Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farmer's "All-American Socialism"

Is Socialism "all-American? The Star-Ledger's John Farmer thinks so. In his latest piece, If Obama's policies are 'socialism,' America has had socialism for 150 years, Mr. Farmer argues that "socialism — meaning some form of active federal government involvement in the economy and in the growth of the country — has been with us since the 1860s." While all government intervention cannot be defined as socialism in the narrow sense, they all are based on the collectivist premise that undergirds all forms of statism - the public good or interest.

That government intervention has been going on in America almost since its Founding is certainly true, although he commits the same error that he accuses Newt Gingrich of committing- failing to specifically define his terms. Mr. Gingrich, according to Mr. Farmer, doesn't define "radical". But Mr. Farmer doesn't define "federal intervention in the economy". Instead, he merely asserts that any government action constitutes government economic intervention.

But a proper government protects the individual's right to pursue his own economic interest by ensuring his right to act upon his own judgement, to set his own goals, to freely pursue those goals, to keep and control the property he earns, and to take responsibility for his own economic welfare. An improper government interjects bureaucratic edicts between the individual's mind and his actions, forcing him to act contrary to his own judgement and self-interest where no rights-violating behavior took place. It confiscates his property and/or "regulates it" for the unearned benefit of others, etc. Mr. Farmer pretends to see no difference between the two types of government actions.

But there is a crucial difference. I pointed out his error in these comments:

John Farmer denies that he is arguing for "stand-alone", i.e., totalitarian, socialism, then provides perfect evidence for why we are heading their. Describing the first piece of that evidence, he writes:

"Obama’s national health insurance reform is merely the logical capstone to [FDR's and LBJ's] New Deal and Great Society social revolutions."

That "logical capstone" is part of the logical step-by-step progression towards socialist statism that permeates all areas of the economy in varying degrees. Also embedded within ObamaCare is the "logical capstone" to another Great Society initiative - the Federal Student Loan Program. The government takeover of all student loans that was attached to ObamaCare leads logically to the eventual total federal control of higher education. Obama is no "small potatoes", having built upon two prior statist initiatives to advance America towards centralized control in both healthcare and education with just one signature!

The second bit of evidence is Mr. Farmer's reference to TR's "trust-busting", "surely a major federal intervention in the economy." Surely it was, and his lambasting of the "convenient blindness" of Gingrich and conservatives is spot-on. The last century plus has been a steady, bi-partisan advance towards socialism.

The socialist advance is being facilitated by default because of our failure to understand the proper function of government, and the difference between protecting economic freedom and crushing it. The consequence is the growth of the mixed economy, which Mr. Farmer cherishes. The government's only legitimate role is to protect individual political rights. Mr. Farmer cites two examples of this role and erroneously calls them "interventions into the economy". Protecting settlers from Plains Indians (the military) and the Homestead Act (objective law) are examples of proper government actions. Most of the actual economic interventions cited by Mr. Farmer, including the 1860s federal creation of the railroad monopolies for which capitalism unjustly took the blame, are examples of creeping socialism which a proper government does not engage in. A government in a laissez-faire capitalist society is constitutionally limited to setting rules of conduct based upon objective laws (such as the Homestead Act). Its power is restrained within the limits of the moral law embodied in the principle of individual political rights, which are sanctions to freedom of action, not an automatic claim to the property of others through redistributionist schemes.

A mixed economy is an incompatible conflict between freedom and dictatorship. America's 20th century philosopher Ayn Rand, the moral defender of Americanism and our Last Founding Father, exposed the mixed economy's nature decades ago:

"A mixed economy is rule by pressure groups. It is an amoral, institutionalized civil war of special interests and lobbies, all fighting to seize a momentary control of the legislative machinery, to extort some special privilege at one another’s expense by an act of government—i.e., by force."

Mr. Farmer's beloved "careful mix of market capitalism to generate wealth and enough social welfare to smooth out its inequities" is in reality a steady progression towards what I believe neither he nor most of today's politicians truly want - "stand-alone socialism". Each time some pressure group extracts some legislative initiative to force on all of us in order to correct its own idea of an "inequity" is a step in that direction.

Supporters of the mixed economy such as John Farmer are afflicted by their own brand of "convenient blindness" - the belief that it is possible to strike a balance between the voluntary, uncoerced association and trade of private productive citizens, and the demands of pressure groups backed by legislative force. The guy with the governmental gun (political connections) will win against the legally disarmed (politically unconnected) citizen every time. ObamaCare is proof of that.

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