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None Dare Call It Socialism


In 1888 British Liberal leader Sir William Harcourt declared, “We are all socialists now.”

With the notable exception of libertarians, the same can be said of the American people in 2017. Except for libertarians, Americans are all socialists now, especially Americans who call themselves liberals, progressives, or conservatives.

Some liberals are very open and honest about being socialists. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is a good example. He makes no bones about being a socialist. He is proud of it. Some liberals feel the same way.

Most liberals, however, are more reticent about describing themselves as socialists. They prefer to call themselves liberals or progressives who are nonetheless devoted to America’s “free enterprise system.” Socialism just doesn’t seem truly American to them. In the deep recesses of their collective memory, they can’t help but recall that the CIA, the Pentagon, and the FBI fought a Cold War and some hot wars against socialists, communists, and leftists.

Conservatives are the most fascinating socialists. They purport to hate socialism but are as wedded to it as Bernie Sanders and liberals. What conservatives have done is simply convince themselves that they are “free-enterprisers” notwithstanding their ardent devotion to socialism and socialist programs. In the process, they live what might be called “the life of the lie,” a life based on falsehood and self-deception.

Let’s examine how “we are all socialists now” (except for libertarians).

Everyone would agree that Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea have socialist systems. But how many Americans actually focus on the particular government programs that make up those socialist systems? My hunch is not very many at all. It’s just too uncomfortable for them, especially for conservatives.

1. Free public schooling for all the children in the nation. That’s one of the core programs in Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. Public schooling is your classic socialist program. It involves central planning, coercive funding, government indoctrination, regimentation, mandatory participation, government schoolteachers, government textbooks, and government curricula.

How many American liberals and conservatives oppose public schooling and would like to see it abolished? None! They all believe in this core program of socialist countries.

Some conservatives want to save children from what socialism does to children’s minds with a voucher program. They call it “choice” or a “free-market approach” to education. In actuality, it’s just another socialist program, one that uses the state to take money from some people to fund the education of others. Vouchers reflect the “life of the lie” that characterizes conservatives.

2. Government-provided healthcare. Fidel Castro was particularly proud of this socialist program. Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare are founded on the same basic principle — that government should be involved in ensuring that people have access to healthcare. Some American liberals would love to go all the way and adopt a full-fledged socialist healthcare system, like the ones in Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela. While there is incessant debate over Obamacare, the fact is that every single American liberal and conservative favors Medicare and Medicaid and ardently oppose their repeal.

3. Government-provided retirement. That’s another core feature of socialist systems, including those in North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. That’s what Social Security is all about — giving people a retirement dole by using the state to take money from one group of people (the young and productive) and giving it to another group of people (seniors). Social Security brings to mind the Marxian principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” There isn’t an American liberal or a conservative alive who doesn’t support this socialist program. Many of them have falsely convinced themselves that they are just “getting their own money back.”

4. A central bank. In Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela, a government agency centrally plans monetary activity. The result is inevitably inflation and a debased currency. Here in the United States, the central bank is called the Federal Reserve. It is a federal agency that centrally plans monetary activity. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the dollar has lost most of its value since the Federal Reserve was established more than 100 years ago.

The core beliefs in socialism are that the government should take care of people and that people cannot be trusted with freedom. Both liberals and conservatives embrace these core socialist beliefs, even if they can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that they are, in fact, socialists.

Why do so many liberals and conservatives resent us libertarians? Isn’t the answer obvious? We make them confront reality. We make them see what they are — socialists. And they really hate 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.