As responsible citizens, are we not obliged, when some indolent slob leaves a mess behind, to put things right? Were said slob to deposit smears of goo on the kitchen counter in the process of feeding his maw, would we allow these smears to remain? Were said slob to thoughtlessly toss the greasy wrappings of his McRib meal from his vehicle as he passed through our neighborhood, would we not pick up after him, as odious as the chore may be? Were he to leave a public toilet unflushed, would we not flush it?
The larger question is, would we, as responsible citizens, sit idly by and watch the labor of generations deteriorate into chaos and confusion because the indolent slobs may now actually out-number responsible citizens? No, we would not. However tempting it may be to throw up our hands and despair "what's the f***ing use?" it is in the nature of responsible citizens to march on, despite the odds and despite the thanklessness.
Which brings me to our duty to make the attempt, no matter how overwhelming the task may seem, to answer the lies and distortions that flow from the Right like vomit from a frat boy's craw. It makes the task no less unpleasant that the conservative mind would see such corrections as further evidence of the liberal media at work. But it is not within our power as responsible citizens to convince every stunted dullard that what he accepts as reality is a sloppy swill of crap. No, stunted dullards will always be stunted dullards, and it's likely they will always be swilling one variety of crap or another.
It is our obligation, though, to ensure that the truth gets spoken. Our culture can not survive if our citizenry can no longer distinguish between ... for instance ... the blather of a Glenn Beck and the reasonableness of a Bill Moyers, because all the reasonable people have gone silent. To this end, I am answering a charge we have heard over and over from the Right: that socialism is a great murderer of human beings. I was moved finally to do this by a recent letter to The Idaho Statesman in which the author repeated--original ideas are not one of those things for which conservatives are famous--the litany of death perpetrated by 20th century socialists. Of course, they always list Hitler as a socialist, not having a nuanced enough understanding of political history to accept that the Nazis belong on their side of the ledger, not the Left. Then they add Stalin and Pol Pot, Mao and Castro, etceteras, etceteras, never mentioning those socialist and semi-socialist nations without a single mass grave to their name.
I would never argue that illiberal socialists like Stalin and Mao weren't responsible for millions of deaths. But what we never hear from the Right--or much from the Left, for that matter--is the death toll of that system so diametrically opposite to socialism, that being the free market--defined broadly as the power of business interests to accumulate as much wealth as they can, using any methods they can dream up.
It's hard to know where to start listing the atrocities of unfettered capitalism, considering that early pharaohs and kings and emperors and tsars and rajahs might easily be described as basic free marketeers who succeeded to such an extent that they eventually drove all their competitors out of business. But in this modern age, the advent of New World slavery is as good a place as any to begin the catalog. What is slavery, if not the ultimate expression of laissez faire? Tragically, we have no count of the humans who died in ship's holds or plantation chains. Was it in the millions? All we can say for sure is that they died, and horribly, in the cause of other men's profit.
Then there were the original Americans who found out about genocide long before the word was common. And what, primarily, was their cause of death? Bullets? Forced relocation? Disease induced with the purpose of extermination? Let's just call it, for convenience sake, "that entrepreneurial spirit of our pioneer ancestors."
We must say, America was actually a late-comer to the slaughter of indigenous people in the free pursuit of gain. We learned from the Spanish and French, the Dutch and English. Nor did the capitalist carnage end when the 20th century started. The diamond mines of South Africa? That wasn't in the name of socialism anymore than are the coal mines of West Virginia. The subjugation of the Middle-East? Sure, the subjugators may have promoted a socialist regime or two, but the reason was that some fervent free market folk wanted to get their hands on a desert-full of oil.
I could go on, enumerating tit for tat, for as long as we have history to review. King Leopold's corpse run-up in the Belgium Congo alone exceeded whatever count Pol Pot reached. And again, it wasn't in the cause of socialism. The aborigines of Australia--does their eradication count for as much as European Jews? Stalin's statism denied food to millions in the Ukraine, no doubt, and it will take decades for the number of Americans who waste away because they have been denied medical care by a for-profit insurance system to compete with that grim total. Still ... dead is dead. And are the dead any happier knowing they got that way in the name of free enterprise?
Here's a truth you'll never hear from the Right: neither Karl Marx or Adam Smith have blood on their hands. The killing fields of history were perpetrated by men who would use any excuse available to justify their crimes, including, "Hey, it's just business."