Why Conservatives Hate Socialism

I was prompted to write this post because of a comment that was left on one of my posts on Facebook. The author shall remain nameless, unless he decides to comment on this post. Point blank, he said he did not understand the hatred of socialism in this country. In response to that, I said if he didn’t understand why conservatives hate socialism, then he didn’t truly understand what socialism is all about.

SocialismSocialism can be defined in many ways, as it has many facets. Economic socialism requires social ownership of the means of production. In other words, companies that produce or manufacture goods or services are owned and operated by cooperative management. Supposedly, it is designed to meet the needs of the people and not for private profit. It is the complete and total antipathy of capitalism and the system of government the Constitution of the United States is designed to outline and govern.

America was founded on the principles of individual freedom. America was also founded to give states the freedom to choose their own direction. The federal government was a limited government, with limited enumerated powers. All power not specifically given to the federal government is left to the states. Our country has thrived for over two hundred years because our system works. I believe the reason we see such trouble and division in our country is because the system has stopped working. In other words, we have moved from a society where individuals can excel to a society where individual exceptionalism is frowned upon. We have moved from a limited federal government to a leviathan that is slow-moving, slow to respond, and currently locked in gridlock. If you require proof of that, turn your attention to the federal response in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. And yet, we have far too many people in this country who believe the federal government needs to grow even more, to spend even more of our money.

You may ask, what does big government have to do with socialism? While they are not necessarily the same thing, I would contend the following. Socialism is usually defined as government ownership of capital and the means of production. Big government doesn’t require said ownership, as such, but it does lead to confiscation of wealth by the government, in the form of higher taxes on those who are successful in whatever endeavor they have engaged in. Because the proponents of big government believe the federal government can do all things better, they justify these higher taxes by saying the government needs to redistribute the wealth they are confiscating. As if the federal government can do anything better than individuals or private groups. But, I digress.

President Barack Obama is just such a proponent. He tries to keep it hidden, but he has let it slip a couple of times. There is ample evidence that he believes the federal government should be able to raise taxes on the wealthy, almost at will. Most of the liberal Democrats seem to hold that same opinion. It is a form of creeping socialism and because of that, it is a dangerous thing to have present in our society. Little by little it has taken over our country, until we can no longer recognize the America we grew up in.

The young man who made the comments that prompted this post also tried to make another point. He said a lot of people his age were moderate and progressive, but couldn’t do anything to make changes because the older generations were so entrenched in our views. In light of that, this is one of the older generation that intends to remain entrenched in his views. Socialism is not the answer to the ills of America. Socialism will not get us out of debt. Socialism will not improve our education system. Socialism will not improve our roads. Socialism will not improve our standing in the world.

Socialism has never been a success story. What makes us believe America would fare any different?

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Conservative Blogs.

About LD Jackson

LD Jackson has written 2009 posts in this blog.

Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

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  • Dragonconservative

    And this is one of the younger generation that will remain entrenched in his conservative views, thank you very much. the reason why we conservatives are vilified and branded as “close-minded and entrenched in our views” is that we understand that socialism and progressivism (or whatever you want to call it) has failed whenever it has been implemented, just as in the example of the Soviet Union. We conservatives don’t turn to failed ideas and think that they can work in America. Now, you might hear that the Soviet Union was not “true” socialism. That is arrant nonsense. The totalitarianism of the Soviet Union was a by-product of the Bolsheviks trying to turn everyone into socialists. Keep capitalism.

  • Sasha

    Economic activity is generally what turns an engendered desire (“I would like to eat an apple”) into a result (“I can now eat an apple because I went to the store and bought some.”)

    Capitalism is all about finding the cheapest, easiest, and most efficient way to get from desires to results, evolving organically as millions of people make decisions that make sense for them. (“I need money to buy apples, I will get a job.” “People want apples, I will open a store that sells them.”) The end result is the greatest aggregate happiness for the greatest number of people. It is fast, it is efficient, and it is smart.

    Socialism is all about placing layer upon layer of bureaucracy, rules and restrictions between desires and results, because the Socialists believe that it result in a more ordered and equitable system. This makes it harder for people to realize their dreams, both small (“I would like to eat an apple.”) and big (“I would like to make a company as successful as Apple”). It is slow, it is inefficient, and compared to capitalism, is incredibly dull-witted in finding solutions.

    Socialism is the economic heart of a sick and aged person … the arteries are congested, every pump of blood is an enormous effort. Shackled, hindered, and ill-used, it struggles to provide even the most meager level of economic oxygen to the tissues of society, and many starve for it.

    Capitalism is the economic heart of a healthy athlete, jogging tirelessly and steadily forward, capable of undertaking amazing outbursts of activity and incredibly resilient to stresses placed upon it, able to adjust, adapt, bounce back and carry on.

    Socialism always eventually evolves into oppression and brutality. Capitalism always eventually evolves into opportunity and prosperity. Capitalism is humane, socialism is anything but. Capitalism is better for almost everyone. Socialism is better for almost no-one.

    So why are we drifting toward Socialism? Because Socialism is easy … it requires someone else to do the thinking, the planning, and the work … at least at first. And it is simplistic in its thinking and its solutions, meaning that it allows even simple thinkers to feel erudite by advocating it.

    We should reject ANY characterization of Capitalism as ‘uncaring’ and ANY characterization of Socialism as ‘compassionate’. Economic systems are neither, they are merely systems. But if you look not at promises, but at results, Capitalism is MORE generous, MORE humane, MORE intelligent than a socialist system has ever been and can ever be. We MUST argue this incessantly, and give no ground. If someone advocates for socialism, call them cruel, and then explain why they advocate for cruelty. Make them question their religion. Shake their faith. Get them to think for themselves, if only a little. Socialism succeeds only when enough people cease to question it. ASK the uncomfortable questions, and force its defenders to defend its harsh, cruel and selfish underpinnings.

    If we want to remain free, we can do no less.

    -Sasha

    • http://www.ldjackson.net LD Jackson

      Thanks for commenting on Political Realities, Sasha. The only thing I can say to your comment is to agree. You have stated the differences between capitalism and socialism very well.

    • MaryAnn

      Wonderfully put Sasha! You were able to break it down so that young socialist might be able to understand why they would not want to join in on that fad.

  • iron williamson

    Why do conservatives who promote capitalism as such a fantastic system for “almost everyone” conveniently forget about the Dickensian travesties of Victorian-age Britain? Capitalism gave rise to (evolved into) industrial slavery for countless numbers of Britons. How did this evolution reflect a “humane” society? Capitalism also gave rise to the Great Depression (which, by the way, was not the fault of FDR, who wasn’t even in office as President in 1929).

    How was the capitalistic society of the 1920′s to be considered “intelligent” for “evolving” into the Great Depression?

    On the other hand, how wonderful would the 1950′s and early 1960′s have been for Americans had it not been for the “socialistic” G.I. Bill that allowed so many to achieve middle-class status?

    Whatever happened to our knowledge of the depredations of the robber barons who took every possible measure to defeat the cause of decent social conditions for the vast majority of our fellow citizens by focusing on the concentration of wealth uber alles?

    Have we forgotten already the perils of a deregulated Wall Street, so soon after it caused our present near-depression?

    Why have our historical memories of the truly vast economic crimes of so many capitalists faded so quickly?

    • http://www.ldjackson.net LD Jackson

      Why is it that so many advocates of socialism claim their favored system is necessary to cure all social ills? Socialism is not the answer. Moving back to our founding principles, as a representative Republic is.

      John Bascom has already pointed out that the Great Depression was world wide and was not caused by American capitalism. To that point, I would also remind you that a deregulated Wall Street did not cause our latest economic recession/depression. Instead, it was the housing crisis, which was caused, in large part, by the insistence of liberals that mortgage companies had to make loans to people who were clearly incapable of making the payments. I would also remind you that it was President Bush and the Republicans in Congress who tried to reign in that practice, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the liberals wouldn’t go along.

      Let’s place the blame where it belongs, shall we?

      • http://www.cainespestilence.com John Bascom

        Spot-on regarding the cause of the housing crisis and in turn the 2008 meltdown, Larry. Carter started it with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (the title sure SOUNDED good) and it was fertilized with other laws, regulations and regulatory enforcement. And of course the Great Enablers were Fannie and Freddie as you so well pointed out.

    • Sasha

      Ah, yes … the standard-issue complaints about capitalism … Economic Crimes! Robber Barons! Dickensian Workhouses! It’s boiler-plate objections that gloss over the reality in favor of socialist revisionism.

      First off, ‘Iron’, the economic realities of today are far different than the 1800s. Secondly, the mills of the 19th century lifted millions out of poverty and ended countless generations of life with no hope than anything better than peasantry. It is no accident that the rise of a robust middle class came with the opening of market-based economies in the late middle ages, or that broad-based literacy and primary education spread with the industrial revolution. For all the thousands you claim were ‘enslaved’, millions were uplifted. But socialism would rather ALL be enslaved. That, at least, is ‘equitable’ in their minds. The mill worker had better wages, better education, better housing, shorter hours, and greater social mobility than his peasant forebears. But since it wasn’t a ‘workers paradise’, you see nothing but the imperfections.

      Moreover, the mills and the ‘robber barons’ achieved their greatest abuses as a -result- of cronyism and protectionism and protected monopolistic practices done in CAHOOTS with government. Because they filled the coffers, they were allowed leniency and protection from a truly free market. The problems Upton Sinclair justly decried in ‘The Jungle’ resulted not from too much free market, but from syndicalism fomented by government meddling in the meat packing industry.

      And I never said FDR -caused- the Great Depression. But I will say that he greatly extended it. His own economic advisers said as much. Some of the causes of the Great Depression were capitalistic, like the Stock Market crash. However, wrongheaded GOVERNMENT policies like the protectionist Smoot-Hawley tariff and Roosevelt’s own wrongheaded expenditures that sucked even more money out of the economy did, as well. Finally, conditions that were not political at all… the drought and the Dust Bowl exacerbated matters. To lay it ALL at the doorstep of capitalism reveals your own biases.

      The G.I. Bill was a largely-successful program, but it was NOT socialistic. It had NOTHING to do with government owning the means of production. Note that it was a -loan- program, not redistributionism, and demanded the loans be repaid at fair rates in time. Moreover, the middle classes’ ranks had been swelling for decades, and would have continued to do so with or without the G.I. Bill. To claim plaudits for socialism for it is both exaggerated and dishonest.

      The current recession was not caused by a deregulated Wall Street, but by loose money practices advocated by government, which used its power to muscle financial institutions into ignoring free market reasonableness when evaluating loans. This led to an unbalanced housing market, a real estate bubble which, when it predictably burst (the Bush administration had predicted it for years and warned Congress about it repeatedly. Democrats ignored them) led to a financial crisis. The government stepped in with paeans of ‘too big to fail’ and ended up spending even more money to economically whitewash a problem that was the fault of government interference to begin with.

      You talk about ‘economic crimes’ … what is an ‘economic crime’? It is a subjective term that really means ‘I don’t like this and would lock up those who disagree if I could.’ If actual criminality occurred, then please seek redress through prosecution and cut the bargain basement Che Guevara histrionics.

      NOWHERE do you address my central thesis that Capitalism is more humane, brings greater proseperity, greater opportunity and a better quality of life to more people than socialism. All you can do is dredge up the worst you’ve ever heard or imagined about capitalism from over two centuries. Much of it is fiction, as I’ve shown above, and that which is not absolutely pales in comparison to the very real injustices, impoverishment, and dare I say it … ‘economic crimes’ of socialism. While Depression-era Americans ate canned beans and three-day-old bread, Depression-era soviet socialists starved by the millions. The system I advocate isn’t perfect, but it brings the greatest good to the most people. Socialism does not. Capitalism creates. Socialism destroys. The only thing capitalism does NOT do is give man unfettered power over his fellow man. That’s socialism’s bailiwick … a regressive philosophy of quasi-medieval thinking that is truly regressive, and the West’s present dalliances notwithstanding, belongs on the ash-heap of history. Free-thinking men and women of all races, creeds, and circumstances have neither need nor use for it.

  • http://www.toberight.com ToBeRIGHT

    Please someone reply thoughtfully to iron whatshisname… If I do it’ll just deteriorate. Harry Callahan said it best when he said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Be that as it may, I would add that there are some people who will never be reached. They will always want power over other men. They will feel entitled to property and success without earning it. They will look past the evils of tyranny and only upon the supposed fairness of servitude. These people will never understand why socialism is bad. I wonder if it’s worth trying to convince them….

  • http://www.cainespestilence.com John Bascom

    I liked the TV ad during the campaign where a successful immigrant said in effect he had come here to escape socialism because under that system the rich are certainly worse off, but so are the poor.

    Socialism is nothing new; it has been tried again and again and has always failed. And to “iron williamson”‘s point, the Great Depression was global; it was not caused by American capitalism. It was caused by economic cycles that have occurred for time immemorial, and will continue to do so.

  • iron williamson

    ToBeRight, the question of power is not an issue in either my posting or the core of socialist beliefs. Socialism is not communistic dictatorship, nor does it inevitably lead to such. Only conservatives make any alleged propensity to power (really an aspect of fascism) an issue that they raise in their favor, and only by conveniently ignoring that certain pervasive, comprehensive and often unchecked private power which is exercised by capitalists against others that they consider their inferiors. Socialist governments in theory only exercise so much power as citizenry allows it, which may include intrusion into economic relations. Confusion between totalitarianism and socialism is endemic within conservative orthodoxy.

    Nor is socialism that is humane and just simply a theory — far from it. For an illustration of a socialist state that no fair-minded individual could mistake for a totalitarian or even authoritarian one, one can cite the example of Sweden, which is one of the most developed and admired of countries and in any ways, higher-ranking in OECD terms than the United States.

    On the other hand, for an illustration of a capitalist state that no fair-minded individual could fail to admit is periodically addicted to power over others, one can cite a certain superpower which, from its assertions of the right to relocate Native Americans, in a domestic context, to its unilateral declaration of a right to “protect” other sovereignties through its Monroe Doctrine, in a foreign policy aspect, demonstrates a propensity for the extreme exercise of often arbitrary and often militarily violent power.

    If, on the other hand, in an attempt to save the original claim, capitalism is excised from the above-referenced capitalist polity itself, and one places the responsibility for such exercises of power on the nature of the state qua state (rather than economic system), the thesis stands regardless: Socialism is not inevitably associated with totalitarianism, nor is capitalism inevitably tied with “liberty.” And one must consider that Latin American states were often capitalist and yet highly authoritarian — even if one concedes, for the sake of argument, that the National Socialists of Germany were in fact “socialist,” which is dubious but stated here since it is often said on the right that the Nazis were indeed such. The Nazi focus on industrialism had, to that point, only been associated with capitalistic societies, and in fact the Nazis had the support of prominent industrialists.

  • iron williamson

    LD Jackson, it is often claimed that the “housing crisis” precipitated the current great recession. But in fact, had financial deregulation not permitted the amalgamation of lending institutions with otherwise unrelated banking entities, and had there been strict government oversight over such things as the varieties of financial instruments and the veracity of financial disclosures, the mortgage crisis would simply not have unfolded the way it did. Mortgage-backed securities, for example, were alleged “innovations” that greatly accelerated the effects of subprime foreclosures by dividing bad debt into numerous parts that eventually cascaded into a global crisis. Whereas the effects of mortgage defaults were once localized, the default of any large part of a portfolio had unpredictable and often disastrous effects worldwide once such defaults were essentially propagated into numerous securities that were desseminated worldwide and often in an untraceable manner. This is capitalism run amuck, and it occurred as a result of deregulation and the operation of the “free market.”

    Secondly, it is not true that all socialist parties desire a government solution as the only and best answer for the world’s ills. Most socialist parties desire a balance between private enterprise and government supervision. The Green Party, for example, is a socialist party, and it does state as part of its platform, the following: “We must take aggressive steps to restore a fair distribution of income.” But how would this be done? Through nationalization? Through government control of private means of production? Hardly: Through tax breaks: “We support tax incentives for businesses that apply fair employee wage distribution standards, and income tax policies that restrict the accumulation of excessive individual wealth.”

    Thus, while conservatives say, “I’ve got mine — you get yours and leave me alone!” — an often self-centered and one-sided approach — socialists say that private enterprise has its place, but, on the other hand, society has a fair expectation of human rights to life and livelihood as well. Seen in this light, which doctrine is the more extreme?

    • http://www.ldjackson.net LD Jackson

      You are right. Had there been more oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the effects of the housing crisis may not have been so severe. That is one thing President Bush tried to do. He wanted to reign them in, but was unable to do so because of the opposition of the Democrats in Congress.

      The quote you have included from the Green Party platform says it all.

      We must take aggressive steps to restore a fair distribution of income.” But how would this be done? Through nationalization? Through government control of private means of production? Hardly: Through tax breaks: “We support tax incentives for businesses that apply fair employee wage distribution standards, and income tax policies that restrict the accumulation of excessive individual wealth.

      There is really no need for me to say more. Socialism wants to restrict what an individual can do, how successful they can become. That is not what our country was founded on. If that is the type of system you desire to be governed by, so be it, but I’ll have no part of it.

      • http://www.charlesmphipps.com Charles Phipps

        It’s the type of system many want and I think part of the reason is rooted in jealousy. A coworker at my office was ranting about “the 1%” and how they don’t pay enough taxes. I told him that if you confiscate every penny they have the federal government could operate for about three months. He said raise their taxes anyway. I asked him how would doing that improve your life? What change would it make for you that justifies doing that? He said it didn’t matter and that those people are just greedy and there’s no reason they should be allowed to have that much. I was thinking at that point if he wants to see greed he need only look in the mirror. Greed, envy, jealousy. The starting point for every would-be socialist in our country.

  • http://www.charlesmphipps.com Charles Phipps

    The socialists in our country would say that socialism just hasn’t been done right yet and that will get it right. They’re the people who voted for Barack O’Claus to give them free stuff without thinking of the freedoms they’ll be giving up to get it. What’s really depressing is knowing that even if these progressives grow up and smell the coffee one day and realize they’ve been wrong, those freedoms they voted away will likely never return. And all of us pay the price for that.

  • http://www.truthinexile.com Castle

    It’s the “greed” that makes businessmen want to create more businesses and grow their existing ones. Liberals are too blinded by their hate for success to understand this. They would rather have no jobs created if it means that the creation of jobs will result in more money for the businessman.

  • iron williamson

    LD Jackson, what is it about benefiting those who have less that is objectionable? Forget for a moment the parade of horribles lending credence to the notion that the power to tax is the power to destroy. The fact is that taxation exists, and must exist. The only question is how taxation is to be implemented and for what purpose in a modern civilized state.

    It is easy for those who have wealth to see how beneficial capitalism has been. They are the ones that have achieved success — and many, if not all of them, have achieved it through hard work. But regardless of that, those entrusted by the people to government must look toward the welfare of the entire country. They are tasked with the need to help those who cannot help themselves, whether for reasons of misfortune or otherwise. Not even the staunchest conservative could doubt that government faces this task on a daily basis; the only question is what can be done in response.

    Consider that taxation is an inherent right of the sovereign in a civilized society. In this case, the sovereign is the people of a state or of the United States. Those people act, when they act legislatively, rightfully when they impose taxes. Contrary to what seems to be the illusion of some conservatives, taxation is not, in and of itself, a penalty, but the cost of civilization. Without taxation, civilization itself would be impossible; rather, we would have a Hobbesian war of all against all.

    As you doubtless know, Locke and his ideals supported the idea of private property as a fundamental right. Socialists do as well. But socialists also understand, and actively promote values in the knowledge, that there are other fundamental rights — such as that of life. Conservatives often cite the Independence credo, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” without giving due consideration to the first and third element in that phrase.

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all is impossible unless taxation is implemented in a manner befitting the interests of all — and not just those in possession of private property (which, ironically, is not part of that phrase).

    Liberty is impossible without consideration of the context in which it exists. The liberty of an individual solely as an individual has no meaning unless one lives on an island. And as Donne stated, no man is an island, unto himself.

    To divorce the equitable goals of a civilized state from the use of taxation to advance the many aspects underlying the cause of civilization and the context in which liberty must exist (i.e., not in isolation), is to imagine a world that never was.

    • http://www.ldjackson.net LD Jackson

      First of all, do not put words into my mouth. I have nothing against helping those who have less than myself. However, that help should not be forcibly extracted from my by my government. That’s what excessive taxation does and it gets even worse when the people in the government believe they have a moral obligation to raise taxes, because it is the right thing to do.

      As I quoted the platform of the Green Party above, that says it all for me. The government does not have the authority, moral or otherwise, to confiscate private property or wealth. If it grants itself that authority, it has overstepped its boundaries and should be put back in its proper place.

  • http://capitolcommentary.com Harrison

    The idea behind Capitalism, supposedly, is that it turns a negative, greed, into a positive by using man’s innate desire to posses more to create plenty. A simplification, of course, but it is the idea. In a free market a business might take risks but if it takes too many then it will likely go out of business. When Government steps in to interfere (housing market) it creates artificiality that perverts the free market and, as happened, can create the conditions that led to a crash.

    Government oversight is necessary but if overly internationalist the way Liberals like, it creates conditions that lead to misery (Great Depression).

    I firmly believe Liberalism grows where economic ignorance is prevalent.

  • http://saucyusa.blogspot.com LisaGinNZ

    GREAT post and thank you… I’m an Illinois girl currently living in the British commonwealth of NZ… we have warm and fuzzy socialism down here – borrow lots of money to keep it afloat, semi-free (if you want to WAIT a long time) “health care” and I pay 39% in taxes for the semi-free-ness. I just purchased health insurance for additional coverage. Leftist education is the key – kids are fully indoctrinated here, hate to say it, reject anything nuclear and fully accept the liest of AGW… anyway, I’m an outsider… but besides all that, people are very nice – and the country is gorgeous… but we have to battle the greeny-lefty madness in all our ‘free’ countries! Statism everywhere doesn’t work… cheers

  • Iron Williamson

    Sasha, you conflate socialism with communistic dictatorship. Only those who believe that former inevitably leads to the latter can make the arguments you offer. Interestingly, this belief is shared by two diametrically opposed views — those of conservatives, and those of communists, to the extent that each of them may believe that everything in politics is either one thing or the other.

    Politics is not Manichean. Politics is the art of compromise. But with conservatives who believe that socialism is “really” a stage that leads to communistic dictatorship, compromise is anathema. “How dare you ask me to compromise my liberty,” they ask. “My liberty is not negotiable.” Why? In some measure, because they believe that “inevitably” government will take all that they value under fiat. Similarly, communists such as Marx and Lenin believed that it was “scientific truth” that capitalism must lead to communistic dictatorship. It is quite arguable that both are wrong.

    Thus, when your message states that the G.I. Bill is not socialistic because it does not involve control of the means of production, it contains within it the hidden assumption that all varieties of socialism must indeed involve as a fundamental and defining characteristic that kind of control. But it does not. as I have proved by referring to the Green Party platform, it operates on incentiving and government guidance toward goals that the majority agree government must serve — and in the case I cited, through tax incentives. Tax incentives are also used by conservatives when desirous of advancing their own programs toward necessary goals, such as encouragement of overall health through the conservative solution of increased private health insurance. The fact is that government control of the means of production is not necessarily the goal of socialism, and so to characterize the G.I. Bill as not socialism both minimizes the essential prevalence of socialistic thinking and mischaracterizes the goals of modern socialism as it truly is. Further, in that the G.I. Bill in its original form originated during the FDR years, albeit proposed by a Republican, it would otherwise for that reason meet the dreaded “socialism” charge levied against anything Rooseveltian, and it is true indeed that FDR wanted the Bill to extend benefits to nonveterans, thus illustrating its social nature. So why is it that the G.I. Bill is not considered socialistic, other than the mere possibility that its beneficial effect is politically inconvenient?

    What is not in doubt is that individuals act and are acted upon in accordance with their needs and desires. Both are essential for government to consider.

    I have indeed addressed the point founded on the alleged “humaneness” of capitalism over other forms of economic relations. Suffice it to add that since there are very few examples, if any, where capitalism has been allowed to exist without social intervention at all in the modern age, it is difficult to either prove or disprove any such claim. The two forms have been forced through the needs/desires of the majority to move toward a consensus where neither is entirely suppressed, just as neither is fully served. But in fact this necessity of compromise is only another point in favor of the necessity of an alloy between capitalistic and socialistic views of economics. It is not enough to say that the capitalistic West is so much more humane than the noncapitalistic non-West, since the confounding factor of socialism is already part of the mix in the former.

    Another point was raised concerning how FDR’s policies are deemed to have extended the Great Depression. Even if, for the sake of argument, this is conceded, the question is why the Depression began to begin with. If it was the effect of the acts of capitalism, then that only serves to prove the flaws in your argument — that it inevitably leads to the greater good. For the millions that suffered because of the mere onset of the Depression, the allegation that FDR may have prolonged it is not satisfactory to prove the merits of capitalism. What was and is satisfactory is recognition of the necessity for the benefit of all a policy that mitigates the inherent propensities of capitalism to run roughshod over “mere” humanistic concerns. What was and is satisfactory, that is, is to consider the noncapital-related needs of the majority of citizens. Even if, arguendo, capitalism works “in the long run” (as argued by conservatives who claim that capitalism has “evolved” beneficently through its allowance of unlimited freedom of capital), people do not starve in the long run. They starve in the short run. The same charge levied against communism (i.e., that “it turns out well in the end” is an illusion based on teleology) finds its exact counterpart in capitalism, and yet to this one has the answer to both: The ends, in political reality, never should justify the means.

    However, one should not be under any illusion that these arguments will sway those who believe that only the protection of liberty is a legitimate goal of government intervention. This is why politics in our age is destined for conflict, for conflict persists in the absence of compromise. Extremists on both ends of the political spectrum may be, in the fullness of history, to blame for this, but for now, the view that admits of no compromise seems very much identified with the desires of the right.

    • Sasha

      You seem to be defining ‘socialism’ as ‘stuff I like that the government does that helps people’. That is not ‘socialism’. Socialism is an economic system whereby government controls the means of production. That is the definition, and you can’t redefine it to ‘all goodness and light’ for the purposes of trying to win a debate. The question was ‘Why do conservatives hate socialism?’ You have repeatedly attempted to frame the debate as ‘Why do conservatives hate anything that helps other people?’ It’s dishonest and a mischaracterization of conversatism. At least you backtracked a bit when you got called on it by LD, but that doesn’t erase the fact that you used that tired tactic to demonize those with whom you disagree, which makes me highly suspect of your stated goal of achieving ‘compromise’.

      The left has poisoned the word ‘compromise’ by redefining it as ‘Do what we want, but a bit more slowly’, thus it is not surprising that many who do not agree with its agenda are ‘anti-compromise’, at least on the terms the left offers. If leftists want the government bigger, and conservatives want it smaller, then ‘compromise’ would, to most, mean it stays the same size. But that’s not what we get, nor what we have gotten for decades every time the sacred cow of ‘compromise’ is trotted out and expected to be worshipped. It’s always bigger, bigger, bigger, if not quite as fast as the leftists want.

      If I say ‘Kill All Redheads’ and you say ‘Kill No Redheads’, compromise dictates that we kill half of them, or perhaps just chop off all their legs. Compromise is not principled. It is the absence of principles, or at very least surrendering them all for the sake of avoiding conflict so that ‘everyone gets part of what they want’. That is both morally and ethically unsound. Some fights are worth fighting. It is also why the only ethically pure use of government is to prevent the infringement of individual liberty by others (even the government or other governments). ANYthing else devolves into one person or set of persons imposing their will upon others for whatever purpose they deem fit, whether it be extracting funds for favored recipients or killing those who disagree with them.

      Your argument about the Great Depression STILL does not address the point that I (and others) have made. We have shown its causes were not inherently capitalistic, but because it happened at all, you attempt to spin as an indictment of capitalism. If its causes were many and complex, and FDRs solutions made them worse, your argument that somehow social welfare policies provide redress for ‘humanistic’ concerns is false. Measure results, not intentions.

      The problem with the ‘social welfare’ mindset is that it ignores the general harm its policies inflict while holding up a specific aid-cases as shining examples of beneficence. If Policy 1 makes life 50% better for 1% of the people, and 1% worse for the other 99%, it’s a net loss, because by the time you get to Policy 100, life is +50-100% worse for everyone, even assuming perfect distribution of benefits and perfect governmental efficiency.

      And there’s the rub … government is not efficient … it is profoundly inefficient, and its solutions inorganic and ham-fisted. Social welfare policy waters a cornfield by measuring the dampness of the soil around each plant and then moving it around a cup at a time from wetter plants to drier plants (minus some spillage), in hopes that the hold field gets acceptably damp. Capitalism and Liberty waters a cornfield by turning the irrigation sprinklers on and letting it rain.

      Say you disagreed with my numbers in the ‘Policy 1′ argument, fine. But even if you had a system where Policy 1 gave made life 50% better for one person in return for making life 5% worse for only 10 people, so that it all came out even in the aggregate, you still have what is lost in the redistribution (of wealth, happiness, whatever) because no middleman (even the most benevolent government) is 100% efficient. Every time you attempt to impose redress through the reallocation of resources (and see the definition above, that is the core of socialism), whatever you are seeking to redistribute it lost, be it wealth, happiness, quality of life, whatever. The larger the system and the greater the amount of redistribution, the more all are impoverished. Even such places as Sweden, long held as an example of a place where ‘socialism works’ prove that this is so…

      Sweden is a country with a small, homogenous population that was highly educated even before the advent of socialism. They possess substantial natural wealth, a stable geopolitical region, a largely stable history, a strong cultural identity, and few foreign commitments. By any measure, they should have a per capita GNP that rivals Gulf emirates, but they don’t … they are merely a modestly comfortable nation that despite gaining a great portion of its wealth through trading partners with less restricted economies still is being forced to restructure and rethink its vast and unsustainable spending. In short, Sweden’s special and fortuitous situation does not prove expansive social welfare’s benefits, but has merely delayed the exposure of its true costs, which become more and more evident with each new tremor that wracks the Eurozone.

      And to reiterate … ALL Socialism involves government control of the means of production. Just because the Green Party Platform does not consistently advocate for such does not mean that the definition of Socialism has changed. Socialism is NOT defined by ‘Whatever the Greens advocate.’ All it proves is that the Greens do not advocate strictly Socialist solutions. Additionally, a critique of the Green Party Platform, or advocacy of same is outside the bounds of the discussion, which is ‘Why Conservatives Hate Socialism’, not ‘Why don’t conservatives want what the Greens advocate?’ as the too are demonstrably not one and the same, despite your repeated attempts to conflate them.

      And as a final note, no, I don’t believe compromise is possible with people who do not respect my rights, nor should they expect it. If I get my way, and society becomes more free, more open, and less controlled, I’m not going to come to you and MAKE you start a business, or FORCE you to not give to charity. I make my own way (which by the way, DOES include substantial charitable work and contributions) and you make yours. We are free and equal. But if the Greens, or if Socialists get THEIR way, it ALWAYS includes using the force of government to compel me to support their pet policies. It’s why a conservative defines negative rights, and socialists are always trying to come up with new positive rights. A conservative’s government focuses on saying ‘Here’s the limited number of things government is empowered to tell you you can’t do’. A socialists government focuses on saying ‘Here’s an expansive number of things government is empowered to tell you you are COMPELLED to do.’ Let’s just look at the recent Healthcare Mandate as a stark example of that.

      The point being that if my side wins, you can opt out of following my life choices. If your side wins, I am forced to follow yours.

      And therein lies all the difference.

  • Iron Williamson

    LD Jackson, I apologize if it seemed as though I assumed that you didn’t care about the less fortunate; that was not my intention. My intention is to request an explanation of why government cannot use taxation for the purposes of alleviating suffering, given that the alleviation of suffering is a paramount concern of most citizens that constitute a civilized society.

    It is difficult to disagree with the predicate that a modern civilization cannot exist without some form of taxation, which one can validly argue is essentially coercion broadly defined. Yet, if one takes the view that taxation is coercion, then — to use an equally broad brush — every form of taxation is a redistribution of wealth, because the jobs created by government to protect civilization — soldiers, police officers, and firefighters, for example — receive monies that otherwise would not be theirs and the taxes that otherwise would have been kept by taxpayers are taken from them. If those public jobs did not exist, the individuals who otherwise would have those jobs would be privately paid. One could argue that every individual should pay for private soldiers (mercenaries), private security, and private fire protection services, but this is not the general view of any but the most extreme conservatives.

    Once you have conceded that monies may be forcibly taken (taxed) from private individuals, the only question is of degree. It is not of kind. Further, in a majoritarian state, it is no longer the domain of individuals, solely, to determine in kind the use of the tax, but rather of the majority of individuals within a society that have a stake in it. Conservatives are fond of saying that our is a republic, not a democracy, but nevertheless, a republican form of government relies on majority rule (albeit limited by law), which makes majoritarianism essential to republicanism. Even the Constitution itself is fundamentally reliant on the principle of majority rule — in its case, supermajorities are required to change it. However way one looks at it, no single individual or nonmajority group of individuals can ever determine the disposition of his or her own tax monies.

    Now, why must government take monies for soldiers, police officers, and firefighters? The proximate principle guiding this for government is not “promotion of liberty,” but protection of life and property. This principle is an unstated rule. As a civilization, except in extremis where liberty is in mortal peril, the cause of civilization values life even more than liberty. This is why the the law defines crimes in order of how severely life is affected, and in fact why the body of criminal laws exist to begin with. In fact, there are many ways in which laws subordinate liberty interests to interests in the protection of life and property (e.g., in crowded places, one cannot recklessly set a fire in public, even if its one’s own property one is protecting and one is on one’s own property, since it is likely to harm others).

    It is often said that the Revolution required the sacrifice of life, and the American heroes of that era indeed, and admirably, sacrificed their lives and property, and staked their sacred honor, on the principle of liberty. That much is indisputable. But in practice, no civilization can endure where all other principles are sacrificed or at least subsumed as they are in times of war. A continuing war, a continuing revolution, is desired only by communists.

    There is nothing to prevent individuals from ensuring that liberty, which indeed is imperiled by government overreach, is duly protected. Protection of liberty is a laudable and necessary goal, especially in America. But the protection of liberty is not the only reason a civilization exists. Socialism’s balance of government interest in the welfare of the less fortunate is not necessarily incompatible with an interest in protection of liberty. As with most things, it is a question of balance.

  • Steve Dennis

    Terrific post Larry! The young man was right, he doesn’t understand socialism but it is more than that because he obviously doesn’t understand the history of our founding or what our government was designed to do and not to do.

  • Iron Williamson

    Sasha, I think your post deserves a lengthy response, and so I will devote some time to writing one before posting it. For now, I want to make a few points. The first is that although you claim that I backtracked on the question of “hatred” of other people, I certainly did not backtrack, and I did not in any way claim that hatred was an issue. I stated what I intended, which was to ask for an explanation of why, for government, alleviation of suffering (helping others) is not a laudable and fundamentally sound goal. That I initially did not qualify my question to direct it at government specifically is not a “backtrack,” as I’m sure you’ll see.

    The second is that it is not up to you, as an opponent of socialism, to define what socialism is, any more than you would observe as true any arbitrary definition of conservatism, especially by its political enemies. It is up to socialists to define socialism, and they can do so without fear of contradiction since there is no golden book of socialism (Das Kapital notwithstanding) in the modern context, any more than there is a single text for conservatism. Modern socialism is decidedly not the same as communism, notwithstanding that it is closer to communism in its objection to radical forms of capitalism. But that mere fact of proximity does not mean that socialism is communism, any more than conservatism is the same as libertarianism, or Lockeanism, or even Jeffersonianism, even though it is much closer to libertarianism than socialism or liberalism is. (As to any consanguinity with Jeffersonianism, many conservatives are significantly more Madisonian in their focus on a strong, albeit limited, centralized government.) I think you will find that the author of this blog would not object to the characterization of socialism as (under communistic idealizations), a transitional phase toward a utopia falsely advertised by Marxian communism, and indeed this is what classic Marxian formulations espouse. Modern socialists do not necessarily agree that it is a transitional phase to anything; to be fair in questions of identification, socialism is what it is stated to be, rather than any more or any less. Any way you cut it, socialism does not necessarily entail the control over the means of production, despite the fact that communism does.

    A third point is the consideration that efficiency is one measure, but not the only measure, of the effectiveness of government. Government does not exist merely to promote efficiency, for where is it written that it must? It does not exist to benefit the wealthy so that they can, in turn, allegedly let their investments “trickle-down” to the nonwealthy. Again, no constitution mandates that any such privileged group must benefit. Similarly, government does not exist to promote even capitalism. It exists for the benefit of the sovereign people of the United States and the individual states. The sovereign people decide what benefits them, and decides whether efficiency, or any other desideratum, is the ultimate criterion for any enactment or policy. There is absolutely no reason to believe otherwise.

    That you seem to have defined economic efficiency to inherently overrule, outrank, and outshine in merit any other consideration is rather puzzling. Indeed, the belief that capitalism is inherently “organically” efficient is questionable, and efficiency and liberty are actually often in opposition to each other. Even though conservatism is not pure libertarianism, it does consider liberty and property to be concepts that are among the most highly valued — and yet despite what you have claimed as exemplars of efficiency, what is most economically efficient is often not what is the most conducive to freedom. To see this, one need only understand the causes of the Great Depression, which your argument asserts by implication is purely monetarist and therefore not to be laid at the feet of capitalism (whereas, in fact, there is no such agreement at all). The Great Depression in fact shows that the unregulated state of the banks at the time, and the ability of banks to function without sufficient requirement of capitalization, resulted in an unprecedented degree of dysfunction. The result was a highly destructive stock market crash in 1929 that had no precedent, because the amounts of undercapitalization were simply so staggering. From the free movement of capital prior to the stock market crash came the great inefficiency of destroyed banks and lost property — not to mention lives. How efficient was that? Indeed, the conservatives immediately prior to the crash would have made the same argument: That the banks and corporate interests should be free to determine their own margins, since that purportedly would result in the greatest efficiency. But as we all know, it did not; it resulted in unprecedented tragedy, destruction of capital, and loss of life and property.

    Thus, the “capitalism = efficiency = Pareto optimality conservatism” argument inherent in your claims is specious, at best. One need not even make the claim that the efficiency of Walmart, for example, through its hypercompetitive practices and outsourcing of jobs, undercutting hundreds of smaller entities and depriving small many small towns of their economic engines, has resulted in the destruction of the liberty interests of many smaller entities, although this is surely evident.

    More later.

  • Iron Williamson

    Here is the “more later” that I promised.

    First of all, I must say that having posted as hastily as, and in the preliminary manner that, I did, there were certain grammatical and spelling errors in the first part of my response that I did not have time, or even the inclination, to spot or correct, so if as a result of such errors, there are any questions, please feel free to ask about them.

    Here is a more specific response, point-by-point, to Sasha’s most recent message:

    Sasha stated, “You seem to be defining ‘socialism’ as ‘stuff I like that the government does that helps people’. That is not ‘socialism’. Socialism is an economic system whereby government controls the means of production. That is the definition, and you can’t redefine it to ‘all goodness and light’ for the purposes of trying to win a debate. The question was ‘Why do conservatives hate socialism?’ You have repeatedly attempted to frame the debate as ‘Why do conservatives hate anything that helps other people?’ It’s dishonest and a mischaracterization of conversatism. At least you backtracked a bit when you got called on it by LD, but that doesn’t erase the fact that you used that tired tactic to demonize those with whom you disagree, which makes me highly suspect of your stated goal of achieving ‘compromise’.”

    My response: I think I adequately addressed this question in the my initial response, in substance. I did not backtrack, nor did I attempt to redefine the issue. To elaborate in part, I stated what socialism was in part by referring to the Green Party platform. The Green Party is often considered a socialistic party, and does not object to such characterization, and nowhere in its platform will one find social control of the means of production to be a necessary part of its doctrines. Indeed, most socialist governments in modern practice in developed countries, including the Socialists of France, do not espouse either wholesale or gradual nationalization of industries or state control over the means of production. Most corporations in France are privately owned. Even EADS, the giant defense contractor that owns Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer, is only 15% owned by the state in France, despite its obvious connection by the nature of its business to the interests of that country. Businesses large and small, from aerospace industries to hoteliers such as Sofitel to the corner boulangerie are operated privately and governed by ordinary boards of directors with little or no interference, let alone control, on the part of the state. Thus, the idea that socialism means the control over means of production is a red herring and a canard.

    It follows therefore that the large part of your argument attempting to dispose of my critique based on the assumption that socialism does mean exactly that, is predicated on an erroneous belief. Socialism can, and does, mean merely those forms of government that place a greater emphasis on societal interests, as opposed to those that required the overturning of private ownership, and my claims to the extent that such is stated or implied cannot be invalidated contrariwise.

    Sasha stated, “The left has poisoned the word ‘compromise’ by redefining it as ‘Do what we want, but a bit more slowly’, thus it is not surprising that many who do not agree with its agenda are ‘anti-compromise’, at least on the terms the left offers. If leftists want the government bigger, and conservatives want it smaller, then ‘compromise’ would, to most, mean it stays the same size. But that’s not what we get, nor what we have gotten for decades every time the sacred cow of ‘compromise’ is trotted out and expected to be worshipped. It’s always bigger, bigger, bigger, if not quite as fast as the leftists want.

    If I say ‘Kill All Redheads’ and you say ‘Kill No Redheads’, compromise dictates that we kill half of them, or perhaps just chop off all their legs. Compromise is not principled. It is the absence of principles, or at very least surrendering them all for the sake of avoiding conflict so that ‘everyone gets part of what they want’. That is both morally and ethically unsound. Some fights are worth fighting. It is also why the only ethically pure use of government is to prevent the infringement of individual liberty by others (even the government or other governments). ANYthing else devolves into one person or set of persons imposing their will upon others for whatever purpose they deem fit, whether it be extracting funds for favored recipients or killing those who disagree with them.”

    My response: Compromise does not mean that things stay the same; it means that things change, but not in a way entirely consistent with the desires of any particular compromisor. It is absurd to claim that if one side claims that government is too large and another that it is too small, then government as a whole must stay the same under its principle. This overlooks, for example, the fact that because society is becoming larger and more complex, government merely “to stay the same” must necessarily grow. Heraclitus, as you may know, stated that the only constant is change, and this is appropos to our consideration here. But more fundamentally, the idea that government as a whole has a measurable size is misleading. “Government” consists of millions of parts. It may be identified in summary by categories — “defense spending,” for example, rather than “social spending.” Such categorization by elements is necessarily coarse, but even in using such heuristics, one can see that at no time may government be deemed “shrinkable” or “expandable” merely without reference to exactly such parts. Defense spending, for example rocketed under the “conservative” administrations of Ronald Reagan and both Bushes. Would this be considered any semblance of “big government”?

    Or, rather, would “big government” be considered the restriction on our liberties imposed by “conservative” governments by way of the Patriot Act?

    To a very large extent, the claim that liberals or socialists have been guilty of expanding government is simply a matter of perspective and political inclination. Thus, excoriating socialists or liberals or Democrats for enlarging government in the guise of compromise omits the complicity of conservatives and tars one political side with a guilt that both sides share. A fortiori, any argument that “compromise” is actually a liberal or socialistic code word for “big government” cannot stand.

    Sasha stated, “Your argument about the Great Depression STILL does not address the point that I (and others) have made. We have shown its causes were not inherently capitalistic, but because it happened at all, you attempt to spin as an indictment of capitalism. If its causes were many and complex, and FDRs solutions made them worse, your argument that somehow social welfare policies provide redress for ‘humanistic’ concerns is false. Measure results, not intentions.”

    My response: But you haven’t shown what you have claimed you showed to begin with. You have merely claimed that monetarism or some kind of federal interference with the markets prior to the Great Depression was its sole or overriding cause. No agreement exists that this is the case, and in fact and purely by way of example, even the revisionist view based on monetarism must deal with the unregulated nature of the financial markets prior to the proximate cause of the Great Depression, which is the stock market crash of 1929. It is almost too easy (because it is somewhat teleological, albeit illustrative) to point out that in no noncapitalist country can there be said to have existed such a cause, regardless of whether subsequent Keynesian practices may have aggravated the effects. The effects of the failure of capital markets were greatly magnified where laissez-faire policies or historicist considerations (such as the politico-socioeconomic conditions in Nazi Germany) allowed capital initiatives to prevail. In Nazi Germany, in fact, the strict imposition by largely capitalist governments of what was claimed to be punitive conditions compounded the effects of capital failure. Both the cause and some of the responses to the Great Depression (although perhaps not FDR’s programs) were fundamentally capitalistic and laissez-faire in origin.

    Sasha stated, “The problem with the ‘social welfare’ mindset is that it ignores the general harm its policies inflict while holding up a specific aid-cases as shining examples of beneficence. If Policy 1 makes life 50% better for 1% of the people, and 1% worse for the other 99%, it’s a net loss, because by the time you get to Policy 100, life is +50-100% worse for everyone, even assuming perfect distribution of benefits and perfect governmental efficiency.

    And there’s the rub … government is not efficient … it is profoundly inefficient, and its solutions inorganic and ham-fisted. Social welfare policy waters a cornfield by measuring the dampness of the soil around each plant and then moving it around a cup at a time from wetter plants to drier plants (minus some spillage), in hopes that the hold field gets acceptably damp. Capitalism and Liberty waters a cornfield by turning the irrigation sprinklers on and letting it rain.

    Say you disagreed with my numbers in the ‘Policy 1′ argument, fine. But even if you had a system where Policy 1 gave made life 50% better for one person in return for making life 5% worse for only 10 people, so that it all came out even in the aggregate, you still have what is lost in the redistribution (of wealth, happiness, whatever) because no middleman (even the most benevolent government) is 100% efficient. Every time you attempt to impose redress through the reallocation of resources (and see the definition above, that is the core of socialism), whatever you are seeking to redistribute it lost, be it wealth, happiness, quality of life, whatever. The larger the system and the greater the amount of redistribution, the more all are impoverished.”

    My response: The foregoing is what I addressed in my initial response by referring in essence to the false dichotomy between efficiency and socialism. Efficiency is no more the obverse of socialism than inefficiency. In fact, some of the most right-wing governments in history placed a premium on efficiency.

    Sasha stated, “Even such places as Sweden, long held as an example of a place where ‘socialism works’ prove that this is so…

    Sweden is a country with a small, homogenous population that was highly educated even before the advent of socialism. They possess substantial natural wealth, a stable geopolitical region, a largely stable history, a strong cultural identity, and few foreign commitments. By any measure, they should have a per capita GNP that rivals Gulf emirates, but they don’t … they are merely a modestly comfortable nation that despite gaining a great portion of its wealth through trading partners with less restricted economies still is being forced to restructure and rethink its vast and unsustainable spending. In short, Sweden’s special and fortuitous situation does not prove expansive social welfare’s benefits, but has merely delayed the exposure of its true costs, which become more and more evident with each new tremor that wracks the Eurozone.”

    My response: Once again, a dubious claim is made: This time, that Sweden’s comfort is somehow not right because there is some connection between its socialism and the loss of maximal efficiency combined with unspecified effects on the Eurozone. But if the Swedes are perfectly comfortable with not having the most efficient economy, why would this, even if true, be an indictment of socialism? Socialism does not place a premium on efficiency, but it does not claim to. If, rather, the claim is that socialism must result in unbearable inefficiency, there is no sign of that in the Scandinavian countries, all of which continue to do quite well even by the OECD’s high standards.

    The argument that Sweden is too homogenous to compare to the United States, however, is more interesting, particularly if one considers that the United States considers itself unique in its ability to become as one despite its differences. Is e pluribus unum now out of fashion?

    Sasha stated: “And to reiterate … ALL Socialism involves government control of the means of production. Just because the Green Party Platform does not consistently advocate for such does not mean that the definition of Socialism has changed. Socialism is NOT defined by ‘Whatever the Greens advocate.’ All it proves is that the Greens do not advocate strictly Socialist solutions. Additionally, a critique of the Green Party Platform, or advocacy of same is outside the bounds of the discussion, which is ‘Why Conservatives Hate Socialism’, not ‘Why don’t conservatives want what the Greens advocate?’ as the too are demonstrably not one and the same, despite your repeated attempts to conflate them.”

    My response: There is no reason to believe that your definition of socialism is the only one acceptable to socialists, or to anyone else for that matter. Even the textbooks may disagree as to what socialism is. Please refer to my initial discussion on this subject.

    Sasha stated, “And as a final note, no, I don’t believe compromise is possible with people who do not respect my rights, nor should they expect it. If I get my way, and society becomes more free, more open, and less controlled, I’m not going to come to you and MAKE you start a business, or FORCE you to not give to charity. I make my own way (which by the way, DOES include substantial charitable work and contributions) and you make yours. We are free and equal. But if the Greens, or if Socialists get THEIR way, it ALWAYS includes using the force of government to compel me to support their pet policies. It’s why a conservative defines negative rights, and socialists are always trying to come up with new positive rights. A conservative’s government focuses on saying ‘Here’s the limited number of things government is empowered to tell you you can’t do’. A socialists government focuses on saying ‘Here’s an expansive number of things government is empowered to tell you you are COMPELLED to do.’ Let’s just look at the recent Healthcare Mandate as a stark example of that.

    The point being that if my side wins, you can opt out of following my life choices. If your side wins, I am forced to follow yours.

    And therein lies all the difference.”

    My response: “Opting out” is not a solution for those who have no other solutions. For most disadvantaged who require government assistance, your counsel is reminiscent of Anatole France’s devastating critique regarding the majesty of a law that equally prohibits the rich as well as the poor from living under bridges: That such a view espouses, in all its magnanimity, that the rich as well as the poor must pay the exorbitant costs that, in reality, only the rich can afford. The joke, of course, is that the poor cannot pay these costs, and therefore can never “make choices” to which you allude. But to the poor, the humor in such a joke is sadly lacking. Whether the joke is funny or not, it is more than defensible to conclude that the role of government is to ensure that whether rich or poor, one does not literally die laughing.

    • Sasha

      You cannot be a definitional chameleon and say ‘Socialism is this but not that simply because the socialists say it is so, because only socialists get to define what socialism is’. There must be common definitional ground or else you may simply pick and choose what you like and call it socialism. “Hmmm… a government passed an environmental measure that enjoyed broad support. That’s socialism. Hmmm … a government caused the death of millions of its people through it’s Great Leap Forward? Oh THAT’S not socialism. Not really. Because we’re socialists and we don’t do that!” Sorry, but you don’t get to write the rules for everyone just to put yourself on firmer footing, and to attempt to have a discussion with someone who insists on being not just one side of the argument but also the referee, reserving the right to change commonly-held definitions to suit their own agenda — just isn’t worth having.

      Other notes … you equate ‘control’ with ‘ownership’, and assume that simply because Euro governments are minority owners in large enterprises that means the enterprises are independent. They most assuredly are not. Control is exercised by more than stock ownership. It is exercised through subtle coercion, implied threat, and when needed, punitive regulation. When only one stockholder has the force of the state behind it, that stockholder exerts effective control regardless of such trifles as ownership share.

      At no point did I state that compromise means ‘things stay the same’, though you attempt to mischaracterize my position as such. Also, you cannot hand-wave away the growth of government because society has grown, because you fail to show that a more larger society necessarily requires the government to be a larger proportion of it. It could, in fact, be argued that the larger a society grows, the smaller the government should be in proportion to it, as certain largely fixed governmental infrastructure costs are already in place and not every department need grow in proportion to society as a whole. I define governmental growth primarily in the following ways… 1) Governments share of the economy 2) The scope and extent of government regulation over private activity. Number 1 has been growing steadily for a long time. Number 2 has been growing exponentially for quite a while (the number of agencies, the length of the federal register, creeping authoritarianism and continued, long-standing abuse of the commerce clause to reach deeper and deeper into peoples’ lives give, I think, adequate evidence that government is, in fact, growing beyond some simplistic ‘Society is bigger, so government is bigger’ proportionality.

      The point of efficiency is that you gain less ‘good’ (whatever you may define it to be) per effort through extensive government control. For every dollar government budgets to ‘help the poor’, about 40 cents actually ends up going toward actual aid. The rest goes toward simply maintaining government’s hold and feathering the nests of those who make their living in government (be it a junket to Tahiti at the top or a generous pension and early retirement at the bottom). Private charities average 70 cents. If ‘socialists’ (whatever you are choosing to define them as) were truly serious about ‘helping the less fortunate’ they would insist on the denationalization of most of our social welfare infrastructure in favor of more efficient programs such as increased limits on tax breaks for charitable giving and on private enterprises engaged in such programs. But it’s not about helping people, not really. It’s about control. Regardless of what you say, the actual ACTIONS of socialists betray that. “It’s not about revenue… it’s about fairness.” That means it’s not about solving problems, it’s about imposing the socialists’ vision on others.

      The final paragraph that implies that the poor would somehow just literally die without extensive government intervention (lacking any proof of this assertion) seems a rather crude attempt to paint conservatives once again as heartless. This argument is common in socialist circles, and neglects to address both economic mobility (very few in this country born poor stay poor), private redress, the flip side of the coin where government interventionism limits opportunity due to depression of prevailing economic conditions and opportunity, and simple common sense. ‘Death by poverty’ has NEVER been a pervasive hallmark of the human condition since the dawn of the agricultural revolution, and certainly not in the United States. Where were the tens of millions of dead littering our streets before the New Deal? Yet now we are to believe the tens of millions on government assistance somehow cannot SURVIVE without it. It is rank sophistry.

  • Iron Williamson

    “You cannot be a definitional chameleon and say ‘Socialism is this but not that simply because the socialists say it is so, because only socialists get to define what socialism is’.”

    My response: Would you accept the definition of conservatism as libertarianism in its transitional form? If not, then aren’t you simply engaging in definitional chameleonism, whatever that is? (And where is the prohibition against definitional chameleonism written, anyway?) Why do you claim the right to define something you oppose, and if you do that, why would you not allow those who disagree with you to define your preferred ideology in an arbitrarily unfavorable way?

    “There must be common definitional ground or else you may simply pick and choose what you like and call it socialism. “Hmmm… a government passed an environmental measure that enjoyed broad support. That’s socialism. Hmmm … a government caused the death of millions of its people through it’s Great Leap Forward? Oh THAT’S not socialism. Not really. Because we’re socialists and we don’t do that!” Sorry, but you don’t get to write the rules for everyone just to put yourself on firmer footing, and to attempt to have a discussion with someone who insists on being not just one side of the argument but also the referee, reserving the right to change commonly-held definitions to suit their own agenda — just isn’t worth having.”

    My response: What is a “commonly held definition” of socialism? Which textbook or dictionary would you proposed contains such? Merriam-Webster has one definition, while the Concise Dictionary has a more nuanced formulation. In fact, just as there are differences between conservatives, there are differences between socialists, and not all socialists find state ownership of the means of production to be realistic or even beneficial.

    “Other notes … you equate ‘control’ with ‘ownership’, and assume that simply because Euro governments are minority owners in large enterprises that means the enterprises are independent. They most assuredly are not. Control is exercised by more than stock ownership. It is exercised through subtle coercion, implied threat, and when needed, punitive regulation. When only one stockholder has the force of the state behind it, that stockholder exerts effective control regardless of such trifles as ownership share.”

    My response: Please cite any example whereby an entity such as EADS is controlled any differently by way of state ownership by comparison with the way that states in the United States, such as Georgia in the case of Lockheed Martin, can “control” corporate behavior by Congressional horsetrading and/or incentivizing relocation prospects through tax breaks. In the case of EADS’ subsidiary, Airbus, you can find an instance in which the German-French partnership resulted in the location of certain facilities in Toulouse, for example, but how does this differ in any significant way from the result of competition between the states of Washington and Georgia in regard to the location of manufacturing on the part of Boeing? I think citing specific examples is key to the persuasiveness and merit of your position here, or lack thereof.

    “At no point did I state that compromise means ‘things stay the same’, though you attempt to mischaracterize my position as such. Also, you cannot hand-wave away the growth of government because society has grown, because you fail to show that a more larger society necessarily requires the government to be a larger proportion of it. It could, in fact, be argued that the larger a society grows, the smaller the government should be in proportion to it, as certain largely fixed governmental infrastructure costs are already in place and not every department need grow in proportion to society as a whole. I define governmental growth primarily in the following ways… 1) Governments share of the economy 2) The scope and extent of government regulation over private activity. Number 1 has been growing steadily for a long time. Number 2 has been growing exponentially for quite a while (the number of agencies, the length of the federal register, creeping authoritarianism and continued, long-standing abuse of the commerce clause to reach deeper and deeper into peoples’ lives give, I think, adequate evidence that government is, in fact, growing beyond some simplistic ‘Society is bigger, so government is bigger’ proportionality.”

    My response: What you stated was that a valid compromise between the desire for a smaller government and that for a larger one should be that the government should stay the same. Did you not make that statement? If so, what is it about that statement did I not understand?

    Regarding the proportionality statement, it is in fact true that certain aspects of government have indeed grown smaller by virtue of the growth of their context. For example, the annual federal deficit is actually smaller than it was in certain years in the 1940′s, even though it is much larger in absolute terms. Thus, your implication that government is always growing larger even in relative terms is simply not correct.

    “The point of efficiency is that you gain less ‘good’ (whatever you may define it to be) per effort through extensive government control. For every dollar government budgets to ‘help the poor’, about 40 cents actually ends up going toward actual aid. The rest goes toward simply maintaining government’s hold and feathering the nests of those who make their living in government (be it a junket to Tahiti at the top or a generous pension and early retirement at the bottom). Private charities average 70 cents. If ‘socialists’ (whatever you are choosing to define them as) were truly serious about ‘helping the less fortunate’ they would insist on the denationalization of most of our social welfare infrastructure in favor of more efficient programs such as increased limits on tax breaks for charitable giving and on private enterprises engaged in such programs. But it’s not about helping people, not really. It’s about control. Regardless of what you say, the actual ACTIONS of socialists betray that. “It’s not about revenue… it’s about fairness.” That means it’s not about solving problems, it’s about imposing the socialists’ vision on others.”

    My response: You can choose to define helping the disadvantaged as unbearably inefficient if you choose, but that is not the choice of the majority as expressed through the acts of their representatives. Government exists in some measure to protect the larger interests of society regardless of private claims concerning alternatives that are allegedly more efficient. And if in fact there are distributional considerations that only government can equitably make across the board, that would not be made by local or private interests, no one can with certainly state that such considerations are invalid in any objectively defensible way that is universally agreed upon. For example, even if individual charities could assist local causes more efficiently, it is decidedly the role of government — if the sovereign people in their enactment agree — to ensure that poorer localities are not disadvantaged merely because local charities can draw from fewer resources.

    Government is often the last resort for causes that private causes simply cannot handle, and so the idea that it is less efficient is not surprising — the most difficult and intractable problems do not often make the easiest, and therefore most efficiently run, cases. But to condemn government for taking up the cause simply because certain private interests allege they can allow charities to localize a problem more efficiently is to allow misfortune in geographic terms to hold hostage the unfortunate and the suffering.

    “The final paragraph that implies that the poor would somehow just literally die without extensive government intervention (lacking any proof of this assertion) seems a rather crude attempt to paint conservatives once again as heartless. This argument is common in socialist circles, and neglects to address both economic mobility (very few in this country born poor stay poor), private redress, the flip side of the coin where government interventionism limits opportunity due to depression of prevailing economic conditions and opportunity, and simple common sense. ‘Death by poverty’ has NEVER been a pervasive hallmark of the human condition since the dawn of the agricultural revolution, and certainly not in the United States. Where were the tens of millions of dead littering our streets before the New Deal? Yet now we are to believe the tens of millions on government assistance somehow cannot SURVIVE without it. It is rank sophistry.”

    My response: So the Poor Laws in Great Britain were never necessary? But in fact they were, and precisely because capitalism and private interests could not, or did not wish to, address the sheer scale of the problems faced by the poor.

    As for whether government aid is life or death, perhaps the local church could contribute cans of food once in a while. But few local churches could afford to support thousands of entire families in payment of shelter and housing for the time necessary to secure a financial future for those who need precisely that kind of help.

    But perhaps Scrooge did say it best: Are there no workhouses for the poor?

    I can sense that you do not wish to be compared with Scrooge, and that is not my intent. My intent is to ask why it is beyond the reach of government to do what private interests clearly have not done, or cannot do, since if it could be done, it would have been done already.

    (My own stylistic, typographical, and grammatical errors are disregarded in the interests of time both here and in the previous posting.)