Dear Bernie Supporters: Why Your Support for a Socialist is Anti-American
Why did America revolt against Great Britain? All the reasons listed in our charter, the Declaration of Independence, had to do with government overstepping its boundaries, going beyond its prescribed function. Anytime government does this, it limits freedom and destroys opportunity.
That is why it is so sad to see support for Bernie Sanders (and Clinton, too). The kind of government that they are promoting and promising is the kind of government that our Founding Fathers fought against - a government controlling instead of protecting our rights.
Question for “Berners”...
This week on Twitter, I’ve been putting the question to Bernie Sanders supporters - if it is true, that the government’s job is to provide free healthcare and college education to all Americans (since they are “human rights”) then why isn’t Senator Sanders advocating for free food and water for all Americans?
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After all, humans can go a lot longer without hospitals and college than they can without food or water? There seems to be a priorities problem here.
Not many wanted to tackle the question, however the few responses I did receive were...disturbing.
Somehow we’ve gotten to a place in America where foundational concepts such as the Constitution, the role of government, and individual responsibility have been trampled, forgotten and replaced with collective material rights, free handouts, and government taking responsibility. “Equality under the law” has been corrupted into “material equality”.
The Role of Government
We’ve discussed the role of government at length here at Paineful Truth. Simply put, government’s purpose is to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.* But don’t believe me, read the Declaration of Independence.
Right now, America is being pulled between two standards. Our choice will determine whether freedom stands or falls. Sanders and Clinton are promoting “material equality”. The Constitution and true freedom advocates “equality before the law”.
Two Versions of Equality
To explain this, allow me to quote from the brilliant Friedrich Hayek, author of the Road to Serfdom (which, if you have not read, you need to. You have no excuse because it’s free here).
“From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.”
Equality is a very misunderstood concept these days. Here, Mr. Hayek lays it out beautifully. Equality under the law does not result in everyone being the same or having the same things. Why? Because everyone is different.
Everyone having the same things is the essential tenet of the unattainable “material equality” promoted by Clinton and Sanders, e.g. everyone having the same healthcare, education, work compensation, paid family leave, etc. That’s material equality and it’s a bonafide pipe dream.
Equality Under The Law
Equality under the law says we are all created equal. This Creator, created all men equal in that we are all human. We all have the same potential for good or evil, love or hate. In that sense we are equal, and the law and government is to see us all as equal. This Creator also gave us rights. We are equal in our rights as well. All of us have the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what the 14th Amendment and the Declaration mean when speaking of equality.
That is equality under the law. Equal potential, equal rights.
Equality doesn’t mean that the government can overstep its Constitutional boundaries in order to provide something that would be “nice” for everyone. No one is arguing that it would be “nice” if everyone was able to get top-notch healthcare and education for free. It would be “nice”. It would also be impractical, unconstitutional, and ultimately anti-freedom.
Rights or Responsibilities?
Now that we have the concept of equality straightened out, we must address the issue of rights. However, we cannot talk about rights without talking about responsibilities. I have stated that government is designed to do one job - protect our rights. That is completely different from saying that government is to provide for those rights.
Let’s go back to food and water. No one will argue that every human has a right to life. You cannot live without food and water. Therefore you have a right consume food and water. But before you start your petition to Congress to provide for that right, you must remember that every right comes with a parallel responsibility.
You have the right to life, and you have the responsibility to find food and water and ingest it, or else you will die. Would you argue that your neighbor has the responsibility to go and get food for you? Do you then have a responsibility to go and get food for all your neighbors?**
You and I both have the right to bear arms. But does that mean government must provide everyone with munitions? You and I have the right to speak freely. Should government provide free wireless internet and smartphones so our voices can be heard? We have the right to security in our homes. Does that mean the government must provide homes in which to be secure?
We have a lot of rights. Our Founders did not try to list all the rights we have because they are far too numerous (and they had to hand-write everything back then, so we can cut them some slack). That’s why they codified the Ninth Amendment, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Providing for these rights is no one’s responsibility but your own. This is the principles of individual responsibility, and sadly it is slipping away in America today.
But this is nothing new. We’ve had seven years of President Obama. Since Teddy Roosevelt and FDR we’ve seen the kind of government that our Founding Fathers fought to free us from returning, slowly, inch by inch. Thankfully though, this trend is reversible.
Speaking of responsibilities, one of the biggest laid on members of a free society is the responsibility to educate and inform themselves. I talked about this last week, and you should check it out if you missed it. And I will leave you with James Madison -
* Note: It is out of the scope of this article to discuss other proper functions of the federal government such as national security, interstate commerce, international trade, etc. Also it is out of the scope to go into state and local government’s roles in safety, sanitation, roads, etc. However, it is valid to say that at its core, government’s central and main focus ought to be protecting the rights of its citizens. ~JP
** Note: A common objection to this reasoning is that it would be morally wrong to say that everyone has a responsibility to provide for their own rights because there are some who cannot provide for their rights, e.g. a starving person, a person sick and bedridden, etc.
A starving person has the right to food and water, however if they lack the ability to perform their responsibility of providing for that right that is where individual responsibility comes into contact with responsibility for our fellow man. The fallacy in this argument is assuming that it is government’s job to fix this problem.
Who sees the needs of others? Government has no eyes or ears. Government is not a person with a heart, a brain and helping hands. We, as individuals, have a responsibility to help those in need.I will point out as well, that this is a wholly moral argument and cannot be made without an admittance of the existence of right and wrong and some transcendent arbiter of said morals. So much for survival of the fittest. ~JP