- - Thursday, August 28, 2014

Whether it’s merited or not, celebrities wield a lot of influence over political issues. Until Pamela Anderson spoke out against ALS research and animal testing, millions of Facebook friends were forced to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads or risk social media ostracizing. Now that the former “Baywatch” star refused the ice bucket challenge, people can once again choose for themselves which charity to support.

Just as Pamela Anderson made it OK to diss the ice bucket challenge, Angelina Jolie recently made it okay to call President Obama a socialist.

While Ms. Jolie received a lot of pushback when it was reported that she called the president a socialist, her star power put the concept of socialism in the spotlight. Consequently, it became clear that many are still unaware of just how dangerous socialism is. There seems to be a myth, even among conservatives, that socialism can be a good thing if it is administered by good people.

So maybe it’s time for a reminder about the flaws and risks of socialism. A socialist economy is defined as one in which the government controls more than half the production and distribution of goods and services. The United States of America is teetering on that threshold. Why is this so alarming?

1. Socialism cements the chasm between the social classes. Unless someone is independently wealthy like Warren Buffet or Paris Hilton, socialist tax rates of 40, 50 or 60 percent make it nearly impossible to get ahead. After paying the bills, there is little left to save for the future, to invest in a new business or to leave behind assets for your family.

2. Under socialism, the structure of accountability is morally upside down: The individual exists to serve and support the government and its policy agenda. Supporters will argue that this is OK, as long as that policy agenda is good (such as, say, Sweden) rather than bad (such as, say, Cuba). It should be the other way around. The government should exist only to the extent to serve and support the ability of individuals to achieve their own agendas (provide for their families, start their own business, etc.). Socialism inverts the government/people relationship our Founders envisioned, who argued in the Declaration of Independence that “governments are instituted among men” only for the purpose of securing unalienable individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

3. Socialism reduces an individual’s worth to a mere cog in the government wheel — a utilitarian approach to human dignity. It disregards the unique value of each person, only measuring what contribution a citizen makes to the functioning of the state. Under socialism, private or state-owned corporations and other organizations exist only to produce goods, services or revenue that sustain the state and its goals. The usefulness of an individual is measured in his or her ability to contribute to those goals. The infirm, the weak, the young, the old, the artists, the poets, the philosophers — they are all valued as less than fully human, not worthy of full rights and protections because they do not contribute to the functioning of the state.

Pope John Paul II went so far as to say that socialism “does violence” to the human soul. Those are pretty strong words based on his own painful and personal experience. Socialists in the Soviet bloc, the Nazis (the National Socialist party of the Third Reich), and their fellow travelers in Asia, Latin America and Africa were responsible for more human atrocity during the 20th century alone than all prior centuries of human history combined.

There’s a reason for that: When you reduce the value of a human life from priceless to, well, whatever he can contribute to the government agenda, no matter how benevolent you think that agenda is, crimes against humanity are always the result.

Socialism always starts with rainbows, unity and fairness. But it always, without exception, ends badly. So, despite all its flaws and risks, I choose freedom and free markets instead.