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Our capitalist economy, our socialist government

By Alan Caruba
web posted July 7, 2003

It is a bitter irony that this nation has embraced socialism for a government designed by its Founding Fathers to permit the greatest amount of freedom to individuals to govern their own affairs and prosper. That original concept, intention, and dream is dead.

"In short, what's needed is a coherent left presence in American political life. Nor is this pure pie in the sky. There already is a left presence in Congress, in the form of the progressive and black caucuses, that expresses traditional socialist principles," says James Weinstein.

Weinstein, the author of The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left, might have added that the entire Democrat Party represents a Socialist presence in Congress. Anyone listening to its current crop of presidential candidates would have to conclude that the answer to America's problems is more and higher taxes, special privileges for minorities, more government control of the nation's educational system, more environmental regulation, the expansion of Medicare, and more government programs.

Weinstein has written an interesting book. A dedicated Socialist and one-time Communist, the author is an enthusiastic supporter of capitalism so long as it underwrites socialist programs. Corporations may be evil exploiters of the working class, but, by golly, they do generate a lot of wealth (and employment!). Weinstein devotes a lot of energy to attacking the Soviet form of socialism, denouncing it in no uncertain terms as just an extension of the dictatorship formerly exercised by the czars.

Weinstein provides the reader with a look at the failure of the Socialist Party in America to gain any foothold among voters. "By 1936 the parties were over. American Socialists and Communists in the United States had each failed to develop a substantial popular following, and neither had any prospect of doing so."

However, many socialist objectives have been put into place and, for that, we can mostly thank the Democrat Party. "New Deal reforms created a government that is now responsible for 45 percent of national spending." Weinstein cites various programs, noting accurately that the US is now "more than half socialist today" because "more than half of the total output of the country is being distributed in a way that is determined by the government."

To the astonishment of conservatives and libertarians, these days it is Republicans who are carrying on the tradition of enlarging the role of government in every aspect of the economy and control over our lives.

The Socialist Party advocated "the eight-hour workday, women's suffrage, unemployment insurance, workmen's compensation, Social Security, legal protect of union's right to organize, a progressive income tax, prohibition of child labor, the legal right to advocate birth control were all being partially adopted by Congress or granted by the courts."

Weinstein, of course, sees the world through a socialist perspective. Thus, he writes, "When the Cold War ended and the United States emerged as the world's last superpower, a new excuse for militarization was required. The Clinton administration came up with the ludicrous idea that we were threatened by rogue states, epitomized by North Korea and its one or two long-range missiles, or by an essentially demilitarized Iraq." Of course, some might suggest that letting rogue nations continue their mischief can only inevitably lead to worse troubles.

In the end, it is hard to reconcile Weinstein's love of capitalism with his support of socialism. "The introduction of individualism as a social principle was one of capitalism's great virtues," he writes, adding "The utopians simply hated capitalism." But Weinstein remains a utopian, advocating "a worldwide program of demilitarization, led by the United States" and the removal of "the profit motive in arms production by nationalizing all military production except small arms." Naturally, he sees the United Nations and World Court as the ultimate arbiter for the future of the US and all other nations.

It is a wonder that Americans embraced Ronald Reagan's conservatism in the 1980s and returned to George W. Bush's "compassionate" version of it in 2000. It is a wonder that conservative radio talk show personalities are so popular. It is a wonder that there is still a debate over cutting taxes. It is a wonder that the federal government remains everyone's answer to all problems.

To Weinstein and others, it seems obvious that, in the last century, Americans concluded the federal government should be involved in everything from education to local zoning. The Socialists have won.

Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs" (Merril Press) and his weekly column is posted on http://www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba 2003

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