There was a comment on Reddit that was declared “The Best Political Comment on Reddit.” It urges a middle way between “progressives” and “libertarians.” The reason why socialism, or any other planned economy, always leads to totalitarianism is found in a train of thought evident in works such as “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich von Hayek. I haven’t read the book myself, but the free market orthodoxy site mises.org gives a cartoon which is likely accurate. Given it is 272 pages, I’ll probably get around to reading it this summer. I’m going to make a point to check it out from that socialist institution: the library! I already purchased “Capitalism and Freedom,” “Atlas Shrugged,” and “The Way Things Ought to Be.” I figure I shouldn’t give any more money to those with purely antithetical belief systems in an attempt to balance my views. Which is a shame, because if the book is anything like the cartoon, I’m sure it is going to be absolutely hilarious.
I always find it sort of odd that the free market orthodoxy consistently warns of the dangers of a mixed economy, that will eventually turn into a state run, planned economy. Because, it always seemed to me, that if we followed directly what free market fundamentalists were prescribing, we’d end up at an end state that remarkably resembles actual serfdom. Instead of the horrors of state-run schools, we’d have a system of private schools where only those who could afford it could attend. To me, freedom means two things, having a choice and being able to exercise that choice. The fundamental issue is that socialized economies force everyone to pay (even for those that don’t need the service), to subsidize the service for those that do. If society fails to do so, problems develop such a free-loaders, underfunding, etc. In short, it quickly devolves back into individuals paying for services they need, and if they can’t, they don’t get it.
If there is a service that the society wants to provide to all of citizens, it makes sense to socialize it. Various forms of insurance, education, protection are all good examples of services that make sense to socialize. Natural resources that represent vast areas of wealth can be nationalized to lower the tax-burden on everyone. The best example of socialism are the socialist democracies in Scandinavia. Michael Moore took some time to explore Norway. Although, typically socialism is associated with the failed Soviet Union, China, Cuba, or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Noam Chomsky explored the relationship between the Soviet Union and Socialism and concluded that the Soviet Union did not live up to socialism, although it repeatedly stated that it did.
Libertarianism is a whole-sale adoption of free market orthodoxy. Libertarianism allows the market to decide, well pretty much anything. However, there are reasons to believe that this is actually bad. One, the market is extraordinarily bad at regulating itself. Paul Krugman describes how our market innovated its way into the current credit crisis. Two, the market is fundamentally based on money. There is a developmentalist theory that states that democracy leads to socialism because people will band together to vote themselves more money. Thus constantly equalizing society. In a market based approach, it is no longer one person one vote, it becomes one dollar one vote. So those with money can vote themselves more money through the market. In short, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Right now, corporations are the dominant economic institution, so it is reasonable to believe they’ll have the most votes in a free market system. The sad fact of the matter is that very few Americans are actually capitalists. A capitalist as defined as earning money through returns on assets. In fact, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki is primarily about turning a person into a capitalist as opposed to a wage slave. However, one shouldn’t be blind to the fact that capitalists have extraordinary incentives to absorb or otherwise kick out other capitalists and keep people as perpetual wage slaves.
In short, there are reasons to believe that libertarianism, with its brand of free market orthodoxy will lead to oligarchy or corporatism. However, until a dictator rises in Norway or Sweden, there is no reason to believe socialism actually gives rise to totalitarianism. Freedom is a weasel word in the free market fundamentalist arguments. However, a truly free society is one where people have the most choices available to them in theoretical and practical exercise. Someone’s decision to not pay into an insurance pool is weighed against another persons inability to see a doctor. A society that has wealth equally distributed (within certain bounds) is more free than a society where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals. Paradoxically, libertarianism is to corporatism as socialism is to democracy.