Right On: Socialism vs. individual freedom

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OPINION — A distressing number of today’s college students are being lured by socialism’s siren song. This trend demonstrates a triumph of misplaced social justice idealism over individual freedom.

We can lay blame at the feet of far too many of today’s college professors, ensconced in academia and lacking real world experience.

Socialism is government ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, all of them, lock, stock and barrel. Economic life is controlled by government central planners. If the phrase “central planner” has a familiar ring, the Soviet Union pre-1988 had lots of them.

The late American economist Robert Heilbroner authored “The Worldly Philosophers,” the second-best-selling economics text of all time. Heilbroner was, like Bernie Sanders today, an avowed socialist.

To his credit, Heilbroner acknowledged that individual freedom is “directly opposed to the basic socialist commitment to a deliberately embraced collective moral goal.” The word “collective” may ring a bell: Stalin killed millions establishing collectives in the 1930s as did Mao in the 1950s.

As any Marxist knows, an economy can’t be separated from its political and cultural dimensions. Heilbroner recognized that establishing the socialist economic ideal requires massive intervention in politics and culture.

“Indeed, that is what planning means. Command by planning need not, of course, be totalitarian. But an aspect of authoritarianism resides inextricably in all planning systems. A plan is meaningless if it is not carried out, or if it can be ignored or defied at will.”

Socialists are authoritarians by definition.

Hence socialism flies in the face of our democratic heritage, which “encourages and breeds the idea of the primary importance of the individual.” Translation: If you value individual freedom of choice, socialism is not for you.

Heilbroner admitted that socialism has always faced “two historic problems. The first is the necessity to intervene deeply, and probably ruthlessly, into the economy in order to establish the socialist order in the first place. The second is the need to continue a policy of painful intervention to accommodate the socialist economy, once set in place.” Sounds like Obamacare on steroids.

Socialism, then and now, is a massive social engineering experiment that wants to create new individuals devoid of their selfish tendencies. This inescapably leads to restricting individual freedom.

Heilbroner goes on to explain why socialists are outraged when their policies are questioned.

“Because socialist society aspires to be a good society, all its decisions and opinions are inescapably invested with moral import. Every disagreement with them, every argument for alternative policies, and every nay-saying voice therefore raises into question the moral validity of the existing government, not merely its competence.”

Translation: Anyone opposing a socialist government is by definition opposing the collective good and must be dealt with, in Heilbroner’s word, “ruthlessly.”

Surprising opposition to socialism arises from the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. Managing editor Matthew Harwood explains that “the collective, undergirded by the power of the state, will always triumph over the messiness of individuals’ liberty to think, speak, write, work, and associate as they wish.”

Today’s “democratic socialists,” seeing only moral good in their policies, sweep this inconvenient truth under the rug. Appending the word “democratic” to socialism doesn’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Harwood continues, “Democratic socialism is not freedom, despite what [its proponents] argue. It is authority paternalistically dressed up in the language of liberation and wielded on behalf of that fuzzy abstraction, ‘the people,’ regardless of what flesh and blood individuals want.”

The Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents and China’s pervasive spying on its citizens illustrate how socialist governments, fancying themselves as protectors of “the people,” act when their validity is questioned.

Harwood then asks, “Could democratic socialists abide a free press, one where the media criticize the party for its economic illiberalism? Could writers and artists critical of the regime work without fear of political repression and surveillance?

“Could citizens of the United States rest assured that democratic socialists would peacefully relinquish the reins of government to a party they deem ‘capitalistic’ if they lose the next election when their goal is to abolish capitalism?”

Has modern democratic socialism worked anywhere? The short answer is no. The Democratic Socialists of America’s website admits it: “No country has fully instituted democratic socialism.”

The website claims that “We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes.” But in fact, Sweden has become far less socialist in recent decades, a subject this column will address next week along with other practical realities of modern socialist experience.

Democratic socialists would do well to consider lines from a poem by William Butler Yeats:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies, the heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities than in our love.”

Howard Sierer is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: hsierer@stgeorgeutah.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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50 Comments

  • iceplant January 17, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    Is there such a thing as LDS? Not Mormon, but Left Derangement Syndrome.
    Realize just how socialist America already is and deal with it.
    Howard’s obvious hatred for anyone or anything left of his warped view is… palpable. The fact that this tripe passes muster by the editor and staff is truly unnerving. This is propaganda through and through. Pure right-wing barf.

    • tcrider January 17, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      The moron, Howeird is nothing more than a
      Russian wannabe, this idiot wouldn’t last 30 days
      and his loose tongue would guarantee him prison time.
      Howeird should go golfing there.

      • Comment January 17, 2019 at 7:04 pm

        how weird! LOL

      • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 7:13 pm

        What is the point of the petty insult? That is no better than those on the right constantly yelling snowflake and libtard.

        • tcrider January 17, 2019 at 8:44 pm

          you remind me of one of my old girlfriends, she would
          psychoanalyze everything to death and then try to summarize
          everything with 2000 words or more, bikenfish you need to lighten up
          and just have some fun.

          • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 9:02 pm

            I don’t find randomly insulting people fun. And I think its hurting our politics, maybe irreversibly. I fundamentally disagree with Howard but these types of attacks are unwarranted.

          • tcrider January 17, 2019 at 9:27 pm

            I do not think my insults are random and life
            is way too short.

          • Redbud January 17, 2019 at 9:29 pm

            +1

    • tazzman January 18, 2019 at 1:43 pm

      ice,
      how is the U.S. already socialist? We have a social welfare safety net of programs but that does not = socialism. Trade unionism in the private sector is at all-time lows, most of our corporate sector is privatized or quasi-private, and even the most so-called socialist politicians in D.C. like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie are more like FDR New Dealers than outright socialists. All of those things demonstrate we are moving away from socialism not towards it.

      • iceplant January 18, 2019 at 2:58 pm

        Are you familiar with the acronym LMGTFY…?

        http://lmgtfy.com/?q=how+is+the+U.S.+already+socialist

        That wasn’t so hard now, was it?

        • bikeandfish January 18, 2019 at 4:28 pm

          It was a fair question/retort on their part. A LMGTFY link isn’t a valid reply. Heck, even the author of the first post from Medium disagrees with claims the US is somehow already socialist. But a list of webpages that fit a certain Google search criteria isn’t really an answer or defense of your initial claim.

        • tazzman January 18, 2019 at 4:33 pm

          But you didn’t answer the question and it wasn’t what you said. Typical dodge.

      • bikeandfish January 18, 2019 at 4:16 pm

        I agree with most of your take, Tazzman. Social safety net programs are definitely inspired by a mix of democratic socialism but not what most experts consider traditional socialism. We’ve always had a hybrid system in the US. I definitely think the younger generations are more willing to play outside rigid constraints of ideology but calling anything but a small minority of them socialist is just fear mongering. And to be honest I’m not sure what AOC’s long term platform and stance will be. She’s a freshman congreswoman and every such representative has a steep learning curve ahead of them. Multiple re-elections has a way of changing political platforms.

    • Captain Oblivious January 18, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      Just because America has certain socialist programs in place does not make this a socialist country. America is built upon capitalist principles. If you want socialism, look at North Korea and China. Move there and see how well you “deal with it!”

      • bikeandfish January 18, 2019 at 10:36 pm

        That’s an overly broad assertion that doesn’t mesh well with the historical influences on our founders. Some of modern capitalisms overlap with agrarian republicanism is happenstance. Much of our founders arguments for “capitalist” structures and liberties were protected in the name of “virtue” not economic rational. Virtue was ironically about the public or common good.

        Its probably more accurate to say what we know now as free market capitalism is built on the same foundations as republicanism.

  • Robert January 17, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Very well reasoned based on a historical bias against societies perceived demons. However, the truth is much more simple than this author would have you believe. Today’s youth are trashing old definitions of socialism and democracy in order to solve problems and forge their way into a way of thinking that is not bound by Cold War semantics. The authors entire argument is a plain and simple straw man take on what youth are thinking.

    You can’t make your own definitions to what others are saying and foist that on them to prove your right and they are wrong it is not logical nor rational. Instead we should open this discussion by allowing those who pose new ideas to define them and then intelligently discuss them. Only after we grasp what is being said can we then apply the correct historical context.

    • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 5:28 pm

      You provided a more succinct conclusion than me. Thanks for the reasoned contribution to a complex issue.

  • Comment January 17, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    I don’t hold out a lot of hope for gen z’ers. I think the technology has irreversibly damaged their brains. I was reading comments to a video–I don’t have the full back and forth discussion and I forget what video it was on, but one of these gen z’ers said in reply to some other comment “How do you know it was a girl, boys can have vaginas too?”. That quote there pretty well sums up what is wrong with an entire generation. Dark time ahead I’m afraid. Oh well.

  • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    First and foremost, while I respect the representation of the democratic socialist in Congress I happen to think their plans are ill-fit for the federal government given our obvious lack of unity on the subject as a nation. Forcing a one-size fits all approach to some of these programs at the national level ignores a large swath of America that vehemently opposes such programs. But that criticism comes from a good faith and honest assessment of the actual programs and views expressed by these organizations and individuals.

    On the other hand, Howard relies on a bad faith argument. Just take the fact that he openly creates a strawman argument against socialism, which is not the democratic socialism we are seeing ascendant. Another example is the blatant cherry-picking of The Democratic Socialists of America’s stance and statements (on successes and failures of democratic socialist ideas and programs). Howard quoted the following “no country has fully instituted democratic socialism” to answer his broad question does “modern democratic socialism worked anywhere?” Not only does their website not admit the “short answer is no” but they go onto detail many examples of where modern democratic socialism has worked. The entire details are here:

    “Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.

    They also state:

    “Many northern European countries enjoy tremendous prosperity and relative economic equality thanks to the policies pursued by social democratic parties. These nations used their relative wealth to insure a high standard of living for their citizens—high wages, health care and subsidized education. Most importantly, social democratic parties supported strong labor movements that became central players in economic decision-making. ”

    https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/what-is-democratic-socialism/

    I don’t have to agree with their assessments and conclusions to highlight Howard’s bad faith misrepresentation of an organization’s stance and claims. They do go onto highlight challenges to old strategies but their statements and conclusions most definitely do not support Howard’s claim that modern democratic socialism hasn’t worked anywhere. It is this type of manipulation of other’s views that inherently degrades political discourse and ultimately democratic institutions.

    This type of negative partisanship itself is inconsistent with a “democratic heritage, which “encourages and breeds the idea of the primary importance of the individual.”” Democracy requires an informed citizenry which needs an honest assessment of fellow citizen’s ideas. So, to use Howard’s own logic and words “Translation: If you value individual freedom of choice,” Howard’s manipulative punditry is not for you.

    • Comment January 17, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      b+f you and howard have something in common. howard wants to give the illegals amnesty so they can stay forever. maybe the golf courses employ a lot of illegals or maybe howard hires illegals to upkeep his yard or something. I really have no idea why he likes them so much.

      • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 8:27 pm

        You really just like swimming in the pond of misrepresentation, lies and wild speculation, huh? You just dive head first into it.

        Don’t care in the long run as it just makes interacting with you easier. Its just sad to watch people behave so hypocritically in regards to their own publicly stated standards.

        • Redbud January 17, 2019 at 9:34 pm

          This “pond” you speak of is actually the swamp, and after it’s drained, there won’t be anything left to dive into. MAGA!

          • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 11:03 pm

            That swamp will never be drained, especially by Trump. The newly released internal documents show just how many lies (some under oath) and misrepresentations the administration have made regarding its 2018 zero tolerance policy:

            https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/trump-admin-weighed-targeting-migrant-families-speeding-deportation-children-n958811

            This document, assuming its authentic, is a major indictment of the Trump administration and some of the recommendations presented knowingly break national law and treaties. If this holds up than I foresee hearings in the House and possibly perjury charges filed against Nielsen.

            But you know…. MAGA….Drain the Swamp.

        • Comment January 17, 2019 at 10:41 pm

          b+f, you won’t give an honest answer to how you really feel about illegals. Instead, you just dance around the issue. Are you embarrassed to tell us how you really feel about them? You refusing to answer is what’s dishonest.

          Howard has stated in the past that he supports amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for all illegals. Howard isn’t even really a conservative, IMO. But he has been honest enough to state that he supports the invasion. He may be a traitor, but at least he’s honest.

          • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 11:15 pm

            You aren’t entitled to my opinion especially given your dishonesty and misrepresentation of other’s ideas. Just look at your flagrant abuse of Howard’s alleged support of amnesty (for dreamers I assume). Why would I reveal any more details given your maltreatment of him or your unsubstantiated arguments you previously made against me? Refusing to play by your malicious games isn’t dishonest on my part. Its a rational response to irrational and bad faith efforts on your part.

            And now people are traitor’s for supporting policy you disagree with? You and Redbud share the same fascination with fascist rhetoric. I’m one of Howard’s most persistent critics but I would never question his loyalty based on policy disagreements. That is once again dangerously illiberal and inconsistent with our country’s basic tenets.

        • Redbud January 17, 2019 at 11:41 pm

          That’s the problem bike, as soon as “documents” appear that spell trouble for Trump, you assume guilty until proven innocent. You can’t believe everything you find in the internet. The fact that you lack such common sense invalidates your false conclusions. Us true Americans believe in innocent until proven guilty. You’ve discredited yourself, and it shows you don’t support freedom and basic human rights.

          • bikeandfish January 17, 2019 at 11:54 pm

            You are a funny kid. First, I was intentional with my statement of uncertainty. I stated its uncertain nature twice.

            Second, innocent until proven guilty is a legal standard not one for judging the merits of a campaign slogan. The irony is the “drain the swamp” slogan inherently requires a distrust of public officials, given your earlier statement about the “pond”, yet you seem to have blind loyalty a president and administration who has lied and misrepresented facts more than any other modern president.

            Your constant parroting of other’s language and then radical and unsubstantiated conclusions about Americanism exposes a severe lack of critical analysis on your part. But I’m sure you’ll just repackage that in some fashion.

            #hamberdler

        • Redbud January 18, 2019 at 4:01 pm

          Your statements are false, again you misinterpret what I said, and you spout useless diatribe. Trump is doing a magnificent job!

          • bikeandfish January 18, 2019 at 4:07 pm

            #brokenrecord

            Wanna support your claim? Ever? What was false and misinterpreted?

  • sheepobserver January 17, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    When a.i. takes over, there can be no possible way of life other than socialism for humans. Everything will be provided by the machines that do everything for us. Maybe we’ll just grow food and scavenge what we can, but we won’t do anything of substance that provides money to live. We will all be equally unintelligent as far as a.i. is concerned. Much like we consider monkeys.

    Lol to the folks who think we’ll have jobs repairing the a.i. machines that control everything better than we ever could. Yeah, something that is thousands of times more logical, thousands of times our i.q. levels, and thousands of times less emotional is going to need something from us humans? Not possible in this inevitable future world.

    I realize a lot of people don’t like the idea of it, but it really is our only future. besides extinction, that is.

    • Comment January 17, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      you’ve been watching too much battlestar galactica, lol

      • sheepobserver January 17, 2019 at 6:34 pm

        and you haven’t.

        • Comment January 17, 2019 at 6:54 pm

          I did. And I enjoyed it.

          • sheepobserver January 17, 2019 at 7:05 pm

            then you should enjoy “utopia”. Everything done for you and nothing to do other than live life and not worry about money.

            Like every other living thing except the most intelligent…..which we will no longer be.

  • georgie January 17, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Just wondering why so many people have risked their lives and many died trying to escape socialist / communist countries and come to America or other countries that have capitalism? How many immigrants have come to America to start new lives with nothing, starting business or just starting a new life without so many restraints. Why have many socialist / communist countries kept their people locked inside their borders?
    Both China and Russia adopted more capitalistic policies to survive and thrive.
    Small article explaining why China started changing their policies after Mao’s death

    https://www.quora.com/When-did-China-start-to-become-more-capitalist-and-are-they-continuing-to-move-in-that-direction

    • Red2Blue310 January 17, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      Because the rich guys who hold the power and don’t want to see you have any of it send you and your kids to war, not theirs. Look at Vietnam. A blown up fight against communism that cost the US 50K youth. Then Iraq. What a waste. Your equivalence of national healthcare, education and anything else that makes life easier for regular folks is a farse against yourself. You delude your thoughts that having a public health option and free college is tantimount to communism shows your dimwitted belief the wealthy persuaded you – that they are worthy and you are not.

      • Comment January 17, 2019 at 8:35 pm

        agree. I especially love it when nutters that live off publicly funded pension systems or social security rail on and on about the evils of socialism. It’s the ultimate irony. and the depths of human stupidity seem to know no limit.

        • ladybugavenger January 19, 2019 at 4:26 pm

          Y’all better not get rid of my benefits. I want to pass go and collect my socialist benefits. (I hope I live long enough to cash in on it 😉

          • Comment January 19, 2019 at 7:42 pm

            If you dont live long enough to use it all that money you paid in is for naught. I guess there is the spousal benefit aspect of it tho, if you qualify.

  • homer498 January 18, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    We will still be bickering over ideologies like this when Robotics, Automation, and AI systems annihilate our populations worldwide. Call it “Standing too close to the elephant” or “Seeing the forest through the trees” or whatever you like; but industrialized societies worldwide are racing into a future most know nothing about.

    • Comment January 18, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      I have my doubt that this AI stuff is going to be possible. If it is I’d say it’s at least decades away, if not centuries. It’s on par with creating a life form from scratch. They might be able to create some destructive computer systems that get somewhat out of hand, but that’s a long way from actual AI. You must be another battlestar fan. 😉

      • homer498 January 19, 2019 at 12:28 am

        You’re thinking about “Hollywood” examples of AI, and Robotics. It will seem benign until it starts replacing jobs by the thousands. Unemployment problems will probably start in China; and it will spike to 40+ percent worldwide for everyone blue, and white collar positions / careers effected. And that will only be the beginning. Try selling free market democracy when people really are starving with no end in sight.

        • Comment January 19, 2019 at 12:59 pm

          i guess we’ll see what happens

  • dhamilton2002 January 18, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    I wonder how many of the “non-socialists” who wrote here are on Medicare, Social (note the word) Security or the state version of Medicaid.

  • commonsense January 19, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Sweden, having dived deeply into socialism, is now privatizing many services due to diminishing productivity. As a result, the GDP in Sweden is rising. Socialism is addicting and plays to the worst of human traits, laziness, insecurity and the need for shared misery.

    Sicialism is economically unsustainable. France had the second highest GDP in the world at one time but after decades of socialism it has fallen well behind. In all reality, Liberals want democratic socialism but they don’t have the courage to espouse it politically yet.

    The private sector will always be more efficient than public collectivism. Let’s hope that key services will remain unfettered by government control.

    • Comment January 19, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      “The private sector will always be more efficient than public collectivism.”

      Right, except when they aren’t. And we don’t have “collectivism”. If we had a time machine we could send you back to Stalin’s 1930s russia. You could come back and whine incessantly about it and maybe be justified, but ideally we’d just leave you there.

  • Jacqwayne January 19, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Former Soviet KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov, who defected from the Soviet Union in 1970, was interviewed in 1984 about Soviet infiltration methods. Bezmenov said that by 1970 the Soviet Union already had infiltrated the US through brainwashing left-leaning people in the news media, entertainment, politics, business, education, and religion. He said the Soviet Union used a brainwashing strategy called ideological subversion designed to change the perception of reality of every American so “no one is able to come to sensible conclusions” to defend themselves, their families, or their country. Sadly, Bezmenov was prophetic as many socialists, now called progressives, hold key positions in American society.

    Bezmenov said there are four stages of ideological subversion. The first stage, demoralization, which takes 15-30 years according to Bezmenov, was completed before 1985. The second stage, also completed, is destabilization. This is where people destabilize the entire nation through actions that are counter to common sense and sound practices. The third stage is creating crisis. And the fourth stage is normalization. Bezmenov said that the leftists that help create these stages are the first to be executed by a communist dictatorship because once they find out they have perpetrated a lie, they become the most ardent opposition. Those who stand against communism by warning others are also executed.

    Bezmenov said that the Soviets used brainwashed leftists to teach Marxism-Leninism ideology to several generations of American students. He said that these teachings included feminism, sexual liberation, hedonism, anti-war sentiments, liberation theology, and globalism. He said these students are now the people who are the business, religious, political, educational, media, and entertainment leaders of American society. He said, “You are stuck with them. They are contaminated. They are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli…You cannot change their mind, even if you expose them to authentic information…the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible.”

    To reverse this process, Bezmenov said writing letters will not work. He said, “There must be a very strong national effort to educate people in the spirit of real patriotism, number one. Number two, to explain to them the real danger of socialist, communist, welfare state, big brother government…The moment at least part of the United States population is convinced that the danger is real, they have to force their government…to stop aiding communism.”

    • Comment January 19, 2019 at 11:13 pm

      sounds like a conspiracy theory. Myself I’m a 9/11 conspiracy lunatic/nutter. So I guess we can both be in the conspiracy lunatic club together? lol

  • commonsense January 19, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Discussing issues seems difficult for some who prefer personal insults .

    • Comment January 19, 2019 at 11:11 pm

      You don’t discuss anything. You’ve been called out for being dead wrong so so many times. And then you don’t return to the topic. You simply don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Maybe b&f will “discuss” with you, lol. cheers bud 😉

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