Socialism In America, 31 Years Ago

Authored by Jacob Hornberger via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

In my article “A Life of the Lie on Socialism,” I pointed out that one of the big challenges we libertarians face is the fact that so many Americans are still suffering from the indoctrination that has led them to falsely believe that the welfare-warfare state serfdom under which we live is “freedom” and “free enterprise.”

I cited an op-ed in the New York Times by Times’ columnist Timothy Egan as an example of this phenomenon. In his op-ed, Egan wrote, “The United States has never been a socialist country.”

More than 20 years ago, the libertarian Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman made the same point that I made in my article — that the United States was in fact a socialist nation. The title of Friedman’s op-ed was “We Have Socialism, Q.E.D.

Ironically, Friedman’s article was published in the same newspaper in which Egan’s article was published — the New York Times!

It would be fascinating to know whether Egan has ever read Friedman’s article. I would guess, probably not because one would think that if he had, he would have mentioned it in his article and showed why he feels that Friedman was wrong.

Friedman’s point was that the United States was already a socialist nation back in 1989. That’s the point we libertarians make today — that the United States is a socialist nation and that those people who call America’s system “freedom” and “free enterprise” are suffering from official indoctrination that has produced a mindset of self-deception.

Friedman makes the point that socialism has proven to be a disastrous failure and that capitalism has proven to be a tremendous success in terms of economic prosperity. And so what conclusion do welfare-warfare statists reach? Their conclusion, Friedman writes, is “The U.S. needs more socialism.”

Friedman points out that in its purest form, socialism entails government ownership of the means of production. Obviously, the federal government doesn’t own all U.S. businesses and industries, like the North Korean government does.

But Friedman points out, “Spending by government currently amounts to about 45 percent of national income. By that test, government owns 45 percent of the means of production that produce the national income. The U.S. is now 45 percent socialist.”

That’s not all. Friedman writes: “Beyond that, however, government exercises extensive direct control over how the means of production may be used: It prohibits certain uses (to deliver first class mail, to sell some drugs at all, to sell others without prescription, etc.); it controls other uses through laws governing wages, hours and working conditions, rent control and in other ways.”

He continues:

No doubt we need socialism for the judicial and legislative systems. We do not for mail or schools, as has been shown by Federal Express and others, and by the ability of many private schools to provide superior education to underprivileged youngsters at half the cost of government schooling.

Friedman does not spare the vast, permanent military-intelligence establishment, which has become sacred to many Americans, from his analysis:

We all justly complain about the waste, fraud and inefficiency of the military. Why? Because it is a socialist activity — one that there seems no feasible way to privatize. But why should we be any better at running socialist enterprises than the Russians or Chinese?

Friedman concludes:

Yet what are the loudest complaints? Government should be doing more; government is strapped for funds; taxes should be raised; more regulations should be imposed; build more prisons to house more criminals created by socialist legislation. Child care? Program trading? Earthquakes? Pass a law. And every law comes with a price tag and is cited as a reason for higher taxes.

Can we learn only from our own mistakes? Or not even from them?

Imagine: that was 31 years ago! Nonetheless, consider the large number of Americans who continue to falsely believe that America’s socialist system is actually “freedom” and “free enterprise.”

Sensing that something is fundamentally wrong in our society, despite the expanding economy, low unemployment rate, and soaring stock market, an increasing number of Americans are achieving the breakthrough that enables them to break free of the official indoctrination to which they have been subjected and recognize reality for what it is.

That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that once people break through to the truth and accept reality, all of them will join up with us libertarians to restore liberty and genuine free enterprise to our land. Some of them might decide that that they prefer socialism to economic freedom. But some of them will join us, as reflected by the growing number of people self-describing as libertarians. If that trend continues, freedom will be within our reach.