TCS Daily


Socialism Reborn

By Lee Harris - December 20, 2005 12:00 AM

One of the things that Francis Fukuyama's End of History argument was supposed to have ended was the epoch in which people took socialism seriously. According to Fukuyama's scenario, with the stunning collapse of the Soviet Union the human race had forever been immunized against that particular ideological error - at which point capitalism and liberal democracy would be man's only viable alternatives. The dog might return to his vomit, as the Bible tells us, but mankind would never return to the illusionary promises of socialism.

Yet in the recent Bolivian elections, the apparent winner was the socialist candidate Evo Morales, a close friend of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro. The election, it should be noted, has been described as "one of the most closely watched elections" in Bolivia's history, thanks to the presence of hundreds of international monitors. Furthermore, his main opponent, Jose Quiroga, conceded the election on Sunday night, and congratulated Morales on his victory.

In Bolivia, it would appear as if at least half of the End of History thesis had been fulfilled. Morales obtained his victory by a free and fair election, without violence or fraud, putting Bolivia squarely in the camp of being a liberal democracy. Yet what about the capitalist part of the End of History thesis? What explains the fact that the victory in this democratic election went to a socialist? If socialism was supposedly discredited for all time, why does it appear to be having a rebirth in South America?

Yet, before we try to answer that question, we must first ask what exactly does socialism mean today to men like Morales and Chavez and their many followers?

A supporter of Morales was quoted as saying: "I'm happy to see the people in power. We're showing the whole world that with each day, the people's struggle for equality, liberty, and justice becomes more important."

Now suppose you had read this quotation without knowing its context. Would you have described it as leftist? As socialist? Couldn't it just have easily have been a comment made by President Bush on the recent elections in Iraq? Isn't that what the current foreign policy of the United States has become all about -- putting the people in power? Aren't we trying to promote "equality, liberty, and justice" to those places of the world where they have long been so conspicuously absent? Yet no one would argue that the American government was actively trying to push the world back to the historical dead end of socialism -- not consciously anyway.

Morales is himself an Aymara Indian, and he has built his political base among the long suffering Indian population of Bolivia -- a population that happens to be in the majority numerically. He has vowed to help the Indians and to give them more rights -- all of which, once again, sounds fine and noble. Who could be against that? Morales has described himself as "the candidate of those despised in Bolivian history...of the most disdained, discriminated against...." And here again it is difficult not to feel sympathy with the man.

The problem, however, is that Morales has vowed, in his own words, to become Washington's "nightmare." And it is here that we gain a clue to what the idea of socialism has come to mean in South America today. Part of it may be a genuine desire to help the poor and disenfranchised, but part of it is wrapped up in a ferocious hatred of the United States. To be a socialist is, increasingly, to be an anti-American, and to be an anti-American is to be a socialist. You don't have to read Karl Marx; you just need to hate Uncle Sam.

Part of the End of History scenario was the idea that no democracy could be the enemy of another democracy: all would share the same values and the same ethos. But in South America, this is not how the scenario is playing out. In this region of the world, it is precisely the people's candidates, like Chavez and Morales, who have shown the deepest antagonism to the United States, and, by means of democratic elections, they have achieved the power to fuel and spread anti-American feeling in those nations that they lead. On the other hand, those candidates supported by the business elite of their countries, and who are pro-American in their sympathies, like Jose Quiroga, are being increasingly marginalized by their populist rivals.

Perhaps this is merely a pathology circumscribed only to countries south of our border. Yet as democracy spreads throughout the countries in which the majority of the people are mired in poverty, and often the victims of a lack of education, it is almost inevitable that many of them will be tempted by the old illusions of socialism, especially when these illusions are presented by populist heroes, like Morales and Chavez, whose stature in the eyes of their followers is often enhanced by their public defiance and continual denunciation of the United States. Furthermore, as the promise of socialism falls short of its expectations, as inevitably happens, those who have made these promises will almost certainly increase the level of their anti-American rhetoric, in an attempt to shift the blame from themselves onto someone else -- and that someone else is certain to be us.

That is perhaps the best explanation for the startling rebirth of socialism in South America and in other parts of the world. The world socialism is increasingly being drained of its old meaning and is being replaced with a new one -- and its new meaning could not be clearer: it has become the rallying cry of those who despise the United States. It's a slogan to gather together all those who regard us as the chief enemy of the human race.

If demagogic rancor could lift people out of poverty, poverty would have been eliminated from the planet long ago. Tragically, such rancor only works to keep demagogues in power and the people under their spell.

Lee Harris is author of Civilization and Its Enemies.

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23 Comments

Democracy does not imply liberty but socialism implies poverty, coersion, misery and ultimately murd
Please get away from the concept that democracy equals liberty. They are not the same thing. Very brutal dictators can run very liberal societies while the most democratic folks may run the most controlled and coersive economies.

But socialism always leads to poverty, coersion, misery, and ultimately murder. Wester socialist countries just have more time. Eventually the lack of a pricing mechanism will create mis-appropriations of resources thus impoverishing the country.

On to South America:

As these economies crash the socialists, commies, will have to resort to more coersive and ultimately brutal methods to keep control. Look at their dream country Cuba, a real nice place. As the means become more brutal the po****rity of hating the "Great Satan" will die off.

Marxism isn’t dead
The socialist in this country, now hiding as Democrats, are also major haters of America. Marxism isn’t dead, it has been sugar coated and is being spoon fed in our schools and universities to the youth of this country. You see it in the anti-Christian movement, the repackaged gun control, the ever po****r antiwar protests and with anarchists in the anti-globalization riots. Our movies are full of conspiracies all involving our government and big business in some plot to take away our liberties. Even the last three Star Wars movies were just thinly cloaked anti Bush rants. Being poor and uneducated isn’t the only fertile ground for socialism to grow in.

Christian Socialism
Even Christianity in America is being attacked for not being socialistic. European countries, having few practicing Christians, are considered to be acting in a more Christian manner than the US because of all the social programs.
The KEY difference is what would Jesus do if you didn't make your offering? He would probably forgive you and pray that you did not forget next time or that you would reevaluate your situation and sacrifice something less important.
If you forgot to pay your taxes in Sweeden what would happen. In the US you would go to jail and/or be FORCED to pay.
NO government can be Christian. Only people in a government can be Christian. And if they are Christian, why would they force their neighbors to pay for another's charity?

Free marketeers at heart
I spent almost two years living amongst the Aymara people in both rural and urban Bolivia. I am here to tell you that you will not find a more entrepreneurial people on God's green earth. Like many of Latin America's big cities, La Paz and its satellite overflow El Alto, are giant market places wherein the dynamics of supply and demand as they relate to pricing and inventory play out on a daily basis. If Bolivia suffers from an economic ill it is not a shortage of people willing to take risks in open markets. The main problem on a small-business level is access to capital. However, over the course of the last decade or so, micro-lenders have begun to address this problem with a large degree of success. Evo Morales and his quasi-socialist message are destructive in the long-term because rather than encourage the pre-Columbian free-market spirit that is at the heart of the Bolivian people (indigenous groups, including the Aymara while socially very tight knit have always engaged in free exchange of scarce resources), they have irnoically chosen instead to reinstate the colonial imperative that has plagued Bolivians for half a milenium: that to be a Bolivian from the Altiplano is to be a miner. So many people of Aymara descent had begun to shed that mold and Morales seeks to again make them wards of the state.

plenty of elected Socialist governments around the world England and Australia among them
And I'd hate to disappoint the heretic poster but the majority the world Christians still look to Rome for moral guidance’s rather then the US "God can make you filthy rich" cults. Also the US isn’t as holy as it’s cultist like to fool themselves it is.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_rate.htm

Socialist governments
Why wouldn't anyone vote in a government that will take money from the rich and give it to the poor? (Until they start to claim you are rich.)
But the arguement still stands regarding oxymoronic Christian Socialists.
Would Jesus or did Jusus ever confiscate anyone's money to feed the poor?

Weird comments problem?
Did this new comments page hide the word po****r? p o p u l a r.

Yes
Re: Would Jesus or did Jusus ever confiscate anyone's money to feed the poor?

Yes, or at least the Fathers of the Church felt so. When Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire the Church became a vast engine of wealth redistribution using both government tax revenues and money demanded from the rich (even those who not Christians) to better the lot of the poor. And some of the Fathers sounded almost Marxist in their commnentary. For example, St. Cyril of Alexandria: "If one could without malice strip the rich to their shirts and thereby raise up the poor he would be doing Christ's own work."

NO
The church is doing that today.
Did JESUS do it?
He ordered hid disciples to go among the people, but take no money, depend upon the charity of others. Jesus did not force anyone to give just as He did not and would not force anyone to believe in Him.
Those who claim to follow Him may not have been so perfect.

freedom happens by accident and when people get to vote they choose socialism
You have it all wrong freedom happens by accident and when people get to vote they choose socialism. Look at Hong Kong (never democratic), China, Singapore and then look at India (the world’s largest democracy not to mention Sweden, Germany, France etc.).

The superiority of economic freedom is not intuitive.

The USA is rapidly become the USSR the United States Socialist Republic (and people wonder why the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer).


BTW You got the story on New Orleans post Katrina very wrong.

Ps my ideas in the above post grow out of ideas expressed by Milton Freidman
Ps my ideas in the above post grow out of ideas expressed by Milton Freidman

Jesus
Jesus never ran for office nor joined a political party: he taught. Is it impermissible for "Christian Socialsts" to have learned something from those teachings and to apply that learning to politics? Is Jesus to be so chosen as the model that nobody should run for office, nobody should join a political party? Heck, it appears Jesus never voted. Should nobody vote? It sure looks like your opposition to "confiscating" other peoples money is a selective interpretaton of Jesus and his life.

It also seems like the right sees no barrier to making political issues out of what it claims are religious issues. Just when did Jesus say it was wrong to teach evolution in school? When did Jesus ever deny the worth of honest learning and study? Isn't every manor political issue used by the right based on selective interpretation of the Scriptures?

Just which teachings of Jesus do you support and which do you reject?

Note also that the OT makes substantial mention of the treatment of the poor by the rich - and criticizes the rich who are not generous to the poor. The poor and their treatment are, by count of verses, an important topic in the Bible.

BTW BTW If some Latins hate America it probably because of the stupid War on Drug and interventionis
BTW If some Latins hate America it probably because of the stupid War on Drug and interventionism.

And I must admit that they have a point there.

I lived in Honduras for seven months. Most Hondurans seemed to love America but resented some of the US government’s actions.

What did Jesus teach?
Did Jesus teach that we should take care of each other by taking from the rich and give to the poor, or did he teach that the rich will not acheive salvation unless they help the poor?
Love your neighbor as you would love yourself. So you think that hiring soldiers or police to confiscate your neighbor's property is loving yourself? So you satisfy the command to feed the poor by breaking many other commandments.
See the difference?
Jesus does not want conscripts, he wants volunteers. When a government takes from the rich and gives to the poor, where is the sacrifice?
If Jesus wanted the poor to not be poor why not 'make it so'? He has the power.
Neither faith nor chairity can be forced.

CLJ

Taught
I'll have to re-read the New Testament but I don't think Jesus used soldiers or police to collect money to buy weapons to attack other people, either. Why cite one thing Jesus didn't do but ignore the many other things he didn't do? Do you requie all government actions to be derived form what He taught? Do you assert that no action beyond what he explicitly advocated is compatible with and in keeping with his teachings?

Did Jesus advocate a just society or did he not? Did Jesus say that all was to be achieved in society by following him or not (that is, growing food, weaving cloth, etc.)?

There's the Sermon on the Mount, there's the Beatidues, there's the parables.

When the government takes from the poor and gives to the rich where's the justice?

Socialist Governments more Christ like?
It has been asserted by a public radio station that Europen countries act more Christ like by helping their citizens.
I argue that Christ would not have achieved that goal by teaching us to take from others. Christ taught us to give.
A government must take before it can gave.
We must earn before we can give.
The teachings of Jesus apply to us as individuals, not as governments.

Not just...
How many other ethnic groups, when given the opportunity, become successful entrepreneurs? Just about everyone that arrives in the USA from a socialist economy.

no charity works like the federal government
On top of the means used to get the money to fund “charitable” government programs, no charity works like the federal government. Charity is very complex money has to distributed on a case be case basis but government must work by laws. Laws must be the same for everyone thus you have huge bureaucracy to institute incomprehensibly complex laws that are still not nearly complex enough.

Examples:

Government in order to subsidize the elderly people’s retirement made laws to provide for Social Security but in many cases Social Security takes money from more needy people and delivers it to less needy people.

Welfare must provide money, without question, to those with true needs who are truly helped by the program and to those capable people who need a good swift kick in the butt who would be much better off in the long run with the good swift kick in butt. You cannot write that into the law. Some recipients are required to not work in order to get the benefit this is required to reduce fraud.

Effective charity is very difficult to achieve and I am convinced that every individual case is different and so governments of laws cannot do charity effectively. Congress would need to vote on each individual’s case separately.

Get out of the business
That's why the government must get out of the welfare business if we want increased liberty.

Socialism
I see socialism as evil but I don't believe is't supporters see this. They see the empty promises as bloated abdomens. Socialism only fails when it must deliver upon it's promises. It is at that time that the evil head of socialism must rise. Killing citizens means resources are not as thinly spread and it becomes an efficient way of stiffling detractors. Castro invites the Catholic Church (back) into Cuba because abortion has ravaged the po****tion of children, it's very ***ure. It was his socialist policies of eliminating the week, diableed and infirmed so that they would not drain resources that taught it's citizens so well that this works- at leas for a short period. Now the Cuban citizens have practiced abortion to help spread their personal resources, and what do you know, it works! So great that it's practice has reduced the youth po****tion to an alarmingly low level. So low that it threatens the ***ure working po****tion. ****o, France and your socialist borthers.

Amen
Thanks for explaining this, what some would call a dilema. For some, confusion = euphoria

Jesut Taught
Jesus also taught we will know them by their fruit. The fruits of all socialist societies are in direct contravention to Christian teachings - abortion, promiscuity, homosexuality, to mention those that differentiate us. Jesus also told the parable where he ends by saying; "is it not my money to do with as I wish?" he goes on to state an admonishment for the jealousy that prompted the situation. No one can claim any righteousness and systematically support or defend such vile behavior. I call this dilemma the compassion of Satan. When Jesus was thirsty, hungry and tired, perhaps even to the point of despair it was Satan in all his compassion that offered Christ, bread, water, money and even power. But it was Satan's price that made him evil. The price for supporting socialism is to make government the ultimate arbiter of good and evil, supplant God. The left will give dollars to anyone as long as they do not impede Big Abortion. The left practices the compassion of Satan!

We must reform this society or face certain doom
Today’s society is the lowest of any other state of society throughout history. Today a man’s worth equals the amount of money he ac***ulates. Our society reveres the wealthiest people of our society and tells us that is the ultimate goal of all of us. Yet, these man lie, cheat, exploit their workers, and feed money to the government so that they in turn will receive more money. These are the people whom we look up to and want to be. Also our society influences greatly the profession in which people choose to go into. This choice is centered on their selfish desires that society has taught them to pursue. Does someone become a doctor more because they want to help people or because it is a socially respectable career? Socially respectable is right. Why is it socially respectable? Because it is a very well paying job that wears a seemingly pleasant mask to hide the individual’s selfish motives. Why is this wrong? It is wrong for a very large number of reasons. In order to become aware of these reasons we must first understand that because this (money) is mans most important attribute to his worth, then everything a man does is done out of his selfish desire to gain more (money). When our government makes decisions in where it puts its money, they look at what will make them the most money and in turn that money will be invested in other things that will make them even more money. The cycle goes on. “So what?” you say. Maybe when we look at the history of NASA you can see the issue. When NASA began, the government did invest a great deal of money in it. Not because space exploration may offer a great deal of knowledge to mankind, and also offer many possibilities to solving grave problems that exist in our world. No, they did this because space exploration was of great interest in the civilian po****tion. Many people donated a lot of money to it out of this interest. They also believed that space exploration might have offered some great economic opportunities. Truth is that when people donated money to NASA it went straight to the federal government because NASA is an agency under the federal government. Now that space exploration has moved out of public interest, no longer ac***ulates money for the federal government, and has offered no economic opportunities, the government has cut its funding for NASA dramatically. This is one of very many instances that show us that our society and government thrives on selfish desires. Mankind is doomed because of this. Nothing can stop our inevitable demise unless people will see the truth, and overthrow this “selfishness” that lies at the heart of our society and government. I am calling all who read this to make aware others to this disease, of which its effects are unknown until there is little time left, at the heart of our society. Perhaps, with the help of those who read this, we may be able to find a vaccine before we see its effects realized.

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