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Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

It’s not often that I disagree with the folks who put together the Wall Street Journal editorial page. For instance, they just published a great editorial on that cesspool of cronyism and corruption that is otherwise known as the Export-Import Bank.

Isn’t it great that the voice of capitalism actually supports genuine free markets!

That being said, a recent editorial rubs me the wrong way.

It’s about the presumably quixotic presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. These excerpts will give you a flavor of what the WSJ wrote.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed independent Socialist, has decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination… He thinks the American economy is fundamentally unfair, and that government must tax and spend even more heavily… He thinks Social Security should increase benefits, no matter that it is heading toward insolvency. Higher taxes can make up the difference. …He wants single-payer health care, though his own state gave up the experiment as too expensive.

So what’s my disagreement?

I realize I’m being a nit-picker, but I don’t like the fact that the WSJ editorial is entitled “An Honest Socialist.”

My gripe is that Sanders isn’t honest. A genuine socialist believes in government ownership of the means of production. In other words, nationalized factories, government-run businesses, and collective farms. If Sanders believes in these policies, he’s remarkably reluctant to share his perspective.

In reality, Sanders is like Obama. You can call him a statist, a corporatist, or even (as Tom Sowell correctly notes) a fascist.

In other words, lots of redistribution and lots of back-door government control of the private sector, but not a lot of People’s Factory #58 or People’s Farm #91.

Though it is true that Sanders wants the government to directly run the healthcare system (akin to the horrifying U.K. approach), but at most that means he’s a “partial socialist” (or, to modify the WSJ‘s title, a “mostly dishonest socialist”).

Moreover, he doesn’t bring anything new to the presidential race, at least from a policy perspective.

There’s only a trivially small difference, for instance, between Hillary Clinton’s lifetime rating of 10.6 from the National Taxpayers Union and Bernie Sanders’ lifetime rating of 9.4. They both earned their failing grades by spending other people’s money with reckless abandon.

Though it’s worth noting that both Clinton and Sanders are “more frugal” than Barack Obama, who earned a lifetime rating of 9.0. I guess this is why the phrase “damning with faint praise” was invented.

The only difference between Hillary, Obama, and Sanders is tone. Here’s some of what Charles Cooke wrote for National Review.

Sanders does not play games with words…he steadfastly refuses to pretend that he represents moderation. …Sanders is to public policy and professional politicking what Joe Biden is to personality. He is open, blunt, unapologetic, compelling, ready to debate.

Which is in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton’s pabulum.

…the Democratic primary is being dominated by a corrupt, controlling, soulless, cynical, entitled, and mostly synthetic avatar named Hillary Clinton, and, in consequence, it is almost entirely devoid of ideas. …Hillary and her team stick to meaningless and saccharine banalities, almost all of which, one presumes, have been poll-tested within a fraction of an inch. …At no time does she stake out a vision. At no time does she adopt a controversial or momentous position. Instead, she hides behind corporately assembled strings of mawkish, semi-literate tosh.

So the difference between Clinton and Sanders is that he’s proud of his statism and she wants to hide her radical agenda.

But it doesn’t matter what they say or what they call themselves, the bottom line is that their policies are destructive, both economically and morally.

P.S. Since Senator Sanders is from Vermont, it’s both amusing and ironic that the Green Mountain State’s government-run healthcare system self destructed.

P.P.S. Since we’re on the topic of socialism, it’s worth pointing out that Jesus wasn’t in that camp. Though I’m not sure we can say the same thing about the Pope.

P.P.P.S. Heck, Jesus may have been a libertarian.

P.P.P.P.S. If you like socialism humor, click here, here, and here.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Switching to another topic (and one where there’s zero humor), you may remember that I wrote a few days ago about the horror of so-called civil asset forfeiture.

This happens when the government arbitrarily seizes your money and/or property without convicting you of a crime. Or even without charging you with a crime.

Well, here’s a video from the Institute for Justice about a new tragic example of theft by government.

If this doesn’t get you angry, you probably need counseling. This story reminds me of the Michigan family that was similarly victimized.

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Back in 2013, I actually wrote something vaguely nice about HBO’s Bill Maher. Or at least I expressed approval for a point he made about the limits of class-warfare taxation.

It’s now time to compensate for that action.

Check out this interview. It’s about Obama’s new tax-and-spend budget, but pay particular attention at the 5:15 mark of the video and you’ll hear Maher asserting that “socialism” deserves the credit for the development of a thriving middle class in America.

Wow. Maher’s comments are astonishingly illiterate.

As I remarked in the interview, the United States (like other western nations) had a tiny public sector during the period when it transitioned from agricultural poverty to middle-class prosperity.

Federal spending averaged only about 3 percent of economic output, and overall government spending (including state and local governments) was only about 10 percent of GDP.

If that was socialism, then sign me up!

This isn’t to say we have laissez-faire paradise in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some of the so-called Robber Barons were cronyists who used government favoritism to line their pockets. Monetary policy oftentimes was a mess because of government regulation and control of banks. Tariffs were very onerous. And Jim Crow laws were an odious example of government power being used to oppress an entire class of citizens and hamper their ability to participate in the market economy.

But the one thing we didn’t have back then was socialism, whether you use the right definition (government ownership of the means of production) or the sloppy definition (a redistributive welfare state).

Sigh.

Enough on that topic. The bulk of the interview, of course, focused on Obama’s budget. I got in my main point, which is that we need to focus on restraining the growth of government spending.

So rather than recycle my thoughts, let’s cite comments by two wise observers.

Here’s how Dan Henninger of the Wall Street Journal described the President’s plan.

The president’s annual budget reminds the Beltway tribes of what they do—tax the country, distribute revenues to their allies, and euphemize it as a budget. With his 2015 budget, Barack Obama at last makes clear his presidency’s reason for being: to establish an empire of taxation. …In six years, the Obama Democrats have abandoned any belief in the idea that the private sector is the primary cause of American prosperity. Instead, they seem to see the private sector as a kind of tax sump-pump, a dumb machine whose only purpose is tax flow. …That is the empire of taxation. It is an isolated system, based in Washington, which allocates what it exacts from the private sector.

And here’s some of what George Will wrote about the poisonous spiral of more government leading to more stagnation leading to more demands for more government.

The progressive project of maximizing the number of people dependent on government is also aided by the acid of insecurity that grows rapidly when the economy does not. Anxious and disappointed people are susceptible to progressives’ blandishments about the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — “free” this and that. By making slow growth normal, iatrogenic government serves the progressive program of defining economic failure down.

I fully agree. Not only the points about the weakness of the Obama “recovery,” but also the concerns about more and more people being lured into government dependency, which sabotages American exceptionalism.

Jerry Holbert has a nice summary of the President’s worldview.

Hmmm…I think we’ve seen this bookstore before.

Though I’m surprised Obama is bothering to shop when he can just go to the library for his favorite books.

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Is Obama a socialist?

If you’re asking whether he’s a big-spending interventionist, the answer is yes.

But if you’re asking whether the President believes in government ownership of the means of production (which is the defining issue in the socialist economic platform), the answer is no (though the White House surely won’t like how Thomas Sowell describes Obama’s ideology).

But I generally don’t care about these word fights. Big government is bad because it hurts people and relies on coercion, and that’s true whether we’re talking about socialism, communism, Nazism, corporatism, or other forms of statism.

But I do care for historical accuracy and honesty.

Writing for the U.K.-based Telegraph, Dan Hannan of the European Parliament explains that the German National Socialists of the Hitler era were….well, socialists.

Goebbels never doubted that he was a socialist. He understood Nazism to be a better and more plausible form of socialism than that propagated by Lenin. Instead of spreading itself across different nations, it would operate within the unit of the Volk. So total is the cultural victory of the modern Left that the merely to recount this fact is jarring.

Anti-capitalist propaganda from the Nazis

Not that today’s leftists should be surprised. Unless, of course, they’re historically illiterate. After all, the Nazi political vehicle was the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Subsequent generations of Leftists have tried to explain away the awkward nomenclature of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party as either a cynical PR stunt or an embarrassing coincidence. In fact, the name meant what it said. Hitler…boasted, adding that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx”. Marx’s error, Hitler believed, had been to foster class war instead of national unity – to set workers against industrialists instead of conscripting both groups into a corporatist order. His aim, he told his economic adviser, Otto Wagener, was to “convert the German Volk to socialism without simply killing off the old individualists” – by which he meant the bankers and factory owners who could, he thought, serve socialism better by generating revenue for the state. …authoritarianism was the common feature of socialists of both National and Leninist varieties, who rushed to stick each other in prison camps or before firing squads. Each faction loathed the other as heretical, but both scorned free-market individualists as beyond redemption. Their battle was all the fiercer, as Hayek pointed out in 1944, because it was a battle between brothers.

In other words, Soviet-style socialism and Nazi-style socialism were both evil forms of statism, but one attracted people by fomenting class envy and the other sought recruits by demonizing non-Aryans.

Hannan hastens to add that he doesn’t think that modern self-proclaimed socialists are closet Nazis, but he does object to leftists who try to put National Socialists on the right side of the political spectrum.

The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. …What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who…seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.

Citing the comprehensive work of Jonah Goldberg, Hannan’s column then makes a key point about government coercion.

Authoritarianism – or, to give it a less loaded name, the belief that state compulsion is justified in pursuit of a higher goal, such as scientific progress or greater equality – was traditionally a characteristic of the social democrats as much as of the revolutionaries. Jonah Goldberg has chronicled the phenomenon at length in his magnum opus, Liberal Fascism. Lots of people take offence at his title, evidently without reading the book since, in the first few pages, Jonah reveals that the phrase is not his own. He is quoting that impeccable progressive H.G. Wells who, in 1932, told the Young Liberals that they must become “liberal fascists” and “enlightened Nazis”.

To be fair, this doesn’t mean Wells was a horrible person, at least in the sense of embracing Hitlerism. In the early 1930s, the fascist policies of Mussolini and Hitler were simply about government intervention. At that point, few people recognized that racism and anti-Semitism were part of the fascist program.

I’m much more likely to be critical of people who make excuses for communism still today. Do they really want to romanticize an ideology that killed tens of millions of innocent people?!?

And it’s disgusting that people wear Che Guevara t-shirts when he was a brutal enforcer of Cuba’s totalitarian regime.

P.S. On a lighter note, here’s the “bread-ish” difference between socialism and capitalism.

P.P.S. Regarding European socialism, we have great (although technically inaccurate) cartoons from Glenn Foden and Michael Ramirez.

P.P.P.S. Here’s socialism for kids, though it’s really class warfare for kids.

P.P.P.P.S. And here’s what happens when you try socialism in the classroom.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Closing on a serious note, John Mackey and Steve Horwitz agree with Thomas Sowell about Obama’s real economic ideology.

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I haven’t paid much attention to Hillary Clinton. Looking through my archives, I found a few posts criticizing her statist inclinations on issues such as taxation, geography, economics, the War on Drugs, class warfare, and financial privacy.

Compared to other major political figures, that’s a pretty meager list.

Moreover, to the best of my recollection, other than a few cartoons, I’ve never shared any Hillary humor (whereas Bill is a never-ending source of material).

That needs to change, and thanks to a quiz that was showed up in my inbox, that change happens today.

The quiz provides a series of quotes and asks the reader to identify the author (unlike the quizzes I usually share, which allow readers to decide how they feel on various issues).

Anyhow, here’s the quiz, taken verbatim from my inbox.

=====================================

Answer all the questions (no cheating) before looking at the answers.

Who said it?

1) “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

A. Karl Marx
B. Adolph Hitler
C. Joseph Stalin
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

2) “It’s time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by
the few, and for the few……and to replace it with shared responsibility,
for shared prosperity.”

A. Lenin
B. Mussolini
C. Idi Amin
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

3) “(We)…..can’t just let business as usual go on, and that means
something has to be taken away from some people.”

A. Nikita Khrushev
B. Josef Goebbels
C. Boris Yeltsin
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

4) “We have to build a political consensus and that requires people to give
up a little bit of their own … in order to create this common ground.”

A. Mao Tse Dung
B. Hugo Chavez
C. Kim Jong Il
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

5) “I certainly think the free-market has failed.”

A. Karl Marx
B. Lenin
C. Molotov
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

6) “I think it’s time to send a clear message to what has become the most
profitable sector in (the) entire economy that they are being watched.”

A. Pinochet
B. Milosevic
C. Saddam Hussein
D. Barack Obama
E. None of the above

Scroll down for the answers

Answers
(1) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 6/29/2004
(2) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 5/29/2007
(3) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 6/4/2007
(4) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 6/4/2007
(5) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 6/4/2007
(6) E. None of the above. Statement was made by Hillary Clinton – 9/2/2005

=====================================

Actually, this isn’t humor. It’s horror. The last thing America needs is another statist president. Bush and Obama already have done enough damage.

Though many of the quotes are taken out of context in order to make Hillary look radical. For what it’s worth, the leftists at Politifact rate the email quiz as a pants-on-fire lie. I think “significant exaggeration” would be more accurate.

Let’s not forget that she cavalierly dismissed the likely economic damage of her 1993 healthcare scheme, asserting that “”I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America.”

P.S. This quiz is somewhat similar to the infamous Al Gore-Unabomber quiz. For what it’s worth, I flunked that quiz with a score of only 42 percent.

P.P.S. Speaking of Gore, I’m also surprised I have so little humor with him as the target. All I could find was this video and a couple of one-liners from Leno and Conan. He also played a cameo role in this joke featuring Monica Lewinsky.

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Regular readers may have noticed that I generally say that advocates of big government are “statists.”

I could call them “liberals,” but I don’t like that using that term since the early advocates of economic and personal liberty were “classical liberals” such as Adam Smith, John Locke, and Jean-Baptiste Say. And proponents of these ideas are still called “liberals” in Europe and Australia.

I could call them “socialists,” but I don’t think that’s technically accurate since the theory is based on government ownership of the means of production. This is why I’ve been in the strange position of defending Obama when some folks have used the S word to describe him.

I could call them “fascists,” which Thomas Sowell explains is the most accurate way of describing the modern left’s economic ideology, but that term also implies racism. But while leftists sometimes support policies that hurt minorities, they’re not motivated by racial animus.

I could call them “corporatists,” and I actually have used that term on occasion, but I think it’s too narrow. It’s not really an ideology, but rather a description of the sleazy alliance of the left and big business, such as we saw for TARP and Wall Street, or Obamacare and Big Pharma.

I’m motivated to write about my favorite way of expressing opprobrium because I just read a very interesting column in the U.K.-based Telegraph by Tim Stanley, an American historian.

He delves into the issue of whether it’s right to call Hitler a socialist.

…the Nazis did call themselves National Socialists. But…labels can be misleading. …Hitler wasn’t a socialist became apparent within weeks of becoming Chancellor of Germany when he started arresting socialists and communists. He did this, claim some, because they were competing brands of socialism. But that doesn’t explain why Hitler defined his politics so absolutely as a war on Bolshevism… Marxism is defined by class war, and socialism is accomplished with the total victory of the Proletariat over the ruling classes. By contrast, Hitler offered an alliance between labour and capital in the form of corporatism… It is true that the economy was socialised in the latter part of the 1930s, but not for the sake of building socialism. It was to prepare for war. Politics came before economics in the fascist state to the degree that it’s hard to conceive of Hitler as a coherent economic thinker at all. …Marxism defines history as a class struggle. Hitler saw it as a racial conflict… he was sometimes prepared to use socialist economics to pursue his agenda.

These all seem to be valid points, but I wonder whether it makes a difference.

Tarantulas, black widows, and brown recluses are all different species of arachnids, but it’s also correct to say that they are all poisonous spiders.

And I sure as heck wouldn’t want any of them to bite me.

Similarly, socialism, Marxism, and fascism may have specific motivations and characteristics, but they’re all forms of statism.

And I definitely don’t want to acquiesce to any of those coercive ideologies.

Which seems to be Tim Stanley’s conclusion as well.

The moral lesson is that power corrupts everyone: Left, Right, men, women, gay, straight, black, white, religious, atheist. The best countries have constitutions that limit the government, cherish the private sphere and largely leave the individual to make their own mistakes.

Now let’s look at a real-world example of a country that is suffering because of statism.

Allister Heath of City A.M. in London explains what is happening in Venezuela.

IF you want to see how to destroy an economy and a society, look no further than Venezuela. …the country is on the verge of total collapse… Food is running out, as are other essentials, even though the country claims the world’s largest oil reserves. There are shortages of toilet paper and soap, empty shelves and massive crowds queuing for hours in front of supermarkets. …The reason? A brain-dead rejection of basic economics, and a hardline, anti-market approach of the worst possible kind. There are maximum prices, other prices controls, profit controls, capital controls, nationalisations, expropriations and every other statist, atavistic policy you can think of. An extreme left wing government has waged war on capitalism and won; and as ever, ordinary people are paying the price. …The lesson from all of that is clear. Socialism doesn’t work. Price controls don’t work. Stealing people’s property doesn’t work. Chasing away foreigners doesn’t work. Destroying the supply-side of an economy doesn’t work. …It is a spectacularly horrible case of what FA Hayek called the Road to Serfdom.

For all intents and purposes, Venezuela is sort of like France, but without the rule of law. Which means bad policies become catastrophic policies.

And Allister is right. It is ordinary people who suffer. Venezuela’s long-term experiment with statism has resulted in stagnation and chaos. Once one of the richest nations in Latin America, it is now falling behind nations that have liberalized.

The Venezuelan government can’t keep food on the shelves, and it is moving closer and closer to Cuban-style rationing of basic necessities.

And people familiar with the history of statist regimes won’t be surprised to learn that Venezuela also is disarming the citizenry.

P.S. One business leader got a lot of heat for observing that Obamanomics was more like fascism than socialism. And another caught a bunch of grief for using an analogy about tax hikes and the Nazi invasion of Poland.

If they used “statism” instead, they would have been more accurate and avoided criticism.

P.P.S. This image is a funny but accurate illustration of the difference between socialism and capitalism. And here’s a socialism-for-kids image, but it’s really a parody of Obama’s class-warfare mentality.

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Very few political cartoons make me laugh out loud.

Even when I look back at the all-time favorites that I included in my political cartoonist contest, most of them are on that list because they make a very effective and clever point about public policy.

Though I do recall being very amused by Glenn McCoy’s cartoon on media bias, Chip Bok’s war-on-women cartoon, and Robert Ariail’s cartoon about Greece and the euro.

But I don’t think any of them made me laugh as much as this gem by Scott Stantis.

Socialist Obama Cartoon

I don’t even know why it struck me as being so funny.

Yes, I have a peculiar interest in international economic policy, so I’m fully aware that President Hollande of France is a disaster, but I’m not sure that’s enough to make a cartoon amusing.

And I’ve commented several times on the debate over whether Obama is a socialist, but that’s hardly a topic that lends itself to humor.

Hollande v ObamaOr perhaps I’m just a narcissist and I appreciated a cartoon that was somewhat similar to one of my homemade jokes about Hollande and Obama.

Beats me.

But kudos to Scott Stantis (who also is the author of the best-ever cartoon on the failure of Keynesian stimulus).

Since we’re looking at funny cartoons, it’s time to give some credit to the other side.

I don’t often find much humor on the left, but this cartoon on income inequality is worth sharing.

It’s from the New Yorker, though I don’t know the author. And I confess that I’m merely assuming a left-wing perspective.

It’s your call whether this cartoon is as good as the other leftist cartoons I’ve shared, but it is a good caricature of the GOP country club types.

P.S. Yesterday I shared some libertarian valentines.

So in the interest of fairness, here’s are some left-wing valentines.

They’re designed to trick people into signing up for Obamacare.

Our first option is from a group called the National Women’s law Center.

And here’s one from a group named the Young Invincibles.

obamacare valentine

I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with either one of these valentines.

Though anything has to be better pro-Obamacare marketing than Pajama Boy or casual sex (because big government can take the fun out of anything).

JeffersonP.P.S. Speaking of Valentine’s Day, the PotL graced me with her presence, making me an inexplicable winner.

Even if some of my erstwhile friends who watch Modern Family have started to refer to us as Jay and Gloria.

P.P.P.S. Let’s close with a comment on a very odd story from Norway.

The nut-job who killed 77 people has made an announcement.

Anders Breivik…wants the world to know that he’s being treated “worse than an animal” in prison and is considering going on a hunger strike until the “torture”-like living conditions improve. Just how bad are things for the admitted and unrepentant killer? Well, for one, he says he’s being forced to play his video games on an out-of-date Playstation 2 instead of a newer model. …Breivik was deemed sane by a Norwegian court in the summer of 2012 and sentenced to 21 years in prison, the most-severe sentence allowed under the Scandinavian country’s laws… Details of Breivik’s current conditions are a bit unclear, although Norwegian news reports from the time of his sentencing suggested that he was going to be kept in a three-room cell complete with an exercise area and a television.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m not the warden at his prison.

Why? Because I not only would turn down his request, but I also would dump him in a 6X8 call. Moreover, I would station a couple of guards outside his cell and have them play the newest and fanciest version of Playstation 24 hours a day.

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If you ask an economist about the difference between capitalism and socialism, you’ll probably get a boring answer about the size of government, the impact on incentives, and the power of the state.

Or maybe you’ll get a nit-picking answer, sort of like when I explained that Obama technically isn’t a socialist.

That’s why it’s sometimes best to use simple, common-sense analogies.

Two years ago, I used two cows to explain the differences between various economic systems.

But this image may be an ever more succinct way to showing the difference between capitalism and socialism.

Socialism capitalism bread

Or, if you prefer stories, this updated version of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper makes the same point.

And here’s the PC version of the Little Red Hen.

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