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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 are having a heyday calling President Obama a socialist. What they block out of their minds is that by their own measure, they are socialists too.

In its purest sense, socialism refers to a situation in which the state owns all the means of production. Obviously, Obama doesn’t favor doing that. Thus, when conservatives call him a socialist, they are referring to the fact that Obama wants to equalize wealth by taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor. This wealth-redistribution process might well be described as a variation on the socialist theme.

But while conservatives want to protect the assets of the rich from IRS confiscation and welfare-state redistribution, conservatives cannot deny that they themselves also favor the welfare-state concept of taxing people so that the state can redistribute the money to others.

The only thing different between conservatives and liberals is the identity of the people they wish to tax and the identity of people they wish to receive the loot. Liberals love taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor. Conservatives love taxing the middle class and the poor and giving the money to the rich.

Consider, for example, state-supported sports stadiums. Here, the state taxes the poor and the middle class, especially through regressive taxation, and gives the money to rich owners of sports franchises. Conservatives absolutely love doing that.

Consider foreign aid to, say, the military dictatorship in Egypt or to the Israeli government. Conservatives loving taxing Americans and sending the money to selected pro-U.S. dictators or democratically elected government officials around the world.

Consider the bailouts of rich Wall Street firms. Conservatives love it when the state taxes Americans and gives the money to rich bankers and financiers on Wall Street, especially ones who have made poor investment decisions. Conservatives justify their socialism with the adage “Too big to fail.”

Consider farm subsidies. Conservatives love it when the IRS collects taxes from people, especially the middle class, and gives the money to rich farming conglomerates.

Consider Social Security, the crown jewel of the welfare state. It takes money from the young and the poor and transfers it to the old, many of whom have accumulated large fortunes by the time they have retired. Conservatives justify their socialism by exclaiming, “But they put it in and therefore have a right to get it back.” Not so. Under the law, Social Security is just another confiscate and redistribute welfare-state program. There is no retirement fund, and there never has been one. Social Security is no different in principle from the food stamp program, which conservatives love to decry.

Consider Medicare, which conservatives also love. It takes money from the young and productive, many of whom are struggling to start families, and uses it to cover the medical expenses of the old, many of whom are extremely rich.

There’s another aspect to socialism — state ownership of enterprises. How about the Postal Service? When was the last time you heard a conservative call for abolishing the Postal Service and leaving all mail delivery to the free market? My hunch is never.

There’s another aspect to socialism — central planning. That’s when the state centrally plans and directs a particular activity, which inevitably produces a permanent state of crisis and chaos.

Conservatives love central planning and are notorious for refusing to accept personal responsibility for the crises and chaos it produces.

Consider, for example, public (i.e., government) schooling. It’s a perfect model of the socialist, central-planning paradigm. Sure, some conservatives call for an end to federal involvement in education but they love the fact that state and local governments are centrally planning and running educational activities. They never accept personal responsibility for the damage that public schooling does to countless students.

Consider immigration. Conservatives love the fact that the federal government centrally plans this activity. They refuse to accept responsibility for the endless crises and chaos produced by immigration central planning, especially with its immigration quotas and its intrusive police-state restrictions, searches, raids, and deportations.

Consider the Federal Reserve, the federal entity that centrally plans the nation’s monetary activity. Conservatives go ballistic whenever a libertarian proposes abolishing the Fed and implementing a free-market monetary system. Conservatives refuse to take responsibility for the decades of monetary debasement and financial crises that have come with monetary central planning.

When conservatives point their finger at Obama and call him a socialist, they conveniently forget that they’re pointing three fingers back at themselves. The fact is that conservatives, by their own measure, are as socialist as Obama, if not more so.

It is only libertarians who are genuinely and consistently opposed to all forms of socialism and totally committed to a free-market, private-property, limited-government way of life.

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.