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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

Freedom on the wane

A socialist future may already be here

Freedom on the wane

Tom Steyer (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

If you’re one of those worrywarts who’s concerned that our nation is headed down the slippery slope to socialism, I’m here to make a sober pronouncement: You’re probably too late.

You may think that the Nov. 6 midterm elections were something of a tie—that the Republicans showed their muscle by gaining a seat or two in the Senate, while the Democrats put a pretty good lock on the House, while also claiming a few more governors' chairs and securing several state­houses. “Limited-government people” still have the presidency, a lot of momentum in shaping the judiciary, and a big chunk of the bureaucracy—sometimes referred to as the “swamp.” 

So it could have been worse. Whatever your leanings, you can probably anticipate pretty much what you always have: sometimes up, sometimes down. Some­times Uncle Sam gets bigger, sometimes smaller. Might as well settle in for the ride.

That’s when I saw the full-page ad in our local paper—and the very same full-pager on the back of the first section of USA Today. Attractive and winsome, it was a political tract for a comprehensive socialistic lurch away from everything American. The ad is not so much the expression of a movement or party as it is the political statement of a single person. Tom Steyer, 61, is a California billion­aire, hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, liberal activist, and fundraiser for causes he likes.

I’ve not talked to Steyer, but I doubt if he minds our calling him a socialist—wearing the concepts he’s promoting as a badge of honor. He is blunt, for example, in telling us how his thinking has changed through the years: “I grew up believing the point of our country was to be free—to fulfill the promise that everyone could make a good life for themselves [sic]. But over time, I saw big corporations buy our democracy and set the rules for the sake of their profits, not for the common good. Corporate lobbyists rigged the system, leaving the majority of Americans walled off from their dreams. We need to turn this around.” 

So Steyer says it’s time to set aside our focus on freedom and focus instead now on people’s rights—of which he proposes five: 

    1) the right to an equal vote;

    2) the right to clean air and water; 

    3) the right to learn; 

    4) the right to a living wage; and 

    5) the right to health.

Not a bad list, from one point of view. Other things being equal, the world would be a better place with all these benefits assured to every human.

But where on Steyer’s dream list do we find a basic right to life itself—without which it’s a little tough for anyone to start his or her pursuit of the other “rights”? And does Steyer really intend to discard the First Amendment free­doms that have for so long provided “roots for rights” for America—like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion?

But where on Steyer’s dream list do we find a basic right to life itself—without which it’s a little tough for anyone to start his or her pursuit of the other “rights”?

The disappearance of those liberties is especially grievous when we wait for Steyer’s answer to our simple question: Exactly how are all these rights to be fulfilled? How will they be enforced? The answer is always evasive and typically grim. The universal provision of “rights” like Steyer’s is an impossibly costly venture. And don’t expect 330 million people to step forward and volunteer their wealth to cover the venture.

But a disturbingly high proportion of those 330 million people are demon­strating themselves ready to volunteer each other’s wealth—a practice at the heart of socialism. Like in no other U.S. election in memory, the recent midterm exit polling offered dramatic evidence that women, voters in their 20s, minorities, immigrants, and residents of the nation’s suburbs are increasingly ready to experiment with such collectivist ideas. 

When I was young, billing yourself as a socialist was just a step shy of labeling yourself a communist. But last month’s election suggests a new era is here. Don’t be surprised if you hear a good bit more in the days ahead from and about Tom Steyer. I think he’s dead wrong when he talks about freedom and rights. I just hope he doesn’t end up killing off the very freedoms that allow him to talk the way he does. But check the record. That’s what usually happens in socialist societies.


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  • JD
    Posted: Wed, 11/28/2018 12:09 pm

    Joel- great article! Very informative- not just about Steyer, but about the overall framework of socialism (volunteering other people's wealth). Thank you for continuing to sound the trumpet!

  • RC
    Posted: Wed, 11/28/2018 02:51 pm

    5) the right to health.

    This is one that is impossible to meet! Most people do not live healthy lifestyles. This is evidenced by the very high obesity and diabetes rates in this country. They want to be free to abuse their body, but then have others to pay the high medical costs to care for their self-imposed preventable diseases.  That is just not “right”.   

  • zonie
    Posted: Wed, 11/28/2018 04:23 pm

    It has been said: "Communism is socialism with a gun... and you don't get one."

    I'm convinced that the vast majority of those supporting socialism are ignorant; ignorant of what it really is, and ignorant of its ultimate effects.  That, in my opinion, is in large part due to the educational system where students are brainwashed, not educated.  And another large part isthe extreme bias of the media in general.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Thu, 11/29/2018 02:10 am

    Socialism always advances through lies, because no one would fall for it otherwise.  Its popularity is a direct result of the decline of truth's popularity.  For example, Steyer no longer sees the value in life or liberty, but will gladly trade them for equity.  But the state will be more "equitable" to the politically connected. We see the double standard in our government now.  Fake news is the platform upon which socialism is built.  

  • TN
    Posted: Sun, 12/02/2018 04:00 pm

    The history of socialism -- and communism -- show clearly how dangerously absurd these systems are. They promise things like social and economic equality but deliver oppression and class distinctions; the ruling elite and everyone else who exists to support them.  I don't think that those things that we profess to want, that elusive equity in all of our sociality, are the fruit of a political tree. Our governmental institutions have devolved into a continuous round of contention, its foundation now being based on regarding and treating "the other side" as an enemy to be destroyed. Indeed, the realization of a just society will come only when we  at last love God with all our heart, might, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.