Friday, October 10, 2008

Is It Socialism?

Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House argues that Obama is not a a socialist. (Right Wing Nut House is meant to be an ironic name, as Moran is actually a pragmatist Republican, the type that has plagued the party at least since WWII. In the 1960's, Moran would have been a Rockefeller Republican calling Goldwater an "extremist.")

Calling Obama a “socialist” simply isn’t logical. He doesn’t share the belief that industries should be nationalized by the government or even taken over by the workers as many American Marxists espouse. He may not be as wedded to the free market as a conservative but he doesn’t want to get rid of it. He wants to regulate it. He wants “capitalism with a human face.” He wants to mitigate some of the effects of the market when people lose. This is boilerplate Democratic party liberalism not radical socialism.

I detest conservatives throwing around the words “socialism” and “Marxism” when it comes to Obama as much as I get angry when idiot liberals toss around the word “fascist” when describing conservatives. I’m sorry but this is ignorant. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge of what socialism and communism represent as well as an ignorance of simple definitions. Obama will not set up a government agency to plan the economy. He will not as president, require businesses to meet targets for production. He will not outlaw profit. He will not put workers in charge of companies (unless it is negotiated between unions and management. It is not unheard of in this country and the practice may become more common in these perilous economic times.).

An Obama presidency will have more regulation, more “oversight,” more interference from government agencies, more paperwork for business, less business creation, fewer jobs, fewer opportunities. It will be friendlier to unions, more protectionist, and will require higher taxes from corporations (who then will simply pass the tax bill on to us, their customers). But government won’t run the economy. And calling Obama a “socialist” simply ignores all of the above and substitutes irrationalism (or ignorance) for the reality of what an Obama presidency actually represents; a lurch to the left that will be detrimental to the economy, bad for business, but basically allow market forces to continue to dominate our economy.

Moran makes one mistake. He equates socialism with socialism on the communist plan. He forgets the fascist plan, which is what America is on. In the fascist plan of socialism, the means of production is left in the nominal ownership of private individuals. All government does is regulate it, along with all the other things Moran says Obama will do above.

The fascist plan is attractive to American politicians because it is deceptive. They can get away with dictating the economy without actually seizing ownership. Moreover, they avoid responsibility and blame when things go wrong -- as they are doing in the current crisis, which was caused by government intervention, but is blamed on deregulation. When things go bad, socialists on the fascist plan depend on pragmatists like Moran to assure the "extremists" that everything is fine and all we're in for is a little more regulation. We can live with a little more regulation, right?

Ultimately, the mixed economy is unstable. Government intervention creates crises which lead to greater government intervention, which creates new crises which lead to further government intervention until the economy is controlled by the government in a de facto, if not de jure dictatorship.

As the welfare state grows, we become more and more accustomed to the loss of liberty. A man 100 years ago would certainly think the level of government intervention in the economy today is dictatorship. Benjamin Franklin said, "It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part." Things have changed since the Enlightenment. We would now perceive a government that only taxed 10% of wages as almost laissez-faire.

As a piece in the UK's Telegraph, pointed out by Harry Binswanger on HBL, writes,

The maxim of the American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand came close to fulfilment before the denouement of Old Labour on May 3 1979: that the difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time.


Jim May said...

Ann Althouse makes the same pedantic mistake as Moran.

I wrote in her comments that the superficial differences between socialism and progressivism (and communism, for that matter) amount to nothing more than taking different roads to the same destination.

Anonymous said...

Right you are, Myrhaf. Although, the mistake Moran makes is a HUGE one in my book. What he misses is that the conflation of socialism with its Communist variant only, in partnership with the fraudulent equation of Fascism with Capitalism, has allowed American Progressives who claim to oppose both precisely to foist Fascist corporatism on the nation while "nobody was looking" or at least not too closely. This is what the Progressive "middle way" is all about.

Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

My hunch is that Americans may follow what you call "the fascist plan of socialism" but not a Stalinist version. As I just wrote:

Yes, I can make a joke about "Obamugabe" but the fact it that Mugabe represents Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-four" version of communism whereas Obama will introduce Huxley's "Brave New World" version. My son's generation are not really communists but libertarian-socialists; their ideas are more inspired (subconsciously of course) by Rousseau than Marx.

Orwell and Huxley at first had a disagreement on which of their versions of a future totalitarian world was the most realistic but, just before Orwell died, he wrote to Huxley and conceded that the future would probably look more like "Brave New World" than "Nineteen Eighty-four."

madmax said...


What do you mean by "libertarian-socialist"? Are you using the word libertarian as a stand if for egalitarian?

Brian N. said...

It's a term that is rather messy. Very much like the terms 'left' and 'right' which are often arbitrary labels without meaningful reference when not taken in their historical context - often referring respectively to allegiance to the Democratic or Republican parties - where Bastiat, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises would all sit together, on the far left of the grand assembly, while to their right are monarchists, Bonapartists, theocrats, traditionalists and like others. In that context, the only ones who have the courage to debate whether or not the great tax-and-spend game should even continue sit right next to apocalyptic lunatics who can't wait for their ideas to result in a murderous bloodbath. The attempt to spectrum or otherwise graph political positions is, as far as I can tell, a foolhardy proposition when the person giving it a go is honest. When they're not...

But to answer your question proper, at least as defined by wikipedia, yes. However, that doesn't deal with the issue of attempting to integrate socialism with individualism, a project inevitably bound to crash on its own self-created intellectual shoals.

Richard said...

"There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.

Ayn Rand,“Foreign Policy Drains U.S. of Main Weapon”,Los Angeles Times, Sept. 9, 1962, G2

I never cease to be amazed at how thoroughly the great majority of Americans & their Presidents, over the last century, have failed to understand the very principles on which their once great nation was founded... the American Federation of Teachers notwithstanding.

Donate to ARI!

P.S. as those terms are used today the aforementioned principles are neither Left nor Right.

Jim May said...

The attempt to spectrum or otherwise graph political positions is, as far as I can tell, a foolhardy proposition when the person giving it a go is honest. When they're not...

I'll do it right now.

I define the spectrum by reference to one variable: respect for individual rights, also known as "freedom" and "capitalism".

At one extreme is the society based on that principle, without any compromise or contradiction. Freedom is at its maximum there.

As we move away from that end, freedom declines and statism increases until you arrive at the other end, "tyranny", where freedom is zero.


The idea of a political spectrum -- a one-dimensional "space", location upon which is determined by measuring one single variable -- is sound. The problem with the mainstream "left-right" spectrum is that the Left has obscured and obliterated any knowledge of what the variable (or principle)is, in *their* spectrum. Their overriding goal is to push individual rights out of the mainstream mind, to ensure that no matter where they go politically, they "can't get there (to freedom) from here". Without knowledge of the variable, there is no reason for why any groups should be anyplace particular on the spectrum -- accordingly, the Left has constructed a completely arbitrary model, which is the most common one, while some people substitute their own equally arbitrary arrangements.

The result, of course, is the preclusion of any objective understanding of political ideas, the principle of individual rights in particular. The Left and the conservatives are fine with that; fog and balkanization suit their goals just fine.

People "equipped" with this pernicious bit of sabotage are thusly completely unable to grasp or understand anything or anyone outside of the spectrum. That is why attempting to place Ayn Rand or capitalism anywhere on the conventional spectrum is a futile endeavour. I've heard AR described as both "far right" and "far left" as a result.

A few in the mainstream are awake enough to notice that their so-called "spectrum" is so busted that both ends are in the same place; they call it the "wraparound effect". But sadly, they are unable to make the leap to discovering that this is deliberate -- or that a better one is available.

Richard said...

I agree with Jim, except that his one dimensional scale is one of those ideas that is 'beyond the pale' of most people's judgment today.

Of course, that's all the more reason to emphasize it whenever possible!