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Communism and Socialism Cause Catastrophic Human Suffering

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30 years after the Berlin Wall's collapse, Americans don't understand communism's dangers

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Consecration vs Communism

Consecration: A Sacred and Divine Obligation

Many religions aspire to a true state of equality. In my faith (, the Law of Consecration is one of our most central and sacred ideals, obligations, and aspirations. In 4 Nephi of The Book of Mormon, this ideal was achieved for nearly 200 consecutive years after the personal appearance and ministry of Christ to the American Continent. In following the sacred and divine teachings of Jesus Christ this ideal human condition was achieved:

"...and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift." (4 Nephi 2-3)

In my faith, wealth pursued and used righteously to lift others is good:

18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:18-19)

Part of consecration is when you are abundantly blessed, use that to lift and serve others who are not as blessed. People of many faiths and political ideologies aspire to this noble idea of lifting others so that we can have "all things common" among us. That paints a picture of a world where there is not one group who is unlucky or oppressed and lives in poverty while another group lives in luxury and ease. The real question is not whether that is a world we should aspire to, but what is the means and ideology we use to get there?

Communism: A Destructive lie that giving up freedom lifts a people.

Some people mistakenly assume consecration and communism are similar because the outcome of equality and elimination of rich and poor are similar. This could not be further from the truth. Consecration is based on freedom, agency, accountability, willingness, love, and a fundamental purity and righteousness in both the participants and the leaders. Communism is based on force, coercion, violence if necessary, hate, enmity, envy, class warfare, demonizing others, and a dehumanizing loss of freedom. Consecration builds up all. Communism tears down many in the guise of building up all, but in the end only tears down all. Consecration succeeds when righteous participants follow righteous leadership. In the case of my faith, that is Jesus Christ himself. Communism fails because it relies on extremely imperfect, even corrupt people in government to pick and choose who gets what and who gets to do what. Because human nature is so fundamentally prone to corruption, greed, laziness, hunger for power, incompetency, indifference, and cruelty, people given authority over our lives often eventually abuse that authority to our demise. (See Unrighteous Dominion.) As I explain extensively elsewhere, government plays an essential role in creating order and quality of human life. But, too much government destroys that quality of human life. Communism is one extreme and catastrophic manifestation of insanely too much government. Government is nothing more than other people with authority over our lives. No government, meaning, no other people, should have anywhere near the amount of control over our lives it would take to affect the outcomes promised by communism. Remember, communism is achieved by control. Consecration is achieved by agency or freedom. Even the most noble and virtuous people in government given that much control will fail simply because the calculus of orchestrating that much control is far too complex for a handful of even the brightest and best intended minds to get it right. But, far more disturbing is when people in government fall victim to the natural human inclination to abuse their authority in ways that are cruel and harmful. The disastrous trail of human suffering, degradation, and calamity left behind by the many attempts at communism demonstrate this inevitable outcome. The fall of the Berlin Wall was a great victory over the horribly destructive lie that taking away people's freedom can make their lives better. Yet, a mere few decades later, new generations are tempted by the same old worn out fraudulent hope that if we give government enough power, somehow they will solve our problems and make our lives better.

Lifting All Humanity: A Sacred Obligation

So, even if more government is not the way to achieve it, this potential for equality in humanity is one of my most deeply held and sacred beliefs. In fact, I believe in a far higher ideal that just mere equality. Equality in and of itself is not necessarily a great achievement. It can also be catastrophic. Humanity can be equally noble, equally aspirational, or equally prosperous. It can also be equally defeated, equally self destructive, equally decrepit, or equally impoverished. Equality is only good when there is an equality of lifting the human condition for all. Furthermore, prosperity and poverty are not just about economics. There is also the prosperity and poverty of spirit and heart. I believe in the elevation of all elements of all humanity: spiritual, emotional, physical, and economic. Each is so intertwined as to be one. So, beyond mere equality of condition, the greater aspiration is for all people to be equally free to achieve their greatest individual potential, then lift their fellow men along with them by the strength of their individual gifts. Built into that idea is an inherent lack of equality of ability, starting point, means, and talents that is inherent to the unique individualism of being human. But, when those unequal and individual gifts are applied with free, pure, loving, and noble intent, all of humanity is equally elevated. To me, that is the greater ideal, the higher equality. That is an equality of freedom, not the mere equality of condition. In fact, not only is equality of condition not possible to achieve due to the great diversity of humanity, it is not even desirable to achieve. Even if it were possible, forfeiting our unique and individual gifts would deprive the world of the goodness we can create with those unique gifts. The greatest equality is an equal freedom to aspire, magnify individual gifts, achieve our best potential, and with that, an equal freedom to lift fellow man.

What is Equality?

Having said all that, I believe that when many people with good hearts refer to "equality" what they mean is a system of government where nobody gets left behind, left out, or abused by the system. They believe in equal access and equal opportunity. They believe in a system where some few don't get rich by abusing the system and pushing others into poverty by corruptly gained advantage. And, to all that, I agree. However, notice I didn't say "unfair advantage." As I will explain, "unfair advantage" in the form of unfair gifts and talents is not only inevitable but deeply necessary and good. I said "corruptly gained advantage." The 4 Nephi quote above says it plainly. Phrases like "deal justly," "all things in common," and the elimination of "rich and poor" to me means all are lifted, that none are left behind. It means there is no place for corruption or abuse of power, access, or wealth. The question is not: Should we aspire to the high ideal of equality by lifting all? Of course we should do that. The real question is: How best do we achieve that and what well-intended but misguided methods actually produce exactly and harmfully the opposite?

The only thing worse than capitalism?

One of the great moral failings of capitalism is that corrupt and greedy people amass wealth, influence, and power not to lift the human condition, but to leverage and abuse their wealth and power to amass even more at the expense and harm of others. That does not mean placing restriction on a person's right to grow wealth by their ingenuity and labor. To do that would violate the very essence of freedom and the Constitution. I honor and applaud aspiration, achievement, and success. But I do oppose the use of that wealth and power to cheat and game the system for more wealth and power, perpetuating an endless cycle of corruption. I do hope for a world that is purged of that kind of greed and corruption. That corruption is the most fundamental reason good people long for an alternative system that somehow does away with all that. But, contrary to tempting beliefs like communism and socialism, I know with my whole soul that the means to do that is not giving up our freedoms and piling on more and more government. That just shuffles around the titles and roles of the greedy and corrupt. That's just trading greedy, cruel, and corrupt capitalists for greedy, cruel, and corrupt government bureaucrats. Government doesn't eliminate that corruption. Unrestrained, government only makes it worse, far worse. I like the saying: of all the systems where flawed people are placed in authority to govern other flawed people, the only thing worse than capitalism is every other system. "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." (Winston Churchill). Socialism. Communism. Fascism. Oligarchy. Monarchy. Dictatorship. As corruptible as capitalism in a representative republic can be, it has nowhere near the corruptibility of corrupt government officials deciding how the order and distribution of wealth, power, labor, and social structure should work. The "moral failings" of capitalism are simply due to the moral failings of people. The more power we give other people over us, the more their "moral failings" will wreck our lives. Thus, every other system that gives other people more control over our lives in the form of more government has far more "moral failings" than freedom based systems such as capitalism.

How to get there? Hate and tearing down? Or love and building up?

My caution on the noble aspiration of equality is that if sought for and achieved in the wrong way, such as communism and socialism, equality of destruction is the opposite and catastrophic result. True equality is when all are lifted. There is no equality when some have to be harmed, restrained, crippled, or cut down to elevate others the way communism and socialism espouse. I don't oppose communism and socialism with every fiber of my being because I don't believe in the noble outcome of equality, elevation of all people, or the potential of mankind to achieve it. I oppose those as evil because of the means by which they achieve the end. The "Consecration" in my faith is about purity of intent and the free exercise of agency of all to participate fully for the good of all. Communism and socialism is about coercion, the use of force and, if necessary, violence to bring about the supposed equality. It relies on creating social resentment through class warfare to stir up a nation against itself. It tears down those who take the risks to create ideas, jobs, wealth, and growth. It tells good people on different sides of a huge ideological divide that they are supposed to hate, despise, ridicule, defeat, and tear down their neighbors, friends, and family simply because of differing views on how to achieve what surely must be a deeply shared desire to lift all of humanity. It falsely makes one class of abused and oppressed believe that if only it can abuse and oppress "the 'evil' others," equality will have finally been achieved. What a destructive, circular, and viscous lie that is. Violence and destruction only begets more of the same. A government powerful enough to take from your neighbor and give to you is powerful enough to next time take from and crush you too. Just give it time, your turn will come. The chains with which we bind our neighbor will eventually bind us. We can either divide in hate and tear ourselves down, or unite in love and build ourselves up.

I want nothing more than for all people to be lifted up, to prosper, and for quality of life to increase for all. I just want to make sure that when people do increase in prosperity, the same government that supposedly "gave" that prosperity to them doesn't have so much power that I can take it right back to give to someone else. To achieve that "turning of the tables," communism and socialism is about abusing the heavy hand of government to crush the individual for the purported benefit of all. It is about deeply flawed and even corrupt politicians and bureaucrats deciding how the redistribution is to be done and inevitably degrading the condition for all, not elevating. It is about participants being forced against their will. The government can only "give" prosperity to some by taking it from others. Without agency and pure intent of all, the inevitable outcome is that the slothful yet perfectly capable are subsidized by the industrious until the will and the capacity of the industrious collapses and soon after the entire system implodes (i.e. Greece, Venezuela, USSR, North Korea, etc.). When forced by government, the common good eventually becomes common bondage.

The ultimate aspiration is for ALL to be "made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift," not for SOME to be cut down so OTHERS can be "made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift." Notice the essential role of the phrase: MADE FREE. Preservation of freedom, liberty, agency, and choice are absolutely essential to prosperity for all. Destruction of these is the surest path to poverty and deprivation economically, spiritually, and in every other aspect of the human experience.

Redistribution of genius and talents too?

Communism and socialism are usually talked about in terms of redistribution of property, money in particular. That is the physical economy, the economy of stuff and things. What about the economy of talent, ideas, natural gifts, creativity, and human achievement? In order to illustrate how broken, destructive, and misguided using the power of government to "equalize" society can get, imagine for a moment applying the same absurd principles of redistribution to things like talent, ability, intellect and the many other human gifts we are born with. The great artists, thinkers, composers, teachers, musicians, athletes, inventors, scientists, physicians, philosophers, authors, scholars and an endless list of like creators have lifted the human condition, soul, and mind infinitely. Each was born with a spectacular gift that surely millions would also love to have but don't. They didn't deserve to be born with those inherited gifts. But, they also had to work lifetimes at extreme personal sacrifice to refine those gifts and achieve what they did with their natural born talent. Thus, in the end, they absolutely did deserve what they achieved. From their gifts, all humanity is abundantly blessed and in their debt.

Financial economic condition has a similar messy combination of undeserved versus hard earned dynamics. Think of how the human condition has advanced from the labors of the great entrepreneurs, inventors, business and idea innovators, industrialists, technologists, and financiers. Some have earned vast wealth with all that financial talent, some have not. Some leverage that wealth for yet greater entrepreneurial or philanthropic achievement and benefit to humanity. Some misuse it as described above. Yet, on the whole, the rest of us are lifted by their achievements. Freedom to achieve is the key. To be free to thrive and magnify our gifts for the good of mankind, we must also be free to fail, misuse, and even waste our gifts.

As an aside from my core point: Yes, a system based on freedom and free markets (i.e. capitalism) also comes with complex and valid debates about human rights, fair labor compensation and conditions, and a host of other complicated topics. I went to school to be a music teacher then chose another path in part because of compensation. To me it is a great tragedy that some our most noble, fundamental, and influential professions are so unfairly under-compensated. The teaching profession is personal to me, but there are countless other imbalances worthy of discussion. Here I'll respect the many sides of the argument, but not attempt to unravel it. I'll only say here that allowing men and women the freedom to create, innovate, and prosper has brought incredible advances in the quality of human life. Depriving people of freedom and restricting their prosperity has only brought misery and destruction. This doesn't mean we ignore the inequities or absolve society of the obligation to "deal justly one with another" and strive to make all "partakers of the heavenly gift." It just means we must use the utmost caution and restraint when using the hammer of government to solve for those inequities. We must avoid the harmful and unintended consequence of hurting us all by crippling those who have so much to give in lifting humanity all in a misguided attempt at equalization.

Back to my core point, it seems so tempting to say that so-and-so doesn't deserve the money he has so let's take it and spread it around to people who do. It seems so easy to say that about Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates since they made such vast financial fortunes with their gifts. You may or may not like those guys, or what they did with their wealth. But, can you imagine a world without the advances they brought? Or worse, can you imagine doing that to the non-financial yet intensely unequal gifts of Beethoven, Einstein, John Williams, Duke Ellington, Victor Hugo, Pythagoras or Socrates? Imagine saying those people don't deserve all that natural genius? Next, imagine taking some arbitrary huge percentage of their natural creative gifts away so we could spread it around to the rest of us all in the name of equality? That's insanity! For starters, my minute fraction of one-one-billionth redistribution of the talent of Stravinsky would do nothing for me to accomplish my deep personal aspiration to be a great composer. But imagine what the world would be deprived of if we actually did have the ability to cut him down and spread him around like that. Imagine doing that to all of the other great minds in human history. We'd still be stuck mindlessly and eternally in our ancient caves of disease, disconnection, and deprivation. In spite of the endless flaws and inequities of our modern world, the average person still lives a better, richer life that kings of old due to the advances brought by those with great genius.

I don't want to live in a world where audacious and ambitious people like any of those above are not free to chase their crazy dreams and devote themselves to their amazing talents. I want others who have more talent and genius than me making my world and the world for my grandchildren better. I take true joy in their achievements and feel great gratitude as a beneficiary of them. Some geniuses make vast fortunes with their gifts. I'm good with that. Sadly, many live and die destitute. That is wrong and is an eternal human paradox. I think society has a moral obligation to fix it, just not by relying on a flawed and corrupt government to decide who is a genius and who deserves what. Regardless, it would be an unimaginable travesty to humanity for those given such unequal gifts and talents of the mind and spirit to be cut down and spread around in the name of equality like we already try to do to those with unequal financial gifts. Fortunately, we don't have the means to achieve equality in all of those areas. So far, there is no obscene or bizarre "sci-fi mind ray" form of taxing and redistributing creativity and ingenuity, at least not yet. But the thought of it is laughable. The stupidity and destruction is obvious. How can the stupidity not be just as obvious when it comes to the one thing we have figured out how to redistribute: money and property, vital gifts and resources a free people can and should leverage to build a better world for the rest of us.

Here is a more personal take on this same theme of "redistribution of talent." Equality: The Haves and Have Nots

The messy search for the proper role of government.

Before you think me mindless, cruel, extreme, cold, and heartless, it is important to insert that some level of government based safety net or welfare should have a place for those who otherwise cannot care for themselves. Remember, all my writings are around the theme of "balancing the pendulum." This isn't about eliminating wise and good government from playing its proper role. It is about using restraint in keeping that role in balance. Socialism and communism are extreme solutions with no balance and extremely harmful outcomes. What is the proper role of government in creating that safety net? I don't want to break that down here. It is complicated. I'll be attacked from all sides and I don't want that to distract from my core message. On the one hand, government welfare is a slippery slope that grows exponentially and can be widely abused both by recipients as well as the government who can use that "giving of free stuff" as political bribery to control and manipulate the recipients. On the other hand, we do have a deep moral obligation to care for those in need and not just become a barbaric "survival of the fittest" society. See again the 4 Nephi quote above. Let the debate for the proper balance of that be had elsewhere. With proper restraint, that is not what I'm opposing here. I'm opposing the wholesale redistribution and equalization of society promoted by communism and socialism and the lie that somehow politicians so empowered can magically wield that power wisely, justly, and fairly to the elevation of humanity and not its corruption and ultimate poverty.

Simply put, all men and women given enough power will inevitably succumb to the corruption of another sad foundational principle I believe deeply in: Unrighteous Dominion. I'm just as vulnerable to abuse of power as anyone. I don't want me or anyone else to have enough power to decide what the rest of us do or don't deserve, what we can or cannot do or be, or how it should all be spread around. Even if those in power could stay pure, they don't have the intellectual capacity or the immense ability of judgment for the monumental and unachievable task. And, with that much power, it is virtually impossible to remain pure. It is the inevitability of human fallibility that means government is NOT the Utopian answer those who believe in MORE government want to it to be.

Socialism and communism are some of the most extreme versions of "more government." As much as good people want those to be the answer to all the flaws and inequality of humanity, they only make those conditions worse. It would be extreme and unbalanced to say that government does not play some reasonable and restrained role in all this. But, it would be far more extreme and unbalanced, and far more harmful to the human condition to say that government is THE answer, the be all and end all in making it happen. That supreme reliance on government to do what government simply cannot do, and the hateful destruction of liberty as the means to do it, is the ultimate failing of communism and socialism.

Lift humanity by love and unity, not force and enmity.

Yes, communism and socialism inevitably brings equality, but an inevitable equality of poverty, hate, resentment, social strife, and human degradation. It brings loss of ambition, loss of innovation, loss of human spirit, and most of all loss of liberty. The one exception, of course, is the lucky bureaucrats and politicians who get to skim off their unequal share on the backs of the rest. The problem is, equality (the good and elevated kind) is impossible when achieved by means of force and hate. Some think communism and consecration are the same. They could not be more opposite. We can and must aspire that ideal of lifting all mankind, enabling all to become "partakers of the heavenly gift." But, you will never bring a people to that noble and righteous outcome by force, violence, cutting them down, and deprivation of the human dignity of rights, liberty, and agency. You lift a people by letting them be free to achieve, love, serve, fail, succeed, choose, and thrive. [By Jason Barney]

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