This entry is part 1 of 22 in the series Great Libertarian Memes

Today begins a weekly series highlighting the former memes of Bureaucrash, an organization once headed by my friends Pete Eyre and Jason Talley of the Motorhome Diaries. The memes were originally authored by Pete Eyre and Anja Hartleb-Parson, and were intended as means of communicating ideas about liberty in catchy and succinct ways. Though Bureaucrash still exists, it unfortunately took a turn for the worse – find out more in my article The Fall of Bureaucrash.

image Communism is the vision of an egalitarian society with common ownership of property. Karl Marx, the father of communism, stated that the prevailing capitalist environment is responsible for class struggle and inequality among people. He believed that people’s lives are determined by their economic environment and in order to achieve the communist utopia, that environment has to be changed. For this change to occur, the working class (proletariat) must overthrow the existing regime, dismantle all capitalist institutions, and eliminate the possibility of a counterrevolution by the merchant class (bourgeoisie). Then, as a necessary pre-stage to communism, a socialist authoritarian government must be established to take complete control over the means of production—natural resources, infrastructure, tools, financial capital, and labor. Once people are thoroughly conditioned by this new structure they will morph into a “higher” man. Soon, government will wither away and in its place will emerge the stateless, egalitarian society that communists envisage. This may sound good in theory to some, but the communist experiments of the 20th century resulted in economic deprivation and murder on a massive scale.

Communism kills. Marx knew that winning the revolution would not be enough. He penned that “so long as other classes continue to exist, the capitalist class in particular, the proletariat fights it…it must still use a measure of force, hence governmental measures.” Lenin purged his ideological rivals, the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries. Stalin, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Castro, and Mao all eliminated whoever they suspected of opposing their regimes, whether by deporting dissidents to slave labor camps, subjecting them to sham trials in which the forgone conclusion was a “guilty” verdict and execution, or simply murdering them outright. In all, even according to conservative estimates, communist regimes have killed at least 150 million people. Not too peaceful…

Communism prohibits private property. As Marx saw it, private property is the primary cause of man’s alienation from his social nature and a limitation on his freedom: “The right of property is therefore, the right to enjoy one’s fortunes and dispose of it as he will; without regard for other men and independently of society…It leads every man to see in other men, not the realization, but rather the limitation of his own liberty.” Marx agreed that private property is the basis of the capitalist system, creating enormous wealth and economic progress; but he claimed that such wealth and progress is limited to a small class of rich merchants at the expense of a large class of poor workers. But, as classical liberals such as Adam Smith and John Locke argued, private property is essential to securing man’s natural rights to life and liberty. Think about it: the right to life is the right to live, and to live in the way you choose; the right to liberty is the right to pursue what you need to survive and live a good life, so long as it does not entail violating the rights of someone else to do the same.

However, if the needs of others are the determinant of how much food, shelter, or clothing you are allowed to have or of the profession you may pursue—then, ultimately, your life depends on whoever can claim to have a greater need than you. That’s not freedom; that’s slavery.

image

Communism is full of contradictions:

  • Communists claimed that their philosophy would outdo capitalism economically because it promotes the good of all rather than the narrow self-interest of a few greedy capitalists. Yet, if being self-interested means that one acts according to a set of values that one holds and wants to realize, then communism itself could not be implemented without self-interest. Capitalist economies far surpassed communist ones in wealth, evident by the fact that the least-well-off in the former have a greater standard of living than all but the top echelon of government officials in the latter. To achieve the economic growth necessary to alleviate poverty, productivity and innovation are key, both of which depend on the proper incentives. Under capitalism people get to keep and dispose of what they have produced, which gives them an incentive to produce and innovate more. This is absent under communism.
  • Communist leaders hailed their societies as beacons for a more just, abundant society. Yet, one only needs to look at how people voted with their feet to know that was not true; many willingly risked death to escape the devastatingly brutal conditions of communist countries to obtain a better life in capitalist countries. Moreover, in areas once seen as “breadbaskets” of the world, communism (and the disallowance of private property) brought mass famine, as was seen in Russia in the early 1920s and in China in the late 1950s.
  • Communists stated that their philosophy is ethically superior to classical liberalism and capitalism because it seeks to abolish inequality. Under communism, they claim, everybody is equally provided for but in reality only those in power (bureaucrats and party honchos) win while everybody else loses. The only level of equality reached by the common man is in the shared level of misery.

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Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Yup, I totally agree.

    One of the most profound events in my life occurred at age 14 when my parents took me on a trip to what was then East Germany, or the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik).

    We had spent a few weeks in West Germany, which I remember as a place of vibrant warmth, tall narrow houses, and openly friendly people. It didn’t feel much different from my native Canada, just older, stuffier and more crowded.

    The day we drove our rented car over the border from West to East was a day I will never forget.

    While the West German border folks had greeted us with smiles and a little gift for us kids, there was only sullen icyness at the DDR border. Even as a kid I could sense the fear that permeated every aspect of that place.

    The sights that met my naive eyes upon entering the communist DDR were unbelievable. Litter was strewn on the roadways. The vibrant fields of crops I had just witnessed were replaced by dusty, sparse fields where stunted plants sprouted only every few meters. The houses all looked the same, concrete and caked with dirt. Even the few people on the street looked dull, cloaked in long shabby coats.

    I remember so clearly the uncles and aunts turning up their record players loudly, and then huddling with us, furtively whispering in their own living rooms because the secret police knew we were visiting. I remember how these old people were thrilled to have received extra food coupons from the government in order to impress us westerners with communist abundance (we went shopping 3x a day to get all the meat we could, because they normally could only go once a week).

    The grocery stores were unlike anything I had ever seen. Cold, sparse rows of shelves with only a few tin cans faced up to the front of the aisles; all the cans with the same government labels and a word identifying the contents. I remember my mother sternly telling me to be quiet and not talk to our relatives about how different it was at home.

    Seated in the abject gray apartments we listened to stories about how everyone in this communist nation had a four month wait for interior painting do be done by government painters; they weren’t allowed to just go and buy their own paint. The only people with vehicles had government connections and a four year waiting period. Plumbing repairs took weeks – the communist government employed all plumbers for life, who got paid in food stamps whether they worked or not.

    The day we left was like escaping a prison. Every one of our relatives wept as we said goodbye. I’m sure a number of them were anticipating a visit from the Stasi after having spent a couple of weeks with us, just to make sure they were still thinking good socialist thoughts.

    As we exited that horrible place, we met another relative at the border who had come to meet us. He lived in West Germany, and he had built his own airplane in his basement and managed to escape communism by flying over the Berlin wall to freedom. He lifted his shirt and showed me pock marked bullet scars from being shot at as he sailed over.

    All of that in the Deutche Demokratic Republic. A communist experiment.

    When that trip was over and I returned to Canada, the seeds were planted of a lifelong aversion to socialism and big government. More than that, I was siezed with a burning need to defend our personal freedoms from the ever encroaching hand of government bureocracy, groupthink and utopian ideology.

    The most tragic casualty of communism isn’t even the appalling body count. Its the erosion of the human spirit.

  • Yup, I totally agree.

    One of the most profound events in my life occurred at age 14 when my parents took me on a trip to what was then East Germany, or the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik).

    We had spent a few weeks in West Germany, which I remember as a place of vibrant warmth, tall narrow houses, and openly friendly people. It didn’t feel much different from my native Canada, just older, stuffier and more crowded.

    The day we drove our rented car over the border from West to East was a day I will never forget.

    While the West German border folks had greeted us with smiles and a little gift for us kids, there was only sullen icyness at the DDR border. Even as a kid I could sense the fear that permeated every aspect of that place.

    The sights that met my naive eyes upon entering the communist DDR were unbelievable. Litter was strewn on the roadways. The vibrant fields of crops I had just witnessed were replaced by dusty, sparse fields where stunted plants sprouted only every few meters. The houses all looked the same, concrete and caked with dirt. Even the few people on the street looked dull, cloaked in long shabby coats.

    I remember so clearly the uncles and aunts turning up their record players loudly, and then huddling with us, furtively whispering in their own living rooms because the secret police knew we were visiting. I remember how these old people were thrilled to have received extra food coupons from the government in order to impress us westerners with communist abundance (we went shopping 3x a day to get all the meat we could, because they normally could only go once a week).

    The grocery stores were unlike anything I had ever seen. Cold, sparse rows of shelves with only a few tin cans faced up to the front of the aisles; all the cans with the same government labels and a word identifying the contents. I remember my mother sternly telling me to be quiet and not talk to our relatives about how different it was at home.

    Seated in the abject gray apartments we listened to stories about how everyone in this communist nation had a four month wait for interior painting do be done by government painters; they weren’t allowed to just go and buy their own paint. The only people with vehicles had government connections and a four year waiting period. Plumbing repairs took weeks – the communist government employed all plumbers for life, who got paid in food stamps whether they worked or not.

    The day we left was like escaping a prison. Every one of our relatives wept as we said goodbye. I’m sure a number of them were anticipating a visit from the Stasi after having spent a couple of weeks with us, just to make sure they were still thinking good socialist thoughts.

    As we exited that horrible place, we met another relative at the border who had come to meet us. He lived in West Germany, and he had built his own airplane in his basement and managed to escape communism by flying over the Berlin wall to freedom. He lifted his shirt and showed me pock marked bullet scars from being shot at as he sailed over.

    All of that in the Deutche Demokratic Republic. A communist experiment.

    When that trip was over and I returned to Canada, the seeds were planted of a lifelong aversion to socialism and big government. More than that, I was siezed with a burning need to defend our personal freedoms from the ever encroaching hand of government bureocracy, groupthink and utopian ideology.

    The most tragic casualty of communism isn’t even the appalling body count. Its the erosion of the human spirit.

  • Thanks for sharing Norman. I really dig the look of your site. Keep up the good work.

  • Thanks for sharing Norman. I really dig the look of your site. Keep up the good work.

  • @Rod: This is an incredible story, thanks for sharing it!

    @Pete: Hey man, thanks for your support. You guys are heroic!

  • @Rod: This is an incredible story, thanks for sharing it!

    @Pete: Hey man, thanks for your support. You guys are heroic!

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  • Maxov Max

    With the defeat of communism the number of deaths in the world can be attributed to capitalism.One often hears of the ‘Communism death toll’, an enormous count of victims of Russia and China which were never Communist in the first place.
    But how often do you hear of the Capitalism death toll? Never?
     Thomas Pogge of Yale University quotes a United Nations document, “Roughly one third of all human deaths, some 18 million annually, are due to poverty-related causes, easily preventable through better nutrition, safe drinking water, mosquito nets, re-hydration packs, vaccines and other medicines. This sums up to over 300 million deaths in just the 17 years since the end of the Cold War — many more than were caused by all the wars, civil wars, and government repression of the entire 20th century. Children under five account for nearly 60% or 10.6 million of the annual death toll from poverty-related causes (UNICEF 2005: inside front cover). 

  • You speak as though poverty is caused by capitalism — it is not. Man’s natural state is destitution. Poverty is our initial lot. Capitalism, or the system of private property rights that begins with self-ownership, allows us to create wealth more effectively than anything else known to man. You cannot “blame capitalism” for the death of someone half a world away — assuming that no aggression has been initiated against said person by the others.