Socialism: A Principle-Based Critique

Conservatives speak out against socialism, and I am glad they do. Often, though, the critique is too much on the surface. I wish more conservatives would base their critique on solid Biblical principles.

While I agree that socialism simply is unworkable and has never shown any indication, in any nation, of being the engine that brings prosperity, my critique is more fundamental.

Defining socialism is important. The definition that I think is most appropriate is when the government controls all the means of production and distribution of goods. That can be by outright nationalization of all industries or by regulating them in such a manner that they, in practice, are no longer truly private—the ostensible owners can’t really make the decisions they wish because the government has intervened and interfered on every level.

Where does my critique begin? It starts with the belief that God has created each individual in His image, which includes the abilities to reason and to make decisions in life.

The second principle is that God seeks to lead us into maturity by teaching us how to govern our own lives—under His laws and guidance. He wants us to grow up and be able to know, without someone always standing over us, what those right decisions are.

Third, if that principle of self-government is correct, the natural extension is that we are to make our own economic decisions also. If government makes all those decisions for us, we never learn how to be accountable in that arena. We can never graduate from God’s School of Accountability if the government takes over our lives.

That’s why I believe that limited government and a free market are the ideals. That’s why I believe that capitalism is the source of genuine prosperity.

Can capitalism go wrong? Every human endeavor dependent on sinful men can go wrong. But it can go very right as well. Socialism, meanwhile, is inherently wrong because it violates all those principles I just described.

I said socialism hasn’t worked anywhere. I can give the former USSR and its satellite states as a prime example: 70-plus years of abject failure.

Nations like Sweden, which are often used as shining examples of socialism, have never outlawed private ownership of businesses; the government has simply tried to use the prosperity that stems from those businesses to finance a welfare state. if you haven’t noticed, there is now trouble in that nation trying to maintain its high level of social welfare. As Margaret Thatcher so famously stated (and I paraphrase)—socialism always runs out of other people’s money.

Venezuela is the latest tragic example, where people are searching garbage cans for food, and where hordes of its citizens are now voting with their feet, leaving their native land—a land that was once the richest in all of South America. The late Hugo Chavez, the dictator who began this disaster, was the instigator of this move away from reason, and let’s be honest: it was also a play for complete control over his people and maximum power for himself.

He didn’t live long enough to witness the full fruit of his warped ideology, but his people have lived with the consequences ever since.

Young Americans seem rather taken with socialism. I believe it’s because they don’t really have an understanding of it. They seem to think it’s some newfangled theory that no one has ever tried. Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new darling of the socialist agenda in the Democrat party. She actually seems unaware of the many failures. She somehow thinks we can pay for everything she wants to make “free.” She is woefully educated.

Her rapt audience is a sad combination of the ideologically blind and the gullible, both of whom are devoid of solid principles:

Democrats are counting on those young voters in the upcoming midterm elections. For some reason, they seem to want to remake America in the image of Venezuela.

Maybe this is the argument they need to make to convince people to vote for the socialist agenda:

Meanwhile, we need to speak out on these principles: man is made in the image of God; God expects us to grow up and mature, making our decisions based on His truth; we are to learn accountability by making our own economic decisions.

And the system that these principles all lead to is capitalism.

May those principles be re-established.

Political Saviors & Benevolent Government

Sometimes being a history professor is painful, in the sense that one has such an overview of what has happened before that it becomes painful to watch us repeat the same old follies. I communicate that to history majors with this cartoon:

What ancient folly are we currently experiencing?

Of course, it’s worked so well wherever it has been tried:

And now, in the person of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrats have their new “star.” This happens periodically, whenever either party thinks it has found a political savior:

Fortunately, we have the news media to help us think through all controversies intelligently:

Well, maybe not.

Place not your trust in political saviors or promises of utopia through “benevolent” government. There is only One we can trust for the future.

The Socialist Delusion

Have you noticed how much more popular socialism has become lately? At least among young people? One of the problems of youth—and I was once one of that number (as unlikely as that may seem to some of my readers)—is that it’s so easy to jump on whatever seems to be a new bandwagon, especially one that holds out promises that will take care of every social ill one sees.

The first thing to keep in mind is that social ills are always with us. Second, the lack of historical knowledge and economic knowledge is rampant, particularly among the young. The idea that one can put the government in charge of the means of production and distribution of goods and everything will be wonderful is a belief that crashes on the rocks of sound theory and practical experience.

Yet youth are not being given much sound theory and they have no foundation in experience to counter the false ideology of socialism they are being fed.

This latest round of “socialism is great, it’s the future” seems to have started in earnest with Bernie Sanders running for president in 2016. He should know better; after all, he’s not one of those youthful idealists. He’s just someone who never has come to grips with the litany of socialist failures.

Now we have the newest “star” in the socialist panoply of mini-gods and -goddesses: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who ousted a Democrat regular in the primary and is now easily going to be elected to Congress from her liberal NYC district. She’s everywhere on the talk shows claiming that socialism will cure all ills. She even said that adoption of socialist policies will save money because there will be fewer funerals.

Huh?

She’s being roundly mocked for her lack of economic understanding. Many wonder how she can be so ignorant when she received a bachelor’s degree in that very subject. Well, ignorance of economics can be found in economics departments at universities also.

She also seems pretty ignorant of foreign affairs whenever questioned about that. In one sense, I feel sorry for her simply because she is displaying so much of her ignorance, yet she undoubtedly believes she is one of the truly enlightened.

Sanders recently came up with a healthcare plan that will cost approximately $32 trillion over the next decade. He disputes that figure, but socialists always do. They try to sell the American people on the idea of some kind of free lunch, but we need to be wary of anything deemed “free”:

You might have noticed that both political cartoons used the newly promoted phrase “democratic socialism” as the key. After all, if something is democratic, it must be fine, right?

Yes, it sounds nicer, but the end is still the same—it hits you right in the face.

The failures of socialism abound, yet whenever anyone points that out, we’re usually told that isn’t real socialism and that “real” socialism hasn’t been tried. Tell that to the citizens of Venezuela, one of the potentially richest nations on the globe now feeling the full effects of the socialist revolution imposed on them by the Chavez-Maduro governments:

The typical response is then to point to Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries that are supposedly the prime examples of the glories of socialist policies. Yet, upon closer inspection, we see that even though places like Sweden and Norway have extended government benefits beyond the usual, they haven’t really excised the true engine behind their economies:

Private enterprise continues to provide the impetus for whatever prosperity exists. Countries like Sweden have, in recent years, had to cut back on what the government provides because that approach is fast becoming too expensive and hurting the economy. So, no, those are not socialist paradises.

Yet what are the Democrats now doing? They are moving steadily toward becoming publicly what I think they’ve been all along—a socialist party. And they seem to think that’s a winning formula for the next election cycle.

What started as limited government intervention into the economy in Democrat ranks has bloomed into full-blown euphoria over what government can do. It may come back to crush them if they’re not more prudent:

They may, after the fall congressional elections, be asking themselves this question:

I found a meme a while ago that sums up my opinion on this pretty well:

And as a Cubs fan since 1961, I can’t stop until I share this:

May we learn from history.

What Alfie Evans Should Mean to Us

Alfie Evans is now with our loving God. That’s what I believe. More on that later in this post.

But that doesn’t excuse how he was treated by a callous society.

Some have commented that this despicable treatment cannot be laid at the feet of a socialized healthcare system, that it could have happened simply by any insurance company in the private sector refusing to provide further aid to a child they deemed unlikely to live anyway.

While it is true that an insurance company could have come to the same decision as the British National Health Service, the latter has far more power to make that which is despicable even more despicable.

A government entity can do what a private insurance firm cannot: deny the parents their parental right to remove their child from the system and choose to go elsewhere for medical help. In Britain, the courts ruled that the parents had to step aside and obey what the government decided: your child, in essence, belongs to the state, and the all-knowing, all-wise state will determine whether that child will live or die.

And if you speak out against that determination, be warned: you will be liable to prosecution.

No private insurance company can do any of that. It can only occur when government takes the reins and says it is the final judge of who is worth saving.

That is a moral degeneration of the most horrendous sort. When some in America warned of death panels with the passage of Obamacare, they were ridiculed by the system’s supporters. That would never happen, they retorted. Don’t be so alarmist.

Perhaps some of those deniers will now have second thoughts? I hope so.

My belief that Alfie Evans is now in the presence of his Creator, Father, and Lover of His Soul is the ultimate comfort in the midst of this heartwrenching action by the government.

So, if that’s my belief, some might say, why are you so concerned about what has happened? After all, Alfie is certainly in the best place possible.

My concern is what this says about us, what it means for nations like Britain and America. It reveals a seared conscience that doesn’t allow the sacredness of life to guide our thoughts and actions. It leads to a horrible dehumanization of humans, a devaluation of value implanted by God in each individual.

We are made in God’s image. But ever since the introduction of abortion as a mechanism to remove an unwanted human being from our lives—too inconvenient to raise a child right now, or that child has too many problems (Downs Syndrome as one example)—our disregard for that image of God in each of us has hastened our fall into the pit of hell as a people.

It began with abortion. It increasingly extends to those at the other end of the life cycle—they are too expensive; they don’t contribute anything anymore; let’s rush them into death. Now, as with Alfie, infanticide is becoming more accepted, more “natural.”

God’s love leads a society in an altogether different direction, a direction that values the life of all people, but especially those most vulnerable, the ones who cannot defend themselves.

Are we on a slippery slope that cannot be reversed? Will we descend into greater depths of callousness and depravity?

Those who name the name of Christ and declare Him to be the salvation of the world need to stand strong in these times and be that proverbial “sore thumb” that bothers the consciences of those who are on that slope. The Christian witness is the only hope for changing men’s minds and hearts.

God is currently blessing Alfie Evans. May we help spread His blessings to this needy world.

Will We Learn From History?

As a historian, I have this faith that people might actually learn something from history. What a quaint notion.

The first requisite, of course, is that people know some history. Those kinds of people are becoming a rare commodity.

Please excuse the seeming air of resignation in this post. It’s just that some lessons from history are so easy to find that it boggles the mind that mankind continues to repeat all the old errors.

Take socialism/communism, for instance. It’s never worked anywhere, yet it continues to beguile and beckon with its siren song of equality, fairness, and brotherhood.

You know, like in the Soviet Union where, under Stalin, everyone was so friendly.

It was such a wonderful success that they continued to promote those Five-Year Plans for 70 years. Don’t ask if they ever worked. Well, you could ask all those nations that adopted socialist economies; I’m sure they have a story to tell. Come along with me to one such country.

Britain went all agog for socialism after WWII. Rationing continued for years after the war, ensuring “equality.” Here’s how Winston Churchill described what he witnessed:

Yet the current generation is being wooed once again by this false philosophy. Take Bernie Sanders and his minions, openly advocating the policy. In fact, most Democrats are on this bandwagon; they just are more discreet by not calling it what it is. They couch it in the language of “caring.” And voters lap it up because they are rather ignorant:

Someone needs to write this book:

But would anyone read it who actually needs to read it?

G. K. Chesterton nailed it:

Forgive my cynicism today. If not for my steadfast faith that this world ultimately is not my home, cynicism would prevail. However, I can see past the blindness; I know where Truth resides. I want to live in that Truth today and continue to do what God has called me to do. I will be faithful and leave results up to Him.

Lewis & Socialist Britain: His Critique

c-s-lewis-2C. S. Lewis always claimed not to be interested in politics. To be sure, it was not a primary interest. Yet he often engaged in commentary and/or questions with his American correspondents over the state of American politics and government.

As the 1952 presidential election approached, Lewis turned to Vera Gebbert for her opinion on what was transpiring, asking her if even Americans really understood what was happening on their political scene. He told her about another American correspondent who had sent him eight pages of political analysis “so hot that they nearly burnt my fingers.” That correspondent had concluded that the Democrats should really be known as the “Dumbocrats” and were “a sort of mixture of Hitler, the Russian secret police, and the inmates of the village lunatic asylum.”

One cannot truly evaluate a person’s views of another nation in a vacuum.
Comparisons are necessary. What better way to evaluate Lewis’s views on
America than to look also at his views on the Britain of his day? If he entertained
a low opinion of British government and culture, would we say he was anti-British? Or would he merely be pointing out the problems that needed to be corrected?

When Nathan Comfort Starr sought to bring Lewis to America and Lewis had to decline, he did invite Starr to Britain, but not with a sterling recommendation, referring to Britain as “this luckless country.” In offering the same invitation to Warfield Firor, the image of Britain he used in the letter was “this bleak island,” and he wondered why Firor would even want to visit it. Why the bleak state of affairs?

For Lewis, the blame fell on the Labour government and its socialist policies, which not only ruined the nation economically but was siphoning off its liberties and making Britain a less-than-stellar partner for the United States. As he explained to Firor, the government always seemed to be thinking of ways to take more liberties from the people. “Try not to judge us by our rulers,” he pleaded.

vera-gebbertBy 1954, rationing in Britain finally came to an end, thanks to the new Conservative government. He informed Vera Gebbert he wouldn’t be needing her gifts anymore, but there was a possibility, if she really missed sending him all those items, that she might be able to begin anew, noting that if the Socialists ever regained the majority, she could once again show her kindness “by supplying us, not with little luxuries, but with the necessities of life!”

He continued to sound the warning, such as when Gebbert was thinking of moving permanently to Britain. While they would be glad to welcome her, she needed to know the truth: there would always be the threat of a revival of a government ruled by the Socialists, “which would finish us off completely.”

cover-on-ws-pageLewis also contrasted the blessings Gebbert had in America with the current state of England, saying, “Try living in ‘free’ England for a bit, and you would realize what government interference can mean! And not only interference, but interference in a ‘school marm’ form which is maddening.”

Then he added this quip: “There are times when one feels that a minister or two dangling from a lamp post in Whitehall would be an attraction that would draw a hard worked man up to London!”

So for those who think C. S. Lewis had nothing to say about politics and government, I offer these excerpts from my book as a counterbalance.

Lewis’s Attitude Toward America

C. S. Lewis 4My upcoming book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, deals with that famous author’s interactions with Americans and his attitude toward America as well. Early in his life, judging by comments in his letters, he had some prejudices against America and its citizens, but once he began exchanging views with American academics and receiving an abundance of letters from Americans who loved his books, one can see a decided shift in attitude.

While he did critique some aspects of American society and government, one cannot truly evaluate a person’s views of another nation in a vacuum. Comparisons are necessary. What better way to evaluate Lewis’s views on America than to look also at his views on the Britain of his day?

If he entertained a low opinion of British government and culture, would we say he was anti-British? Or would he merely be pointing out the problems that needed to be corrected? In fact, Lewis’s comments on his native country appear to be far harsher than anything he said about America.

When American university professor Nathan Comfort Starr sought to bring Lewis to America and Lewis had to decline, he did invite Starr to Britain, but not with a sterling recommendation, referring to Britain as “this luckless country.”

In offering the same invitation to Warfield Firor, a famous surgeon at Johns Hopkins, the image of Britain he used in the letter was “this bleak island,” and he wondered why Firor would even want to visit it.

Why the bleak state of affairs? For Lewis, the blame fell on the Labour government and its socialist policies, which not only ruined the nation economically but was siphoning off its liberties and making Britain a less-than-stellar partner for the United States. As he explained to Firor, the government always seemed to be thinking of ways to take more liberties from the people. “Try not to judge us by our rulers,” he pleaded.

C. S. Lewis 5By 1954, rationing in Britain finally came to an end, thanks to the new Conservative government. He informed Vera Gebbert, another regular American correspondent, that he wouldn’t be needing her gifts anymore, but there was a possibility, if she really missed sending him all those items, that she might be able to begin anew, noting that if the Socialists ever regained the majority, she could once again show her kindness “by supplying us, not with little luxuries, but with the necessities of life!”

He continued to sound the warning, such as when Gebbert was thinking of moving permanently to Britain. While they would be glad to welcome her, she needed to know the truth: there would always be the threat of a revival of a government ruled by the Socialists, “which would finish us off completely.”

When Mary Van Deusen wrote to ask him what he thought of the concept of loving one’s own country, his reply indicates a man striving to find the balance between nations and individuals. Love of country, he theorized, was primarily love for those with whom one had a lot in common.

He cautioned, “Mind you, I’m in considerable doubt about the whole thing. My mind tends to move in a world of individuals not of societies.” That tendency in Lewis’s mind to “move in a world of individuals” and “not of societies,” would also lend itself to a tendency not to wed oneself to stereotypes, whether of good traits in a people group or less-admirable ones. Whatever prejudices he may have had at the outset were set aside as he came to know more Americans.

If you find this subject of interest, there is more in my book. I’ll be sure to let you know when it is available.