Socialism & Communism-The Difference Between The Two: Today, we’re going to talk about the difference between communism and socialism and what these terms actually mean. Socialism is becoming more and more accepted in the vernacular and even in policy, so what can we do to turn this around?
Air Date:Â 06/12/2018
Guest: Mark Hall
On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton
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Transcription note: Â As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.
Faith And The Culture
Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. This is WallBuilders Live! Where we talk about the day”s hottest topics on policy, faith, and culture. Always from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.
We’re here with David Barton, America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders. Also Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor, he’s our president here at WallBuilders. And my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas state legislator.
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David, Tim, later in the program Mark David Hall will be back with us. He’s a professor out at George Fox University. We have him on often to talk about a lot of different things. Today we’re going to talk about the difference between communism and socialism. What do these terms actually mean? We’ve had a lot of programs recently referring to communism and socialism and what the American people think about those things. So, we’ll get Mark to talk about the specific of those definitions.
But I think most people today would say, “I’m not a communist” and “I’m not pro communist”, but there’s a lot of people that say, “I’m pro socialism”, they”re for socialism.
Well, it’s interesting that in recent years its become much, much, harder to really clearly identify things by labels. It’s just hard to do anymore. We used to be able to make a distinction a few years ago between progressives and secular progressives. And you really can’t do that much today. If you’re a progressive, you’re pretty much a secular progressive. And 15 years ago we could make a distinction between Democrats and liberal Democrats. You pretty much can’t do that now. Most elected officials that are Democrats are indeed liberal Democrats.
It”s Hard to Draw the Lines Anymore
It was not long ago we talked about that vote in the U.S. Congress where that the question was if a child survives an abortion and is born alive on a table, can you kill the child after it’s born alive on the table? And 97 percent of Democrats said “yes” you can. That’s a really liberal extreme position, but that’s where 97 percent of the Democrats were on that position. So, it really is hard to draw lines on what used to be classic historical definitions. And so what used to be marxism, or communism, or socialism, they’re just kind of morphing together.
So, you get elements in communism of socialism. Which, socialism used to be more the economic collective side. It was less coercive and communism was more coercive. And so there were these things and there’s just not as clear lines anymore when you talk about marxism, or communism, or socialism, or secular progressives, or liberal Democrats, or whatever. It’s just hard to draw the lines anymore.
I think maybe that’s why more and more people, when they’re answering a poll, they may say they’re pro socialism because they don’t really know what that word means. Or it’s been maybe given a more positive image with some of the things that they”ve heard of.
Well, I would say all of those “isms” that used to be considered fairly bad have now been given a fairly good perception of how great they are by institutions such as media and academia. In those two areas especially you’re going to hear the glories of socialism. We know this because we see polling of those who have recently been in college. And we can really see that when you look at, for example, younger millennials and you see what their view is on things like socialism. Washington Post recently pointed out that almost twice as many young millennials support socialism as their parents did.
A Massive Shift
So, in one generation you’ve seen this massive shift and this massive change. It really is because of the way socialism is being portrayed to them. And education is something really good, and really wholesome, and it brings equality, and it brings prosperity, and it brings fairness, and all of this. Well, that’s not the way it works historically and that certainly is not the way that it has worked in real life, in practical life.
So, there is this real confusion today because so many of the “isms” have been portrayed as being really good and producing good outcomes. Even though that’s not what statistics show, that’s what they’ve been taught. So, it really is hard to have conversations. It’s like I’m describing an apple and you’re seeing an orange. And so I’m telling you how bad an apple takes and you”re imagining what an orange taste like. So, we’re talking across each other because we now have definitions that literally have changed within the last 15 or 20 years from one generation to the next.
Well, let’s get some good definitions. Mark David Hall, our special guest. Stay with us, you’re listening to WallBuilders Live.
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Tim, you’ve already been doing this a couple of summers and seen the results of young people coming to this program. We’re going to see more of them coming this year.
Yeah, Rick, it”s something that”s been cool to see the transformation with young people coming in. The emphasis, for us, largely is a pursuit of truth. We have a culture that doesn’t know what truth is. We don’t know what biblical truth is, or constitutional truth, or the American heritage that we have. And so we really dive into original documents and say, “Well, what did they actually write? What did they actually do? Not just what did somebody say, what is actually true, and the truth is what’s transformational.
Yeah, guys. This really is a remarkable opportunity. And for those who want to spend time with us and spend time in the original documents, this is a great program. So, if you’re from 18 to 25, or you know someone who’s 18 to 25, send them to sign up for one of our three sessions this summer at WallBuilders.com/leadershiptraining.
Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live. Mark David Hall is back with us, professor over George Fox. Thanks for coming on, sir. Good to have you back.
Mark David Hall:
Well, happy to be here.
Do We Understand the Difference?
Hey, we’ve been talking on the program a couple times– we have several questions, actually, from listeners on this. And have been discussing how socialism is becoming more and more accepted in the vernacular and even in policy sometimes. Barna”s been showing about 41 percent actually supports even that word “socialism”. But we were talking on the program about, okay, socialism, marxism – do people understand the difference? Do we even understand the difference? We said, “Mark David Hall, that’s who we need to get on.” Let’s define these terms and really understand the difference.
So let’s talk Marxism. What is Marxism and do you see it in today’s socialism at all?
Mark David Hall:
Thanks for asking, Rick. Of course, none of these terms are written in stone, engraved in granite, and have unchangeable meanings. But in general, when I think of marxism, I think of the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. And Marxism is really an entire worldview of the entire philosophy of life that says everything is driven by economic determinism. That the underlying economic system determines morality, and religion, and virtue, and this sort of thing.
And it’s all heading in a particular direction that we left feudalism, that now we”re under the regime of capitalism, and we’re heading eventually towards communism, which will lead to all sorts of things – the demise of the family, the demise of private property, and this glorious utopia. So, it really is a very optimistic, but very naive view of the world and how the world acts.
Marx predicted that capitalism was about to completely collapse in England. And, of course, he was absolutely wrong. Capitalism has flourished, it’s produced a ton of wealth for everyone. It’s benefited everyone from the richest in society to the poorest in society. The poor people in America are far better off than the average person in the Soviet Union, for instance. So, I would say it’s an entire philosophy of life.
A Squishy Notion
Mark David Hall:
Whereas socialism– I think the reason, and I tend to be an optimist on these questions, I think the reason so many Americans are happy to identify themselves with aspects of socialism is because it is a really squishy notion, it’s not Marxism. I think most people think of socialism as a government regulating the economy in certain ways. Having minimum wage laws, requiring paid maternity leave, requiring worker safety laws, and that sort of thing.
And when you start thinking about that sort of thing people who aren”t marxist, kids say, “Yeah, paid maternity leave sounds like a good idea to me.” So, it’s easy to be supportive of that sort of thing. Whereas if you kind of push these people you’d find pretty quickly they aren’t actually Marxist.
And do you think with the socialist policies, part of it is, of course, a lack of, frankly, knowledge and education on economics and what the results of government being involved in all that is because it just sounds nice. It’s like, “Oh yeah, my sister is in that situation, or my cousin, or my neighbor, or whatever.” So, yeah, I really, think we should help them” and, “Oh, sure, let’s do it through government.” So it just sounds nice and they don’t really understand the ramifications or the unintended consequences. And so when you poll on that you get a much higher percentage of people saying socialism is good.
Mark David Hall:
I think that’s exactly right. So, the great example, I think, is the minimum wage law. We probably both know people working for minimum wage supporting a family and we feel for them, we see how tough it is. So, it sort of intuitively makes sense to say, “Why don”t we have the state raise the minimum wage to thirty dollars an hour? Then my good friend Joe could support his family.” That makes intuitive sense.
The Problem With Intuitive Sense
Mark David Hall:
The problem is of course if the state raised the minimum wage 30 dollars an hour Joe would probably lose his job, his employer would find a way to automate his job, and he would be out of work altogether making zero dollars an hour. So, there are unintended consequences. We all want Joe to make more money, but having the state step in and raise the minimum wage is not the way to help Joe.
And what you’re saying is that even though we may poll that definition of socialism and see that soft spot, if you will, in the lack of economic training in the country, even those people, though, would not say yes to the idea of Marxism. Which, like you were saying, Engels and Marx were all for just getting rid of the family, that the government would replace the family, and all the things that it entails. You don’t see that as becoming popular or even accepted in the American culture.
Mark David Hall:
Yes that’s exactly right. In fact, I’ve been to China three times over the last few years and one of my favorite things to do is talk to young members of the Communist Party about what exactly Marxism is and to what extent China is Marxist. Because China, of course, in a variety of ways is embracing free market economics which has led to a huge decline in poverty in that country. When China was communist it was incredibly impoverished. Now that it”s becoming more capitalist in some ways, not enough ways, of course we were seeing the economy flourish over there and none of them are capable of explaining to what extent China is still Marxist in any meaningful sense.
Basically, China has become a capitalist economy with a lot of state control. I think Americans who say they’re socialist what they mean by that is just they want a little bit more state control of the economy. And usually this would almost always be bad for the economy. But I think it’s understandable when we start thinking about minimum wage, or paternity leave, or maternity leave, or worker safety, things like that.
Laissez Faire Capitalists
Mark David Hall:
I don’t think, Rick, either of us are complete laissez faire capitalists. We don’t think the government has absolutely no role in regulating the economy. But I think you and I would agree that almost always when the government steps in it messes things up. So, we should be very, very, wary of governmental involvement in the economy. And we need to do a better job of explaining to our friends why the government usually messes things up when it steps in to help people.
Yeah, I think you’re totally right about that. We don’t market the benefits of capitalism and keeping the government out of those things very well. And so when we don’t know how much better the consequences are when you keep the government out. And the other side is really good at showing the “benefits” of getting the government in without showing the unintended consequences. Then we don’t see those until the policy’s been passed.
Side question on this one though – how, as a professor that’s in the world of education, how do you recognize a professor that is Marxist in philosophy? Because we hear that a lot that we have Marxists on campus and people are teaching Marxist philosophy on our college campuses across the country. What are some signs of that? What would you look for, what policies would they have to be teaching for you to feel like, “Okay, yeah, that’s a Marxist philosophy being taught.”
Mark David Hall:
That”s a question. I do think a Marxist professor would tend to emphasize the role of the economy in creating things like culture, religion, virtue. And not recognize, of course, that these things can exist independent of any particular economic system. So, they tend to downplay the significance or the importance of even things like philosophy or certainly theology or religion to say that these things are simply a product of the culture in which we live. So, that”s one of the main things that I would look for.
Marxists or Progressives?
Mark David Hall:
I do think, again, kind of as with my optimistic view of the American population, I don’t think there are a ton of Marxists, real live Marxists, in the academy anymore. But I do think there are a lot of progressives – people who think the government should have a lot more role in regulating the economy.
And I suppose the thing I would encourage your listeners that are college students or that have college age kids to look for is just to help them think critically. To ask about the unintended consequences, to go beyond the first blush of, “Yeah, it would be nice to raise the minimum wage because it helps Joe.” And think about the consequences of what would happen if the minimum wage was raised to twenty five dollars an hour, to fifty dollars an hour, to one hundred dollars an hour.
If we started kind of Â thinking that through, by definition I think almost everyone recognizes if the minimum wage was raised to 100 dollars an hour lots, and lots, and lots, of people would lose their jobs. Lots of businesses would go under. And that would be very bad for the exact people we”re trying to help.
Mark David Hall:
It would not be good for them.
Yeah, no doubt, no doubt. Mark, I know a don’t have you much longer, but recently the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Masterpiece Cake case that * were following very closely along with some cases from even your home state there. So, I know it’s quick, but what are your initial thoughts from this? Looks like a victory. Not real– it looked like from what I read they didn’t make it real clear where the line was going to be drawn here. But since we’re talking about government in the market place, it”d be a good time to get some comments from you on this.
Mark David Hall:
Sure. Well, of course, the baker one which is great news. The decision is very narrow which is not great news. And to tie it into our earlier discussion, I think all of us are against discrimination. The idea that a business could discriminate against someone because of their skin color we all nowadays would say that’s wrong.
A Good Example of an Overreaching Government
Mark David Hall:
But here’s a good example of where the government gets involved with something and it overreaches. So, the Colorado Human Rights Commission was just acting in a blatantly anti religious way. They were just going after Christians, basically, who felt they could not participate in a same sex wedding ceremony and completely ignoring other folks who would refuse to communicate other messages for other reasons.
So, this is, again, a good reason why we perhaps should be very wary of getting the government involved with even things like discrimination. I think, in many ways, the market could handle these sorts of things–
Mark David Hall:
–these sorts of problems to the extent *problems very well. I would predict even in rural Texas if you had a bakery that said, “We are not going to serve African-Americans.” I think the bakery would be out of business within weeks.
I agree. I agree.
Mark David Hall:
Plenty of people would just not patronize it.
By The Same Logic…
Mark David Hall:
On the other hand if you had a bakery even in Oregon where the proprietor said, “I will serve anyone for any reason except I can’t participate in good faith in a same sex wedding ceremony. I think that bakery would probably lose some business, but generally people would understand that. Even my secular atheist friends have a hard time seeing why the government should compel someone to communicate a message that they disagree with. We would never think of compelling an African-American baker to bake a pro KKK cake.
Mark David Hall:
And so by the same logic I can’t imagine why we would compel a Christian baker to bake a cake that goes against his religious convictions.
Well, you mention your more secular atheist friends would agree with that. I was pretty surprised to see two of the much more liberal members of the court actually side with us on this one. When I say “us” to say the baker shouldn’t be forced to do this. Breyer and Kagan were with the more conservative wing of the court on this, so I think you’re right. Â It”s just basic common sense is maybe peeking through here.
Mark David Hall:
I would like to think so. I’m afraid the Colorado Human Rights Commission, which is so obviously antireligious, that it made this decision an easy one. I wish the decision had been broader to say that no one can be compelled to communicate something that they disagree with. And, of course, more broadly that people shouldn’t be compelled to go against religious convictions unless the state has an incredibly compelling reason to require them to do so.
And there are a few of those reasons, right? We obviously wouldn”t let an Aztec sun worship sacrifice a baby. The state could step in and stop that sort of thing. But for the life of me I can’t imagine why the state would ever have reason in compelling a baker, or a florist, or a photographer, to participate in a same sex wedding ceremony.
Mark David Hall:
It just boggles the imagination and I wish the court had ruled more strongly on this. But at least the baker won, so that is good news.
Yeah. Agreed, agreed. Yeah, I was bothered a little– I’m always bothered when the court puts itself in the position as the final decider on other stuff. * said something about waiting further elaboration in the courts for these things. And I’m thinking, “No, how about the marketplace?” Elaboration in the marketplace. We don’t need the courts to try to figure this out. Anyway, that’s a whole nother topic about the right way to solve these things.
But, Professor Hall, always great to have you, man. Appreciate your time, and thoughts, and look forward to the next time we get to visit.
Mark David Hall:
Hey, thanks so much, Rick, always a pleasure.
Stay with us, folks. We’ll be right back with David and Tim Barton.
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Welcome back. Thanks for staying with us on WallBuilders Live. Special thanks to Mark David Hall for joining us today as well and helping us with some of these definitions of communism, and socialism, and what people are actually thinking when you poll them on that sort of thing. So, he was very optimistic.
We’re back with David and Tim, by the way. David, Tim, he was very optimistic about he doesn’t think the American people are pro communist at all. And that even when we think they’re being pro socialist they’re actually just hearing some policies and thinking, “That”d be great for my neighbor”, but they’re not thinking through what the unintended consequences are. So, maybe the more education we can give on the unintended consequences. And as he said, selling the positive side of Â pro capitalism policies, we can win back a lot of those folks that may be on the wrong side in the polling data anyway.
Thinking Through the Unintended Consequences
Yeah, I totally agree. I think most of the battle has been with poor marketing on one side and brilliant marketing on the other side. I think George Barna, dad, I think I’ve heard you talk about him before where George Barna points out that so many millennials, when they’re polled, say they are pro socialism. But then when he asks them specific policies from socialism, specific behavior or restrictions in socialism, they all say, “Oh no, that’s terrible, we don’t like that.”
And so George Barna ultimately concludes, “Well, then they don’t like socialism they just like the name “socialism”.”
Yeah, he said forty one percent of Americans support socialism. But when he asked them questions on the specifics that comprised socialism, it turned out only 2 percent actually supported socialism once it was defined and once they knew what it included.
Right. So, ultimately what they’ve done is they’ve liked the label, right? They go, “Oh, I really like that word” because of what that word has been explained to them to mean it. And, again, we talked at the beginning of the program this idea of definitions and kind of the fluidity of definitions. And we kind of make words be what we want them to be in that context.
One of the things that actually we often encourage young people is in the midst of discussion you always need to define your terms. And one of the things that we have not done a good job with culture is defining terms like socialism, like Marxism, some of these things where there’s an appeal of an element or component as it’s been sold to them. But the reality, what you are saying, is not what you think it means, right? “You keep using that word. I do think it means what you think it means.”
Princess Bride reference.
Correct. That’s right.
Princess Bride Alert
Princess Bride alert.
Yes. If you’re not familiar with Princess Bride there’s this moment where one of the brain bad guys keeps going “inconceivable” “inconceivable”. And, yeah, so the reverence comes from, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
But this is where I think, probably, we look at most of culture with socialism and I’m thinking, you keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. When I talk especially to millennials, to young people, there’s almost like this infatuation with some things and they really don’t understand the consequences of that, or the behavior of that. And that’s why there can be an appeal for it.
Well, I thought it was interesting, too, how– and I don’t guess I’ve ever really gone through the history of Marxism, or certainly not read the works of Marx and Engels. I see how people describe it. But I thought he said that it’s driven by economic determinism. That there is going to be a drive where that there will be the fall of morality, there will be the end of the family, there’ll be the fall of capitalism.
He went through all the stuff that it’s going to happen according to Marx and he said it was really an optimistic, but a very naive view of the world. Because capitalism went their direction – morality, family, all survived. And I thought that’s a really good word. So, many of the definitions are out there are very optimistic views. The way socialism is described is really squishy and we think it means the government regulating the economy to get more fairness and get more prosperity and that’s not what it is. It’s a real naive view and I thought that was a great description.
Let”s Do it a Whole Lot?
And related to that, I thought even the absurdities that he went to. I’d never thought before about, okay, if you think raising the minimum wage is good, then let’s do it a whole lot. Let’s make the minimum wage a hundred dollars an hour. Then at that point you go, “That’s not sustainable. You can’t do that because you’ll lose all the jobs, nobody will get employed, you”ll go to automation.” Exactly.
So, all those things still work if you just raise the minimum wage by 50 cents. Because you pass a threshold where McDonald’s suddenly out and Seattle says, “We’re doing automated employees. We’re not hiring anymore, we’re going to put machines out there.” And so all these raises to 15 bucks or whatever they’re seeing the unintended consequence and I thought that was a brilliant point. So, we do face a point in time where we really don’t have good definitions anymore, but we still can judge a tree by its fruits and see that it really doesn’t work, that it is naive and optimistic, and history just shows it doesn’t work that way.
Well, thanks to Mark David Hall for joining us today. We appreciate you listening today. You can come alongside us at our websites – WallBuildersLive.com and WallBuilders.com by spreading the word, sharing these episodes. You can do that on Facebook, and Twitter, and all kinds of social media outlets like that. You can also contribute. You can do a one time contribution or come along monthly with us and help us to get this program in more hands.
Socialism & Communism-The Difference Between The Two
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