Socialism Is as American as Apple PieRoundup
tags: socialism, social democracy
Bruce Bartlett is a longtime observer and commenter on economic and political affairs in Washington, D.C., who has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Politico, and many others. A bestselling author, his latest book is The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts From Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks.
One of the strengths of the Republican Party is its message discipline. When it finds an issue that works, it beats that issue to death, flogging it long after it stops working. Thus after the Civil War, the party waved the “bloody shirt” by attacking Democrats for opposing the war, which created a continuous run of Republican presidents between 1868 and 1912, punctuated only by a single Democrat, Grover Cleveland.
Another bloody shirt that Republicans have waved forever and plan to wave again this election cycle is “socialism.” I put the term in quotation marks because to hear Republicans tell it, virtually everything government does is socialism; it is utterly foreign to the United States, and it cannot be implemented without imposing tyranny on the American people, along with poverty and deprivation such as we see today in Venezuela, where socialism allegedly destroyed the country.
On July 17, Vice President Mike Pence gave a preview of the coming socialism-addled Republican strategy rather than the actual policies of Joe Biden. Said Pence (emphasis added):
Before us are two paths: one based on the dignity of every individual, and the other on the growing control of the state. Our road leads to greater freedom and opportunity. Their road leads to socialism and decline.
President Trump set our nation on a path to freedom and opportunity from the very first day of this administration. But Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline….
The Biden-Sanders agenda would set America on the path of socialism and decline….
My fellow Americans, that’s the choice we face. We have two paths before us: one of freedom and opportunity, the other of socialism and decline….
So that’s the choice we face, my fellow Americans: between freedom and opportunity or socialism and decline.
The plan to run against some mythical threat of socialism has been underway for some time. As early as October 2018, the White House Council of Economic Advisers issued a report attacking it, with a follow-up chapter in the 2019 Economic Report of the President. More recently, well-known right-wing crackpot Dinesh D’Souza published a screed on the subject, the gist of which is that all liberals, progressives, and Democrats are socialists, as were the Nazis. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has also published The Case Against Socialism, which one reviewer said “does not make a case against socialism, but it does make a convincing case against nepotism.” (Senator Paul is the son of former Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, for whom I worked in the 1970s.
Republicans assert, endlessly, that the Austrian economist F.A. Hayek proved that the welfare state leads inevitably to socialism and tyranny in his 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom. While Hayek’s theory may have been plausible in the midst of World War II, all the evidence since then thoroughly contradicts it. There is no evidence whatsoever that welfare states morph into total state control of the economy and produce a concomitant loss of freedom and prosperity. There is not a single case of this happening anywhere. Nor is there anything in Hayek’s theory to explain why socialism collapsed in the Soviet Union or why privatization rolled it back in places like Britain. (Ironically, Hayek’s relatively expansive view of government’s legitimate functions make him a virtual socialist to some of today’s right-wingers.)
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