Socialism has become the leftist fad of the day, with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the charge. According to Gallup, more Democrats have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism (57%-47%). This is despite the historical fact that every socialist country in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century, including Venezuela, has turned into a cultural and economic sinkhole. Thomas Sowell observed that “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
What socialism is about, at its base, is the involuntary redistribution of wealth, with the one doing the involuntary redistributing being the government. And since government has the power to punish, in reality, it is the involuntary redistribution of wealth at the point of a gun. (Try not paying your taxes at all and it won’t be long til somebody with a gun is at your door.)
We are not talking here about every form of taxation, but specifically, the forms of taxation which takes money from one’s man wallet only to put it in another man’s pocket in the form of direct welfare, food stamps, or subsidies. As economist Walter Williams puts it, “No matter how worthy the cause, it is robbery, theft, and injustice to confiscate the property of one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong.”
God says exactly the same thing in the 8th Commandment: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). He enshrines here the sacred right of private property, one of the inalienable rights the Founders recognized as a gift from the Creator. It’s simply wrong to forcibly take a man’s property to give it to someone else. It’s theft. And just because it’s done under color of law does not make it right. That’s simply a form of legalized plunder.
There is no right, biblical or moral, to another man’s wealth. This means that most forms of welfare, which consist of government stealing the fruits of one man’s labor in order to give them to someone they deem deserving, are fundamentally unjust.
This is how Walter Williams explains it:
A right, such as a right to free speech, imposes no obligation on another, except that of non-interference. The so-called right to health care, food or housing, whether a person can afford it or not, is something entirely different; it does impose an obligation on another. If one person has a right to something he didn’t produce, simultaneously and of necessity it means that some other person does not have right to something he did produce. That’s because, since there’s no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, in order for government to give one American a dollar, it must, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.
Thus, the simplest way to determine if something is a “right” is to ask the question: does this “right” make a claim on another man’s wallet? If it does, it cannot possibly be a right. The rights to life, liberty, and property don’t require the transfer of wealth. They only require the right to be left alone.
This is not at all to say that Christians do not believe in the redistribution of wealth. We do. We believe in the VOLUNTARY redistribution of wealth, where, out of compassion and generosity, we dig into our own wallets to help someone with a genuine need.
But if government is demanding and distributing the charity, there is nothing voluntary, biblical, or even constitutional about any part of it. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was in the United States Senate in 1794 when a proposal was made to give a scant $15,000 out of the U.S. Treasury to victims of a natural disaster. Madison not only voted against the proposal, he argued against it this way: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
There is a further moral and biblical problem with socialism, and that is it violates not only the 8th Commandment but the 10th as well. “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house...or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).
The wellspring of government charity, the involuntary transfer of wealth, is an odious and grasping greed for other people’s money. You can almost feel the fingers of lawmakers twitching and trembling in anticipation of coming up with another way of confiscating more of the wealth of productive Americans. But there is nothing moral about that. Winston Churchill quite rightly said that socialism is “the gospel of envy.”
Benjamin Franklin was another Founder who shared a biblical view of charity, along with James Madison. Said Franklin (emphasis mine),
I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
Franklin’s point is simple: if it claims to be charity but leaves people poorer than when they started, perhaps there is nothing truly charitable about it all.
The early followers of Christ had it figured out. “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold, and it was laid at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:34-35).
As I’ve said, socialism, the coercive redistribution of wealth, violates two of God’s Ten Commandments. I submit to you that no system which is built upon a violation of 20% of God’s moral code has any chance of working.
As in all cases, the Bible is not the problem but the solution. And as in most cases, the Founders knew how to implement the solution. Maybe it’s time we started imitating them again.