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Reblogged:Socialism as a Criminal Rationalization

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Michael Shellenberger, author of the newly-released San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, recently appeared as columnist in the New York Post, where he comments at length on the rapid and disturbing transformation of a once-thriving shopping district in San Francisco to a deserted, Detroit-like hellscape.

Much of this Shellenberger ties directly to the anti-law enforcement policies that have in recent years become fashionable in places with hard-left electorates, and the piece is worth reading for that alone.

But what I especially appreciate is that Shellenberger takes things a step further, by explicitly stating that the ideology of socialism serves to rationalize crime, especially theft:
Boudin.jpg
"The challenge going forward is how do we close a jail?" -- San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin, pictured (Image by SFGovTV, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)
Would-be criminals rationalize what they are about to do before they do it. They think to themselves that nobody is hurt by robbing Louis Vuitton or even a Zara store. If they are clever, they might even justify to themselves that it is a good thing, since their actions redistribute wealth. Criminals since the 1960s have defended their crimes as the acts of revolutionary anti-capitalists.

Such is the logic of socialism. The real crime, according to Karl Marx and others for the last 150 years, is private property and capitalism. "Property is theft" is one of the socialist movement's most important slogans. Thus, the argument goes, any real-world crime -- from robbing Louis Vuitton to assaulting a rich person -- should be viewed as a revolutionary act. Anything that takes wealth from the rich and distributes it more equally, including pain, could be considered for the greater "good." [bold added]
I have yet to read Shellenberger's book on the broader subject, so I don't know how far he takes this line of questioning, but even going just this far is a good thing: If the ideals of a society lead so easily to crime when put into practice, shouldn't those ideals be examined more closely, if not called into question?

At what point does Property is theft stop sounding like a noble ideal and become a direct threat? When some wealthy Other has is made to pay taxes? When some luxury store gets looted? When your house gets broken into because someone else sees you as a milch cow? When someone snatches the food right off your plate? One hopes that Shellenberger has raised this question before it becomes too up-close-and-personal for too many of us.

I would recommend going much further, to say the least, but the conversation has to start somewhere, and I am glad to see such an influential intellectual starting it. His writing and its timing both remind me of the title of a book by criminologist Stanton Samenow that I read many years ago: Before It's Too Late: Why Some Kids Get Into Trouble -- and What Parents Can Do About It. The sooner more of us understand the real-life danger such immoral and impractical (but allegedly noble) ideologies such as socialism pose, and why, the better. (My favorite intellectual, Ayn Rand -- who fled to the West to escape an entire society governed by a variant of socialism -- has quite a bit to say on the subject.)

At the risk of sounding sarcastic, let me add: Perhaps we'll even reach the point of realizing one day that taking things from other people is wrong -- even when the government does so at the behest of a majority of voters.

-- CAV

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