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Letting Go of Socialism

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Socialism has held the world in its grip since the beginning of the 20th century. People everywhere fell for the seductive allure of governmental security. Now on the eve of the 21st century, people all over the world are considering letting go of the socialist nightmare. But tragically, one of the peoples on earth who are refusing to let go of socialism are the Americans.

I recently received a letter from the head of a Belgian freedom organization in which he suggested that we should give up on our fight to end socialism in America. He said that Americans would never give up the welfare state way of life. He advised me instead to spend all of our efforts on freedom in Eastern Europe because in that way, the Eastern Europeans could provide a model of freedom that the Americans could imitate.

I responded that at the risk of being nationalistic, Americans were not in the habit of copying anyone when it comes to freedom. I said that I was of the firm conviction that Americans would yet awaken and discover their heritage of liberty and that Americans would again lead the world in the highest achievement of freedom in the history of man. I told him that no matter how difficult our fight for freedom was in this country, our job was here.

Nevertheless, the Belgian’s observation was terribly discomforting. Because deep inside of me, I knew that he might be right — Americans might never let go of socialism. Why? Well, before I address that question, let us look at some examples of how Americans refuse to let go of their socialist economic system.

The first example is public schooling. It always shocks Americans when I inform them that free and compulsory schooling is one of the ten “planks” of the Communist Manifesto and that public schooling is a key aspect of the Soviet, Chinese, and Cuban ways of life. Yet, even after discovering these little-known facts, they continue to believe that public schooling in those countries is socialism while public schooling in the United States is free enterprise. Let’s examine the principles of public schooling.

The public schooling system, like all coercive redistributive programs, is founded on the Marxian concept of “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” The political system is used to plunder the wealth and savings of everyone, even those who don’t have children, to pay for the schooling of other people’s children.

The plain truth is that public schooling is also the absolutely perfect embodiment of the socialist concept of central planning. The “education” of each child — from teachers to textbooks to curricula to time in school — is planned for him by a central political agency, either on a local, state, or national basis. The government, not the parents, controls the “education” of the child.

The tragic failure of socialism in public schooling is as well known as the failure of socialism all over the world. Yet, Americans just won’t let go. What is the common answer to the horrific results of public schooling? Plunder the citizenry and distribute the loot to an even greater extent!

But the real tragedy is that so many freedom devotees in America also won’t let go of socialism. All too often, their answer to the problem involves a futile attempt to make socialism work more efficiently. They want competition in public schools, vouchers, and other schemes which have the ultimate effect of leaving the socialist system intact, reformed, and more efficient.

What is the answer to socialism in public schools? Freedom! Why not separate school and state in the same way that our ancestors separated church and state? The Founding Fathers trusted freedom in religious activities, and look how blessed we are that government no longer subsidizes or controls our religious activities (or that of our children). How would you instead like a voucher system with public and private churches? How about competition between public and private churches? If anybody should trust freedom in education, it should be the Americans who have such a wonderful legacy of religious liberty.

A second example of socialism in America: Social Security. Having come into existence as part of the New Deal in the 1930s (the earlier Americans would have nothing to do with it!), the Social Security system is also founded on stealing. Here, the loot is forcibly taken, again under the guise of “taxation,” from the young and given to the old. The recipients always rationalize the process by convincing themselves that the money, which was plundered from them was retained in some type of investment pool which earned interest. They block out of their minds that the politicians spent their money years ago and that they are now engaging in the classic socialist scheme of using the political process to take from those who have and give the loot to others.

A tragedy again concerns many freedom devotees. What is the all too common answer to Social Security? Reduce Social Security taxes! What? Reduce Social Security taxes? Why reduce Social Security taxes? Isn’t this just another attempt to make the socialism of Social Security operate more efficiently?

What is the solution to Social Security? Eliminate Social Security taxes by repealing this evil and immoral scheme! And then constitutionally prohibit it from ever being passed again! Freedom is the solution!

What will then happen to the elderly in a system in which there is no Social Security? Probably the same thing that happened in America for its first 150 years when the American people refused to use the political process to steal from others. Some people saved for their old age. Others depended on their children for help. Others relied on friends, neighbors, or private relief agencies. Those Americans had faith and trust in freedom and in the caring nature of others. They did not believe that politicians, and their bureaucratic minions, were the only good and caring people in American society. And the result was not only the most prosperous society in history but also the most charitable society in history.

A third example of socialism in America: subsidies to businesses. Here, money is plundered from the American people, among whom are the very poor, and the loot is redistributed to American businessmen. It is a classic case of socialism being used to take from the poor and give to the rich. The tragedy among freedom devotees again is that they are much too reluctant to let go of socialism here as well. After noting the terribly high costs to taxpayers of these types of programs, the answer of many freedom devotees is: “The program needs reform.” Reform? Why reform? Doesn’t this imply that the program should be left in existence? Isn’t this just another futile attempt to make socialism in America work? Why not instead let go of socialism? Why not elimination rather than reform? Why not repeal all subsidies and constitutionally prohibit their ever being established again? Why not try freedom — a way of life in which people keep their own earnings; where those earnings are accumulated by producing goods and services for which others voluntarily pay; and where the earner, not the politicians and bureaucrats, decides the method of disposition of what rightfully belongs to him?

Why might Americans never let go of socialism? Because, unlike others who have suffered under socialism, Americans falsely believe they are free! A recognition of enslavement is the vital first step to winning freedom. The Americans, unlike others around the world, have believed their own government’s repeated proclamations that they live in a land of freedom; they have no idea that, many decades ago, Americans abandoned the principles of freedom for which America once stood.

What makes the Belgian’s observation about Americans and American socialism so pointed is that it implicitly paints a very pathetic picture: the portrait of a slave who not only believes he is free but who also sometimes openly brags to the world about his freedom. The rest of the world, seeing the shackles which the American does not see, don’t even laugh; instead, they turn away in embarrassment over what has happened to a once great people.

Nevertheless, I am supremely confident that Americans will yet discover their own rich heritage of liberty. If there were ever a people who should know the virtues and benefits of freedom, it is the Americans, the people who have been bequeathed the greatest degree of freedom the world has ever known.

People everywhere are letting go of the socialist nightmare. But they are looking through a glass darkly with respect to what should be the alternative. It shall be the Americans, I am firmly convinced, who will yet let go of socialism, once and for all, and lead the world to the highest reaches of freedom ever dreamed of by man!

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    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.