In light of the current-day debate regarding a democratic republic embracing capitalism versus a socialist form of government, here’s why I love our “Land of Liberty.”
Celebrating liberty or embracing socialism?
It’s our nation’s birthday – a time to celebrate the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” For me, these are more than words.
I lived in Moscow, capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for fourteen years. It was a country that suppressed and punished those seeking such freedoms. In addition to teaching mathematics in a diplomatic school, I was there to covertly seek out underground religious dissidents. I made friends in underground Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish circles. Here are a few firsthand observations made while there.
Basic human rights were suppressed and denied. Property ownership and self-determination did not exist. Freedom of speech and worship was persecuted and punished. I saw six friends go to prison for their faith. Others were surveilled and harassed. One’s first conviction was an automatic three-year sentence at a labor camp. A second conviction earned five years.
I observed how socialism makes everyone equal by “providing” them the lowest quality of life. Equal housing was reduced to poorly constructed cement high-rise apartments assigned by the state. There was no movement apart from government permission. One family of six lived in a one-room flat waiting years for a larger apartment.
Medical care was affordable to all but, the availability of basic medicines was not. One friend needed a tooth extraction. The service was affordable but, Novocain would cost extra. In his case, this wasn’t an issue because there was simply no Novocain.
Consumer products and services were consistently in short supply. Visit the store called “Vegetables” and you might find cabbage or carrots that had been dumped into metal bins, still covered with the dirt from the field. At the “Fish-Meat” store, you might find a few dried fish. The unrefrigerated meat display cases were usually empty. If a line was seen outside a store, it was the norm to, first, get into line and, then, ask, “What are they selling?” Those who could afford it, would buy two of whatever was being sold knowing they would be able to barter it with someone who had something different trade.
As an American in Moscow, I could buy a car immediately because I had “hard currency;” Soviet citizens paid in advance and usually waited ten years for delivery. Shortly after purchasing my car, the inside driver’s side door latch broke and the passenger side window became unusable. When a police officer stopped me one day, I had to crawl across and exit from the passenger side. When I explained to the officer why I had done so, he asked, “This must be a new car?”
And, freedom of the press? The nightly newscast at 9 pm, called “Time,” was a lesson in socialist journalism. Broadcasts always began with positive stories of socialist “achievements” in Soviet republics or socialist countries like Cuba or Viet Nam. Reported next were negative influences of countries like the United States. Such stories often highlighted US citizens protesting against their own country.
Such broadcasts taught me it is a socialist tactic to accuse your “enemy” of doing exactly what you are doing. I learned the socialist definition of peace really means the elimination of opposition. I learned the goal is not compromise; it is complete control. Hypocrisy, lying, and violence are permissible if they contribute to victory. And, I saw how socialist strategies undermine free countries by instigating dissatisfaction, division, chaos, and lawlessness.
How distressing to see citizens of our country embrace the socialist deception. How sad to see “progressive” politicians use the same tactics as I observed being used by the Soviet government during the Reagan presidency.
From our founding Fathers’ “Declaration,” the United States of America was meant to be an experiment in self-governing. This was made possible by a voluntary, individual commitment to Biblical moral values. These values were not dictated by government but, voluntarily embraced by individuals who recognized they answered to a higher Power.
The concept of the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was borrowed from 18th century physician and philosopher, John Locke, who advocated for the right to life, liberty, and property. He understood that the right to own and use property ensured an individual’s economic independence and security leading to prosperity. With this in mind, he wrote, “ Government has no other end, but the preservation of property.”
The role of government, at our founding, was to protect everyone’s right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” so long as it does not infringe on another’s right to do the same. Following this principle, our nation has become the most unique and prosperous force for good in history.
Nations that have played with or been forced into socialism have either been damaged or destroyed.
Ours is a heritage worth celebrating. And, it is one worth perfecting. Those who seek to “transform” our nation into something else through socialism are either ignorant of history or opposed to the purpose for which our nation was founded.
Dan Peterson is the President of the Coalition for Property Rights-FL. He lived and worked in Moscow, Russia from 1981-1987 and 1990-1998.