Mises Wire

Few Dare Call it Socialism: Social Security and Medicare

Whatever one might say about liberals (i.e., leftists or progressives), one thing is certain: When it comes to socialism, they get it. They understand that welfare-state programs like Social Security and Medicare are socialist programs. That’s fine by them because they love socialism.

Leave it to a leftist to highlight and try to straighten out the confused minds of conservatives, including that of the leader of the conservative movement, Donald Trump.

Yesterday, the leftist website CommonDreams.org published an article whose title says it all: “Mr. Trump, If You Love Medicare, Improve It and Expand It to All.” The article was written, not surprisingly, by a liberal, Dr. Carol Paris.

What Paris was referring to was a Trump op-ed published on Wednesday in USA Today in which Trump vowed to protect Medicare. I wrote about this phenomenon in my blog post yesterday titled “ Trump’s Unwitting Devotion to Socialism ,” which describes the confused minds of conservatives, who extol “free enterprIse” while, at the same time, vowing to protect and defend Social Security and Medicare, the two crown jewels of America’s welfare state.

So, here you have a leftist making a very logical argument. She’s essentially saying, “Given that you conservatives love Medicare, which guarantees government health care for seniors, why not love it even more by expanding it to everyone?”

It’s a good question! In other words, if you love socialism, why settle for just a little socialism? Why not go further and embrace more socialism?

For a conservative to be skewered by a liberal in that way has got to be painful. What does the conservative say in response? All he can say is, “No, I’m a small-socialism conservative, not a big socialism conservative.” That’s got to be embarrassing.

You see, the way conservatives have gotten around this problem for decades is by simply saying that Social Security and Medicare are part of America’s “free enterprise” system. The word “socialism” to describe these two programs has been absolutely verboten — stricken from the conservative vocabulary when it comes to Social Security and Medicare — because conservatives did not want to be perceived to be advocates of socialism. By not daring to use the world socialism to describe these two socialist programs, conservatives felt that they could just keep advocating “free enterprise” and socialism at the same time.

In fact, that’s one of the big reasons why conservatives have harbored a deep resentment against us libertarians. Long ago, we called them out on their devotion to socialism and they have never forgiven us. In my article yesterday I described this conservative phenomenon as the “life of the lie,” a life that culminated in 2016 with the presidential election of conservative leader Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon of the confused conservative mind and the life of the lie has not been limited to the conservative movement. it has also infected the libertarian movement.

Libertarianism is about freedom, genuine freedom. Our goal is to achieve a free society. And we libertarians know that freedom and socialism are opposites.

Freedom entails the fundamental right to keep everything you earn and decide for yourself what to do with it. No mandatory charity and no mandatory retirement plans. A genuinely free society leaves those decisions to each person.

Social Security and Medicare are the exact opposite of freedom. These two socialist programs are based on coercion. They are based on the concept of mandatory charity — i.e., the state’s forcible taking of one person’s money and giving it to another person based on the Marxian concept of “from each according to his ability (or money), to each according to his need.”

Thus, libertarians understand that freedom necessarily entails the eradication of socialism. In other words, you can’t have both freedom and socialism. You have to choose between the two.

In his 2008 and 2012 president campaigns, Ron Paul brought hundreds of thousands of conservatives into the libertarian movement. But since Paul was a Republican, all of those people were naturally conservatives. They were mostly attracted to the libertarian movement’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, opposition to inflation (“End the Fed”), and opposition to foreign interventionism, including America’s forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Paul’s two presidential races served to greatly expand the size, influence, and prominence of the libertarian movement, which was a great thing, especially for those of us who had grown accustomed to being part of a very small movement.

But there was a downside to Paul’s accomplishment: Many of the conservatives who came into the libertarian movement brought with them much of their conservative baggage. That’s understandable. One wouldn’t think that a conservative would suddenly become a libertarian overnight just because he has joined up with the libertarian movement.

The problem, however, is that many of these conservative libertarians have continued to openly and publicly expound their support of Social Security and Medicare. Just go to do a survey of libertarian think tanks and educational foundations. At the same time, go do a survey of Libertarian Party candidates for U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. See for yourself how many of them are calling for the repeal of these two socialist programs. I think you’ll that many of these conservative libertarians are vowing to save, reform, and improve Social Security and Medicare rather than repeal them.

And yet, at the same time you’ll find those same conservative libertarians extolling the virtues of “freedom, free enterprise, and voluntary charity.” In other words, they are doing the same thing that conservatives do: embrace freedom and socialism at the same time but just not call it socialism.

Ultimately, every person, including every libertarian, must ask himself a critically important question: Do you want a free society or not? If so, then you can’t have socialism as part of that society because freedom and socialism are opposites. If you want a free society, then that necessarily means the repeal, not the saving or reform, of Social Security and Medicare.

Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation. Reprinted with permission.

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