The answer to the question of motive surely is that socialists are moved to varying degrees by a mixture of idealism, desire for and love of power, selfish motives, false guilt, hatred and envy of capitalism, wealth, privilege and success and finally religious ideas (or in the case of an atheist or agnostic the pursuit of equality, social justice etc as the substitute for religion).
The socialist will emphasise his concern about injustice, inequality, exploitation, the underprivileged, human suffering etc. Often idealism, love of power and self-interest march together.
The bureaucrat who lobbies for a new program for a purported socially desirable end which he may believe in, also knows that his power will increase and prospects of promotion be improved by the creation of a new unit with more bureaucrats. The academic whose career prospects depend on publications will find it easier to write a critical social analysis which is more publishable than a sober, common sense, realistic evaluation. Reality, common sense and evaluation are boring. Criticism is interesting and very much in the intellectual vogue at present. The pressure groups advocating regulatory government action know that if legislation is enacted as a consequence of lobbying, they may be appointed to implement the act. Some advocates of the Sex Discrimination Act, l983 (Commonwealth) expect to find themselves lucrative posts as advisers or bureaucrats when the Act is being implemented. Business and other pressure groups benefit in a similar way from legislation which is enacted consequent to lobbying.
Some people have feelings of conscience about the wealth and privilege they enjoy. It is much easier to ask the State to act or to focus on a particular cause such as land rights for the aborigines than to do something practical which involves sacrifice of personal wealth. A town person who asks for land rights for aborigines will not have to make any sacrifices, that will fall on a corporation or a country person. A person who exalts customary aboriginal life has no intention of donning a loin cloth, hunting with a spear or subjecting himself to aboriginal customs. A very small part of purported expenditure on aboriginal welfare goes to the aborigines themselves, the balance being creamed off by the bureaucrats and the activists.
This feeling of false guilt is a powerful factor among the affluent who have embraced socialism. They feel guilty about privilege and wealth and want to satisfy their conscience. It is a relatively easy escape to ask the government to act. But often the privileged socialists in their false guilt are trying for the impossible - to raise everyone to their own level which is not practicable or to raise them to an unrealistic level. It is not necessary to feel guilt for wealth if it has been legitimately acquired or inherited.
A hatred and envy of capitalism, wealth, privilege and success may also motivate socialists. Many socialists and most certainly Karl Marx are and were moved more by a metaphysical envy and hatred of wealth and success than by a genuine concern for injustice, the poor and the underprivileged. Hatred and envy of wealth and success often masquerade in the guise of concern for the poor and the underprivileged. Envy (with or without hatred) and a genuine feeling of injustice operate at different levels. The person receiving social security would regard with envy (and perhaps hatred) that class which is earning $l5,000 and above. Those who are earning about $l5,000 look at those which earn $25,000; those earning $30,000 or $40,000 look at those earning $l00,000 and above, and those earning $l00,000 and $200,000 look at the Lang Hancocks and the Alan Bonds. Whatever the level of income, envy, perhaps hate and a feeling of injustice can operate to focus on the more successful so as to see the inequalities of the system.
The persons who are most envious of wealth and success are generally not those on the lower income levels or the underprivileged. The hysteria against achievement and wealth is whipped up by very prosperous or relatively prosperous academics, politicians, bureaucrats, media personnel and others - some of whom have not been as successful in the quest for wealth and status as they would have wished.
The influence of religious ideas or in the case of an atheist or an agnostic the pursuit of equality, justice, etc as a substitute for religion may also motivate the socialist. As religion is declining in influence, equality and justice are becoming to some a new religion or a replacement for religion.
The motives of the socialists, as of all human beings are mixed. They will generally admit to unselfish motives and may genuinely believe in what they say because it is convenient and easy for their conscience. The selfish and other motives are glossed over. If confronted with the selfish motives or the envy they get most indignant. However, the most important factor motivating socialists (particularly affluent activists) is envy (and maybe hatred) of those who are more affluent and successful than they are. Socialists must be challenged about this factor. They rarely are.
Many modern socialists (to varying extents) are imbued with hatred and envy of excellence, achievement and wealth. The individual striving for excellence and achievement (and the consequent creation of wealth) in a relatively free society (now no longer as free as it was) has been the main reason for the progress and development of Western civilisation. The socialists place emphasis on equality (an unattainable ideal) and are unwilling to tolerate excellence and achievement leading to wealth. This envy has been primarily directed against the achievements and wealth of private entrepreneurs and members of the professions (excluding socialist members of the professions who may amass wealth). Wealth accumulated by other categories such as entertainers, sportsmen, skilled persons in technical fields (airline pilots) and certain tradesmen is not under attack in the same way.
The public utterances of the ALP government and its supporters (supported by sections of the media) about doctors' incomes illustrate this trend. The main reason put forward for Medicare was the need to prevent doctors supposedly ripping off the public. The comparative or higher earnings of others in society was ignored. Is a top class surgeon, often working 40 to 50 hours a week or more, not entitled to the same income as those in other professions such as sportsmen, entertainers and airline pilots?
The socialist reformers of today take an easy road. They retain their comfortable life styles. They join a cause and ask the government to act and to coerce other people to make the sacrifices. It is very easy for city folk to be concerned about aboriginal land rights and ask the farmers or the mining companies to make the sacrifices. These sacrifices will in the long run affect everyone but they do not have the foresight to see this. It is easy to ask the farmers and the mining companies to make the sacrifices. It is easy to join a cause and get the government to act and provide tax-payers' money. This is a twentieth-century phenomenon. The reformists of earlier times made sacrifices involving blood, tears, toil and sweat. But the so-called reformists of the twentieth-century take the easy way out. They make no sacrifices, they ask the government to act. Perhaps when the government acts and a bureaucracy is set up, some of them can obtain a position with a comfortable salary, a lucrative consultancy or a research grant.