Leo Morris is a columnist for the Indiana Policy Review. His column appears in Indiana newspapers.
If you had any doubts about the embrace of socialism by the 2020 Democratic presidential field, they should be gone by now. One of Indiana’s own potential contenders — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — has jumped into the collectivist basket with both feet.
Although acknowledging that America has a market-based economy and is “committed to democracy,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that a discussion about a policy can no longer be “killed off” by declaring that it’s socialism.
He denounced President Trump’s damnation of socialism during his State of the Union address as an outmoded strategy of the Cold War era when “you saw a time in politics when the word socialism could be used to end an argument.” Today, he said, a word like socialism is the “beginning of a debate.”
I’m not sure how Buttigieg squares “market-based economy” and “committed to democracy” with beginning a debate with the word socialism, but fine. Let the arguments begin.
I’ll leave it to the economists to explain how command economies smother competition and thwart growth, condemning whole populations to an equality of misery.
I’ll let the military experts detail the millions of people from Russia to China and Cambodia to Venezuela who have been sacrificed in the futile search for socialist utopia.
I will hope the historians explain why the American Revolution was so much more sensible and, yes, moral than the French Revolution.
I will defer to the clear-eyed empiricists to answer the chief arguments of the statist apologists who answer the complaint that “socialism has never worked” with “real socialism has never been tried” and “all socialist efforts have been thwarted by evil capitalist tyrants.”
I will even forgo my usual cynical assessment that this country has socialized capitalism so much that the only real question up for debate is how much more socialist it will become, and how quickly.
But I will make a small effort to express my strong objections to the philosophical underpinnings of socialism. There are really only two fundamental approaches. Government either celebrates the individual or it demands subservience to the group. There is freedom or there is no freedom. And that is it.
Of all the values we prize as human beings, freedom should be the most important. If we have freedom, all things are possible. If we do not have freedom, none are. This country was founded on the idea of freedom — that rights inhere in the individual — that, in Jefferson’s words, “that government is best which governs the least.”
Capitalism, with all its inequalities, uncertainties and other bumps along the road, is the logical economic system of that belief.
And socialism is its antithesis.
Any system that has as its foundation the subservience of the individual to the group will eventually elevate the group to the point where the individual no longer matters. The idea that an elite few have both the obligation and the ability to dictate the welfare of all will mature into the idea that those few have the right to control everyone.
And that is tyranny.
We don’t even have to follow that arrogance to its logical, bloody and inevitable conclusion to be a little frightened.
Just consider the economies of states like Illinois and California that are nearing collapse as governments reach and surpass the ability to give away other people’s money.
Just consider the cliff on which the federal government teeters with its trillions in debt, borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends. That which cannot continue will not continue. If the idea of tyranny doesn’t frighten you, what do you think about anarchy?
Or think about the Green New Deal, the American socialists’ current version of utopia for this country. It aims, in a single decade, to eliminate fossil fuels, retrofit every house in America and return agriculture to subsistence levels. As far as I can tell, the point of such ecological zealotry is to save the environment by making the country unlivable.
Mayor Buttigieg loves the Green New Deal. He says it is “the right beginning” for a broad plan to combat climate change.
The beginning? Forgive me for my outmoded thinking, but that’s a debate ender for me.