Pro-socialism marchers took to the streets of New York City during the May Day 2018 protests. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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A Gallup poll released in August found Democrats have a more favorable opinion of socialism than capitalism. According to Gallup, 57 percent of Democrat respondents say they view socialism positively, compared to only 47 percent who said they have a positive view of capitalism.
This is more than just a little troubling. Socialism is a truly horrific economic and societal model, one that makes people sicker, poorer, and less free. Of course, many of those responding to the Gallup poll would disagree. They think most people would be better off under socialism (they probably have the watered-down European-style socialism in mind), and it’s not easy to convince them otherwise — believe me, I’ve tried!
But perhaps the secret to winning the war against socialism isn’t to convince people who find its utopian promises alluring that capitalism leads to better living conditions for everyone. That’s an important argument, to be sure, but there are also important moral considerations that need to be hammered home, including some ideas most people rarely think about.
However, before I discuss those, readers need to understand precisely what socialism is. When most people in the West today think of socialism, they think of single-payer health care and “free” college tuition programs in countries such as Sweden, but the truth is that real socialism — the ideology preached by Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, and numerous socialist parties around the world — is very different from what you’ll find today in modern Scandinavia.
Yes, those countries do have some socialized industries (and so does America, by the way), but if you ask most socialist parties today if they think Sweden is a socialist country in line with the teachings of Marx, they would undoubtedly say “not even close.”
The socialism of Marx, Engels, and other leading socialist thinkers from the 19th and 20th centuries is primarily about one thing: eliminating economic classes, which are simply different groups in society with varying degrees of wealth. They believe classes are the root of all of society’s evils because those with control over the capital, the people Marx called the “bourgeoise,” use their economic power to exploit the working class. The only way to stop this exploitation, Marx reasoned, was to have a world in which all, or nearly all, property is owned and managed collectively.
Collective property ownership is the foundation upon which all socialist policies are built. Although socialist parties disagree about how much of society’s property should be owned and managed collectively, they generally agree that at the very least, the “means of production” — meaning most industries — should be owned and controlled by the collective. But how would that work, exactly?
According to most modern socialists, there are primarily two ways in which a collective-property model can be operated, and both are democratic. The first is that workers directly and democratically control property and the second requires people to elect “more qualified” people to manage and control property.
Under either system, one thing is clear: Even if a socialist model is working exactly as Marx and others want, virtually all decisions in society are made democratically by the collective. Most personal property rights would disintegrate under this system. Sure, the collective might let you own your own pair of pants and certain other consumer goods, but anything of real value would need to be owned and controlled by the society as a whole; that’s the only way to ensure no one becomes too wealthy.
This system creates a race-to-the-bottom economy, because in a world in which all people get the same amount of wealth regardless of how hard they work, there’s no reason for people to work hard — or even at all. But even if we pretend that such a system could work efficiently, it would still create serious moral problems. If all decisions are made collectively, then that means there’s no room for individual rights, especially religious beliefs.
Let’s consider a couple of examples. In a socialized agricultural system, would the collective choose to kill animals for food or not? If so, then every single vegetarian would become the part owner of every slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant in the country. It wouldn’t matter that some vegetarians, including the six million members of PETA and many Hindus, think it’s immoral to kill and eat animals, because socialism means industries are collectively owned and operated. These vegetarians would be forced to participate, whether they like it or not.
A similar problem would exist for every Roman Catholic nun, priest, and devout parishioner. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that both contraception and abortion are grave sins, but in a socialized medical system, they would be forced to become part owners of every abortion facility and condom factory in the country.
Minority groups opposed to the consumption of alcohol would also likely be forced to participate in activities they are opposed to, and similar moral problems would exist across the entire economy.
Put simply, socialism, even if implemented perfectly, would create a tyranny of the majority; whatever the majority wants, the majority gets. There is no room for minority views, because minorities make life harder for the collective. In socialism, individual liberty must disappear, because with individual liberty comes a diversity of opinion and an unwillingness to live in a way that violates one’s conscience. In contrast, socialism effectively requires people to be compelled to live in opposition to their deeply held beliefs, including their religious beliefs. And that, no matter how well the wealth is spread around, is highly immoral and arguably even evil.
These concerns, and many more about socialism, too, have led me and a team of other pro-liberty academics and professionals to create StoppingSocialism.com. We hope you’ll join us in our fight by discussing the dangers of socialism with your friends, family, and neighbors. Together, we can stop the rise of socialism.
Justin Haskins is widely published conservative commentator, think tank research fellow, and the co-founder of StoppingSocialism.com.
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Justin Haskins is the director of the Socialism Research Center at the Heartland Institute and the co-author of the New York Times best-seller "Dark Future: Uncovering the Great Reset’s Terrifying Next Phase."