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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Conservatives and the Free Market


One of things that conservatives love to tell people is how devoted to the free market they are. A recent example involved GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio, who criticized Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for being socialists while Rubio, as a conservative, was supposedly devoted to free enterprise.

What a joke. Conservatives are no more devoted to the free market than leftists are. They just like to tell themselves that and others as well. But their pro-free-enterprise proclamations are nothing more than empty bromides and pabulum.

How do we know this?

Simple. Just look at the government programs they support. Since the government programs they support are socialist, interventionist, and fascist, that’s how you can tell that conservatives are as statist as leftists.

Start with Social Security, the crown jewel of the welfare state. Every one of GOP presidential candidates believes in this socialist program. Don’t forget, after all, that while Social Security was made a permanent part of America’s governmental structure by President Franklin Roosevelt during the 1930s, that’s not where the idea came from. Social Security — the forcible taking of money from young people through government and giving it to seniors — originated among German socialists in the late 1800s. That’s why Adolf Hitler himself, who was a national socialist, believed in Social Security as much as today’s conservatives and progressives do.

Some conservatives want to “privatize” Social Security. They want people to be “free” to keep their own money but then forced by the government to put a percentage of their income into mandatory retirement accounts, operated by government-approved investment houses.

Conservatives call their “privatization” program a “free-market” approach to retirement, but it is nothing of the sort. It is instead a variation of economic fascism, no different in principle from Benito Mussolini’s economic programs in Italy or FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act during the Great Depression. (See the book Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1929 by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.)

What is economic fascism? It is where the government permits you to keep your own money but then directs and manipulates you into how to use it.

Which is the better system — socialism or economic fascism? Who cares? What matters is that it’s not freedom and it’s not the free market. A free society is one where everyone keeps everything he earns and decides what to do with his own money — that is, where there is no mandatory retirement savings or mandatory charity at all.

It’s the same with healthcare. Conservatives exclaim against Obamacare but then come up with their own pet governmental reform programs to replace it. They never call for the repeal of the root cause of the healthcare crisis — Medicare and Medicaid. That’s because they believe in these two socialist programs — programs that take money from Peter, through government force, in order to provide healthcare for Paul. It came as no surprise to libertarians when GOP presidential candidate John Kascih, the governor of Ohio, made his peace with Obamacare and used it to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

Some conservatives want to replace Obamacare with health-savings accounts, like IRAs. Here again, we have a case of economic fascism, where they want the government, through the IRS, to direct and manipulate what people do with their own money.

Ask a conservative how he’d feel about repealing Medicare and Medicaid, along with the federal income tax, and you will see from his apoplectic response that his devotion to statism is as complete as that of the standard leftist.

Public schooling. It would be difficult to find a better example of socialist central planning than that. Yet, conservatives are ardent supporters of public schooling. Oh sure, they’ll carp about all the horror stories that come with public schooling but they never call for its elimination — that is, they never call for a free market in education. The most they do is call for school vouchers, which are based on the same coercive funding method — taxation — that public schooling relies on. Not surprisingly, conservatives call vouchers a “free-market” approach to education. Like progressives, they reject a genuine free-market educational system, one in which there is no governmental involvement in education at all.

The drug war. Conservatives have been supporting this program for decades. There is certainly no free market here. It’s illegal to possess, trade, exchange, or distribute drugs. No, not all drugs — alcohol and tobacco are legal. But conservatives, like leftists, have long put people into jail for freely engaging in peaceful illicit drug transactions. A genuine free market in drugs would be one in which there were no laws that criminalized the possession, use, or distribution of drugs.

Immigration controls. There is certainly no free market in this government program, which conservatives have long embraced. In fact, both conservatives and leftists have long put foreigners into jail or deported for illegally engaging in peaceful economic enterprise with American employers.

The list goes on and on. Conservative economic philosophy can be summed up in the following phrase: “I favor the ‘free market’ and ‘free enterprise’ except….” And then by the time you add up all the exceptions, you have the destruction of the free market and free enterprise.

Libertarians have it right: If you want a genuine free-market, free-enterprise system, it has to be one in which economic enterprise and markets are totally free of government control and regulation — a way of life where people are free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it — a system where there is a complete separation of money and the state, charity and the state, and economic enterprise and the state.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.