A War of Ideologies

The World is locked today in a fierce war of ideologies. The Communists, who started it, not only know precisely what they are against, but precisely what they are for, unlike most Americans. 

The party line is laid down for them from the top – There can be no deviation, on pain of ostracism, penal servitude, torture, death. Unfortunately, most people, who assumed that Communism died in Europe with the Berlin Wall,  have no idea that the war is still ongoing.  Communism didn’t die, it just hid itself under the cloak of democracy for the last twenty some odd years.

Democracy is one of those sweepingly vague words that mean too many things to different minds. It can be stretched or compressed, like an accordion, to meet the controversial needs of the moment. As a unifying concept democracy has come to be, in fact, little better than a semantic evasion.

To some it means a political system under which the government depends upon the uncoerced will of the people in such a way that it can be peaceably changed whenever the will of the people changes. To others it means anything down to a system of unrestrained mob rule in which everyone is declared by fiat to be equal in merit and influence to everyone else; in which a minority has no rights that a majority is bound to respect; in which anyone’s property can be confiscated at will, and distributed to those who did nothing to earn it; in which incomes are to be equalized in spite of glaring inequalities in ability, effort, and contribution. This second concept of Democracy must lead inevitably into a Communist system and not toward a free one.

A century of Communism achieved four main results for the people who suffered under it: poverty, oppression, war, and mass death.  Countries taken over by Communists were either plunged from relative prosperity into starvation or walled off for decades from the growing prosperity of capitalist countries, often right next door, enjoying all the same benefits of geography and culture. Think of the contrast between East and West Berlin, between Cuba and Chile, between mainland China and Hong Kong, between North and South Korea.

The history of Communism is a history of mass-scale horrors: the terror-famine in Ukraine, Stalin’s show trials and gulags, the mass starvation of China’s Great Leap Forward, followed by the anarchic terror of the Cultural Revolution, the Killing Fields of Cambodia – hose are just the low points in a list that can go on and on. It is estimated that in the past 100 years, Communist regimes killed as many as 100 million people.

In the strictly scientific sense, the Communist “experiment” didn’t fail. It produced a clear result. It took basic ideas about morality and politics and tested what happens when they are implemented with ruthless consistency. It tested them in one country after another, in different cultures and under different conditions, and it produced the same result every time.  What we should have learned from this “experiment” is that eliminating self-interest doesn’t lead to happiness – it leads to everyone being equally miserable.  When you demand that people sacrifice their well-being and happiness, how could they end up any other way?  Communism is based on the logic of “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”  It tries to build collective happiness on the foundation of individual suffering.

Without individualism, there is no basis for individual rights or any other guarantee of human dignity. The big mistake people make about Communism is to think that it’s just about collectivizing property. It’s actually about collectivizing people. Communist countries impose oppressive systems of censorship and interfere deeply with the personal lives of their subjects precisely because they take seriously this idea of the subordination of the individual to the collective good. They apply it to everything, including the very thoughts in your head, which they also treat as public property.

Without individual freedom, there is no creativity, just mindless conformity.  Everything is made drab and impersonal, built with an indifference to the actual needs and wants of individual human beings. Partly, this is a product of its economic system, in which all decisions are made by a distant and uncaring bureaucracy, a system with no prices or profit motive to align the goods and services offered by businesses with the preferences of their customers. More deeply, though, all of that is missing because in principle the needs, desires, and preferences of the individual are not supposed to matter.

The deepest lesson of the history of Communism – self-interest and individualism are just ways of saying that the life and happiness of the individual human being has value. Throw out these principles, and the life of the individual can be sacrificed, in whole or in part, with no limit. If an individual needs to be tortured for the good of the system, or worked to death in the gulags, or shot in the back of the head and tossed into a ditch—well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, right? And the more eggs you break, the less each one matters. A single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

What Communism should have taught us is that a system that doesn’t value the individual human life does not value human life at all. And you cannot value the individual human life without valuing its happiness, its freedom, and its private interests.

So why doesn’t the concept die?  The overwhelming majority of bureaucrats in Western countries do not really believe in the basic principles of Capitalism. The economic freedom it involves is alien to their minds. It is not natural for the people in power in government to believe in less governmental power. Moreover, they do not really understand what makes Capitalism work, or what measures are conformable with it. Their natural tendency is to favor the incompatible system of the government handout.  

It is because of its freedoms and securities that Capitalism is incomparably the most productive system in the world. It does not have to “prove” its superiority to Socialism or Communism. It has already proved that a thousand times over. 

Source:  Let’s Defend Capitalism, Mises Inst;  Why Won’t The Nightmare Dream Of Communism Die?, by  Robert Tracinski, The Federalist

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