Is Barack Obama really a socialist?
Not exactly, but his 'socialist-lite' policies should still be cause for concern.
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Wealth, in this view, is produced principally by society. So society's claim on it is at least as strong as that of any of the individuals in whose bank accounts it appears. More important, because wealth is produced mostly by society (rather than by individuals), taxing high-income earners more heavily will do little to reduce total wealth production.Skip to next paragraph
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This notion of wealth certainly warrants the name "socialism," for it gives the abstraction "society" pride of place over flesh-and-blood individuals. If taxes are reduced on Joe the Plumber's income, the rationale must be that Joe deserves a larger share of society's collectively baked pie and not that Joe earned his income or that lower taxes will inspire Joe to work harder.
This "socialism-lite," however, is as specious as is classic socialism. And its insidious nature makes it even more dangerous. Across Europe, this "mild" form of socialism acts as a parasitic ideology that has slowly drained entrepreneurial energy – and freedoms – from its free-market host.
Could it happen in America? Consider the words of longtime Socialist Party of America presidential candidate Norman Thomas: "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened." In addition to Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs, the gathering political momentum toward single-payer healthcare – which Obama has proclaimed is his ultimate goal – shows the prescience of Thomas's words.
The fact that each of us depends upon the efforts of millions of others does not mean that some "society" transcending individuals produces our prosperity. Rather, it means that the vast system of voluntary market exchange coordinates remarkably well the efforts of millions of individuals into a productive whole. For Obama to suggest that government interfere in this process more than it already does – to "spread" wealth from Joe to Bill, or vice versa – overlooks not only the voluntary and individual origins of wealth, but the dampening of the incentives for people to contribute energetically to wealth's continued production.