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The Irrationality of American Socialists


It is absolutely amazing to me how any American can still be wedded to socialism. Everywhere you look, socialism has produced misery, suffering, poverty, chaos, crisis, conflict, tyranny, and violence.

Yet, there they are: Americans socialists going gaga over self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, wishing that he had been elected president, and exclaiming that he would have saved America with his socialist programs.

This is all quite bizarre.

After all, look at Venezuela. You couldn’t find a better example of a socialist system. Yet, look at the results: misery, suffering, poverty, chaos, crisis, conflict, tyranny, and violence.

What do socialists say about Venezuela? They say that the problem in Venezuela is not socialism but rather not enough socialism. If the government is able to stomp out the last vestiges of private economic activity in Venezuela, they say, happy days will finally arrive in that country.

With all due respect, that is so utterly ridiculous. The more the Venezuelan government has moved down the road toward more governmental control over economic activity, the worse things have gotten. Therefore, the notion that if the government will just move down that road some more, things will get better is, well, quite irrational.

Moreover, all we have to do is look at North Korea. It is a socialist’s dream. The government there owns and controls everything. Yet, like Venezuela, it too is mired in misery, suffering, poverty, chaos, crisis, conflict, tyranny, and violence. Surely, American socialists wouldn’t say that the key to North Korea’s problems is more socialism. It would be hard to get more socialism in a society in which the government controls 99 percent of economic activity.

Consider China, which is ruled by a communist regime. China has the same type of economic system that the North Koreans and Venezuelans have — a socialist one, where the government owns, controls, or dominates economic activity. For years, China was characterized my misery, poverty, chaos, conflict, violence, tyranny, and suffering.

Americans socialists would have counseled China to adopt even more socialism to arrive at economic prosperity. China rejected that road. Instead, the communist regime drastically reduced its control over economic activity.

The result in China of moving away from socialism? A dramatic increase in economic prosperity and a tremendous rise in people’s standard of living.

That’s not to say, of course, that China is a libertarian paradise. The state continues to play a dominant role in the economy. And it’s political system continues to be dictatorial and tyrannical. It’s simply to say that as a government moves down the road toward less economic control, the better off people are economically.

Here is the big problem facing the American people, including American socialists. Mostly as a consequence of having received their schooling in government schools, Americans honestly believe that they have been born and raised in a “capitalist” or “free-enterprise” economic system. If you ask any ordinary American whether he is a socialist, especially ones who are conservative-oriented, they will recoil and exclaim, “Of course not! I’m a capitalist. I believe in America’s free-enterprise system. I even sometimes attend meetings of the Chamber of Commerce in my community.”

What they don’t realize is that the indoctrination that they received in those public schools has caused them to live the rest of their lives in what can only be called a “life of the lie.”

Here is a genuine free-market economic system: People are free to engage in any economic activity they want without government permission, involvement, or interference. That is, a total separation of economy and the state. People are also free to keep everything they earn. No income tax, no IRS. All charity is private. No government welfare programs for anyone. A total free-market in money. No Federal Reserve System. No government money, paper or otherwise.

That pretty much describes the free-market economic system on which America was founded. It wasn’t a pure free-market system—lots of exceptions, such as business partnerships—but it’s as close to perfect as the world has ever seen. The result was the greatest increase in people’s standard of living ever. That’s why countless penniless immigrants were flooding American shores every day. (There were no immigration controls.)

Now, does that look like America’s economic system today? Of course it doesn’t. America operates under a massive welfare state, one whereby the federal government wields the power to seize whatever portion of income it wants from people. That’s what the income tax and IRS are all about. The federal government also wields the power to regulate economic activity. That’s what the minimum wage is all about. There are also myriad economic regulations on business activity. And the Federal Reserve, which enables the government to control and dominate monetary activity. And trade and immigration controls.

What happened was that as the rest of the world became enamored with socialism in the 20th century, so did many Americans. Rather than move toward a complete government takeover of economic activity, however, Americans chose a variation of the socialist model. They chose what is today termed the welfare state and the controlled or regulated economy.

That was the big economic revolution that took place in the Franklin Roosevelt administration—the conversion of America from a genuine free-market society to a welfare-state, regulated-economy society. That’s what Social Security and, later, Medicare and Medicaid were all about. Indeed, it was what free public (i.e., government) schooling was all about. These programs—indeed, the entire welfare-state concept—had originated among socialists in Germany and then imported into the United States.

But here’s the kicker: Roosevelt convinced Americans that their system hadn’t really changed in a fundamental way. He told them that his new system was “saving” free enterprise,” not destroying it. And most Americans bought it and have bought it ever since, especially because that’s the line taught in America’s public schools, year after year after year,.

That’s why so many Americans today are interested in moving toward socialism as a way to solve America’s economic problems. They don’t realize that America already moved toward socialism some 90 years ago and that that is reason America is mired in economic woes.

Thus, it’s amusing when American socialists complain about America’s economy. They don’t realize that they are complaining about the results of their own system. They don’t realize that by calling for (more) socialism, they are only going to make things worse for people, as they are in places like Venezuela and North Korea.

The plight of the American people, including American socialists, can best be summed up in the words of Johann Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

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.