Socialism in America

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Socialism has meant many things to many people over the years and continents. Socialism does not mean the same thing to me as it does to those in Eastern Europe over the last half-century. But I like the definition provided in the mid-1800s by Frederic Bastiat, who wrote in The Law:

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. ... Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole -- with their common aim of legal plunder -- constitute socialism.

I won't explain all of Bastiat's views; you can read the entire work for that. It's not very long. But I note something here for the record: this definition for "socialism" (in Bastiat's original French work, "socialisme") is not new. People who respond "your definition of socialism is incorrect" are uninformed.

I say that socialism in modern America is marked by two features. The first is that the government is seen as unlimited (or at most, subject only to a few exceptions). Now, this feature is not unique to socialists: it can be found in many other groups as well, including certain rare strains of neoconservatism, those that find the government has unlimited power during wartime. With all such people, whether on the right or the left, they see the government's power as unlimited when it is used to accomplish the goals they have.

But this is anathema to the American Way. Our government is not unlimited subject to a few exceptions, it is limited, with only a few areas where it is allowed to act. This was done explicitly in order to preserve liberty, and removing those limits may invite tyranny. When those limits are removed outside of the democratic process that created them, it necessarily invites tyranny, because there's only three ways to remove the limits: through revolution, through legal means, or through tyranny. And no, elections "for change" do not count as revolution.

So that's the first part. The second part is the object the limitation-free government: taking from one person against his will to give it to someone else that it doesn't belong to.

This is what Bastiat called socialism, over 150 years ago. It's what I call socialism now. And you cannot read Bill Whittle's analysis of what Obama said in 2001 and come to any conclusion but that Obama fits this description.

Yes, to some extent, most of our politicians probably fit that description. Bastiat's "legal plunder" has become unfortunately commonplace.

But no top party nominee in our nation's history has so completely tossed out the idea of rule of law as Obama has. He explicitly states that limiting government to what the law says it is allowed to do is a "tragedy" that the legislature should fix. This is necessarily a call for the legislature to violate the rule of law.

And no top party nominee in our nation's history has ever wanted to redistribute wealth to the same extent as Obama.

By my 150-year-old definition, Obama is not only a socialist, but obviously the biggest socialist to ever be in reach of the White House. But ignore the labels: worse than the label you put on it, Obama wants to violate our rights by rewriting our Constitution without actually amending it, and to do so in dramatic ways.

And yes, some of us really are disturbed and a little bit scared of what the end result could be. We cherish our Constitution and our laws, as imperfect as they are, because they are what stand between us and a tyrannical government ... so long as those laws are followed. And Obama won't follow them.

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"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on October 27, 2008 6:15 PM.

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