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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 Are Socialists Too


Conservatives love to accuse President Obama of being a socialist. But as the old adage goes, when they point their finger at Obama, they’ve got three fingers pointing back at themselves.

Consider, for example, three of the biggest socialist programs in America: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. How many conservatives want to repeal those three programs? Hardly any. Almost all of them say they want to save these programs and simply reform them.

Now, that’s not to say that conservatives favor a complete government takeover of all property in the country and total control over economic activity, as, say, socialists did in Cuba and North Korea. But then again neither does Obama, and conservatives nonetheless call him a socialist.

We’re talking about socialist programs — those in which the government takes money from one group of people in order to give it to another group of people.

That’s what Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid do. They forcibly take money from one group of people through the tax system and give it to another group of people through the welfare system.

Yes, I know — conservatives, like liberals, claim that Social Security isn’t really a welfare program but instead a retirement account. But that’s just a rationalization for their support of a socialist program. There isn’t a Social Security fund and there never has been such a fund.

Social Security is a straight tax and spend welfare-state program. It is the crown jewel of the welfare state. Liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt brought it into existence. He got the idea from Otto von Bismarck, the so-called Iron Chancellor of Germany, whose bust is on the website of the U.S. Social Security Administration. Bismarck got the idea for Social Security from socialists in Germany.

What about the so-called Social Security fund? Suppose a parent has saved $20,000 for his child’s college education. The money is in the form of cash in a home safe. One day, the parent takes the money out and spends it on a new stereo system. But he places a promissory note for $20,000 into the safe. When his kid asks how his college fund is doing, the parent responds, “Don’t worry. It is fully funded.” That’s what the Social Security trust fund is all about.

Medicare and Medicaid are no different. They too are socialist programs. The government forcibly takes money from one group of people to pay for the health-care costs of another group of people. The program was enacted during the regime of liberal icon Lyndon Johnson, whose mentor was Franklin Roosevelt.

Do conservatives want to repeal Medicare and Medicaid? Are you kidding? They are as committed to those two socialist programs as liberals are. At best, all they want to do is repeal Obamacare and substitute their own reform plan that they’re convinced will finally fix the health-care crisis produced by government intervention into health care (including medical licensure, which conservatives also endorse and which libertarians oppose).

Consider the Federal Reserve. Here we have a classic example of the concept of central planning, which is also a feature of socialism. A small group of government officials purports to have the requisite knowledge to plan the monetary affairs of hundreds of millions of people.

No wonder there are booms and busts, recessions and depressions, deflation and inflation, and all sorts of monetary crises.

But when libertarians call for the Fed be abolished and replaced by a gold standard or a free-market monetary system, conservatives go ballistic, claiming that such an idea is “loony.” I suppose they’d say the same thing about Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, both of whom (here and here) favored the abolition of the Fed, even though, ironically, conservatives often praise them in their speeches and articles.

While we’re on the subject of loony, I ask you: What could be loonier than to call yourself a capitalist when you embrace big socialist programs? I mean, if a person came up to you and said, “I believe in God and I believe the atheists have it right,” wouldn’t you think he might be a bit loony?

And hey, let’s not forget that it’s not just those three big socialist programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — that conservatives support. They’re also firmly committed to other statist programs, as reflected in the following statement that most conservatives would undoubtedly embrace:

As a conservative, I support economic liberty, free markets, and limited government, and I fervently oppose socialism and statism … well, except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, corporate bailouts, education grants, foreign aid, SBA loans, FDIC, food stamps, public works, the Federal Reserve, immigration controls, agricultural subsidies, public (i.e., government schooling), trade restrictions, and drug laws.

With all due respect, what could be loonier than that?

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.