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“Every human being brings something of value to the world, but must choose to honor those
gifts. Each of us is endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Author Brian Holers discusses idealism and its role in the political forces that shape our country and world.
By Brian Holers
Image: By Unbalanced scales.svg: Booyabazooka derivative work: Mareklug talk [CC‐BY‐SA‐3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by‐sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I recently read about a Rasmussen poll which said 11 percent of American voters believe communism is morally superior to capitalism. Seven times as many, or 77 percent, say capitalism is superior, which I guess is good news. However, thirteen percent were undecided (yes I know this adds up to 101 percent, I’m just reading the numbers.) What this poll says is that nearly a quarter of American voters either prefer communism to capitalism, or are unsure which is morally superior. This doesn’t seem right to me. I am grateful most of us know communism is pure horror, yet I have noticed that even many who ascribe to a capitalist system don’t know why it is better. Many, it seems, willingly participate in it, yet consider an economic system of risk and reward to be somehow dirty or disgusting, a “necessary evil.” Some seem to think capitalism is only a better system because humans are necessarily selfish; they laud the idea that the world would be a better place if we were all somehow the same, if we could simply share and share alike, create a world where no one has more than anyone else, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” I believe this phenomenon goes to a deeper level of the very thing that ails us most as members of the greatest, wealthiest society on earth; the ironic, yet all too common, mentality of victims, and a craven unwillingness to face reality which accompanies the mentality. Often, of course, it’s the young. If you are reading this, either you are young or, more likely, once were. I’m no fan of blind loyalty or ersatz nationalism, and I’m far from over the hill, but this is alarming to me. I know a lot of this dissatisfaction with America has happened in my lifetime, and it seems to keep getting worse. What was once a nearly universal belief that this was a great nation seems to have been replaced with hordes of people, so many of them young and recently out of college, who tell us more is wrong than is right in this country, that we have more to fix than we have to celebrate. And many of us in middle age or later, who may have had similar ideas ourselves at one time, look at young people espousing beliefs that everything can be fixed through legislation, or through continually expanding government, and we call them “idealistic.” They’ll find out for themselves one day. Eventually they’ll see what the real world is like. Sure, they’re overmatched. But they’re idealistic. A young person who doesn’t believe all social ills can be cured is just heartless. Fine, I agree, we’ve got a lot to fix. That’s the human condition. But how did “idealistic” become synonymous with the belief that all problems can be solved by way of larger,
more powerful government? Let’s be frank. That’s what we’re really talking about. If we’re going to live in the real world, and we’re going to say that poverty or hunger or lack of education or insufficient medical care or a host of others are problems society must solve, we’re advocating for more government. And where exactly do the rights to food or health care or any of these things come from? If I have a right to anything, then, logically, someone else has a responsibility to provide it. And the problem with socialism, as Ms. Thatcher once said, is that, eventually, you run out of other people’s money. Is a person who advocates for market solutions ever called “idealistic?” Of course not. That person would only be a selfish, crass capitalist. But why does a hope and wish for humans to lose the self interest that drives us, and advocacy for often foolish and unworkable solutions, make a person “idealistic?” Unrealistic, that I can see. But why must we deny our very nature to create a better world? Somehow the word “idealistic” has simply come to mean the exact opposite of what is real. If one could prove the world’s inequities would be solved by greater self interest, would that person be called idealistic? It makes for such great irony. Because, in essence, what communism represents is an ultimate self denial, at least for the majority of people who stand to lose under such a system. I’m not talking about a person denying him- or herself doughnuts or alcohol or a gazillion other things we all do toward achieving some greater goal. Yet proponents of such radical notions are simply indulging their own fantasies by touting totally unrealistic scenarios. It’s like sharing ideas via bumper sticker. All it does is makes the person with the bumper sticker feel somehow morally superior, which of course is the precise opposite of self denial. Sometimes the exhortations of the “idealistic” are downright funny. “End Racism!” I love that one. I just want to say, “let me finish my lunch first, then I will. Or maybe tonight just before I go to bed. I’ll do that. I’ll end racism.” Here is what happens. A person espouses the supposed value of some greater social good. Take “communism” as an example. Let’s just imagine we press a magic button and create a communist world. Maybe we’d all feel better for a little while. A lot of pressure would be off. There wouldn’t be any point in staying late at work because you can’t get ahead anyway. We wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky panhandlers anymore. Government would take care of everything.
But as history has shown us, it wouldn’t be long before everything fell apart. Most of us would quickly notice a huge drop in standard of living, as the whole giant flow of goods and services we count on, thanks to the constant risk and innovation of business people trying to get ahead, would no longer flow. Business activity, which in a capitalist system is taxed to support government and all its programs, would be essentially nonexistent. Government creates no wealth, and any entity not motivated by the possibility of profit would quickly lose all ability to support its people. Nearly all of us would be desperate to wake up from this bad dream. And what I hope we’d learn from this imaginary activity is that this so-called idealism comes with a tremendous cost. Those who refuse to let go of their notions that we should all be the same, that the state should run everything, develop the mentality of victims; “the rich” run everything (the whole fictitious “war on the middle class”, of which I am a proud member, will be the subject of another blog), most of us are somehow victimized by their excessive appetites, and now they need to take care of us. Then there’s the shopworn argument that communism has never worked anywhere it’s been tried “because they’ve never done it right”; it didn’t work in Russia or China or anywhere for this reason or that reason, but it would work here. Why such a system might work in the United States, land of the most independent minded people in the world, is inconceivable. Or here’s another one: it works in theory, but it’s never worked in practice. If something doesn’t work in practice, anywhere, ever, then the theory behind it is clearly, deeply flawed. And don’t forget that every time it has been tried, the most visible result is dead bodies all over the place, some say as many as 100 million dead from Mao and Stalin alone. I guess a person can say a system is morally superior, yet be totally ignorant of the facts on the ground. But still, they are facts. And when we choose to ignore the facts, we breed the mentality of victims. The simple fact is that we are driven by self interest and the desire for reward, all the way down to our DNA. And any sort of political or economic system that thwarts human nature won’t work, no matter how badly we wish it would, no matter how badly we wish people were just different. We are morally equal, but we’re not all the same. Every human being brings something of value to the world, but must choose to honor those gifts. Each of us is endowed by our creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We only find a
way to protect our lives, our liberty, and our ability to pursue happiness when we take responsibility for ourselves, learn to rely on one another and not a growing government, and refuse to believe in fairy tales.
Brian Holers is a writer, novelist and arborist living in Seattle, Washington with his wife and nine year old son. In his day job he owns and operates Root Cause, LLC, a company specializing in tree health care via root and soil mitigation. Brian has also worked as a legal assistant/bookkeeper, community organizer, and counselor in a homeless shelter, and spent 2006 traveling with his family through East Africa, Southeast Asia, Israel and New Zealand. All of these experiences have given him a lifetime of stories to tell. To find out more about Brian, or read some of his work, including excerpts from his forthcoming novel Doxology, a blue‐collar Southern tale of love, loss, and the healing power of community and family, check out his website: www.BrianHolers.com. Connect with Brian on Scribd and Facebook.
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