Many of the people of this community belong, as I do, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I hope readers won’t mind as I address my commentary especially to them, although I hope that it will be useful to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation:
We understand that humans have agency — a gift from God that allows us to choose how to act. Having a choice naturally means being able to make both right choices and wrong choices. Wrong choices can vary from small to disastrous, but this magnificent gift the Lord grants us — agency — places these matters in our hands as essential to salvation.
I have always believed socialism to be the antithesis of agency and our teachings. Gary C. Lawrence covers this topic in his recently released book “The Magnificent Gift of Agency.” Lawrence writes that socialism stands in “direct contradiction to Joseph Smith’s approach to teach people correct principles and let them govern themselves.”
He also notes, importantly, that “socialism will never spontaneously appear in a thriving society that follows the principles of agency. The statism trend toward more government feeds socialism. More government means more force, precisely what socialists want because force is critical to bully their ideas into existence.”
This is the direction our government in our country has been headed — down a road to socialism. It is a direction in which a central authority makes decisions for the broader community. Those decisions may range from what products to buy, to restrictions over the ownership of private property to who gets to earn a living doing what. Socialism is not a creature only of national governments. It’s rooted in public policies and ordinances at your local city hall, county courthouse and state legislature.
Unfortunately, our kids have been taught to favor socialism, and some of those kids have grown up to be politicians who then see nothing wrong with taking the gift of agency away from people. Socialists argue it is for the betterment of society when the government gets involved.
For example, the socialists argue that tax policy should be used to reward or punish behavior: a tax break for homeownership or a penalty for not buying health insurance. Further, socialists are content to order businesses to give preferential treatment to some people, to the detriment of others, if it results in a greater approximation of what they consider fair. Socialists are all too eager to show the world they can do a better job — on others, of course.
Socialists always have an excuse to justify their actions. And socialists will usually claim they are not actually socialists. Sort of the way Bernie Sanders’ supporters decided to categorize themselves as Democratic Socialists. Or how socialists re-labeled themselves as progressives. Or how some Democrats re-labeled themselves Republicans in order to win elections. But they are socialists just the same, and some politicians who are not socialists will, from time to time, vote in favor of socialist programs, even if they are loathe to describe them as such.
Our country has become so softened to the nature of socialism that I worry about our country’s future. The public sentiment, especially among many youths, is to support a powerful central government that restricts our basic constitutionally protected rights.
It’s a free market and the abundance of choices made by millions of people in a free society — and the gift of agency (to act and not be acted upon) that — made our country the greatest, most prosperous the world has ever seen. It’s up to us to defend it.