Leave it to an American leftist to bring some humor to our nation amidst all the chaos and turmoil, in the form of an op-ed that appeared in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. The author is a Times columnist named Nicholas Goldberg.
Mind you, Goldberg didn’t intend to be humorous. He was deadly serious. It’s just that to a libertarian, his piece comes across as extremely funny.
Goldberg’s theme is that American Democrats and ”liberals” (or progressives, whichever term one prefers) are not socialists, as Republicans and conservatives love to assert. Oh sure, he says, it’s true that “there are social democratic policies the U.S. has embraced for many decades and which are widely popular” but that doesn’t make the proponents of such programs socialists. Goldberg specifically refers to “the progressive income tax, Medicare and Social Security” as examples.
So, what’s a socialist, according to Goldberg? He says “real socialists want to replace the profit-driven capitalist system with one that favors social ownership and democratic control of the ‘means of production’ and the economy as a whole.”
Of course, he’s right. That’s the pure meaning of socialism — government ownership of the means of production.
But what he and his leftist cohorts just can’t bring themselves to recognize is that a society can be arranged on socialist principles without going all the way to total government ownership of the means of production. That’s where socialist programs come into play.
For example, consider Karl Marx’s 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto. They include the following three socialist programs:
1. A Heavy Progressive or Graduated Income Tax.
2. Centralization of Credit in the Hands of the State, by Means of a National Bank with State Capital and an Exclusive Monopoly.
3, Free Education for All Children in Public Schools.
Goldberg does mention the income tax as among America’s “wildly popular democratic policies.” To Marx’s list of socialist programs, we can also add the other programs that Goldberg enumerates: Social Security and Medicare.
In fact, what Goldberg fails to point out, the entire welfare-state way of life that 20th-century Americans adopted in the early part of the 20th century is itself a “wildly popular democratic policy.” It includes food stamps, farm subsidies, education grants, welfare, foreign aid, and every other welfare program that necessarily depends on using government to take money from Peter in order to give it to Paul, after deducting a reasonable amount for performing this “service.”
For that matter, we should also consider wildly popular democratic programs that consist of centrally planned enterprises, such as healthcare and the FDA, the Federal Reserve, immigration controls, and the drug war.
We mustn’t forget such wildly popular democratic government-owned programs as Amtrak, the Interstate Highway System, national parks, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
We also shouldn’t forget another widely popular democratic institution in American society — the Pentagon and its vast military-industrial complex, which, as Milton Friedman pointed out years ago, is a classic model of a socialist enterprise.
Under the welfare state way of life, the government takes money from people, primarily through the income tax, and redistributes it to others who the government says need the money more. It’s an embodiment of Marx’s dictum, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
Thus, what Goldberg and other progressives simply cannot bring themselves to acknowledge is that a society that is largely based on socialist programs effectively becomes a socialist society, even though it hasn’t yet gone all the way and turned everything over to the government.
Goldberg cites countries like Cuba and Venezuela as examples of true socialist societies, and he bends over backwards to assure people that he and other leftists do not want that kind of system for America. But what he fails to realize is that Cuba and Venezuela have simply carried leftist principles to their logical conclusion.
For example, Goldberg laments the fact that the rich in America have so much money while the poor have relatively less. He says that that shows the “the system is not working as it should.”
What system is Goldberg talking about? He’s talking about America’s “capitalist” system. What capitalist system? America’s welfare state way of life! That’s how Goldberg and other leftists define “capitalism” and “free enterprise”— as the system that Americans have today — i.e., a welfare state and a centrally planned economy.
Conveniently, such a mindset then enables the leftist to justify his expansion of his socialist system (which he defines as “capitalist.”) He argues that the current system (which he defines as “capitalist”) isn’t working and, therefore, that it’s necessary to expand government power over people and their economic activities.
You see this phenomenon in healthcare, for example. Medicare and Medicaid were supposed to be a government-provided healthcare panacea for the elderly and the poor. Look at the disaster they produced instead. They succeeded in destroying what had been the finest healthcare system in the world — a free-market healthcare system — and converted America’s healthcare system into permanent crisis and chaos.
So, what do leftists say about this healthcare morass? They say that it proves that “capitalism” has failed and that we now need a full government-run healthcare system, just like in Cuba and Venezuela.
Thus, the Cubans and the Venezuelans were just more direct. Rather than taxing the rich and giving to the poor, as Goldberg and his leftist cohorts advocate, the Cubans and the Venezuelans just took everything from the rich and gave it to the poor. But what Goldberg and his leftist cohorts can’t see is that their principles are the same as their counterparts in Cuba and Venezuela.
For more than 100 years, America was a society intentionally devoid of income taxation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, income taxation, Federal Reserve, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, FDA, SEC, military industrial complex, drug war, immigration controls, drug war, fiat (paper) money, public schooling, minimum-wage laws, price controls, and most other economic regulations and federal bureaucratic departments.
As a libertarian, I would call that a “capitalist’ or “free-enterprise” system. Given that Goldberg has convinced himself that today’s welfare-state, centrally-planned system is “capitalist” or “free enterprise,” I can’t help but wonder how he would label America’s founding economic system, which stood in stark opposition to a welfare state and centrally planned system. Maybe if he writes another article decrying America’s “capitalist” system, he’ll give us his answer.