Socialism might sound cool to some people right now. But, traditionally, Americans have been hostile to it. Historians attribute between 85 and 100 million deaths to 20th-century communist regimes.
Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ socialism which they described in their Communist Manifesto, implemented by Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and other despots resulted in the destruction of livelihoods, forced famine, and political executions. Of this devastation, philosopher and free market advocate Jay Richards writes, “Never has an idea had such catastrophic consequences.”
Dr. Richards recommends we rely on the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of socialism, “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies.”
No candidate is specifically advocating that. But politicians are proposing Medicare-for-all, free college, and a Green New Deal that encompasses several socialist measures— including a basic minimum income for everyone. Paying for all this would require ominous tax increases and destroy entrepreneurship and free enterprise.
Still, most candidates won’t call their proposals socialist. They insist they are recommending needed programs.
Is this simply expanding the welfare state? Or is it socialism?
Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson explains that “Modern socialism, as opposed to the traditional strain, is mostly about the welfare state. “But,” he writes, “the ultimate goal is similar. It is to control as much of the economy as possible to advance the agendas of economic and social justice — to edge toward the socialist ideal of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.'”
Mr. Samuelson believes that Americans’ broad support for programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment insurance signals that we are socialists. He says, “both parties are addicted to this socialism.”
Most candidates won’t admit their ideas for drastically expanding government are socialist. As Robert Samuelson concludes, this “does not mean we can escape the consequences of moving in this direction.”