Don't Assume I'm a Socialist!

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I keep getting e-mail from readers assuming that since I oppose war, I support socialism, or that since I oppose Bush, I support Kerry, or that since I opposed an invasion of a given country, I must have supported its despotic regime.


First off, I don’t like John Kerry. I don’t like Bill Clinton. I don’t like Ted Kennedy, or the government of North Korea, or Fidel Castro, or Lenin or Mao or Pol Pot or Stalin or Marx or Engels or Trotsky.

Yes, I do live in Berkeley, but that doesn’t mean I’m a commie. Yes, I am a young man — and a radical idealist — but that doesn’t mean I espouse Marxism.

In fact, I absolutely hate communism. In the 20th century, communists murdered roughly 100 million people. Please don’t associate me with them! Just because I criticize something done in the name of fighting communism doesn’t mean I’m a communist.

My mom’s side of the family is from South Korea. Shortly before my maternal grandmother passed away, she asked me if I, like too many other people my age, fell for the communist lie. After mishearing something I said about communists, she asked me, "Are you a communist?"

I said, "No!!!"

I have no fondness for any kind of socialism. I don’t mind people practicing voluntary communalism, so long as they don’t loot from other people. In fact, I think sharing is a good part of a healthy society. But I don’t like socialism, and I’m frankly confused as to why criticizing Bush — the biggest spending president since Lyndon Johnson — has anything at all to do with advocating socialism. I have some leftist acquaintances, and they will testify that I am no socialist. They themselves are confused when I call Bush a socialist. Neocons are also confused.

As much as I don’t like socialism, I absolutely love free market capitalism. I believe in private property. I believe that taxation is theft. I believe the private sector, though not perfect at achieving everything that everyone could possibly want, is infinitely more humane and efficient than the government when it comes to producing anything of real value. I don’t think Microsoft should have been attacked by the Clinton administration. Sure, corporations often do questionable, even immoral things — almost always in direct proportion to how much they are in bed with the state. When corporations and government work together it is called mercantilism, or fascism, or corporate socialism, or state capitalism, or Reaganomics. But it is not free market capitalism.

I don’t believe in wage controls, price controls, government welfare (whether for the rich or poor), public works projects, income tax, sales tax, property tax, business regulations, licensing laws, antitrust laws, government healthcare, government education, gun control, the EPA, the FDA, the IRS, or any such agency that terrorizes and impoverishes the American people.

I consider modern environmentalism usually dangerous as an ideology and almost always misguided as a movement. States can’t protect people, so why expect them to protect the environment? I appreciate nature, but I would never put a bug above humankind. In fact, I hate some bugs, such as mosquitoes, almost as much as I hate socialism. I guess that libertarians can disagree on the mosquito issue, but I simply don’t want the critters near me or my property.

Just because I love free markets doesn’t mean I am wealthy. Far from it. But I appreciate the material possessions that I do own, I claim no ownership over anyone else’s property, and I fully understand that the only reason we enjoy our relatively high standard of living, when contrasted with most people in the history of the world, is the miraculous division of labor that can only exist with market mechanisms such as prices, the free flow of capital, and free trade. To the extent there is prosperity for the masses the market deserves credit. To the extent there is poverty and hunger, it is due to too much government and not enough liberty.

I don’t believe in government central planning of the economy. I make no exceptions. I’m baffled why anyone would assume that means I like war, or read that I don’t like war and assume I love taxes. From my perspective, war and taxes go together like death and government.

Enough about me. The more important matter at hand is that so many people still buy into strange and bogus dichotomies in ideology. You must either believe in one thing, or the other.

Now, I go by a dichotomy myself. I reject coercion and government and embrace peace and liberty. But I understand that not everyone fits into this dichotomy, as much as I think it makes sense. I wish that everyone were either a free-market libertarian or a warmongering socialist. But it’s not that simple, and I only plead that everyone stops lumping everyone else into either/or categories and extrapolating what people think based on very little information about them. Heck, you can’t even know every position a libertarian has. Some libertarians believe in a minimal state, others anarchy. Some believe in "intellectual property," others don’t. Libertarians disagree on numerous issues.

Of course, these days, with Bush’s Manichean "you’re-either-with-us-or-you’re-with-the-terrorists" nonsense, as well as with the widely believed fiction, perpetuated by the media, that there is a difference between the two major parties, it might be very hard for most Americans to realize:

Just because an American opposes Bush’s War on Terrorism doesn’t mean he hates America or loves terrorism or even likes John Kerry.

Just because someone opposes government intervention abroad (imperialism), it doesn’t mean he supports it at home (socialism).

Just because someone has a "conservative"-sounding position — such as disdain for government education — doesn’t mean he’s a conservative. (I, for one, fail to see what’s so "conservative" about finding state indoctrination programs distasteful. It seems like a moderate position to me.)

Just because someone has a "liberal"-sounding position — opposition to the Drug War, for example — doesn’t mean he holds such positions on every other issue. (Once some socialist activist at Berkeley heard me arguing with a campus Republican about the Drug War and he interrupted our conversation to tell me, "You’d fit in with us." I let the Republican and socialist know that they had more in common with each other than they would like to admit.)

Just because libertarians have voiced opposition against the wars in Vietnam, in Iraq, on drugs, on poverty, and on illiteracy, doesn’t mean libertarians want everyone to be impoverished drug-addicted Ba’athist communists who can’t read.

And just because someone reads doesn’t mean he likes all of its writers. (I found this out the hard way.)

We need to get rid of all these false dichotomies if ever we are to regain our freedom. It isn’t conservatives against liberals, Leftists against Rightists, or even Republicans against Democrats. There are predominately libertarian and predominately statist individuals who identify with all of these labels. We libertarians need to push for a political realignment, which I sense is coming. I know "liberals" who think the government is way too big and "conservatives" who want it bigger, "conservatives" who condemn war and "liberals" who applaud it, so obviously these labels have their limitations, and I believe their time is numbered. Good riddance.

We see in our foreign policy the disasters of always taking sides in contrived dualities. The US government allied with the Soviets during World War II, only to spend the next four decades fighting their proxies in the Cold War. During the Cold War the US government allied with secular socialists like Saddam Hussein and Islamic fanatics like Osama bin Laden. What did that get us? A post-9/11 alliance with a bunch of other lousy governments, that’s what.

Likewise, in the domestic arena, false dichotomies have proven quite detrimental to discursive and intellectual honesty, not to mention individual liberty. Libertarian-leaning folks often vote for a Republican or Democrat based on the candidate’s perceived marginal superiority on a given issue. This has gotten us nowhere.

When Bush took power and many of my favorite Clinton-bashers became uncritical cheerleaders for the Bush administration, I realized something. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend, and you shouldn’t assume you know everything about someone based on that person’s take on a couple of issues.

I think this is something we all should consider.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history at UC Berkeley, where he was president of the Cal Libertarians. He is an intern at the Independent Institute and has written for Rational Review, Strike the Root, the Libertarian Enterprise, and See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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