Friday, March 22, 2019
Socialism: Be Careful What You Wish For
For so long, it appeared that socialism had definitively failed in practice and had lost its appeal as an economic ideology. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had crashed; its Eastern European satellites had escaped in the 1990s; China had transitioned from socialism to state capitalism beginning with the economic reforms of 1978 and has carried on energetically ever since; communist Cuba had declined to an offshore holiday resort for Canadians and Europeans, and socialist Venezuela totally collapsed. In a 1989 essay entitled "The End of History?", Francis Fukuyama argued that, in the events mentioned above, we were witnessing "an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism."
Socialist parties have, of course, been present in many European countries throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, and at some time and in some countries, have been dominant. But they have tended to be "pink" rather than "red," and have generally favoured welfare state policies rather than the takeover of the means of production; at the moment, most European countries are currently struggling to stay on life-support. The British Labour Party, for instance, abandoned state ownership of the means of production in a 1993 revision of Clause IV of its constitution.
Socialism, however, has recently taken off in the American political scene, and continues to be the foundational principle of Canada's New Democratic Party. In the U.S., "Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year." Furthermore, all "Americans aged 18 to 29 are even more positive about socialism (51%) as they are about capitalism (45%)."
Socialist leanings of young people should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with our educational system, from primary school through university, which has evidently been captured by Marxists, with their familiar cries of a world supposedly divided into oppressors and the oppressed. It means, if I do well, somebody must have been screwed; there is no economic model in Marxism for "I win, you win, we all win." Education these days consists largely of anti-Western and anti-capitalist, as well as anti-white and anti-male political propaganda.
This socialist orientation was reflected in the 2016 Democrat Party presidential primary, which likely would have gone to the self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders if the Democratic National Committee had not fixed the race. Pro-socialist orientation was seen in the 2018 election for the House of Representatives and the subsequent pronouncements of declared "democratic socialist" (her words) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Democrat adherents claim that they are "democratic socialists," but the USSR always claimed that it championed democracy vs. capitalism, and North Korea officially proclaims:
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a genuine workers' state in which all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression."The record for socialism on the democracy and economic fronts is no better than its record on freedom and prosperity; on all counts it has been a massive failure.
Socialist EqualityThe object of socialism is supposedly to increase economic equality by evening out the wealth in society among individuals and families. This is done by taking wealth from those with more than the average and redistributing it to those with less than the average. As wealth will not usually be voluntarily surrendered, the redistribution would have to be enforced by government agencies, backed by laws and administrative regulations. Socialism in practice, however, has usually resulted in members of the governments redistributing the wealth they seize to themselves and their associates. Even in the US government, at present, members of Congress do not bind themselves to observe the laws to which they bind the rest of the country. As Lee Atwater reportedly put it, "The dawgs don't like the dawg food."
Equality is a vague but important value in post-Enlightenment Western culture. Equality of what? Equality was first advanced historically as equality before the law, then evolved into equality of opportunity, and, in socialist theory, is framed as equality of results. Equality of results severs the relationship between being able to enjoy the rewards of one's production and the confiscation of those rewards for distribution to others, as seen in Marx's slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Even Stalin, however, wished to maintain some connection between production and distribution: he inserted into the Soviet Constitution the modified slogan, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his work."
Advocates of equality-of-result demand an even more radical disconnect between work and reward. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez circulated a summary of her "Green New Deal" proposal advocating state economic support for those "unable or unwilling to work."
Production and distributionThe focus of socialism is the redistribution of wealth. Neglected, when not disdained, is production -- an activity that governments are likely to do badly as there is no oversight or free-market competition. So, a central problem of any government's socialism is the lack of production of goods and services that it wishes to redistribute. Another major critique of socialism is that the disconnect between work and reward undermines the motivation to work and to innovate. Why work or take risks when the profits, if one is successful, go to others?
Socialist governments must redistribute, come hell or high water, and the decline of production turns out to be hell and high water. If you take away an incentive to work and produce, you end up taking away the producers. Visitors to the Soviet Union remember trying to get the attention of a waiter in a restaurant: why should anyone help if there was no reward for helping? There is a health crisis now within Europe as doctors flee poorer member states in search of better pay in wealthier member states, and in the UK, fewer people are applying to medical school. This realization is why Margaret Thatcher is quoted as saying, "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."
Socialist governments have a monetary solution to that problem: they just print more money. That works for the moment, but from then on, inflation increases until all money becomes effectively worthless and one cannot buy any goods or services, if there were any to buy, which by then usually there aren't. Inflation in oil-rich Venezuela reached 80,000% in 2018, according to Forbes. Socialist "equality" becomes equal poverty and starvation for all, except perhaps a few in government.
Equality "uber alles"While equality is an important Western value, it is by no means the only one.
Prosperity is another major Western value, and prosperity is exactly what becomes lost as production falls. In addition, if equality becomes the sole value, efficiency is lost. Goods and services are neither developed nor made available. Moreover, government-controlled economies are highly inefficient: economies are extremely complex and fast moving; bureaucracies are clumsy and slow.
Freedom is another major value, but under socialism, freedom is largely curtailed. With wealth expropriation and redistribution, people lose the ability to save, to invent, to move, to purchase, and to donate. Equality and freedom are simply incompatible. Socialism means turning over your freedom to your government, which claims that it knows how to spend your money better than you do. History has unfortunately proven this to be an economic and delivery-of-services death spiral, whether of sub-standard quality of public education in the US, or the delivery of health care to veterans. For years in the US, government-run health care for its veterans has been grotesque; and if one did not like it, there was not a thing one could do about it. The government just kept changing commissioners. Now, President Donald J. Trump is finally trying to address the crisis that veterans' healthcare has become. How? By privatizing it.
Justice is yet another value. If justice is giving each person his or her due, then taking wealth from those who have earned it, in order to give it to those who have not earned it, in terms of justice, is a practice dubious at best.
Socialist governanceThe more an economy is under government control, the more power the government and its agencies appropriate. There is, to make matters worse, no way to ensure that government will shoulder the responsibility in a responsible way. As the late head of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, is reported to have said about the abysmal state of free education in America's public schools, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."
The consequences of this are serious: as Lord Acton wrote to Bishop Creighton in 1887, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Economic equality that requires a strong government usually ends up resulting in political inequality: political leaders and the bureaucratic elite are in political -- and with it economic -- control. In the socialist political hierarchy, those at the top are close to absolute power; those below have no power.
Socialism has proven incompatible with democracy. Socialist countries have tended to become arrogant dictatorships, one-party states, totalitarian in culture and security. Security agencies have a free hand to enforce conformity.
DiscussionThe main reason that socialism has gained popularity in North America is, of course, that everyone likes "free stuff," especially "free money." It is not difficult to see the attraction in voting for people who promise to shift wealth your way.
Feeding into this support for socialism is envy. It is human to envy those with more and better. However, it is doubtful that it is good social policy to base political policy on these sentiments: one historically ends up with worse and less. While it is true that electoral systems are open to such pandering, the promises usually turn out to be fake (for instance, former President Barack Obama saying "You can keep your doctor"; "you can keep your health care plan"; "the Affordable Healthcare Act will save each family $2500"). Smart voters would be wise to avoid it.
Today's greed and envy seem to have been caused by the decline in the American character. According to the journalist Matthew Continetti:
"The bourgeois values of honesty, fidelity, diligence, reticence, delayed gratification, and self-control that once reigned supreme have been contested for many decades by an ethic of self-expression, self-indulgence, instant gratification, and demanding the impossible."In addition, as the historian Victor Davis Hanson points out in reference to people who advocate restrictions on freedom of speech:
"I think the way they do it is through Orwellian language, so what they mean is free speech is hate speech because you could be cruel to some group and censorship is called trigger warnings, segregation as safe spaces and having some skepticism that man-made global warming is sort of creationism or denialism."Today it is forbidden to mention to decline of virtue in America; any mention brings a mob of "social justice" enforcers to destroy anyone who brings it up. In true Orwellian, fashion, the supposed "antifascists" are the real fascists: a new morality police try to silence anyone who disagrees with them -- as here, here and here.
The reason for the decline in American character appears to be that belief in American values has been replaced by cultural relativism and multiculturalism, which claim that all values, beliefs, and cultures are equally good, and that non-American values are possibly even better than American values. For many in America, its values seem to have been have been downgraded to greed, racism, and militarism -- and that the best solution to American values is socialism in the form of "free everything."
For those Americans who do not wish to follow the road of the USSR, Communist China, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, there is an alternative route. If a major fear is of the expense of a catastrophic illness, President Ronald Reagan suggested a government assistance program just for that, and a free-market economy of choices for the rest of one's medical care. Surely that would be a program less economically crushing for any nation and its taxpayers and more sustainable than locking a nation into a bureaucratic, centrally-run healthcare system that has unfortunately supplied increasingly deterioratinghealthcare, with costs that explode and longer and longer waiting times, to fewer and fewer people wherever it has been tried. Socialism's sham absolute equality destroys prosperity, freedom democracy.
Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. His public interest articles can be found at the Frontier Centre, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Gatestone Institute, Middle East Forum, Minding the Campus, C2C Journal, Areo Magazine, and Dogma Review.
Terrorism is defined as the use of violence to push political change — and sadly, a terrorist in New Zealand has been able to do just that, rapidly changing the country’s laws in less than a week and possibly getting exactly what he wanted.
Last Friday, a man walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and killed dozens of people. The tragic crime was carried out with what that nation’s government is now calling “military-style semi-automatic weapons,” which are, in fact, some of the most common types of rifles owned by civilians today.
But with almost zero debate and not even an official vote by its House of Representatives, the country’s government has pushed through sweeping gun bans in record time. That executive action essentially turns previously law-abiding citizens into criminals in an afternoon unless they comply and turn in their firearms to the police.
“Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch,” the government’s official website reported in a news releaseon Thursday. “Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military-style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand.”
It must be stressed that the governmental body that supposedly represents citizens, New Zealand’s House of Representatives, hasn’t even voted on the measure. The massive ban was done with a signature at the capital, with officials promising that actual legislation would be passed at a later time.
“Earlier this afternoon, an Order in Council under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act was signed by the Governor-General to reclassify a wider range of semi-automatic weapons under the Act,” the government news site reported. “It came into effect at 3pm today.”
And what exactly are those “military style semi-automatics” that were made instantly illegal? It turns out that the term is pretty deceptive: A huge swath of firearms are now being called MSSAs, even though many have absolutely nothing to do with the military.
Any “semi-automatic firearm capable of being used with a detachable magazine which holds more than five cartridges” is now being called a military-style gun and is essentially illegal, although small .22 caliber rifles are exempt.
That means that your grandfather’s vintage M1 Garand with its eight-round clip would likely be illegal under the new ban, as would any number of common sporting rifles.
Residents are being told to surrender their previously legal firearms to the police as part of an involuntary buyback program. If they decline or try to safeguard their arms from government officials, they’ll be treated as criminals.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, according to NPR, said “ownership of firearms is a privilege in New Zealand and not a right.” That is exactly why the government was able to move so fast to begin rounding up guns and threatening citizens with criminal penalties if they don’t comply.
RELATED: CNN Anchor’s Lie About Trump & New Zealand Is So Huge She Shouldn’t Even Be a Fake Journalist
Do you think New Zealand-style gun confiscation plans could come to America soon?
There are a few key points here. First, of course, is just how fortunate Americans are to have the Second Amendment, which embeds the right to bear arms in the Constitution itself.
Even so, this should be a wake-up call to the United States: Bureaucrats will do everything they can to end civilian gun ownership for almost any reason. History has shown the dark path where that leads.
Second, it seems almost laughable that this massive gun seizure will have any impact on real criminals. If right now a terrorist is planning a copycat attack in New Zealand, will he shrug and turn over his semi-automatic firearms to the police? Only the naive would think so.
Meanwhile, it’s the law-abiding citizens — such as the victims who were targeted during their worship — who are left defenseless. Police took over half an hour to actually engage and stop the terrorist’s rampage in Christchurch.
Meanwhile, victims who were attacked in their place of worship were forced to defend themselves with makeshift objects including a credit card machine. Yet the government thinks disarming citizens even further will somehow help them.
“To owners who have legitimate uses for their guns, I want to reiterate that the actions being announced today are not because of you, and are not directed at you,” Prime Minster Ardern said, according to the government news release.
But that statement is both hollow and ridiculous. The new bans are directed at law-abiding citizens, without question. It is they, not determined criminals, who will be disarmed.
Finally, the elephant in the room is that the attacker who carried out these acts of terrorism most likely wanted to impact New Zealand’s politics. That is, again, the very definition of terrorism.
A rambling manifesto attributed to the mass shooter made it clear that he definitely had an agenda, bizarre and twisted as it may be. The document he allegedly emailed to many before the attacks openly admits that he wanted to affect public policy and stir up division, sometimes with misdirection.
“Significant portions of the manifesto appear to be an elaborate troll, written to prey on the mainstream media’s worst tendencies,” The Atlantic reported.
Is not one of those worst tendencies to jump to conclusions based on hot takes — the very thing that New Zealand just did?
“This manifesto is a trap,” warned journalist Robert Evans, noting that at “multiple points in the manifesto the author expresses the hope that his massacre will spark further attempts at gun control in the United States which he believes will lead to gun confiscation and a civil war.”
So, in at least one sense, the Christchurch killer set a trap … and New Zealand may have fallen for it.