Virtual Voices

Spreading the wealth around

Politics

It is "a loose modern habit to call 'just' whatever is thought emotionally desirable," wrote Bertrand de Jouvenel in his discussion of "the socialist ideal." Many blame socialism for today's preoccupation with redistribution of income and the acceptance of the state as a means to spreading the wealth in a more equitable way. Jouvenel argued differently. In their pursuit of the chimera of "social justice," socialism and redistributionism do not share the same values. The socialist goal is to destroy private property and eliminate the need for the division of labor. It wants to remove the basis of exploitation and restore brotherly love in a collective organism of interchangeable human parts. Redistributionism's ideal is one of equal consumption, the extremity and end result of "utilitarian individualism."

Militant socialism, with its goal of establishing an enlightened dictatorship for the sake of eliminating class antagonisms, has enough contradictions without embracing the philosophy of equalizing consumer satisfactions. How sad it is to start with a high ethical social doctrine of unity (a vision of a community based upon a "fraternal partaking of the common produce" such as the one existing in monasteries to this day) and to end up embracing modern society's "veneration of commodities" and "fleshly appetites." How intellectually schizophrenic it is to see yourself as a champion for justice and self-sacrificial love while endorsing redistributionist policies that hold nothing beyond one of the major promises inherent in our super-commercialized society---rising consumer power. Thus Jouvenel is right to criticize modern socialists, not for being utopian but for completely failing to be so, their complete lack of imagination, and their flat-footed ends.

Why can't we replicate the "socialism" of some church-related structures in our secular environment? The endurance of monastic communities lies in the fact that they are built upon Christ. Jouvenel points out that these are voluntary covenants of people whose appetites are not competitive, "addressed to scarce material commodities." Such people are thirsting for God who is eternal and infinite and whose love and wisdom provides for all the needs of His people. On the other hand, a secular collectivist society whose faith is in science and technology and whose purpose is to eliminate scarcity through increased production and "fair" redistribution has a strong tendency to decay into tyranny and misery.

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Alex Tokarev
Alex Tokarev

Alex is the chair of the Department of Business at Morthland College in West Frankfort, Ill., and teaches at Northwood University in Midland, Mich. The native of communist Bulgaria fanatically supports the Bulgarian soccer team, Levski.

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