There is something attractive about the idea of socialism. Who could fail to be attracted by the ideal of giving to those who are needy and receiving from those with a surplus? Wouldn't you want a world of peace, where disputes were settled by reasoned argument rather than by power plays, where nationalism takes a back-seat to community and where all are considered equal before God and the law?
What a splendid idea that the sick should not want for medicine because the whole society picks up the bill, that the poor and handicapped have the rich and privileged as benefactors and even the criminal can be forgiven and redeemed.
Why is it, then, that socialist states bankrupt themselves, tend toward authoritarianism, imprison and execute those who disagree with their leaders and level down rather than raising up?
An old saw says anyone who is not a socialist before they are 25 hasn't got a heart; anyone who is still a socialist after they reach 25 hasn't got a head. It is certainly true that socialists tend to be younger than conservatives. The only time I rejoiced in a socialist victory in the polls was in 1966 when I was 23.
The answer to all these questions, is, of course, human nature. I am sure that in heaven we will hold all things in common, and there will be no police state, no greed, no backbiting, no internal strife. Everyone who goes to heaven has to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Published today are the memoirs of Michael Levy, Tony Blair's fixer. Last year he was arrested, though not charged, concerning the 'cash for honors' scandal. What the memoirs reveal is how deep was the quarrel between Blair and Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister. Blair, he says, thought that Brown could never defeat David Cameron in a general election. He thought that Brown was a liar who couldn't be trusted. In the end Levy came to realise that Tony Blair, his mentor and friend, was just a politician - in it for himself.
One reason that I would never put myself forward for office is that I know myself. I couldn't be trusted not to put my own interests first. Why is it that politicians generally are held in such low esteem? Because people recognize what human nature is like. The current battle between Obama and Clinton is revealing the dark side of both candidates.
For a socialist Tony Blair was a remarkably successful politician, but he achieved this by abandoning most socialist principles. His first act as leader was to get the Labor party to disavow its commitment to taking major industries into public ownership. He continued Mrs Thatcher's policy of espousing free market economics. He did not repeal the anti-Trades Union legislation that Thatcher had enacted. Nevertheless, he kept the welfare state, introduced a negative income tax for the poor and poured money into free education and the NHS.
In the end, he was brought down by hubris. Perhaps because of his supposed intimacy with God, he thought he could solve everybody's problems. He brought the Catholics and Protestants together in Northern Ireland. He intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo. He sorted out Sierra Leone. He became a firm ally to George Bush after 9/11 and sent the second largest contingent of troops to Afghanistan. Then came Iraq. I do not know Bush's motive in invading Iraq. I think I know Blair's. He wanted legality; he wanted an excuse that would justify invasion in the eyes of the world; but most of all he wanted an end of the foul regime of Saddam and the Baathists. He thought he was the man to do it.
Alas liberating Iraq was not like liberating Paris. It was more like taking the lid off a pressure cooker. I believe that Bush was naive about Iraq though Cheney was seeking the main chance and Rumsfeld was conducting an intellectual experiment with people's lives. In the end Iraq may yet end up a better place, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives, but it could have been done better. Worst of all it has deterred intervention in a dozen other places where cruelty and hardship are inflicted by criminal rulers. Darfur, Congo, Zimbabwe and Burma are just a few of the failed states beyond help.
The failure of socialism is that individuals do not suffer the consequences of their actions. Those who do not save for their old age are supported by the taxpayer; so why should anybody save?
Those who do not work are fed and housed by the taxpayer; so why should anybody work?
Those who do not obey the law are let off several times before they receive a prison sentence, and while in prison are provided with color TV, recreation, table tennis, snooker, a library and cheap drugs; so why should anyone obey the law?
You might reply that life is better if you do work, save and obey the law. Not if taxation burgeons.
Blair promised to be tough on crime; tough on the causes of crime. Sounds good, though he thought crime was caused by poverty, social deprivation, poor housing and the like. That's the wrong diagnosis. Crime is cause by the rebellious human heart. The guy who swindles millions on the stock exchange is neither poor, poorly housed nor socially deprived. He's wicked. Just like the thug who mugs old ladies, the black kid who stabs another for wandering on to his 'turf', the motorist who drunkenly ploughs through a bus queue or the philanderer who turns in his 50-something wife for a newer model.
Socialism doesn't work because of the human heart. It's nice to have ideals but I'd prefer politicians who are realists.