Rise in Praise for Socialism (Including From North Dakota Democrats) Should Alarm Us All

Protesters organized by the Democratic Socialists of America protest the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)

For some reason there have been a spate of pro-socialism letters to the editor in the Red River Valley of late.

A letter to the editor of the Fargo Forum this week derided President Donald Trump’s stand against socialism during his State of the Union speech by making the rather bizarre claim that “socialism and private enterprise work very well together.”

This may come as a surprise generations of left wing activists and socialist organizers who generally treat capitalism and socialism as incompatible.

To bolster this argument the letter writer, one Larry Larsen, lists a whole host of government institutions he argues are examples of socialism:

Public schools including colleges and universities, libraries, water plants and water distribution systems, all federal and state highways, the lights that illuminate cities streets, police and fire departments, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the Bank of North Dakota, every branch of the U.S. military, public jails and prisons, public parks and National Parks and public parking are a few examples of socialism. Other examples are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Garrison Dam was built with tax monies; therefore it is an example of socialism. The National Weather Service and veterans hospitals are also examples of socialism. Anything public is a symbol of socialism.

Larsen’s letter got some applause from another letter writer, Lee Purrier, who said it was “so well written and informative it should have widespread distribution.”

Now a third letter, this one by Richard Hanson and published in the Grand Forks Herald, is praising socialism in much the same way Larsen’s did.

A new light shines in the political heavens. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Representing New York City in the U.S House of Representatives, she calls herself a Democratic Socialist.

The term “socialist” scares people. Yet most of us feel quite comfortable with public high schools, the Post Office, Medicare, Social Security, and the U.S. military. All are examples of socialism.

Hanson’s letter even got a hat-tip from a local chapter of the North Dakota Democratic Party:

The NDGOP has already pounced on that post. “This is just the latest in a string of tone deaf attempts by Democrats to pull North Dakota toward the radical, socialist agenda of the liberal left,” North Dakota Republican Party Chief of Staff Dawson Schefter said in a press release today. “If North Dakota Democrats continue to support socialist policies, they will no doubt lead their party toward further obscurity.”

The ignorance on display in these letters is confounding and alarming.

Socialism isn’t some right wing boogeyman. It scares people because it is an ideology at the root of history’s most murderous and oppressive political movements. From Soviet Russia to Castro Cuba, from Pol Pot’s Cambodia to North Korea under the Kims, socialism’s utopian ideal of a benevolent state promoting the welfare of the masses has time and again resulted in suffering and death on a scale unmatched by any other political movement.

Not even the Nazis – who styled themselves socialists, though their economic ideas took a backseat to white nationalism – amassed a body count as large as the socialists. Because – surprise! – governments abuse power.

Socialism requires the government to have an enormous amount of power.

Promoting socialism publicly should, if there were any justice in the world, be a sin on par with waving around a swastika. Sadly, it is not.

Socialism’s defenders will at this point trot out the old saw about the murderous regimes who were inspired by Marx and Engels and other leftist philosophers weren’t really socialist regimes. That’s bunk.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” certainly sounds nice, but at the heart of that idea (which, in turn, is at the heart of socialism) is a need for someone to do the giving and taking. Which perfect angels do we trust with that responsibility?

Left wing white washers are forever trying to distance what they think of as pure socialism from the various and horrific real world implementations. And a modern tactic, I guess, is to water down the definition of socialism to the point where it’s used to describe the existence of any government at all.

Admittedly, we can all get a little glib with the term “socialism.” People on the right, including this humble observer, have a tendency to throw the term around whenever our liberal friends start proposing big government programs. But socialism has a very specific definition.

It exists when government controls of the means of production, and the rest of us get no choice.

Programs like Medicare are certainly socialistic. The taxes paid to support it aren’t optional, and avoiding enrollment certainly isn’t very easy, but Medicare has not replaced private insurance or private health care.

Social Security, too, isn’t optional. But Americans have plenty of choices from the private sector when it comes to saving for retirement.

Public libraries do not preclude private libraries, or private booksellers.

You could argue that the government has a monopoly on the justice system – there is no private alternative to the police, or the courts – but those things are a necessary side effect of any society organized around written laws. You cannot have laws without a mechanism through which to enforce them. Thus, the police and the courts.

If having laws is socialist, then every government in history which has enforced laws was socialist.

The role of the state in America is not to give the masses happiness, but to protect their lives and their liberty so they might pursue happiness.

What scares people – including me – about socialism is that it requires the state to have an enormous amount of power to enforce that belief system’s ideas about equality. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” certainly sounds nice, but at the heart of that idea (which, in turn, is at the heart of socialism) is a need for someone to do the giving and taking.

Which perfect angels do we trust with that responsibility? Even if we could find a group of incorruptibles to implement some pure form of socialism, how can we be sure that those who inevitably take the reins of power from them will be similarly incorruptible?

America is not a socialist country. America enshrined, at its founding, a list of rights protecting individuals. Our system distributes the awesome power of the state to multiple branches of multiple layers of government.

This was done purposefully to avoid the exact sort of concentration of power socialism needs.

The role of the state in America is not to give the masses happiness, but to protect their lives and their liberty so they might pursue happiness.

Many, including these letter writes, would like move America way from these founding ideas. They want to bigger, more centralized government which will supposedly improve our lives by controlling our health care and keeping anyone from getting too rich.

It’s true that America has moved in that direction. Our federal government has grown larger, and more muscular, and we do have massive and socialistic programs like Medicare and Social Security on the books. But to use these things as an endorsement for the larger socialist movement is stupid, and not factual.

Free market capitalism and individual rights are concepts which do not produce perfect outcomes.

They will always be preferable to socialism, where committees of bureaucrats and ideologues impose their view of what’s best for us.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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