Column on Why Not Socialism?

Why Not Socialism?
Tibor R. Machan
It is no scare tactic to raise the specter of a socialist America these
days. First, it was Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton whose candidacy
promised to take socialism front and center as America’s official
ideology. Clinton’s book, It Takes A Village (Simon & Schuster, 1996),
unabashedly affirms the socialist ideal, arguing that individualism must
be rejected in favor of collectivism, wherein all of us are part of one
social whole, exactly as Karl Marx had argued in several of his works.
(See, most accessibly, Marx’s posthumously published Grundrisse for a very
clear example.)
Senator Barack Obama, too, clearly shows a preference for the socialist
system, as in his exchange with Joe the Plumber where he made it crystal
clear that he wants to spread the wealth no matter whose wealth it is
(certainly not his own) and in his life long association with socialist
groups and projects.
Senator Joe Biden, too, has his socialist credentials. During the
hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the nomination to
the U. S. Supreme Court of Clarence Thomas, Senator Biden openly ridiculed
the ideas of those who champion the right to private property. He held up
Professor Richard Epstein’s book, Takings: Private Property and the Power
of Eminent Domain (Harvard University Press, 1985), which affirms that
principle, in order to openly reject its ideas. (It was Marx and Engels,
in their Communist Manifesto, who made it abundantly clear that to advance
toward socialism and, in time, communism, the principle of the right to
private property must be abolished!)
Variations of socialism have, of course, managed to get established in
different societies without any violent revolution–just consider how
National Socialism triumphed in Germany’s Weimar Republic, ushering in
Hitler’s regime, and how Hugo Chavez got elected in Venezuela and promptly
installed his version of fascistic socialism. Marx himself pointed this
out in a speech he gave in Holland in 1983, arguing that in more or less
democratic countries the revolution can be achieved via the ballot box.
The notion that it cannot happen here is completely silly. Yes, America
has a pretty good constitution and its Bill of Rights would seem to be a
good defense against establishing a socialist or fascist regime. In fact,
however, no written constitution alone can fend off such a development,
not without the beliefs of the bulk of the citizenry backing up the ideas
and ideals of that anti-socialist constitution. Given how powerful the
temptation is to seek the help of an all powerful government to promote
one’s economic agenda of taking from Peter to provide for Paul–the
central element of Senator Clinton’s and now Obama’s health care proposal
and, of course, of the idea of "spreading the wealth" and given how weak
is the conviction in America of the basic principles of the Declaration of
Independence–all that stuff about everyone having unalienable rights to
one’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness–the prospect of real
socialism in the U. S. A. is no longer a version of McCarthyism.
Of course many Americans would be shocked to learn that they are being
complicit in ushering in socialism in their country. They only want
moderate wealth redistribution–they want to spread the wealth but within
limits; they want their children to be socialized, along lines spelled out
in Senator Clinton’s book, but only to a point. In short, most Americans
believe in what political theorists now call market socialism–a kind of
impossible combination of socialism and the free market. They want a
robust welfare state.
Trouble is there is no coherent idea of market socialism or even the
welfare state that provides solid limits to the power of government and
secures an individual’s rights to life and liberty, let alone property.
The pursuit of the public interest, the common good, the welfare of
society as a whole, necessarily amounts to pursuing the good of just some
members of society as understood by a few of those members. The only valid
public interest is what the American Founders identified, namely, securing
everyone’s basic, individual rights to their lives, liberty and pursuit of
happiness. Every other idea of the welfare of society or the public or
some such notion amounts to handing power to some few members who will
then wield it without a clue as to what else to aim for but their own
agenda. There is, in other words, no valid socialist idea, no valid
welfare of the state, nada! It all comes down to the dictatorship of a
few, just as it did in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, Cuba, North Korea,
China, and now Venezuela. The rest is all some feeble attempt to square
the circle.

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