Although no one can accurately predict when socialism as a political and economic philosophy will end, it must necessarily end. This is because socialism employs unjust means — theft, coercion and the denial and/or circumscription of private property rights — to achieve the impossible end of permanently upsetting the natural human order. With the looming economic crisis and resultant social crisis lying just ahead of us, good libertarians stand in a position to expedite socialism's death and perhaps drive a stake through the heart of a false philosophy that has spiritually and economically impoverished the Western world for over a century. Libertarians who spend the next several years sitting on the sidelines, rubbing their gold and silver coins together, saying "I told you so" or cleaning their handguns will do little to materially advance the cause of liberty. Libertarians who understand socialism and see the opportunity to use non-violent means to attack socialism at its roots will hasten its demise.
To understand how this is possible, it is first important to understand what socialism is, what it seeks to achieve and the means it employs. Socialism at its core is a system based on coercion and theft. Under threat of violence or imprisonment, socialists take citizen A's property and give it to citizen B. Left of center "liberal" socialism generally seeks to achieve an unnatural and unachievable egalitarianism — equal results from unequal inputs. Modern liberal socialists take citizen A's property (primarily, but not exclusively, through taxes) and falsely promise that the state can achieve "equality" by giving A's property to citizen B. Right of center "conservative" socialism generally employs the state as a means to maintain unnatural control over national and/or international power and wealth. Modern conservative socialists take citizen A's property (primarily, but not exclusively, through inflation) and falsely promise that only the state can provide A with security and can do so only by taking A's property (by diluting the value of his dollars) and giving it to citizen B (via newly created inflationary dollars) to wage foreign wars and/or establish an internal police state.
Although liberal and conservative socialists sometimes borrow each other's methods and tactics, both subcategories of the socialist ideology are based on utilitarian, ends-justify-the-means, reasoning. Both left and right socialists understand that their means, including but not limited to taxation and surreptitious inflation, involve coercive and involuntary transfers of property. They both understand that citizen A may not agree with their wars or their involuntary transfer payments. They do not care, however, because both left and right socialists believe that they are possessed with greater wisdom than citizen A. In short, they are willing to adopt unjust means to achieve their utopian ends. Socialists believe that their idealistic ends are achievable if only they break enough eggs. Non-socialists therefore correctly regard all modern socialists as "unprincipled." Although both left and right politicians may woo gullible voters by agreeing with them on one discrete political principle (e.g. being opposed the Iraq War or desiring "lower taxes"), no socialist really cares about principles. All successful socialist politicians easily abandon any principle if it does not serve their end — propertyless egalitarianism or state control of wealth and production.
Taking a broader view, although their methods differ slightly, in order for socialism to ultimately succeed, socialists of both stripes must fundamentally upset the natural human order. They must cause their citizens to believe that only the tax-funded state, not family, friends, neighbors, church and other voluntary institutions, can provide real comfort, safety, security and protection. In order for socialism to succeed, it must break down and destroy these natural human bonds and relationships. This is what liberal and conservative socialists mean when they proclaim a desire to achieve a "New World Order." Socialists sincerely believe they can destroy the natural human order and replace it with an unnatural, government-dictated, man-made order. If you doubt this, just look at John McCain's campaign slogan: "Country First." Not family, not faith, not God, but Country, with a capital "C." Or look at Barack Obama's litany of nanny-state promises, including his promise to usurp parents and provide all young adults with a government-subsidized college education, provided of course that they first "serve" the state for several years.
As just one detailed example of the corrosive effects of the socialist philosophy, the liberal welfare state has been very successful at undermining the fundamental building block of civilized society: the family. It has achieved this by offering unwed mothers (and indirectly, fathers) fiat money transfer payments as an easy substitute for the often painful sacrifices involved in marriage. This causes unwed parents to falsely believe that a single parent can raise a child as effectively as two parents. Ultimately, socialism so thoroughly erodes the institution of marriage that people living in a socialist regime forget that marriage is a third-party beneficiary contract. It is a third-party beneficiary contract because its primary intent is not to directly benefit the parties to the contract. Although good marriages and good partners do seek to provide direct benefit to their partners, the marital contract is primarily intended to benefit third parties — the children that result from the contract and society as a whole through the order and security the contract offers. That is why most religions properly regard marriage as a sacrament — it is an agreement to sacrifice for the benefit of others. Socialist transfer payments reject this principle and erode this fundamental building block of civilized society.
Abetting both left and right socialists is the socialist central bank, which enjoys a legal monopoly over the money supply. If the central bank approves of immoral or unjust government actions, it has the power to quell the masses with the drug-like soma of "easy money" and artificially low interest rates. Likewise, an untethered central bank can, under the cover of attempting to fight inflation, express its disapproval of executive "peace" policies by raising interest rates and tightening the money supply at politically inopportune times with the intent to cause the natives discomfort and compel them to remove an insufficiently militaristic, undesirable executive. This 20th century socialistic "check and balance" was not one contemplated by the Founders.
In sum, through violence, coercion and theft, socialism seeks to upset the natural human order and attempts to cause its citizens to believe that they do not need anyone or anything but the state. Socialism's ultimate success therefore depends on the destruction of the natural bonds of family, friendship, and faith. To earn his socialist stripes in the presidential campaign process, Barack Obama was compelled to renounce his pastor of over 20 years. John McCain needed to offer no such proof, as he had a long track record of engaging in unjust wars, denying property rights, denying free speech and employing the government to protect monied interests.
That is socialism.
So how can good libertarians use the impending crisis to expose false socialist promises, advance the march against socialism and re-establish natural human order? Libertarians must first recognize that they have a weapon of mass destruction at their disposal. That weapon is private charity in all its forms: money, labor, sweat, food, etc. Beating back socialism will require that freedom lovers use the coming crisis as an opportunity to re-build the natural bonds and relationships that socialism has eroded.
Over the next several years, as the world seeks to correct 20 years of massive malinvestment and capital dislocation, there will be many people in need. People will need food, clothing, shelter, medical care, legal services, education, training, etc. Libertarians can and must take this opportunity to step forward and donate their time, energy and money to help feed the hungry, clothe the naked and employ the unemployed. Libertarians must use this opportunity to outwork, outserve and outhustle the socialist behemoths. The coming competition for the hearts and minds of future generations will be between large, centrally-planned, tax-funded socialist institutions and small, nimble, privately funded, private individuals and organizations that reject all government aid and interference. If you disbelieve the existence of the latter category of people and institutions, they are real and they exist.
The Minneapolis-based Sharing and Caring Hands is a libertarian's dream charitable organization. Sharing and Caring Hands serves 240,000 meals a year, houses 500 people every night, pays to provide overnight shelter for another 19,000 people per year, provides eye exams and glasses for children and adults and also provides shoes, clothing and emergency funds to those in need. It does all of this without accepting one dime of state, federal or United Way aid. Sharing and Caring Hands has operated for over 20 years. Its founder and CEO, Mary Jo Copeland, was a libertarian before being a libertarian was cool. In addition to rejecting all state and federal aid, Mary Jo does not accept a salary. Mary Jo has heroically and successfully fended off numerous attacks from Minnesota state authorities who claim to dislike her accounting methods (she gives cash to the needy and does not get receipts) but actually are more concerned about what she really represents — perhaps the world's greatest threat to the socialist Welfare State. Although I have been in the same room with Mary Jo only once and have never spoken with her directly, it is my impression that she is a living saint. As I have heard the story, Mary was a severely abused child who has spent all of her adult life in the service of the poor. Before starting her work day, she wakes up at 5 am, goes to Mass and prays. Although she also prays with and for those she serves, she does not proselytize or demand dogmatic obeisance from them. She very simply and humbly offers a living example of a faith-filled life and spends virtually every minute of her working day in the service of others. It is no wonder that she has little difficulty attracting uncoerced capital to her endeavor. Last year Sharing and Caring Hands received $5.6 million in contributions.
November 1, 2008