While the media is busy covering Ron DeSantis and overreacting to a completely innocent statement that he made, Floridians (and others around the country) have something more significant to think about.
On the same day that Mr. DeSantis won the Republican primary for governor, Andrew Gillum also won the Democratic nomination. While DeSantis is a Trump-endorsed Republican, Mr. Gillum “is campaigning as a member of the Sanders–Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party.” In doing so, Gillum appears to be aligning with a socialist agenda, which could have significant impacts at the state and national level.
According to an article in the National Review, Gillum opposes gun rights and supports a ban on “assault weapons” and measures to crack down on private gun sales. He has also endorsed proposals to restrict the Second Amendment rights of people who have not been convicted of crimes.
In addition, he wants more government (state and federal) involvement with respect to health care, supports a “Medicare for all” plan and says he would expand Medicaid in Florida. Moreover, “[he] wants to abolish ICE, raise the minimum wage to $15, pass single-payer health care, and increase taxes across the board.”
Gillium’s progressive policies are problematic and should be rejected. Still, some people, including millennials, find them appealing. This is likely due to the fact that many millennials (and others) don’t fully understand socialism, it risks, and how it differs from capitalism.
Mark Levin provided a very good comparison between the two systems. Per Levin, capitalism is the most humane economic system of all. In a capitalistic society, the people are in charge because capitalism respects individuality and empowers individuals to work together. According to Levin, capitalism is compatible with constitutionalism and is a necessary element of freedom. Capitalism allows for the right to private property and the right to defend property through due process.
Stated another way, with capitalism, people are encouraged to work hard and to reap the benefits of their hard work. There is economic freedom, and success is directly related to effort. Inevitably, with this system, some are left on the sidelines.
On the other hand, Levin asserts that socialism is an essential element of totalitarianism. While it is promoted as a system that is fair and that creates social justice, socialism is like a police state that spreads poverty through redistribution. Per Levin, in a socialistic society, the state is the master and decision making is exercised by a few people who are not concerned with the rights of the individual but on the equality of distribution. Socialism is completely incompatible with constitutionalism.
Generally speaking, with socialism, the government controls the system, people are kept at similar economic levels (through redistribution, heavily taxing those who choose to work hard and succeed, etc.), and people generally do not work as hard to succeed because they do not personally prosper/benefit from their hard work. For these reasons (among others), many people try to come to the United States from different socialist countries in search of capitalism.
A simple example can offer some guidance as to why socialism is problematic. Suppose that Jon and Mary are married and that they have one child together. Both parents work very hard and the family lives a modest lifestyle. One day, Mary gets very ill and eventually becomes disabled. Given that Mary can no longer work, Jon has to take care of his wife and their one child.
Suppose, however, that Jon decides that he does not want to take care of them and instead wants the government to take the reigns? In theory, that sounds great! The problem with Jon’s approach, however, is that other people might not want to work as hard to care for Mary than they would to care for their own family.
This is a direct result of socialism! If Jon knows that others will take care of him and his family, why would he want to work? He could simply sit back and enjoy the fruit of everyone’s labor. However, if everyone begins to think like Jon, nobody is going to work and/or strive to succeed. The problems with this approach become self-evident.
Frederick Bastiat was a French political philosopher and economist. In 1850, Bastiat wrote “The Law, “where he discussed what happens in a society “when the law becomes a weapon used by those in power to control and enslave the population.” Bastiat used the term “plunder” to describe how those in power use the law as a weapon of force. For example, speaking about the issue of taxation, Bastiat stated:
When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it – without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud – to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed. I say that this act is exactly what the law is supposed to suppress, always and everywhere.
When the plunder is abetted by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes [police], and your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help. (“The Law”, Bastiat)
In essence, Bastiat was describing socialism. At its core, socialism is “a system where all property is controlled by a small group of individuals” who “determine what the common good will be and who force everyone else to comply.”
According to Bastiat, the two main reasons for legalized plunder are greed (i.e. it is simply easier to take things from those who already have than to work for them) and/or a belief that taking money and property from those who have it allows the takers to help others in need.
The concept of helping others in need is one that is shared by most rational people. The method of doing so, however, is not. Bastiat believed that people could help others in need without the use of legalized plunder (i.e. socialism). For example, when people do well and succeed, many inherently like to help others by way of giving charity, donations, etc. There is no need for the government to force them to do so:
Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.
We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state of religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
Socialism, in and of itself, doesn’t work. Our country revolves around individualism, free enterprise and trade, hard-work, and less government intrusion/control. There are many unfortunate examples where the evisceration of these rights and/or privileges (socialism) has led to terrible results, such as in Venezuela.
Bastiat profoundly stated: “Socialists, like all other monopolists, desire to make the law their own weapon. And when once the law is on the side of socialism, how can it be used against socialism? For when plunder is abetted by the law, it does not fear your courts, your gendarmes, and your prisons. Rather, it may call upon them for help.”
With this backdrop, Floridians and others around the country should emphatically reject this approach come November. If they don’t, the United States could eventually join some of the other countries that fell victim to this flawed system.
Mr. Hakim is a writer and a practicing attorney. Follow him on Twitter.