Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Socialism by Any Other Name

I hate to disagree with Thomas Sowell--I mean I really hate to disagree with Thomas Sowell--but he's just wrong about this:
It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism.
As much as I love Dr. Sowell, I'm afraid that to want "politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy" is the same thing as wanting "government ownership of the means of production."  If I own something but cannot decide how to use it, or not use it, without government approval, then, as far as I'm concerned, I never owned it in the first place.  Owning and not owning becomes a distinction without a difference.

Another distinction without a difference (perhaps save one*) is between a socialist, a communist, a fascist, and a Nazi (a national socialist).  What they share, and the thing about them that makes all the difference in the world, is a firm commitment to radical equality.  They share this commitment because they confuse radical equality with justice.  That is, they think they're pursuing justice by pursuing radical equality.  Aristotle wrote about this confusion long ago in his Politics, but they never read that book or don't care even if they did.  Radical equality is both their premise and their goal.  But, as anyone who gives it more than a moment's thought knows, radical equality is not now the case, never has been, and never can be.  Therefore, to pretend that it just might nevertheless someday be the case requires an elite, a vanguard if you will, to compel it, and to do so ruthlessly, murderously even, if need be.

The other day I blogged that President Obama, contemporary liberals, and the modern Democrat Party were all socialists.  I stand by that even though I will concede that they themselves may not know what their positions and policies portend.  I do, however, and you should.

*The one difference is between a Nazi and the rest.  While both share a commitment to radical equality, a Nazi's egalitarian sympathies remain confined to his race, his ethnicity, or his culture.  For the rest, their commitment is international in scope whatever their private bigotries or chauvinisms.


  1. Agreed. Those who deny the left is fundamentally socialist are ignoring the key issue: The socialist identifies the good of society with the good of each individual. One sees this in John Dewey and subsequent liberalism, as clearly as Dewey could get. What libertarians don't get--and maybe Sowell is sensitive on this point--is that there is a common good which is not socialist. It's very difficult for libertarians and others who are economics-centric to explain this.

  2. Agreed as well.

    I've blogged about this before, but one defining aspect of the "common good which is not socialist" is that it occurs naturally, even among, or especially among free men.

    A lack of faith in free men to freely associate is where, I think, contemporary liberals and libertarians actually reveal their common roots. Liberals fret over this while libertarians don't care (or at least say they don't care.)

    Conservatives by contrast believe that men are quite naturally social and political. Free men will form communities, i.e., recognize and pursue a common good, on their own, thank you very much, and do not need it imposed upon them from the top down.