Monday, August 25, 2008

The "Are You a Socialist?" Test

I've devised a rough-and-ready test to determine whether a person is socialist-leaning, otherwise known as the "Do Something or Nothing" test.

If he is presented with a large-scale economic problem (poverty, mortgage crisis, health care costs, etc.) and advocates the government "do something," he is socialist-leaning. He (implicitly or inadvertently, at minimum) is suggesting that the State can do it better than the market, hence advocates socialism.

If, when presented with a threat to life or property (jihadist attack, urban crime, etc.), he says the government should "do nothing," he is socialist-leaning. He is committed to the view that it is not the government's job to protect the individual against predation, a classic anarchist-socialist fallback position.

I can think of a few contemporary issues that don't fit neatly into this partitioning scheme, the most obvious being the faux-problem of global warming. Here, those who believe this is a problem definitely advocate the governments do something, something big. Perhaps it doesn't fit because it's neither an economic problem, per se, nor an issue of self-defense.

It is an interesting idea, nonetheless. Hmmm... Maybe there are times it is better not to think out loud.


Michael Moeller said...


Great test. Here is a note (that you implicitly acknowledge): socialists advocate "do something" where government action is inappropriate (like social welfare, environmentalism, etc.) and to "do nothing" where government action is appropriate (like national defense).

Jeff Perren said...

As is so often case, Michael, your statement is clearer and more comprehensive than my own.