Socialism really is a bad idea

As I noted last week, whenever a critic of Democrat policies uses the term "socialism," Democrats bristle. But if a policy or measure gives ownership of some business or industry to the government, (e.g., General Motors), socialism being defined as government ownership of the means of production, then it is entirely fair to call it socialistic. Not that this offends or renders defensive everyone on the left. Despite the fact that Democrats last year defended "spread the wealth" schemes - - without acknowledging their socialist pedigree - - last spring liberal columnist Evan Thomas of Newsweek devoted a cover article to proving that socialism is not such a bad thing even as he conceded that that is what the Obama Administration stands for.

Liberals know that Americans are not supportive of socialism in spite of their interventionist policy changes over the last 76 years, beginning with the New Deal, which brought massive government controls, intervention and regulation with the National Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Social Security Act; supplemented by the Great Society’s War on Poverty, Medicare and Medicaid.

The liberal strategy largely has been to advance in increments, their big innovations depending upon massive electoral victories in 1932 and 1964. They have been quite successful in getting the camel’s nose under the tent for years, without acknowledging the ultimate goal of their legislation.

One wishes that the American people as a whole could discern more readily that socialism by degrees is still socialism, even if we must be grateful to the American Constitution for making it difficult for American liberals to go as far as European social democrats.

The question must be posed: what’s wrong with socialism? Isn’t it right that the people have protection against wealthy corporations that have unlimited power to hire and fire thousands of people and earn unconscionable profits at the expense of the public? If the foregoing were an accurate description of the American marketplace, I might support socialism too. But it is not.

In the past I have written about the uncoerced trading relationship that exists between businessmen and their customers, and indeed their employees. Unlike the peasants of old in Europe, or millions of unfortunate people in unfree countries around the world today, no one in America  is forced to work for anyone in business or to fork over money to them. Despite government intervention that has distorted the marketplace, there is more "upward mobility" among Americans than any other people in the world.

Much of what rightly offends Americans is actually a product of government intervention. Why did three companies dominate the automobile business for so many years? The oligopoly of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford was necessary to pay the inflated wages and benefits of their employees who had the advantage of being represented by a powerful union that could negotiate contracts for the entire industry, thanks to the National Labor Relations Act of 1937. The Obama Administration is attempting to perpetuate that advantage through its majority control of GM.

Why do utility companies enjoy local or regional monopolies and have their rates set by a government agency? Where’s the competition in that? Why were there so few broadcasting networks which were (and are) practically mirror images of each other? Government regulation of these industries has restricted competition.

The real driving force of socialism is hatred of the marketplace which, governed by the profit motive, is alleged to be nothing more than greed. Members of Congress who enabled the reckless lending of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thereby causing an unprecedented credit crisis, believe that such government-sponsored entities (GSEs) are morally superior to private corporations. That is why they are trying to take advantage of the recession, ignoring GSEs’ miserable performance.

The truth is, major government programs, such as social security, medicare, medicaid, stimulus packages and so on either do not pay for themselves or are facing bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Democrats think it is better for their cronies in GSEs to pull down huge salaries than for corporate executives to do so.

Socialism assumes that the amount of goods and services available is always limited, overlooking America’s incredible increase in individual wealth. The object of socialism is to establish "equity," but actually punishes people for being successful and rewards the unsuccessful. Every government program depends on taxing those who have earned their wealth in the marketplace and redistributing it to others, especially the well connected in politics and government. The key element is coercion, which betrays the lack of charity by that very fact.