“What Socialism implies above all else is keeping account of everything.”
-V.I. Lenin, 1917
I would be willing to wager that very few people know that the actual definition of the word “utopia” is “nowhere.” As in, where has a utopia ever existed here on earth? Answer: nowhere.
In large part, the two key differences between sincere liberals and conservatives in the United States today are: conflicting views of what role our government should play in the daily life of an average citizen, and to what extent a government is able to make your life easier, better, or healthier.
The subtle brilliance of American free-market democracy is that it isn’t easy to maintain. Like most things in life we deem worthwhile, thing are not handed to us. In short, its effectiveness, and subsequently your quality of life, is based squarely on the shoulders of those who participate in it. If the people don’t care, or become convinced that they are unable (or more likely, unwilling) to take their turn as the current generation’s cultural watchman upon the walls of our “shining city on a hill,” then the nation’s lot will be deserved. We’ve nothing to fear but an apathetic citizenry itself.
Think about it. If we’re angry over how much power Congress annexes itself each year, or the manner in which they abuse the power they already have, we need look no further than the disinterested masses (us). We rarely hold our elected officials accountable because we rarely take the time to learn what those officials are in need of accounting for. If we’re angry over a volatile credit and housing market, the lion’s share of the blame ought to be laid at the feet of those who took loans they couldn’t afford to buy homes they didn’t need. If Hollywood is corrupting the youth, we need only to turn off one of the, on average, three televisions in the typical American home and hand little Johnny or Janie a book. (I suggest either the Bible or The Federalist Papers.)
This responsibility is something many of us no longer want, despite the self-evident and unmistakable rewards that can only come from such a free and de-centralized society as ours. Capitalism, specifically, is continually targeted for being too individualistic and too competitive. Although few would admit their own inability to “cut it” in a free-market economy, a disturbing number of our fellow citizens are willing (perhaps unconsciously) to label those currently less fortunate then themselves as being incapable of climbing the same ladder of success their own parents or grandparents did. The distinct line between handout and hand-up has been purposely blurred, and a culture of victimization encouraged and fostered to further justify the need for government intervention and coercion.
Liberalism and its logical conclusion, Socialism, are patronizing, naively easy answers to difficult and complex problems. The beguiling simplicity of Socialism, like that of Freudianism and Darwinism, is what I believe attracts the otherwise intelligent and thoughtful supporter to such a flawed ideology. It is, in the words of Polish philosopher and ex-Communist Party member Leszek Kolakowski, a “one key fits all locks” philosophy. The answer to every problem starts and stops with the federal government.
Admittedly, conservatives tend to forget that liberals, by-and-large, genuinely care about this country and generally want what is best for the most amounts of people. But what liberals almost entirely misunderstand about conservatives is that it is not “ends” we disagree upon, but the “means” by which we reach them. Everyone wants a free country. Everyone wants a cleaner planet. Everyone wants a cure for AIDS and an end to starvation. A significant stumbling block to thoughtful resolution of such problems is the fact that those in liberal media, academia, and politico desire to go uncontested as to the merit of their own championed ideas or policies regarding these matters, and thus are content to frame debates as being “the caring vs. the un-caring.” (Can you guess which group the Right is?)
This is why Barack Obama is the favored candidate of the Left. He claims to offer up the type of Socialism we all recognize as venerable and worthy of contemplation. This includes the ideals of social justice, greater equality, and genuine security from want or need. Not only are his desired “ends” that which are common to the hearts and minds of most Americans, but his self-proclaimed “means” are the kind of collectivist psycho-babel that can win over audiences in such progressive strongholds as San Francisco and Berkley and the faculty lounge at most public universities.
For the anti-war crowd he can point to the fact that while a state senator and community activist back in Illinois in 2003, he vehemently condemned the War in Iraq to any and all local Southsiders who would listen. For the Americans concerned with our safety, but disapproving of the Bush Doctrine, he promises to sit down with tyrants and despots around the globe in order to explain our intent to “buy the world a Coke.” His well deserved title as “Most liberal voting Senator” appeals to Democratic base and then is somehow dismissed by excitable Independent and Moderate supporters as being un-important in light of his potent oratory talents and genial demeanor. He’s a legitimately impressive political package when all is said and done.
But, and you knew there’d be a “but,” what Socialist idealists from Marx to Michael Moore always neglect to inform their captivated audience of is the price (a.k.a. the “means”) society will unavoidably pay for their visions. These messy details rain on the emotional parade of well-meaning citizens. Naysayers (like me) are seen as a wet blanket and cold-hearted Scrooge to stand in the way of what seems to be insurmountable excitement and enthusiasm surrounding a candidate like Senator Obama. In reality, many of us simply do not wish to trade “freedom from coercion” (by the government) for the unattainable “freedom from necessity” that modern liberal Democrats insist is only a November 2008 vote away.
The Socialism Barack ensures us is for the “common good” leads, in the immortal writings of 20th century economist F.A. Hayek, to the abolition of private property rights, a decrease in private ownership of the means of production, and the creation of a “planned” economy in which the entrepreneur working for profit is replaced by a central planning body. But even this may seem like not such a bad idea to most of you. The devil, yet again, is in the details.
The allure of Socialism is that its Collectivist “means” are never divulged up front because they don’t have to be when the electorate is as under-informed or disinterested as our own sadly is today. The idea of central economic planning, something most Americans would still (hopefully) agree is unsustainable, owes its appeal largely to the very vagueness of the promises made by candidates who (along with their financial backers) stand to inherit the consolidated power that comes along with increased federalization. Obviously both sides in November want to win, so ask yourself, candidly, not only what is it that each side plans to do with their power, but also how they plan on doing it.
What’s the problem with the Dem’s promise of free national health care? Nothing, if you think that 10% of Americans not having insurance requires that the other 90% settle for the same sub-par, wait-listed medicine that brings thousands each year from Canada, Cuba and Europe to our shores. Why do you think it is that so many of your doctors have names you can barely pronounce? What possibly could motivate them to leave their native homelands in order to come and perpetually re-diagnose hypochondriatic soccer moms? (Hint: It’s green, and there’s more of it here than anywhere else on the globe.)
Okay, but isn’t if fair for liberal Democrats to insist that we “take from some to give to others” in light of the money that Big Oil and Big Drug (the prescription kind) companies are making? Sure, if you are cool with Communism. Exxon Mobil alone paid more in taxes ($28 billion) last year than did the bottom half of income earners in the United States. These companies find the oil, drill the oil, refine the oil, ship the oil, and have it ready for your Lincoln Navigator or Toyata Prius each day (all while employing hundreds of thousands of workers and padding the investment portfolios of stock-share holders), and liberal Democrats can only think to punish Exxon’s success by mandating that their self-made reigns be handed over to the same type of bureaucrat who oversaw the Katrina aftermath and runs your local DMV?
Can’t you see where this line of thinking ends? Liberals insist they are for the “little guy” but as soon as that little guy votes for one them, they immediately seek to take away the freedoms and rights of everyone (except for themselves) so that we all end up little guys. Economic freedom cannot be separated from political freedom. The uniqueness of our nation is that we stress the rights of the people over those of the State. We entrust each citizen with the sacred duties of personal responsibility and civic duty, and only when either or both are neglected (as it is, increasingly so, today) can it even begin to sound reasonable for government intervention. We are failing each other, and ourselves, and it is exhibited by our collective desire for someone else to come in and solve the problems our own apathy's have created.
The reason Obama and Clinton don’t disseminate their ideas any further past the rhetorical phase is specifically because they know the overwhelming majority of us, when given the opportunity, can easily see through the misguided “means” with which they ultimately plan to use to reach our agreed upon “ends.”
I do not wish to question the motives of any liberal. It is their judgment, in light of facts, common sense, and our historical experience as a nation, which must (and will) be scrutinized and challenged every day from here until November’s election.
“What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven.”
-German economist Johann Christian Holderlin, 1957