My Rant Against All Forms of Populism
and the Bastardization of Language
By: Allan Wallace
One thing that makes writing this kind of article so tricky is that not everyone uses the same definitions of words in the political arena. The constant spin from certain sources adds to the number of operative definitions. And when they use associated concepts with assumed or otherwise dubious meanings, the result can be even more confusing. Some people try to confuse the situation further by purposefully broadening these definitions, like naming everything in the realm of Populism a variety of Socialism, as did Hitler and other “leaders” throughout history.
Those who honestly believe that everything bad, or everything good, is some kind of “socialism” are confusing a specific variety of Populism with the umbrella term Populism and calling it all Socialism. Herein I will try to use the standard or traditional definitions for words.
A “bastardized term” links two or more differing concepts as if it creates an entirely new term. Note, this is also a definition of an “oxymoron.” In the examples used herein, one or both of the words are being abused.
Using Standard Definitions, even Democracy does not mean what you might think it means!
“Democracy” may sound like it means “power to the people” because “the people” get to vote on important things and have elections. But it always involves the Majority exercising Power over and often taking advantage of minorities regardless of the intention.
Side-stepping our founding ideals of Liberty to institute Democratic Ideals is part of what sustained slavery for so long in this country because a sizable majority of voters in the South wanted to keep slavery and later sought to maintain inequality under the law. Be glad that we do not have a real Democracy in the USA because that would have slowed our progress away from slavery even further.
The way Democracy works is to take a “poll” of the people. If 50%-plus-one votes for an idea or candidate, they get the legal permission to force the other 49.?% to comply with the majority. That is why some people call Democracy “a tyranny of the majority.” The majority who wins an election gets to run the government their way and can ignore minority opinions if they wish. AND they won the ability to stifle or mute those minority voices in future elections.
The founders never meant the United States of America to be a Democracy! Our form of government is appropriately called a “Constitutional Republic,” which uses “democratic PROCESSES” to choose leaders and make decisions. Whenever anyone refers to “our democracy,” they should be saying “our Republic” or simply “our government.”
NOTE: Just as the use of democratic processes does not define us as a Democracy, the use of a few socialistic programs does not make us a Socialist country. We will reach a critical tipping point toward Socialism when more than half the people living here depend on government programs for some or all of their income. And, we were dangerously near that point before the COVID19 crisis hit.
Some powerful elements in our government are trying very hard to push us to and past that tipping point. But if it happens, no one will be happy with the results we will see 20 years after we reach that point, except those who end up in a position of power and those who have access to or “pull” with them.
Populism and its Variants
Socialism and Communism are variants of the same ideal, as are Nationalism and Fascism. And both sets are simply different, bilaterally opposed variants of Populism!
In any of its forms, Populism requires that the government, party, or politburo owns OR at least controls everything, ostensibly for the benefit of all people. But Populism always benefits the political class most as well as those in a position to curry favor from them.
- Socialism/Communism is the Populism of the Left,
- Nationalism/Fascism is the Populism of the Right.
Populism is so named because it is “popular” in that it can be easily sold to the busy masses. Populism always claims to be the best and most fair way to live, but its good intentions are never realized. In practice, Populism always accentuates the harmful & unjust and rewards only those who know how to suck-up to the leadership for preferential treatment.
Populism’s popularity is mainly grounded in its well-publicized intention to give everyone a higher degree of safety, security, and fairness in exchange for giving up a much greater portion of their Liberty to the government. After all, if they really can take care of you, then you do not need all that Liberty anyway, do you? They used this argument when a conservative President and a split Congress formed the intrusively powerful Department of Homeland Security after 9-11.
There is one thing that all variants of Populism have in common: unwavering faith in big government’s perceived ability to Cure all of the social and political ills of society, even when the use of force is necessary to accomplish the task.
The Presidency of Donald Trump made Nationalism popular again. Whether or not that was his intention, that was the result of his words and actions. Nationalism strums the heartstrings of Patriotism and makes use of people’s natural affinity for their Homeland to manipulate people into following a charismatic leader. And such a leader always leads them toward Fascism. So, like Socialism, Nationalism is a pretty precursor to an uglier form of government.
Some people believe that Socialism is characterized by freedom, fairness, respect, and equality. In theory, Socialism intends to achieve those things, but in practice, it always fails miserably. And, when it fails, people who love the idea of Socialism always blame external forces, under-funding, or poor implementation.
People who love Liberty often use the quote abbreviated, “TAANSTAAFL”- There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. But there are no free rides in a socialist/communist system either, you must Work to Earn your existence because in that kind of system, if you can work, you are an asset, but you are a burden on society if you cannot work. That kind of system never encourages longevity, never helps the infirm thrive, nor honors the elderly for their past contributions while still alive.
Those who hold the power in such a system say that everything they do is for the People, for Equality, Justice, and Harmony, when what they really do, works toward maintaining the power structure as it is, and of course, their places in that structure.
In my opinion, Communism and its prettier precursor (Socialism) are the most meaningless and empty systems possible. In reality and practice, it works to serve and preserve the STATE at the expense of The People. One needs only look to the old, failed Soviet Union for a prime example. Venezuela and Cuba are other examples.
Socialism praises Equality and Fairness above all else and condemns individual Liberty with its corollary, Free Market Capitalism, and all their blessings. But these things are always true:
- Despite Individual Liberty’s possible abuses, it ALWAYS results in greater levels of innovation, diversity, and opportunity for more people.
- Despite Socialism’s good intentions, it ALWAYS results in Equally Shared Poverty for the vast majority of the people.
I do not mean to give short shrift to Nationalism/Fascism in my criticism. These are just as bad, although in a slightly different way. But no one in their right mind on that side of Populism is running around trying to hawk Republican Nationalism to the people.
So-called Democratic Socialism:
Democratic Socialism is not something new and different. The Russian Confederation allows voting but limits choices to only one party, making it nearly impossible for other parties to form or for “independents” to get onto the ballot. And they vigorously defend their one-party system using the same types of rhetoric that we use to defend our two-party system. All other “democracies” have at least three parties; many have seven or more. Having just two parties does not make us better than other free nations; we are worse because we have only two parties.
When asked, many so-called “democratic socialists” will tell you in one form or another, “These ideas are simply too important to ignore. It is atrocious that so many people will not accept them voluntarily. So yes, once our movement can claim the majority, we must force compliance on those who remain unconvinced because that is the democratic way.“
There is no doubt that the old Soviet Union was wholly and thoroughly Communist. Yet, they called themselves “Soviet Socialists,” and it was even in their name: the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic (USSR). Using a prettier modifier on any form of Populism is a bastardization of language and is always a direct attempt to mislead people.
Another Bastardized Term: Libertarian Socialism
Let’s be clear; THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS LIBERTARIAN SOCIALISM. Those who think there is such a thing are grossly confused about what Libertarianism is or what Socialism is! They usually describe a Socialism that focuses on individuals rather than the whole society as a group, and they think that is enough to justify the gross misuse of the word libertarian. Or, they describe a socialism that develops out of thin air and sustains itself without the use of force in a world entirely without any government.
This is, of course, totally impossible as any form of Socialism must depend on force or the threat of force to bring unwilling minorities into compliance. In reality, there is NOTHING libertarian about Socialism, they are polar opposites, and the term goes beyond being oxymoronic into utter ridiculousness.
The Alternative, Liberty!
The bedrock of Liberty: You are free to do whatever you want when it does not cause physical harm, coerce, or defraud others, damage their property, or does not infringe on their co-equal rights. These things limit Liberty, but they are the limits that level the playing field for everyone to enjoy the greatest degree of Liberty possible in a community or a society.
What does Liberty NOT include?
- Liberty does not include the “freedom from want,” especially when what is desired must be coerced from someone else.
- Liberty does not include the “freedom from responsibility” for your actions
- Liberty does not include the “freedom from getting your feelings hurt.”
- Liberty does not include the “freedom to get anything for free,” especially when someone else is compelled to pay for it or work for free to provide it to you.
Liberty never requires that anything is taken from another to make you Freer, Safer, or more Secure. And, it is simply wrong to vote away anyone’s right to Liberty. If individual Liberty is ever subject to a vote of the people or in Congress, then it should only pass with a clear and overwhelming Consensus, almost everyone in agreement. Because, the extent to which coercion or force is used collectively, everyone’s Liberty is reduced by that amount.
To love Liberty is to love others because Liberty is not complete until everyone can enjoy it. Liberty encourages the individual to rise and excel AND demands that everyone have similar opportunities. To love the socialist ideal is to love yourself at the expense of others because Socialism always ends up forcing everyone down to the lowest common level. This shared misery encourages selfishness and oddly enough, an attitude of entitlement that says, “I have mine. Leave me alone. They will eventually give you yours.” And it always engenders envy when anyone gets even a little more than you.
As with Love, Liberty can only be Enjoyed if you Give it away. If you must resort to force to get your liberty, then it is not Liberty at all; it is either revolution or despotism.
When it comes to bastardizing words to create new terms, I am reminded of what my Momma always told me, “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right,” and “Democratic Socialism” is a prime example.