Socialism and Equality

Observing the media hijinks and economic moronity of Democrat hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is prepared to increase taxation to unsustainable levels to pay for the socialist dream – "universal health care, tuition free higher education, and the 100 percent use of renewable energy, among other programs" – I could not help but reflect that infinity can be measured only by the extent of human stupidity.

Ocasio-Cortez, a lightweight even on the Bernie Sanders scale, is merely the latest in a long line of what we call today "democratic socialists" or "social justice warriors."  They are oblivious to the proven fact that socialism never works, that it has failed wherever it has been tried, that a centralized state and a command economy inevitably lead to rampant inefficiency, reduced incentive to compete and innovate, diminished production, economic stagnation, and ultimately to one or another version of the police state, whether the "velvet totalitarianism" that John Furedy speaks of or sheer brutal repression – in current terms, the Venezuela option.  Socialism is the enemy not only of human flourishing and individual freedom, but, as we will note shortly, of the concept of equality before the law.

"Leftism" will always be with us.  It is an indelible part of human history, going back to time immemorial and probably rooted in the necessary sharing arrangements of primitive or subsistence societies.  A more spiritual and hortatory version may be found in the biblical book of Amos.  Amos inveighs against the prosperous who are indifferent to the plight of the poor – the Lord will "smite the winter house with the summer house."  The haves, the one percent of the time, should be despoiled of their possessions and the have-nots compensated for their suffering.

Here is the biblical root of the socialist ideology later developed in the political writings and manifestos of major Western thinkers, primarily Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract, Karl Marx's Das Kapital, George Sorel's Reflections on Violence, and Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks.

The deposition of ancient Israel's socialist prophet is a magnanimous one, but it works against the political integrity and cohesiveness of the democratic state when the principle of equality supersedes that of true justice. Nations that have installed the practice of what is erroneously called "social justice" elevate the concerns of those it regards as disadvantaged, marginal, and discriminated against – generally members of assorted and clamorous identity groups – over the rights of ordinary taxpaying citizens, small business people, dissident intellectuals, and talented individuals.  In a mordant irony, those who actively contribute to the maintenance and welfare of society now find themselves forming the new class of the discriminated against.  The social structure is inverted in the name of equality and the resources of the nation are progressively exhausted as the so-called "entitled" prosper at the expense of the builders and doers.  In the "social justice" world, the laws are not equal for the prudent, capable and efficient, who have seen their rights contested and abridged.  

Hannah Arendt understood the problem.  "The nation-state cannot exist," she wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism, "once its principle of equality before the law has broken down.  Without this legal equality, which originally was destined to replace the older laws and orders of the feudal society, the nation dissolves into an anarchic mass of over- and underprivileged individuals.  Laws that are not equal for all revert to rights and privileges, something contradictory to the very nature of nation-states."

The notion of equality before the law has a long and vexed history that demands volumes to study and explicate.  For our purposes, Aristotle is a good place to start.  His bedrock conviction, articulated in the Politics, that "[t]he only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law" has acquired the status of a philosophical aphorism, and indeed is the central pillar of the Declaration of Independence.  Aristotle extolled the force of customary law over individual interpretation or, by extension, over what we might call period-oriented judgments.  This he called epiekeia – that is, equality as commonly understood.  Laws, he argued in the Rhetoric, are made after lengthy deliberation, whereas court decisions are of the time in question, often rendering their claims of justice debatable.

There is no need to delve into the vast scholarly discussion respecting the divisions of the concept of law into three distinct categories – natural law, customary law and jurisprudential law – which John Locke examined in his Two Treatises of Government.  Locke's conception of property rights, however, is critical to our understanding of how "social justice" or "democratic socialism" violates the Aristotelian principle of epiekeia.  Property, for Locke, entails not only estate holdings, but also the life and liberty of the person.  When an individual's perquisites and possessions are acquired though labor, talent, dedication, and investment, they constitute his property, the fruit of his life and liberty.  When they are taken from him by legislative fiat, crippling taxes, and quixotic or utopian social projects, a breach of natural and customary law has occurred, and the principle of equality has been violated by jurisprudential means.

Such are the wages of "social justice," whether in the practice of our falsely named "Human Rights Tribunals," where legitimate earners and property-owners are exorbitantly penalized in favor of aggrieved claimants and welfare abusers; the canard of the rich paying their "fair share," as if the wealthy were not already overburdened by prohibitive tax loads and as if high corporate taxes were not already counter-productive; and the economic stripping of risk-taking entrepreneurs to subsidize those who are constitutionally averse to risk and rely on the state to provide for them.  In effect, we are witnessing a reversal of moral values, which, writes Anthony J. DeBlasi, is "a major tactic of the left to deconstruct America and groom it for socialist-communist domination and takeover, which seems outrageously stupid, given the historic and ongoing failure of collectivism to make life good for anyone."

The kind of state envisioned by the Democratic Party in the U.S. and the Liberal and NDP outfits in Canada represents precisely the political and economic organization of human affairs that Aristotle advised against; that Locke sought to prevent; that Arendt so presciently analyzed; and that Amos, who lived in simpler times, could not have foreseen.  The right to life, liberty, and property, as Locke argued, is prior to and the basis of the laws subsequently enacted by any particular society.  Anything apart from the voluntary donation of a portion of an individual's patrimony via charity and limited taxation toward the maintenance of a viable state is a form of depredation.

"Democratic socialism" is a contradiction in terms – or it is democratic in the same way as death is, reducing everyone to the same level.  Socialism is no less a grim reaper than mortality.  Similarly, "social justice" has nothing to do with the Western legacy of equality before the law.  Clearly, people are not equal with respect to character, intelligence, aptitude, moral fiber, personal responsibility, and motivation, but they should be equal before the law.  "Democratic socialism" ignores the complexity of human personality by reducing difference to a lowest common denominator just as "social justice" is dismissive of individual contributions to the well-being of the state.  What such fantasy-laden constructs call "equality" is nothing but the dispensation of unearned privilege to the masses, culminating inexorably in the imposition of a featureless collective.

Socialism is a perversion of both equality and justice, the weaponizing of the law in the service of an unfeasible ideal and the progressivist legalization of outright theft, which can result only in the eventual destabilization of the state.  It terminates in the society of Harrison Bergeron, in which everyone is equal only in the sense that everyone, apart from an echelon of exploiters, is equally poor, equally deprived, and equally miserable.  This is not what Amos would have conceived as justice.

But it is what the Ocasio-Cortezes of the world – and they are legion – would in their risible ignorance inflict upon the rest of us, if we are lunatic enough to allow them.  Florida candidate for governor Ron DeSantis is on the mark when he points to the utter folly of Ocasio-Cortez "running around saying, well, capitalism is going to die and ... that socialism is the wave of the future.  And as somebody who lives in Florida, I can tell you, we probably have more refugees from socialist countries – Cuban-Americans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans – then just about any state ... and certainly they can tell you socialism doesn't work.  It's a failed philosophy."

Equality before the law is regarded by democratic socialists and SJWs as a form of privilege that must be eradicated.  This is their agenda.

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