The Prospect of Democratic Socialism Should Give You Pause


March 28, 2019 by Anders Ingemarson

Socialism refuses to die. We have previously commented on why admirers of political and economic freedom are so ineffective in providing a death knell (hint: it’s the morality, stupid). It seems that as soon as you cut off one head of this Hydra, one new appears, the latest being democratic socialism.

Social democracy, democratic socialism, socialism – isn’t it all the same thing? To some extent it depends on who you talk to, but differences exist in degree although not in kind.

The shared “kind” is collectivism which all three subscribe to. Collectivism holds that an individual’s life and work belong to some collective, some group—society as a whole, the race, the nation, the faith, the majority, the minority, the “local community”—and that the collective may dispose of him or her in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good. Under collectivism, individual rights—our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—are sacrificed for the benefit of the alleged “common good.”

In terms of “degree”, democratic socialism, as represented by Senators Sanders and Warren, and Representative Ocasio-Cortez, falls somewhere between social democracy and socialism.

According to Wikipedia

“Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production,[1] with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market or some form of decentralized planned socialist economy.[2]…”

“The term democratic socialism is sometimes used synonymously with socialism, but the adjective democratic is sometimes used to distinguish democratic socialists from Marxist–Leninist-inspired socialism which to some is viewed as being non-democratic in practice.[4][5]…”

“Democratic socialism is further distinguished from social democracy on the basis that democratic socialists are committed to systemic transformation of the economy from capitalism to socialism whereas social democracy is supportive of reforms to capitalism.[7]…”

In other words, democratic socialists are more collectivist—more committed to violating individual rights for the benefit of whatever collective they have in mind—than social democrats, but a wee bit less collectivist than their pull-out-all-the-stops socialist brethren of the Marxist-Leninist kind. Reassuring indeed.

Here at SEPARATE! we like to think of the political spectrum in terms of “Right” to “Wrong” (capital “R” and “W”) instead of the traditional “right” to “left” (lower case “r” and”l”).

The Right, a.k.a. the good, is represented by individualism which

”…regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.” [[1]]

The Wrong is represented by all forms of the aforementioned collectivism. It exists on a spectrum from bad to evil but bear in mind that individual rights violations are wrong no matter how minor; a non-lethal poison pill is still a poison pill:

Right Wrong Individualism Collectivism

In political terms, the traditional political right is represented by different groups of conservatives—compassionate, neo, fiscal, social, religious, etc.—and the left by miscellaneous groups of, you guessed it, leftists—liberals, social democrats, progressives, socialists, and yes, democratic socialists.

However, it may come as a surprise that both sides are more or less committed collectivists. This means that the traditional right/left spectrum with conservatives and leftists shown as opposites is misleading.

It is best illustrated by looking at the extremes in each camp. The extreme left, as represented by communism, and the extreme right, as represented by fascism, are both expressions of extreme collectivism, sacrificing individuals to the collective of choice on a grand scale. In fact, Nazism, the type of fascism that ruled Germany between 1933 and 1945, is short for Nationalsozialismus, or National Socialism, a term that with admirable German precision captures the essence of the traditional right and left merged into one extreme collectivist movement.

The type of collectivism practiced in the United States and most Western societies today is best described as welfare statism. A welfare state is a social system in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the alleged economic and social well-being of its citizens. The term normally implies some form of mixed economy with collectivism intertwined with a certain respect for individual rights.

Under welfare statism, conservatives and leftist may disagree on implementation details, but they agree on the principle that individual rights must be violated for the “common good” through taxation, redistribution and regulation, albeit not on the scale of the extreme collectivist societies of the 20th century.

To defeat collectivism in general and its latest democratic socialist incarnation in particular, we need to shift the focus away from the non-essential political distinction between left and right to the essential distinction between Right and Wrong:

Right Wrong Capitalism Statism

Let’s sort out the terminology starting with the Right (the good).

Capitalism is the only socio-economic system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights. It is the only system invented to date that respects our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This makes capitalism Right, earning it the well-deserved three cheers.

Capitalism relies on a system of limited government instituted to protect our individual rights from being violated by foreign and domestic aggressors. Under capitalism all property is privately owned and unregulated, that is, society is blessed with the total separation of state and the economy.

What about the Wrong (the bad to evil)? Both conservatism and leftism support individual rights violating programs such as Social Security, Medicare, government (“public”) schools, and a multitude of regulations in the name of “the common good”, “public safety”, “the good of society” and other collectivist slogans. This places both sides in the Wrong column under the welfare statism label, with conservatism being the marginally lesser offender.

Moving further along the spectrum of the Wrong takes us past more collectivist social systems such as socialism, oligarchy, and theocracy on our way to the totalitarian extremes—communism, fascism, and Nazism—where individual rights are completely unrecognized.

Under all collectivist social systems, the state is regulating or outright owning property, and is involved in and controls a smaller or larger share of the economy. Under extreme collectivism, individuals either cannot own property (communism), or have no control over what they may “own” (fascism).

What about democratic socialism? Falling between social democracy and socialism leaves it straddling the line between welfare statism and totalitarianism. Its unabashed promotion of individual rights violating program such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, its support of electoral and judicial overhaul to reduce or eliminate the checks and balances that are fundamental to the protection of our individual rights, its disdain of big business, and its seemingly open embrace by the Democratic Party leadership, rank and file should give us pause.

If given increased power—something that is not out of the question after the next election—democratic socialism will accelerate the move towards the totalitarian tipping point one collectivist measure at a time.

Currently the traditional left and right are engaged in rearranging the collectivist deck chairs on the Titanic. Changing focus to champion the Right (the good)—individualism and capitalism—against the Wrong (the bad/evil)—collectivism and welfare statism/totalitarianism—is required to avert eventual disaster.

[1] Ayn Rand; from the essay “Racism” in “The Virtue of Selfishness

2 thoughts on “The Prospect of Democratic Socialism Should Give You Pause

  1. kirasaoirseuirp says:

    This is inaccurate, as The Universal Individual Rights Project book points out. There’s nothing at all wrong with voluntary collectivism. It’s forced-collectivism that’s evil.


  2. Voluntary vs forced is the key. Voluntary doesn’t require any government activity. It seems that each generation gets used to an increased level of government and then it is easier to expand government even more. Most people don’t think social security is a bad thing. But when it was introduced many saw it as evil.


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