Fox News recently aired an interview with the founder and president of the Human Rights Foundation, Thor Halvorssen. Halvorssen has made quite the name for himself as a strong advocate of individual rights, civil liberties and democracy on an international level. He has very personal connections with the consequences of authoritarian regimes violating the human rights of their citizens, especially in Venezuela. In 1993, Halvorssen’s father was imprisoned by the Venezuelan government because he essentially ruffled the wrong feathers while investigating an extremely powerful drug cartel for money laundering activity. Halvorssen’s mother was also shot during a political protest in Venezuela. Even today, Halvorssen’s first cousin sits in a Venezuelan jail as a political prisoner.
Keeping these real life experiences in mind, Halvorssen’s perspective on the dangers of socialism taken to an extreme, is extremely enlightening. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has been very outspoken about his support of democratic socialist principles while on the presidential campaign trail. Even though Thor Halvorssen has donated the maximum amount allowable by law for an individual to the Sanders presidential campaign, he warns that we should all be leery of any democratic socialist principles taken to the extreme.
Halvorssen explains that what makes human rights violations so prevalent in socialist regimes is their inevitable tendency towards authoritarianism. While Halvorssen does point out successful examples such as Denmark and Sweden, he cautions that expanding the role of a national government to allowing it to exercise control over formerly private property or even set prices and fix supply of certain goods can give the government entirely too much control over the economy and individual rights. When the government is not kept in check with adequate safeguards, it can eventually loot property, which should rightly remain in the hands of private citizens. This is, in part, why Halvorssen generally supports the role of the free market and private property in allowing people to prosper economically, although he does see the potential appeal, especially for classes of people of lesser means, with some prominent socialist principles. Even with all of this in mind, Halvorssen is far more concerned with the dangers of actual dictatorships than democratic socialist regimes.