The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
I have received several letters from a reader who wants me to believe that LBJ and FDR were socialists. It is unclear whether the writer himself is a socialist, wanting me to believe that socialism has been part of the American fabric for decades, or whether he himself thinks socialism is a quiet threat to the American way of life.
I find the argument tedious, because it is like arguing about whether somebody was a little stupid or a full-fledged moron.
Socialism (and its close cousin communism) has been one of the most unquestionably disastrous experiments in human history. Its death toll is well into the hundreds of millions by now, and it is climbing (way to go, North Korea!). Wherever it is tried there are political prisoners and privileged elites. The more socialist characteristics an economy exhibits, the poorer it will be. It invariably leads to widespread corruption, and amazingly, it has failed on every continent and in every culture.
Yet, hundreds of failed experiments later, socialists endure. They are ridiculous figures, like people who want to wear clown outfits in public and forbid anyone from laughing at them. They tend to populate our universities, where ivory towers can protect them from the sound of giggling.
When this letter writer declared that these presidents were, in fact, socialists, I replied with the dictionary definition of socialism and said that they didn't fit the bill: socialism is the "public collective ownership or control of the means of production ,distribution and exchange, with the avowed aim of operating them for use and not profit." The difference btween socialism and communism is slight: substitute "state ownership" for "public collective ownership."
The definition is so stark, and so clearly a failure, that socialists have been retreating from it for the last two decades.
Now, they believe, socialism is any vestige of the nanny state in a CAPITALIST economy.
So naturally, they point to the glowing cities of Europe as the "future." They see caring governments and happy people (they don't see privately-owned businesses, making things that people actually want).
I look at Europe and I see the past: sluggish growth, stagnant economies and high unemployment. I see a continent whose entrepreneurial spirit is choked by union work rules and dumb laws, and a numbed populace that looks on passively while a huge bureaucracy puts on jackboots.
I also see a way of life that is unsustainable, one that will be washed away by a demographic tidal wave in the next twenty years.
In America, our future, while by no means secure, is also threatened. It is threatened by our own government's "socialist" obligations.
LBJ and FDR did, in fact, create huge governmental programs that will haunt us for the next fifty years.
These programs remove incentives for people to take care of themselves.
Social security, FDR's darling, is a demographic nightmare. By telling people that they were under no obligation to save for retirement, this program enabled baby boomers to spend thoughtlessly and save little: the average baby boomer is in his fifties and has less than $50,000 to retire on. I'm in my thirties and I have a lot more than that. I know there will be no social security for me, but I am painfully aware of the fact that I will be paying for this stupid program regardless.
Likewise, medicare told people that drug costs are someone else's responsibility (mine again...you're welcome). Naturally, those costs have skyrocketed. Everybody wants to go first class when the government is picking up the tab.
And of course, LBJ's welfare programs told the poor that poverty had nothing with them and everything to do with society. And over the last forty years, we have watched teenage birth rates, drug use and dropout rates go up. We have watched poor families erode (and the black family disintegrate). Poverty has gotten worse, entrenched and helpless, and now its almost impossible to "cure:" single moms beget single moms, and single moms almost always have lower household incomes than two parent families.
Of course, if you were to let the left go, things would only get worse: health care would become the sole responsibility of the state. So would housing. And food. And fuel...etc. And pretty soon the US would be as big a shithole as Cuba is.
No, LBJ and FDR were not socialists because they made these dumb programs. They just made stupid mistakes, mistakes that have ended up costing much more than they were supposed to.
But Ted Kennedy is as red - and as stupid - as you can get.....