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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Socialism in Our Time

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Socialism in Our Time

January 2nd, 2019 // 8:43 pm @

The Mantra of Today’s Media and Universities

“These were the pleasantest days of Sam’s life, these days in the woods, far from everywhere—no automobiles, no roads, no people, no noise, no school, no homework, no problems, except the problem of getting lost. And, of course, the problem of what to be when he grew up. Every boy has that problem.”
—Sam Beaver[i]

“And it was here that I learned the value
of economicness—which means saving.”
—Tucker Mouse[ii]

“…peace in our time.”[iii]
—Neville Chamberlain, 1938

I. The Two Drives: Strong vs. Weak

A century ago, and two centuries ago for that matter, the typical American judged himself according to a code of individual strength, in terms that might seem somewhat barbaric in current society. Today most people try to be more socialized; some would say more socially “acceptable”. Compliance is now largely considered a good thing—something our individualized American from the early 1900s would find objectionable.

 The inner reality of many moderns is even more telling.  A lot of people now judge themself not by strength, character, or individualistic achievement, but rather the exact opposite—how well they fit in with others. How popular they are. How closely they match the crowd. We are, by and large, supremely socialized now. Socialization has worked for at least two, going on three, generations.

 Anyone not quite civilized in this respect, anyone who is still “rough around the edges,” or individualistic, doesn’t fit the mold very well. This is widely considered a serious fault. If you doubt how strong this hold is on most modern families and parents, try the following simple experiment: pull your children out of school and announce that you plan to homeschool, then keep track of how many people ask you “What about their academics?” versus “But what about their socialization?” The first list will likely be short, or non-existent, the second will be long. Indeed, without quite realizing it, our society has adopted socialization as arguably the highest purpose of our educational system. And even of parenting. Or, alternatively, try an even more challenging project: quit your job and start a business. See which people you know think you are courageous and strong for striking out on your own, versus those who consider your choice rash, reckless, even “crazy”.

These two drives—the one to stand apart, to excel as a unique individual, to be one’s true self, versus the other, to fit in, to be like everyone else, to be popular with peers, to be a “peer” at all—have long been at odds. Ironically, despite current popular views, history shows that the drive to stand out is the natural companion of progress, while a widespread drive to feel popular always accompanies societal decline.[iv]

Make no mistake, actual progress in a society is nearly always led by people making choices that don’t “fit in”, individuals who are hungry, driven, enterprising. Positive change in the world is an uphill slugfest, a challenging epic of work, overcoming roadblocks, and more work. It is seldom comfortable. Where the people are comfortable—in their job, career, or community—little leadership is at play. Leadership breeds discomfort, and thereby change.

If you are comfortable, you probably aren’t leading. (Nor are you, for that matter, likely to be experiencing effective leadership from anyone else.) Decline, on the other hand, is typically mired in comfort, until a major crisis or setback arises, when chaos and terror set in. But the path to such events is usually filled with what past generations could only describe as weak, though one still deals with the stresses of trying to meet the approval of others, punctuated with as much free-time entertainment as possible.

Philosophers and scholars have long been fascinated with the idea of “socialization”. It is at times the supreme goal of societies (“is the society savage or advanced?”, “let’s make sure they get socialized”), and on the other hand it typically coincides with growing weakness, mediocrity, sloth. Softness. Whining. Calls for more government help to get by. Ultimately, decline. For Aristotle, this division began with the difference between the community (a group of families, each choosing and acting as individual units, while generally coordinating and working together for common goals—always voluntarily) and the city (the “civis”, root of the word “civilization”, made up of many more people than a community, so many in fact that the most “efficient” way to govern them was for a few elites to rule things from the top down; for the few to tell the many how to live). This has ever been the great divide: bottom-up self rule by individuals,families, and communities, versus top-down rule by a group of elites, usually through government.

The first naturally adopts individualistic goals and mannerisms; the other flourishes as people put aside individualism and desire mainly to fit in. Elizabeth Bennet versus Caroline Bingley, to put a fine point on it. Colonel Brandon vs. Willoughby. It is the Ayn Rand hero versus today’s “acceptable” modern man or woman. John Adams considered this the great battle of humanity, and the choice each of us needs to make in life: either to serve, improve, and progress, or, alternatively, to spend our lives trying to impress others.[v]

The Talmudic tradition traces the history of this division to Abraham—the traveler and nomad, hearty and robust enough to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert and rock-laden Near Eastern mountains, protecting his herds, leading his soldiers as they fought bandits and avoided the control of petty princes in every city. The opposite of Abraham was Lot, and what happened to his once strong nomadic family when they settled into the city life characteristic of Sodom and Gomorrah. Note that his very name, Lot, has become a word meaning group, collective, batch, or bunch. Today’s synonyms of “lot” also include “assembly,” “throng”, “horde”, “swarm” and “mob”. The “lot” is socialized, and where this is true, socialism is usually on the rise.

Alternatively, the Teddy Roosevelt style individualists mentioned above, both men and women, were driven by progress. Specifically, the hard work of progress. For today’s “socialized” seeker of ease, in contrast, comfort rules. Safety. Being cared for. No wonder socialism is gaining popularity. Not surprisingly, under socialism, the biggest goal of youth education is socialization. Learning to follow the orders of superiors and officials. Showing up on time, getting in line, and giving rote answers—well memorized, and well groomed. Socialized. Manicured. Compliant. “Good” students and “good” employees in this regime obey their superiors, focus on scoring well on state-designed tests, and repeat. Whether in school, factory, or corporate high-rise, in the airport or online, the mold is cast—socialization all grown up.

II. Socialism’s Center

Today the biggest catalyst and supporter of spreading socialism is none other than higher education—the colleges and universities, aided and abetted by much of the media. This is ironic, given that universities and independent media were first invented to foment free thinking, individualistic pushback against aristocratic rule, to lead rebellion against elite domination and the stifling social pressure to always please the elites. To speak truth to power. The idea was that ideas, thinking, and knowledge would empower people against elite rule of any kind.

Nearly all of today’s campuses, in contrast, are both the incubators and lifeblood of the Socialist movement. Socialization is the prime rule. Combine this with a world where most parents believe that “each child must go to college”, and we have the recipe for a major societal revolution in the decades just ahead. Indeed, it is already happening.

As I wrote recently, while addressing another topic:

“On the political front, in the post Bernie Sanders era, many Millennials [born between 1984 and 2001] support government-mandated free college, free housing, a monthly wage for everyone whether or not they have a job, and the appeal of ‘socialism.’ Many even like the word or label of ‘socialism’, with over half of Millennials self-identifying as ‘socialist’.[vi]

“But, ironically, they have little appetite for the ‘struggle of the working class to create a socialist society.’ [vii] That’s too much work. And they certainly aren’t looking for ‘the long revolution’ to bring about socialism.[viii] They just want socialist programs handed to them by big government, without any personal struggle, sacrifice, or effort.[ix] Many Millennials seem to feel they ‘deserve’ such programs, without doing anything to earn them.”[x]

Comfort. Being taken care of. Staying in line. Not the struggle to accomplish or build. In a word: socialization.

This is largely the work of modern education, from elementary and high school to the colleges and universities, followed by the continuing adult “education” of mainstream media. Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises warned many years ago that this exact situation was coming.

As he put it: “The typical graduate of colleges and high schools very soon forgets most of the things he has learned. But there is one piece of indoctrination which makes a lasting impression on his mind, viz., the dogma of the irreversibility of the trend toward all-round planning and regimentation. He does not doubt the thesis that mankind will never return to capitalism, the dismal system of an age gone forever, and that the ‘wave of the future’ carries us toward the promised land of [socialism]. If he had any doubts, what he reads in newspapers and what he hears from the politicians would dispel them…. Thus the average man is predisposed in favor of socialism.”[xi]

Mises warned that college too often changes students, convinces them, frequently against the teachings of their parents and childhood communities, that experts are always right, or almost always right, and that government experts, those licensed or approved by the government, are especially right. A result of college is often the alteration of a young individualist who questions things, especially authority, to a socialized person who generally accepts almost everything an expert says—particularly if the expert leads with his/her prestigious or official credentials, or both.

Another result is the all-to-frequent habit of believing most of whatever is mainstream, without any independent, personal research on the topic. A kind of “educated” mythology has become part of our modern reality—created by formative years packed with a plethora of hours sitting passively in class, taking notes of what experts say, then memorizing and being tested, graded, and ranked on the basis of how well one agrees with the experts. Few individuals get out unscathed.

This weakening of the habit of independent thinking and speaking truth to power is one of the typical outcomes for many who finish college, Mises warned. For example: “A few years ago a House of Representatives subcommittee on publicity and propaganda in the executive departments, underthe chairmanship of Representative Forest A. Harness, investigated federal propaganda operations. On one occasion the committee had as a witness a government-employed doctor. When asked if his public speeches throughout the country presented both sides of the discussion touching compulsory national health insurance, this witness answered: ‘I don’t know what you mean by both sides.’”[xii]

Mises was not impressed. “This naïve answer” he noted, “throws light on the state of mind of people who proudly call themselves progressive intellectuals. They simply do not imagine that any argument could be advanced against the various schemes they are suggesting. As they see it, everybody, without asking questions, must support every project aiming at more and more government control of all aspects of the citizen’s life and conduct. They never try to refute the objections raised against their doctrines.”[xiii] They seldom show the other side, even in the halls of higher education. They prefer a populace, including the college-educated masses, who will listen, believe, and go about their work without much questioning.

“Many citizens hold educational institutions responsible for the spread of this bigotry”, Mises argued.[xiv] “They sharply criticize the way in which economics, philosophy, sociology, history and political science are taught at most American universities and colleges. They blame many teachers for indoctrinating their students with the ideas of all-round planning, socialism…. Some of those attacked try to deny any responsibility. Others, realizing the futility of this mode of defense, cry out about ‘persecution’ and infringement of ‘academic freedom.’”[xv]

Whether by denial or deflection, the universities usually manage to change the subject without ever answering the question: Why, in our time, do “liberal professors outnumber conservatives nearly 12-1”?[xvi] Why is only one side presented? Why aren’t all sides allowed the full light of day, and the students taught to compare, contrast, weigh, analyze, and work for their own conclusions? In short, why aren’t they taught how to think? Are these actually schools, or are they more like places of indoctrination?

Why do “39% of [the top] colleges have 0 Republican professors”?[xvii] This is the opposite of diversity, yet instead of considering this situation a glaring weakness, many schools seem proud of their status, of “drowning in blue”[xviii] and “Telling students what to think…not how to think”.[xix] As a researcher for the National Association of Scholars summarized a study of college faculties in 2016, “…78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample [“51 of the 60 top-ranked liberal arts colleges”/universities] have either zero Republicans—or so few as to make no difference.”[xx]

If only those on the Left are allowed to teach our college students, who shows young people the other sides? Again, who teaches the students (and future or current voters) how to think, to consider different views and arguments, ponder and research, and develop their own conclusions? Who prepares them to think independently when they read or watch the news? Are they expected to treat the media like so many professors—and just accept what they are told? And why would any real teacher train students to “just accept and obey” in the first place, rather than consider, contrast, verify, and think?

Mises already provided the answer: “Yet what is unsatisfactory with the present-day academic conditions—not only in this country but in most foreign nations—is not the fact that many teachers are blindly committed to Veblenian,[xxi]Marxian and Keynesian fallacies, and try to convince their students that no tenable objections can be raised against what they call progressive policies. The mischief is rather to be seen in the fact that the statements of these teachers are not challenged by any criticism in the academic sphere. The pseudo-liberals monopolize the teaching jobs at many universities. Only men who agree with them are appointed as teachers and instructors of the social sciences, and only textbooks supporting their ideas are used. The essential question is not how to get rid of inept teachers and poor textbooks. It is how to give the students an opportunity to hear something about the ideas of economists rejecting the tenets of the interventionists, inflationists, Socialists….”[xxii] This is a very real dilemma, and the numbers are worse today than when Mises pointed them out.

III. What is Free Enterprise?

When Mises refers to “capitalism,” and “free enterprise,” he means something specific. What is it? The fact that so few people with long years of high school and college education, including graduate studies, can easily answer this question puts the quality of our educational systems in doubt. Here is the answer, in Mises’ typically Socratic way of asking questions:

“Do the American voters know that the unprecedented improvement in their standard of living that the last hundred years brought was the result of the steady rise in the per-head quota of capital invested?”[xxiii]

Stop here for a moment and be sure you clearly understand what he is saying. The American Dream, the rising standard of living that has become part of what most Americans consider a normal experience, at least until 2008, was based on freedom and entrepreneurship, but the key thing that makes it work is when freedom and entrepreneurship combine to increase the per-person amount of invested capital in the nation. When this level of available and utilized capital per person rises, the nation gets  more prosperous. If it were ever to fall, most people would get much poorer. Quickly. It fell during the Great Depression, and during the crash of 2008-2011. Fortunately, it eventually bounced back—but only because changes were made to government policy that rolled back regulation and rebooted the levels of per-person capital invested in the economy. Mises’ next sentence continues this point:

“Do they realize that every measure leading to capital decumulation jeopardizes their prosperity? Are they aware of the conditions that make their wage rates tower above those of other countries?”[xxiv]

“What is needed is to make the importance of these problems understood by everybody. No party platform is to be considered as satisfactory that does not contain the following point: As the prosperity of the nation and height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.”[xxv]

This is the key point, in a nutshell. If there is a continual increase in available capital,[xxvi] and effective entrepreneurs to employ it widely,[xxvii] the economy will grow, and if there is freedom, everyone will have the opportunity to benefit from the continual increase in available capital—in fact, their hard work and/or entrepreneurial success in such a system will further increase capital to the benefit of others. This leads to the growth and spread of wealth among the regular people. But when there is not a continual increase in capital along with freedom, then socialism—or some other form of top-down elite control—is at play, and the regular people get poorer and less powerful.

Again, few Americans today know this simple definition. Even fewer can immediately articulate it as the central economic reality of a growing versus declining economy. This is a failure at all levels of education, and an even more shameful reality in a society that spends so much time and money on higher education and media.

Those who claim to be socialists, or progressives or liberals, miss this point when they argue against profit. Mises put it succinctly: “The progressives consider profits as objectionable. The very existence of profits is in their eyes a proof that wage rates could be raised [by government force] without harm to anybody…”[xxviii]

But they “speak of profit without dealing with its corollary, loss. Profit and loss are the instruments by means of which the consumers keep a tight rein on all entrepreneurial activities. A profitable enterprise tends to expand, an unprofitable one tends to shrink.

“The elimination of profit renders production rigid and abolishes the consumers’ sovereignty. This will happen not because the enterprisers are mean and greedy, and lack these monkish virtues of self-sacrifice which the planners ascribe to all other people. In the absence of profits the entrepreneurs would not learn what the wants of the consumers are, and if they were to guess, they would not have the means to adjust and to expand their plants accordingly.”[xxix]

He continues: “The market system makes all men in their capacity as producers responsible to the consumer. This dependence is direct with entrepreneurs, capitalists, farmers, and professional men, and indirect with people working for salaries and wages….

“The economic system of the division of labor, in which everybody provides for his own needs by serving other people, cannot operate if there is no factor adjusting the producers’ efforts to the wishes of those for whom they produce. If the market is not allowed to steer the whole economic apparatus [free enterprise], the government must do it [socialism].”[xxx]

IV. What is Socialism?

Here Mises addresses another very important question: What is “socialism”? As with “free enterprise”, few people today can give an immediate, clear, and accurate answer. Mises makes it simple:

“Under socialism, production is entirely directed by the orders of the central board of production management [whatever it is called in a specific government, such as The Department of…X]. The whole nation is an ‘industrial army’…and each citizen is bound to obey his superior’s orders.”[xxxi] Note that these superiors are government officials.

Mises: “In the free economy, no production czar tells a man what he should do. Everyone acts for himself.”[xxxii] The word for this system, where no “czar tells a man what to do”, is “freedom”, or “free enterprise”. The word for “each citizen is bound to obey his superior’s orders” is not freedom. It is socialism, or some other type of authoritarian rule. Which begs the question: Why do a number of people who wantmore freedom for the regular people say they like socialism? Answer: They don’t understand what socialism actually is or does.

Free enterprise works because the consumers decide what the entrepreneurs and producers make and distribute. Whatever they purchase influences what businesses will make and offer in the future.[xxxiii] This gives more power to the regular people than any other social system in history. Nations that apply this model become wealthy, in a widespread way that gives more opportunity to almost everyone, and people from other nations flock to immigrate and partake in the numerous benefits of free enterprise. Note that very few people are flocking to leave free enterprise nations and immigrate to socialist countries.

Why then do socialists try to stop entrepreneurs and producers from delivering what the people want? In Mises’ words: “…the socialist writers are at least clear-sighted enough to see that simply to paralyze the market system results in nothing but chaos. When they favor such acts of sabotage and destruction, they do so because they believe that the chaos brought about will pave the way for socialism.”[xxxiv] This is precisely what much of modern media and academia do today.

“But those who pretend that they want to preserve freedom, while they are eager to fix prices, wage rates, and interest rates at a level different from that of the market, delude themselves. There is no other alternative to totalitarian slavery than liberty.

“There is no other planning for freedom and general welfare than to let the market system work. There is no other means to attain full employment, rising real wage rates, and a high standard of living for the common man than private initiative and free enterprise.”[xxxv]

V. Why Is Socialism Sometimes Popular?

Why doesn’t every high school and college graduate clearly understand this? If we put roadblocks in the way of continually increased capital, we only hurt ourselves, and our families. The biggest such roadblocks are government regulations and controls, and the level of taxes necessary to fund a government that is big enough to continually increase such government regulations. The reality is clear and simple: the regular people prosper in a free society where there is a continual increase in capital and opportunity, and the regular people suffer and society declines in a nation where there is instead a continual growth in government regulations.

“Then why isn’t everyone in our society today getting wealthy?” the critics of free enterprise will ask. Answer: Precisely because we are no longer a truly free enterprise system. We now apply more socialism than not. Not as much as some nations, it is true, which is a major reason why immigrants still want to come here, and not there. But we apply much more socialism than is good for true economic success for people at all levels of society—as a result, those at the middle and bottom end of the economy struggle much more than they would in a truly free enterprise system.

Also, our government, as it increases socialist regulation and policy, decade after decade, makes the spread of wealth to the regular people even more difficult. That’s what socialism does. This directly leads to more force-based government, because people are told that we are living in a free system but they don’t experience the benefits of vigorous economic opportunity. When they voice their frustration, too many politicians, professors, and so-called journalists answer that more government intervention in the economy would help everyone. The opposite is the actual truth, but too few people have the educational understanding to realize the lie—especially since it comes from sources they learned in schools to trust, namely academia, media, and Washington.

Mises put it clearly: “Tyranny is the political corollary of socialism, as representative government is the political corollary of the market economy.”[xxxvi] Socialism always ends up with a small, elite ruling class and a nation full of people with poor or stagnant finances. So why would anyone consider socialism the best approach? Short answer: the socialists lie. Led by many of those in academia, media, and government.

A basic reading of history shows the wisdom of Mises’ words: “As the harbingers of socialism tell us again and again, socialism will not only make all people rich, but will also bring perfect freedom to everybody. The transition to socialism, declares Frederick Engels, the friend and collaborator of Marx, is the leap of mankind from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom. Under capitalism, say the Communists, there is bondage for the immense majority; in the Soviet Union alone there is genuine liberty for all.”[xxxvii]

These promises are all lies, Mises points out. How anyone with a basic knowledge of history can believe such an argument is almost inconceivable. But if the experts push it, and there are none to show another side, only a lot of personal reading and deep thinking is likely to expose the truth.

Instead, in too many cases, in most cases in fact, the message many college graduates remember is something like the following, as described by Mises: “The tycoons are too powerful, too rich and too big. They abuse their power for their own enrichment. They are irresponsible tyrants. Bigness of an enterprise is in itself an evil. There is no reason why some men should own millions while others are poor. The wealth of the few is the cause of the poverty of the masses.”[xxxviii] And, the conclusion: bigger government is the answer, and socialism is the solution.

All of these messages are pure mis-education. They are, however, subtle, and they have proven quite effective in convincing people, built as they are on layers of experts, credentials, and government certifications—and generations of youth trained to believe these sources without really questioning them. The more conveyor-belt schooling a person has, the more he/she has been encouraged to accept the words of experts and dismiss the words of anyone who doesn’t agree with the “accepted” “wisdom”. A few see through this, even with a great deal of formal education; many people don’t.

Mises continued: “Each word of these passionate denunciations [above] is false…. It is precisely the necessity of making profits and avoiding losses that gives to the consumers a firm hold over the entrepreneurs and forces them to comply with the wishes of the people.”[xxxix] This assumes, of course, that the government equally and impartially protects the freedoms and rights of all, big and small. Such an arrangement is called free enterprise. Sadly, socialist and progressive policies nearly always do the opposite.

In truth, it is through lack of real education that the nation falters. Those who don’t individually study history, and search out what really happens when socialism—in any form—is applied, are more likely to consider socialism a good idea. Socialism and widespread ignorance always travel hand in hand. In the long term, socialism has been a disaster for the regular people everywhere it was implemented.

Note the following pattern in history: Socialists win when they convince the people that socialism will make everyone more equally prosperous, and then the nation adopts socialism and the regular people get poorer and poorer. Any leader who actually deregulates the economy and unleashes free enterprise in a nation releases a huge economic boom; the socialists respond to such evidence by changing tactics, ignoring the economy, and loudly attacking the leader’s personality or background. When they win, meaning that another leader is put into office, one who rekindles socialist regulations and controls, the economy slows and the regular people get poorer. The socialist promises of prosperity for everyone never actually come to pass. Again, history is clear on this reality.[xl] But to know this, reading is needed.

Those who do such diligent reading of history usually find the truth. For example, unless a young person has read a book or two by Solzhenitsyn about socialism, and at least one by Bastiat, he or she is uneducated on the topic. Period. Read three books by Solzhenitsyn, and a person is ready to actually begin a real discussion about socialism. Supporters of socialism typically respond to this by trying to differentiate between socialism and communism, arguing that while communism may be bad, socialism is much better. But this is a distraction; the pattern above is common to both.

In Marxism, to be clear, socialism and communism have the same goals, just a different way of getting there. A third variant of socialism, social democracy, which is applied in many democratic nations, particularly in the West, shares the same goals as communism and socialism. Again, the methods vary, but the target is the same. Most importantly, the long-term trajectory of the regular people is the same under all these types of socialism, or similar enough to be considered the same by any honest observer. They get poorer.

This pattern is the same followed by socialists throughout history, and around the world. As noted above, sometimes they call themselves socialists, other times communists, and still other times social democrats, democratic socialists, progressives or liberals. Again, the pattern is the same. This pattern is not, of course, the idealistic theory of socialism, as many socialists like to point out, but it is what actually happens almost every time socialism and its variants are implemented. The exceptions are found only in the short term; in the long term all socialist regimes follow this pattern. In other words, this is the reality of socialism—over and over and over, regardless of the theory.

Mises concludes the point: “Men must choose between capitalism and socialism. They cannot avoid this dilemma by resorting to a capitalist system without entrepreneurial profit. Every step toward the elimination of profit is progress on the way toward social disintegration.”[xli]

VI. The Trifecta: Socialization, Sociality, Socialism

Moreover, as too few people understand, only when capital is plentifully available and the regular people are free to entrepreneur such capital into prosperity does a nation flourish economically. This doesn’t just happen automatically, despite the fact that many “educated” people have come to believe it does.

Mises: “Profits are never normal…it is not the capital employed that creates profits and losses. Capital does not ‘beget’ profit as Marx thought. The capital goods as such are dead things that in themselves do not accomplish anything. If they are utilized according to a good idea, profit results. If they are utilized according to a mistaken idea, no profit or losses result. It is the entrepreneurial decision that creates either profit or loss. It is mental acts, the mind of the entrepreneur, from which profits ultimately originate.”[xlii]

“In choosing between capitalism and socialism people are implicitly choosing between all the social institutions which are the necessary accompaniment of each of these systems…. If control of production is shifted from the hands of entrepreneurs, daily anew elected by [the choices] of the consumers, into the hands of [government officials], neither representative government nor any civil liberties can survive.”[xliii]

Of course, in the current environment, the quick skim of history that passes for “education” in too many schools, including many colleges and universities, doesn’t prepare us very well. We must read deeply. Thus the idea that free enterprise is the lifeblood of freedom, and that socialism is just another means of elite domination, is a contrarian viewpoint today. It also, however, happens to be true.

This dichotomy has nearly always been with us, to be accurate. Courtiers in Egypt and later Rome shook their heads at the independence-oriented choices of the Israelites, medieval aristocrats scoffed at the same freedom-loving traits in entrepreneurial merchants, and the British wondered why the American colonists would adopt such “rebellious” and “unsociable” views in the 1770s. Why not just pay the tea tax and get along with everyone? Why rock the boat? Why put limits on government? What kind of people are these Americans, anyway, with their insistence on principles over obedience, and independence over sociality?

Yet the Americans called such “sociality” what it really was—submission to the rule of elites. In our day the same independent approach is still frowned upon by elites, and other people who have been convinced or conditioned to spend their lives trying to impress elites and aspire to elitist cultural standards and values. Why try to impress and follow elites? Because: too much of modern “education” presents it as the classy, normal, tasteful, acceptable thing to do. The socialists have done their work.

Spreading this kind of socialization in our nation was time-consuming and difficult, but now socialization has become the norm—in action, if not in name.

Sad.

Washington and Jefferson didn’t approve of trying to impress such “Tory” thinking in their time, and I highly doubt they would approve of trying to impress elites today. We should follow the Jeffersonian wisdom on this, not to get along, or to fit in, and not to impress elites, but because freedom is worth taking a stand. It’s the right thing to do.

VII. Will Socialism Succeed or Fail in Our Time?

And let’s be clear: socialism is absolutely the opposite of freedom. The more socialism spreads in a society, the more the regular people struggle to make ends meet, and the more their standard of living decreases.The longer socialist policies endure, the worse it gets, and the less power the regular people have to improve their situation. This is the repeated legacy of socialism. In the communist application of socialism it happens quickly, while it occurs more slowly under social democracy. But it happens, eventually, in all forms of socialism—at least, it always has.

Again, some will argue that this occurs because societies fail to implement the “real”, or “pure” form of socialism. “If only we apply socialism the right way this time,” they argue, “things will work out differently.” But nobody has done it the “right” way in a lasting system. Instead, over and over, those trying to implement socialism have repeated the same predictable mistakes. Given this reality, why would anyone want to repeat such a consistent error of history by adopting any level of socialism?

Ironically, I think many Millennials who say they are “socialists” actually mean that they don’t like the current system. Since they are told in school, inaccurately, that in the current system we are already following a free enterprise approach, that this is the source of their generation’s problems, and that socialism is a different model that brings more prosperity to the regular people, they naturally cheer for socialism. The reality that every socialist-promoted “fact” in the last sentence is a lie can only become part of the dialogue if Americans take the time to deeply learn the truth, ponder the options in detail, think critically, and choose wisely. Most of academia and the media, despite promises to the contrary, actually act against this approach.

Socialism, by whatever name, is now the mantra of most schools, universities and media outlets. The future of our nation literally depends on effectively overcoming this reality. This is going to call for people who stand up, stand out, and reject the orthodoxy of trying to impress elites and elite-promoted values.

Notice #1: Efforts to impress the elites end up allowing more socialism and hurting us all, including our economic opportunities, our freedoms, our families, and our future.

Notice #2: The elites won’t be impressed anyway. The only thing that actually impresses them (and simultaneously frustrates them) is when the regular people stand up and implement real freedom. Free enterprise does this; socialism does the opposite.

Notice #3: Every step toward further socialism decreases the power and long-term prosperity of the regular people, and gives more power to a small class of elite rulers. The socialists say the opposite, but they have been wrong every time socialism was implemented in history. It’s time to reject their lies, even those that are well-intentioned.

Notice #4: Unless Millennials, and other generations as well, actually learn what socialism does to the regular people (not what it claims, but what it actually does to them), they are on track to repeat this tragic mistake of history.

Notice #5: Whenever any politician or party promises anything for free, it is being subsidized by elites, nearly always the very elite corporations and corporate interests that socialists claim to despise. Why do elites subsidize free things (college tuition, healthcare, housing, raised minimum wage, etc.)? Answer: Because they find ways to pass this expense on to the regular people, and, also, this approach gives them the power of masters over the people they subsidize (slaves, or slaves in training). That’s actual socialism.

In free enterprise, private property ownership and entrepreneurship is the basis of freedom, prosperity, security and progress. According to socialism, in contrast, private property ownership and entrepreneurship is the “root of all degeneration in society.”[xliv]

A philosophy that believes private property is evil is going to take it away from the regular people—making them poor. That’s socialism. Pure and simple.

And then, as time passes, it will make them increasingly poor. And since a lot of people like material things (like land, food, shelter, clothing, etc.), and want them, a system dedicated to taking these things away from most people is going to force, hurt, kill, torture—whatever it takes to get all the property taken away, and keep it that way.

As a result, regardless of what the promoters say when they are trying to implement socialism, the large majority of people actually living in a socialist system will have little freedom, less prosperity, and little, if any, security or progress.

In addition, a few of those who are given the power to oversee the process (government officials) are going to want to keep a little or a lot more than everyone else—for themselves and their family. This is what always occurs under socialism. In actual free enterprise there are rich and poor, and many in the middle (and opportunity for those at the bottom and middle to rise); in actual socialism there are a few very, very rich and extremely powerful at the top, and everyone else is very, very poor (with no opportunity to rise).

Please do yourself and your posterity a huge favor, and tell this all to a Millennial.


NOTES

[i] The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White.

[ii] The Cricket in Times Square, George Selden.

[iii] The actual quote was “…peace for our time”, but it has been misquoted to the point that Chamberlain is often given credit for both sayings.

[iv] See, for example: Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History; Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers; Will Durant, The Lessons of History; William Strauss and Neil Howe, The Fourth Turning; Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Geoffrey West, Scale; Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks; Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles; Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization.

[v] See John Adams, Discourses on Davila.

[vi] American Institute for Economic Research, Max Gulker, December 2017, “Over Half of Millennials Identify as Socialist: Here’s How to Change Their Minds”

[vii] See, for example: The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg, June 30, 2018, “The Millennial Socialists Are Coming”; The American Interest, Ben Judah, “What Is Millennial Socialism?”; chicagotribune.com, Heather Wilhelm, July 9, 2018, “Why are millennials so hot for socialism?”

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ludwig Von Mises, 2008 Liberty Fund version, Planning for Freedom, 141.

[xii] Ibid., 125.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] The Washington Times, October 6, 2016.

[xvii] One News Now, May 5, 2018. Study by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid., Mitchell Langbert.

[xxi] See, for example, The Theory of the Leisure Class.

[xxii] Op cit., Mises, 126.

[xxiii] Ibid., 33, emphasis added.

[xxiv] Ibid., emphasis added.

[xxv] Ibid., 37, emphasis added.

[xxvi] Ibid., 33-37.

[xxvii] Ibid., 151.

[xxviii] Ibid., 12-13.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid., 13-14.

[xxxi] Ibid., 53.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Ibid., 143.

[xxxiv] Ibid., 14.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Ibid., 83.

[xxxvii] Ibid., 111, note that Mises wrote this before the fall of the Soviet Union.

[xxxviii] Ibid., 161.

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] Op Cit., Toynbee through Huntington, as outlined above.

[xli] Op Cit., Mises, 172.

[xlii] Ibid., 151.

[xliii] Ibid., 172.

[xliv]See Maxim Trudolyubov, 2018, The Tragedy of Property, 71-72.


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One Comment → “The Jefferson-Madison Debates: Socialism in Our Time”


  1. Patty

    11 months ago

    This is our money funding the elite class running our government, both congressional & corporate. Corporations sure seem to believe in corporate welfare, but not welfare for the citizens who fill the coffers with their blood(soldiers), sweat(laborers), & tears(all the death & destruction around this dying planet…, our Mother).


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