I must ask, how many of you ever thought you would hear an American president, while speaking at a State of the Union Address, assert that “America will never be a socialist country”? I tend to believe that none of us would have ever believed that would be a necessary statement to profess in our constitutional republic. However, as Thomas Paine once quipped in his December 23, 1776 Revolutionary War pamphlet, “The Crisis,”“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
And now it appears that we have indeed come upon “THESE” times once again. At the time, we had a new nation, struggling for its independence against a tyrannical monarchy, King George III of England. The question at that time was whether free men and women could govern themselves, and not be subject to a ruler, far away. Was it possible that British political philosopher, father of classical liberalism, John Locke got it right with his natural rights theory? Locke claimed that our unalienable rights were naturally endowed to us by our Creator, and these were life, liberty, and property. Of course, Thomas Jefferson studied Locke, but thanks to the wise counsel of Benjamin Franklin, our Declaration of Independence chose the words, “life,” “liberty,” and “the pursuit of happiness.”
There are some who think that these guiding principles, defining our individual rights, may seem nebulous. And that is why Abraham Lincoln gave us a very clear and definitive understanding of the word, “liberty.” He stated at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair on April 18, 1864, “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names—liberty and tyranny.”
This brings us to where we are today in our America. Yes, we must ask ourselves are we summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, or will we accept Benjamin Franklin’s challenge of September 17, 1787? As the story is told, a Philadelphia socialite named Mrs. Powell queried Franklin upon the signing of our U.S. Constitution as to whether we had a republic or a monarchy. Franklin replied succinctly, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Sadly, today, we do not study American history, and certainly not civics. They have been replaced by Social Studies, and other ideological agenda-driven classes. Therefore, we have many young, and older, people in America who have little understanding of the difference between a republic and a democracy. And so, we struggle and have allowed ourselves to become attracted to a philosophy of governance and political ideology that is completely antithetical to everything for which this country was established, namely individual sovereignty over the institution of government.
The problem with socialism is that it is socialism. It does not matter if it is being touted by Karl Marx, Friderich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro … or Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It always starts and ends the same way – in utter disaster.
French political philosopher and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville, provided us the seminal difference, and failure, of socialism in the early 1800s. He stated, “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”
Socialism begins with the glowing promises of infinite “free” things from the government. Instead of believing here in America that we have a right to pursue our happiness, we have these American progressive socialists who, once again, redefine rights based upon their ideological agenda … and claim that they will provide for it all. And just do not worry, we can simply take from one group – what French economist Frederic Bastiat called legal plunder in his 1850s essay “The Law” – and redistribute it to others. Just remember the Marxist principle from his “Critique on the Gotha Program,” “From each according to his ability, to each according to their need.” And who gets to decide whose ability and what is a need? Yes, the same folks that are now gunning down innocent people who subjugated to the rule of a socialist dictator, in Venezuela.
And for some very odd reason, our little happy bunch of American progressive socialists are not saying too much about this. No, they are very busy trying to keep our borders open to any and all who will come. And why? Simple, so that they can redistribute the wealth and resources of some, “ability,” to those coming here illegally, “needs.” And the result being these individuals will always seek to keep progressive socialists in power, since they guarantee happiness – government superiority – instead of believing in the indomitable entrepreneurial American spirit and the policies that enable us to pursue our happiness.
It always ends the same, economic collapse, when socialists seek to redistribute wealth, nationalize economic production, expand the welfare nanny-state of dependency, advance social egalitarianism, and elevate secular humanism, trusting in government and not our Creator, God. After all, it is government that can deliver on you rights, which takes us back to the original challenge of John Locke’s theory of natural rights versus divine rights theory of monarchs.
And as I close, never forget that the first major, important step for socialist dictatorship: disarm the people, making them subjects, not citizens. As we see in Venezuela, it is very easy to starve people and deny them food and medicine when you, the government, have all the firepower.
Will America ever be a socialist country? Not as long as the Second Amendment exists. And funny, Nancy Pelosi recently talked about a Democrat president using national emergency declaration to confront gun violence. That is how it starts, the dog whistle call to render us defenseless.
If you know American history, you know that is exactly why brave Americans took the field at Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. Even then, they knew that the problem with socialism is that it is socialism.
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. Mr. West is a Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center to support its mission to expose and neutralize liberal media bias.