Saving Dmitri: Economic socialism and Christianity

I find myself increasingly unable to identify with either of the major political parties in the U.S. When researching party alternatives, I came across the Freedom Socialist Party, a self-proclaimed “feminist, working-class organization made up of people of many races, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations and ages.”

Upon further reading of their website, it became clear that one of their central missions is to spread common hatred and elimination of capitalism from American society, claiming, “Capitalism demands the devaluation of the disabled body and mind. It is the foundation of racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism and all other forms of oppression.”

The website continues, saying, “Why is the wider world so cruel? The root cause of this is capitalism, an intrinsically violent and harsh social-economic system that shapes us. By forcing people to compete for the essentials of life, it generates selfish, aggressive personalities.”

I was intrigued to read this, as my Sunday school teacher told me a very different reason that oppression exists. But who am I to believe? The intellectuals who have devoted their lives to fighting for the working-class, singing “If I Had a Hammer,” passionately marching in solidarity with pride, or the old woman who read me the Bible, who knew little, who probably never set foot on a college campus?

As I read on, I found myself ever more disoriented and confused with the worldview of the Freedom Socialist Party members. Eventually, I realized that the organization had already prepared me with an answer to my continued confusion. That is, from their perspective, I will not understand the beauty and necessity of socialism, as my worldview is polluted by my upbringing in a capitalist society. America is, after all, comprised of a capitalist economy, is it not?

While there are aspects of the U.S. economy that fall under the expansive umbrella of “capitalism,” such as private ownership, a relatively free market and typically privately determined prices and free exchange of goods and services for a form of compensation, there are many ways by which its economy can be seen as “socialist,” though few seem to agree on what that even means.

It is certain, however, that American policies like minimum wage, varied social welfare institutions, child labor laws, Medicare and social security are socialist in their orientation, as they are bureaucratic institutions which hinder market freedom. These policies are not always damaging to the union, but one would be mistaken to solely call the U.S. economy a free market due to the existence and power of these organizations.

Social security in particular is an extension of Marxian socialist economic principles, which, according to the Social Security Administration, serves to redistribute wealth to 67 million Americans who have retired, people with certain disabilities, the surviving partner of a member of the workforce and “dependents of beneficiaries.” Investopedia reports that the funds are raised by nearly all taxpayers, with the exception of some religious groups, college students who are employed by their school and legal and illegal aliens.

So, if the U.S. economy is a rather undefined mix of socialism and capitalism, how is it that I was still so confounded by the suspected reason for corruption that the Freedom Socialist Party members propose?

Well, perhaps the main difference between our beliefs is our opposing views of what wealth is. When speaking about how to create a “kinder society,” the Freedom Socialists propose “that won’t be achieved by being kind to the capitalists. We will have to inflict the greatest unkindness on them: take ‘their’ wealth away from them and return it to the workers who created it.”

This distinction between a Marxist or socialist view of wealth and a capitalist view of wealth is vital in understanding why this was said. I grew up believing that if I bought the supplies to paint some masterpiece on a canvas and then sold the painting for a hundred times the market value of the supplies used, I was the one who created wealth, and therefore, I earned the money I sold it for, subtracting that little cost which I bought the supplies for.

I have learned that the worker, who was known in Marxian text as the “proletariat,” is said to be exploited if the product of their labor is sold by another at a higher margin than that which it was made for, at least according to socialists. Even if my painting required more skilled work than the canvas and paintbrush makers, I have stolen wealth, simply because I have accumulated greater wealth.

Maybe it was this separation in economic worldview that caused my confusion, or maybe there is yet another aspect of thought which prevented us from seeing eye to eye: human nature.

“Conservatives claim that socialism is impossible because it goes against human nature, which they see as inherently violent, individualistic and competitive. But they are confusing capitalist nature with human nature,” the Freedom Socialists argue on their website.

And to their credit, they are simply espousing the idea that any nihilistic organization ought to hold, that is, the sentiment that aligns with the conscience from whom they refuse to acknowledge. But because they refuse to acknowledge the word of God, the creator of conscience and guide to the confused conscience, they have fallen prey to the philosophies that lend them a good sense of self, a sense that they are doing what is right.

This is not to say straying from capitalism is in any way sinful, but an entirely socialist economy is nothing but an impossible dream for those on this side of heaven. In practice, it would require highly concentrated governance, which has shown itself to be disastrous in the U.S.S.R., China, Germany, Laos and far too many other countries.

People will not be satisfied with socialism because sin is what pollutes the Earth, not capitalism. Socialism only serves any useful purpose to a society when the state is to be seen as omnipotent. Though the errors of capitalism are many and socialism may pick up on the places capitalism fails, what economic system can cleanse a heart of sin? None, and this is what we truly need to create a “kinder” and more generous society. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).

Kilker is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion

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