FFB Logo 2.png

Hi.

Welcome to Freedom First Blog, a blog dedicated to promoting individual freedom as it relates to politics and current events.

Democratic Socialism in America: Revisited

By Tyler Bauer

Last night, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist won a seat in the House of Representatives. Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won New York’s 14th Congressional District with nearly 80% of the vote. I think Ocasio-Cortez will make an interesting Representative. Her constituents clearly like her, but as I’ve said before, her policies are terrible. Now that Ocasio-Cortez is officially a politician, I think it’s a good time to revisit the shortcomings of democratic socialism. The following was originally published on July 2, 2018.

Last week, I wrote a short piece on the dangers of socialism as evidenced by coffee prices in Venezuela. Understandably, many of us would never want such a situation to occur in our country. However, many New Yorkers seem to disagree.

Following last week’s primary elections in New York, where self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated incumbent House Democrat Joe Crowley, the socialist movement in the United States seems to be gaining momentum. Ocasio-Cortez has quickly become a favorite of many on the left, so I think it is necessary to analyze her stances on what she believes are the most important issues. Interestingly, Ocasio-Cortez now has no official stance on foreign policy.

But First, What is Democratic Socialism?

To understand democratic socialism, one must first understand socialism. Socialism is a political and economic worldview that believes in extreme egalitarianism in all ways. Historically, socialists believe that the owners of capital have exploited the labor force. Therefore, socialists believe the labor force should rise up in a violent revolution in which the workers of the world unite to seize the means of production, creating a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Democratic socialism is different in that it does not call for a violent revolution. According to democratic socialists, the revolution is supposed to take place peacefully through the established democratic process – that is, by voting. The end goals of egalitarianism and the laborers seizing the means of production are all the same. The only difference is that democratic socialists want to vote their way into socialism, not kill their way into it.

Democratic socialism is about as democratic as democratic fascism. Democratic socialism, like traditional socialism, still requires the transfer of wealth from one individual or group to another individual or group. This is inherently undemocratic, as it requires an individual or individuals to essentially become slaves to another individual or individuals. Those who earn money – whether you want to call them “the rich” is up to you – are stolen from to provide for those who earn less or no money. Clearly, both democratic socialism and socialism are antithetical to freedom.

Ocasio-Cortez has Already Been Exposed as a Bit of a Fraud

Like most politicians, Ocasio-Cortez is willing to lie to advance her political career. She brands herself as a native resident of the Bronx, promising to represent the Bronx like only a Bronx native could. She doesn’t have the working-class background she claims to have. Instead, she grew up in a relatively wealthy suburb north of New York City. She then went on to attend Boston University and intern for Senator Ted Kennedy. Yes, *that* Ted Kennedy.

The Issues

1. Medicare for All

Ocasio-Cortez believes that Medicare for all is ethical, logical, and affordable. Put simply, it is none of these things. Medicare for all is unethical because it forces healthcare providers to treat everyone, regardless of whether the providers want to. Forcing someone into labor in this way is effectively slavery. Medicare for all is neither logical nor affordable because it is far too expensive. California flirted with implementing this idea on a statewide basis, but it ended up having a price tag of $400 billion dollars – twice the state’s annual budget. Imagine the cost if such a system was implemented nationwide.

Ocasio-Cortez also believes that implementing Medicare for all would leave more money in Americans’ pockets. So, we’ll get cheaper, better healthcare AND save money. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Healthcare can only be made cheaper in this program by doing one of two things – subsidizing healthcare providers or subsidizing patients. Either way, this will require the government to give money to a group of people or companies. But where would this money come from? Well, it’d come from the taxpayers (if it can be funded). If it cannot be funded, it will either require increased taxes, decreased spending in other areas (good luck with that), or going further into debt. These three options all result in less money in Americans’ pockets because, put simply, the money will have to come from somewhere.

2. Gun Control/Assault Weapons Ban

Let’s start this issue by establishing some common ground. Ocasio-Cortez is saddened by the amount of gun violence in America today. I think we all are. Nobody is pro-gun violence (except criminals). So, let’s not pretend that one side of the debate wants kids to die.

As for gun control, I’m a firm believer that any gun law is an infringement of the Second Amendment. Seeing as the Second Amendment includes the phrase “shall not be infringed,” I think our constitutional right to bear arms was clearly decided by the founding fathers. Even if you aren’t a fan of the constitution, the right to self-defense is essential for the protection of one’s life, liberty, and property. No matter where you live, the police are at least a few minutes away. If an intruder were to break into your house, which would you rather depend on? The cops who, if you are able to call them, will take minutes to respond, or a gun in your bedroom? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

Now, while the above scenario shows the need for a gun, it does not show the need for “assault weapons.” Legally speaking, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon.” Assault is a verb, not an adjective. Ocasio-Cortez wants to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks. However, each of these have practical uses, especially when it comes to self-defense. For example, what if five men break into your home? A semi-automatic rifle – which many would deem to be an assault weapon – would be useful in this scenario. Second, what constitutes a high-capacity magazine is contested, so creating a blanket ban would be difficult to implement. Also, if you aren’t a great shooter, wouldn’t you want the security of having two bullets for each of the five men breaking into your home? Third, Ocasio-Cortez wants to ban bump stocks. Bump stocks do allow individuals to shoot slightly faster by using the recoil to the shooter’s advantage. However, bump stocks do not turn semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic weapons. If a mechanically-inclined gun owner wanted to make such a change, they could just as easily make the changes on his or her own (see the modifications listed in this PDF).

Ocasio-Cortez also wants to establish universal background checks for firearm purchases. This is a clear violation of one’s Second and Fourth Amendment rights. The government has no right to restrict one’s access to firearms, and the government also has no right to investigate an individual before they are allowed to purchase a firearm. In my opinion, background checks should be left up to gun sellers.

Lastly, Ocasio-Cortez wants to prevent gun lobbyists from donating money to political campaigns. This is a brazen violation of one’s First Amendment rights and our democratic principles. Outlawing certain groups from acting politically is not only wrong, it creates a slippery slope that may allow other groups to be blocked from the political process.

3. Solidarity with Puerto Rico

Once again, there is an element to this issue that everyone can agree upon. What has happened in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria is certainly tragic. However, I believe Ocasio-Cortez is approaching this issue in the wrong way. Ocasio-Cortez wants increased government assistance for Puerto Rico. Here’s the problem with that – the government is who is responsible for Puerto Rico’s recovery taking so long. Rather than holding Puerto Rico hostage, the government should allow any and all sources of relief – whether they be public or private – to be sent to Puerto Rico. In this case, I have to give credit where it is due – Ocasio-Cortez supports waiving the Jones Act, which would allow for greater aid given to Puerto Rico. I would argue for a full repeal of the Jones Act, but Ocasio-Cortez’s push for a waiver is a step in the right direction.

Ocasio-Cortez also wants to forgive Puerto Rico’s debt and invest a greater amount of money into Puerto Rico’s social programs. I won’t get too far into these ideas, as I already mentioned our fiscal irresponsibility under the Medicare for All issue.

4. Higher Education for All

I think I speak for everyone when I say that having an education is good, and everyone should be educated in some way. However, not everyone wants, needs, or benefits from higher education. Quite frankly, I don’t care if my plumber knows the Bill of Rights. I’d rather my plumber know a lot about plumbing. Similarly, I don’t care if my doctor is familiar with quadratic formulas. So much of higher education is composed of relatively useless general education classes. The plumber doesn’t need to know the Bill of Rights and the doctor doesn’t need to know calculus and trigonometry. Furthermore, those in trades like plumbing or welding, for example, would be better off in an apprenticeship program where they could learn the trade hands-on. Higher education is unnecessary for far more jobs than most people realize.

An even more pressing issue here is the cost of “free” higher education. First, it isn’t free. It is taxpayer-subsidized. That means an increase in taxes or an increase in debt, or both. It just doesn’t make financial sense. Second, encouraging people to go to school on the taxpayers’ dime would incentivize people taking wasteful classes or avoiding graduation to avoid getting a job. This would be catastrophic to this policy and to the economy as a whole.

Lastly, Ocasio-Cortez wants to forgive student debt. I want to ask the following question again: How will we pay for this? Does anyone want an increase in taxes or the national debt? I don’t think so. And again, forgiving student debt encourages individuals to take further financial risks in the future that otherwise would not have been taken.

5. Support Seniors

If you haven’t noticed by now, much of democratic socialism consists of championing broad viewpoints that sound good to everyone. Supporting seniors is one of these viewpoints. Old people are generally nice and always have interesting stories and advice to offer if you’re willing to listen. None of us are anti-seniors.

Ocasio-Cortez is a strong supporter of Social Security, the government’s Ponzi scheme. She wants to expand social security and increase the amount of money that “the wealthy” pay into the program. There are a couple problems with Ocasio-Cortez’s wishes. First, Social Security is insolvent. We simply cannot afford to expand Social Security, and we can’t even afford to keep Social Security going into the 2040s. The second problem is that “the wealthy” that democratic socialists detest so much are able to move their money to avoid paying excessive taxes. Money can be funneled into offshore accounts or non-profits to avoid taxes. Even if this loophole is taken away, the wealthy can always move to another country that will allow them to keep more of their money. Ocasio-Cortez’s way of supporting seniors is not feasible.

6. Housing as a Human Right

Homelessness is bad. I know that isn’t a controversial take, but opponents of housing as a human right are often characterized as being pro-homelessness, anti-homeless, or simply heartless.

Housing isn’t a human right. The only rights we have are those to our life, liberty, and property. Establishing housing as a human right means one of two things. The first possibility is that we will be forced to house homeless people in our homes (unlikely, but possible). The second possibility is that people will be forced to build and provide housing for the homeless. Much like Medicare for All, this requires the conscription (slavery) of individuals to create and maintain such housing.

7. Criminal Justice Reform, End Private Prisons

On this issue, I partially agree with Ocasio-Cortez. Like Ocasio-Cortez, I agree that marijuana should be federally legalized and the war on drugs should be ended. Constitutionally speaking, the regulation of drug use is a state’s rights issue, so the federal government should stay out of it. I also support Ocasio-Cortez’s push for releasing nonviolent drug offenders currently serving time and a greater emphasis on investigations in law enforcement-involved deaths.

While I agree with Ocasio-Cortez on criminal justice reform, I slightly disagree on the private prison issue. In my opinion, prisons aren’t the problem – the laws are. These laws criminalize many nonviolent actions and make for good crony capitalism between the government and private prisons. If we got rid of bad laws, such as those criminalizing drug use, we would free countless people and cut down on crony capitalism.

8. Mobilizing Against Climate Change

Let me start with the last section of this issue on Ocasio-Cortez’s website. Climate change IS NOT a national security issue. Things like terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and cyber security are national security issues. Climate change is a quality of life issue.

Ocasio-Cortez wants the United States to be one-hundred percent free of fossil fuels by 2035. To do this, Ocasio-Cortez wants to transition to a renewable energy system as a part of her “Green New Deal.” I have one question: Who is paying for this? It will be us, the taxpayers. And how much will it cost? Nobody knows. Personally, I think we should try to take care of the world and act responsibly, but that doesn’t justify putting all taxpayers on the hook for a project that will certainly cost billions, if not trillions, of dollars. Once Ocasio-Cortez – or anyone, for that matter – can provide an estimated cost of such a policy, I will be willing to discuss its merits (or lack thereof).

9. Women’s Rights

Once again, I think almost everyone supports the broad concept of women’s rights. Those who don’t are ostracized in today’s society, and rightly so.

Let’s start with equal pay. Ocasio-Cortez believes that all women deserve equal pay for equal work. I, along with almost all of our society, agree. Here’s the thing, though – this isn’t even a legitimate issue. There is no gender pay gap. It is a myth. Once you control for variables that affect income, such as hours worked, experience levels, and occupations chosen, the gender pay gap is not statistically significant.

Next, Ocasio-Cortez supports equal access to workplace safety for women. Yeah, we all do. Sexually harassment and violence against women are already criminalized and dealt with in the office. Could these things be handled better? Of course, but how will the government make this any better? Without actual policy proposals, these are just empty words.

Unsurprisingly, Ocasio-Cortez also supports paid maternal leave, access to childcare and healthcare, vacation time, and other benefits. These are all good things, but the government should not force businesses to offer these benefits. Some businesses simply cannot afford to offer any or all of these benefits. If forced to offer these benefits, they would either have to terminate employees, reduce hours, or go out of business altogether. Instead, I believe businesses should be allowed to pick and choose which benefits they offer. This would create a natural system of competition in which businesses would have to offer superior benefits to hire and retain the best employees.

The last of the women’s rights issues Ocasio-Cortez addresses is “reproductive freedom.” This is a catch-all term that contains “safe, legal, affordable abortion, birth control, and family planning services, as well as access to adequate, affordable pre- and post-natal care, for all people, regardless of income, location or education.” All of these things already exist, and government intervention in healthcare has only made things more expensive. Furthermore, seeing as Ocasio-Cortez prides herself as a champion of minorities, it seems odd that she would support abortion since women of color make up a large amount of women who have abortions. In other words, an aborted baby is more likely to be a minority than white. Abortion predominantly kills minorities.

10. Curb Wall Street Gambling: Restore Glass Steagall

Ocasio-Cortez believes that wealth is being concentrated into too few hands. This is ironic, seeing as her entire political belief is predicated on the concentration of wealth to the government. Rather than allowing the three-hundred-plus million Americans to control wealth as they please, Ocasio-Cortez wants to give the government the ability to control wealth.

Ocasio-Cortez also believes that we should prevent banks from taking risks that would result in individuals losing their savings. Again, this is a bit ironic, because banks only take catastrophic risks because the government is willing to bail them out. If banks know that the government will save them from falling apart, they will be more likely to take greater risks. Past bank bailouts, which would not have occurred in a truly free market, cause this problem.

11. A Federal Jobs Guarantee

By this point in Ocasio-Cortez’s official website, I’m beginning to lose it. How can one person have so many bad ideas? You have no right to a job. Just as you shouldn’t be forced to work for free like a slave, nobody should be forced to pay you for your labor if they don’t want to. Ocasio-Cortez wants the federal government to guarantee a job for every American. Not only that, she wants these jobs to pay $15/hour, offer full healthcare, and paid child and sick leave. Once again, I have to question how we will pay for this. The government can’t even balance a checkbook. How can we expect them to provide countless jobs?

Ocasio-Cortez wants an effect of the federal jobs guarantee to establish a $15/hour minimum wage. Much like requiring paid healthcare, sick leave, vacation time, and more, an increase in the minimum wage would force business to terminate employees, reduce hours, or close down altogether. Once again, this contradicts Ocasio-Cortez’s support for minority groups, who are most hurt by minimum wage laws.

12. Immigration Justice/Abolish ICE

Immigration justice is a broad term. I think we all agree that separating children from their parents at the border is bad for everyone involved. Much like Ocasio-Cortez, I agree that the path to citizenship should be simplified to encourage legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration. Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t elaborate on what causes migration, but I will briefly: ending the war on drugs and reducing, if not fully eliminating, the welfare state would drastically reduce illegal immigration.

As for abolishing ICE, I agree with Ocasio-Cortez, albeit for different reasons. Put simply, ICE is unconstitutional. The federal government has no authority on immigration. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 is often cited as giving the federal government authority on immigration. However, a quick glance at this clause will show that it grants the federal government the authority to establish “a uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen and has nothing to do with entering or leaving the country. Therefore, ICE is unconstitutional and should be abolished.

13. Clean Campaign Finance

I alluded to this earlier when discussing gun rights, but I’ll gladly refute Ocasio-Cortez again. Current campaign finance laws do allow wealthy interests to contribute to campaigns and promote candidates. However, these same laws allow you and me to contribute to campaigns, too. The ability to contribute to campaigns is a First Amendment right. Some will argue that corporations should not have First Amendment rights, so they shouldn’t be allowed to contribute to campaigns. However, corporations, legally speaking, are no different from people. They are private entities whose rights should not be restricted by the government. Therefore, they should be afforded the same natural rights as you and I.

14. Support LGBTQIA+

As I’ve said in a previous blog, I think everyone should be able to live the life they want to live. I believe each and every individual should have the same natural rights, regardless of sexuality, gender, or any other characteristic. That being said, I believe the government should wholly avoid LGBTQIA+ issues. Marriage, sexuality, gender, and all other aspects of LGBTQIA+ should be left for individuals to decide. You want to marry someone of the same sex? Great. You want to transition from a man to a woman or vice versa? Great. But why does the government need to get involved? The government shouldn’t get involved in how you, I, or anyone else chooses to live.

My belief that the government should avoid such issues understandably makes some people uncomfortable. I believe people should be able to freely associate with whomever they please. If you don’t like members of the LGBTQIA+ community, you shouldn’t have to serve, employ, or associate with them. I’m no fan of bigotry, but our inherent freedom to associate with whomever we please allows for bigotry in our private lives.

15. A Peace Economy

This issue is more or less a combination of housing as a human right and cleaning campaign finance. Ocasio-Cortez believes that current real estate developers have taken over New York’s political establishment. This is a form of crony capitalism, which I also oppose. However, I believe there is a different way to fix it. While Ocasio-Cortez supports subsidizing housing, I propose shrinking government. If government is made small and relatively powerless, there will be no incentive for real estate developers – or any other wealthy interest group – to join the political establishment and engage in crony capitalism.

The State of Gun Control in America

Looking Back on Election Day 2018