Socialism initially was defined as government controlling the means of economic production. Capitalism is the opposite…completely. It is business controlling the means of government. Which is more problematic for freedom? And what is the alternative that will allow individuals, families, and communities to enjoy prosperity and freedom and to pursue happiness?
Leo Tolstoy is perhaps the ultimate example of the late-in-life nihilist-turned-idealist. He is best known for his mid-life fiction, most notably War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He was early on somewhat of a determinist and nihilist but late in life began a study of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and came away a determined Christian, with significant misgivings regarding the Russian orthodox church specifically and organized religion and government generally. He wrote his thoughts in two books that were significantly suppressed by the Russian Church and the Czarist government.
Richard Eyre, author of numerous parenting and self-management books, wrote this column in an LDS magazine. He invited comments and discussion on the topic. Here a copy of my email to him:
This post is essentially a prolonged comment at my brother’s blog here. Please read the post and the comments prior to commenting here (unless you don’t feel like it).
“This government never of itself furthured an enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it (the government) got out of its (the enterprise’s) way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got it its way.”
This correlates with this quote from Dwight Eisenhower posted by Reluctant. The character inherent in the American people that Thoreau credits with accomplishing all that America has accomplished may be in danger of eradication unless we can regain a love for freedom at the sacrifice of false sense of security that government provides when it oversteps its bounds.
The government really has a limited role. As soon as it expands that role, it gets in the way of freedom. This is the topic of the next John Adams post.
The prophet Isaiah was another critic and idealist, and was so popular among the elite in his time that rumor has it that he met death by being “sawn asunder.”
Chapter 1, verse 23 I think has much applicability to politics of our day:
“Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts and followeth after rewards; they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.”
(Judge not in this chapter seems to mean not giving equity before the law).
Does this describe our current and past Congress? Unfortunately it describes the weak nature of almost all men who have a little authority.
Stay tuned for more philosophical and political idealism from Isaiah.
I just read significant portions of The Political Writings of John Adams, a collection of writings from 1765-1820’s; some letters, some critiques of political writings of others. The main portion of the book is made up of his A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States of America written in 1787 in response to calls from some French and more democratic-leaning English writers for a single representative assembly embodying the executive, legislative, and judicial powers.
One of socialism’s fundamental tenets is its desire for the government to universally care for people, whether it be through single payor healthcare or ensuring jobs and even equal wealth for all. These are lofty and admirable goals and desires. However, what are the potential costs?
Throughout history there have been those who argued against the status quo; who railed against the dominant paradigm; who were willing to point out that the emperor had no clothes. These range from Socrates, Isaiah and others anciently to Marx and Chomsky more recently to current political characters like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The question I pose is: how do we react to the words of the Critic?