Friday, December 28, 2012

Is Socialism a Good Thing?

***This is a post I wrote four years ago on our family blog.  I thought I would dust it off and put it on my personal blog as well.  I've also added some dialogue between a friend and me on the issue in response to my post.

Recently I've had a number of conversations, both in and out of the Church, on the topic of socialism. Often a certain line of questioning emerges from those who are partial to the idea of socialism. It goes something like this: Christ taught that we should serve one another. He and his disciples have taught the importance of charity. Isn't socialism just Christianity put into practice by government? How can true Christians have a problem with socialism? Does not Christian theology require its adherents to share their wealth with others?

It's tempting to take the easy path and say that, "Yes, socialism and Christianity are similar." One is only the cheap copy of the other. The consequences of each are completely different. One leads men to a higher plane of existence, encouraging them to work harder for one another based on true love. The other, sadly, leads to men seeking power and authority over one another, which is so easily abetted by the willingness of people to surrender their personal responsibility for their own welfare to others.

President Ezra Taft Benson spoke often about the dangers and evil of communism and its sublte predecessor, socialism. In a conference address he stated: "We must ever keep in mind that collectivized socialism is part of the communistic strategy...What is socialism? It is simply governmental ownership or management of the essential means for the production and distribution of goods...What can priesthood holders do? We should become informed about communism, socialism and about Americanism...We should treat socialistic-communism as the tool of Satan."

Further he stated the following: "A category of government activity which, today, not only requires the closest scrutiny, but which also poses a grave danger to our continued freedom, is the activity NOT within the proper sphere of government. No one has the authority to grant such powers, as welfare programs, schemes for re-distributing the wealth, and activities which coerce people into acting in accordance with a prescribed code of social planning. There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me…In reply to the argument that a little bit of socialism is good so long as it doesn't go too far, it is tempting to say that, in like fashion, just a little bit of theft or a little bit of cancer is all right, too! History proves that the growth of the welfare state is difficult to check before it comes to its full flower of dictatorship. But let us hope that this time around, the trend can be reversed. If not then we will see the inevitability of complete socialism, probably within our lifetime."

The law of consecration stands in juxtaposition to the idea of socialism. The law of consecration is based on agency. Individuals are free to participate in the Lord's plan based on their love for one another as directed by priesthood leadership. True understanding and willing participation in the law of consecration will lead people to perform their best and not seek something for nothing. History has proven that socialism has the opposite effect. Groups in power use it to obtain greater power, wealth and resources from those who are willing to work hard. This decreases the desire of those who are productive to produce. Socialism also leads to people wanting more in return for less. A close look at the history of socialism in practice bears out these statements.

Our current economic crisis, despite claims to the contrary, is the result of a developing welfare/socialistic state in the United States. The housing crisis alone is directly tied to the rise of socialism. Government programs were introduced to push people into mortgages they could not afford...because they had the same right to a house as the wealthy family across town. Based on this ideology, members of government, elected and appointed, pushed lending institutions to lend money to those who were unqualified and unable to afford the loans they received. At the same time, people loyal to those in power were put into positions of authority to push the socialist agenda of everyone deserving the same thing as directed by the government. These people, once in positions of authority, fulfilled their true duty of paying back their benefactors through campaign contributions and other kickbacks.

Those who took the loans were not innocent either. They were willing to take something they hadn't earned and couldn't afford because they considered it their right. They let the greed of "necessity" hold sway over personal responsibility. As housing values tumbled, the house of cards came with it. Suddenly, the reality of their situation hit them. Those responsible, government, lenders and home owners, decided to blame the greed of the capitalists. When in truth, those banks who held to the ideals of captialism, avoided the governmental pressure to make unwise loans based on the gree of "necessity" have remained solvent and are still able to make loans. It was the greed of those who, for their own reasons, pushed home ownership on those who were not ready that are truly responsible. Instead they have sought to blame those who were least responsible. Meanwhile, those of us who were not directly at fault for the problem are now expected to come to the rescue.

Socialism destroys personal responsibility, a tenet central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Socialism encourages its staunchest adherents to demand others to help them with their problems.

Dialogue in Comments from Original Post:
From Friend:
I really find this topic fascinating. I grew up in Canada, which has socialized healthcare. It is actually a healthcare system that is envied by many Americans. Canada's citizens do pay higher taxes, but in return they are able to see a doctor or go to the emergency room, have surgery, have their bill paid for, and not ever have to worry about going bankrupt because their child, or someone in their family falls ill. Women have one year of maternity leave, paid by the government, compared to our 6 weeks of maternity leave. Granted, Canada has its problems and faults as does every nation, especially with immigration regulations as of the past 15 years or so, but as a whole it provides a comfortable way of life for its citizens. Is Canada then, considered a socialistic country? Does that make Canada doomed? I can promise you that my family feels no more controlled by their government then we do by ours. I think there are obviously extremes to socialism, for example dictating how many children a family can have, etc., but I have to say that some socialized programs seem to work well for other countries, and it isn't sending them on the highway to communism. I agree it is something we need to be cautious of as a nation, and I don't take words of the prophets lightly, I just wonder if it really is a black and white issue. There will always be some form of socialism in a country who provides its citizens with needs dependent on their taxes. 

My Reply:
Canada is no more doomed than the United States. There have been strong socialist policies in the United States for decades and it will likely only continue in that direction.

As far as Canada's health care system, I much prefer ours. It's interesting that so many of Canada's government and business leaders come to the United States for any major healthcare. Socialized healthcare very seldom produces any new breakthroughs in new technology. They wait for other places to do so and then use it. If the US system goes socialized, advances in healthcare will slow down greatly.

I absolutely do not think that the healthcare system here in the US is perfect. It has major faults, which prevent people from being able to afford healthcare who should be able to afford it. Those problems, however, are in large part the consequence of too much government involvement and oversight and the threat of exorbitant lawsuits. Greed is the underlying cause, but the mix of broken government policies at every level have contributed to the problem. More government involvement is not the better option.

I do have a problem with governments paying women for maternity leave. It is my responsibility to take care of my children. I have no right to expect other taxpayers to pay for my children because I choose to have more than someone else.

I think so much more can be done by individuals who are doing it for the right reasons and because they want to.

President Benson recognized the danger of a little socialism creeping into our society. Much of what he predicted in the 1950s came to fruition in the United States, Canada and Europe. European economies largely have stagnated. Healthcare in France, UK, or Spain isn't much better than healthcare was in the US back in the 1960s. But, the biggest danger of socialism, which he recognized is that it allows people to abrogate responsibility for themselves onto the government and it gives government power over the people by making them dependent.

The issue should be black and white, but the mixture of socialism into our societies have muddied up the issue. It is now difficult to tell up from down. When it comes to being controlled by the government, they don't want us to feel controlled and many in government don't even think of it that way. But, look at farmers in both the US and Canada. They are dependent on government subsidies for their survival. They farm in the way the government prescribes or they don't get the subsidy and their farms fail. The same thing is true for education. States are forced to enact government programs that may not be viewed favorably by the local population. However, if they don't teach what the federal government dictates or pay for the programs dictated, the school loses federal funding. The list goes on and on. We are more controlled by our governments than we want to realize--it's just nice not to feel like it.

From Friend:
Just some thoughts I had in regards to your comments on Canada's healthcare system. I am curious why you prefer ours? This is an interesting article that relays some of the thoughts I had when bringing up Canada in the first place.
I hope you will look it over, and share your thoughts. Canada's life expectancy is actually higher then the US due in part to the "accessibility" of healthcare there. You claimed that the US has greater technological advances in healthcare, but it benefits our citizens little if they cannot afford to access it in the first place. The US spends more then Canada in healthcare, and actually almost every other industrialized nation, and has far less to show for it. Canada is not stuck in the 60's in healthcare in regards to other European socialist countries. Actually, it is very progressive and quite competitive with other nations, including the US. I don't know why wealthy Canadians would cross the border to pay for services they can get in their own country, unless under a few specific cases a rare specialist was sought after. I am not refuting that it never happens, but I don't think it is the norm. My point is, any way you look at it, and there are endless articles to support it - the US ranks lower in healthcare then almost every other industrialized nation. Most of those nations have Universal Healthcare.
I apologize if I am straying from socialism as a whole here, I just don't see how our current healthcare system is preferrable?
I suppose another aspect in all this to consider is our personal experiences. Those who work for the government and military have much more reasonable healthcare costs compared to the rest of middle class society, because they are subsidized by the...government. Would you agree or disagree?

I appreciate your thoughts.

My Reply:
Thanks for the article. First, I acknowledge that the healthcare system in the United States has serious flaws. If regular market forces were allowed to operate in the healthcare system a number of things would occur. First, almost every aspect of care would be more affordable. This would greatly benefit those who work hard to enough to pay for their healthcare. It would also make it easier for charitable organizations to help pay for healthcare for those who are struggling.

Based on my thesis research on healthcare issues in Russia and the former Soviet Union, it is likely that the best explanation for differences in demographics between Canada and the US is due to lifestyle in the US. Many citizens of the US have allowed themselves to go to excesses in eating, have given up exercise for a sedentary lifestyle and don't take healthcare seriously until it is late in the game. Part of this is because they have always had healthcare within easy reach. As the article you sent mentions, the US is doing quite well in preventitive medicine, but that is a new innovation and will take a few more years to impact life expectancies.

Personally, I think that the biggest problem is that the US healthcare system is neither a free-market system nor a socialized system. It's a nasty hybrid, that is of huge benefit to those who can afford it and a huge burden to those who cannot. Whereas, socialized systems such as Canada's are largely mediocre for everyone involved.

Please see the article at:

Here are a couple of major problems I see with socialized medicine.
1. Freedom of choice often becomes more and more limited.

2. It encourages people to put responsibility for their healthcare on the government. My study of the Soviet and Russian socialized healthcare systems, the most egalitarian and progessive healthcare system ever instituted, destroyed any sense of personal responsibility for health among the population. It was deeply saddening to read the interviews from surveys of Russians who stated repeatedly that they weren't concerned about their health because it was the government's duty to take care of them.

3. Without a profit motive in a market there is little incentive for the inidustry to innovate and save costs. As a result, many cities and regions of Canada are suffering the same fate as healthcare in Russia--not enough resources to meet all the demands.

4. When something is offered for free that is in limited supply, such as healthcare, the system is overloaded. People are not forced to consider the true value of what they are receiving.

5. The result of number 4 is ever increasing taxes so that the government can meet its obligations--or as in the case of the Soviet Union, healthcare is pushed to side in favor of other socialist projects or military spending. The result is a population that no longer knows how to take care of itself without government intervention.

Now, as I mentioned, the US system is not perfect. I think there is still time to save it from being socialized which will start a long-term downward trend into mediocrity, loss of freedom, and increasing taxes.

Health has a value. A free market forces people to consider that value and to work hardeer in order to be able to afford and to take care of themselves. The study you mentioned looks at a number of nations that have socialized their healthcare recently. I would encourage you to take a look at countries who had socialized healthcare for more than 70 years. The former Soviet Republics and Eastern European countries all instituted socialized medicine and had initial results that were excellent. Life expectancies increased and with them the quality of life. However, in the later stages, when the socialized economies collapsed, healthcare took the largest hit. Today, many of those countries continue to provide universal healthcare and they have seen little improvement and often a decrease in life expectancies.

While Canada is unlikely to ever end up a Communist dictatorship like the Soviet Union, programs like socialized medicine do force the government to take increasing control as programs begin to struggle.

I hope we can someday make healthcare more affordable in the US. There are several proposals out there that would help. Our problem is that we have allowed government and HMOs to basically socialize healthcare for us, by taking the decisions out of our hands and out of the hands of the doctors. The current system in the US works in favor of the HMOs, and they don't want to give up their profits or influence. Our healthcare system is not governed completely by free market principles and we are paying the price.

As far as government healthcare, while in the military we were part of the most socialized healthcare system in the United States. It was nice to not have to worry about paying for our health needs, but we had the same problems as other socialized citizens. We didn't make the major decisions regarding our healthcare. Many people in the military system go into the doctor at the first sign of the sniffles, needlessy overwhelming the system. My experience with the military healthcare system only sharpened my criticism of socialized healthcare.

Below is the link to another interesting article:

- Jarad Van Wagoner

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