On January 15, 2019, John Fetterman made history. He took the oath of office and became the first Lieutenant Governor in Pennsylvania to openly adopt the label of socialism to describe his policy preferences. Fetterman, along with Governor Wolf and other Democrats, would probably be quick to point out that they aren’t “really socialists.” They support “democratic socialism.”
In a 2018 article, Democratic Socialism Doesn’t Exist: Like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, Democratic Socialism Exists Only in Myth, James Davenport makes the case that democracy and socialism are incompatible:
“Equally important in debunking the democratic socialist myth, is the fact that no truly socialist system has ever been compatible (or even tried to be) with democracy…
“The need of socialism to control all aspects of economic activity will necessarily lead those in power to restrict the available choices and decisions of individuals. This course of action will also require them to reduce the political power of those individuals to protect the plans of those in charge.
“Again, history demonstrates this truth. No single country that has attempted to incorporate the abolition of private property and institute state ownership of the means of production has done so through democratic institutions and processes. In every case, this transition was not carried out through the peaceful means of debate, persuasion, negotiation, and votes but through the power of the gun. They literally killed millions of people (intentionally and unintentionally) to accomplish their socialist vision.
“Socialist revolutions have always advocated the abolition of markets and private property. The fact that this has always been forced on populations through violence rather than democratic procedures, and the fact that the people within these countries became impoverished, should tell us something about this system.
“Ultimately, socialism is incompatible with democracy because democracy, like market capitalism, allows power to flow to the individual. Democracy tolerates dissent, individual differences, and a multitude of different priorities. Market capitalism allows those differences to be managed peacefully through voluntary exchange….”
We see evidence for the incompatibility between socialism and democracy every day. Think of the executive overreach we observe at the state and federal level and consider what types of policies an activist judiciary typically advances. Socialism and every other flavor of collectivism are fundamentally incompatible with individual liberty. This is a fact that has been born out again and again throughout history and around the world. When the central planners don’t get the outcome they want, the public is subjected to more and more heavy-handed regulation and an even more invasive government.
As Margaret Thatcher once noted, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” She was right then, and she’s right today. Eventually the bill comes due, and it’s never pretty.