Are We Socialists Yet?
The term socialist got tossed around a lot in the recent presidential campaign. But Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute says we’re already there. And both major political parties are responsible for the deed.
Reading the news has been exciting lately. Hardly a day passes without the announcement of some new government initiative to save the world. Bail out the mortgage lenders; bail out the big insurance company; bail out the banks; bail out the money-market funds; bail out the commercial-paper sellers; bail out the depositors in belly-up banks; bail out the automobile companies; bail out the deadbeats who didn’t make their mortgage payments when they came due. When the Treasury bumps up against its borrowing limits, and interest rates begin to rise on its bonds, bail it out, too, by having the Fed flood the world’s credit markets with new reserves created by nothing more than a snap of its electronic finger. Who knows what industry, special-interest group, or noisy whiners bloc will be bailed out next? With the Fed standing ready to inflate without limit, the festivities need never end.
Of course, our rulers assure us that they will defend the taxpayers’ interest like pit bulls. Why, just recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in which they declared, “We must safeguard the interest of American taxpayers [and also, they continued] protect the hundreds of thousands of automobile workers and retirees, stop the erosion of our manufacturing base, and bolster our economy.” Whew! These dedicated public servants clearly do not intend to rest until they’ve pretty much cured all the world’s visible ills, including bad breath and flat feet. If they fail, in any event, it won’t be because they were too timid about throwing the taxpayers’ money at the problems.
All of which raises the eternal question, have we become a communist country yet? Yes, I know you probably think this question is silly, but I intend to treat it with the seriousness it deserves in the light of past, present, and likely future government actions. To ensure that I do not adopt an irrelevant or tendentious set of criteria in my inquiry, I will consider the question with reference to the list of ten measures that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels presented in the Manifesto of the Communist Party as “pretty generally applicable” for the establishment of communism “in the most advanced countries.” In the following text, I reproduce each of Marx and Engels’s points verbatim in bold font (from the 1955 edition of Samuel H. Beer), followed by my own evaluation or commentary.
Higgs is right. Alas, we seem to have hit the utopia of socialism long ago.