Why is there so much passion behind socialism, whereas there’s relatively little behind capitalism?

A college student recently asked me this question during a breakout session at a FEE-CISC conference. She went on to point out that advocates of socialism speak with a sense of moral certainty about their position, whereas advocates of capitalism, if they speak at all, do so with a kind of moral trepidation. She further noted that this gives socialism a substantial advantage.

Indeed it does.

Socialism has such passion behind it because socialism has conventional morality on its side.

Consider the psychological and moral context that college students and young adults in general bring to the question of which social system to support.

Practically everyone has been told from the moment he could listen that being moral consists in selflessly serving others. We hear it at home, in Sunday school, in grade school, in college, in books, in movies, on TV, and in every other aspect of the culture. The idea is ubiquitous.

One of its main sources is the Bible:

  • “I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land,” says God through Moses (Deuteronomy 15:11).
  • “Woe unto those who . . . turn aside the needy,” warns God through Isaiah (Isaiah 10:1–2).
  • “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you . . . do not demand it back”—“Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor”—“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”—says Jesus (Luke 6:30 and 18:22; Matthew 19:24).
  • “Do nothing from selfishness,” writes Paul, “but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves”—“Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” he elaborates, for “such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Philippians 2:3, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Hebrews 13:16).

And so on. The Bible is full of such commandments. . . .


1. Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, part 1 (1875), http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm.

2. Auguste Comte, The Catechism of Positive Religion, translated by Richard Congreve (London: John Chapman, 1852), 309, 313, 332–33 (emphasis removed).

3. John Stuart Mill, Auguste Comte and Positivism (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961), 146, 148.

4. John Dewey, The School and Society (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 19–20.

5. John Dewey, “My Pedagogic Creed,” School Journal 54 (January 1897): 77–80, http://dewey.pragmatism.org/creed.htm.

6. John Dewey, The Middle Works of John Dewey, Volume 2, 1899–1924: Journal Articles, Book Reviews, and Miscellany in the 1902–1903 Period, and Studies in Logical Theory and The Child and the Curriculum, 1st ed., edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008), 93.

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