Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Slouching Towards Socialism

Peter Robinson, writing at The Corner, notices an article of great “intelligence” in Hoover Digest, written by Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

Epstein in three paragraphs explains why Progressive ideas of an interventionist Government can still be dangerous, despite the utter failure and virtual death of Socialism as governing ideology by the end of this last century. Epstein writes that, with the end of the Cold War,

No longer is it said that the state can outperform the market. Rather it is said that the market itself suffers from certain “failures” that justify forms of state intervention to protect individuals who are hurt in the process. The movement toward collectivization of all public activities, if it is to take place today, will not rest on a single bold initiative that casts aside the private sector. Instead, it will take place in the form of a multiple attack along different margins, where each individual struggle does not generalize easily across the board.

The long-standing objective of the modern closet socialist is to consolidate the separate beachheads after they are taken over. Thus, state dominance can be portrayed as a device that takes the irrationality, impersonality, and cruelty out of markets and not as a device that dispenses with their use altogether. In effect, the discourse takes the form of an intellectual two-step. Step one: markets are all right when they work. Step two: but markets do not work in this particular area, be it health care, labor, housing, agriculture, or whatever, each with it sown “special” problems.

In one sense, the quiet blessing in this approach is that it obviates the risk of a catastrophic conversion to state control through aggressive nationalization. But it gives rise to a multiple-front war in which substantial chunks of voluntary markets always find themselves at risk. The case against overall socialism is irrefutable today. But the desire to keep up with its egalitarian objectives continues to exert a considerable influence in practice.

—Richard Epstein, Free Markets Under Siege, Hoover Press, pp. 10 -11


You hear it in the arguments of today’s liberals and self-styled progressives. You see it in the obvious underlying premises of much of the public policy they advance, that Government is good and more Government is better, as long of course that it’s in the control of Democrats or trustworthy Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).

Free markets have flaws, Government must preserve and protect, there will never be a time when there are enough laws, programs, policies or regulation. Government reach can only increase; any degradation of governmental control is bad.

And, above all else, don’t call it by it’s rightful name, Socialism, but create a spin that allows each incremental advance to be offered to a drowsy public as yet one more little public service correction to the evils of free market capitalism. (But Dear God, don’t say that, either.)

It’s the Bill and Hillary Clinton school of “Believe me when I say that the Emperor is brilliantly and radiantly dressed; pay no attention to that intern behind the curtain!”

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