Column on A Socialist America?

A Socialist America?

Tibor R. Machan

It is becoming increasingly likely that soon the United States of America,
which supposedly won the Cold War against the socialist Soviet Union, will
become a socialist society. A comparable country would be France, prior
to the presidency of Szarkozy.

This is the conclusion to be drawn from what two of the presidential
candidates who have a solid prospect to reach the White House have been
saying over the last several months. Both, Senators Hillary Rodham
Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama have indicated in no uncertain terms that
they prefer an economic order in the United States that is regimented by
the plans of some folks from above, not by the free choices of individuals
from below. She has said that what America needs is “a commander in chief
of the economy.” He has decried American capitalism and the profit motive
that is its main economic engine. She has taken advice from neo-Marxists
Michael Lerner of TIKKUN magazine, he has stated that the greatest
influence on his thinking and values was his mother, an avowed socialist
and communist sympathizer.

I am not using “socialist” and “communist” as scare terms, only as
accurate descriptions of what the two potential nominees of the Democratic
Party believe. They are not simply welfare statists, people who believe
that along with a substantial free market the country needs to have
supportive federal and state governments who provide people with last
ditch economic security in the face of the vicissitudes of market forces.
No, the two candidates appear to be impatient with such meager measures
and want to take the reigns once they enter the White House and shape the
country’s economic affairs according to a specific vision. They both
believe in the planned economy (with just a bit of hesitation from Senator
Obama who has indicated in a few of his speeches and interviews some
skepticism about extensive government regulation).

Why are these people champions of socialism? Because, it seems, they
believe that economic affairs in a society ought to be completely
predictable and risk free. Only a system that guarantees success for
everyone–never mind whether his or her work is in demand, whether luck is
on his or her side, whether he or she is skilled and talented–would
satisfy the criterion of a just socio-economic order for these candidates.
And if the spontaneous processes of the free market fail to achieve this
goal, then government must enter to regiment the country so that things
turn out properly, as envisioned by those seeking such a system of
guarantees.

This is what is called utopianism in the field of political economy. Most
people know that it is an impossible dream, an ideal that can only be
achieve in fantasy, not in reality. The world simply doesn’t work in a
way that can provide everyone with economic and related success. To wish
for this is comparable to wishing for a marathon race that everyone will
win! Impossible. (George Orwell’s Animal Farm shows this nicely!) And to
attempt it must then involve massive coercive force. That is just what
happened in socialist bloc and why their system failed and left the
countries where it was attempted a colossal economic mess form which
recovery will take decades.

Unfortunately over the last several decades most Americans have been
taught by teachers who pretty much share the two Senators’ economic
philosophy. In elementary school students are indoctrinated about all
kinds of topics, from sex to the environment, and how government must deal
with problems therein. The idea of individual freedom is, turn, nearly
completely neglected. In high schools there is very little economic
literacy being taught and most students are educated to care about
fairness and equality, not about initiative and risk. In colleges and
universities there is now very little in the curriculum that reminds
students of the most productive but also unsure economic system, namely,
capitalism. Instead the dream world of the top down managed economic
system is most widely championed.

In the American political arena there is hardly anyone who opposes these
trends. Certainly the Republicans cannot be counted on to challenge the
socialist vision since in the main they have their own similar moral
authoritarian vision to offer. The ideas and ideals of the Founders are
nearly cast to the side by all but the small group of libertarians who
aren’t at this time a viable political alternative.

Maybe this is a temporary setback. I believe in the long run the free
market alternative is going to be triumphant. But for the time being it is
losing. So we need to prepare for some pretty awful times.

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