I don’t know why they don’t change the name of the Democratic Party to the Socialist Party. After all, each of its numerous candidates for President in 2008 espouses ideas straight out of the socialist playbook. They make no secret of the fact that they believe that:
* the US should have a big government, empowered to deal with any and all problems in American society. (Of course these include those that are real and those dreamt up by the liberal special interest cohorts.)
* there is absolutely no issue in or aspect of American life, which should not be subject to the purvey of the federal government.
* government bureaucrats and the elite intellectuals that advise them are better equipped to deal with America’s problems than are consumers, businessmen and investors who actually encounter the problems.
* said bureaucrats and intellectual advisors are more trustworthy than local political officials, policemen, clergymen, community leaders and certainly than any businessman.
* issues like global warming, the fairness doctrine, teenagers without health insurance and a prison housing jihadist murderers in Cuba are far more important than the impending collapse of our entitlement programs, the fear of a repeat attack on the mainland by Al Qaeda, the filth that pervades our popular culture and an avalanche of indigestible aliens who pour across our borders.
* those who create the economic opportunities in the US should shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of caring for those who compete less effectively—in short, the successful should be compelled to share their bounty with the less successful. (This amounts to redistribution of wealth; nothing could be more socialistic.)
It is true that the Democratic candidates are not advocating the nationalization of banks, airlines, utilities and General Motors. And although many of the policies they advocate would severely limit the individuals’ right to do with his property as he wishes, they do claim to respect the sanctity of private property. But that is why I label their philosophy socialism lite instead of flat out socialism. In some sense it is an even more insidious version of government control of the means of production than is the method of pure socialism. Indeed, it is a huge burden on the government to manage all the industry, farms, utilities and finances of a nation. The experience of those countries that have tried to do it reveals how poor a job the government does and, as explained in F.A. Hayek’s classic book, The Road to Serfdom, inevitably must do. So instead of taking over the machinery of society, the viceroys of the Democratic Party have decided to let those better equipped to run things do so, except that the government will put them in a severe straight jacket of rules, policies, laws and regulations—backed up by sharp penalties if they fail to comply. In this way, the feds can effectively control almost everything, and thereby achieve the socialists’ collectivist and redistributive goals, without explicitly running much of anything. It might be lite, but as we have come to see in Europe, it is remarkably effective in establishing “the modern welfare state,” or what I have called socialism lite.
Through government legislation, taxation, borrowing, spending, regulation and jawboning the redistributors get to achieve their objectives and, since private property is still permissible, the elites get to keep their dachas in Hollywood and Manhattan.
But here is the kicker that fills conservatives with dismay. The opponents of the socialist-leaning Democratic candidates, that is the slew of Republican candidates for the presidency, does not present a fundamentally different picture. Which of those candidates asserts that the socialist path, which the country has trod over the last century, is flawed and should be abandoned? Which of them points out that the collectivist policies of the New Deal, Great Society and whatever sequel Hillary has in store for us run completely counter to the ideals of our founding fathers and represent a betrayal of core American values? Which of them proclaims as did Ronald Reagan that “Government is not the solution, government is the problem?” Some of them pay lip service to these ideas, but rendered cynical by experience with two faux conservative Bush presidencies, conservatives find it hard to believe that any of them really mean it. In the years since the Gingrich revolution in 1994, but especially during the years in which the Republicans controlled both the White House and the Congress, we have seen an explosion in federal programs, borrowing and spending. We have a massive new government bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security, intrusive and interventionist measures like McCain-Feingold “campaign finance reform,” business-bashing processes under Sarbanes-Oxley and the complete failure of the federal government to deal with illegal immigration. It isn’t a total disaster—e.g., taxes have been lowered—but by any reasonable measure, the expansion of the government, the acceptance of the pervasive role of government in the life of the citizenry, the collectivist approach to problems, all of these have advanced under the Republicans. Again, Republican policies have not been as egregious as those of their liberal Democratic colleagues—e.g., they are more respectful of the traditional culture, they appoint judges who do not willfully attack the Constitution, they are willing to pursue a strong national defense, and by in large they are not protectionists. But they are big government Republicans. Some call them big government conservatives, but that is an oxymoron. I believe the name socialism lighter is an apt handle for their governing philosophy. (This issue is explored in greater depth in my book, Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains, see http://home.comcast.net/~ronlipsman)
Among the potential Republican candidates perhaps only Gingrich fails to earn the epithet (i.e., socialist of the lite, or lighter variety). But he has taken himself out of the race. (He was probably unable to secure the nomination and even if he had, the liberal media would have done such a hatchet job on him—comparable to Goldwater’s thrashing—that it is highly doubtful he could have been elected). So it will come down to Rudy against Hillary or Fred against Obama or maybe even Romney against Edwards (now that guy really scares me). In the end, like conservatives all over the country I will hold my nose and pull the lever next to the elephant. Oh how I rue one of Reagan’s few mistakes—he neglected to groom a successor. The US is paying dearly.