In Defense of Socialism

Will Critchfield '21, Guest Writer

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Hannibal Ad Portas. Translated from Latin this term means “Hannibal at the gates,” and was used by Cicero in his first Philippic when he believed Rome was in imminent danger. When this term was used thousands of years ago, it conjured a spectral image of the enemy come to destroy Roman society, the phantom general leading the charge. From the depths of antiquity comes the new rallying cry, Socialist Ad Portas! After reading last week’s article in The Dickinsonian concerning socialism, I feel that it is imperative to respond and discuss the importance of this ideology in today’s society.

Before I begin discussing socialism, it is vital to understand what branch of socialism I will be advocating. I wish to make it clear that the cruel socialist dictatorship in Venezuela and the former dictatorship of the U.S.S.R are condemnable and oppressive states. When advocating for socialism, I point to Great Britain as an example of the ideal country. Here socialism is brought about democratically and through peaceful republican representation; such is the way I advocate for socialism’s implementation.

Now to discuss last week’s article concerning socialism. One of the key points made was the supposed obsession by socialists to deal with the wealth gap. The article continued further to imply that this gap was not an issue. Unfortunately, this is not true. When wealth is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of a few, the economy is jeopardized due to a lack of significant middle-class investment. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, recently shared a similar sentiment stating, “The increasing concentration of wealth is weakening the economy because the rich only spend a fraction of what they earn. The economy depends on the spending of middle- and working-class families, who are under increasing economic stress.” In my opinion, the best way to fight this problem is to raise the top tax rate to 50%, a sharp increase from the current policy. A significant increase in taxes for the wealthy is not a cure-all, but it’s a good start.

Concerning Bill Gates, there is nothing immoral about wanting to combat economic inequality even if it means the second richest person alive will have to forgo a few more billions. While Gates donates roughly thirty percent of his wealth, it is a nominal donation for a man who has a net worth of $95 billion. At some point in the process of accumulation, when so much excess wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, such as Gates, while so many in the world suffer from crushing poverty ethics surely must come into play. Some would argue that this poverty can be solved by a laissez faire approach and that the wealth will simply trickle down if left alone. To that I can only ask; who wants a trickle? When you are thirsty, do you want a trickle of water? When your car is out of fuel, do you want a trickle of gas? When you are sick, do you want a trickle of medicine? I believe I know the answer. You may well be wondering what gives us the moral authority to do this. I will answer that question with a quote from humorist Don Marquis, “When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him ‘Whose?’”

The article also suggests that all socialists cling to collectivization. Once again, I must rebuke this claim. I firmly believe in the power of the market, but a market that is stringently regulated to ensure equity. I obviously don’t want collectivization, the use of the word comrade as a title, or to sing the Internationale. What I do want is a fair market that is reigned into check.

After dealing with issues raised in last week’s article, we must now turn our attention to how socialism has improved contemporary society. Every advocate for workplace reform has harkened to socialism, knowingly or otherwise. The minimum wage, safer working conditions, paid vacations and holidays, as well as many other reforms have roots in socialism. The public-school system and the GI Bill are both examples of socialist programs. The highway system and other infrastructure programs are examples of this ideology at work. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our country has been built by socialism.

Despite the contributions of socialism, it is still treated as the enemy of the people by many in the current political climate. When looking at this specific branch of moderate socialism, it becomes clear how advantageous a system it can be if implemented. While I respect the author for stating his views, the article in last week’s Dickinsonian served only to cement socialism as America’s bogeyman, America’s Hannibal at the gates.

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