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Debating a Socialist

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I just returned from Tampa, Florida, where I engaged in a debate sponsored by the Tampa branch of the Young President’s Organization. The topic was “Libertarianism or Socialism?”. My opponent was a gentleman named Brian Moore, who is a self-avowed socialist.

The debate was cordial but hard-hitting. Moore is an affable guy, but it amazes me that there are actually people in the world who still openly support and defend socialism. Sure, conservatives and liberals defend socialist programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, subsidies, and public schooling, but they do so under the delusion that such programs are actually part of America’s free-enterprise system. At least Moore has a grip on reality, in that he recognizes that such programs are socialistic in nature.

Moore made it clear that he opposes big government, which again distinguished him from both liberals and conservatives. He favors decentralization of power, with state and local governments, rather than the federal government, imposing socialism. He also made it clear that he opposes a Big Brother type of government and is a strong supporter of civil liberties, which again distinguishes him from conservatives.

I pointed out that the fundamental issue in libertarianism vs. socialism is a moral one, regardless of what level of government is imposing socialism. I pointed out the core principle of libertarianism: that in a free society, people have the fundamental right to live their lives any way they choose, so long as they don’t murder, rape, steal, defraud, trespass, or commit other acts of violence against others.

I used the religion arena to exemplify libertarianism, explaining that libertarians, like most everyone else, do not want the government intervening in the area of religion. People should be free to worship or not, to donate to churches or not, and so forth — without governmental interference.

I then explained that we libertarians, unlike socialists, believe the same principle should apply to economic liberty. People should be free to engage in any economic enterprise. Let the consumer, not the government, decide who’s going to engage in occupations and professions. People should be free to enter into any mutually beneficial transactions with anyone in the world, including hiring a Mexican housekeeper or selling to a Cuban citizen. People should also be free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth and decide for themselves what to do with it — save for their retirement, spend it, donate it, take care of their parents, or whatever, without any governmental interference.

Thus, I pointed out, libertarians, unlike conservatives and liberals, favor the repeal of such socialistic programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, subsidies, foreign aid, and all other coercive redistributive programs — along with the taxes that pay for them. The primary reason is moral — that it’s wrong to forcibly take money from a person to whom it belongs in order to give it to someone else.

I also emphasized that we favor sound money and the abolition of the Federal Reserve, which is nothing more than socialist central planning in the monetary sphere.

I pointed out that socialism leads a nation toward poverty and pointed to Cuba and North Korea, which have total socialism (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling). As a nation moves up the spectrum toward less government control over economic activity, standards of living rise.

During the Q&A session, one of the audience members asked what I thought the reaction of people who have become accustomed to the dole would be if we immediately repealed these programs. I said that undoubtedly many American dole recipients would be upset and protest as vehemently as the dole recipients in France and Greece are protesting over welfare cutbacks there.

That only goes to show how insidious socialism is, in inculcating in people a mindset of helplessness and dependency. I said that freedom really does work. We could repeal all these programs today and people would quickly adjust. We just have to recapture a faith in freedom. I also emphasized that it’s a moral issue: that is, given that it’s wrong to take one person’s money to give it to another person, continuing such wrongful conduct for any period of time cannot be morally justified. Finally, people have a right to protest and demonstrate all they want, but everyone knows that under our system of government, no generation can bind future generations into accepting their socialist programs. The generations living today can — and should — immediately repeal all socialist (and imperialist and interventionist) programs and restore economic liberty to our land.

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.