Thor Halvorssen is the founder and president of the Human Rights Foundation and speaks tirelessly on behalf of freedom, liberty and democracy. Halvorssen was recently interviewed by Fox News regarding his take on U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialist agenda, which Sanders has been promoting the whole time he has been campaigning for president. Halvorssen weighed in on his thoughts on the principles supported by Sanders and provided a cautionary tale of embracing democratic socialism with adequate protections against the government claiming too much power away from its citizens.
Halvorssen explains that the practical application of socialist principles is very different, typically, than what academics discuss. For instance, Halvorssen points to Venezuela as a troubling example at how socialism can lay the groundwork for massive human rights violations by a government against its own citizens. Halvorssen did not have to look far beyond his own personal experiences to speak truth to this statement. Halvorssen’s father was imprisoned under completely made up charges of terrorism while Halvorssen was studying at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. His father was investigating a powerful drug cartel for money laundering, and unfortunately suffered serious political consequences. Even more troubling, his mother was shot at a peaceful political protest in Venezuela. Even now, Halvorssen’s first cousin is being held as a political prisoner in Venezuela.
Halvorssen explains that while socialist principles may sound appealing to address the immediate needs of the poorer classes of society, they can often lead to a government taking more and more freedoms away from its citizens. This is why, Halvorssen warns, that if a society embraces socialism, it must be sure that there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent the government from becoming too big and wielding too much power over its own citizens. Once citizens relinquish controls to government, it is almost impossible to reign the government back in to its previous place. Thor Halvorssen says that this is not necessarily a problem in every society, but it is certainly something to be mindful of before adopting socialist policies without enough checks and balances in place.