The proponents of the free markets sometimes have a hard time understanding the way of thinking of seemingly intelligent people who are passionate supporters of socialism. In order to understand the thinking of these people, many of whom feel victimized by the economic responsibility imposed on them by the market economy, one has to understand something about what they would consider to be an ideal society.

To people who are at least to some extent oriented towards material achievements, the idea that the more you produce, the more you benefit the society and you should rightfully be rewarded for it, is a natural one. Indeed, any just society should recognize this principle.

But to people uninterested in (materially) productive behavior, economic activity is only a necessary evil, whose burden, and also rewards, should be evenly distributed. Certainly productivity should not be the basis of social status.

This kind of thinking is well exemplified by what you might call “democratic socialism,” a favorite phrase of the “new left”. To put it bluntly, they would transform the society into one big popularity contest. This is to some extent true in every democratic society, but lacking any free markets, in this kind of a society you would be either popular or you would be nothing. To its supporters, a democratic and a socialistic society would be “egalitarian.” But I wonder.

The ideal of a democratic socialism should sound eerily familiar to anyone who’s ever been under 20. Consider the high school (or whatever it’s equivalent in readers home country.) Working is compulsory to an extend to which it can be enforced by the school. And yet, since the rewards are completely detached from individuals labor input, it forms no basis on individuals status. Thus the dominant value of this society is how much “fun” a person is. Anyone working too hard is seen as boring, a nerd, or at least unwise, since after all “the life is short, and you shouldn’t waste it all working.”

This is all well as long as the parents support these “egalitarians”, but imagine these people having to support themselves with their own work input. Since people who work hard are frowned upon, it’s no wonder that students tend to use more effort to social competition and “trying to fit in.” To some people this is indeed the ideal world and the best time of their life, to others considerably less so.

One should understand though that attempts to form a society like this are usually well-intentioned, not meant to marginalize anyone, but to extend their personal utopia to everyone. Their principal mistake is merely the assumption that everybody derives their life satisfaction from more or less the same things that they do. That and a completely unworkable economic model.