This month marks the 50th anniversary of the democratic election of Chilean President Salvador Allende and President Richard Nixon’s order to oust him from power. From that point on, the CIA did everything it could to ensure that Allende did not make it to the next presidential election. The CIA’s efforts ultimately resulted in the 1973 military coup that left Allende dead and that gave Chile a new ruler — the brutal unelected U.S.-supported rightwing military dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Why did U.S. officials deem it necessary to destroy the democratic system of a country thousands of miles away from the United States?
Socialism. U.S. officials were convinced that socialism was enveloping the world and that it threatened to ultimately take over the United States. The threat was part of what U.S. officials believed was a worldwide communist conspiracy to conquer the world, a conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia.
Yes, that Russia! The same Russia that U.S. officials continue to view as a grave threat to America today. The Soviet Union, of which Russia was the central member, had adopted a full-fledged socialist system, one in which the state owned everything and took care of everyone with guaranteed jobs, food, housing, clothing, retirement, and the like.
Allende was a self-described socialist. Like all socialists, he believed that it was the legitimate role of government to take care of people. That’s why he favored such socialist programs as Social Security, government-provided healthcare, public schooling, progressive income taxation, government-owned businesses, and minimum-wage laws.
U.S. officials were deathly afraid of socialism enveloping the United States. That’s in fact why they converted the federal government to a national-security state after World War II. They were convinced that a limited-government republic was insufficient to oppose the threat posed by the supposed communist-socialist conspiracy.
It’s also why they intervened in Korea’s civil war and then later in Vietnam’s civil war. They saw these wars as part of the worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the world. If the communists and socialists weren’t stopped in Southeast Asia, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA maintained, it would not be long before the dominoes began dropping, with the final big domino being the United States.
Moreover, they saw communism and socialism creeping closer to the United States. In the early 1950s, Jacob Arbenz, a self-described socialist who befriended the Soviet Union, was democratically elected president of Guatemala. He was ousted in a U.S.-orchestrated coup in 1954.
Then there was the revolution in Cuba in 1959, which ousted a pro-U.S. dictator from office and installed a socialist dictator named Fidel Castro in his stead. The Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA perceived Cuba to be a grave threat to the United States, which was why the CIA conspired with Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and with the Mafia to assassinate Castro.
Yet, it is difficult to imagine that U.S. officials really believed that Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, and other Latin American countries posed a military threat against the United States. The notion that the armies of these countries could ever successfully invade and conquer the United States was ludicrous, not to mention the fact that none of them had any interest in even contemplating such a fanciful thing. Their leaders and their supporters simply wanted to establish socialist systems in their respective countries and be left alone by the U.S. government.
But the U.S. government would not leave them alone. U.S. officials were convinced that if socialist regimes were permitted to stand, especially democratically elected ones, there was a good chance that the American people would be induced to embrace socialist too. Socialism was viewed as a siren song that needed to be suppressed before Americans began to learn about it and be seduced by it.
And in fact, that was already happening. The United States had already adopted in 1913 a progressive income tax, which was part of the Communist Manifesto. But the big move toward American socialism occurred with the adoption of the welfare state way of life in the 1930s.
Americans today have become so accustomed to Social Security that they have convinced themselves that it is part and parcel of a “free enterprise system.” But it isn’t. It’s a socialist program, one whose concept originated among socialists in Germany in the late 1800s. The concept was imported into the United States by American intellectuals who had studied in Germany. It was adopted into law during the regime of President Franklin Roosevelt.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of Social Security. It ultimately led to the adoption of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. It led to the adoption of the entire welfare-state way of life here in the United States.
This was the siren song of socialism that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA feared throughout the Cold War. Oh sure, there was always the threat of a military takeover of the United States by the Reds, but that wasn’t the only threat. The other threat was the siren song of socialism.
And it was indeed a real threat. Socialism is like a narcotic. Once a person tries it, he wants more. He becomes addicted to government largess. He wants the government to take care of his entire life. He becomes convinced that without his socialist drug, he will die in the streets.
Just look at the mindsets of Americans today, including even many people in the libertarian movement. They cannot imagine life without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, and other socialist programs. They are scared to death whenever those of us in the libertarian movement call for the elimination of these socialist programs and other socialist programs. They have fallen victim to the siren song of socialism, the siren song that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA were so deathly afraid of during the Cold War.They have become promoters and defenders of socialism, even while claiming to favor “free enterprise.”
In fact, one of the ironies in all this is that the national-security establishment itself has become a firm believer in America’s welfare-state socialism. It’s part of the “freedom” that they say they are defending when they intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. They just block out of their minds that Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile who was left dead in a U.S.-inspired coup, himself embraced Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, minimum wage laws, government-owned enterprises, and other socialist programs in Chile.
Although socialism has enveloped the United States, there is still a bright light shining through this socialist darkness. That light is those libertarians who continue to ardently oppose socialism in all of its variations, including Social Security and Medicare. It is this pro-liberty part of the libertarian movement that will ultimately lead America and the world to genuine economic liberty and to health, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world.