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Works and Days

When Socialism Creeps In . . .

September 14th, 2010 - 1:38 pm

America against the world (in ways we never imagined?)

Survey the world’s statist systems of every stripe, from soft to hard. One sees either failure and misery or stasis and lethargy. At the most extreme, a North Korea is turning into a Neanderthal society where subjects eat grass. Castro’s Cuba is imploding, and the Great Leader in his dotage is now renouncing his communist catastrophe. Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela proves that an even an oil-rich exporter can destroy itself with self-imposed socialism.

India progressed only when it adopted free markets. People do not outsource 1-800 numbers to socialist paradises. No need to review the Soviet collapse or the change in China from a peasant to a wealth-building capitalist society. Europe for a while longer works despite (rather than because of) democratic socialism. From Germany to Greece, Europe is moving away from the encroaching public sector that has nearly destroyed the European Union.

So the trend of the world — even after the meltdown of September 2008 — is away from statism, except in the United States. I don’t say that lightly or as a slur, but empirically. The Obama administration has absorbed large sectors of the auto industry and some segments of banking and insurance. The student loan program is federalized.

I never understood cash for clunkers; it seemed flawed in every facet. If this administration has its way, it will hike income taxes and take off the caps on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes (potentially the largest tax increase in history) — part of an effort to redistribute income from the top to bottom brackets (40% of these income filers pay no income tax now at all). Inheritance, health care, and capital gains taxes are all slated to rise.

The failed British medical system is now our model. Yet even the pretense that it will save money is now abandoned. To get reelected, many of its Democratic adherents now run from their earlier votes. For some reason the chaos of the emergency room, the mess of the social services office, or the bureaucracy of the county building permit agency is our ideal for the brave, new doctor’s office.

The percentage of GDP that is government-run will markedly increase; the trillion-plus annual deficits, in gorge the beast fashion, will force higher taxation to pay for redistributive payouts and entitlements — or inflate the currency to erode saved capital. The UN is worshiped and reported to. Allies are now neutrals, and enemies are courted. We seek to prove that we are not “exceptional,” but simply one among many — a sort of socialist approach to foreign policy where all nations are the same.

Symbolically the president, before and during his tenure, has called for “redistributive change,” “to spread the wealth,” and openly suggested that, at some arbitrary point (known to him alone, but apparently sufficiently high enough to allow Costa del Sol and Martha Vineyard vacations) one need not make (as in, keep one’s earnings) additional income. I could go on, but you get the picture: Obama would like to take us down a path that leads inevitably to a Greece, even as the world is racing away from it.

So what’s wrong with socialism? Here are five dangers.

1) Policing the police. There is no check on an omnipotent government. We see that already with the hundreds of tax cheats in Congress and the White House, and the embarrassments of a Tim Geithner or Tom Daschle. Who oversees industry when industry is run by government?

Another agency? Do you sue in federal court to stop state industry pollution, when the payout will hamper the ability to pay the federal court staff itself? When I take brush to the dump, I am careful to tarp the pickup bed (I know the dangers of, and fine for, flying debris). When I am behind a municipal garbage truck, I both expect to be splattered by flying garbage and know there is no punishment for the driver; he is tenured and his agency part of the same system as the sheriff’s.

When I see a Greyhound bus driver drive erratically, I expect he can be sued or cited by government. When a municipal bus driver recently almost hit me at a crosswalk — its driver smoking and text messaging all at once — I knew there was little redress. What is the transportation agency worried about — losing market share when it is a monopoly? Government is necessary, but the least is better than the most.

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