nutshell, he says . . . even though it produces nothing but failure, oppression, and—in its most complete application—mass murder, it grew out of good intentions.

I will allow that good intentions are involved, but there are also a lot of far baser emotions in play. Greed, envy, and laziness are all at work in an ideology that vilifies productive people and then proceeds to confiscate, by force, a large percentage of their stuff.

Also in evidence is an inflated sense of entitlement: People who want something for nothing. People insisting that their student loans be paid for by the labor of others. People who have only the most basic skills—and who have shouldered none of the risks of running a business—insisting that they are owed far more than their labor is worth. (Watch this Shapiro video to see that ‘argument’ entertainingly blown out of the water in under four minutes.)

Essentially, leftists seem to labor (get it?) under the delusion that the universe owes them something. So let’s talk about the universe for a moment.

The universe is made of stars and gasses and planets and all sorts of crazy stuff. We all live on one of those planets, which is made of rocks and trees and jellyfish and those cool little puffball mushrooms. That is it. You are here in the world, and it owes you nothing. If you do not act in pursuit of your own survival, you will die.

Drop one person into the wilderness and he has to work to survive. Two or three people make it easier, but they all still have to work. But once you have ten people, it starts to become possible for one of them to do less, and to live a little off of the labor of others.

I recall hearing, a long time ago, that a tribe in the Pacific Northwest had a word for people who don’t pull their weight that roughly translated to “he who knows what he should be doing but does not do it.” I’ve been researching for an hour and I have not yet found any corroboration for that memory. However, in the course of that research, I found something that is close enough . . .

The Yup’ik word for a lazy or idle person is anarkiurta. Obviously I am a layman on this subject, but if I am reading the dictionary aright, the root of that word is anaq, meaning feces or excrement from anar, to defecate; and kiurta appears to be a word or suffix denoting “person.” I don’t need to spell out the implications of that any further. For a primordial tribe whose very survival depended on everyone pitching in, an idle person was a dangerous drain. Our ancestors knew all too well that the universe owes them nothing.

The need to work—to make choices and take actions in pursuit of one’s own survival—is an iron fact of reality. But once you have enough people together, some will figure out that they can avoid this requirement. And the more successful a society becomes, the easier it is to get away not only with avoiding the requirement, but in turning it into a sort of virtue.

Community is wonderful and necessary. Community allows us to help, through voluntary action, those who truly cannot help themselves. But it also allows for the growth of socialism, in all its forms and degrees. We must fight to preserve the true nature of community, where we all try to deploy our talents and efforts as well as we can, rather than continuing to allow it to be degraded into that “great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

Here is that Zbigniew Brzezinski quote, via a 1990 article by Peter J. Boettke:

The Communist phenomenon represents a historical tragedy. Born out of an impatient idealism that rejected the injustice of the status quo, it sought a better and more humane society, but produced mass oppression. It optimistically reflected faith in the power of reason to construct a perfect community. It mobilized the most powerful emotions of love for humanity and of hatred for oppression on behalf of morally motivated social engineering. It thus captivated some of the brightest minds and some of the most idealistic hearts—yet it prompted some of the worst crimes of this or any century. […]

That historic failure, now explicitly’ acknowledged by the Communist leaders advocating reforms, has deeper roots than the “errors and excesses” finally regretted. It stemmed from the operational, institutional, and philosophical shortcomings of the communist experiment. Indeed, it was deeply embedded in the very nature of the Marxist-Leninist praxis.

Finally, for further emphasis, here is proto-libertarian heroine Rose Wilder Lane:

“We did not like discipline,” Lane recalled, “so we suffered until we disciplined ourselves. We saw many things and many opportunities that we ardently wanted and could not pay for, so we did not get them, or got them only after stupendous, heartbreaking effort and self-denial, for debt was much harder to bear than deprivations. We were honest, not because sinful human nature wanted to be, but because the consequences of dishonesty were excessively painful. It was clear that if your word were not as good as your bond, your bond was no good and you were worthless . . . we learned that it is impossible to get something for nothing. . . .”

We all have lazy days. Most of us have some lazy habits of which we’re not proud. And we all need help from time to time. (I am grateful for, and perhaps not entirely worthy of, the help I have gotten in my life.) All of this is part of the human experience. But the fact is, the universe does not owe us an existence, nor do the people around us—even if they’re doing a lot better than we are and have resources to spare. We should not proceed through life with the attitude that others owe us something—even a baseline level of support—just because we exist. And we definitely should not turn that attitude into a political or economic system.