Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Socialism

As one of the quotes here expresses, socialism and communism tend to bring down the wealthy and successful into a a more equal poverty while capitalism naturally creates huge and unsustainable gaps between rich and poor. Because both systems comprise such deep, inherent flaws; any allegiance—between capitalism and socialism, conservatives and progressives, Republicans and Democrats—only leads to the creation of bigger problems. As in most others fields of life, the sane and wise path forward doesn't lie extremes but in the Middle Way.

It’s easy to imagine the beginnings of capitalism as an encounter between two primitive men, both in search of food for starving children. One has a leaf-full of berries, the other some useful digging bones. One possibility is the second one using a digging tool as a weapon to steal the berries; another choice could become trading half the digging tools for half the berries and giving birth to the capitalist foundation of civilization. So a case could be made for capitalism as an evolutionary influence mitigating the aggressive, war instinct and as an aid in the evolution of peaceful progress. Unfortunately, history also vividly demonstrates capitalism’s corrupt dark side that created slavery, genocidal suppression of indigenous peoples, degrading and dangerous work conditions; that continues today creating wage slaves, corrupt governments, and extreme gaps between rich and poor. That dark side also bred consumerism, many levels of materialism, exploitation, and deception. The symbolism of Goethe’s archetypal novel Faust describe these almost universal corruptions. On the positive side, the success and wealth of merchants checked the absolute power of kings and emperors. It provided a channel of opportunity for society’s poor and disenfranchised. It undermined the legacies of oligarchs and nepotistic discrimination making a real balance of equality and freedom possible. It encouraged a more rapid recognition and response to external changes speeding up social, cultural, and political evolution.

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Quotes (76)

“The true and worst but most often unpunished criminals wearing wealth fill their mansions with splendor when granaries are empty and farms are poor and wild. They never hunger, never thirst; yet eat and drink until they burst.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao, Witter Bynner; #53
(Lǎozǐ)

“Political 'equality' has been understood in two senses: as meaning either that all are to share absolutely alike, or that every man is to receive his due. Our ancestors preferred that 'equality' which does not efface the distinction between merit and worthlessness.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE

“When everybody owns everything, nobody takes care of anything.”

Aristotle Ἀριστοτέλης 382 – 322 BCE

“It is the nature of things to be unequal… If you rank them equally you throw the world into confusion. Suppose shoes, large and small, were the same price—who would make large ones?”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“Man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

“The state should take the entire management of commerce, industry and agriculture into its own hands , with a view to succoring the working classes and preventing them from being ground into dust by the rich.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE via Will Durant

“Every modern society seems to me to be nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who while protesting their interest in the common good pursue their own interests and stop at no trick and deception to secure their ill-gotten possessions, to pay as little as possible for the labor that produces their wealth and so force its makers to accept the nearest thing to nothing. They contrive rules for securing and assuring these tidy profits for the rich in the name of the common good, including of course the poor, and call them laws!”

Thomas More 1478 – 1535 CE
from Utopia

“I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it... I observed in different countries that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE

“The flaws that make social institutions necessary are the same as make the abuse of them unavoidable. The progress of inequality began with laws and property rights, developed sovereignty and domination which led to the conversion of legitimate into arbitrary power. The conditions of rich and poor, powerful and weak were established and later the institution of master and slave—a sure sign that this sequence has gone too far and either revolution or radical, internal change imminent.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 CE via GDH Cole, Shan Dao
from On the Origin of Inequality

“To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

Thomas Jefferson 1743 – 1826 CE

Themes: Socialism

“communal interest is inherently sleepy and unproductive... a matter of public spirit which is rare.”

Napoleon Bonaparte 1769 – 1821 CE via Taine

Themes: Socialism

“There is not a more dangerous experiment than to place property in the hands of one class, and political power in those of another”

Daniel Webster 1782 – 1852 CE
America's greatest orator
from North American Review, 1820

Themes: Socialism

“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 – 1859 CE
Pioneering researcher into the conflicts between freedom and equality

“It is the common error of Socialists to overlook the natural indolence of mankind.”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE

Themes: Socialism

“Authoritarian socialism—Marxist communism—demands a strong centralization of the state. And where there is centralization of the state, there must necessarily be a central bank”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism admits freedom only after equality—in equality and through equality—because freedom outside of equality can only create privilege.”

Mikhail Bakunin 1814 – 1876 CE
Romantic rebel, revolutionary anarchist, founding father of modern socialism

“Private property has made us so stupid and partial that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital … Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by … the sense of having.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“Democracy is the road to socialism.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE

“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletariat have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win ... Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist
from Communist Manifesto, 1848

“socialism is not merely the labor question, it is above all things the atheistic question, the question of the tower of Babel built without God to bring heaven down to earth.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Socialism

“When the gap between the highly educated and the practical, working classes gets too big, the former will have no influence and the latter no benefit.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

53. Shameless Thieves

“The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.”

Lord Acton 1834 – 1902 CE
(John Dalberg-Acton)
Prolific historian and politician
from History of Freedom, 1907

“I devoutly believe in the reign of peace and in the gradual advent of some sort of socialistic equilibrium. The fatalistic view of the war-function is to me nonsense”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”
from The Moral Equivalent of War

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism itself can hope to exist only for brief periods here and there, and then only through the exercise of the extremest terrorism.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism is the ideal state, but it can never be achieved while man is so selfish.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

Themes: Socialism

“When a Socialist starts a restaurant and begins to prosper, his Socialistic zeal begins to lukewarm and his comrades go into mourning for him as for one who is dead. Give us this day our daily work.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism is not charity nor loving kindness, nor sympathy with the poor, nor popular philanthropy... only the economist's hatred of waste and disorder, the lawyer's hatred of injustice, the doctor's hatred of disease, the saint's hatred of the seven deadly sins.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE via Shan Dao
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Everbody's Political What's What?

Themes: Socialism

“There is only one sort of genuine Socialism, the democratic sort, by which I mean the organization of society for the benefit of the whole people.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from New York Times, 85th birthday interview, 1941

“Jesus was talking the most most penetrating good sense when he preached Communism; when he declared that the reality behind the popular belief in God was a creative spirit in ourselves called by him the Heavenly Father and by us Evolution, Life Force, and other names.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare
from Androcles and the Lion, 1912

Themes: God Socialism

“The democratic faith in human equality is belief that every human being, independent of the quantity or range of his personal endowment, has the right to equal opportunity with every other person for development of whatever gifts he has.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

“What is a socialist? One who has yearnings to share equal profits from unequal earnings.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

Themes: Socialism

“I could see that the Wasichus [white man] did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation's hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving. This could not be better than the old ways of my people.”

Black Elk 1863 – 1950 CE
(Heȟáka Sápa)

75. Greed

“The New Deal is plainly an attempt to achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive 'policies' and 'Plans' of the Russian experiment. Americans shirk the word 'socialism', but what else can one call it?”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

Themes: Socialism

“early socialism was not at first at all 'democratic.' The democratic idea was mixed up with it later... its early form patriarchal... the first socialism was not a workers' movement; it was a masters' movement.”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

Themes: Socialism

“It is my idea to make capitalism create socialism in China so that these two economic forces of human evolution will work side by side in future civilization.”

Sun Yat-sen 孙逸仙 1866 – 1925 CE

Themes: Socialism

“Because of poverty, we must adopt the capitalist means of production to develop our resources to get rich. However, if we ignore the issue of social justice at the beginning of China's industrialization, we will sow the seeds of class warfare in the future.”

Sun Yat-sen 孙逸仙 1866 – 1925 CE

“Pythagoras, like Saint Francis, preached to animals. In the society that he founded, men and women were admitted on equal terms; property was held in common, and there was a common way of life.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from History of Western Philosophy

“Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

“I don't like the spirit of socialism – I think freedom is the basis of everything.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

“What we call National-Socialism is the poisonous perversion of ideas which have a long history in German intellectual life.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from "The War and the Future" (1940)​

Themes: Socialism

“Every reasonable human being should e a moderate Socialist.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE via (1950)
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from New York Times​ article

Themes: Socialism

“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.”

Martin Buber מרטין בובר‎‎ 1878 – 1965 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Socialism

“Since the creation of heaven and earth, men have been eating each other. I have been living in a place where for 4000 years they have been eating human flesh… But if you will just change your ways immediately, then everyone will have peace.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE via Marxist Internet Archive
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from A Madman's Diary

“Only socialism—[a social system which] does not permit the exploitation of one person by another [and that] must guarantee every freedom—as the goal and democracy as the means [can solve the] frightfully urgent problems of the age in which we are living.

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via Peter Bien

Themes: Socialism

“the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“Socialism inserted itself into capitalism without destroying it... The architects of the welfare state recognized the virtues of capitalism: they perceived the creative stimulus that had been given to invention, enterprise, production, and commerce by the freedom in the laissez-faire governments”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves

“The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

“There is nothing in socialism that a little age or a little money will not cure.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons

Themes: Socialism

“National socialism is the determination to create a new man. There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over.”

Adolf Hitler 1889
the most immoral and cruel conqueror in human history

Themes: Socialism Slavery

“Marxism is too uncertain of its grounds to be a science. I do not know a movement more self-centered and further removed from the facts than Marxism.”

Boris Pasternak Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к 1890 – 1960 CE
Russia's greatest poet

Themes: Socialism

“The Marxian formula, 'religion is the opium of the people,' is reversible, and one can say, with even more truth, that 'opium is the religion of the people.'”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Brave New World Revisited (1958)

Themes: Socialism

“Socialism is the abolition of human self-alienation, the return of man as a real human being.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Socialism

“I remained a socialist for several years, even after my rejection of Marxism; and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still... It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science
from Unended Quest

Themes: Socialism

“If you mean by capitalism the God-given right of a few big corporations to make all the decisions that will affect millions of workers and consumers and to exclude everyone else from discussing and examining those decisions, then the unions are threatening capitalism.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)
from Actions and Passions, 1945

“the final conclusion reached [by Marx] is that, after the victory of the workers over the bourgeoisie, there will be a society consisting of one class only, and, therefore, a classless society, a society without exploitation; that is to say socialism.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science

Themes: Socialism

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism… the only régime which, in the long run, will dare to permit freedom of speech. a real Socialist is one who wishes – not merely conceives it as desirable, but actively wishes – to see tyranny overthrown.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

Themes: Socialism

“Whereas socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people, 'I offer you a good time,' Hitler has said to them ' I offer you struggle, danger and death,' and—as a result—a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Politics and the English Language

“It is, I claim, nonsense to say that it does not matter which individual man acted as the nucleus for the change. It is precisely this that makes history unpredictable into the future. The Marxian error is a simple blunder in logical typing, a confusion of individual with class.”

Gregory Bateson 1904 – 1980 CE
from Mind and nature: a necessary unity (1988)​

Themes: Socialism

“Socialists should insist on using the nationalized industries not simply to out-capitalize the capitalists—an attempt in which they may or may not succeed—but to evolve a more democratic and dignified system... If they can do this, they have the future in their hands.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”
from Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered

Themes: Socialism

“If Christianity is pessimistic as to man, it is optimistic as to human destiny. Marxism, pessimistic as to destiny, pessimistic as to human nature, is optimistic as to the progress of history.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE
from Notebooks, 1942-1951

“Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of the people remain in poverty while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance.”

John Kennedy 1917 – 1963 CE
Modern America's most popular president

from Message to Congress, 1961

“Let's talk about socialism. I think it's very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name... It had several million people reading socialist newspapers. Socialism basically said, hey, let's have a kinder, gentler society. Let's share things. Let's have an economic system that produces things not because they're profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

“Communism placed its entire emphasis on improving the external lot of mankind. It placed its faith in external change, in the redistribution of wealth and the means of production, in the correcting of hierarchical inequities.”

​ Jacob Needleman 1934 CE –
American religious scholar, historian, philosopher, and author
from American Soul

Themes: Socialism

“Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production. It is also concerned with the fate of the working classes—that is the majority—as well as with the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and Marxism cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and it seems fair”

Dalai Lama XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 CE –

“Books are our link to the great ideas of the past... great books, great ideas, and great individuals make history. This concept runs counter to the Marxist idea that social and economic forces make great ideas. Such great men as Socrates, Napoleon, and Lincoln all built on ideas of the past. In truth, great ideas propel people to become great in themselves.”

J. Rufus Fears 1945 – 2012 CE
from Books That Made History

Themes: Books Socialism

“Marxism is a flight from the magic of the person and the mystique of hierarchy. It distorts the character of western culture, which is based on the charismatic power of person. Marxism can work only in pre-industrial societies of homogeneous populations. Raise the standard of living, and the rainbow riot of individualism will break out. Personality and art, which Marxism fears and censors, rebound from every effort to oppress them.”

Camille Paglia 1947 CE –
Fearless and insightful status quo critic
from Sexual Personae (1990)

Themes: Socialism Magic

“Communism was a great system for making people equally poor - in fact, there was no better system in the world for that than communism. Capitalism made people unequally rich.”

Thomas L. Friedman 1953 CE –

“A century ago, the richest countries devoted 1% of their wealth to children, the poor, the sick and the aged; today they spend almost a quarter of it.”

Steven Pinker 1954 CE –
Humanistic scientist, insightful cultural commentaror
from Enlightenment Now

Themes: Socialism

“The true socialist utopia turns out to be a field of F-1 hybrid plants.”

Michael Pollan 1955 CE –
Champion for Sustainable Agriculture

Themes: Socialism

“Monogamy is threatened by the relative wealth of the wealthy… one of the best ways to strengthen monogamous marriage s to more equally distribute income.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Moral Animal — Why we are the Way we Are

Themes: Socialism

“Any property that's open to common use gets destroyed. Because everyone has incentive to use it to the max, but no one has incentive to maintain it.”

Neal Stephenson 1959 CE –
(Stephen Bury)
Speculative futurist and cultural social commentator

from Zodiac (1988)​​

Themes: Socialism

“Over the last few years, Pope Francis has reinvigorated the Catholic Church’s core message with passionate criticism of unbridled capitalism and a new, more progressive worldview.”

Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva Нина Львовна Хрущёва 1964 CE –

“'Robber Barons' who presided over an era of economic freewheeling and corruption that historians have referred to as 'bandit capitalism'... were seize-the-day opportunists who were perfectly prepared to lie, bribe, steal, exploit and bend the rules in order to amass their personal fortunes.”

Roman Krznaric c. 1964
Practical, popular, modern philosopher

from Carpe Diem Regained (2017)

“Capitalism did not defeat communism because capitalism was more ethical, because individual liberties are sacred or because God was angry with the heathen communists. Rather, capitalism won the Cold War because distributed data processing works better than centralized data processing, at least in periods of accelerating technological change. The central committee of the Communist Party just could not deal with the rapidly changing world of the late twentieth century. When all data is accumulated in one secret bunker, and all important decisions are taken by a group of elderly apparatchiks, they can produce nuclear bombs by the cartload, but not an Apple or a Wikipedia”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow