When I saw this headline with Ben Shapiro, I had to check out the video and see just how he would carry this out. “Socialism is THEFT!” Yes! But the real test for us conservatives especially is just how you go on to apply this truth.
Ben Shapiro is widely regarded as a brilliant conservative mind. He “destroys” his opponents not with flourishing rhetoric so much as with bare facts and logic, usually dispensed at machine gun rates. He is widely perceived as a cold logician, a no-compromise conservative thinker.
So, when he said, “Socialism is indeed theft,” I was curious to find out if he would really stick with the logic of that. It is so easy to poke fun at Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their “Socialism,” but once you define things correctly, that sword starts to swing both directions, and it is not easy to escape.
In his short talk, Shapiro says we must critique Socialism and its trendy but mis-named cousin, “Democratic Socialism,” specifically so that we can fight the Democratic party of the future (no mention of Republican-approved Socialisms). He’s up to no-compromise ways again when he says things like, “Democratic Socialism is still Socialism with a nice word in front of it.” Agreed.
Getting more into the interesting meat, Shapiro is on the money when he says that Socialism violates at least three of the Ten Commandments: the first, because it makes a god out of government; the eighth, because it is armed robbery via government; and the tenth, because it is institutionalized envy of your neighbor’s property.
It is the eighth which interests us here, and for which I have written so much in the past. Indeed, Shapiro says, socialism is force. It is someone from the government pointing a gun against your head to rob you. Making such a system “Democratic” does nothing to change the inherent violence and theft of it: “Here’s the problem,” he says, “Voting for the use of force is still the use of force.”
He nails it when he adds, “Socialism is indeed theft, even if you vote for the theft.”
This is a crucial point to get, but it is also here that it gets home quickly, if we are to be consistent. Like I said, it is easy—child’s play, actually—to make fun of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez here. We can easily parade of the fallacies of Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, etc. We can come away from our memes and jokes patting ourselves on the back that we’re not Socialists like those idiots; my how great are our capitalism and free markets!
But the same conservatives will turn right around and support public schools and send in their children one after the other. Shapiro, too, gets weak here all of the sudden.
Let’s be clear: there is no more socialistic institution in our culture, and never has been. There is nothing more thoroughly socialistic in our society than government schools.
Public schools are based on the redistribution of wealth—government armed-robbery by popular demand. Remember, it’s theft even when you vote for it. It’s still theft; it’s still force. Even if they don’t use it, property owners are forced by government to pay for it.
Further, the government even owns the means of production here, so it’s Socialism the old-fashioned way.
In fact, we can go one step further and make a good case that public schooling breaks all ten commandments.
And it’s here that most conservatives start to backtrack, redefine, make excuses, dodge, change the subject, or get soft.
Including, Ben Shapiro. When I go out and look for his expressions on public education, I find that he is not so consistent. He no longer talks tough about “theft” and “force” and all that. The big “S” world is no longer his bludgeon.
He’ll argue that government has no business being involved in student loans. Sure. But what about public education itself?
When it comes to high school and elementary school? His criticism stops at the content of curriculum and getting parents more involved.
But wait? What about all that principled stuff about theft and force? Where is the application of that principled critique to the most widely used, thoroughly socialistic, and widely accepted form of Socialism, the public education system itself? Why is it suddenly acceptable to overlook this problem now?
Are theft and force suddenly OK if we keep it local and get parents involved? Is it OK if we just twiddle the curriculum we are buying with our Socialism?
Shapiro does not apply the same standard when it comes to this. Instead, he says the solution to education problems in America is to make the system better, including, “to make our general public schools better.” What? Make our socialistic system better? No, it is not.
If the solution to Socialism is free markets and capitalism (and it is!), the solution to Socialistic education is to bring the free market to bear on education. Get the government, tax-theft, force, and redistribution out of it altogether. Then get government monopolies out of the way to allow charitable institutions and nonprofits to aid the poor and needful.
In all of my disagreement with Shapiro on accepting public education and essentially whitewashing Socialism where it happens to be popular among our own tribe, I do have to agree with him on this one statement about it: “It all starts at home.”
You’re right! It all starts at home. Your responsibility for your children is yours, not your neighbor’s and not the State’s. So, reject public education altogether! But that starts at home, too. The decision to keep being a taker, enabler, and/or supporter of that Socialistic system also starts at home. Socialism starts at home. So, quit it; and fight it consistently.
A large part of the public intellectualizing that we do is little more than puff, red meat, and cheerleading. Even the more intellectual and rigorously principled thinkers like Shapiro almost all seem to buckle when it comes to Socialistic schemes like public education, Social Security, Medicare, military spending, interventionism, tariffs, corporate welfare, etc.
When we get honest and get consistent about just how much Socialism we ourselves actually demand, consume, and defend, then our little volleys against Bernie and Alexandria will look pretty self-serving and trivial. Take the axe to the root, open up a free society, and these pundits would not even have a market to listen to them. They’d have to get a real job.
In all honestly, until we apply these principles consistently, we are just Socialism Lite. And like Shapiro said above about Democratic Socialism, Socialism Lite is just Socialism with a nice word attached. It is still Socialism. From this position, we have zero moral authority to make fun of anyone.
Joel McDurmon is the President of The American Vision and author of God versus Socialism: A Biblical Critique of the New Social Gospel, as well as Restoring America One County at a Time, and many other resources available in online.