In January, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp from its horrific Nazi founders. The director of the museum, Piotr Cywinski, made the following remark:
“More and more we seem to be having trouble connecting our historical knowledge with our moral choices today,” he said. “I can imagine a society that understands history very well but does not draw any conclusion from this knowledge.”
Hitler enacted his radical National Socialist (Nazi) ideology through a consolidation of ultimate power in the German state.
At the end of 2018, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation released data indicating that only one in three Americans know enough basic American history to pass the U.S. citizenship test. According to the 2018 American Institutional Confidence Poll, over half of 18-29-year-olds are unsatisfied with American democracy, and over 20% would prefer to see the system replaced with a non-democratic system. There is a likely correlation between these statistics.
Communism, fascism, and socialism have been responsible for the most death, destruction, poverty, and starvation in human history. They are truly crippling ideologies that become easy vehicles to which radical political characters can attach motives of truly evil intent, like racism and supremacy.
I truly fear for our country should we meet the perfect storm of historical oblivion and political con-job. A well-spoken candidate interested in consolidating power in the upper echelons of the government could sell authoritarianism to the electorate as their greatest and only hope of reforming society.
I am not saying that any current political candidate in American politics has the same evil intentions or designs about society that Hitler had. Hitler is an example of the extreme worst-case scenario. Yet it should be by the standard of the extreme-worst case scenario that we make any decision about society that is irreversible. Those candidates who embrace socialism or socialist policies, regardless of their motivations, intend to irreversibly consolidate power in the highest level of government.
To enact any socialist policy would require a transformation of the state into a socialist economy and government. This applies to even socialism that may be called “democratic” in the sales pitch. There is no half-measure in socialism because there can be no half-measures. People can’t opt out of socialist healthcare or socialist wealth redistribution. By design, these policies require complete participation.
So, whatever a candidate’s intent—good or bad, right or wrong—a socialist design consolidates power in a way that leaves the entire electorate vulnerable to radical influence without recourse. And this is indeed irreversible. Once the state steps into a role previously held by the individual citizen, like economic or moral decisionmaking, it never steps back.
Earnestly, I hope Democrats looking at the field of candidates reconsider their support for any candidate who is openly embracing socialist policies. I’m not a Democrat. But I bet I share many of the same goals as the average American Democrat: a society that is equal, open, and accessible to every citizen, a society that enshrines human and civil rights, a society that cares for the needy and the neighbor. We share these goals though we differ on the means by which to achieve them. Giving a “democratic” socialist the benefit of the doubt of the best intentions for society, the “democratic” socialist design itself for achieving these ends still sets us up for the worst possible outcome. Whoever follows the well-intentioned candidate into elected office will find themselves with enough power amassed to achieve their own motives, whatever they may be.
Perhaps the democratic socialist candidates think they can enact the best of socialism and avoid the worst. The problem is that history is conclusive. This is impossible.
There are ways to achieve a fair, healthy, and cared for society without turning over our lives, our rights, and our freedoms to the government. There are other options that will guard against the horrors I’ve described. Americans can come together on these ends, between right and left, and walk a balanced path towards progress so long as we don’t cede our ability to act to the dangerous ideology of socialism.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
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