In addition to the fact that they conflict wildly with those held, traditionally, by Americans generally, socialists hold moral beliefs that demand the deployment of the overt coercion of others of those who don’t share those values.
Socialists, intent upon commandeering the resources in person and property of citizens, seek to militarize the countries on which they set their sights. The quintessential illustration of this in our own place and time is the multi-trillion dollar, decades-long redistributionist scheme launched by Lyndon Johnson and deliberately couched in the militaristic language of “war,” i.e. “the War on Poverty.”
But long before anyone had heard of Johnson, one of America’s most famous 20th century philosophers—an unapologetic socialist and self-styled pacifist—recognized that if socialism stood a chance of taking root, it had to appropriate both the language and organization of the “war regime.”
As far back as 1910, William James was writing that those states that were “pacifically organized” must “preserve some of the old elements of army discipline,” for “the war-party is assuredly right in affirming and reaffirming that the martial virtues…are absolute and permanent human goods.”
Thus, they “must be the enduring cement[.]”
James insists that a “permanently successful peace economy cannot be a simple pleasure-economy,” that in “the more or less socialistic future towards which mankind seems drifting” humans “must make new energies and hardihoods continue the manliness to which the military mind so faithfully clings.”
This entails, among other things, the “surrender of private interest” and “obedience to command,” both of which are components of “the rock upon which states are built[.]”
Obviously, if society is going to be militarized, then there must an enemy on whom to wage “war.” For LBJ and the legions of socialists who have followed him, that enemy is “poverty.” The thing responsible for the gross material “inequalities” of which the world is ridden is “Nature” herself.
Thus, what James envisions is “a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against Nature,” in the “warfare against nature” (italics original).
He elaborates: “To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clothes-washing, and window-washing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youth be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them….”
This “obligatory service” to “the community that owns them” amounts to a “blood tax” that the youth will happily pay once the “collectivity” to which they belong proves itself worthy of it. “We should be owned, as soldiers are by the army, and our pride would rise accordingly.” Moreover: “We could be poor, then, without humiliation, as army officers now are.”
So, what exactly is it that would spur the young to abandon all “private interest” and concede that their lives belong to the state—the “collectivity”—to do with them as it pleases? Why would anyone derive satisfaction from being forced to wage what could only be a war without end, a war against nature? James’ answer is telling, but it provides the key to what drives all socialists.
In short, James, like all socialists, rejects the traditional conception of justice that most of us, at an intuitive level, take for granted: Justice, we believe, requires that people get what they deserve. Put more accurately, it demands that people not receive what is undeserved.
What this means is that while it is a matter of justice that the virtuous be praised and rewarded and the vicious blamed and punished, so too is it just that the recipients of gifts—i.e. of goods that, while non-deserved, are not undeserved—be permitted to appropriate them in whichever ways they choose.
Socialists, in contrast, equate “non-deserved” with “undeserved.” James is clear: “that so many men, by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life” exclusively comprised of “toil and pain and hardness and inferiority…while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all” is an “injustice” on the part of nature that “reflective minds” will want to pay a “blood tax” to rectify (emphases added).
A century later, socialists are whistling the same tune. John Rawls, a hugely popular 20th century Anglo-American philosopher, is representative when he asserts that since “we do not deserve (in the sense of moral desert) our place in the distribution of native endowments,” justice consists in treating “the distribution of native endowments” as a “common asset.”
What this implies is that those “who have a more fortunate place in the distribution of native endowments they do not morally deserve”—“the better endowed”—are “encouraged to acquire still further benefits…on condition that they train their native endowments and use them in ways that contribute to the good of the less endowed,” who also “do not morally deserve” their “less fortunate place in the distribution” of aptitudes, talents, and opportunities (emphases added).
Translation: No one deserves the hand with which life, or “Nature,” as James referred to it, has dealt them. Since one’s “native endowments” are not deserved, they are undeserved, and since they are undeserved, one can be permitted to exercise one’s faculties only if doing so benefits the less talented and less resourceful.
To put this last even more bluntly: Justice, for the socialist, mandates that individuals regard their very persons as resources to be shared in common by all. It mandates that they labor for the sake of making others better off.
This is justice for the socialist.
But it is gross injustice for those who love individuality and liberty.