Rob Chrisman: The shadows of socialism
Normally, I would let pass Bill Trzeciak’s attempt to justify the current mania for socialist and progressive programs, but the election of 2016 looms and demands a response.
Here are his principal points when you boil it down:
Socialism is not the enemy of capitalism.
There exists a kind of socialism that operates within a capitalistic framework that is unlike the dictionary definition; some people call it democratic socialism (also “market socialism”).
Capitalism is inherently flawed; under it, the winners take all and the losers suffer and die. The “wealth hoarders” created by capitalism will suck the money from the rest of us unless we regulate their ability to do so.
We, the people, by means of a democratic majority, can determine what is reasonable and what is not with regard to the free market. Corporations are currently favored and many do not pay taxes; they are taking away money from the people.
His idea of this kinder, gentler socialism would actualize the ability of individuals to realize their true happiness. The rest of the industrialized world (especially Europe) has already adopted these ideas, so let’s get to it, folks!
This kind of thinking has at its roots in a failure to understand capitalism, which is simply an economic system which reflects a larger attempt to foster and protect individual liberty.
In this country, we have never had the fully free and unhampered market economy that true capitalism requires. There have always been those who wish to seize the reins of government and manipulate matters to their own advantage usually under the guise that some benefit is being realized.
The last half of the 19th century is a testament to the Progressive notion of government intervention and the imposition of regulations and controls, including legislation controlling railroads, anti-trust laws, pure food and drug acts, etc.
A deeper examination of the history of these attempts reveals that they were passed at the behest of muckraking journalists in league with politicians and certain corporations who perceived advantages in the degree of control that comes with regulation; there was no overriding public clamor to intervene.
This era provided the precedents necessary to continue to agitate for constant intervention into the economy and move us from a relatively free market to a mixed economy (i.e. a mixture of freedom and controls, where the controls have now become dominant). The more hampered the economy is, the more sluggish — witness the last six years.
Democratic socialism is the mixed economy on steroids.
The unhampered market economy is almost miraculous in its ability to create new wealth and improve standards of living. Recall Adam Smith’s discussion of the “invisible hand.”
It is a natural system and every intervention into this milieu introduces something that perturbs it in a negative way; the response to this negative result is usually to introduce some additional intervention or control, which causes a yet deeper distortion. One proof of this is what happened when President Nixon instituted wage and price controls in the 1970s.
Socialists of all stripes simply fail to get economics right; they believe they can cheat reality and draw on the unlimited resources of the few to fund benefits for the masses. They always place distribution before production.
Furthermore, socialism exhibits its immorality in its assertion that we do not really own the fruits of our labor and that some arbitrary fraction of it is available (via taxation) for the benefit of others.
Finally, socialism always leads to gradual increases in control over individual lives; fully extrapolated, it always winds up as totalitarian state socialism. Witness Venezuela for example.
Removing controls and maximizing individual liberty on the other hand has no negative consequences and no extrapolation penalty. The negative concerns cited by Mr. Trzeciak all result from private entities seeking advantage from government by either subsidy or the imposition of regulations that favor them.
Real negative outcomes have resulted from the attempt to remove both health care and education from market discipline including; failing inner city schools and the imminent threat of rationed care.
It is a singular tragedy that most Americans are so dismally ignorant of economic matters, and swallow whole the conventional Keynesian wisdom.
For those who want to learn something different, I heartily commend seeking out Tom Woods, a libertarian scholar and historian who has a daily podcast.
I especially recommend his YouTube discussion, “Austrian Business Cycle Theory,” which explains the crash of 2008, and why manipulated interest rates are so terribly wrong.
Rob Chrisman lives in Nevada City.
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