Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Socialist? Not quite.

Posted by Ron Coleman on October 28, 2008

Carter Clews’s post is as good as any where this issue and this soundbite is getting dragged about, including the PJTV segment (reg. req’d) I participated in yesterday:

Threat or menace?

Threat or menace?

Lest anyone had any remaining doubts about what Mr. Obama really meant when he told the now-famous “Joe the Plumber” that he (Barack Obama) wanted to “share the wealth,” yesterday’s disclosure of the Senator’s 2001 Public Radio interview should close the loop. As he so often does when not befriended by his teleprompter, Mr. Obama let slip with the truth in 2001, just as he did on the rope line with Joe. And it is a truth most hardworking Americans would do well to take with them to the voting booth on November 4. Said Mr. Obama:

“But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of the wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent, as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break us free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution … And the Warren Court interpreted, in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties … I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.”

For those who may have difficulty deciphering Mr. Obama’s unscripted bloviations, it’s all very simple (despite his campaign’s frenzied denials): Barack Obama is a socialist who believes in taking from the haves and giving to the have nots. Lest anyone take umbrage at such a characterization, let’s get one other thing straight (in addition to the fact that government has not and cannot create wealth): There is absolutely nothing wrong with a socialist running for President of the United States. But, there is something dreadfully wrong with that socialist denying his own ideology — even when his own words betray his denials.

Sorry.  I don’t see anything socialist in that sound bite.  NOTHING. Lest anyone take umbrage at such a characterization, let’s get one other thing straight: There is absolutely nothing wrong with criticizing a socialist for running for President of the United States. But, there is something dreadfully wrong with turning someone who is merely a big-government liberal into a “socialist” for political purposes.

What is a socialist?  Socialism is indeed a broad category of political prescriptions but, as ever, let us start with this paragraph from the Wikipedia entry for “Socialism” (emphasis added):

Some socialists advocate complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; while others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. Social democrats propose selective nationalization of key national industries in mixed economies combined with tax-funded welfare programs; Libertarian socialism (which includes Socialist Anarchism and Libertarian Marxism) rejects state control and ownership of the economy altogether and advocates direct collective ownership of the means of production via co-operative workers’ councils and workplace democracy.

Just as we remember it:  Socialism, fundamentally, is premised on the non-private ownership of at least some of the means of production.  Obviously at best the only argument you can make for Obama-as-socialist, based on the sound bite quoted above, is that he is a “social democrat,” i.e., one who “propose[s] selective nationalization of key national industries in mixed economies combined with tax-funded welfare programs.”

So: What industry did Barack Obama propose to nationalize in his remarks, or in any remarks?

None.  He proposed none, and in all probability he never will.

Harry Truman — now there was a socialist.  He tried to nationalize the entire steel industry.  But what would conservatives give today for a world full of Democrats like Truman?

People, you don’t have to be a socialist to be “dangerous” as a matter of economics, budget, tax policy, or, for that matter, liberty.  But if you want healthy economies, balanced budgets, fair taxes — and liberty — you have to know your political economy, and you have to know who is and who isn’t a Red, if only to maintain your own credibility as loyal opposition.

Conservatives and libertarians playing the “Red scare” card are losing that, fast.  We like to sling the terminology of political theory, constitutional law and economics but by all indications many of us have no idea what wey’re talking about.  And that is not only no formula electoral victory, it is a suicide pact for the oppositing, rebuilding and renaissance.

Let’s grow up.  If we can’t win on the merits, what’s the point?  Haven’t we learned enough from the experience of a nearly principles-free Republican political class?  Don’t we want something better?

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55 Responses to “Socialist? Not quite.”

  1. ALEXISTAN said

    Well put, and thank You, Professor Coleman.

    You have reduced our – dare I say, “collective”? – Likelihood of Confusion.

    Let’s be clear (I fear we’re going to hear that a lot, soon, it’s one of His favorite tropes): it still amounts to robbery.

    By the way, weren’t you and Michelle in Triangle together?

  2. None said

    Obama, Pelosi, et al yearn not for socialism but Peronism – Latin-style fascism. Every citizen a client of the state, and all large scale factors of production (and unions) lead, but not owned, by the state via a carbon credit mechanism.

  3. A “big government” liberal who believes in social reconstruction through the power of government IS socialist. It is the very definition socialist unless you believe in moving goal posts.

  4. RM said

    >>>So: What industry did Barack Obama propose to nationalize in his remarks, or in any remarks

    The healthcare industry. Medicare/FEHB for all.

  5. Jody said

    Obama is not a classic Socialist but instead a Black Liberation Theologist. He believes that the USA is a racist, unjust and imperialistic country. He wants to redistribute the wealth to those he deems being held down by White Man’s greed. Pure ans simple. We may be about to elect the first President of the United States that does not believe in American exceptionalism and most American’s have no idea.

    Cheers.

  6. […] a Socialist is not one of them. […]

  7. gattsuru said

    I’m sorry, but I can’t quite see how on earth you expect someone to “promote economic justice”, “redistribute wealth”, or even create a single “positive liberty” without involving the government control of wide sectors of the economy. The second everyone has a right to be provided X — whether it’s the New Party’s wide array of ‘positive liberties’ or just health care for everyone — the United States government has to have control over either that X. It might not take a complete takeover of the corporate board when you can just mandate every action, but it’s still the government’s greasy palms. The banks might still have their corporate boards when everyone’s assured “economic justice” or “spread wealth”, but when they can’t build a new hospital or turn away a single individual without the government’s okay, that’s still government control. This sort of representative socialism is in no way cured or vaccinated of the ills that plague every heavily socialized country.

    Obama might leave the stockholders of a hospital with their pieces of paper. I don’t find that very reassuring when he’s all but stated that they can’t make any important decisions during stockholder meetings, nor keep much in terms of dividends.

  8. Shannon Love said

    Technically we should classify the model that Obama and most other social-democrats follows as a fascist one. In the fascist model, the means of production nominally remain private hands but the government has the right to intervene in any economic matter of its choosing in any way of its choosing. In addition, the fascist model posits an extensive welfare stare, politically managed health care, state pensions and guaranteed jobs.

    Of course, fascism has perforative connotations so people shy away from making the obvious comparisons. One doesn’t have to be a militerist of xenophobe to be a fascist. One must merely seek power and economic control over the populace. When you start with motive, the fascist model comes into being naturally.

  9. bc said

    As Joe Biden would say,”Are you joking? Is this a Joke? Who’s writing your…”

  10. Kenneth Daves said

    By the 1960’s the definition of socialism in common use by the self-professed socialists I met was that society is responsible for the well being of the individual and that government, as society’s agent, has the right to decide what is “good” and carry it out. They explicitly disputed the notion that it involved ownership of the means of production. Really ever since Reagan lost the fight to abolish the Department of Education socialism has been triumphant in the U.S. Medical Savings accounts, retirement savings accounts, school vouchers and the like were all attempts to bypass the socialist power structure rather than confront it.

    I very much fear that Barry has a very expansive concept of “good” and wants to do it to us.

  11. Ric Locke said

    Uh, huh.

    Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.

    Sorry, Professor, but if we “have to know [[y]our political economy” you aren’t helping. All but a small fringe of socialists are levelers, holding that inequalities in wealth or privilege come by chance or ill intent, and therefore must be redressed; the matter of ownership of “means of production” is a means to the end of equal result. Concentrating on the ownership aspect, especially to the exclusion of the egalistic ideals, is misdirection if not outright lying.

    Regards,
    Ric

  12. happyfeet said

    No no no you sillies Baracky doesn’t fit the technical definition. Ok now let’s sing a song together and then we can have our snack.

  13. JCD said

    Gattsuro is right. Besides, what Obama is is close enough to being a “socialist” that people know he can easily go all the way once in office. Who cares if he doesn’t fit the exact definition, everyone knows he’s not Marx or Lenin. Socialist is just being used as a general term because it’s fits into soundbites better.

  14. DAL said

    Well then, if Obama is not a Socialist, he is a Marxist. Which one is worse for our country?

  15. happyfeet said

    The condescension of this Coleman person is really repellent and I bet he has no idea who he’s talking to but you sure can tell who he thinks he’s talking to. I bet 99% of professors wouldn’t detect the condescension either. We have the most useless academic caste I think ever developed.

  16. Scott said

    A fair enough point — but I think there comes a point at which the differences are primarily semantic. After all, if I own the means of production, but only have access to half of the fruits of that production, what exactly is the difference of my owning those means outright or sharing ownership with the state?

    If you read through the “Second Bill of Rights” that FDR envisioned — a concept that is back in the spotlight with Prof. Sunstein and Rep. Kaptur in a speech yesterday — I think it’s pretty hard not to look at that as a manifestation of socialism.

    I really don’t think it must necessarily involve nationalization of industry to make the grade. But that’s just me. In truth, it’s all a matter of degree.

  17. PapayaSF said

    To defend Harry Truman, the steel industry seizure was because labor disputes were threatening the supply of steel needed for the war effort. I don’t think it was because Truman thought the steel industry should be owned and run by the federal government from then on.

    Re Obama as socialist, here’s one measure: Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a self-proclaimed socialist in the Senate. Obama votes with him, or to his left, nearly all the time. Isn’t that a good reason to call Obama socialist?

  18. fretless said

    Marxist, with a twist of Racial Retribution … just to make it “fair”

  19. gk1 said

    Why are we finally hearing what obama thinks about sharing the wealth, what a week or two from the election? I don’t know if obama is a socialist or not but what does seep out from his pretorian guards of the press is pretty scarey. The best defense anyone can say for his redistributionist brainfart was that the interview was 7 years ago! That’s freightening enough even without the Marxist bugaboo.

  20. Dandaman said

    “Harry Truman — now there was a socialist. He tried to nationalize the entire steel industry.” And he toasted 250,000 innocent Japanese in order to save an equal number of American soldiers’ lives. “But what would conservatives give today for a world full of Democrats like Truman?”

    Right, Obama’s no socialist or a Harry Truman. More a Bernie Sanders.

  21. Claude Hopper said

    You are probably right that he is not a classic socialist. He is simply an empty suit and the only label that fits is Hart Schaffner and Marx (with the emphasis on Marx, Karl style).

  22. happyfeet said

    Ok you guys let’s get on our nap squares and dream of a politics free of hyperboles. And bunnies!

  23. Shannon, your choice of how to define the salient features of fascism is certainly interesting, but there is virtually nothing in the Obama program, much less in this much-bandied-about soundbite, that makes his program sound much different from the War on Poverty or even the New Deal, except that the rhetoric of the New Deal was far more daring. If your position is that Roosevelt and Johnson were fascists, so be it. If your position is that Obama’s plans far exceed theirs in terms of economic control as well as the suppression of free speech, the development of the cult of the state, and other features of actual fascism, I’d like to see a demonstration of that argument. I haven’t.

    By and large the commenters here, such as Kenneth, and elsewhere do not seem willing or able to draw a line, and to do so with reference to specifics, between welfare statism and totalitarianism. Perhaps this is a trait common to libertarians, who live in theoretically constructed boxes of idealized existence in which any state action beyond the installation of traffic lights and manning of Maginot Lines is “coercion.” Certainly if economic free marketers want to move from minority party to historical footnote this is a great approach.

    A few of you have suggested that nationalized health insurance, i.e. socialized medicine, a prospect that I for one contemplate with abhorrence, meets this definition. Is that what all this is about? Really? That’s not what I’m reading or hearing on righty blogs.

    Ric, I don’t understand a word you said! I haven’t been much of a professor for a long time anyway! 😉

    JCD, if you don’t care what words mean, then why would we care about the ones you use? I think words mean a lot — well, I’m a lawyer and a writer, so of course I do, you know! — and when we’re using one particular scare word to smear someone, we should at least realize what we’re doing. Since I include all of you and myself in “we,” I’m suggesting here that we’re guaranteeing a long, harsh winter for conservatives who sound like the left-wing name-calling reactionaries we’ve accurately described in the left-wing blogosphere and indeed throughout the political class on the left for years.

    Now we’re fascists, yup, and they’re commies. And now no one in the middle — those undecided votes that decide elections — cares what either of us has to say. Which is fine if you don’t mind staying stuck on auto-pork forever. I think, however, we can do better.

    One more thing, Alexistan — was Michelle in Triangle?!

  24. edh said

    I wouldn’t call Obama a Marxist. He’s not that doctrinaire.

    Instead, I would say his economic philosophy is influenced by the neo-Marxian thought that is prevalent in many liberal arts college academic departments.

  25. Baba Ganoush said

    If he walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, he probably is a duck even if Obama and his entire flock are trying to convince me he’s a swan. I’m not falling for that fable.

  26. Truman said

    Truman did “nationalize” the steel industry in 1952, but not as a Socialist act. Rather, he was attempting to break up a threatened strike by the USWA. He was over ruled by the courts. Its true that it came in the context of government imposition of wage and price controls and other measures because of the Korean War. But, it wasn’t socialism – maybe “socialistic”

  27. Norm said

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

  28. happyfeet said

    I don’t live in an idealized box I live in freaking Los Angeles. Card check is where people you’ve worked with for years walk up and make you sign a card and pay monies out of your paycheck to support things you don’t believe in but that Baracky believes in very very deeply. He’s a dirty socialist what abhors the individual. He went to a dirty socialist church and gave it a lot of money to spread anti-American lies about how we started AIDS. He’s a very very sick man.

  29. happyfeet said

    Also that’s disingenuous about not understanding Ric cause if you can grok your bloody Marx you shouldn’t have any problem with common sense.

  30. Ric Locke said

    I don’t really think I was all that unclear, although as usual happyfeet manages to distil it into fewer words.

    What unites all the socialists of my acquaintance is dissatisfaction with unequal outcomes. If we are all equal, they reason, we would all achieve equally; therefore any inequality must of necessity result from either chance or ill intent — luck or criminality. Society, they conclude, must redress those unequal outcomes by taking from the fortunate, giving to the unfortunate, and punishing the “greedy”, and a person who subscribes to that notion is a socialist. The tactics they mean to use in achieving redress of inequality differ according to sect. Communal ownership of the means of production is one of the main tactics suggested, but it is a tactic, not a definitional aspect.

    Regards,
    Ric

  31. Matt Groom said

    Not a Socialist? Ummm, yeah. He is.

    It seems your entire premise is based on the notion that since there have been people in the past who were MORE Socialistic than Barry’s outward appearance suggests to the casual observer, he isn’t a Socialist. What? at all? Please. He wants to Nationalize health care and his energy plan sounds vaguely like a nationalization effort as well.

    And if you merely want to argue the correctness of the use of the word “Socialist” then your selling very thin beer there as well. Fascism, Communism, Maoism, Progressivism, Marxism, Leninism, National Socialism/Nazism, Environmentalism, and a whole host of other kinds of 20th century “ISMS” are widely considered to be branches of SOCIALISM. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Anyone? They vary in degrees, not direction. Liberalism, by the way, is not the philosophy of the Progressive Socialists that make up the DNC. Liberalism is the classical name for what we now call CONSERVATISM which differs from Libertarianism by degrees and not direction as well. Just because Progressives and Marxists have hijacked the term “Liberal” and applied it to themselves does not make them so. They could call themselves Jacobites and it wouldn’t be anymore true.

    The argument in this and all political elections and issues is a debate over which force is correct, the Socialism of the Left or the Liberalism of the Right. Conservatives fight for American Values and individual rights, which are Liberal in nature, hence “Liberty”. Socialists fight for the power of the state and control by the state. This has been the basis of every major war to occur in any country for at least the past century. There is no middle ground beyond apathy and ignorance. There is only left and right, right and wrong, good and evil, and there are varying degrees by which each issue is affected by this LAW. History and empathy show us which philosophy is which, and the general rule has been they that fight in the interests of the State, as Obama does, fight AGAINST the interests of the individual. The question that will be answered on Nov. 4th across the U.S. isn’t “Is Obama too far to the Left?” (Answer: He is) but “Is John McCain close enough to the right?” (Answer: Maybe).

  32. He’s not a politician with a plan.

    He’s a revolutionary with a mission. It’s not his job to socialize anything. He’s just got to break the system.

    Parse it that way and he makes sense. Pretending he has any business near the oval office as a product of Chicago with less experience than a middle management McDonalds employee is simply farce.

    Every single mentor or professional associate that formed his professional past is currently passing around a dented tin cup of Ancient Age beneath the Obama campaign bus. And they are happy to be there because they’ve done their part to get their sapper through the wire.

    Alinsky would be proud.

    Some days it is in fact embarrassing to be an American. What happened to us?

    History refresher begins in earnest on Tuesday, according to the polls.

  33. poul said

    social democrats are also socialists. national socialists are also socialists. there are many flavors, and while obama’s flavor is most close to fascism, it is still a flavor of, yes, socialism. so yes, you can be more specific if you want, but you don’t have to, and there is no error in calling obama socialist.

  34. Mike said

    When did Wikipedia, as interpreted by you, become the sole arbiter of the English language?

    When did I either “interpret” Wikipedia, or declare it to be an arbiter… the sole arbiter… or even implicate the English language, as opposed to concepts in political economy that are expressed in English? — RDC

    Direct ownership/nationalization being the sole definition of Socialism is simplified 19th and early 20th-century twaddle. Strict state ownership is unnecessary to achieve most of the Socialist ideals. Lack of ownership is far better for the ruling politicians. If you regulate and redistribute, without owning, you distance yourself from any blame, putting the burden on those that are controlled instead. With government controlling (but not technically owning) huge financial assets, cronyism, wealth, and deniability all come in one neat package. Example: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

    So how is Obama different from George W. Bush? — RDC

    Likewise, universal health care can achieve effective control, without official ownership. We are far too far down the path to effective nationalization of healthcare as it is; the market for healthcare is severely distorted and faltering. Why would one want to “own” an asset and have to stand up to the responsibilities that come with ownership when instead one can merely have utter “control” of an asset? As Marx might have said: “Machts nichts.”

    Socialism as a political label is soft for describing Obama in America. Socialism comes in degrees… its a continuum. And if Obama is elected, current shades of greyish pink will turn distinctly Red. Obama’s past known mentors are steeped in full blown Marxism. The fact that academics and journalists have allowed him to shroud his past does not change the truth.

    What we do know is that he has currently been voting as hard left as possible as a US Senator. With a left-leaning Congress, potentially gaining seats despite phenomenally low approval ratings, which direction will a Capt Obama steer? And whose ideology will be laid on the chart room table?

    Sorry Ron, but ‘Socialism’ can be correctly used to describe a broad set of practices, all of which are aimed at transferring control of property from private individuals to government. If you have a better word for that theme that ‘Socialism’, which certainly is in sympathy with Socialism, then let’s see someone pony it up. Social democracy as espoused by Obama is a form of Socialism. Saying he’s a ‘Social Democrat’ is splitting hairs and only muddies the waters for Americans — most of whom don’t track European politics — they’ll think he’s an especially good party animal amongst his fellow Donkeys.

    So while state ownership is to be feared, my friends, some forms of regulation can be even more dangerous.

    Maybe. But they aren’t socialism. And I ask you the same questions I have asked everyone else: If this is how you define socialism, then pretty much ever President since Roosevelt has been one too. In which case — what’s the point? — RDC

  35. Oh, and I intended no disrespect to McDonald’s managers.

    They have to move product, meet performance standards , and turn a profit , unlike politicians.

  36. lucklucky said

    The new Socialists don’t want anymore to rule via state ownership industries, manufacturing, mining etc. That is too much trouble since it is much easier to Tax and Regulate than to answer about production, failures, polution, results and always dirty tradeoff of dificult decisions like expelling workers of an obsolete technology or subperforming division…

    One need to understand that the current Socialist mind is a coward mind contrary to the old socialists. The current Socialist mind doesn’t want to be put in a position that he/she will have to face results of their actions. So they choose to be in Moralist Business which means they always can appear safe criticizing from distance those that produce things and advance the world, the producing world is a place current socialists choosed to retire from.

    That is also why many Socilists choose to go find work in Media

  37. happyfeet said

    Not quite socialism maybe technically but ickily close I think. Ohnoes Baracky got grandma and now he’s trying to get the kids and we can’t stop him we just can’t afford to.

  38. Charlie said

    Talk about missing the forest cuz yer contemplating the knothole in one tree…

    So then what economic tenet does “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (IOW, redistribution of wealth) stem from? A: It ain’t capitalism.

    And even sticking to your narrow definition, nationalizing healthcare would stand as a fairly prime example of socialism on the march.

    So then what economic tenet does “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (IOW, redistribution of wealth) stem from? A: It ain’t capitalism.

    Good one, Charlie. Did you get that out of a Cracker Jack box? Thing is, Karl Marx said that — not Barack Obama. So what exactly is your point? — RDC

  39. Hmm…loss of credibility for failure to discern shades of pink & red? I’d not be in a hurry to concede that point. When the Left has to start legalistically finessing the fine print of various tracts and manifestos to evade the charge, you know you’re on the right course. According to the formulation presented here, all a hard Leftist need do to evade the socialist label is advocate every darned redistributionist thing in the canon of the Left *except* advocate state ownership of the means of production.

    And seriously, when a body of people proposes that they have the Power under the color of law, taxation, and democratic process to take and redistribute the fruit of the production, ownership of the means is rendered irrelevant, especially when the ownership comes with a bureau of excessive regulation welded to it.

    According to the formulation presented here, all a hard Leftist need do to evade the socialist label is advocate every darned redistributionist thing in the canon of the Left *except* advocate state ownership of the means of production.

    Well, what is the formulation you have for “socialism”? Or does it matter? Is George Bush, who expanded the growth of government to gargantuan proportions, also a socialist? — RDC

  40. MF said

    Sorry, your definition is a straw-man and is indicative of pandering of the worst sort. Obama is a socialist. You should be ashamed of this post.

    What reason would would I have to pander?! Even of the best sort? And what did I write in this post that is remotely favorable to Barack Obama? Anyway, I’d be ashamed to post anonymous comments … but some people aren’t. — RDC

  41. ThomasQuinn said

    Mr. Coleman,

    You have simply missed the point, the trees instead of the forest, at it were. The point is exactly that Obama wants to take from those with and give to those without. This is a basic tenant of socialism, “equality” for all. Your argument against is based on a “Wikipedia” definition of socialism, your kidding, right? You should re-read Animal Farm or The Little Red Hen. What is it about New York writers that they seem to be so clueless?

    Don’t worry, those of us in Fly Over country understand “socialism” and Obama is a practitioner of the craft…

    TQ

    So is it your argument that Obama is different from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson? If not, were they socialists too? Just try a yes or no. It’s not a crime to say they were — but let’s get our terms straight. — RDC

  42. Larry Bernard said

    Well Obama has plans to nationalize 401ks and IRAs and seize them for use as part of a new government program.

    He proposes Romneycare which ends up producing a nationalized health care system (by slowly killing off private health insurance)

    So there are two industries off the top of my head he has plans to nationalize or drive most of the private operators out of the field.

    And if the bail out of Big Detroit fails are you saying Obama wouldn’t nationalize the auto industry? I am not sure I believe you.
    Larry, can you give me a link on that “nationalization” of the retirement funds? Also, is Romney a socialist? As to the third, what do you not “believe” me about? I didn’t say anything about the auto industry, and neither did Obama … but seeing as how Gerald Ford approved the Chrysler bailout… was he a “socialist,” too? — RDC

  43. danno said

    Okay, he’s not a Socialist. Just a Marxist. Give me a break.

    I’ve been looking for an idiotic post like this for weeks…one that would reference Wikipedia’s definition of Socialism in order to claim Obama isn’t a socialist.

    I can play that game too. Is the U.S. as capitalist country? Not if you compare Wikipedia’s definition to the way our economic system really works:

    “Capitalism is the economic system in which the means of production are distributed to openly competing profit-seeking[1] private persons and where investments, distribution, income, production and pricing of goods and services are predominantly determined through the operation of a free market[2] in which anyone can participate in supply and demand and form contracts with each other, rather than by central economic planning. Capitalism is usually considered to involve the right of individuals and businesses to trade, incorporate, and employ workers, in goods, services (including finance), labor and land.[2] In theory, production and distribution in a capitalist system are governed by the free market rather than state regulation,[3] with state action confined to defining and enforcing the basic rules of the market[4] though the state may provide a few basic public goods and infrastructure.[5] The most laissez-faire capitalist economies, as measured by indices of economic freedom, include countries such as Hong Kong and Canada.”

    And while we’re having fun idiotic dictionary games, are “Liberals” really liberal?

  44. No, Obama does not want to nationalize the steel industry. He just wants to control its imports, exports, sales, purchases, trade relations and business relationships.

    Not nationalization at all, I daresay.

    /eyeroll

  45. K said

    I agree. But if we’re getting into definitions, I suggest “democratic fascist” is far more accurate. The corporate statism of Obama and to a great extent McCain are both fascistic and right out of El Duce’s playbook.

  46. Snorri Godhi said

    I am in complete agreement that people are careless in the definition of “socialism”.

    However, I take exception to the label “big-government liberal”: first, because it is a contradiction of terms; second, because I don’t see how someone can favor big government without being socialist.

    As to whether Obama can be fairly described as a socialist: living outside the US, I am more concerned about his attitudes, and the attitudes of his party, on foreign policy, multiculturalism, and freedom of speech.

  47. Dr. Laszlo said

    I agree with your point. Obama is in fact much closer to being a classical Fascist…Going by the dictionary definition of the term, of course.

  48. jt007 said

    Mr. Coleman, I have never seen a blog post so thoroughly eviscerated by its commenters as this one. Ric provided a defintion of socialism that precisely applies to the messiah’s concept of government and its relationship to the economy. Yet you respond not with substance but with the lame excuse that you didn’t understand what he said. Barry’s socialist desire to confiscate most of the wealth generated from private property is

    I assume you mean Barack, not Barry, who is probably your shrink. But I should delete the rest of this comment, because not only are you stupid and anonymous, but you started almost immediately by writing words that are such literal nonsense and falsehood that perhaps you will serve as some sort of example — in too many ways. It only took you a couple of sentences to write this:

    Barry’s socialist desire to confiscate most of the wealth generated from private property is

    What on earth are you talking about?!

    , in a practical and logical sense, indistinguishable from the state owning title to the property.
    You mean in the sense that both are, with respect to Barack Obama, complete inventions of your fevered brow? — RDC

    After all, the value of private property ownership is the utility (i.e. wealth) that it provides its owner.

    Furthermore, while Barry didn’t mention single payer health care in his radio interview, he has acknowledged that his ultimate goal is single payer health care. That would constitute nationalization of almost 20% of our economy. That is socialism pure and simple and if you don’t think that is one of the primary reasons that conservatives oppose his candidacy then you don’t have a clue.
    If you don’t realize I’m a conservative who opposes Obama’s candidate then it’s you who doesn’t have a clue! — RDC
    Go the the “QANDO” blog as one example of many if you wish to see conservative/libertarian criticism of Barry’s health care policy. Nonetheless, there are a multitude of reasons to oppose Barry’s candidacy (e.g. reviving Clinton’s law enforcement non-response to islamic terrorism, union strong arm tactics like card check, carbon emission cap and trade system to combat non-existent anthropogenic global warming just to name a few) and his health care policy is at the top of the list with those other nonsensical ideas. In regard to suppression of free speech, Barry and his fellow Democrats are in favor of re-implementing the fairness doctrine which exempts the main stream media that has so vigorously promoted his candidacy for the last year. They know it will stifle conservative talk radio and that is the only reason they support it. You are wrong on almost every point. Perhaps you should stop digging any deeper into the hole you have made for yourself. Good idea. I’m closing comments in the hopes that you and the other hominids who have only recently learned to walk upright will darken some other door with your crank theorizing. What a dark time for the conservative movement! — RDC

  49. Larry Bernard said

    Autoweek and some of the Auto Industry Mags have been talking about the outright collapse of the American Automobile industry within a year (RUsh has refered to it on the air) this is a LOT bigger then a bail out. If the American Automobile companies fail under an Obama-Reid-Pelosi regime we’d assume control of the car companies so all the autoworkers don’t go out of business. But to be fair to you that’s extremely speculative at this point

    as for the 401k thing… I heard Obama proposed it. I was in error, its just House Democrats who are proposing it.

    And no I don’t think Mitt is a Socialist. But I think Romneycare ends up Nationalizing health insurance. It pushes private companies out of the market except for those who are “To big to fail.” if we were to go nationally it would likely push 90-100% of the private health insurance industry out of the marketplace if what we have seen in Massachusetts happens nationally.

    So thats only one industry Obama is wanting to Nationalize… and not all at once

  50. Brian S. said

    Mr. Coleman,

    Let’s put Harry Truman’s attempt to nationalize the entire steel industry into it’s proper context. President Truman did it during a labor impasse and the country was at war (Korean War). The Steel industry was necessary to produce the munitions and material for War. As CinC, President Truman took this wrong headed action, but not as a socialist. Sen. Obama on the other hand uses phrases like spread the wealth and redistributive change talking about the Warren Court. His past associations have been with a communist (Frank Marshall Davis) and Bill Ayers put his judgement in question or shows his intellectual sympathies. Now if FDR kept Henry Wallace as VP in 1944 and he was President during the Korean War, then you can say that was a socialist action (but if Wallace was President, the Korean War wouldn’t have happen and Post War Europe may have been even in more desperate configuration under Soviet influnce, but I digress). Is Sen. Obama a Socialist or Marxist the wrong words to describe him? Maybe, but its not like we are calling him Nazi or Fascist which is banter about from the left and which is much harsher and he hasn’t been called the dreaded c word, a Communist.

  51. Dsmith said

    Yes, Obama is a socialist, as so well demonstrated by commenters above. To your objections, yes, FDR, Truman, LBJ, and GWB were all either Socialists or at least supported some socialist programs. But, again as expressed above, socialism comes in many degrees and I think you lump them together too much.

    FDR was at least as much a Socialist as Obama, probably moreso. He gets my vote as worst US President ever for exactly this reason. He set the country on the path that is, perhaps, about to reach its destination.

    LBJ half as much, but still very much a socialist.

    Truman and GWB, meh, yes they supported some socialistic programs, but by no means did either of them have an expansive vision of government solving all problems by becoming the parent of us all.

    All of which is pretty much moot, it seems to me. Obama is a Socialist, which is the point. FDR, and to a lesser degree, LBJ, Truman, and GWB, also either believed in some socialistic ideas or supported some socialistic programs. So what? Obama’s still a Socialist, and at least as dangerous as FDR. The criticisms of those who decry Obama’s socialism are on-point.

  52. Larry Bernard said

    Also: A more accurate description lacks the connection with the masses out there in TV land. whereas “Socialism” or “Marxist” that has a punch that people know

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