From the beginning of man’s evolution toward communal living – and by the use of this word, I mean that as man started to organize into societal units and certain duties, responsibilities and benefits (or detriments, as the case may be) were shared by all members of a community – there have been disagreements of just how much of the individual output the individual “owed” to the community or how much the community had a right to take. This is represented by a continuum of pure communism on the left end of the line to total individualism on the right. It also follows that, as pure individualism requires no government control it supports the most individual liberty – conversely, the farther to the left one goes, the less individual liberty results.
Where we are at any given time is like a slider on this line that moves back and forth in response to elections, social forces and cultural change.
I would say, for the purpose of argument, that Marxism would be an ideology on the left that is about as far from center as the Objectivism of Ayn Rand is on the right. Most people who have enough awareness to even argue about these positions will recognize both of these but the argument over these is not the argument that we should be having.
It is an error because to argue over terms is a definitional argument and as we have seen debated on these pages, no action of the Obama administration, or the preceding Bush administration, fits the textbook definition of any ideology. As a matter of political reality, both have been a mixture of ideologies, only shaded to one side or the other due to the nature of our representative form of republic – there are simply too many voices that can garner majority support for “hybrid” ideas and solutions for a singular ideology to express itself. Modern Republicans have far more issues in maintaining solidarity than the Democrats do, and that is an opinion of mine that is approaching fact based on the existence of a pattern of monolithic votes and rare defections from Democrat positions on critical issues. Win or lose, Democrats tend to do either as a block, Republicans, not so much.
The argument we should be having is of a directional nature – that is to say, what direction are we going, what ideology fits better with the founding ideals of the country and the conditions of modern life. A legitimate argument from the left would include points that detail why trending toward Marxism is better for America, how it is compatible with the Constitution and recommendations on the process to get there. A legitimate argument from the right would be why Objectivism meets the same criteria.
I would note that this should be a very short argument because while those who favor a more collectivist, centrally planned state and may well be able to explain why they think Marxism would be better and craft a process to get there, they cannot possibly make the case that such a direction is compatible with the founding document that established our Republic. Based on my readings, I can clearly see the influences of philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Frederic Bastiat (Bastiat was born 14 years after the ratification of the Constitution but is an extension of Locke’s philosophies. I mentioned him as I think he is a good example of how the philosophies of the other men were synthesized.):
- Plato believed that government should create “good” for all collectively and that all individuals needed to give up certain things for the good of all citizens.
- Aristotle stated that an ideal government should be concerned with the common good or common interest.
- Machiavelli believed in “republicanism” and “civic virtue” where citizens act for the common good and they would put their selfish desires aside.
- Hobbes believed in “natural laws” where in nature before people formed by a society, preexisting principles arise. Believed in social contract.
- Locke believed that all men are created equal and that people should have the freedom to act. He believed in social contract between the people and their government and that there should be a limit to government. Locke also believed in Constitutionalism, this is the idea, often associated with the political theories of Locke and the founders of the American republic, that government can and should be legally limited in its powers, and that its authority or legitimacy depends on its observing these limitations.
- Montesquieu believed in separation of power and that there should be 3 branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial (checks and balances).
- Rousseau agreed with Locke but didn’t think that the majority would always act for the common good. He believed that the role of the government was to ensure that the common good or general welfare was protected.
- Bastiat understood that government was a necessary evil in the world of men, through which one political force would compete to gain an advantage over others. He stated, ‘As it is certain, on the one hand, that we are all making some similar request to the Government; and as, on the other, it is proved that Government cannot satisfy one party without adding to the labor of the others, until I can obtain another definition of the word Government I feel authorized to give it my own. Who knows but it may obtain the prize? Here it is: “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”‘
I listed these in chronological order for a reason. If you notice that as time passed and societies increased in prosperity, education and moral codes became relatively standardized by Christianity – and as these aspects became more widespread in Western society, the idea of independence and self-government became far more prevalent. This lead to the concept of a minimal set of universal “natural” rights that our government was designed to protect.
One must remember that these were times when tyranny was relatively common through monarchical rule and tribalism. We like to think that the world was a stable place but in reality, political winds changed often and control was often determined by at the chain mail covered hand holding a large broadsword. If England can be used as a gauge, only 14 of the recognized 52 monarchs since 924 AD (almost 1100 years) ruled for more than 25 years, about the same as a 4 term US Senator, half of them ruling 17 years or less…many far less, so stability was not a prime feature of governments.
The American Republic was a reflection of these times and the Founding Fathers strove to create a government that could acclimate itself to changes and survive, yet be protective of the natural rights of its citizens – ergo the use of Constitutionalism.
The founding of the American Republic did include a facet of collectivism – but this was not the collectivism of Marx and Engels. This collectivism was a voluntary collectivism based on a moral awareness of what the community and the less fortunate members of that community could benefit from. Government was structured to address the minimum needs of the community as determined by the members of that community and the care of the less fortunate was an individual choice based on the worthiness of the individual – Christian charity. The maintenance of our electorate – voting – was also constructed in a similar manner, on a voluntary basis – there is no law that mandates or compels anyone to vote under penalty of law. The point being that the closer we approach pure individualism on the right end of the scale, the more the “common/communal” acts become voluntary and based on internal moral convictions. This is the legacy of the break with the English monarchy that was defined by the Declaration of Independence, executed by victory in the Revolutionary War and guaranteed by the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America in 1787.
This voluntary aspect of our relationship with our government – the idea that “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” is the very reason that Marxism will never and can never be implemented in the USA. This is also the reason that leaders like Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Obama have a callous disregard for constitutional provisions and the reason that progressives have worked for the better part of a century finding ways around it. Obama may have been a lecturer on constitutional law but from what little information we have about his “lectures”, it is clear that he viewed the Constitution as his enemy and not his ally.
The history of Marxism and communism is a history of an ideology implemented and maintained by force, not by choice. America has to build walls to keep people from illegally getting in, not to keep citizens from escaping. In the rare situations where communist ideas get voted in, it isn’t long before the tyranny begins to be institutionalized and once liberty is given up as a consequence, it is never willingly given back by those in power. Taking liberty from a population is the ultimate in power over them. The absence of liberty guarantees that there will be no choice and without choice, there can be no voluntary actions. It is for this reason that communism has never existed without tyranny and totalitarian rule – this is the only way to change what was once a voluntary act entered into by individual choice to a mandatory action required by a government authority.
Marx said that his philosophy was the bridge between socialism and communism and as such, it is clear that Marxism is the gateway drug to communism. We have been creating socialist policies and programs for about a century now and as the current debate over sequestration indicates, we have reached a point where socialism is institutionalized in our government. It is clear through the actions of Obama, the progressives in his caucus, the fascist and race-baiting Congressional Black Caucus and the liberal members of the Democratic Party that they want to dip their toes in the pond of Marxism. If you don’t think so, ask yourself this question: over your lifetime, how many things now require government approval or notification than did 5, 10, 15, 20 – and for those of us a little longer in the tooth – 30, 40 or 50 years ago. What simple and innocuous things dod you do when you were a kid that are prohibited or would result in a fine today?
Ace at AOSHQ had a very relevant example of this just about a year ago:
I grew up on the East Coast. For a while, I lived in California.
I was blown away to learn that people could just start bonfires on the beach, whenever they liked.
Now, to be honest, I learned on this when the government was trying to crack down on the practice, but I was blown away at the idea that a private citizen could, in this country, previous to changes in this law at least, simply create a bonfire on the beach and enjoy it. Just because he wanted to.
Then I started to think like this: What kind of a mind-screw did they do on me when I should be surprised that people would be allowed to do this?
You see what I mean? My default mental state, thanks to the more statist area I grew up in (at least as far as bonfires) was that of course I wasn’t permitted by The State to build a bonfire and enjoy it…
To what extent have we internalized that the “normal” situation of our life is to be unfree, to the extent that a simple pleasure, like building a bonfire on a beach and (get this!) drinking wine while watching it burn, seems like a bizarre indulgence of a malfunctioning anarchy?
I’m angry that someone put into my head the reflexive thought: Of course you mustn’t do that; you aren’t Allowed.
And once you’ve accepted that basic regime of requiring permission and licensing to do most everything in your life– that makes it quite easy for the state to simply begin forbidding you to do whole categories of things altogether.
After all, you’ve accepted you need a license to do this or that, and that license can only come from the government. And if the government then refuses– well, it’s up them, isn’t it? They have the right to deny you, right?
But did they?
When did they accumulate this power?
Just over the course of long decades, as a result of a thousand laws passed For the Public Good, and millions of decisions that it just wasn’t worth fighting over.
Whether you agree with the changes or not, if you are honest, your answers should shock you. That slider on the scale we talked about earlier has been moved pretty far to the left.
Socialism has already started to rot our foundation. Marxism will topple us to communism and totalitarian rule – and that incompatibility with our founding principles spells the end of the American Republic.