Imagine No Possessions

“We’re heading toward socialism and nothing and no one can prevent it.”  

No, that’s not a quote from someone in the U.S. Congress — at least not yet.  That’s from President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, making good on his election promises to nationalize vast segments of his nation.  

Now compare that with this quote:  “My solution is that everyone in California must have health insurance. If you can’t afford it, the state will help you buy it.”  That comes from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is proposing coverage for 6.5 million uninsured residents of the Golden State.  He promises to spread the cost among businesses, individuals, hospitals, insurers and the government.  

What, exactly, is the difference between the socialist president of Venezuela and the socialist governor of California?  

Hugo Chavez is planning a government takeover of Venezuela’s electrical and telecommunications companies. Chavez may retain some foreign investment in the energy sector, but he maintains that lucrative oil projects should be under state ownership.  But at least, he was honest about it.  In the recent election that he won by a landslide, he promised a radical turn toward socialism.

Have you ever noticed, though, that nothing much of value ever comes out of a socialist state?  Chavez likes to glorify the Cuban model of Fidel Castro where the people all have a certain “security” under Castro’s thumb.  But where are the scientific advances?  Where are the engineering and medical breakthroughs?  And why do so many people risk their lives on leaky rafts to escape from this island paradise?

In Ayn Rand’s seminal novel “Atlas Shrugged,” first published in 1957, she tells the story of a nation that is becoming a festering hotbed of socialism.  Our heroine, Dagny Taggart, fights to keep her railroad open in the face of government meddling.  Hank Reardon invents a new metal, but the government takes it away.  Behind the scenes, a man named John Galt organizes a strike of all the great minds of the world.  Guess what happens once all independent thought and innovation gives way to government management of the entire country?

Which brings us back to the Congress of the United States, now run by the esteemed Democratic Party.  Their first major goal is to meddle in private business by setting a false floor for wages, rather than letting the marketplace decide.  

Representative Barney Frank, who, as part of the Congress, has the ability to set his own pay scale, wants to meddle with CEO compensation.  It seems that Rep. Frank is not happy that the ousted former head of Home Depot negotiated a fairly nice golden parachute.  You have to wonder if Mr. Frank is equally distressed that Randy Johnson is being paid millions by the Arizona Diamondbacks to toss a few baseballs each year.  Should Congress limit the outrageous salaries that movie stars and sports stars earn?  Where, exactly, should Congressional meddling stop?

Perhaps where presidential meddling begins.  The Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has attempted a takeover of the nation’s health care system once before.  If elected, she’ll try again.  So will former Senator John Edwards.  If the government takes over medicine, what’s next?  Oil?  Electric power?  Media?  Imagine no possessions. It’s easy if you try.

Don’t scoff; it’s happening right now in Venezuela.  And as a little bonus for Hugo Chavez, he’s getting quite a bit of extra power in the deal.  Under the new socialism, he will become an outright dictator, able to legislate by presidential decree.

At the end of “Atlas Shrugged,” the government was running everything, and the lights began to flicker out in New York City.  The lights aren’t out yet in America, but they could be starting to dim.  If you wish for the government to provide all that you need, be very careful.

You may get your wish.