The Perfect Socialist Society

I spent twenty-seven years in the Marine Corps, roughly split in-half between the active duty force and the reserve component. It took me a while to stumble into the realization that the U.S. military is a socialist’s wet dream, but the discovery helped me to understand why Socialism Always Fails. I’ll beg indulgence and an open mind from former Marines and other military folks, but the military is unquestionably a socialist society-within-a-society. Consider, for example, the organizational ethos of the military: every person’s life and individuality is subservient the “greater good” of the organization’s mission. Every person is accessed, tested, trained, (brainwashed), and catalogued to meet an existing (idealized) structure for which the entire endeavor was designed. For the civvies who may not be familiar, the entire Marine Corps exists on an org chart with every job and its essential tools listed on something known as the TO&E – Table of Organization and Equipment. The entire U.S. military is also likewise structured.

Pay is fixed at a specific amount by rank with almost no chance for ‘bonuses’ or other such remuneration (beyond some very limited specialty pays used to entice certain skills or provide a tax break or a few extra dollars for combat). About the best you’re likely to do in your career for doing something exceptional is a ribbon (especially if you’re in the Army… Ba-ZING!) and/or an extra day or two of liberty. Indeed, consider how the military defines that term if you want a real giveaway about the military’s socialist nature: in the normal (civilian) sense, the word liberty means freedom; in the military – like in every other context with socialists – liberty is a noun that refers to any time you are not on duty and is legally considered a privilege that can be granted or taken away by the CO at his or her (virtually) unfettered discretion. In other words, it means the exact opposite of what it normally means.

Now compare all of that with what the modern (or original) Progressive-Socialists scream that they want for our country. Control over what information the masses can see and hear? Absolutely. The modern socialist would love to be able to ‘classify’ information like the military does and control the flow of information. CNN and the other cathedral media sources, including Twitter, Facebook, etc. have become infinitely worse than the Armed Forces Network overseas, clamoring to control the Narrative, to demonize anyone who dares speak against it, to the point of banishing dissidents from public life. In the military, someone who is sufficiently non-conforming will eventually be thrown out of the organization, but because the military is a society-within-a-larger-society, the armed forces simply excommunicates its heretics to the wider American society. The Progressive-Socialists of America, however, don’t have anywhere to eject their dissidents, hence why they need people destroyed, their livelihoods taken, and their opinions and ideas silenced by calling it “disinformation.” Just like the military, the Progressive Socialist wants everyone on the same page, which is why re-education camps are always an element of communist-socialist regimes. Just like the military (with boot camp and OCS), the Progressive-Socialist needs everyone in ideological lockstep; lacking a place to eject its dissidents, Socialist countries require either re-education or disappearance, typically with a public shaming and “struggle session” in which the perpetrator must loudly and publicly denounce their prior Badthink in order to remain/be reaccepted into society AND reinforce to the masses the primacy of their vision. 

And if this all seems to prove too much, let me throw in a dose of history from my own beloved Corps for some additional context.

While it may not be fashionable at the moment to point this out, the modern Marine Corps has deep roots in the People’s Republic of China. Prior to WW2, there was a Marine Regiment (about 4 battalions of Marines) garrisoned in China, principally in Shanghai. One of the leaders was then-LtCol Evans Carlson, who subsequently spent several years serving as an advisor to Mao Tse-Tung’s 8th Army in their fight against the Japanese, who by 1937 had already invaded China. (The ironies of history are indeed rich.) Carlson would march over most of northern China with the ChiComs during their insurgency against the Japanese, prompting Marine General David Shoup to reportedly say of him:

“He may be red, but he’s not yellow.”

The implication being that Carlson had communist sympathies, but that he was no coward. Carlson would go on to create and command the Marine Raiders against the Japanese in the Pacific, essentially establishing the first “Special Force” of any kind in the U.S. military. Carlson and his men once operated behind Japanese lines on Guadalcanal for months, killing 488 Japanese before returning from that patrol. Carlson brought the Chinese term “gung ho”* to the Raiders and it became their unit motto – it eventually stuck with the entire Corps. Most significantly, Carlson adopted many of the organizational techniques of Mao’s “People’s Army” that eventually came to be the standard for the post-WW2 Marine Corps. For example, Carlson learned from Mao that most people could only manage three other people. This led to a complete reorganization of Carlson’s squads in the Raiders, eschewing the Corps’ standard eight-man squad in favor of a 10-man squad composed of a squad leader and three, 3-man “fireteams.” That structure is now standard throughout the military. Another example of Carlson’s adoption of communist techniques went right to the very essence of the relationship between a military leader and his subordinates. Historically, the Corps – and, indeed, the entire U.S. and western military – had a sharp, caste-like divide between enlisted troops and their officers. That caste system can be traced back through the British, the Continental Armies, even all the way back to medieval knights and feudalism. Carlson’s experience as both an enlisted man and officer in both the Army and the Marine Corps convinced him that this did not produce better results in modern warfare.

Carlson saw the Communist approach as superior. Leaders were expected to serve the unit and the fighters they led, not to be served. Responsibility, not privilege, would be the keyword for battalion leadership when the Second Raiders formed up. Using an egalitarian and team-building approach, Carlson promulgated a new way for senior NCOs to mentor junior officers and work with the officers for the betterment of the unit. Even more controversial in concept, Carlson gave his men “ethical indoctrination,” designed to “give (his men) conviction through persuasion,” describing for each man what he was fighting for and why.[1]

I love that term: Brainwas- er, I mean, “Ethical Indoctrination.” For what it’s worth, it was still the modus operandi for the Corps during my training as a young officer in the late-80s and early-90s and throughout my entire career. More importantly, the entire philosophy of the servant-leader, the officer willing to not only endure the same hardships as his troops to accomplish the mission, but to be accountable to them and in some cases mentored by non-comms, is so embedded in the military leadership culture nowadays as to be considered a no-brainer. Yet that was not the nature of the U.S. military before Carlson. While there have always been individual historical examples of great leaders willing to make unfathomable sacrifices for and alongside their men, any dispassionate review of even our own American history will reveal that officers obtained their commissions very differently from the American Revolution through at least the end of the Civil War. It was Evans Carlson’s adoption of Mao’s techniques in the fight against the Japanese that turned the Marine Corps from a feudal-style of leadership and organization to an unquestionably socialist one, lifted right from Mao himself.

*Very likely a catachresis of gong hé (工合), the term for the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives of Carlson’s time.

…And Why It Always Fails

The inevitable failure of Socialism in all of its forms, from the Russian version to the Cuban to the Venezuelan – and yes, even to the Chinese and American ones – has probably been most succinctly expressed by a phrase attributed to the incomparable Margaret Thatcher:

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

There are numerous instances of the Iron Lady dissing socialism and though this exact quote is hard to find, there are video and print variations of the same sentiment. For example, in response to a question from an interviewer on socialist elements within the British Labour Party, Thatcher once said this:

I think they’ve made the biggest financial mess that any government’s ever made in this country for a very long time, and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them. They then start to nationalise everything, and people just do not like more and more nationalisation, and they’re now trying to control everything by other means. (Emphasis added)

Brevity being the soul of wit (allegedly), the former is better than the latter, but either adequately captures the reason for the inevitable failure of socialism in all its pernicious forms. Given the complete lack of understanding most people have (this audience excluded) of economics, I feel compelled to slightly amend the statement to more accurately reflect the underlying mechanism:

The reason socialism always fails, no matter how fervently it is tried, is because it fails to deliver sufficient value to cover its costs.* I will not waste this audience’s time explicating the differences and relationships between currency (i.e. money) and value, but suffice it to say that just because the money machine goes brrrrrrrrrrfttt! does not solve the problem inherent to socialism. This is true no matter which example of “it wasn’t real socialism!” one cares to examine. I’m certain any Marxist fanbois reading this will quickly comment with the “butwhaddabout muh China!!” – and one can easily find the tongue-bathing profiles the cathedral media has given to China in the past, with standard Marxist proclamations about the inevitability of it all. See also the media fellatio of both Chavez and Castro while their people starved, the burying of the human rights abuses, and all of the other externalities that are features-not-bugs of socialist regimes. But my real rejoinder to the talking heads’ proclamations of the joys of Mr. ________’s regime (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Minh, Pot, Kim, Castro, Chavez, Maduro, Xi, Biden) is one of simple patience: Just Wait. Given the historical record at this point, claiming that the fact that a socialist regime is still extant as proof of the philosophy’s “success” over free-markets is (to me) like claiming that because you’ve thrown a ball into the air that proves that there’s no gravity for as long as the ball hasn’t yet hit the ground. The balls all come down eventually, Mr. Kruschev. Every one of them; every time.

To return to my “perfect socialist society” analogy of the Marine Corps – and the military more broadly – illustrates the same exact flaw of socialist endeavors. The military is only able to exist as a socialist society-within-a-society because its freight is being paid by the broader society’s producers, by the economic might and dynamism of free markets that was the United States’ greatest strategic asset for the first 140 years or so of our existence. We’ve been on a steady descent since the early part of the 20th century, with Roosevelt’s “New Deal” being one of the major waypoints on the wrong side of the parabola, but I don’t think it’s necessary or helpful to argue over the exact moment the ball started coming down. I do, however, think it’s valuable to look at how long it typically takes for the ball to hit the ground… but I’ll save that for another piece I’m working on.

*The AnCaps may claim that no government ever delivers value, but I disagree and offer the United States as the best counter-factual. When the Pilgrims and other settlers first arrived in the New World, I think it safe to say that the GDP of the colonies was near zero. Indeed, the colonists were subjects of a sovereign who extracted rents while taking none of the risks and was thousands of nautical miles away. And yet… from 1787 through 1913, in a mere 125 years – perhaps 4-5 generations – these united States went from being subjects to being one of the most powerful nations – not only of the entire planet – but in all of human history. Without any income tax on the people. I thus conclude that a government can provide sufficient value to its people in a way that socialist governments do not, IFF the government is confined to a very narrow range of activities that includes the protection of people and their property (i.e. individual rights), the equal enforcement of laws regarding same, and (IMO) respect for smaller sub-segments to rule themselves autonomously in response to the unique circumstances of geography and the cultures that arise from that (i.e. federalism). Or, in short, something pretty damn close to the original Constitution, minus the slavery problem.