When most people hear the word “economics” they cringe. It’s an oft-despised college course that chews up and spits out many undergrads as they try to find their way into a major that is more “exciting” or “applicable” to what they want to do.
It comes as no surprise that so many Americans today are clueless when it comes to economic theory or effects of economic policy. In fact, I would argue that most people do not care. All they are concerned about is living their life, going to work, raising their children, and generally trying to be a good person. Most people strive to be moral, upstanding citizens. They want to be someone who helps other people and makes society better as a whole.
From this perspective, it is not a stretch to understand how the new craze of democratic socialism has swept through the younger generations in America. After all, government leaders stand up behind lecterns and passionately speak of young single mothers who cannot afford to make ends meet; they tell stories of poor immigrant families who just want to send their kids to college; they bring forward victims of horrible accidents who cannot afford health insurance; and it is all supposed to convince you, the voter, that, if you only consent to slightly higher taxes, then the government will implement programs that take all those problems away.
It’s a win-win right? Just one or two percentage points higher tax rate and all these people get help? That seems fair. That seems just. That seems moral.
What many advocates for socialism decline to mention is that, at its core, socialism is a stepping stone to communism. Vladmir Lenin called communism the goal of socialism. The goal of socialism is to reach a point where the state holds all property, holds all assets, and distributes them among the population, “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” (Karl Marx). Inherently, communism, and by extension socialism, requires the elevation of one class over another. It fundamentally necessitates the citizens trust their government leaders to make decisions for them and to act in their best interests all the time and without corruption.
Socialism, at any level, states that, not only are the benefits the government is providing to citizens “fundamental rights,” but they are so fundamental that the citizens who already have them must pay for the rest of the population.
For example, Barrack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The state subsidized health insurance program mandates that every applicant be accepted, regardless of health risk, and that insurance companies are not allowed to charge higher premiums based on pre-existing conditions or gender. The program “pays for itself” by raising the premiums of healthy applicants in order to pay for the drop-in premiums for those who need more care. What the President did not plan on is the reaction from the healthy insurance holders. As soon as they started seeing their rates rise, they dropped off their plans and decided to pay the fine instead. Presently, Obamacare is about to go bankrupt, and the new administration has promised to repeal and replace the program. Conservatives hope this means a return to free-market health insurance.
Obamacare is just the latest in a series of failed social programs the US government has tried to implement. But, should we be doing more to make them work? Aren’t the programs in place helping people? Morally speaking, shouldn’t we try to make these programs work so the less fortunate are given as much as possible?
The answer is a resounding, “No!” In fact, it is distinctly less moral to support government intervention rather than helping people personally.
In order to accomplish anything, the government must do it at gunpoint. Whether the citizens agree with the program or not, if it is government run, it will be done at gunpoint. There will always come a point where, if you don’t pay your taxes to fund the program, big men with guns will come to your house and take you to prison.
Ask yourself this: if charity is done at gunpoint, is it really charity?
With any social program, the incentive towards upward mobility is taken away entirely. After all, why would an individual work hard and better themselves when the government will force successful people to pay for anything they need? Is that truly helping that individual?
Conversely, consider free-market capitalism. Transactions in a free market can only happen voluntarily between two consenting parties. Each person is free to spend their money on what is in their best interests. Additionally, everybody is entirely beholden to the decisions they make. It creates an incentive to make good decisions and gain the benefits of those decisions. Capitalism allows the invisible hand of the market to help those who work hard to help themselves.
Ultimately, the morality of any system must trace back to the Judeo-Christian values which the West was founded upon. And at the base of the Christian faith is a choice. Before any commandments are given, before any parables are written, before any sermon is spoken, there is a choice. Everybody has the right to choose to believe in God and what He says or believe anything else they wish. Nobody is forced to love God because forced love is not love at all. If an all-powerful God does not force us to love and help each other, how is it acceptable for humans to do just that?
“Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish you’ll feed him for a lifetime” – Chinese Proverb
For anyone looking to donate to a good cause, please check out CrossPurpose Center for Urban Leadership out of Denver, CO. CrossPurpose is an organization of good people doing great work eliminating generational poverty through education, training, and relationship. They develop programs which are used throughout the country and have had great success since their founding in 2012. The best part? They are completely privately funded and, as a registered 501(c)3, any donations are tax deductible. Go to crosspurpose.org for more information.