Hiding Socialism Under Euphemisms

You’ve probably never heard of Harrop Froma, but her acceptance and rationalizations of socialism in America probably mirror how a great many Americans think. Her views are worth examining for that reason.

She wrote an essay on socialism because socialism is coming out of the closet, and she thinks that American socialists are not genuine socialists.

Bernie Sanders got the ball rolling. Then socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley won Democratic primary slots. Bill Maher says Americans are already socialists and the country is quasi-socialist. Comedian Jim Carrey has chipped in: “We have to say yes to socialism — to the word and everything. We have to stop apologizing.” Elizabeth Warren proposes to socialize corporate ownership, taking ownership away from stockholders.

Froma Harrop says that these self-proclaimed socialists are not genuine socialists and that America doesn’t have piece-meal socialism. For each piece of socialism that we indeed have, she offers a euphemism. Price controls are not socialism, she claims: “A mandated $15 minimum wage is not socialism. It’s a labor regulation.” Is Medicare socialism? She reassures us “Medicare is socialized insurance” but “Medicare is not socialized medicine”. What? Is a single basehit any less a hit because it’s not a home run?

Ms. Harrop doesn’t want us to think we have socialism, so she defines it away. “‘Spreading the wealth’ is not socialism” she affirms. Scandinavian countries are “not taking the means of production away from the private owners. They’re just taxing wealth and using the proceeds to fund their plush social safety nets.”

Just taxing wealth? Just spreading the wealth? Just regulating the price of labor? Just socializing insurance? These are all socialistic. They all are socialism.

Ms. Harrop overlooks a vital fact. People themselves as they offer labor are a means of production. As Ludwig von Mises writes “Labor is the most scarce of all primary means of production…because every variety of production requires the expenditure of labor.”

Taxation does take away means of production from private owners. Taxes on labor divert resources to government hands to spend as it sees fit. This is socialism.

Taxes on labor in America are the largest source of government income. One old estimate says 75%. Economists argue over the incidence of other taxes; some say that 50-100% of corporate taxes fall on labor. Whatever the numbers are, there is no denying that as cattle or sheep are to a rancher, we are to the government.

As everyone should know by now, thorough-going socialism involving nationalizations visibly destroys people, an economy, a country and its government. Not widely acknowledged enough is that piece-meal, creeping and sneaky socialism involving taxation, socialized money, regulations and controls just takes longer. Its harms are less visible and less easy to trace back to their socialist origin. That’s the only difference.


2:38 pm on September 10, 2018