Note: The "Aikea" Series will continue after the legislature opens.
By: James Hochberg, Attorney At Law
President, Hawaii Family Advocates
Socialism as an economic and political philosophy contradicts the economic and political philosophy upon which this nation was founded and upon which it has grown its wealth and power. For that reason alone, the current political efforts to push the United States into wholesale socialism favored by our younger citizens must be rejected.
The creation of the United States on July 4, 1776 expressed the central foundation for creating a new nation in the famous phrase that included both economic and national government implications:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --"
Importantly, the reference to the “pursuit of Happiness” meant something very different then: it meant the right to free use of one’s property to pursue success and prosperity. Socialism contradicts these ideas that the government’s role in society is to protect those rights based on the consent of the people. Socialism’s success demands interfering in those rights without the consent of the people who oppose the actions.
The founders’ public debates that preceded the 1789 enactment of the U.S. Constitution are quite telling. The debating parties were the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. The competing arguments addressed the economic failures of the Articles of Confederation which served as the written document that established the functions of the national government of the United States between 1777 and 1781. The effects of the Articles of Confederation saw the separate state governments engaging in economic battles against one another.
The Federalists argued that “[w]hile the Confederation was powerless to stop these damaging policies, the Constitution by specific prohibitions on the states, would establish stable economic conditions that would protect and attract capital, thereby encouraging the growth of the American economy and restoring prosperity. The poor were hardest hit by the policies of the states, and it was the poor who would benefit the most from a rigorous government and the prosperity it would bring.”
On the other hand, the “Anti-Federalists were so leery that the Constitution would be used as a tool to crush individual liberty that they insisted a Bill of Rights be attached to it – an act to which the Federalists only reluctantly agreed.”
One of the major concerns debated at the time, involved how the federal government might be involved in paying off government debts incurred between 1776 and 1789. Patrick Henry argued against the idea that changing the structure of the federal government would result in reduced national debt. Arguing that the new national government had to encourage industry he said “[t]he evils that attend us, lie in extravagance and want of industry and can only be removed by assiduity and economy.” This described the culture that would grow the U.S. economy in the coming centuries.
The U.S. Constitution excluded direct taxation of the people by the national government. Not until WWI was the 16th Amendment passed to provide the national government with the power to directly tax individuals. In 1909 when the proposed 16th Amendment was being debated, the income tax was proposed to be only two percent. The argument in favor of the amendment included the need for a modern standing military, one of the main objections of the Anti-federalists to creating a strong national government.
The application of taxing income to provide a national social safety net for the less fortunate in society began in the 1940’s under FDR and continued in the 1960’s under LBJ. Those meager efforts did not call for the elimination of the industry necessary to generate the taxes.
Now, in the 2020 presidential election cycle, several presidential candidates argue for actual socialism under our system of government. It is now, more than ever, that we need to remember what our system of government requires of each of us.
The only fair way for a society to adopt socialism must not require citizens to pay for the system if they do not support adoption of socialism. That means that the only fair way to adopt socialism in the US is to start very small with a group of citizens who agree to the experiment.
Adopting socialism on a grander scale than that must be rejected. Historically, socialism has been adopted by force, at the end of a gun barrel by political leaders in charge of existing political structures. There is a practical reason for that: socialists use other people’s money, that those other people would prefer to keep. Force is the only operative mechanism.