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Barack Obama’s Socialist Philosophy

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The central point of Barack Obama’s economic plan is to tax the rich in order the give money to the poor. Of course, this is nothing more than the core philosophy of the welfare state. It is also the core principle of socialism.

What Democrats (and Republicans) have a difficult time facing is the philosophical roots of the New Deal, the federal program that abandoned the economic philosophy of laissez faire in favor of the welfare state. American welfare-state advocates attained many of their economic ideas from two primary sources: Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, both of whom were highly admired by leftist American intellectuals and politicians in the 1930s.

Mussolini’s economic philosophy was fascism, which was a system in which the government left private property under private ownership but subjected it to government control. Stalin’s economic philosophy was socialism, which involved taking property from the rich in order to redistribute it to the poor.

During the 1930s, American leftists were traveling to fascist Italy and the socialist (and communist) Soviet Union not only to pay homage to Mussolini and the fascists and Stalin and the socialists but also to gain ideas from them for use in the United States. Many of the fans of fascism and socialism ended up serving in the Franklin Roosevelt administration or as founts of ideas for FDR.

The irony (and hypocrisy) is that U.S. officials often rail against foreign regimes that engage in socialism. For example, consider Iran in 1953. The Iranian regime nationalized the oil industry, which means that they cancelled British ownership of oil rights in Iran and transferred such rights to the Iranian government. That action is what ultimately caused the CIA to oust the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from office and install the brutal dictatorship of the Shah of Iran.

Today, what are Obama and other Democrats calling for as a solution to high oil prices? They’re calling for confiscation of oil revenues from oil companies, or what they call a “windfall profits tax.” (Never mind that the oil prices are largely a reflection of a crashing dollar brought about by out-of-control federal spending, which Democrats have enthusiastically supported. Confiscating revenues from the oil companies deflects attention away from the federal government and toward an easy scapegoat.)

What’s the difference in principle between nationalizing an oil company and stealing its revenues? Isn’t the difference one of degree rather than principle? Iranian officials steal all of the company and U.S. officials steal a portion of the company. And they do it in the name of equalization and the people.

One year later — 1954, the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, and installed a brutal military general in his stead. Arbenz’s crime? He was a socialist who confiscated unused land owned by United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation doing business in Guatemala, and redistributed it to Guatemalan peasants. That was a super no-no in the eyes of U.S. officials, especially given that United Fruit was a contributor to the political campaigns of many U.S. congressmen. Yet, Arbenz’s socialist philosophy was no different in principle from that of President Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal philosophy was based on taking from the rich in order to give to the poor.

The ardent devotion to socialism among American liberals is one reason that they have long had a deep sympathy toward Fidel Castro. Castro carried out socialist principles to their logical conclusion. The state took ownership of everyone’s property and then redistributed the largess to everyone. Cubans who owned large mansions, for example, had them confiscated, whereupon poor people were permitted to move in to the houses. All businesses, large and small, were nationalized for the interests of the nation and the people.

How is that different from Obama’s dream of taxing the rich in order to equalize people’s economic condition? Castro confiscates and redistributes 100 percent. Obama wants to confiscate and redistribute, say, 30 percent. Big deal. The difference is one of degree, not one of principle. Socialism is socialism.

At least the Cuban people recognize that they live under a socialist order. The American people have permitted themselves to be convinced that their system continues to be “free enterprise.” In fact, when you confront an ordinary American with the fact that public (i.e., government) schooling and government-provided health care are the core elements of Fidel Castro’s system, they’re likely to say, “You mean Castro is finally adopting free enterprise?” The sad plight of the American people can be summed up with the words of Johann von Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.