Economics

Are We All Socialists Now?

It depends on what the meaning of "socialism" is.

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A specter is stalking America—the specter of socialism.

The once-neglected S-word made a big comeback during the presidential campaign of 2008, and has now become a staple of American political discourse. While the right denounces Obama as a socialist, the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaims, "We are all socialists now." Is he? Are we? Depends on how you define "socialism," of course.

For Obama's more strident detractors, the label is practically synonymous with "communist." Back in October, Washington Times columnist Jeffery T. Kuhner predicted that Obama's victory would usher in "the U.S.S.A."—the United Socialist States of America. This catchy phrase is now showing up on bumper stickers, along with the self-explanatory moniker, "Comrade Obama."

This kind of rhetoric is not just the province of marginal firebrands. The New York Times reports that, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last weekend, Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and presidential contender, fulminated about the creation of "socialist republics" in America and asserted that "Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff."

To those who remember the murderous horror that was the USSR, this flippant use of Communist and Soviet analogies should be deeply offensive, indeed obscene—the right-wing equivalent of the leftist habit of flinging Nazi metaphors at conservatives. Lenin, Stalin, and Obama are as much of a trio as Hitler, Mussolini, and Bush. Lenin and Stalin did not want to tax the rich a little more; they wanted to confiscate all their property and either kill them or send them to concentration camps (and to eliminate all political opposition and independent opinion).

Less wild-eyed critics acknowledge that the socialism they invoke is the "European-style" variety—in other words, not the system of our totalitarian Cold War enemy but that of our democratic allies. This is not to say that European-style socialism is something we should embrace, only that it's not a particularly terrifying bogeyman.

Is Obama a champion of European-style socialism—or, more precisely, a European-style welfare state? It is safe to say that, his protestations notwithstanding, he does not dislike bigger government. Conservative Obama supporters such as New York Times columnist David Brooks now complain that Obama is not the moderate they took him to be and that his view of government is far more aggressive than they expected. (What made them expect Obama to be anything but a proponent of activist government is unclear.)

The problem is that Republicans are not exactly on solid ground in denouncing Obama's proposed government expansion—not after colluding in the Bush Administration's spending spree. A headline in The Weekly Standard warns of "The Return of Big Government"; but big government never left, and certainly not under Bush. Obama may be seeking to reverse Ronald Reagan's legacy; but, as conservative economist Bruce Bartlett argued persuasively in his 2006 book, Impostor, that legacy was already betrayed by Bush. Many people will tell you we officially became "the U.S.S.A." with the bank bailout in October 2008.

The United States may have a substantially smaller welfare state than European nations, but neither have we had anything resembling "pure capitalism" for a very long time, and neither Reagan nor the Republican Congress were able to substantially reverse government growth. Social Security and Medicare are "socialism," and whatever their (substantial) economic flaws, they have proved politically untouchable; a major expansion of Medicare—prescription drug coverage for seniors—was enacted on Bush's watch. Even outside Medicare, the American health care system is no "free market" but an often unwieldy mix of market and regulation. Obama's proposed education initiatives expand, but hardly revolutionize, the federal role.

Conservative activist Matt Kibbe told The New York Times that "Americans are just genetically opposed to socialism." But if we're talking about the kind of "socialism" we are likely to get, this statement is (like it or not) as much in the realm of wishful thinking as the "Obamacons'" faith in Obama's commitment to limited government.

No sane person today would argue the merits of communism or Soviet-style socialism vs. democratic capitalism. But the size and role of government in democratic capitalist societies is very much a subject of legitimate debate. Most people favor some balance between security and flexibility, more equality and more individual opportunity. We proponents of small government should be able to argue for flexibility and opportunity without painting the other side as evil—and to criticize the Democrats' proposals without resorting to a Red Scare.

Of course, demonization cuts both ways. Fairly modest Republican attempts to curb the welfare state have been habitually painted by Democrats as plans to starve orphans and throw grandmas out on the street. Now, we have Republicans equating federal student aid with the gulag. Reasoned debate in politics? More wishful thinking.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. This article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics.

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  1. Let’s see, nationalized banks, universal health care, social security…what was the question again?

  2. It depends on what the meaning of is, is. Everyone knows that.

  3. All modern governments are hybrid economic models. China is now “capitalist” for whatever its worth.

    Saudi Arabia should be a conservative dream. No public schools, religious law, low taxes, and an oil-based “drill baby drill” economy.

  4. Shhhh, Cathy. You are ruining the narrative for everyone here.

  5. The more I listen to politicians the more they all look like Kevin Bacon in Animal House. Now the a lot of the news outlets and publications are starting to look like him.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDAmPIq29ro

  6. It’s simple, really. People in the USA will put up with large amounts of socialism, as long as the taboo not to name the thing as such is obeyed. Besides social security, medicaid, medicare and one supposes, soon, all of health care, schooling has been provided via the socialist model for all but about 10% of the population, for over a century. From daycare to senior citizen centers, folks expect government – if not the feds, than their state and local governments – to provide all sorts of services, for “free” or at subsidized rates. The most rock-ribbed suburban Republican will squeal if you suggest that some government service his family uses needs to take a budget hit in the current fiscal morass.

    Kevin

  7. Saudi Arabia should be a conservative dream. No public schools, religious law, low taxes, and an oil-based “drill baby drill” economy.

    Shrike, you really nailed it, that is exactly what all conservatives want.

    Did you even read Cathy Young’s article? For instance the last lines — Reasoned debate in politics? More wishful thinking.

  8. The socialist label it kinda tired, even if it did apply to Obama more than any other President. I think, mostly because it’s simply been lobbed too often and too loosely. Furthermore, when folks realize that all this “socialism” being cried over is pretty much the way American govt. has been for a long time, and especially after decades worth of Republicans behaving the same way, the epithet has become an empty remnant from another era.

  9. stuart, we all know what the code words “European style socialism” means to conservatives – its code for a secular, valueless, non-militaristic, high-tax state with pot smokers and gays running around free.

    Young is precisely right – there won’t be a debate on the proper tax rate for the next four years as long as these Code Words get burnished like a shrunken head whenever debate is attempted.

  10. Why are the people commenting as if Socialism is bad? Equality is good. Inequality is bad.

  11. It seems to me that Obama’s philosophy is more accurately described as “social democracy” rather than just plain “socialism.” From http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/social_democracy:

    social democracy: A moderate political philosophy that aims to achieve socialistic goals within capitalist society such as by means of a strong welfare state and regulation of private industry.

    Basically, I get the impression that social democrats want to leave private industry and some markets intact, but to heavily regulate them so they serve “the public good.” The system seems like it’s a halfway-point compromise between pure capitalism and pure communism.

    If we’re going to argue against Obama’s individual policies, it helps to understand his broader philosophical framework.

  12. we all know what the code words “European style socialism” means to conservatives – its code for a secular, valueless, non-militaristic, high-tax state with pot smokers and gays running around free.

    Shrike, I take it you are not very clear on the whole “…without painting the other side as evil” concept?

  13. Oh noes! Teh Soshulists! Calling Obama a socialist is the wing nut equivalent of a progressive calling Bush Hitler.

  14. Great article Cathy.

  15. Shrike is an object lesson. Cathy’s last lines was written with him in mind. Apparatchiks on either side are dorks and everything that is wrong with political discourse in America.

    “Why are the people commenting as if Socialism is bad? Equality is good. Inequality is bad.”

    Which has nothing to do with socialism. Not sure your point.

  16. Calling Obama a socialist is the wing nut equivalent of a progressive calling Bush Hitler.

    I’ll ignore the obvious stupidity of this statement, but I’m really interested in this usage of the term “wing nuts” to describe Team R’s fans. Where did it originate? What’s the significance? Why not use another piece of screw-related terminology, like taps, dies, or locking nuts? I mean, I like wingnuts, they’re quite useful, and I don’t like this constant disparagement of them.

  17. I wish as much as anyone that we could truly have an honest and open national debate once and for all about the merits and demerits of the American economic model versus the European more socialist model, minus all the hysteria and childish insults.

    I would welcome such a debate on behalf of our capitalist system any day, but I suspect that those who yearn for the French/German/Swedish/Canadian model and want to implement it here don’t really want any part of such an open discussion.

  18. Warty asks, “Why not use another piece of screw-related terminology, like taps, dies, or locking nuts?”

    I nominate “thumbscrews.”

  19. Why are the people commenting as if Socialism is bad? Equality is good. Inequality is bad.”

    As if socialism ever led to equality. It merely substitutes political and social inequality for economic inequality by swapping out an economic elite for a political elite.

    Guess which system has more social mobility?

  20. Why are the people commenting as if Socialism is bad? Equality is good. Inequality is bad.

    I’ve noticed the more socialist someone is, the more likely they are of average intelligence and potheads to boot. Smart people learn to use the system to their advantage, and dumber people just take what life throws at them.

  21. There are ways of achieving socialist goals via free-market means. If we can actually *explain* that to the socialists, we might make some headway.

    For example, insurance is basically voluntary, free-market socialism. It’s a fantastic invention. It allows the risk of one person suffering a devastating setback such as [getting pneumonia | having a car accident | having their house catch on fire ] to be spread across a group.

    What’s more, insurance companies offer financial incentives to people to lower their risk factors. Quit smoking, install a sprinkler system, etc. and your premiums will go down. It’s like the nanny state, only it’s *voluntary* and works much more efficiently.

    Again, it’d be cool if we libertarians could communicate to socialists that we do have some answers to equality concerns and are not just all about the “survival of the richest” as they seem to think.

  22. Yes I suppose there is a sort of equality in serfdom but I’m not sure thats what the lefties have in mind. Again, Flex, I do want to ask a question I’ve posted on previous threads and that is: why does making a quick buck on something make something automatically moral or ethical? Is a managerial state run by large corporations preferable? That’s where we’re headed, largely due to conservative policies.

    I think it’s also worth mentioning that the conservatives have had a great deal of power between 1981 and 2006. if any of them, from Reagan on down, really believed in free markets rather than cronyism, would we be where we are today?

  23. “Again, it’d be cool if we libertarians could communicate to socialists that we do have some answers to equality concerns and are not just all about the “survival of the richest” as they seem to think.”

    Leftists are aware of insurance, but what they want is control. They want to force everybody onto their system.

  24. There are ways of achieving socialist goals via free-market means.

    I don’t see how. Their professed goal is equality.

    Their actual goal is control.

    Neither is advanced by the market, which instead provides mobility, opportunity, and consequences (gains/losses), equality and control be damned.

  25. “Equality is good. Inequality is bad.”

    There is no way you can have equality of outcome unless you take from some to give to others which makes everybody equal at a lower level.

  26. why does making a quick buck on something make something automatically moral or ethical?

    Maybe not automatically, but, perhaps, presumptively.

    All transactions in a market are voluntary.

    If you make a quick buck on something, you engaged in a voluntary transaction (which is presumptively moral/ethical), in which somebody got something that the presumably valued more than they paid for it (nobody loses, also presumptively moral/ethical).

  27. Is a managerial state run by large corporations preferable? That’s where we’re headed, largely due to nominallyconservative policies politicians striking deals with their liberal brethren.

    More, or less, accurate?

  28. “I would welcome such a debate on behalf of our capitalist system any day, but I suspect that those who yearn for the French/German/Swedish/Canadian model and want to implement it here don’t really want any part of such an open discussion.”

    The first place they could look would be to read “Cowboy Capitalism” where the European author shows how the American capitalist system has created wealth and the European socialist system has created nothing but chronic high unemployment and waiting lists for health care.

  29. The reason we have REASON, is that cultural conservatism has an authoritarian element in it that has aspects of both Sharia and the Salem Witch Hunts. Pot smokers aren’t burned at the stake, but they are harassed and sometimes imprisoned. Gays cannot be burned at the stake either, but they are told they will burn in hell.

    European socialism is mixed with a certain amount of cultural libertarianism, so its a mix.

  30. a) How voluntary are medical treatments? If you’re told you’re going to die in a month unless you get a special treatment which costs all the money you have (and you have no means to verify that the hospital is gouging you or not), then how is that “voluntary”? I suppose you could choose to die, but I think that only helps prove the point I was trying to make.

    b) lol I hadn’t thought of that.

  31. “Calling Obama a socialist is the wing nut equivalent of a progressive calling Bush Hitler.”

    Socialism is when the government has ownership of business. Obama might not want the government to completely own business, but his policies are certainly moving us more in that direction. I would say he is moving us in the direction of European style socialism.

  32. “social democracy: A moderate political philosophy that aims to achieve socialistic goals within capitalist society such as by means of a strong welfare state and regulation of private industry.”

    In other words, “economic fascism”.

  33. SusanM,

    How ethical is it for the sick person to force someone else to pay for their medical treatment?

  34. In other words: “fuck the poor”. my point is proven.

  35. “In other words: “fuck the poor”. my point is proven.”

    Susan, why do you think it’s only through the government that the poor can be helped?

  36. Yes, what SusanM said.

    The poor have feelings too you know!

  37. I’ll ignore the obvious stupidity of this statement, but I’m really interested in this usage of the term “wing nuts” to describe Team R’s fans.

    Its short for “right-wing nuts”.

  38. “Socialism is when the government has ownership of business.”

    So if all the government is in the pocket of business at the same time, is that a reach around?

  39. Even the European socialist parties have given up on socialism in its classical form. My socialist father would say they were selling out, and had stopped being socialists altogether.

    Specifically, nationalization is out of favor with the socialists, except for those sectors of the economy whose nationalization is a respectable idea even in ‘capitalist’ America (schools, health care, post office).

    The European socialists have re-emerged as ‘social democrats’ arguing for what they claim to be reasonable regulation of the economy. In fact, it’s not reasonable regulation they want; they want the government (the central government of their country, or the EU bureaucracy) to have a leading role in the economy, even if nationalization as such is off the table.

    It is in this sense that we see convergence between the European Socialists and many American politicians (of both major parties).

    ‘European socialism is mixed with a certain amount of cultural libertarianism, so its a mix.’

    Try criticizing Islam or homosexuality (unless you’re a Muslim criticizing homosexuality), and you risk government repression which is largely beyond the pale in the U.S. If that’s cultural libertarianism, what isn’t?

  40. wingnuts – right
    moonbats – left

  41. The word we should be using is “fascism”, and it applies equally well to the Republicans under Bush and the Democrats under Obama.

  42. How ethical is it for the sick person to force someone else to pay for their medical treatment?

    Why is the assumption that the sick person is poor? You shout “Fuck the poor”, but you’re not paying attention or seeing things they way they are, only through your ideological lens.

    Is it ethical to pay for the treatment of the rich? That’s where socialism is going. Is it ethical to pay for the treatment of people who already get insurance through their employers, reliving the employers of their voluntary burden? If you read this site often you know few people in the US stay at the same economic level their whole life, they move up and down the ladder regularly.

    WE ARE ALL THE POOR!

  43. The point to people like SusanM and TofuSushi is that if they could think past one move they would realize that socialism is “fuck the poor”.

  44. Tofu isn’t serious, susan is.

  45. Scott66,

    You find intercourse painful on a regular basis or do you go to a private club for that?

  46. Irrespective of everything else, it is clear to me that the Obama presidency has resulted in most Hit & Run threads quickly devolving into dismal, repetitive bickering. A shame, really.

  47. The first place they could look would be to read “Cowboy Capitalism” where the European author shows how the American capitalist system has created wealth and the European socialist system has created nothing but chronic high unemployment and waiting lists for health care.

    Which is made even more remarkable when you take into account that America still shoulders the overwhelming bulk of defense spending on behalf of the E.U. more than sixty years after the Marshall Plan.

    Which by the way, is another thing I think it’s time this country had a serious and open debate on: when we finally tell Europe it’s time for them to start carrying more of the load.

  48. “Less wild-eyed critics acknowledge that the socialism they invoke is the “European-style” variety”

    To me “European-style” socialism is a misnomer
    especially using a Von Mises definition.
    The economic systems that are described as “European-style” vary immensely and often government spending consitutes far less of the GDP than USA

    All European countries pay far less corporation tax than USA. Using mean rates

    the US is around 40%

    the EU average is around 30%

    smaller states like Serbia, Ireland, Cyprus,Bosnia and Herzegovina,Bulgaria are about 10%

    Medicare just covers pensioners and is 16% of federal funding

    The British NHS (nationalized health service)covers everyone and costs 18% of the UK budget.

    Don’t get my wrong the NHS is shite, but if you had to spend 18% of your budget and cover everyone or just pensioners, you’d be an idiot to choose the latter.

    The only difference between the US and EU is Europeans call a spade a spade. Both economies are just as socialist using a Von Mises definition. Europeans admit it whereas American’s pretend to be capitalists.

  49. Don’t get my wrong the NHS is shite, but if you had to spend 18% of your budget and cover everyone or just pensioners, you’d be an idiot to choose the latter.

    Unless, of course, you thought that having a shite health care system wasn’t worth the savings.

  50. @bookworm

    “In other words, “economic fascism”.”

    The economic system of the Fascists was undoubtedly Keynesianism
    Stimulating economic growth through government spending like large public works projects etc

    I’d say europeans produced the best economic theory

    ordoliberalism!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordoliberalism

    Von Mises did accuse Hayek of being a socialist!!!

  51. @R C Dean

    “Unless, of course, you thought that having a shite health care system wasn’t worth the savings”

    I don’t, I’m much rather not pay taxes on my cigarettes and use the money to get good private medical insurance, as opposed to government shite,

    but if you had to chose between paying the same amount of money and covering everyone or just old people you’d be an idiot to choose just old people

  52. I’m not even sure you’re doing yourself any favors with the Red Scare shtick. For one, it’s 2009 and nobody is terrified of the specter of Soviet-style communism anymore.

    Secondly, Obama was relentlessly called a socialist by people who formerly had actual sway with the electorate during the campaign. They gave him a landslide victory anyway.

    The people may have a “genetic” revulsion to socialism, but at least in the last election it was trumped in a very big way by their revulsion of whatever it was Republicans had been doing to the economy.

  53. “Which is made even more remarkable when you take into account that America still shoulders the overwhelming bulk of defense spending on behalf of the E.U. more than sixty years after the Marshall Plan.”

    Indeed.

    Not only could none of them have ever afforded their expensive socialist systems if they had been forced to spend more for their own defense but not a single one of them would be an independent nation state today if they had not had the benefit of U.S. military protection.

  54. All European countries pay far less corporation tax than USA.

    This is technically true, but come on now. You know perfectly well that when you factor in ALL taxation, including that on individuals, the real tax burden in most of the European countries is far higher than it is in the United States.

  55. wingnuts – right
    moonbats – left

    So are we wingbats or moonnuts?

  56. From FrontPageMag.com:

    To be capitalist or to be socialist? — that is the question. Precisely what is the mix of the mixed economy? When is it capitalist and when is it socialist? When does it protect property and when does it confiscate it? When does it leave people alone and when does it coerce them? When does it adhere to the ethics of individualism and when does it obey the code of collectivism? And just which is the metaphysical primary — the individual or the collective (e.g., the nation, the race, the class)? The fundamental truth about the mixed economy is that mixed practices imply mixed principles, which in turn imply mixed premises — i.e., an incoherent grasp of reality. With socialism, the chaos was economic; with “social democracy,” it’s epistemological. Ultimately, the latter can no more generate rational policies than the former could generate rational prices.

    The mixed economy doesn’t present us with a mosaic portrait of the just society, but with a jigsaw of pieces taken from different puzzles.

    FULL ARTICLE: Liberalism: History and Future

  57. The issue of socialism vs. capitalism is skewed.

    When the two systems were being vigorously debated in the 20th century, it was a matter of free markets vs. command economies and private property vs. public property.

    These debates have been settled on a political level. Nobody is advocating a command economy. Nobody is calling for abolishing private property. Wasn’t that the whole point of this article?

    If anything, we are currently witnessing the evolution of Corporate Socialism, a combination of Corporatism and Socialism.

    The most distressing part is the lack of perspective.

  58. The mixed economy fans are “mixed nuts” then?

  59. I agree with 111.

  60. For christ’s sake. Socialism is redistribution of wealth and property by the community. The means by which it should take place is, and has always been, debated amongst socialists.

    The individual utopian socialists had their own views, rediculous as they were in practice. Robert Owen had his own. Marx had his own (though he presented less an economic program than a prophecy). Lenin had war-communism and the centrally planned and owned economy. The fascists had their own “third way” in the form of state-capitalism/corporatism. Social-democrats were perfectly willing to latch their goals onto a mixed-economy.

    Socialism is not synonymous with marxist-leninsm.

    Enough of my family died in the Gulags and concentration camps, don’t bother lecturing me on shame for labeling it what it is.

  61. This AP article could make libertarians choke, especially this bit:

    The big increases – among them a 21 percent boost for a popular program that feeds infants and poor women and a 10 percent hike for housing vouchers for the poor – represent a clear win for Democrats who spent most of the past decade battling with President George W. Bush over money for domestic programs.

    Yes, that’s right, the official media narrative is that domestic programs were starved under GWB. Even though you and I may believe that spending went up way too fast.

  62. “For example, insurance is basically voluntary, free-market socialism.”

    Yeah. Right. Voluntary. Tell that to CHIPs. Or your employees.

  63. “It’s simple, really. People in the USA will put up with large amounts of socialism, as long as the taboo not to name the thing as such is obeyed”

    as long as the three “G” policy is properly enforced, than it’s okay. fucking tards.

  64. Mike M.,

    but I suspect that those who yearn for the French/German/Swedish/Canadian model and want to implement it here don’t really want any part of such an open discussion.

    Right you are. They don’t want it to ever happen.

    Flex Nasty B.I.G.

    There are ways of achieving socialist goals via free-market means.

    But they aren’t telling you what their real goals are. What they want is everybody strapped to the deck chairs of the Titanic. And maybe it’s all horrible-horrible-horrible by b’gosh, we’re all in it together.

    People are soooooo much easier to herd under these conditions.

    Lysol,

    we are currently witnessing the evolution of Corporate Socialism, a combination of Corporatism and Socialism.

    You are more right than anybody else on this whole thread.

    The most distressing part is the lack of perspective.

    Most especially libertarians, who have never groked what Corporatism really is. Or the fact that Corporatism is the logical end result of capitalist success.

    Our whole concept of “capitalism” needs serious updating. This is a prime reason that nobody listens to the libertarian position anymore on economics. But the libertarians still haven’t figured it out.

    A corporate entity run by a board of directors is absolutely nothing like the rational actors that Adam Smith had in mind so long ago. A corporate board is not driven by the same motivations and does not respond the same way to external stimulii. Corporations, in short, don’t fit our theoretical models.

    We figured out how to constrain the government with our constitution. If we’re going to retain our individual liberties, we better get serious about figuring out how we’re going to [properly and justly] constrain the corporate entities that have become, in today’s world, very possibly the real Bogeyman.

    Cathy Young,

    This is not to say that European-style socialism is something we should embrace, only that it’s not a particularly terrifying bogeyman.

    European socialism may not be the equivalent of the Soviets, but how big a bogeyman it is — that depends entirely on what your meaning of “is” is.

  65. Socialism is when the government has ownership of business.

    The distinction between formal ownership and regulatory control is meaningless. If you control it you own it, whether you have formal title or not.

  66. If we’re going to retain our individual liberties, we better get serious about figuring out how we’re going to [properly and justly] constrain the corporate entities

    Can said corporate entities levy taxes? Regulate how I do business? Throw me in jail? How can you seriously argue the “corporate entities” are as dangerous as government?

  67. “For example, insurance is basically voluntary, free-market socialism.”

    Except for the fact that the whole point of socialism is to force the individual to participate, whether they like it or not or it benefits them or not.

  68. How can you seriously argue the “corporate entities” are as dangerous as government?

    I can argue it very simply and convincingly: look at what is happening before your eyes right now.

    Corporations and government are becoming more or less extensions of one and other.

    Independent business owners used to be, in days of old, one of the checks on government power. Howard Hughes for example, is famous for telling congress where to go.

    Corporations don’t tell government where to go. When governments want to impose stupid laws — for example “affirmative action” laws that put incompetent people in positions that endanger the lives of the public — corporations don’t balk. They may say “you want me to do what? oh, okay….” and they go along with it.

    So now we have incompetents getting put in charge of auto and airplane hardware design. It’s happening.

    And when big corporations screw the pooch, they go get Uncle Sam to bail their asses out.

    I could go on but this is enough of a start.

  69. Somebody doesn?t want to offend folks. Guess cocktail parties are really worth walking on eggshells.

  70. Plank 5 of the Communist Manifesto
    “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.”

    L. V. Mises:
    “In a mixed economy, market distortions caused by intervention lead to calls for further intervention….”

    Mixed economy: An economy in which both Free Markets and Socialist Central Planning coexist, neither element being completely dominant.

    According to Mises (Human Action, Socialism) and Hayek (The Road to Serfdom) mixed economies are in unstable equilibrium and tend to degenerate into fully planned societies as intervention’s vicious cycle accelerates.

  71. I’m a Capitalist – I just want the government to take care of everything I NEED, like food, shelter, transportation and healthcare. While I get to spend MY money on the things I WANT. Oh, and don’t raise my taxes!

  72. “we all know what the code words “European style socialism” means to conservatives – its code for a secular, valueless, non-militaristic, high-tax state with pot smokers and gays running around free.

    Shrike, I take it you are not very clear on the whole “…without painting the other side as evil” concept?

    Um, these are actually things Republicans talk and complain about often. This isn’t a characterization but a quote. So if simply mentioning the things Republicans concern themselves with seems evil, then……..

  73. ————————————–
    “”For example, insurance is basically voluntary, free-market socialism.”

    Except for the fact that the whole point of socialism is to force the individual to participate, whether they like it or not or it benefits them or not.”
    ————————————–
    Well, first off, some insurance is voluntary – some is involuntary, and rightly so.
    Secondly, even with voluntary insurance your money would go to people you don’t know, maybe people you wouldn’t want to go to, maybe cheaters.
    Thirdly, if you participate in the government then you can help to ensure that the programs that are developed do help people – because that seems to be a major concern for you.
    Lastly, the whole point of socialism is to make the people of the socialist society the number one priority – even over money (I know, I can feel you cringing).

  74. “How can you seriously argue the “corporate entities” are as dangerous as government?”

    Read the news much? When former’s priority is profit, and the latter’s is it’s peoples well being and safety, it’s kind of a tautology who, by definition would be more dangerous.

    Here’s a mind experiment (made famous by Einstein). Say you’re going to interview two girls for a babysitter and one asks questions only about the money they’ll make and the other only asks questions about the baby’s needs. I know it’s simplistic but it’s also apt, do you want the babysitter that is really good at making money or the one really good at caring for your child. It’s about priorities!

    BTW, here’s Einstein’s views on the capitalism verses socialism debate.
    http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einstein.php

  75. —————————————
    “but I suspect that those who yearn for the French/German/Swedish/Canadian model and want to implement it here don’t really want any part of such an open discussion.

    Right you are. They don’t want it to ever happen.”
    —————————————-
    Why is that? Because if the debate happened and then the USA’s standard of living was compared to the Canadian/European’s standard of living do you think we’d all die of embarrassment? Do you believe the US measures up to even one measure of quality of life beyond ‘we’ve got lots of places to shop’? Name anything, education, crime, freedom, poverty… the US is behind in all of these measures.

  76. RC Dean
    “I don’t see how. Their professed goal is equality.
    Their actual goal is control.”

    OK?!? Did you know the free-markets goal IS control and un-equality.

    Their actually goal is to eat babies.

    Did you actually pose for Cathy’s article Dean?

  77. To paraphrase George Orwell, the word “socialism”now has no meaning except insofar as it signifies “something not desirable.” We’ve become a culture of name-callers.

  78. Name anything, education, crime, freedom, poverty… the US is behind in all of these measures.

    Define your measuring stick.

  79. I am trying to understand what it is that makes Ms. Young a contributor to this magazine. Her most-truth-is-somewhere-in-the-middle mentality is so annoying! Anyone read the article on Ayn Rand? Check it out and discover that Rand was – at best, we are left to assume – a paradox. She does not get it. Perhaps she should write for the New York Times. Social democracies are socialist. It’s that simple. “Wealth distribution” ring a bell? Notice there was no mention of Keynes in this article, either. And heaven forbid that we say that something is evil. Oh, no, one musn’t do that, for it musses up the plurality of dialogues in the social sphere. Somebody needs to check this author’s level of free-mindedness. Suggestion to the editors: time to get a new contributor to this magazine, or, sadly, the reasonable will have to sue for misrepresentation.

  80. Socialism has a plenty clear meaning even when used in the broadest rhetorical sense (unlike fascism). It means collectivism as a basis for the government. Forced sharing of wealth to try and make everyone “equal”. Bam there it is. Do you cry about how much the top one percent earn versus the bottom one percent and want the govt to change that? You just might be a socialist.

    Actually one thing I never understood is why socialists can’t just admit what they are. Perhaps it’s related to the liberals’–I mean progressives–and their name games.

  81. Andrew:

    “Read the news much? When former’s priority is profit, and the latter’s is it’s peoples well being and safety, it’s kind of a tautology who, by definition would be more dangerous.”

    Yeah… Umm… Heeere’s the funny thing about that.

    Your tautology would be correct if your premises were remotely sensible.

    What you meant is this:

    “When the former’s (businesses) priority is profit – only achievable by offering something of high value to the consumer in a voluntary/mutually beneficial exchange, and the latter’s (politicians/government) is getting re-elected and asserting control over others in the name of their well-being & security – by force…”

    Then yes, by definition, it’s clear who’s more dangerous.

    Maybe I should find it cute that you think that government actually exists for the well-being of the people, but I don’t. At all… For example, I’ll take Wal-Mart’s relief work during Hurricane Katrina over FEMA/Ray Nagin/etc. any time. As much as people whine that Wal-Mart is in it for the good publicity or whatever else, it was the private action like theirs that mattered… not the government action – for all they may pretend they’re there to protect us.

    I recommend paying attention to results next time instead of what you perceive people’s intentions are. You’ll make more sense next time.

  82. There was a lot about the Bush administration that was like Stalin and a lot about Obama that’s like Mussolini.

  83. Andrew writes:

    “Why is that? Because if the debate happened and then the USA’s standard of living was compared to the Canadian/European’s standard of living do you think we’d all die of embarrassment? Do you believe the US measures up to even one measure of quality of life beyond ‘we’ve got lots of places to shop’? Name anything, education, crime, freedom, poverty… the US is behind in all of these measures.”

    That is total BS. The leftist press makes those claims, but those claims are big fat lies.
    If Obama gets his way the US will decline to the European level. But it hasn’t happened yet.

  84. Cathy Young is right that there is a vast difference between Western European socialism and Communism. But the fact remains that social democracy leads to a slow descent into economic, social and moral ruin.

    Read the essays of Theodore Dalrymple, who worked for many years as a psychiatrist in the British prison system. He has seen the growth of a large white underclass in Great Britain consisting of people with no sense of right and wrong, no sense of responsibility, people totally dependent on the government. The crime rate has skyrocketed.

    Dr. Dalrymple has seen the British, who as recently as the 1950’s were the most civilized and polite people on earth, turn into a nation of drunken boors. We are talking about the self-destruction of a once great nation.

    Among the political class in Great Britain a sickly and self-hating political correctness is the norm. The Muslim population is ever more aggressive in its demands, and seems destined to rule the country within a generation or two.

    France and Germany have also gone steeply downhill since the sixties. The question is whether the US will fall into the social democratic toilet. President Obama seems determined to make it happen.

  85. Let’s see. Obama’s father spent his entire life trying to convince the Kenyan government to convert to communism. Obama’s mother was a staunch Mercer Island communist. BHO writes fondly of his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, an avowed communist. In Chicago he shared an office with and helped raise money for Michael Klonsky, the founder of The New Comminist Party USA. And lets not forget his idol, Saul Alinsky. I’m sure none of these gentile folks had any influence on the man.

  86. economists and political science theorists have slightly different definitions on what ‘socialism’ is.

    To a poli sci theorist, a socialist is a member or supporter of a political party (communists) that nationalizes all industry and outlaws private enterprise. This occurs before the political party and the state supposedly ‘wither away’ and the nation finally reaches communism.

    To an economist, this is abstract nonsense, and a ‘socialist’ is whatever members of socialist political parties claim it to be. Historically this meant a party that wanted to nationalize the ‘commanding heights’ of industry, as occurred in the United Kingdom in the 1940s under Labour Prime Minister Clement Atlee. The ‘commanding heights’ is defined as the industries that are regarded as important for national security (heavy industry, communications, transportation, energy and a few others. Whenever we discuss it in class, the students usually come up with about 8 sectors, including education, transportation and health care of which larger or smaller aspects are nationalized in many countries). Free enterprise in small business and consumer goods manufacturing continued.

    So, that essentially is the practical definition of a ‘socialist’.

    In so far as the most Obama is proposing is a bailout of the auto industry (not a nationalization) and, at most, a temporary nationalization of bad banks with the intention of privatizing them at a future date, the question of whether Obama is a ‘socialist’ is, as Obama said “ridiculous”.

    Two additional points:
    1.Some people here may argue that it was Lenin, and not the socialists who came up with the term ‘commanding heights’, so it that is arguably not a distinct socialist party concept. However, socialist political parties did exist long before Lenin came to power, and they did argue for nationalization of the sectors that define the ‘commanding heights’ while leaving light industries (consumer goods) and small business in private hands.

    2.The primary rationale for nationalization of the ‘commanding heights’ according to Clement Atlee was that a nationalized industry would be more efficient than private industry (the nationalized company would be a monopoly and so it would avoid duplication of positions as occurs when there is more than one company in a sector. As well, it wouldn’t have a need to spend money on advertising just for the sake of beating the competition).

    Once it was generally agreed that, for a number of reasons, the nationalized industries were mostly a bust, they were sold off and put back in the private sector. This happened under Thatcher in Great Britain and in Scandanavia (I’m not sure who was in power then in the various countries) and in France under Mitterand (at least he gave up on the idea of nationalizing industry if not actually privatizing them himself.)

    So, while it is certainly true that Obama is trying to make the United States more like Western Europe (and Canada), and, to that extent, is following the policies of the ‘socialist’ parties in Western Europe, it would be more accurate to say that the socialist parties in Europe are actually now liberal parties and, contrary to the Newsweek article headline (good article but lousy headline) ‘nobody is a socialist now’.

  87. Just to put a concluding point on my previous post and, because it seems to be a point here,

    nationalizing all industry is ‘communist’

    nationalizing the ‘commanding heights’ is socialist.

    Wealth redistribution is liberal and has been so for the 200 or so years that liberal political parties have existed.

    Wealth redistribution is nothing new and it is not an indication of socialism. An argument could be made that if the wealth redistribution becomes so onerous that private industry becomes impossible, that the wealth redistribution is de facto socialism, however, given that capitalism more or less thrived in the United States when the top income tax rate was 91%, I highly doubt that a 39.6% rate is anywhere near that onerous.

  88. “Read the essays of Theodore Dalrymple, who worked for many years as a psychiatrist in the British prison system. He has seen the growth of a large white underclass in Great Britain consisting of people with no sense of right and wrong, no sense of responsibility, people totally dependent on the government. The crime rate has skyrocketed.”

    While I haven’t seen his essay, it’s certainly safe to say that the good psychiatrist is hardly a reliable voice on the state of overall youth in Great Britain in so far as he’s obviously biased by the cases that he sees, which are naturally the worst.

    That said, you do make a point about the declining work ethic of young males, but this is also a possibly emerging problem in the ‘non socialist’ United States.

    You made a correlation between the advance of ‘socialism’ in England and the state of young males (although most of those young males would actually have come of age in Thatcher, or, at least Major’s Britain and not under a Labour government), but that does not prove causation.

    As I said, other psychiatrists and psychologists have also noted the trend and there are various theories to attempt to explain it including the amount of in estrogen in bottled water.

    This was a program on the radio show Coast to Coast about 1 year ago:

    The Future of (Child) Men
    Ian spoke with psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax, who discussed the various factors contributing to the steady decline of performance, ambition, and fertility in America’s boys and young men.

    Sperm counts and testosterone levels of young men in the United States have declined substantially over the past 50 years, Sax reported. Environmental estrogens from clear plastic-bottled drinks may be partially to blame. According to Sax, consuming only two bottles of water provides about the same amount of estrogen as found in a birth control pill. The elevated estrogen intake may be lowering testosterone levels in men, causing them to lose motivation to do anything, Sax added.

    http://www.coasttocoastam.com/shows/2008/02/16.html

  89. Adam T,

    Dr. Dalrymple bases his account of the decline of Great Britain on more than just his clinical experience. It’s based on a wide range of observations over 50 years. The phenomenon has been widely noted. Ask any European about British tourists.

    Check out this video of Dr. Dalrymple addressing The Libertarian Alliance.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8839321321299664020

  90. Adam T.

    The estrogen theory of male decline that I read about has it that estrogen from the urine of women taking birth control pills has gotten into the rivers and streams and thence into the water supply. Proponents of the theory allege a rise in the number of intersexual fish. But if that’s the case, or if Dr. Sax’s bottled water theory is correct, why do we still have enough manly men to fight with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  91. “It’s based on a wide range of observations over 50 year”

    1.His general observations could well be biased due to his day job. Since he sees the worst aspects there, he notes it everywhere else he sees it while overlooking all the experiences that contradict it.

    Anacdotal evidence is generally regarded as the weakest evidence.

    2.However, as I said, he clearly is on to something given that the psychologist I posted on, Dr. Sax has cataloged similar, if slightly different, findings and does have actual statistical evidence to back it up (of course, Dr Dalrymple may also have such evidence, you just haven’t shown that he has.)

    Dr. Sax’s, for instance, has cited studies that show the percentage of the able bodied male population age 20-30 that is either willingly unemployed or underemployed has risen significantly in the last 50 years. He comes to a different hypotheses for the reason than you do (I don’t know if Dr Dalrymple has the same hypotheses as yours).

    As to the bottled water theory, there could be plenty of reasons to explain that. The people who join the military could simply drink less bottled water (though obviously not once in Afghanistan or Iraq) or, more likely, their bodies simply are less reactive. All bodies react differently. After all, while there is a rise of intersexual fish, it’s not like the number of male fish has dropped to zero.

    I don’t agree or disagree with Dr Sax’s theory, I don’t know. It didn’t strike me as completely plausible either, but I posted it to show that though you made a corelation between the ‘rise of socialism’ in the U.K (although, as I said early, the Conservatives were actually in power from 1979-1997) and the rise of the ‘yobs’, you hadn’t shown causation and there are other theories that also attempt to explain the phenomena.

  92. Adam:

    Though your definitions are strictly accurate regarding the difference between communism, socialism and American (modern) liberalism… I would suggest that the modern liberal and the socialist are functionally accomplishing identical goals.

    If you talk about the government/public ownership of various businesses that’s fine, but we’re looking at a situation where the large industries may still be labeled “private”, the amount of regulation & government imposed rules, combined with government’s subsidy sponsorship and various trade restrictions means the same thing in reality anyway.

    Whether government has a complete monopoly on various industries, such as utilities, education, etc. or whether or not they have nearly complete control over private companies amounts to somewhat of the same thing… except that in a corporatist state, like we have managed to create here, it’s much more complex.

    At any rate, the definitions of both socialism and fascism seem to change depending on the user, but if the fundamental principle of socialism is collectivizing ownership of business… I think Obama (and Bush) have managed to do that pretty damned well… or rather, they’ve managed to expand on what had already been started 70 years ago.

  93. Also…

    Andrew actually responded to my earlier reply to him. But he did so, for inexplicable reasons, on my personal blog – but since he was responding to something I said on here, and not something I said on my blog, I didn’t really see how that move made any sense. Of course… I don’t see how what he says here makes any sense either.

    At any rate, to get this shit back where it belongs, here was Andrew’s response:

    “Wow, you must have been a semantics student. Anyways…

    “Your tautology would be correct if your premises were remotely sensible.”
    Well, I think my premises were much more sensible than yours as I’m not necessarily bitter towards business or capitalism as you seem to be towards government (btw, if the US government had never formed, YOU would not exist, whereas I doubt your existence would have anything to do with the founding of Walmart – just something to think about)

    “What you meant is this:

    “When the former’s (businesses) priority is profit – only achievable by offering something of high value to the consumer in a voluntary/mutually beneficial exchange, and the latter’s (politicians/government) is getting re-elected and asserting control over others in the name of their well-being & security – by force…””

    No, I didn’t mean that at all.
    First off the fact that you think you can achieve profit only by offering something of high value to the consumer in a Voluntary/mutually beneficial way is completely laughable/moronic (have you EVER been shopping?) and displays a complete lack of realistic thinking (so you must be an economics student as well – great with definitions but don’t throw any realistic scenarios at them) – how’s all that snake oil working for you? Are you wearing your copper bracelet? How about you prayer cloth? Are these products the kind you had in mind?

    After that stupidity you went on with the following…
    “the latter’s (politicians/government) is getting re-elected and asserting control over others in the name of their well-being & security” (obviously you were beaten by a government official when you were young)
    Bitter much? Did you even read Cathy Young’s article? because it was making fun of people like you, simplistic ideologues that don’t speak with any realistic content. I could have as easily said something equally stupid about CEO’s and corporations but i didn’t. I looked up government on Wiki and surprisingly it didn’t mention any of these things. You don’t think corporations want control over their consumers? I wouldn’t even be surprised if you believed the moon landing is faked as this is the same mentally as far as I’m concerned, in which case I’ve wasted my time in attempting to reason with you.

    Have a pleasant day,
    Andrew”

  94. So… looking past the ad homs (and yes Andrew, I do believe we landed on the moon for realz0rs), Andrew is still trying to make the point that corporations are more dangerous than government… but without ever actually explaining how that’s possible.

    I composed an admittedly half-assed response to him on my blog once already – but for the sake of symmetry, I’ll do a better one here where it belongs:

    1. I’m not an economics student, or a “semantics” student (can you get a degree in semantics??) – I’m not a college student anymore at all in fact, cause you know… I graduated, then I went to graduate school and graduated again.

    2. “First off the fact that you think you can achieve profit only by offering something of high value to the consumer in a Voluntary/mutually beneficial way is completely laughable/moronic (have you EVER been shopping?)”

    Well first off, I didn’t say that the *only* way you can achieve profit was by offering something of value, but that is the only way of achieving profit if you aren’t able to use fraud or force directly or via government to get what you want. Any company not offering value either dies off in a free market or is cheating, which is a violation of their customers (and likely the taxpayers’) natural rights and need to be stopped. This is sort of Capitalism 101, but apparently Andrew is confused on that point.

    And I’m not really sure what he means by “Have you ever BEEN shopping?”… Cause well… yes, I have, and no one at any of the places I’ve ever shopped at have ever had armed guards waiting at the door to take my money by force. Neither is Wal-Mart (or Reason Magazine even) able to simply deduct money from my earnings…

    Yet strangely – Andrew must find himself in that predicament all the time. How odd.

    3. “How’s all that snake oil working for you? Are you wearing your copper bracelet? How about you prayer cloth? Are these products the kind you had in mind?”

    Oh yeah man, all workin’ out great for me… wait… huh?

    4. “You don’t think corporations want control over their consumers?”

    Some might… most I think just want to make a living. Corporations aren’t entities all by themselves you know – they’re actually created by real live human beings with families and interests. Most of whom don’t really give a shit about controlling much of anything but what might pertain to their own well-being.

    But ok, say a few do want to control everyone and everything… Fine… How do they do this without government help Andrew?

    Again… they can’t send armed thugs to your house can they? They can’t take half your paycheck by force. They can’t imprison you if you don’t buy their product.

    However, government *CAN* do all those things… and in general, governments seem to enjoy it quite a lot.

    Quick example for you: General Motors can’t actually come to my house and say “buy our cars or we’ll throw you in jail”. So instead – they send a few politically connected buddies of theirs to government and get *them* to say the same thing with different wording.

    The problem is not that General Motors’ management will do just about anything to save their business – the problem is that we’ve allowed a few people an enormous amount of power – so much so, that instead of having to change their product, GM can ply the government for special favors.

    Imagine Andrew, if you can, a world where GM had only one option to save their business – and that option is offering a better value to it’s potential consumers and competing fairly against other companies all vying for your voluntary support.

    Ugh… yeah… I bet you can’t. Anyway, this concludes my obligatory “Government = force, business = voluntary (except when they go through government to get what they want)” lesson for the day.

    Oh… one last thing.

    I’m not exactly sure what you meant by “I looked up government on Wiki and surprisingly it didn’t mention any of these things.”

    But instead of Wiki, why don’t you try my friend George Washington, who said:

    “Government
    is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

    It’s possible he knew what he was talking about…

  95. “Andrew is still trying to make the point that corporations are more dangerous than government… but without ever actually explaining how that’s possible.”

    Well you didn’t explain the reverse proposition – you simply spoke as if ‘government’, a big, complex, abstract entity, was a kin to a rapists or something. My first point was you have a very strange, irrational fear of government. I understand governments can/have done very bad as well as very good things – but to state as simplistically as you do with that ‘government will kill as all’ attitude is plainly stupid. Do you vote for the person that will hate his job the most?

    “When the former’s (businesses) priority is profit – only achievable by offering something of high value to the consumer in a voluntary/mutually beneficial exchange”

    SEE, you fucking did say ONLY. What’s wrong with you?

    “but that is the only way of achieving profit if you aren’t able to use fraud or force directly or via government to get what you want.”

    And who protects you from fraud or force? Wal-mart?

    “Any company not offering value either dies off in a free market or is cheating, which is a violation of their customers (and likely the taxpayers’) natural rights and need to be stopped. This is sort of Capitalism 101”

    But this is all theory you know, right? Does that mean I can’t buy the prayer cloth any more? Actually I can! Why hasn’t the free market rejected it yet? Oh right, there has never been a true free-market EVER! You can’t test any of these so called ‘facts’. If they need to be stopped, who the hell does the stopping?

    “How do they do this without government help Andrew?”

    Say for instance they create a monopoly, or price fix, or, like the shitty HP printer I bought, put technology in it to only allow their ink cartridges to work with it, or to add code to software so only Microsoft products work properly, or they can spread false information. There are fucking 1000s of ways and the government has to step in half the time to save your fucking ass. Are you serious that deficient in your thinking?

    “Governments seem to enjoy it quite a lot”

    Look, your not even making sense. Do you see why I say you have an irrational hate towards government? Government is not a ‘person’ that can enjoy things. Government is a system that includes all of us, so some people IN government might be corrupt – but some people everywhere are corrupt. You need to actually make an argument as to why government officials tend to corruption more so than other people. Also people in office are under much, much more scrutiny so corruption would natural surface more – also they deal with things that are more important to us than say, Wal-mart.

    “Imagine Andrew, if you can, a world where GM had only one option to save their business – and that option is offering a better value to it’s potential consumers and competing fairly against other companies all vying for your voluntary support.”

    Yeah, a world with less options, I love it. I can imagine all sorts of things, including GM going under. What’s your point? I never said I agreed with bailouts, but I’m not privy to all the information and people that that would cause or affect. But of course when the subject is very complex, with an unknown outcome, as is always the case with economic issues, then of course you would step in and boast knowledge of this complex issue with simplistic rants and characterizations.

    Sean, you can’t possible trust George Washington – not only was he apart of the government (horror), he actually help build the US government, so quoting him makes you seem schizophrenic.

    BUT, he said it was a FORCE, not an evil spirit. It can be a force for good or evil. And if you denigrate enough maybe it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    If you don’t like our government “MOVE THE FUCK AWAY”. Live on a fucking boat in the Atlantic or something.

  96. Andrew… is this your first time among libertarian/classical liberal ideas?

    That would explain an awful lot…

    We’re not actually anarchists here dumbass. I believe, as I’d imagine most on this board do, that government *has* one fundamental purpose: That of protecting liberty.

    You, on the other hand, believe that it’s purpose goes far beyond that – essentially that of giving at stuff.

    Since you completely misunderstand even the basic concepts of using force aggressively (nanny, welfare, warfare, etc. states) vs. defensively (protecting people’s natural rights), I’m not sure how I can possibly explain to you why what you’ve said belies a fundamentally deep inability to understand what I’ve been saying to you.

    If you don’t like HP, don’t us HP. If you don’t like Microsoft, go with a Mac – or branch out even farther and try Linux. I am a layman and I’ve built all of the last 5 desktop PC’s I’ve owned myself, it’s not really very hard to do… I don’t need government to “save my ass” from a corporation. I just need to not be a dumbass and go with what I believe is the best product.

    I’m sure this probably isn’t worth it, but…

    1. Well you didn’t explain the reverse proposition – you simply spoke as if ‘government’, a big, complex, abstract entity, was a kin to a rapists or something.”

    Yes I did.

    Government is force (hence the Washington quote), business transactions are voluntary. The only way for a business to actually obtain an unchallenged monopoly is either A. through getting legislation passed which knocks out all competitors and sets up a system where government prevents competition. (This is very common), or B. Through fraud, or force, such as corporate espionage, burning competitor’s supplies & factories, etc. or threatening to do such things if someone doesn’t leave.

    Option A happens all the time, option B happens much less often in the US because obviously those things are dangerous, illegal and easily backfire with a legal system that is relatively robust.

    My point is, if government’s *only* legitimate purpose is to stop Option B from occurring, and it does not engage in Option A – i.e. it is not allowed to give out special tax incentives, zoning privileges, impose tariffs on competitors or simply legislate them out of existence in some other ways – then no company on the planet can even obtain a true monopoly… certainly not a permanent one.

    I suppose it was my mistake to assume you’d understood that point already – this is a libertarian board though, so most of us here do.

    2. “When the former’s (businesses) priority is profit – only achievable by offering something of high value to the consumer in a voluntary/mutually beneficial exchange”

    SEE, you fucking did say ONLY. What’s wrong with you?

    “but that is the only way of achieving profit if you aren’t able to use fraud or force directly or via government to get what you want.”

    And who protects you from fraud or force? Wal-mart?”

    *Sigh…*

    Andrew… this really isn’t that complicated. I said “WHEN THEIR ONLY OPTION…” Not that it is.

    Obviously in 2009 USA it is *NOT* a corporation’s only option. They also have the above mentioned Option A, and the lesser used Option B.

    Option A is what GM is using right now to get you to pay for their cars without actually having to produce something you want to buy. Option B is what Bernie Madoff used to get super rich really quick.

    Madoff got caught… GM’s route is “legal” and completely sanctioned by the government… which of those two is more harmful in the long run?

    But Madoff actually only represents an infinitesimal fraction of businesses out there who are actually committing those sorts of crimes.

    The question comes down to who is initiating force against someone else to get what they want. You will always say, “well duh, it’s businesses!”, because they’re the one’s calling for the legislation that I’m railing against…

    But what underlies the requests of any company wishing to use “Option A”, is the fact that government has the power to grant their wish. A power which our Constitution is supposed to have place limits on, and which, until really the 20th Century, politicians had the good sense not to use.

    Washington understood this extremely well.

    Government cannot be a “force for good” if it is the initiator. It can only effectively be a force for preventing evil… it’s a subtle and possibly complex difference that ironically you think I don’t understand because of my “simplistic rants”.

    PS. Nice tag line… “If you don’t like our government MOVE THE FUCK AWAY”

    Classic.

  97. Proofreading fail: “You, on the other hand, believe that it’s purpose goes far beyond that – essentially that of giving at stuff.”

    =

    “You, on the other hand, believe that it’s purpose goes far beyond that – essentially that of giving away stuff (it doesn’t actually have).”

  98. “You, on the other hand, believe that it’s purpose goes far beyond that – essentially that of giving at stuff.”
    There you go characterizing poorly again. Show me one quote where I said the government should give us anything. That said, I think the government owes us not stuff but important services. Did the government build roads to give us liberty? Would you like the buses and subways to privatize? To get rid of public libraries? Littering laws, bank regulations…

  99. “Since you completely misunderstand even the basic concepts of using force aggressively (nanny, welfare, warfare, etc. states) vs. defensively (protecting people’s natural rights), I’m not sure how I can possibly explain to you why what you’ve said belies a fundamentally deep inability to understand what I’ve been saying to you.”

    What the fuck are nature rights? Is there a Rights Tree where this stuff grows up on? Is not living in poverty a right on this tree? So if money comes from me and goes to but a tank, that’s defensive, but if the money goes to a hospital for the sick, or to my hungry citizens, than I’m complicity in aggressive actions. Yes?

  100. “I just need to not be a dumbass and go with what I believe is the best product.”

    OK, so consumer fraud can be avoided by ‘not being a dumbass’ and buying the ‘best product’. Sounds simple.

    Then maybe, if people aren’t dumbasses and buy the best sprinkler systems than we won’t need a fire department. Wait, why doesn’t this work? Oh, right, we don’t live in a perfect, fantasy world.

  101. OK, I’m getting closer to understanding I think. BTW, I don’t disagree with most of what you wrote. But…
    “But what underlies the requests of any company wishing to use “Option A”, is the fact that government has the power to grant their wish. A power which our Constitution is supposed to have place limits on, and which, until really the 20th Century, politicians had the good sense not to use.”

    So you don’t like the government simply because they have the power to grant laws and powers to people/businesses. I guess that’s a little clearer? I would say if the business and the government are colluding than all people involved are at fault, not the institutions of business and government. Like I said, and I’ll keep saying, I don’t have a hate on for business, or even big business, the way you seem to have for government, or more specifically big government, also, I’m not for big government in general.

    Just tell us what the government did to you to make you such a bitter old man?

  102. “Government cannot be a “force for good” if it is the initiator. It can only effectively be a force for preventing evil”

    Well, I’m sorry, I guess maybe I’m the simplistic one, but if you’re preventing evil aren’t you doing a ‘good’ by force? Aren’t poverty, hunger, sickness and disease… all evils?

    See, you’re using these vacuous terms good and evil and you actually think you’re explain something. (Like Bush trying to explain his war)

  103. BTW this wasn’t an answer.

    And who protects you from fraud or force? Wal-mart?”

    *Sigh…*

    It’s obvious why though, no worries 🙂

  104. YOU JUST SAID EXACTLY WHAT I CLAIMED YOU DID.

    Christ man…

    “here you go characterizing poorly again. Show me one quote where I said the government should give us anything. That said, I think the government owes us not stuff but important services. Did the government build roads to give us liberty? Would you like the buses and subways to privatize? To get rid of public libraries? Littering laws, bank regulations…”

    There, there’s your quote.

    Yes, I want the government to get rid of buses & subways – I lived in New York, I now live in Los Angeles, both cities would be better off if their transit systems were private – New York’s was private and when it got taken over by the municipality the first thing they did was axe “redundant” lines, limiting service because they couldn’t figure out how to effectively run them all… LA’s public transit is asinine to say the least, largely based around a bus system, that is stuck in just as much traffic as anyone else.

    *Most* roads government DIDN’T build – and most certainly not the Federal Government. Local governments getting funds together from existing citizens to build roads that they themselves use is fine, though still not my preferred choice, but having the Federal government take money from Alabamans to pay for roads in Oregon makes no damn sense at all.

    Though while we’re on the note of Federal roads (i.e. interstate highways). Actually, YES. They were ostensibly built for the purpose of protecting liberty. Perhaps you are unaware that the highway system Eisenhower instituted was primarily so that military vehicles could easily travel across the US.

    From there, you conflate a few things…

    Littering laws do serve a useful purpose but the issue is more complex because of the Tragedy of the Commons. I don’t know if I really want to get into all that, but I can’t, for example go to your property and dump my garbage on it – that violates your (natural/negative) right to do with your property as *you* please as I’d be imposing my stuff on your property against your will. Litter laws sort of function that way in a “public” sense, but those two would be better served by removing public ownership… Again, a long conversation I’d rather not have here.

    Bank regulations?

    Bank regulations get us in the mess we’re in now. Obviously banks need to be policed for force & fraud just like anyone else, but it’s because of the magical power of leveraged lending that we’re continually in a worse and worse mess…

    So… Ok… When I said, you want government to give you stuff, I was characterizing poorly, huh? Seems like I was dead on.

  105. Services are not stuff, you’ve already admitted that services promoting liberty are the only thing the government should give us, ergo, you also believe the government should give us stuff.

  106. “Littering laws do serve a useful purpose but the issue is more complex because of the Tragedy of the Commons”

    OK, so give us liberty and laws that serve a useful purpose. Am I getting any closer to your political philosophy?

    I know I am, but are you sure you’re not making this stuff up as you go?

  107. Andrew… Give it up buddy. Everything you’re asking is Econ 101 + SOP for any baby libertarian.

    The issues you raise are neither new, nor interesting, nor are your conclusions correct – or even factually based.

    I know you’ll whine that this is a cop-out, but I have no desire to explain the basics of capitalism to you. Nor do I have the desire to explain the basics of natural rights to you…

    Milton Friedman, George Reisman, Thomas Sowell, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises will all suffice for the capitalism.

    Read Hayek if you’re interested in understanding why centralized power structures completely and inevitably fail to provide the results they claim.

    And please take 3 seconds and wiki John Locke & David Hume before you make me give you an explanation of why I am asserting natural rights.

    At some point, you have to come to the table with a fundamental level of knowledge which you obviously don’t have. When you do, and when you can stop being a dick, then we can chat, but for now I gotta get back to big-boy work.

    Your constant ad homs and strawmen are just starting to be a bore.

    Here – watch some videos:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muHg86Mys7I&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

  108. “OK, so give us liberty and laws that serve a useful purpose. Am I getting any closer to your political philosophy?”

    No… you’re not getting closer.

    I believe I expressly said “Litter laws sort of function that way in a “public” sense, but those two would be better served by removing public ownership…” Meaning… Litter laws are made necessary by public/collective ownership of property. Litter laws would be irrelevant in a private-ownership society. But again, this issue seems maybe too complex for you to understand, so I’ll leave you to read up on the tragedy of the commons on your own.

    My political philosophy is virtually identical to those of many of our founding fathers – Thomas Jefferson in particular, only more so.

    I think it’s time you started reading some history, learning a little about economics and philosophy and then trying again when you’ve grown up a little.

  109. “Your constant ad homs and strawmen are just starting to be a bore.”

    “government is getting re-elected and asserting control over others in the name of their well-being & security – by force…”

    I agree. I understand enough economics through the few classes I took, and my wife who has a degree in economics, to know that if you rely on it you’re an idiot. The only thing an economist can tell you is why their predictions from yesterday are not true today. You’ve read too much theory, not enough about the real world.

    I’m familiar with Hume and Locke but not with Natural Rights. Good to know that libertarianism stands on such a solid metaphysical foundation.

  110. I’ve read Jefferson denigrating Religion, but never government.

    OK, one last, serious question. If liberty is so important, why don’t me give that responsibility to the private sector too?

    If you give me a serious response I swear I won’t make another comment.

  111. If you are “familiar with Hume & Lock”, then you are familiar with Natural Rights…

    What you are saying to me is that you’ve “heard of” Hume & Locke… but don’t know fuck all about either.

    Try also Voltaire, Baron du Montesquieu, and Thomas Paine as well. Please do a little research on this stuff before asking me questions that I could successfully answer at 15, everyone will benefit.

  112. Andrew… My god man… Ignorance is one thing… but c’mon!

    From Jefferson:

    A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.

    A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

    A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.

    Force is the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism.

    History, in general, only informs us of what bad government is. (meaning there has not yet been an example of “good” government)

    I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.

    I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.

    Do you need more from him?

    Finally, to your question: “OK, one last, serious question. If liberty is so important, why don’t me give that responsibility to the private sector too? “

    Anarcho-capitalist Robert Murphy (among others) suggests a system in which this is plausible, but I believe the defense of liberty needs a codified & united set of established principles – a bill of rights, to function properly… An anarchist society, it would seem, does not quite have the ability to be consistent and may well end up with private militias initiating force instead of merely acting defensively.

    I do believe people have the right to private defense options though – such as private security companies, personal firearms & such provide… though I don’t personally employ such methods. It simply stems from self-ownership though… if I have a right to my life & property, I also have the right to defend those things.

  113. Ok ok… a couple more…

    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

    Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

    That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.

    The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

    The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.

    …All Jefferson.

  114. everyone could be a socialist which depends on how you define this identity.agree with author’s view totally.

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