Chris Stewart: U.S. faces an imminent threat of socialism

Venezuelan demonstrators throw stones during clashes with authorities, at the border between Brazil and Venezuela, Saturday, Feb.23, 2019. Tensions are running high in the Brazilian border city of Pacaraima. Thousands remained at the city's international border crossing with Venezuela to demand the entry of food and medicine.(AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

I was a young man when my father stood before me and swore me in as an officer in the United States Air Force. I didn’t imagine at that time that we would get to a day when we would be having a serious conversation about whether we would embrace a socialist future for our children. But that fact is, we are in the midst of such a conversation.

Recent polling suggests that a growing number of young Americans have a favorable view of socialism. As a result, candidates for political office are increasingly advocating socialist policies and programs. Most, if not all, of the leading Democratic candidates for president have embraced socialist policies that would put our nation on a path of deprivation and despair.

This troubling development is a sign that too many Americans are unaware of the bleak realities of socialism. For this reason, I have organized the Anti-Socialism Caucus in the House of Representatives. The purpose of this caucus is to educate the American people and lawmakers why socialist policies and programs ultimately end up hurting the very people they purport to help.

The siren call of socialism is always the same — if citizens are willing to give up a small measure of political and economic liberty, they will gain equality and security in return. And yes, the idea that a centralized government, operated by intelligent and just public servants, can organize economic activity and guarantee a more equal society is enticing. And while I don’t doubt some of the current advocates of socialism have noble intentions, they are completely ignorant of the historical reality.

For example, a recent commentary in this paper observed that the Soviet Union was, at one point, an engine of scientific research. True enough. But the author conveniently ignored the fact that the Soviet Union maintained its scientific achievements only for a very short period of time, and only on the backs of conscripted laborers and researchers, leaving millions of victims in its wake. Ask yourself, what was the latest successful innovation to come from Russia? Most people can’t because there are few, if any.

The same commentary observed that Cuba had made important advances in medicine. Whatever the theoretical advantages of socialized medicine in Cuba are, I know not a single American who goes there for life-saving medical treatment. But I do know the reality of living in Cuba was so horrifying that millions fled the socialist paradise, with hundreds of thousands risking their lives to cross the open ocean in unsafe homemade rafts.

Today in Venezuela, millions of citizens are suffering from chronic hunger, many to the point of starvation. This from a country blessed with immense natural resources and fertile farmlands. So, yes, socialism delivered its promise of equality in Venezuela — albeit one where 90 percent of its citizens live below the poverty line, leaving them equally powerless, hungry, and miserable.

The reality is this; socialism starts out with high-minded notions of equality and justice but ends with mass graves in the Soviet Union, mass emigration from Cuba, and mass starvation in Venezuela.

Modern apologists for socialism claim that socialism failed in those countries only because it wasn’t properly implemented, or because the right people weren’t in charge. This vanity ignores a century of failure.

Modern socialists often point to Canada or the Nordic countries as examples of successful socialist countries. But this is patently false. For example, in 2015, the prime minister of Denmark said, “I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy. The Nordic model is … a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.” Canada rates higher on the Index of Economic Freedom than does the United States, with many Nordic nations falling in the top 20. Clearly economic freedom is key to their generous social safety nets.

More important than the economic despair that socialism creates is the inevitable loss of freedom. The simple fact is, socialism can’t be implemented without taking individual rights and giving that power to the state, a process which always results in the reduction of individual liberty.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government the delegates had chosen for the citizens of the thirteen states. He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Mr. Franklin’s answer contained both a promise and a warning.

Today we face a significant threat to our republic — the alarming resurgence of socialism as a mainstream political ideology. I hope you will join me in standing for freedom and against this threat.

Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart speaks before the House Republican Caucus Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. Stewart compared President Donald Trump's governing style to Rodney Dangerfield's golfer character in "Caddyshack," saying that while the president's style is "very, very loud," and distracting, he's able to do what he's trying to achieve. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Chris Stewart represents the 2nd Congressional District of Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives.