The free-market system is, in one sense, equal. Anyone with ideas, abilities, or ambition has the opportunity to improve upon his lot in life. Therefore, at any given time, there are people in a free-market society who are at every level of economic success – some on their way up, some on their way down.
Beginning in the early 19th century, some philosophers argued that this system is in another sense, unequal, as there are many people who do not possess those new ideas, do not have unique abilities, and/or have a lesser ambition. They argued that the free-market system is a decidedly imperfect concept for this reason, and they were correct. They asked, "Is it not possible to create a system in which all could prosper, rather than a select few?"
The trouble with socialism is not in the basic objective. The trouble is that no one has actually come up with a workable means to achieve the objective. The philosophers who created the socialist approach settled for a plan that does not answer the question at all. It does, however, seek to diminish and discourage those with ideas, abilities, and ambitions, in order to lower them to the level of those who do not possess these attributes. The net result is an entire society that operates on a lower level, eliminating advancement for all concerned, as well as for society as a whole.
There is one exception to this lack of advancement, however. Instead of the free-market system, which has opportunity for anyone to increase his position, socialism has, at its core, the leaders – the people who enforce the equality. They tend to be a relatively closed group who enjoy a far higher standard of living, in addition to enjoying far greater freedom of choice. (Equality for some; not for others – back to the original problem.)
Friedrich Von Hayek, in his book, The Road to Serfdom, states:
The choice open to us is not between a system in which everybody will get what he deserves according to some absolute and universal standard of right… but between a system where it is the will of a few persons that decides who gets what…
In order for socialism to appeal to the masses, a great lie has been put forward...
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