In the March 6, 2014 edition of the University of St. Thomas student newspaper, The Summa, a rather troubling and disturbing article entitled, “The Undeservedly Controversial Word: Socialism” was published. At first glance, I hoped that the article was in fact a parody, or perhaps an early April Fool’s joke. Surely no one could possibly take the misguided, backwards, and misanthropic notion of socialism seriously enough to label it as “undeservedly controversial”? But to my dismay, reading further I understood that the author of this article had in fact fully embraced the concepts and tenets of socialism by citing America’s lack of “socialized healthcare”, by lauding America as a “Western welfare state,” and by defending these goals with irrefutable results from the “World Happiness Report.”
The fact is that as we begin the second decade of the 21st century, socialism remains a thoroughly discredited and completely obsolete mode of governance. For centuries across the globe in every place, and in every instance that it has been tried, socialism has failed completely and abjectly. There is a reason that while statues of Lenin are being torn down across Europe and the former Soviet states, statues of Reagan are being raised. There is a reason Obamacare is so unpopular. It doesn’t work. It turns out that even if you like your doctor you can’t keep him.
When the first English settlers arrived in America in 1620, they began their tiny colony by implementing a form of socialism. Fleeing England from what they considered to be religious persecution, they were also leaving an Old World which had been, in their view, overly materialistic, selfish, greedy and unprincipled. Their vision for the New World was to build a society erected on a new foundation of social altruism and communal sharing. Plato’s Republic provided their blueprint for a Communistic society in which there would be no private property and all labor and the resulting benefit would be shared in common. William Bradford, the Governor and head of the colony documented the tragic outcome of this failed experiment with communism in his diary.
The results of this first collective were disastrous and led to famine and starvation with scores dying. Deciding that they’d had enough of this failed system, and to avoid further inevitable devastation, another system was tried, free enterprise – capitalism. Now, instead of working for the “common good,” each individual citizen was responsible for their own survival, held their own private property, and was entitled to enjoy the fruit of their individual labor. America has flourished and prospered ever since.
Throughout history, what has proven to be absolutely undeniable is that while socialism professes to be for the common good, and for universal benefit, it has been embraced by groups and governing systems which seek power and control over the individual, rather than freedom and liberty. The radicals of the French Revolution, the Marxists who created the Soviet Union, the National Socialists who created the Nazi party, the Maoists who launched the Great Leap Forward, the Khmer Rouge who lay waste to Cambodia in the killing fields, the communist rebels who followed Castro and Che in the Cuban revolution. All of these bloodthirsty, murderous regimes (and others) led to the brutal, violent and pointless deaths of over 100 million people around the world.
The fact that America has embraced some forms or some degree of socialism with regard to policy or governmental programs does not therefore absolve socialism of its nature as a crime against humanity. It is not a reason to celebrate. Rather, it is a failing of our culture, our citizens and our representatives to hold fast to the ideals and values that have served us best. Capitalism linked with representative government always has and always will be the greatest means by which the greatest number of people can achieve the greatest amount of peace and prosperity. That is an indisputable fact. It is not a perfect system; no one has ever claimed it to be. But Democratic Capitalism has been the arsenal of freedom for those enslaved around the globe, through two World Wars, through Depressions and incredible global change, including the end of the Cold War.
Socialism has earned the revulsion and rejection of the world. What has made America great are exactly those qualities that continue to be an irresistible draw for those yearning for freedom and opportunity all around the world. Those who seek liberty, independence, freedom and prosperity always turn their eyes to America. Embracing socialism would be a betrayal of that hope.