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Socialism in America

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Happily, people all over the world are abandoning the 20th-century nightmarish experiment with socialism. But the great tragedy of our time lies here in America: unlike the rest of the world, Americans are rushing to embrace the socialist ideals which others are now fleeing.

One of the essential tenets of socialism is public ownership of the means of production. What does this mean? It means that governments, rather than private individuals, own business enterprises. After almost a century of economic failures, Eastern Europe and even the Soviets are considering privatizing their government-owned enterprises. But Americans, while cheering from afar these efforts at privatization, ironically are moving in the opposite direction here at home. The best illustration of this is with respect to airports.

Governments, not private individuals and companies, own most of the airports in America. Publicly-owned airports are the classic embodiment of socialist economic planning: a central political board, rather than a private property system and free market pricing, plans airline use of the airport. And the result? The same as in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union: long lines reflected in big backlogs of airline traffic into, and out of, America’s airports!

Yet, what is the response of most Americans? Privatize? Of course not! That’s the response which Americans give to socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The response to socialism in America is: “Tax us more so that we can have more of our money put into our publicly-owned airports!”

A second essential tenet of socialism was expressed by Karl Marx: “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” What does this mean? That the political process should be used to take from those who have money to give to those whom the politicians and bureaucrats believe need it more. It is this process of political stealing which many people in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union now desire to end.

What is the reaction of Americans? Cheering the efforts of freedom advocates overseas, they instead move in the opposite direction at home. The best example is with respect to publicly-financed sports arenas. These are the classic example of socialism being used to steal from the poor to give to the rich. Money is plundered through the political process from those who have, usually the poor through the use of a regressive tax, and given to those who need — the wealthy stadium and team owners. The idea that the wealthy should have to round up the necessary investment funds on their own is an anathema to them; like their socialist counterparts overseas, they would rather use government to steal the money for them.

Why are Americans embracing socialism while the rest of the world is abandoning it? Because Americans have been taught since the first grade that when American governments own enterprises and redistribute wealth, this is free enterprise while when the Soviet and Chinese governments engage in this conduct, it is socialism. Americans have no idea that many decades ago, they abandoned the principles of liberty on which America was founded.

Moreover, Americans have been taught that if American businessmen support a government enterprise, then it must be free enterprise. After all, haven’t we all learned in our government schools that American businessmen favor free enterprise? The unfortunate truth, however, is that the American businessman of today, unlike his counterpart of the 19th century, is all too ready to run to government for his welfare. He wants nothing to do with such notions as self-reliance, private ownership, unhampered markets, and private capital investment. He wants partnerships with the politicians to ensure that his potential losses will be covered by the citizenry whether they like it or not.

Will Americans ever abandon socialism? Probably not. After all, the most enslaved slave of all is the one who falsely believes he is free. Americans look at airports, sports arenas, government-funded universities, and other publicly-owned or subsidized operations, and think of all of the “benefits” which have been brought to the community through “free enterprise.” They block out of their minds that the money to build these enterprises was taken from them, the people, and would have otherwise been spent on other things. They cannot conceive of all of the goods and services which would have come into existence had they been free to spend their money in their own way, rather than have it spent for them by politicians, bureaucrats, and the politically privileged. And so, unlike their counterparts in the rest of the world, Americans respond to the pleas of politicians, bureaucrats, educators, and businessmen with, “Tax us more! Take more of our earnings and savings! We are here to serve you!”

But the spirit of liberty lies dormant deep within the souls of certain individuals. Throughout history, there have been great awakenings which have inspired men and women to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to recapture and fulfill that spirit. Hopefully, it will be ignited in Americans before it is too late. Hopefully, it will be the Americans who will yet lead the world to the greatest achievement of freedom in the history of 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.