Socialist experiments have failed no matter when and where they have been tried. Instead of tranquility and prosperity, they have resulted in strife and impoverishment. Yet socialism keeps on reappearing — albeit in different guises — throughout the world. From Venezuela since the early 2000s to the strong support for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign on American college campuses today, socialism continues to enjoy a surprising degree of popularity. What accounts for that?
Well, as it turns out, socialist instincts—including zero-sum thinking and egalitarian sharing—are parts of human nature that evolved in our premodern ancestors thousands of years ago.
“Socialism” and “capitalism” are relatively new, but their basic precepts are not. In fact, flashes of socialist and anti-capitalist thinking can be discerned all the way back in antiquity, thus pointing to the deep-seated nature of intuitive responses to both economic “systems.” In so far as capitalism is only the latest iteration of an economic set up based on commerce, private property and profit making, there have always been those who, unfortunately, found those three unpalatable.