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Victor Davis Hanson - 'Socialists' do not like socialism

Really?  Of course not, just as conservatives have been trying to explain for decades:

But why then does multimillionaire John Kerry go to great lengths to avoid taxes on his yacht (why a luxury yacht when so many have so little?); why are redistributive overseers like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Charles Rangel, and Hilda Solis either late or delinquent in paying the federal, state, or local governments what they owe? Were not high taxes on the upper incomes like themselves the point of it all? Should not they pay all they can to ensure that their brethren receive needed entitlements? I thought Bono would lead an international effort of multimillionaire rock stars to relocate to socialist states like Ireland or Greece, so that they might gladly pay 75% of their incomes (which at "some point" they had enough of) to help others closer to home. Why instead is he fleeing to low-tax nations? Did not such socialists have enough money by now without undermining the socialist state?

The reason of course is that these 'socialists' have never really been interested in using their own resources (schooling, talent, experience, accumulated wealth) to help the poor; instead, they have been very interested -- obsessed actually -- with using their talents to advance big government statism, as a means to make themselves part of an extremely powerful and very rich group of governing elites.  Because the post-WWII intellectual culture (and by extension, our contemporary media/entertainment complex) was so enamored with socialism, socialism was simply the mechanism by which big government statism could most easily be made palatable.  And if a few less fortunate people were helped along the way, that would be nice too.

Hanson continues:

Indeed, statism is not a desired outcome, but rather more a strategy for obtaining power or winning acclaim as one of the caring, by offering the narcotic of promising millions something free at the expense of others who must be seen as culpable and obligated to fund it -- entitlements fueled by someone else's money that enfeebled the state, but in the process extended power, influence, and money to a technocratic class of overseers who are exempt from the very system that they have advocated.

So what is socialism? It is a sort of modern version of Louis XV's "Après moi, le déluge"  - an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in which elite overseers, for the duration of their own lives, enjoy power, influence, and gratuities by implementing a system that destroys the sort of wealth for others that they depend upon for themselves.

Once the individual develops a dependency on food stamps, free medical care, subsidized housing, all sorts of disability or unemployment compensation, education credits, grants, and zero-interest loans -- the entire American version of the European socialist breadbasket -- then expectations for far more always keep rising, with a commensurate plethora of new justifications, usually in the realm of someone else having more than the recipient, always unjustly so. The endangered aid recipient is always seen as being pushed off a cliff in a wheel chair -- therefore, "they" can afford to give "me" more; things are not "fair"; there is no "equality." (emphasis added)

Unfortunately for the rest of us, reality always has a habit of bringing down the fragile redistributionist utopias created and proudly endorsed by big government statists.  It usually strikes in the form of unsustainable debt and (if uncorrected) eventual economic collapse.  In recent months, the reality of Europe's debt load has deeply tarnished the pipe dreams of the statists in charge of the European Union, in the form of governments near bankruptcy in Ireland and Greece or in the midst of a severe debt crisis in Portugal and Spain.  It threatens to bring down Hugo Chavez's socialist utopia in Venezuela, just as it brought down the redistributionist state built by the Perons in Argentina.  And it will bring down the United States, unless someone has the guts to stop the madness.

Hanson concludes:

What stops socialism?

I fear bankruptcy alone.

Who are socialists?

There are none. Only technocratic overseers who wish to give someone else's money to others as a means of winning capitalist-style lifestyles and power for themselves -- in a penultimate cycle of unsustainable spending. When this latest attempt at statism is over, Barack Obama will enjoy a sort of Clintonism, a globe-trotting post officium lifestyle of multimillion dollar honoraria to fund a lifestyle analogous to "two Americas" John Edwards, "earth in the balance" Al Gore, a tax-exempt yachting John Kerry, a revolving-door Citibank grandee like Peter Orszag, or a socialist Strauss-Kahn in $20,000 suits doling out billions to the "poor."

That is just the way it has been and will always be. (emphasis added)

Of course I think Hanson nails the truth squarely in his conclusion, but I would beg to disagree with him on one point -- there are indeed very many socialists out there.  And where you find them today may surprise you.

n fact, you need look no further than the so-called "Religious Left," and their contemporary vision of social justice.

(I feel like I'm walking a fine line here, so before I go any further I should clarify a few things.  First and foremost, followers of the Judeo-Christian God and his Son Jesus Christ are obligated by Scripture to "seek justice," which primarily involves doing whatever can be done peacefully to end suffering where one group of people is oppressed because of the deliberate actions of another group of people.  We are also called to be advocates for those who cannot otherwise fend for themselves.  Whenever we see injustice -- and there is plenty of it in our contemporary world -- we are obligated through our faith to call out the oppressors,  and to become advocates for the oppressed.  And yes, sometimes that puts us directly at odds with the "powers and principalities" [including the United States government] that govern our world and shape its culture.) 

The Religious Left includes a familiar cast of characters, including Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren, as well as patron saints such as Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, and Gustavo Gutierrez.  To their credit, virtually all of the people associated with the Religious Left who have spent their lives within the structure of the Christian Church have done so out of a commitment to the poor and an honest effort to combat societal injustice.  While a handful have become semi-celebrities and have earned a fair amount of money through books and personal appearances, there isn't really anyone to speak of within the Religious Left movement that has attained anything even remotely like the kind of hypocrisy exemplified by the personal lives of political figures like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Al Gore, or John Edwards.

How does the Religious Left believe that today's injustices can be corrected?  The famous Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises attempted to ascertain the answer some years ago:

"Christian Socialism, as it has taken root in the last few decades among countless followers of all Christian churches, is merely a variety of State Socialism. ... Agriculture and handicraft, with perhaps small shopkeeping, are the only admissible occupations. Trade and speculation are superfluous, injurious, and evil. ... It is the duty of legislation to suppress these excesses of the business spirit. ... In the economic system which they have in mind there is no entrepreneur, no speculation, and no 'inordinate' profit. The prices and wages demanded and given are 'just.' ...

"[Christian socialists] have anxiously avoided drawing the logical conclusions of their premises. They give one to understand that they are combating only the excrescences and abuses of the capitalist order; they protest that they have not the slightest desire to abolish private property; and they constantly emphasize their opposition to Marxian Socialism. ... It can be seen at once how the Christian Socialism of today corresponds to the economic ideal of the medieval Scholastics. The starting point, the demand for 'just' wages and prices, that is, for a definite historically attained distribution of income, is common to both."
Incredibly, Von Mises wrote these statements ninety years ago, as part of his 1922 masterwork Socialism.  Very little has changed since then.  The Religious Left ardently supports labor unions, 'living wage' laws, progressive taxation, gun control, urban farming, farmers markets and other co-op type exchanges for locally-produced goods and services, 'green energy' and individual environmental conservation/sustainability projects, and a variety of other micro-economic efforts.  It generally opposes the military, non-unionized labor, loosely regulated wages and prices, any reduction of tax rates for large businesses and wealthy citizens, corporatism, and any pursuit of profit or income above what is necessary to live comfortably from day to day, with a little extra left over to aid those who are in need.

I'll say this one more time: it is admirable that most Religious Left leaders have pursued these goals without attempting to attain political power or enormous monetary wealth for themselves.  However, they have allowed themselves to become dupes -- 'useful idiots' if you will -- for the John Edwards' and Al Gores and Barney Franks and Dale Rathkes of the world.  Their support, however innocent or well-meaning, for the socialist/redistributionist agenda of greedy statist powermongers has directly led to the fiscal and social mess that America is currently mired in.

Today we live in a nation whose government regulatory power is dangerously overextended, perhaps surpassed only by the vulnerability of our credit, which in turn is related to the almost incomprehensible size of our national debt.  Our attempts to financially supplement the meager incomes of our poorest citizens have in turn created a surreal kind of poverty where the poor compete with the middle class in terms of "stuff" (nice clothing, electronics, cars, and other items once considered luxuries) but remain solely dependent on the government for an ever-increasing variety of food, housing, healthcare, disability, education, and retirement benefits.  Even unionized professionals, some of whom earn wages and benefits that most any working American would envy, are continually drummed into discontent by their power-hungry leaders.  As more Americans are being squeezed by our current economic crisis, they are being told by the Left to demand more and more from our government without considering how it will be provided or who will pay for it.

Is any of this Biblical?  Of course not.  The Religious Left should be ashamed of what it has done.  The sincerity with regard to its motives does not excuse the mess that so many of the government policies it supported has helped to create.

Big Government statism should be relegated to the trash heap of history.  It has no real place in a free society, and should never be used by Christians to correct societal injustices.

(Sorry this got a little long winded.  There are a lot of links in this piece to things I have been wanting to write about for some time, and they all sort of came together in this piece.)
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Comments (31)

VDH is one of my favorite a... (Below threshold)

VDH is one of my favorite authors.

OBAMA - One Big Ass Mistake America

SF - Brucepall

40 years ago, the United St... (Below threshold)

40 years ago, the United States was a creditor nation. It was the world that owed us money. Now it is the other way around when Nixon, at the urging of the Federal Reserve, took us off the gold standard. From then on, we started borrowing more and more to keep the unbacked dollar afloat until we have finally reached critical mass in debt. Time to chuck everything that has been tried and failed and go back to the gold standard.

Michael,Just out o... (Below threshold)


Just out of curiosity, have you ever personally encountered any of the so-called "religious left" leaders that you name in your post? It is one thing to read/listen to what others say about such people. It is another thing to have a first-hand encounter with such people.

Well, if a few Nations ever... (Below threshold)

Well, if a few Nations ever paid us back for WW2 I would imagine they would be even broker then they are now and the fools populating DC would still spend it in about 3 hours.

Very good article and very descriptive of JEF and his apparatus of minions.

Wow, an unequivocal admissi... (Below threshold)

Wow, an unequivocal admission from the right that Obama is and never was a socialist, and that the repeated slurs against him to that effect were so much delusional bullshit. Thanks for having the honesty to admit that.

Thats correct. Hansen makes... (Below threshold)
Jim m:

Thats correct. Hansen makes the point that there are no socialists that people like obama are only fascists trying to control others for their personal gain. I'm so glad that you orget to be considered totalitarian fascists rather than socialists.

That should have been ' Pre... (Below threshold)
Jim m:

That should have been ' Preferred to be considered...'

Stupid cell phone texting.

Dodo David, I am not person... (Below threshold)

Dodo David, I am not personally acquainted with the "Big 3" Religious Left leaders that I have mentioned in my post, but I have read many of their books (Sider's "Rich Christians In An Age Of Hunger" is a classic of the movement) and I am personally acquainted with many Christian social justice workers locally where I live. I have found them to be honest, hard working people who live simply and devote an amazing amount of time and personal resources to helping the poor and aiding those who are unable to defend themselves against injustice. I have a lot of respect for those folks and I have yet to meet a single one who turned out to be a hypocrite in terms of personal lifestyle.

On the other hand, I have seen blind support among this crowd for various socialist and communist organizations, corrupt organized labor, the "antiwar" movement (without a renunciation of its related affiliations with anti-Semitism and violence against members of the military), radical environmentalism and its active efforts to sabotage corporate interests, and so forth. And I have seen many of them duped by the likes of slimy politicians like John Edwards and Al Gore, simply because Edwards claimed to support the poor and Gore claimed to care about the environment.

I want to see justice done in the name of the poor as well. I'm just informed enough to know that socialism and most of the political left's government policies are not the way to effectively achieve it.

I'm just informed enough... (Below threshold)
jim m:

I'm just informed enough to know that socialism and most of the political left's government policies are not the way to effectively achieve it.

Indeed. Most of the left's policies are not intended to fix the problems of poverty, disease and lack of education. These policies are intended to make a lot of fanfare and employ a lot of people to accomplish nothing.

Of course, poverty, being a relative condition will always exist until everyone is rendered poor. That was the solution found in soviet Russia. People didn't like it much.

I'm so glad that you pre... (Below threshold)

I'm so glad that you preferred to be considered totalitarian fascists rather than socialists.

What I am is pleased to have political opponents who are slow to realize that no one is buying their bullshit, and who quickly abandon their long-standing and emphatic positions so that they can move on to the next invented slur that they think will give them more political traction.

John,The notion th... (Below threshold)
jim m:


The notion that the left was never serious about its socialist rhetoric is nothing new. It has long been pointed out that the uber rich left frequently gives little or nothing to charity and strives very hard to protect its wealth, all the while urging others to eschew wealth and to do without so others can have more.

Socialism, and especially the leftist elites who advocate it, has always been a deeply hypocritical political position. Victor Davis Hansen does not present a new critique of socialism. He does a fine job of articulating an existing critique in light of current world events.

If you think that no one is buying that socialism is a fraudulent and empty political model then I suggest you look again. The left has run this country into the ground just as it has done in Europe. The PIIGS in Europe are socialist experiments run to their logical conclusion and they will very likely spell the end of the EU. obama's attempt at creating the next great socialist Utopia here in the US has already run out of money. China, the world's biggest buyer of US debt has divested itself of nearly all its short term holdings and is working on the long term holdings.

If you think that people are not buying the idea that socialism is dead then I suggest you review the 2010 election and what has been happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey lately. States are rejecting leftism and socialism and the public (apart from the union apparatchiks) is supportive of that.

For those idiots, they firm... (Below threshold)

For those idiots, they firmly believe that "some" are "more equal" than others.

Just ask the Goracle.

And if you think that peopl... (Below threshold)
Jim m:

And if you think that people don't think that the left is full of crap you should perhaps consider that when obama, who earns several million a year with his book deals etc, tells a man who earns only a fraction of what he does that, ' At some point you've made enough money' implying that this other man should give up his income so other people can take the money he's earned, people see the rank hypocrisy in that statement.

People see that here is a leftist who makes millions telling a man who makes far less that he needs to give up his income. And people see that the rich leftist has no intention of sharing his wealth.

The notion that the left... (Below threshold)

The notion that the left was never serious about its socialist rhetoric is nothing new.

Let me get this straight. You accuse "the left" of being socialists, and yet when they fail to exhibit any socialistic tendencies, rather than conclude that you're wrong, you instead conclude that they're just bad socialists.

I suspect that if you accused Obama of being an extraterrestrial and his DNA tested to be human, you'd conclude that he's just a bad extraterrestrial.

"Let me get this straight. ... (Below threshold)
Sarah the Impaler:

"Let me get this straight. You accuse "the left" of being socialists, and yet when they fail to exhibit any socialistic tendencies, "

When did that happen???

When did that happen???<... (Below threshold)

When did that happen???

Umm, read the article. Or the title of this post. Or comment #6. Or maybe just think for yourself.

"Let me get this straigh... (Below threshold)

"Let me get this straight. You accuse "the left" of being socialists, and yet when they fail to exhibit any socialistic tendencies, rather than conclude that you're wrong, you instead conclude that they're just bad socialists."

John, now you're just being obtuse. Did YOU read the article? To describe these people's desire in a single sentence - Socialism for thee, but not for me.

But I'm not surprised you don't get it. Woods, trees and all that.

Umm, read the article.</... (Below threshold)
Evil Otto:

Umm, read the article.

I'm not convinced YOU have read the article, John. Or are you intentionally missing the point?

The way people throw around... (Below threshold)

The way people throw around "socialism", it's almost like it shouldn't be a word any more.

Guys - socialism means a very specific thing. It means a system where the government takes over ALL industry, and runs it. I don't blame you guys specifically for this, it's all over conservatism and from there into the mainstream culture, because reporters are lazy and setting things straight means less time for bright shiny things to lure audiences.

But please note how this proper definition of socialist differes from those who are merlly advocating an economic policy where those who can afford to pay more in taxes, so these funds can be reinvested back into the country.

A policy which would do more to erase the deficit than any budget-cutting policy yet proposed, simply by returning the taxes to where they were under Clinton.

Please note how advocating for this policy is also separate from taking advantage of tax rules on a personal level.

Now, please ignore all the meat of this comment and come at me with a bunch of insults and ad hominems anyway. It's what I'm expecting. God knows why I try this in the first place.

Yesterday, I realized that ... (Below threshold)

Yesterday, I realized that the methods of redistributing welth do not do that.

They redistribute currency, but destroy wealth.

Wealth is a resource that generates more wealth. Currency is simply spent.

".....simply by returning t... (Below threshold)

".....simply by returning the taxes to where they were under Clinton."

This solves everything.
And I can't wait for the dot.com boom to return also.

Guys - socialism means a... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Guys - socialism means a very specific thing. It means a system where the government takes over ALL industry, and runs it.

That's fully mature socialism. It happens incrementally, not overnight.

But please note how this proper definition of socialist differes from those who are merlly advocating an economic policy where those who can afford to pay more in taxes, so these funds can be reinvested back into the country.

It doesn't differ in kind, only in degree. There is no real distinction. It is like saying that genocide isn't really genocide until ALL the members of a race are dead. What a ridiculous argument.

From the Library of Economi... (Below threshold)

From the Library of Economics and Liberty:

"Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it. (Nevertheless, a few industries were operated by the state.) Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions."

Has the USG's legislative and administrative decision making, both intentionally and unintentionally, taken us more and more down one of these paths since the Hoover-FDR administration? Are Obama's policy decisions so far more representative of the socialist or fascist play book and are they accelerating our "descent" to one destination?

We present; you decide.

BTW There is some irony in ... (Below threshold)

BTW There is some irony in all this. The Cold War ended 20 years ago... and Hitler won!

It doesn't differ in kin... (Below threshold)

It doesn't differ in kind, only in degree. There is no real distinction.

So warrantless wiretapping is complete totalitarianism, differing only in degree. Occupying Iraq is complete world domination, differing only in degree. Regulating commerce is complete socialism, differing only in degree. The death penalty is genocide, differing only in degree.

What a ridiculous argument.


a john offers:<blockq... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

a john offers:

So warrantless wiretapping is complete totalitarianism...

Well, let's go the the Fourth Amendment:

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I'll take it that a john holds that electronic communications fall under the category of "papers." The question then becomes is it reasonable that such communications which pass out of the United States and which terminate with a known terrorist or terrorist associate (effectively parties which are waging war upon the United States) should be subject to search. Seems reasonable to me. The converse, that one may freely and privately communicate with parties waging war against the United States is certainly un-reasonable.

Note also that the traditional remedy (exclusion at trial) remains available should the fruits of such a search be deemed unreasonable. It is certainly less intrusive than mandating that all Citizens of the United States must buy certain services (since the search mentioned is already limited in its scope).

I'm tempted to point out th... (Below threshold)

I'm tempted to point out that not only did you latch on to but one of my examples, but you're also using an excerpt that explicitly states warrants are required in order to defend activities conducted without a warrant, you misguidedly declare the communication targets to be "known terrorists or terrorist associates" rather than "suspected" or even just "foreign" as occurred in reality, and you also claim that a remedy at trial exists where few trials have been conducted.

However, for the purposes relevant to this discussion, I'll simply quote your compatriot:

It doesn't differ in kind, only in degree. There is no real distinction.

Thanks for helping to show how ridiculous his argument is.

a john writes:<blockq... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

a john writes:

I'm tempted to point out that not only did you latch on to but one of my examples, but you're also using an excerpt that explicitly states warrants are required in order to defend activities conducted without a warrant,

You succumbed to your temptation I see. Sadly, while the Fourth Amendment does indeed specify the requirements for a warrant, it does NOT specify that warrants must be obtained for all searches. Instead it specifies a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

For instance, you may be searched when entering the United States after travel abroad without a warrant and such searches are reasonable.

The standard is not the warrant, but the reasonable nature of the search.

But thank you for demonstrating the shallow nature of your understanding and the poorly based "gotcha" that is the sine qua non of leftards everywhere.

I'm sorry you find it sad t... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry you find it sad that the Fourth Amendment spells out the protection of your liberties. However, once again, while ignoring the fact that you're claiming that warrantless searches of "suspects" or even just "foreigners" is reasonable (and your border example is bogus as it's regulated by law)--and I'm not here to debate warrantless searches, in any case--you're in the end supporting the notion that there is a difference in kind (e.g., of searches), not just degree, and thus you join me in concluding that the argument I noted as ridiculous is, in fact, ridiculous.

Your insults are clever, but they don't make you any more right.

a john wrote:<blockqu... (Below threshold)
Rodney Graves Author Profile Page:

a john wrote:

I'm sorry...

Indeed you are a sorry specimen who goes on with:

...you find it sad that the Fourth Amendment spells out the protection of your liberties.

Except of course that I said no such thing. My "Sadly [for your point], while the Fourth Amendment does indeed specify the requirements for a warrant, it does NOT specify that warrants must be obtained for all searches. Instead it specifies a right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

I added the clarifying comment since you failed to recognize the implicit criticism of your lack of understanding vice a complaint on my part concerning the Fourth Amendment. Yet another gotcha gone awry.

The Constitutional (as amended) standard for searches remains "reasonable." That the legislature may further define "reasonable" by law changes the standard not at all.

Furthermore, if indeed you are "...not here to debate warrantless searches" then you should not have raised the issue. Your sloppy analogies are not my problem.

In law there are always differences in kind and degree. There must be in order for laws to be effective while protecting the rights of the innocent. The point you are attempting to counter is not a matter of law, but of political philosophy, which is indeed less subject to "kind and degree" when measured against the ends such political philosophies produce. In the end, Progressivism and its ill begotten children have always ended in despotism unless overthrown before arriving at those ends.

Your tacit endorsement of despotism when it serves the interests of you and your fellow travelers is about what I have come to expect of such.

For what it's worth, in my ... (Below threshold)

For what it's worth, in my previous post in this discussion, I did not express disagreement with Michael's statements.

My question for Michael was a neutral question.






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