The right to regard oneself as an end in oneself, the right to carve out a conception of the good life for oneself independent of government interference, the right to voluntarily deal with others (or not) by means of one’s own independent judgment and, further, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of personal happiness — are indelibly constitutive features of our American system of government and socio-political ways of life.
The right to also create unlimited wealth that is a material application of a value produced by one’s mind — and tangibly ratified and endorsed by consumer support — is protected by the traditional American system. When I produce something tangible and I manifest it in the world, and it is rewarded by others, I know that this is a function of the application of my values and rational faculty to the problems of human survival that others have rewarded me for.
So when the Democratic Socialist Congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, says we have enough billionaires, I know she is placing a moratorium on the precondition for wealth creation: the stupendous creativity of the human mind, and, therefore, a strike against the mind and the human brain. When her idol, the presidential hopeful, Democratic Socialist Senator from the state of Vermont, Bernie Sanders, declares he is a Democratic Socialist who intends to change the overall structure of the values of not just the trading market, but of Americans themselves, it is time to pause and ask: what’s going on here? Is there a fundamental difference between socialism and communism? If one can be regarded as constitutionally inimical to the United States Constitution, can the other — democratic socialism — be just as anathema to our political DNA and legal system? I think the answer is yes. I think that if a so-called democratically-elected socialist government were elected in November of 2020, that it would need to be rendered illegal and overturned immediately.
Socialism advocates vesting ownership and control of the means of production, capital and land in the community as a whole. It advocates the denial of individual property rights, which is the right of the individual to use and dispose of the efforts exercised on behalf of his or her mind in pursuit of his or her survival. Remember that property is the material application of the product of the usage of your mind and values to support your life. The overall goal of socialism is the abolition of private property, which means the right of the individual to use the materialized application of his labor and reason to support his life. The government arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the products of your efforts — you the producer — arbitrarily among the non-producers of society: the moochers and looters and parasites all of whom cannot answer one question posed by economist Walter Williams: “What exactly is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has earned?” Socialists operate by a twisted, inverted greed of the worst type: a sense of entitlement to the earnings (the thinking) of others.
The only difference between communism and socialism is the means they employ in achieving the same end. As philosopher Ayn Rand noted: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism — by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.
Socialism is not a morally neutral system. Any system of governance presupposes an answer to the questions: are you a sovereign entity who owns your life, work and mind? Is your mind something that can be nationalized and its material contents distributed by the state? Socialists think the answer is yes. They believe that the products of one’s efforts belong to the community; that the state and society have a moral and financial responsibility to care for other people’s children; and that the most successful and productive people should be the most penalized.
Bernie Sanders and his socialist comrades are dangerous, not just because they want to fundamentally change the fundamental values of the United States of America, but because of the nature of what that change would entail. First, it would involve a massive form of social engineering that would inculcate in Americans the idea that they have an entitlement to the wealth creation and achievements of others. This rests, in part, in allowing them to bypass the fundamental moral law by which they and all of us must live by: are we or are we not responsible for the procreative choices that we make in life? All children are born of a sex act which results in a human life. Socialism at its core says: the consequences of the consensual sex act you engage in are the moral responsibility of all society. This dispensation from moral accountability leads to the second moral violation socialists are able to execute without accountability: legalized fiscal theft.
It takes a lot of money to finance the reproductive choices that others have made through their sex acts: free education, free health care, subsidized housing, Medicaid for all — you name it. They all stem from a Savior Complex that will allow the state to appropriate your financial resources on a scale that violates what I call a decency or moral threshold. To tax individuals at more than fifty percent of their income is so egregious a violation of the right to property that any government that comes to power in the U.S. and implements such a means should be abolished immediately.
Imagine the issue of voting black Americans back into slavery being put to a referendum in the South — a region out of which the institution of slavery in America emerged in the first place. This would clearly be a putative violation of individual rights. So too, I submit, that, given the political DNA of our country’s constitutional makeup, the goals of socialism are inimical to the moral and political structure of the United States of America. No one has the right to vote anyone into a system of economic or political enslavement. Individual rights are inalienable and cannot be abrogated.
Taxes are appropriated to fund the legitimate branches of government which protect the only proper function of government: the protection of individual rights. Therefore, taxes are moral, one could say, to the extent that they finance the institutions that protect those rights: law enforcement to protect us from criminals; the armed forces to protect us from foreign invaders; and the law courts to settle and arbitrate among disputes among individuals in which rights claims are contested. The application of these three categories to concrete situations is complex.
What is not philosophically complicated, however, is the self-arrogated right of the government to identify who and what ought to count as a moral good in my life. The government that identifies that social good for me and then forces me to pay for it, is expropriating my agency, infantilizing me, eviscerating me of my sovereignty and independent rational judgment, and has therefore reversed the proper role of government in our Republic from that of servant to a dictator who carves out a comprehensive sense of what ought to constitute my sense of the good life for myself and who forces me to pay for it.
This is exactly what Bernie Sanders and the whole phalanx of “value-changers” have as their goal. This is un-American and unacceptable. If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination in July and, unlikely, becomes the President of the United States in the November 2020 elections, Americans have a right to know the type of future that awaits them. Because Bernie Sanders is clearly not a “democrat” in any sense of the word. How Americans will deal with such a politically anomalous state of affairs remains to be seen. We have a modified system of capitalism with some vestiges of a welfare state, but not a full-fledged socialist state. I have a feeling that should a socialist government be elected in November, Americans will fight fire with fire.
It will not be a pretty sight. It is a fight, however, that will be the most moral and necessary fight to have been waged in this nation’s history.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. His areas of specialization include ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy, cosmopolitanism and race theory. He is the author of several books, including “We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People” (Bombardier Books/Post Hill Press). Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.