President Trump’s rant against four members of Congress, all of whom are American citizens, in which he told them to return to their “crime-infested” countries, brings to mind the rant that conservatives have long used against anyone who disagrees with the policies or programs of the U.S. government: “America, love it or leave it!”
Anyone who lived during the Vietnam War era will recall that this was a favorite refrain of conservatives against anyone who opposed the war. The opponents of the war were accused of hating America and were often told that since they obviously didn’t love their country, they should move to North Vietnam or some other communist country.
We libertarians have often heard this refrain or a variation of it simply because we oppose the welfare-warfare state way of life that both conservatives and liberals have foisted upon our land. For decades, conservatives have accused libertarians of hating America and being ungrateful for all the good things that the federal government has supposedly done for us.
The fundamental problem here is the conservative mindset. In the minds of conservatives, the federal government and America, the country, are one and the same thing. Therefore, it stands to reason that when someone criticizes the federal government, conservatives immediately jump to the conclusion that the critic is attacking America, hates his country, and is ungrateful for what the federal government and the country have supposedly done for him.
Of course, conservatives are stymied when we libertarians remind them that the Bill of Rights protects the country from the federal government. How can that be if the federal government and the country are one and the same thing?
Consider the words that Trump used to castigate those four congresswomen: “We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our country.”
There is an irony in Trump’s words, one that explains why conservatives have such a deep antipathy toward us libertarians: Contrary to Trump’s suggestion, America became a socialist country a long time ago. Today, conservatives support that conversion, so long as the conversion is referred to as “free enterprise” rather than socialism. That’s why they dislike us libertarians. We expose their life of the lie, the life that falsely proclaims that America “will never be a socialist country,” even as conservatives support every socialist program that comes down the pike, so long as it is billed as “free enterprise.”
Example: Social Security. Here is a classic example of the conservative life of the lie. The idea of Social Security originated among German socialists near the end of the 1800s. The idea was imported into the United States by American progressives in the early 1900s. It gradually found approval. By the time the Great Depression hit, the Franklin Roosevelt administration was able to get it enacted into law. Today, there isn’t a conservative alive who opposes Social Security, even while they’re proclaiming, “America will never be a socialist country.”
In a totally socialist country, the government owns everything and everyone works as an employee of the government. Examples include North Korea and Cuba. But socialists knew that they would never be able to convince Americans to go full-fledged socialist. So, they settled for adopting socialist measures that would inexorably move America in a socialist direction.
That’s what Social Security was all about. Contrary to popular opinion, especially among seniors, Social Security is not a retirement program into which people “contribute” their monies. Since the very beginning, Social Security has been based on the idea of using the coercive taxing apparatus of the federal government — i.e., the IRS — to take money from people to whom it belongs and give it to people to whom it does not belong. That’s what makes it a socialist program. It embodies the Marxian dictum, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Taking wealth from those who produce it and giving it to people who are deemed to need it more.
Ever since Social Security was adopted, both conservatives and progressives have termed it a core feature of America’s “free-enterprise system.” Roosevelt himself even billed it as a measure designed to “save” America’s free-enterprise system. None dared call it socialism and none today, except libertarians, dare call it socialism. But that’s precisely what it is.
In fact, socialism is the correct term for America’s massive system of mandatory charity, including Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, farm subsidies, corporate welfare, foreign aid, and every other program in which the federal government forcibly takes money from people and gives it to others. The 19th-century French free-market legislator Frederic Bastiat called this type of system “legal plunder.” He also called it for what it is: socialism.
Conservatives, like liberals, are fiercely committed to America’s system of mandatory charity. Their differences with liberals are over degree, not principle. They might fight over Medicare for some versus Medicare for all. But both conservatives and liberals believe in Medicare itself, just as they believe in every other federal program of mandatory charity. Like their leader Trump, conservatives just want people to refer to their socialism as “capitalism” and “free enterprise.”
Another example: public (i.e., government) schooling. There isn’t a conservative alive who doesn’t favor public schooling. Yet, it would be very difficult to find a better example of a socialist program than public schooling. The system is run by the government, either at a local (i.e., school board), state, or federal level. It is based on the socialist principle of central planning. It is funded through coercion, i.e., through taxation. Its attendance is mandated by compulsory-attendance laws, which promise to jail parents who don’t cooperate. The textbooks and curricula are set by government officials. Students are inculcated with the importance of regimentation, obedience to orders, memorization, and deference to authority. It is not a coincidence that public schooling is a core feature of the socialist systems in North Korea and Cuba. For that matter, so are Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Conservatives don’t like to think about that because it puts them in the discomforting position of concluding either that those communist countries have become “free enterprise” or that America has become socialist.
Consider America’s system of immigration controls, which are based on the socialist principle of central planning. That’s why there has been an ongoing, never-ending, perpetual crisis in immigration. The only solution to the chaos, mayhem, death, suffering, and police state that comes with this socialist system is freedom and the free market, which means open borders. Yet, Trump and his conservative cohorts have falsely convinced themselves that America’s system of immigration controls is “free-enterprise.” It’s a classic example of the life of the lie that afflicts conservatives.
There is also the giant military-intelligence establishment (i.e, the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA), which is the very model of a socialist structure. Dare to question it and its forever wars, invasions, occupations, torture, assassinations, coups, secret surveillance, indefinite detention, alliances with dictators, or denial of due process of law, speedy trial, right to counsel, and trial by jury, or any other of its totalitarian-like practices, and be prepared to incur the wrath of every single conservative in the country for daring to question or challenge their idol and its dark-side practices. The critic of military socialism, militarism, and empire will be told that he hates his country and that he should just leave.
We libertarians should just continue ignoring these silly “hate America” diatribes by Trump and other conservatives when we oppose their socialism, militarism, and imperialism. We should just continue advancing sound ideas on liberty, free markets, and limited government, regardless of the nasties these people hurl at us.