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You Don't Know Socialism When You See It

By Ross Kaminsky

My recent article about California Governor Schwarzenegger's socialist health care plan received some comments which are worththy of response, particularly those which demonstrate exactly what is wrong with the economic thinking of those who favor such collectivist ideas despite their repeated failures in the past.

So, let's start with this one, from Jason M, who starts by quoting me:

"Since when did it become OK for the government to hijack the employer-employee private contractual relationship for them to impose their view of how the world should be?"

Your view of corporations turns reality on its head--I would ask you, since when did corporations have any rights to negotiate or exist whatsoever that didn't come explicitly from government mandate.

Corporations aren't in the constitution, they exist because we made them up to serve our interest. So, of course the government (the people organized) has the right to regulate any aspect they choose to.

I mean, where does the employer-employee contract come from? God? No, it's not in the Bible. It comes from legislation creating corporations and judicial rulings spelling out their rights--Government action.

You and I will probably agree that government regulation is generally a bad idea, but make the argument from pragmatism, not some lame philosophical capitalism.

My response:

Jason, your view of corporate rights, indeed of rights in general, displays the utter lack of understanding of the nature of rights as understood by Locke, Smith, Jefferson, Madison, and most of the rest of the Founders and their philosophical predecessors. In modern times, the only American President who clearly understood what the Founders intended was Ronald Reagan.

And what did these men understand? That rights are not given to people by other people, by government, or even by a Constitution. Our Constitution represents primarily "negative rights", meaning that it discusses what government can not do to us. It can not limit our speech, force us to shelter soldiers in our homes, testify against ourselves, etc. And in case there were people not well-enough-read to understand the "natural rights" philosophy underpinning our Republic, we have the 9th and 10th amendments which specify that the Constitution does not spell out all our rights, and those rights which are not given to the Federal government are reserved to the states or the people.

So, the rights of corporations (or people) do not come from being or not being in the Constitution. Corporations have rights because the default position is that people, or associations of people like corporations, have all their rights that do not infringe on the rights of others.

The employer-employee contract, and its validity, does not come from legislation or judicial rulings. Those things only infringe, usually without any good foundation in law, on the rights of people freely to associate and contract with each other in any way that is voluntary and does not harm others.

This is no "lame philosophy". This is the system that has continued to demonstrate its superiority over any other foundation of an economic system. Besides its having been shown to be the best system, it is philosophically the most concordant with liberty, which I personally believe to be the highest goal of government. Look at the economy of the US versus any economy in Europe. Look at the economy of Estonia before and after it switched from Soviet socialism to the principles of Milton Friedman. And ask yourself, what is the logical conclusion of your argument: that people have no rights unless those in power decide they can have some rights.

Jason, my argument stands nothing on its head other than the typical liberal misunderstanding of the nature of rights that you demonstrate. It is people who believe what you believe who pose the greatest risk to the future of our great nation...and you don't even realize it.

The next comment came to me directly and was not posted on my blog. It is from Casey D whose note was fairly lengthy, but which ended with this:

I realize you do not think it is appropriate for other people to have to subsidize those without health insurance, but at some point you as a member of the human race have to realize we have a responsibility to those around us. You can complain about that being communist or socialist all you want, but it's not. It is called altruism, a characteristic trait exhibited by even the most simple creatures on this planet, things like birds and insects who I guarantee you don't know who Karl Marx is.

My response:

Casey, let's make one thing absolutely clear: I have NO responsibility to those around me unless I choose to.

Now, let's get to the heart of your argument, altruism. Continuing with Jason's "turning it on its head" metaphor. This is exactly what you do to "altruism" when you argue that it can be forced out of someone. Can it really be charity, even if it goes to a "worthy cause" if it is taken from someone at the point of a gun?

Stealing from the "rich" to give to the "poor" is still stealing, even if you applaud the outcome. It is not the "altruism" that you would call it. It is, as I properly stated, socialism or communism (or simply theft.)

It is not up to you to tell me whom I have responsibility for. And you should be frightened of your own premise. Under your system, what is to keep someone, or several someones, from claiming that you have responsibility for them? And if they do, do you truly believe that you will work just as hard for the benefit of strangers as for the benefit of yourself, your loved ones, or those you voluntarily chose to support?

As for your symbolic use of animals, I believe you make my point: They are absolutely not altruistic. This is not to say that they always act only in their individual short-term self interests. No, they will sometimes take care of others, but it is instinctual and voluntary, and generally in the long-term interest of the species. Socialism might be instinctual to some, but not to most. It is rarely voluntary. And given the results shown by Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, and their type, it is certainly not in the long-term interest of the human race.

No, Casey, taking my money to pay for health care for others is socialism unless I gave it voluntarily. America has been the greatest success of any nation in history, with the highest standards of living and of liberty for its citizens. Your views and your complete misunderstanding of human nature and economics represent a grave threat to the very foundation of what has made America the envy of the world for most of the last 200 years.

Ross Kaminsky blogs at

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