Washington, D.C.—One of the more disturbing things about the current political debate is the ascendancy and mainstreaming of socialism and socialist ideology. Recent surveys confirm that members of the millennials and Gen-Z groups are far more supportive of socialism and redistributive economic policies than their elders. For example, a recent survey revealed that 61% of 18-24 year olds have a positive response to the word “socialism,” while only 29% of 55-64 shared their sentiments.
Why is this important? It matters because ideas have consequences. Good ideas can lead to human flourishing. Bad ones have victims—they can diminish and destroy people and civilizations. Therefore, before fully embracing socialism we should be asking some important questions. Here, we briefly explore two important aspects of socialism. First, what is the worldview behind socialism? Second, what has the track record of socialism been historically?
Socialism, as a utopian movement, asserts that humans are intrinsically good, and that under the right conditions, their good nature will emerge. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his later Marxists disciples believed, for example, that free from the restrictive obligations to church, family, and community, that individuals would self-actualize and experience the greatest good. Furthermore, that the state, as a collective of many “free” individuals coming together, is the highest good and is therefore entrusted in helping to liberate individuals, ultimately dictating back to the people what is “good” for them. In socialism, power and authority shifts away from the family, the church, and local communities to the state. That is why socialism is called a “statist” movement.
Socialism is “soft” communism. It is a definite step down the road of totalistic government control. In socialism the government uses confiscatory tax schemes and redistributes resources, passing a myriad of laws than burden citizens and suffocate freedom. Communism is extreme socialism with absolute central government power and control over the means of production, distribution of resources, and nearly all aspects of life. It has been observed the both systems lead to the loss of motivation to work hard, as the government confiscates most if not all of the fruit of your labor. Also, both communism and socialism invariably lead to diminished individual freedom and the loss of civil rights.
In contrast, the American republic was birthed by the Judeo-Christian concept of original sin—recognizing the fallenness of man. The truth recognized here is that, being sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, our natural bent is towards selfishness and sin. Not only is the individual corrupt and corruptible, but the state is in no better position because it is a collective of sinful individuals with power.
We believe that, though fallen, individuals have dignity and worth because they are created in God’s image. In our experience, this led the Declaration of Independence, which acknowledged that governments exist to secure the inalienable rights given to us by God. Those rights include the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (virtue). The U.S. Constitution acknowledged our fallenness and the corrupting influence of power by placing a separation of powers between government branches with checks and balances to keep the federal government from becoming too authoritarian and abusive. This worldview led to the historically unprecedented protection of individual civil liberties, as our founders believed that people have inherent dignity because they are created in the image of God. Though not perfect, our system, including free market capitalism, has been the envy world, repeatedly emulated by nations desiring freedom, peace, a prosperity.
Compare socialism. Historically speaking, socialism has not faired very well at all. In fact, everywhere it has actually been tried, it has failed. The Soviet Union. China. Cambodia. Cuba. Venezuela. Need I go on? The socialist promise to liberate the individual from moral and economic oppression has largely backfired, leading to, at worst, totalitarianism, and at best, a crushing authoritarianism that more often than not subverts individual economic incentives and basic human rights. Socialism’s utopian promise has, in most cases, devolved into a dystopian nightmare.
What is the actual fruit of socialism? The utopian promise of liberation of the masses resulted rather in their actual enslavement by the very state that promised their freedom. Oppression didn’t disappear, it increased exponentially. Socialist regimes suppressed religious freedom and decimated nearly all civil rights. Freedom of speech was crushed. Dissent led to the loss of our most precious human right—life, resulting in the death of millions. When the state is God, it can do anything, including killing with impunity. It is estimated that in the 20th century communist regimes, including those of Stalin, Mao and the Khmer Rouge, killed between 85 to 100 million of their own populations. Socialism’s fruit is rotten to the core.
Has socialism had any impact here? Sadly, yes. Many Americans continue to nurse and prop up the same failed utopian myths and cultural lies that produced such bitter fruit in totalitarian nations. We can see socialism’s impact in the New Deal. Later we saw it is the failed welfare state. We can now see it in its rapidly growing popularity with the youth, long indoctrinated in Marxist ideologies throughout public education and in the universities. Wake up kids! Socialism isn’t cool! Socialism stinks!
Is socialism the answer for the United States of America? I submit not. Our nation was founded on a healthy distrust of government. For good reason. History teaches us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When we deny the Judeo-Christian worldview and reject the beautiful truth that we bear God’s image, and that we are fallen sinners, in favor of socialism’s purportedly more “enlightened” view of a godless human nature, we actually end up undermining human dignity and losing freedom. I hope that we wake up before it’s too late.