Collectivism and the 10 Commandments

“[Let’s] look at the way collectivism violates the Ten Commandments. That is the very definition of evil to me. Let’s go through all ten and see how collectivism is a threat to each and every one.” Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro  Centennial Review ▪ November 2014

Moses whoCollectivism often prevails politically despite its policy failures. We should not credit the good intentions of this evil ideology. It violates the Decalogue beginning to end. Friends of freedom need to fight back in moral terms, trusting God.

I’ve been asked to talk with you today about why freedom succeeds and collectivism fails. The answer, of course, is that diffuse knowledge beats centralized knowledge.

If you combined all the individual knowledge in this room, we’d all know more together than Einstein did. That’s why no one person is qualified to run a country or run our lives.

But there’s a broader question, and it’s more difficult. With our long history of collectivism failing and freedom succeeding, why is it that collectivism actually seems to win a lot of the time? It wins because we don’t recognize it’s evil and say so.

You’re Seen as Bad 

We assume that the people promoting collectivism are good guys. They believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they have all the best intentions. No, they don’t.

Their intention as collectivists is to shut you down, because they see you as a bunch of racist, sexist, bigoted homophobes who hate the poor. Collectivism is justified because you’re all bad people.

Collectivists are emissaries of an evil ideology, and we have to call it by its name. We have to speak about these things in moral terms.

Look at the hundreds of millions of dead bodies strewn around the globe, thanks to the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and various other Communist countries.

Look at the crushing poverty that the collectivists have produced in places across the globe today, ranging from South America to Africa to Asia to Detroit.

Or look at the way collectivism violates the Ten Commandments. That is the very definition of evil to me. Let’s go through all ten and see how collectivism is a threat to each and every one.

First Commandment

Start with this: “I am the Lord thy God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of bondage.” This is fundamentally opposed to collectivism. If we’re all individuals created in the image of God, we’re special and precious. No one gets to invade our rights just because they think they are superior to us.

Our rights matter more to us than the government. Across three millennia for the Jewish people, and for more than two centuries here in America, the working theory has been that if you tell me I am supposed to respect government above God, I will resist you with force.

Millions of people have died for their God, and speaking for myself, I will go to jail or even pick up a gun before the government of the United States tells me I’m supposed to violate my religious precepts.

Second Commandment

“Thou shall have no other gods before me.” No others. Not government, not fairness, and not a certain someone about whom his wife said, “Our souls are broken in this nation and Barack can heal you.”

Being at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was one of the scariest experiences in my life. It was such a cult-like atmosphere.

They’d actually removed the iconography of the Democratic Party. The donkey was gone. It was all Barack Obama’s face or that supremely creepy Obama icon with the blue O. There was an idolatrous worship of the president, such as we’ve never seen in American politics.

We on the right, we like Ronald Reagan, sure. But when we go to bed at night we don’t light a little candle in our closet for him. We understand that Reagan was a human being who did some wonderful things and also some stuff that wasn’t so great.

Collectivists can’t afford to think like that. They have to worship something, because that’s how human beings are made. f it’s not God, it’s going to be government or some other idol.

Third Commandment

“Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” This gets broken by collectivists on a routine basis. Collectivism always masquerades as godly, manipulating Scripture to pose as moderate.

Look, I’m an Orthodox Jew. Jesus is not even my guy. But if I have to hear President Obama one more time misquote the book of Matthew…. And when he’s not misquoting the Bible, he’s berating the Bible.

In 2006 he gave a speech pointing out all the alleged flaws in the Bible. “Which passages of scripture should guide our policy? Should we go with Leviticus which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination?” Obama likes the Bible the same way he likes the Constitution: roasted with barbecue sauce.

Fourth Commandment

“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” This is the idea that your labor belongs to God, not to government. It’s the idea that you get to act out your religion in public life.

The Sabbath is a wonderful thing for all religious people because it’s an acknowledgment that all of this is not ours. This is God’s. So collectivists hate the Sabbath because they believe all of this is not ours or God’s — it’s theirs.

The Sabbath is also what keeps us a charitable people. The recognition that this is not ultimately our property is what keeps us giving charity. The minute you take away Sabbath and the notion that everything is God’s, then charity goes away. Charity and the Sabbath are there to make us good people. Collectivists are there to brand us as bad people, because that’s what justifies collectivism.

Fifth Commandment

“Honor thy father and thy mother.” The left is not big into this at all. The Communist Manifesto reads: “On what foundation is the bourgeois family based? On capital, on private gain.”

First of all, friends, remember that the word “bourgeois” here does not mean rich people. It means that vaunted middle class that the other part claims to care so much about. So much for that talking point.

Then, notice that the breakdown of the family is necessary for communitarianism, because the family is the core element that protects you against the vicissitudes of life. It means you don’t need government and you’d prefer government to leave you alone.

Whereas if you break down the family, you’re building up the government, and that’s what the collectivists want.

In addition, honoring your father and your mother means that you have to respect the wisdom of the past, which is another thing the collectivists don’t do. They want to remake the world every generation. They’ll tell you that youth are the people who know what they’re talking about.

Oh really? I’m 30, and I’m afraid the fact is a lot of young people are morons. Especially now that we’re on our parents’ insurance until we’re 26, and we’re still in mom and dad’s basement playing video games and smoking pot – here in Colorado, legally. And that makes youth the wisest among us? Right.

Sixth Commandment

“Thou shalt not murder.” This one is probably the worst of all if you violate it. But in order for collectivists to have their way, they have to be in utter and complete control of human life. Which, unfortunately, means that murder is nothing to collectivists.

Now I understand that it’s bad form to talk about things like abortion. Those pro-life demonstrations with horrific pictures of aborted babies make people feel bad. It’s the “you ruined my day” syndrome. In leftist areas like Los Angeles or Cambridge, where I grew up, you’re reflexively trained that this is gauche, this is rude.

No, this is reality. Abortion is evil because abortion is murder. But collectivists have to demean the value of human life so that everybody just becomes a scrambled egg in the omelet they’re cooking. That’s wrong.

People are deprived of a fundamental right when you personally, based on how you feel that day, get to define what is or is not a human life. That is exactly the same argument the slaveholders in the 1850s made. They would get to define what constitutes property and what constitutes human life.

But we do not get to decide what constitutes human life. None of us do. God did it, and it’s pretty clear.

Seventh Commandment

“Thou shall not commit adultery.” This one is routinely violated by the collectivists. They love the idea of there being no difference whatsoever between the sexes, so that everybody is merely a widget in their magical system.

Nothing has created more unhappiness in the Western world than this idea that men and women are created identical except for their genitalia. Yet anybody over three can tell you this is not the case.

It does not take a higher intellect to recognize the differences between men and women. But by pretending that those differences do not matter and that they are in fact dangerous, you’re undermining any possibility of a viable relationship between a man and a woman.

To the collectivist, adultery means nothing, because sex means nothing, because family means nothing, because in the end commitment means nothing.

When pursuing utopia, you see, everything is either just a tool or an obstacle. Those are the only things collectivists are interested in, and so for them, fidelity and family are obstacles.

Eighth Commandment

“Thou shall not steal.” This one I shouldn’t even have to explain. Collectivism is legalized thievery. It hardly even pretends otherwise. If you and I decided today that we’re going to vote amongst ourselves and then drive over to Bill Gates’ house and put a gun to his head and steal his wallet, because we’ve decided his money is actually ours, that would make us evil.

But if we decided to vote and then drive over to a convent, put a gun to a nun’s head, take her down to Rite Aid and force her to buy a pack of condoms, that would make us Sandra Fluke. Or the editors of the New York Times or the President of the United States or a four-member minority of the Supreme Court. It would be no less evil, though. Just because you think you have a right to something doesn’t mean you have a right to take it from your neighbor.

Ninth Commandment

“Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Lies mean nothing to collectivists. As Dennis Praeger says, to the left, truth is not a value. No, they have higher values; they’re pursuing something more important. Even when you catch them lying, they’ll pretend it doesn’t matter.

Truth is a belief that I owe something to the individual. I owe you the truth. Collectivism doesn’t believe anything is owed to the individual; all is owed to the state. So if the state decides to lie to you, then it’s justified — because after all, you’re bad, the state is good.

Tenth Commandment

Then finally this the last one: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s [property].” This is the one that collectivism violates most of all, since collectivism is inherently based on jealousy. It’s the idea that your neighbor’s stuff is yours. Pure covetousness.

That’s why we keep hearing about income equality. They don’t care about the poor. They want the poor to stay that way so they can talk up the issue. But the real issue is economic growth, upward mobility. When you have that, income inequality becomes a stupid argument.

If everybody’s getting richer, why do you care what your neighbor has? I would rather live in a nice house next to Bill Gates and be income-unequal with him than be income-equal in Detroit.

Pushback Works

To wrap this all up in a bow: Collectivism does lose in the long run. But the reason it wins in the short run is that we so often refuse to speak in moral terms, where the collectivists always speak in moral terms. Allegedly we’re bad and they’re good; we’re violating rights and they’re standing up for rights. We have to push back in moral terms of our own.

Remember that slogan at DNC 2012, “Government is the only thing we all belong to”? They actually put this up on their big board—until the pushback forced the Obama campaign to disown it. That can happen.

I’m a new father, just six months. Our little daughter is the most beautiful baby that was ever made. Sometimes at night, rocking her to sleep, I find myself tearing up with the realization that there’s going to come a point where my baby is crying and I’m not going to be there.

God willing it’s many years down the road, but when that happens she’ll need to have the freedom and the power to solve the problem for herself. The evil of collectivism takes that power away from us.

Evil enervates us. It takes away our ability, our will. It saps us of our God-given capacity to solve problems on our own and to make the world a better place and to rock our children to sleep at night—because, after all, you know, that’s not our job, it takes a village.

Isaiah’s Defiance

Freedom is about the future. It’s about what we want to give our kids, and in order to do that, our job is to fight collectivist evil. Yes, freedom does succeed, freedom wins — but only if we fight.

Don’t be afraid, though. One great thing about the Ten Commandments, there are all these books that come with them, books of Scripture. We learn in one of those: “God is with us.”

That’s from the Prophet Isaiah, where he defies the enemies of the Lord: “Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan but it will not stand, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10, NIV).

He is and will always be, for so long as we forge forth to fight for the freedom that He granted us. God is with us indeed.

Ben Shapiro is a political commentator, radio host, author, and attorney. He became America’s youngest nationally syndicated columnist at 17, after entering UCLA at 16. His books include BulliesBrainwashedPorn GenerationPrimetime PropagandaProject President, and The People vs. Barack Obama. He delivered these remarks at the Western Conservative Summit on July 20, 2014.

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