2018 Commencement Address

Graduation season is in full swing as economically illiterate Hollywood celebrities belly up to university lecterns across the country inspiring graduates with optimism and hope that will propel them into the real world. The celebrity speeches may not help prepare these grads for adulthood but, at least, they’ve only wasted 15 minutes – a better investment than made by those who watched the Emoji movie or majored in Kardashian Studies or the like.

I’ve come across surveys that show a significant majority of Millennials hold a favorable view of socialism. The favorable viewpoint is highest in the 18-24 year-old age demographic although many of these young proponents have difficulty defining socialism. In my highly unscientific surveys of 20-somethings, the definition often boils down to, “I want free stuff. I want others to get free stuff”. How is this generational amnesia possible? After 17 years of schooling, these 20-somethings do not know that free stuff doesn’t exist? More importantly, how have these students overlooked socialism’s extensive history of failure? From the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe to third-world totalitarian regimes “for the people”, socialism has succeeded in producing abject poverty, mass starvation, mass murder, mass imprisonment and a trampling of individual rights. 2018 graduates even have the privilege of a socialism case study unfolding right before their eyes: Venezuela. Somehow, this lesson seems to have been missed as well.

Overlooking the historical record outside the US border is hard to fathom but being oblivious to socialist elements weighing down America is understandable. The 20-something crowd and a broader swath of the citizenry attribute U.S. societal ills and diminishing opportunity to “evil capitalism” and the “rich 1%” when, in fact, at root are the socialist elements that have crept in slowly over many decades. Our government has garnered greater and greater control over the economy and people’s lives. Government created social welfare schemes attempting to right perceived injustices; policies treating people unequally with the vain goal of achieving equality; agencies trying to control markets only to create distortions; oppressive regulations to protect us from ourselves, politicians bought by political patrons, exorbitant taxes and the evisceration the United States Constitution all the while accruing a massive debt left for future generations, including 20-somethings, to pay. These slowly encroaching components of socialism have handicapped the economy’s ability to create jobs, opportunity and prosperity for all but the culprit is able to evade detection.

Our two-party system has created this situation while exploiting an apathetic public. Highly organized and funded “progressives” continue to implement their socialist agenda and other special interests, both Democratic and Republican, have pilfered from the taxpayer trough while the rest of us go about our lives. So many have become disenchanted with our co-opted democracy that they have stopped participating or resigned themselves to quickly choosing the lesser of 2 evils then moving on. I suspect that the Class of 2018 may go the same way. Some will carry the banner of neo-socialism while most will turn apolitical over time. If only there were another path. There is. It’s called the Libertarian Party.
“So, graduates of the Class of 2018, chase your dreams, don’t worry about paying back your student loans and clamor for the free stuff to which you are entitled. Just remember, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Steve Litton 

Member of the County Executive Committee