I try to steer clear of politics at Thanksgiving dinner, because I can get pretty passionate, and because my brother happens to be a Trump supporter. But when the subject turned to taxes, Bernie Sanders, and the evils of socialism, I had to chime in.
What my brother fails to understand, as I think most of the “socialism is pure evil” crowd fails to understand, is that their fear of Big Government is NO DIFFERENT from my fear of rampant, unchecked capitalism. “The political spectrum is a circle,” I explained to him, “if you move far enough to the Right, you’ll end up in the same place as if you move all the way to the Left.” The danger isn’t socialism OR capitalism, it’s concentration of power, influence and wealth in the hands of the few.
Whether the government owns everything, or Wall Street does, it makes no difference. Now you may be thinking, if you’re wearing a MAGA hat, that at least with Wall Street, you are free to boycott the company. But can you really? When the CEO of Bank of America owns your house, and the president of Pfizer holds the patent to the drug that keeps you alive, it’s a bit harder, and you can’t vote them out. Would you still feel free, living on the side of the road, after the bank drastically raises your mortgage? When you lose your job to a machine at Amazon? When you’re slowly dying of diabetes, or anaphylactic shock, or some other ailment, after some guy in accounting decides to raise the price of your insulin by 900%, or your EPI pen to an amount you simply can’t afford, and no insurance will take you because you were sick that one time?
This leads me to George Orwell, the one author I wish EVERY person voting this November would read. In 1984, Orwell warns us of Big Brother, a fascistic government closely mirroring the current, truth-denying, cult-of-personality worship that is the Trump administration. But Animal Farm, on its surface, appears to be the flip side of that political coin (my cover has a pig marked with a hammer and sickle). Now if communism, and to a lesser degree, socialism, is the pure evil the MAGA crowd claims it to be, than Animal Farm should be their go-to-manual, their answer to 1984, right? But it isn’t. And here’s why.
The story of Animal Farm is one of social revolution, wherein pigs and cows and chickens and sheep rebel against their master, a human farmer, to take possession of the fruits of their labors: their eggs, their milk, their own flesh, etc. Their goal is freedom, from the oppressive actions of a greedy, capitalist system, one that has turned them into slaves of production. They demand better working conditions, better housing, more time for leisure, and a plan for retirement. Basically, all of Bernie’s talking points. The animals’ socialist experiment, however, ever so gradually turns to disaster, but not for the reasons you might find in Atlas Shrugged. No brilliant job creators are oppressed, and there isn’t the problem of lazy cows mooching off the system. In fact, every one of the lesser classes, the chickens and the sheep, works tirelessly for a better life. So what goes wrong?
The pigs, with their superior intellect, and the dogs, with their sharp canines, take advantage of those with lesser abilities. In time, the pigs at the top of the hierarchy adopt the traits of the old human farmer, enforcing terrible working conditions, selling eggs and milk for their own benefit, to eventually standing upright and wearing clothes. By the last page, the other animals can no longer distinguish between human and pig. In brilliant, Orwellian form, this final scene encapsulates the dangers on the Left and the Right. The failure of communism stems not from a willingness to make an economically fairer society, but from the unshakable greed inherent to men’s hearts. The Russian people traded a greedy Czar for a greedy Stalin. In the same vein, we must never so blindly trust in capitalism, to the point that we permit the most wealthy and powerful to own everything, to monopolize every business, control every bank, write every law, choose every leader, and buy every election.
Whether men in power sit in an elected office or in their own mansions, the culprit is the same. The men and the pigs are the same. Orwell tried to warn us. We need to listen.