In last week’s State of the Union speech President Donald Trump usefully mentioned that America will never be a socialist country. “America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination, and control,” Trump said.
One holds it on faith while knowing everything possible must be done to stave off attempts on our liberty. In New York City the first chickens of America’s new wave of socialism may be coming home to roost. The 14th district, represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, encompasses parts of Queens that are near Long Island City, where Amazon has chosen to locate facilities. Ocasio-Cortez is doing all she can to make Amazon feel unwelcome, and the company is reported to be re-evaluating its planned campus there.
Meanwhile, AOC has become a big celebrity and takes to the late-night airwaves with her minty-fresh ideas. For example, she was harping about helipads on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert: “Do we want to live in a city where billionaires have their own personal Uber helipads? Do we want these kind of folks with helipads in the same city and society as people who are working 80-hour weeks and can’t feed their kids?”
What next? Will she decide that topless shows are demeaning and Las Vegas should do without them? What about motorhomes? In transit they use a lot of fuel, and making things worse, some seniors inhabit them full-time and manage to avoid paying property taxes. Do we want these kind of folks using our highways?
Whoever filled her head with mush may not have mentioned that her number-one job in Congress is not to determine which billionaires are good (Gates, Buffet) and bad (helicopter-borne Bezos) or who gets to do what. And what made her decide the government, which is limited in its power over individuals, should fuel class envy and look for ways to confiscate wealth? The representative’s job description rests on the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence with inconvenient stuff about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Protecting property rights is paramount in our system and guarantees freedom for rich and poor. Even Karl Marx noted that “the evolution of private capitalism with its free market had been a precondition for the evolution of all our democratic freedoms.” I quote from The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek’s powerful critique of socialism that was published in Britain and America 75 years ago.
“There is at present a great deal of muddleheaded talk about ‘planning to equalize standards of life,’” Hayek wrote. Socialist politicians are always “able to obtain the support of the docile and gullible”—not to mention late-night TV hosts and agenda-driven reporters. Hayek, an Austrian who taught in London and Chicago, composed his great work in consideration of the rise of socialist regimes in Germany and the Soviet Union.
“What is called economic power, while it can be an instrument of coercion, is, in the hands of private individuals, never exclusive or complete power, never power over the whole life of a person,” he wrote. “But centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery.”
The parasol Hayek opened over socialism covers today’s social scorecards in China and the linking of voting to food distribution in Venezuela. He explained why the worst get on top (Nicolás Maduro, Daniel Ortega, the Castros) and how a little well-meaning social and economic engineering is never enough and always has to be increased in the attempt to create the planners’ desired outcomes. Those in power or with access to it through state-sponsored monopolies get rich: Hugo Chavez’s daughter, Maria, an alternate ambassador to the United Nations, is reportedly worth more than $4 billion.
Additionally, a necessary casualty of social control is the end of truth and, with it, reason. To quote a whole paragraph:
“The tragedy of collectivist thought is that, while it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends. It may indeed be said that it is the paradox of all collectivist doctrine and its demand for ‘conscious’ control or ‘conscious’ planning that they necessarily lead to the demand that the mind of some individual should rule supreme—while only the individualist approach to social phenomena makes us recognize the superindividual forces which guide the growth of reason. Individualism is thus an attitude of humility before this social process and of tolerance to other opinions and is the exact opposite of that intellectual hubris which is at the root of the demand for comprehensive direction of the social process.”
So a fair question for Rep. Occasional-Cogence is: Just who do you think are to say what’s tolerable?
Prof. Hayek’s profoundness leads one to ask why any politician would choose a message that entails the diminishing of wealth and restriction of mobility. The Green New Deal even presumes to prescribe how we might travel in a few years. Rather than looking backward to choo-choo trains—which George Gilder likes to point out are a 19th-century mode of getting around—why don’t politicians preach a message of abundance? I would like to see a congressional representative push a message of a heliport in every neighborhood and a Bell Nexus air taxi on every pad. Suburban voters would love it.
As hard as it is for the resistance to swallow, Trump gets it. “We are born free, and we will stay free,” he said. And that’s despite the docile and gullible among us.