Socialism and Secularism Suck Vitality Out of Society

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    Socialism and Secularism Suck Vitality Out of Society


    Dennis Prager
    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Outside of politics, sports, and popular entertainment, how many living Germans, or French, or Austrians, or even Brits can you name?

    Even well-informed people who love art and literature and who follow developments in science and medicine would be hard pressed to come up with many, more often any, names. In terms of greatness in literature, art, music, the sciences, philosophy, and medical breakthroughs, Europe has virtually fallen off the radar screen.

    This is particularly meaningful given how different the answer would have been had you asked anyone the same question between just 80 and 120 years ago -- and certainly before that. A plethora of world-renowned names would have flowed.

    Obvious examples would include (in alphabetical order): Brecht, Buber, Cezanne, Chekhov, Curie, Debussy, Eiffel, Einstein, Freud, Hesse, Kafka, Mahler, Mann, Marconi, Pasteur, Porsche, Proust, Somerset Maugham, Strauss, Stravinsky, Tolstoy, Zeppelin, Zola.

    Not to mention the European immortals who lived within the century before them: Mozart, Beethoven, Dostoevsky, Darwin, Kierkegaard, Manet, Monet, Hugo and Van Gogh, to name only a few.

    What has happened?

    What has happened is that Europe, with a few exceptions, has lost its creativity, intellectual excitement, industrial innovation, and risk taking. Europe’s creative energy has been sapped. There are many lovely Europeans; but there aren’t many creative, dynamic, or entrepreneurial ones.

    The issues that preoccupy most Europeans are overwhelmingly material ones: How many hours per week will I have to work? How much annual vacation time will I have? How many social benefits can I preserve (or increase)? How can my country avoid fighting against anyone or for anyone?

    Why has this happened?

    There are two reasons: secularism and socialism (aka the welfare state).

    Either one alone sucks much of the life out of society. Together they are likely to be lethal.

    Even if one holds that religion is false, only a dogmatic and irrational secularist can deny that it was religion in the Western world that provided the impetus or backdrop for nearly all the uniquely great art, literature, economic and even scientific advances of the West. Even the irreligious were forced to deal with religious themes -- if only in expressing rebellion against them.

    Religion in the West raised all the great questions of life: Why are we here? Is there purpose to existence? Were we deliberately made? Is there something after death? Are morals objective or only a matter of personal preference? Do rights come from the state or from the Creator?

    And religion gave positive responses: We are here because a benevolent God made us. There is, therefore, ultimate purpose to life. Good and evil are real. Death is not the end. Human rights are inherent since they come from God. And so on.

    Secularism drains all this out of life. No one made us. Death is the end. We are no more significant than any other creatures. We are all the results of mere coincidence. Make up your own meaning (existentialism) because life has none. Good and evil are merely euphemisms for “I like” and “I dislike.”

    Thus, when religion dies in a country, creativity wanes. For example, while Christian Russia was backward in many ways, it still gave the world Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Tchaikovsky. Once Christianity was suppressed, if not killed, in Russia, that country became a cultural wasteland (with a few exceptions like Shostakovich and Solzhenitsyn, the latter a devout Christian). It is true that this was largely the result of Lenin, Stalin and Communism; but even where Communism did not take over, the decline of religion in Europe meant a decline in human creativity -- except for nihilistic and/or absurd isms, which have greatly increased. As G. K. Chesterton noted at the end of the 19th century, when people stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. One not only thinks of the violent isms: Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, Fascism, Maoism, and Nazism, but of all the non-violent isms that have become substitute religions – e.g., feminism, environmentalism, and socialism.

    The state sucks out creativity and dynamism just as much as secularism does. Why do anything for yourself when the state will do it for you? Why take care of others when the state will do it for you? Why have ambition when the state is there to ensure that few or no individuals are rewarded more than others?

    America has been the center of energy and creativity in almost every area of life because it has remained far more religious than any other industrialized Western democracy and because it has rejected the welfare state social model.

    Which is why so many are so worried about President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party’s desire to transform -- in their apt wording -- America into a secular welfare state. The greatest engine of moral, religious, economic, scientific, and industrial dynamism is being starved of its fuel. The bigger the state, the smaller its people.



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    Depressingly true.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bpmartyr View Post
    Which is why so many are so worried about President Barack Obama and the Democrat Party’s desire to transform -- in their apt wording -- America into a secular welfare state. The greatest engine of moral, religious, economic, scientific, and industrial dynamism is being starved of its fuel. The bigger the state, the smaller its people.
    Fixed.

    Democratic is not the same as Democrat, these days.
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    Far reaching...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayhawkk View Post
    Far reaching...
    no surprises there


    religion as it offers in the second to last paragraph, is not the answer, specifically when it is riddled into the government. Did not work so well for the last administration
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    Quote Originally Posted by AE14 View Post
    no surprises there

    religion as it offers in the second to last paragraph, is not the answer, specifically when it is riddled into the government. Did not work so well for the last administration
    All that creativity, like burning witches, the inquisition, thumb screws, the iron maiden, etc.

    With all due respect, Dennis Prager is a mixed bag. He is the kind of guy who wants the government to have all thssssssssssse power he doesn't want it to abuse. Put another way, he'd be fine with a totalitarian theocracy, but would flip over a secular one. He neglects the true argument in opposition to his theme; if religion is so strong and responsible for so much good, why is it so easily threatened and dismantled by the state, and what about all the evil done in the name of normative monotheism? Just because a lot of good came out of religion and the Judeo Christian branch specifically, that doesn't mean you get to ignore all the bad **** that was religiously motivated, nor does it mean the state and the church should have anything to do with one another.
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    There's a lot here, but I don't think moral subjectivity is synonymous w/ secularism and conversely I don't think that those that claim to be religious practice moral objectivity. If America for the past 200 years has been practicing moral objectivity then I'm a monkey's uncle.
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    that's funny...the rise in massive improvements in lifespan, disease reduction, food production, etc. coincided (and perhaps directly tied TO) the rejection of religion as offering ANY useful answer to anything.
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    Outside of politics, sports, and popular entertainment, how many living Germans, or French, or Austrians, or even Brits can you name?
    Funny, in Europe we usually cite the ignorance of certain Americans regarding the world outside their own borders as an argument against the american right wing and their own unique brand of morality.

    only a dogmatic and irrational secularist can deny that it was religion in the Western world that provided the impetus or backdrop for nearly all the uniquely great art, literature, economic and even scientific advances of the West.
    Or anybody who has read the big list the author gave of great thinkers who thrived in the 19th-20th centuries, following the collapse of church rule and the rise of secularism
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardTrainer View Post
    Funny, in Europe we usually cite the ignorance of certain Americans regarding the world outside their own borders as an argument against the american right wing and their own unique brand of morality.
    Are you speaking of the Europe that America saved from communist regime and totalitarianism?



    Or anybody who has read the big list the author gave of great thinkers who thrived in the 19th-20th centuries, following the collapse of church rule and the rise of secularism
    Church rule is far different than a constitution influenced by Christian principle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Are you speaking of the Europe that America saved from communist regime and totalitarianism?
    They do always seem to forget that one, don't they?

    Church rule is far different than a constitution influenced by Christian principle.
    As originally intended our constitution allowed for church rule at the state level. Or, at the very least, no one saw an incongruity with its wording and the existence of several state churches at the time. And while our constitution may be influenced by Judeo Christian herritage, it is also the way it is specifically because of religious distrust. The only reason we have freedom of religion on the federal level is because no one Christian sect at the time - Catholics, Protestants, Puritans, Quakers, and Lutherans being the main players - trusted each other enough to allow for the possiblity. And they were right to do so. One could quite reasonably argue that merging the state and religion weakens the latter as it strengthens the former. For a true freedom of religion to exist the state must be secular.
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    Then you have to decide where moral influence will come from. What's right and wrong? Is there such a thing? How are the courts to decide moral and ethical issues? Who makes it so?

    ...with no foundation, we end up right where we are right now; with a decline in family values, individual values, and freedoms.

    Our society is turning to garbage, and it's no wonder when we're taught that there are no moral absolutes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Then you have to decide where moral influence will come from. What's right and wrong? Is there such a thing? How are the courts to decide moral and ethical issues? Who makes it so?
    The courts aren't to decide moral and ethical issues, only legal ones.

    ...with no foundation, we end up right where we are right now; with a decline in family values, individual values, and freedoms.

    Our society is turning to garbage, and it's no wonder when we're taught that there are no moral absolutes.
    Every generation says society is turning to garbage, the younger generation is going to hell, yada yada yada. It hasn't actually happened yet of course, which makes me think old people just resent young people to a certain, predetermined extent.

    I guess the real question is do you have to believe in an invisible space father figure to behave morally? I don't think so personally.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDB View Post
    The courts aren't to decide moral and ethical issues, only legal ones.
    There are plenty legal issues that could also fall under the moral and ethical category.

    I understand legal and illegal is not the same as right and wrong, but they do often merge.


    Quote Originally Posted by CDB View Post
    Every generation says society is turning to garbage, the younger generation is going to hell, yada yada yada. It hasn't actually happened yet of course, which makes me think old people just resent young people to a certain, predetermined extent.

    I guess the real question is do you have to believe in an invisible space father figure to behave morally? I don't think so personally.
    No, but where then does your moral judgment derive from? Society? Whatever is "okay" at the time?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Are you speaking of the Europe that America saved from communist regime and totalitarianism?
    Okay. Either the point I was making went over your head or you ignored it. In either case I'll make it again in simpler terms:

    If your answer to the opening question in the article is: "No, I can't name any famous French, Germans, Austrians or Brits." Doesn't that more likely reflect badly on you than on France, Germany, Austria or Britain?

    Now on to your comment. I assume you're making a reference to WWII? Alot of Americans put their lives on the line defending my country, and if I ever have the pleasure of meeting one I always make sure to give them my deepest thanks. God knows they deserve it.

    But I'm gonna take a wild guess and say you probably didn't fight in WWII. Unless your over 80? Trying to claim credit for a war you didn't fight in is at best, pretty lame and at worst, disrespectful to the people that did fight and die in that war. It's a pretty cheap way to try and win an internet argument.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    There are plenty legal issues that could also fall under the moral and ethical category.

    I understand legal and illegal is not the same as right and wrong, but they do often merge.
    I'd say they pull up next to each other on the freeway occasionally, but always and forever remain seperate things. For example I personally think it's immoral to throw your life away with drug addiction, but I don't think it should ever be illegal to do so.

    No, but where then does your moral judgment derive from? Society? Whatever is "okay" at the time?
    Not sure, I'm not big on humanitarian or atheistic philosophy. I'm more of a natural rights guy who says whether by God or nature, we have certain rights and can generally deduce and define them in terms of property rights starting with self ownership as a given. I don't need God to tell me that if I'm the first person to farm some unclaimed land and make it productive, that I can justly call it my own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardTrainer View Post
    Okay. Either the point I was making went over your head or you ignored it. In either case I'll make it again in simpler terms:

    If your answer to the opening question in the article is: "No, I can't name any famous French, Germans, Austrians or Brits." Doesn't that more likely reflect badly on you than on France, Germany, Austria or Britain?
    Why would that reflect poorly on us? As Europe has declined, so have the number of influential people; however, I can name plenty of famous ones - isn't the OP speaking mainly of the arts, though?

    There are plenty of great scientists in Europe, and a number of other fields.

    Quote Originally Posted by HardTrainer View Post
    Now on to your comment. I assume you're making a reference to WWII? Alot of Americans put their lives on the line defending my country, and if I ever have the pleasure of meeting one I always make sure to give them my deepest thanks. God knows they deserve it.

    But I'm gonna take a wild guess and say you probably didn't fight in WWII. Unless your over 80? Trying to claim credit for a war you didn't fight in is at best, pretty lame and at worst, disrespectful to the people that did fight and die in that war. It's a pretty cheap way to try and win an internet argument.
    Both my Grandfathers fought in WWII. One stormed Normandy, and the other was a B17 pilot.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Why would that reflect poorly on us? As Europe has declined, so have the number of influential people; however, I can name plenty of famous ones - isn't the OP speaking mainly of the arts, though?
    Because if you can't name any European artists, all that proves is your ignorance of European art. Your own ignorance is hardly a solid foundation for a water tight argument.

    The fact is, there's more art being produced in Europe now than at any time in history. The fact that there are no artists alive today who can compare with Mozart, Van Gogh or Kafka is a simple trick of history. You don't become an influential genius untill after your dead and everybody else starts imitating you. The author is simply exploiting that fact.

    If you're really so easily convinced that cities like Paris, London and St. Petersburg have somehow become cultural wastelands then I suggest you book yourself a trans-atlantic flight and come and see the 'damage' done by our evil secular-socialism first hand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardTrainer View Post
    Because if you can't name any European artists, all that proves is your ignorance of European art. Your own ignorance is hardly a solid foundation for a water tight argument.

    The fact is, there's more art being produced in Europe now than at any time in history. The fact that there are no artists alive today who can compare with Mozart, Van Gogh or Kafka is a simple trick of history. You don't become an influential genius untill after your dead and everybody else starts imitating you. The author is simply exploiting that fact.

    If you're really so easily convinced that cities like Paris, London and St. Petersburg have somehow become cultural wastelands then I suggest you book yourself a trans-atlantic flight and come and see the 'damage' done by our evil secular-socialism first hand.
    First of all, I particularly can't name any artists for one reason...I'm not that interested in art.

    Secondly, all I have to do is look up some statistics on hospitals and health care to prove to you why socialism is garbage...not to mention the pathetic so-called life the country lives when they feel the government owes you everything. I see that within certain cultures in my own country. I don't need to travel to Europe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post


    No, but where then does your moral judgment derive from? Society? Whatever is "okay" at the time?
    Great answer found here:


    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlV3YxgwaF0"]YouTube - The Moral Atheist[/ame]
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    Humans are not animals, first of all. Next, for that argument to be valid, that means that the species would have to learn over time what was already provided to us in the Bible. The commandments given are to protect the human race.

    All the atheistic theory is trying to do is separate that by making it our "natural" framework.

    I wouldn't consider those "great answers." They're very common.

    Are you one of those guys that thinks anybody speaking with a British accent is smart?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Humans are not animals, first of all. Next, for that argument to be valid, that means that the species would have to learn over time what was already provided to us in the Bible. The commandments given are to protect the human race.

    All the atheistic theory is trying to do is separate that by making it our "natural" framework.

    I wouldn't consider those "great answers." They're very common.

    Are you one of those guys that thinks anybody speaking with a British accent is smart?
    I hate to say this IC, but the 10 commandments are somewhat common place. In fact the Egyptians had it (it was called the Oath of Clearance) at least a millenia prior. Additionally, the 10c are somewhat simple and common sense, except the first few where god just acts jealous.

    Using religion as a basis for morality is silly IMO. b/c when you look at the teachings of the monotheistics disasters that have great control here in the US, all you truly see are borrowed traditions and belief systems. None of it is original in the way most believe. In essence, specifically Jews and Christians are worshipping pagan holidays, gods, etc...
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    Quote Originally Posted by AE14 View Post
    I hate to say this IC, but the 10 commandments are somewhat common place. In fact the Egyptians had it (it was called the Oath of Clearance) at least a millenia prior. Additionally, the 10c are somewhat simple and common sense, except the first few where god just acts jealous.

    Using religion as a basis for morality is silly IMO. b/c when you look at the teachings of the monotheistics disasters that have great control here in the US, all you truly see are borrowed traditions and belief systems. None of it is original in the way most believe. In essence, specifically Jews and Christians are worshipping pagan holidays, gods, etc...
    I'm not only referring to the commandments; however, they ARE very commonplace, which begs the question...why not use them?

    And how are Christians worshipping pagan gods?...The holidays are simply taken FROM pagan holidays, etc. - Are you referring to Christmas? We no longer worship the "winter solstice" but the birth of our Savior. You can call that pagan if you wish.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Humans are not animals, first of all. Next, for that argument to be valid, that means that the species would have to learn over time what was already provided to us in the Bible. The commandments given are to protect the human race.

    All the atheistic theory is trying to do is separate that by making it our "natural" framework.

    I wouldn't consider those "great answers." They're very common.

    Are you one of those guys that thinks anybody speaking with a British accent is smart?
    I actually read a book on the subject that does a great job of breaking this topic down,it was called "The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule"



    Interview with the author about the book


    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar2gIynxedw"]YouTube - Michael Shermer on The Science of Good and Evil[/ame]
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    First of all, I particularly can't name any artists for one reason...I'm not that interested in art.
    Well that rather proves my point and the fallacy of the article. The author is essentially claiming your lack of interest in art as proof about the state of the arts in Europe.

    It would be like me saying: "I can't name any american basketball players, therefore there must not be any american basketball players."

    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Secondly, all I have to do is look up some statistics on hospitals and health care to prove to you why socialism is garbage...not to mention the pathetic so-called life the country lives when they feel the government owes you everything. I see that within certain cultures in my own country. I don't need to travel to Europe.
    If you feel you know all there is to know on the subject then I'm sure reading my posts won't change your mind.

    But I will finish by saying that I disagree with your assessment of what living in a more socialist society means. I don't vote the way I do because I think the government owes me something. Quite the opposite, I think that I'm the one that owes something to the rest of society. I think that the children of the man that cleans the toilets I use, have just as much right to go to college or receive medical care as I do. To that end I'm willing make sacrifices: Higher taxes etc.

    The thought of a member of my society dying unnecessarily or living in poverty distresses me, and I feel honour bound to try and do something about it.

    Naturally you're entitled to disagree, and given that we live in different countries and vote for different governments, it makes little difference to either of us what the other thinks.


    Are you one of those guys that thinks anybody speaking with a British accent is smart?
    To which I have the cure:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_mkwB9ayK4&feature=fv st"]YouTube - British are also NOT stupid - WITH SUBTITLES[/ame]
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    I'm not only referring to the commandments; however, they ARE very commonplace, which begs the question...why not use them?

    And how are Christians worshipping pagan gods?...The holidays are simply taken FROM pagan holidays, etc. - Are you referring to Christmas? We no longer worship the "winter solstice" but the birth of our Savior. You can call that pagan if you wish.
    the idea that christmas is jesus' birthday is laughable at this point, which I am sure you know.

    In terms of the 10c's, are you suggesting that the average person wouldnt use them if they were not "told to Moses on the mountain?" <even though evidently god told the egyptians first>

    take a look at the histories of Horus, Mithras, Quetzalcoatl, and of course Krishna.

    All predate Jesus and all have the same history <virgin birth,savior of humanity, etc..>. Things that make you go hmmm...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish Cannon View Post
    Humans are not animals, first of all. Next, for that argument to be valid, that means that the species would have to learn over time what was already provided to us in the Bible. The commandments given are to protect the human race.
    Actually a more sound interpretation is they were written to protect those that wrote them.

    Are you one of those guys that thinks anybody speaking with a British accent is smart?
    I don't know about Luther, but for me, no. I assume anybody speaking with a British accent is going to try to sell me some gadget or another.

    The problem with the Bible is it begs the question. For it to be a final authority you have to assume God exists, wrote the thing, and is the final authority already. Otherwise it's just a book which, regardless of how many people believe in it, has no more inherrent moral authority than Mother Goose or Aesop.

    The Natural or Atheist approach is at least an attempt to start from a universally accepted axiom of some kind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HardTrainer View Post
    I think that the children of the man that cleans the toilets I use, have just as much right to go to college or receive medical care as I do. To that end I'm willing make sacrifices: Higher taxes etc.

    The thought of a member of my society dying unnecessarily or living in poverty distresses me, and I feel honour bound to try and do something about it.
    That's good of you. Now the questions exist for you to answer, is a socialist government the best/most efficient way to provide that help? I mean, generally speaking wouldn't the children of the guy who cleans your toilet be even more better off if instead of using a portion of your given money to support a load of government drones, you just gave it directly to them? Also, is the long term answer the constant redistribution of wealth as if it's a zero sum game, or is it better in the long term to increase the supply and thus reduce the price of these things, making them more available to people at all income levels? If so, what does the system you are a part of do to ensure that will happen?

    You don't have to answer these questions here, I'm not trying to start an OT debate or anything. But if you are truly interested in helping your fellow man, you do need to answer these questions satisfactorily for yourself at least.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDB View Post
    That's good of you. Now the questions exist for you to answer, is a socialist government the best/most efficient way to provide that help? I mean, generally speaking wouldn't the children of the guy who cleans your toilet be even more better off if instead of using a portion of your given money to support a load of government drones, you just gave it directly to them? Also, is the long term answer the constant redistribution of wealth as if it's a zero sum game, or is it better in the long term to increase the supply and thus reduce the price of these things, making them more available to people at all income levels? If so, what does the system you are a part of do to ensure that will happen?

    You don't have to answer these questions here, I'm not trying to start an OT debate or anything. But if you are truly interested in helping your fellow man, you do need to answer these questions satisfactorily for yourself at least.
    I see what you're saying, and I think there's more than a grain of truth and reason to it. And I agree that they are very valid questions for any society to repeatedly ask itself. But there is a reason why countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden repeatedly top quality of life/poverty indexes and so on. I would never call socialism perfect, it has lot's of potential flaws, excess beaurocracy being a big one. But in general I would say that excess beaurocracy is prefereable to excess poverty. As always, there is a balance to be struck.
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