Thank God that no sizable number of Americans support Nazi or Soviet-style regimes.
We must, however, be on our guard that naiveté does not lead us down the path to some of the problems of tyrannical regimes. While it is improbable we would end up with a tyranny in America soon, we would not want to end up with some of the bad ideas or policies eating away at our constitutional system.
One way to make sure this happens is to shame people who support bad ideas. If you supported the Nazis, you deserved and received social condemnation and alienation. Soviet apologists fared better, even if the Soviets were every bit as brutal as the Nazi regime and this has led to problems. Bad Soviet ideas are not always recognized as bad ideas in America, because we have yet to demonize the full Soviet ideology. We rightly condemn the concentration camps of both regimes, but we must also condemn the ideas that led to these horrors.
Why have the details of Soviet ideology gotten a pass? Isn’t this because the goals of the Soviets are (rightly) viewed as morally superior to the Nazi goals? As a result do we fail to condemn some of the bad practices that corrupted those goals and made a mockery of ideals?
If Naziism had worked, the results would have been monstrous, but if Soviet Communism had worked or been implemented more mercifully, then many people think the results would have been wonderful. This appears to misunderstand both regimes: Nazi and Communists wanted to help the “working man.” Both regimes wanted full employment. Horrifically both made classes of humanity sub-human: one by race and the other by economic standing. The child of a rich man did not have polluted blood (as the Nazis declared about their sub-humans), but he or she was corrupted by the system. Any level of “re-education” could be justified agains this deterrent to the achievement of the workers paradise up to removing the infection from the system.
Lenin, Trotsky, and the “better Soviets” killed as quickly as they could for the greater good. The faster the infection was removed, the quicker the state could wither away and human flourishing could be achieved. We have given the state more power, more funds, often and the result has never been good, particularly for the poor.
Still the poor should be helped and the Soviets made that the center point of their propaganda, while the Nazi regime was centered on race and blood. The Nazi regime was hideously regressive and any nation or party that looks to that evil for guidance, such as the Golden Dawn of Greece, deserves suppression. But surely history also suggest that the man who monomaniacally calls for “helping the poor” at any cost does harm just as greed.
How many people have been killed in the twentieth and twenty-first century in the name of envy?
There is a line, however hard it is to define, when the state takes too much power on itself in the name of “doing good” and where evils are done in the hope of progress to come. We surely sack this rich man’s home, but do not as surely create as much benefit to society as he created. This progressive movement never does more good than harm. From Pope Francis to Billy Graham, Christian leaders bemoan the corruption of freedom into harm for the poor. A business failing to treat workers with dignities is committing a moral evil.
There is a role for the state in combatting this evil and yet in their enthusiasm for doing good, progressives fail to learn from history. Money given to the state returns to the people in dribs and drabs with a loss of liberty. Rarely is more good done than harm and liberty, beauty, and culture almost always are lost. A prime example is the despoiling of the English monasteries in the sixteenth century.
Protestants decided to sack the monasteries for their “wasted” wealth. Result? The rich got richer and the poor got less than the monks offered. Having learned little from this experience, some extremists wanted the state to go after the university endowments with the hopes that this time the man Dickens’ described as a “blot of grease” on the pages of English history, Henry VIII, would do good with the plunder. How could they given the experience of the past?
C.S. Lewis says: “But experience beats in vain upon a congenital progressive. He urged the spoliation of the colleges in the firm hope this time- that mystical ‘this time’ which is always going to be so different- government, having sucked in, would give out.”*
If the state took away Harvard’s bloated endowment (which is “just sitting there”) and offered free education with it, some would benefit, but the some would generally be “court favorites” of this present regime. Some poor would be helped, but other poor, helped under the present system, would be harmed. Liberty would decline and this loss cannot be measured in dollars. Just as torture by the state corrupts the torturer and the state that condones it, so thieving by majority vote corrupts the state.
Lewis speaks of “this time” which is a time beyond all our experience where state power works out. “This time” assumes that we are better than those “other people.” We are more moral, better educated, or somehow immune to the problems of our forefathers. We also assume that “times have changed,” the old immorality is the new morality, because “science” has shown it to be so as if science can ever tell us what we should do. All this nonsense drives much evil.
Stealing from the rich to give to the poor is still stealing. Coveting my neighbors wealth is still bad for me. Instituting stealing or coveting into state policy will work corrupt the most noble: bad means destroy good motives. As Americans consider how best to help the poor, state power must be considered only as a last result. We are intent on not legislating morality in sexual issues and soon in areas of the old “drug war.” There is at least some hope in this if the moral are left alone by the swelling immoral majority and condoning or paying for immorality is not required by legislation.
The danger, it seems to me, is that an immoral majority will be too immoderate to govern and provide for themselves: bad behavior will lead to bad outcomes. We will then be expected (and even morally must) spend more to cover for these social dysfunctions. If families fail, then government must grow. We know how this will go . . . inefficiency will increase, a new aristocracy will grow who have access to government power and favor, and liberty will be lost.
There is no time, outside of the mystical hopes of the ill informed, when decadence produced moderate government. That is a danger I fear for our time.
*Oxford History of English Literature (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, excluding drama), page 58.