Did our American soldiers die for socialism?

'Did Our American Soldiers Die for Socialism' billboard
MinnPost photo by Daniel Corrigan

Driving down Lake Street yesterday. Saw this billboard between Garfield and Harriet Aves on the north side of Lake. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Free speech. I’m for it. I don’t agree with Mitch McConnell that money equals speech. I can think of many differences between the two. I don’t agree with the U.S. Supreme Court that a corporation is, for constitutional purposes, a “person.” Again, I discern important differences.

But if some fine American wants to publicly make the argument that America has become or is becoming a socialist state and that this is a desecration of the sacrifice made by U.S. troops in World War II (the specific visual reference is Iwo Jima), then I would strenuously defend his or her right to make that idiotic case. I would like to hear the facts and arguments that “person” would invoke.

In this instance, the “case” is made entirely by dog whistle with no facts or arguments in evidence. There isn’t even a declarative sentence, only a provocative and intellectually insulting question. And, unlike televised political advertising, there is no requirement for anyone, not even some blandly named Americans For All Good Things front organization, to publicly take ownership of or responsibility for a billboard message.

A word — “GreMar” — appears in the lower right corner of the billboard, next to a drawing of an eagle. I have, so far, not be able to trace it to a person or organization that is willing to discuss the ad but I have calls out. The same word, with the eagle, has previously appeared on billboards with righty political messages.

I support free speech. I crave better, smarter, more honest speech than this which I, personally, consider to be a desecration of the sacrifice made by U.S. troops in World War II.

Comments (69)

  1. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/22/2010 - 09:07 am.

    I don’t get the right wing thing against socialism. “Socialism” for a lot of people seems to be a bad word, like “liberalism” or “progressivism” or more recently “hope.” It seems like a lot of these “isms” don’t add anything to understanding or rational discussion of the multitude of specific issues and problems. To the contrary, use of a term like “socialism” is used as a discussion stopper, something supposedly no reasonable person wants to even touch. Socialism is supposed to be something that “doesn’t work” yet if you point out that many western European countries have adopted various solutions to the problems, they are dismissed as “socialist.” Or some lame attempt is made to show how these economies are more screwed up than ours.Or something.

    Come to think of it, almost all of Europe is now what these right wingers would describe as “socialist.” These nations are not perfect and have problems but they work well and are civilized, pluralistic and humane. Hundreds of thousands of US men and women died in WWII to free these nations from the yoke of fascism. The US spent billions on the Marshall Plan and other programs to bring about this result. “Did our American soldiers die for Socialism?” Isn’t the answer obvious?

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/22/2010 - 09:27 am.

    I am pretty sure they didn’t die so their sacrifice could be used for partisan political purposes by the likes of Glenn Beck.

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/22/2010 - 09:35 am.

    “Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

    Cry. What is perhaps most tragic is that ignorance is a curable condition.

  4. Submitted by Gary Thaden on 10/22/2010 - 09:36 am.

    Marrying the picture of a World War II Pacific battle with the words, the author is wondering if the American service members who died during World War II died to promote our ally, the Soviet Union? Seems a little late be asking that question.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/22/2010 - 09:36 am.

    “I support free speech. I crave better, smarter, more honest speech than this which I, personally, consider to be a desecration of the sacrifice made by U.S. troops in World War II.”

    I could not agree more, Eric, especially the “desecration” suggestion. My dad was a volunteer Navy fighter pilot who flew 46 combat missions in the Pacific in WW 2, and was awarded a Navy Cross and Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery, as well as other medals. Were he still alive, he’d be outraged by this.

    After the Civil War, Republicans “waved the bloody shirt” for a generation as a campaign tactic, and this is cut from that same cloth.

  6. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/22/2010 - 09:39 am.

    During Gulf War I, when the goal was to protect the Saudis and put the Emir of Kuwait back on his throne, did anyone ask why our American soldiers should die for monarchy?

  7. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 10/22/2010 - 09:45 am.

    Freeway troll – best to not feed it.

  8. Submitted by nick gorski on 10/22/2010 - 09:55 am.

    The amusing aspect : This strain of political virus has proudly taken up the element of performance art that was so repugnant to them 30 years ago. Also it is ALL about feeling good. So much for their sneers about ‘feel good’ politics – jeez, even Norm used this in the last cycle.

    The unamusing aspect : These folks want another Civil War. And it will be a shooting war.

    thanks Mr. B for great work at MinnPost

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/22/2010 - 10:03 am.

    What I want to know is whether or not someone else’s American soldiers died for socialism?

  10. Submitted by dan buechler on 10/22/2010 - 10:25 am.

    I do not know if this is an example of a dog whistle slogan (by the way thanks for the link). I think Archie Bunker could understand it, and even though the message may be loud it is not totally clear ( I almost view it more as a mouse electronic device) tamping down conversation and scattering all away.

  11. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/22/2010 - 10:32 am.

    It is a hysteria, impervious to analysis on its merits. Usually these are driven by subconscious fears of one stripe or another, likely reflective of something novel and threatening. I would have to say a black president fits that definition. But so does the collapse of the consumer society financed by easy credit.

  12. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/22/2010 - 10:41 am.

    GreMar Investments…Gregg Goodman big Repub spender I assume…but is the use of the flag pic classic,for use in the public domain,sans permission? I suppose that holds no weight…and yes it is offensive but… an ugly sign in this ugliest of campaigns I can ever remember…and I have been around along time ‘remembering’…

  13. Submitted by david kapell on 10/22/2010 - 11:01 am.

    Looks like the same entity that did the “More Taxes = Less Freedom” billboard at Hennepin and Franklin. If I were a high school civics teacher (not that such a thing exists any more), I would have my students argue both in support of and against these messages. Is that liberal of me?

  14. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 10/22/2010 - 11:30 am.

    The great part is, as far as I am concerned, socialism is at least a part of every economy in the world. Unemployement insurance, Social Security, even mandatory car insurance is a form of government telling people they have to pool money for some things. Apparently rich people just don’t want to share, and I guess that’s a normal reaction. But those rich people didn’t make money in a vaccum. The rich are better off today than they have been at any time in my life. Their taxes are lower, their investments are returning more and still they complain. Which also shows not all rich people are particularly smart.

  15. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/22/2010 - 11:38 am.

    Well, it certainly does appear that the billboard has achieved at least one of its objectives: it has made the “progressives”, alias “liberals”, alias “central planners”, alias “collectivists”, alias “socialists”, howl.

    I suggest that the above comments (including those by EB) indicate that the writers have not done the strenous intellectual exercise involved in reading “The Road to Serfdom” by F.A.Hayek, (University of Chicago Press, 1944 and 2007) which would make quite clear the thinking behind the sign.

    My thanks to the earlier blogger who steered me to it.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/22/2010 - 11:42 am.

    Yeah well, when politicians decide to literally cram a piece of socialist legislation down the throats of 72% of the population that don’t want it, things are bound to get nasty.

  17. Submitted by Christopher Moseng on 10/22/2010 - 11:55 am.

    Mr. Swift: “Literally”? That word—I do not think it means what you think it means.

    But my rhetorical question in response is similar to Mr. Udstrand’s: If not our American Soldiers, who else’s? I don’t care to think too much more deeply about this vapid slogan-based antiintellectual rhetorical question, because it isn’t warranted.

  18. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/22/2010 - 11:59 am.

    Swift hist the trifecta!

    -“Socialist Legislation” for a bill for the regulation of insurance, a bill in which the government assumes material possession of no business entity whatsoever;

    -“cram down the throats” when the majority of the population supports the measures in non distorted polling;

    -“72 percent” see previous.

    Three canards in 30 words or less.

  19. Submitted by Cecil North on 10/22/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    When I see this billboard, I think of my dad, who was decorated three times as a combat soldier in Korea. He is one of those life-long Republicans who changed his vote to Democratic after voting for W at least once. I suppose he is now a “socialist” and his service is not longer to be considered “patriotic”, especially by the chicken-hawks and armchair generals who strut about with their flag lapel pins these days.

    Road to serfdom? Which corporation is your master today?

  20. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/22/2010 - 12:19 pm.

    Considering the economic rape of the general public progressively worked by the Republicans ever since the days of Ronnie Raygun, and the tendencies demonstrated, especially in the early years of the Bush regime when Mr. Cheney was clearly calling the shots, and, after the events of 09-11-01, when the Democrats in congress were willing to go along with ANYTHING to avoid being dubbed “soft on terrorism,” I’d say our American troops died in Iraq for FASCISM, not socialism.

    That, and of course, to enact revenge for the offense to the tender sensitivities of Donald Rumsfeld when his “boy” in Iraq developed a sense of independence and to make massive profits for Mr. Cheney and all his interconnected oil industry/defense industry companies both through providing logistical support for a war (war profiteering in the first degree) and through the transfer of the distribution rights of Iraqi oil from European companies to American companies.

    So, American Soldiers died in Iraq for fascism, for oil profits, for war profiteering, to protect the egregiously-wounded feelings of Donald Rumsfeld, and to assist their Republican masters with the distraction of the general public from noticing their continuing project of stripping the poor and middle class of their income, their assets, and any hope they ever had (including those soldiers not killed) of a comfortable retirement.

  21. Submitted by Nate Pete on 10/22/2010 - 12:41 pm.

    I would like Mr. Swift to outline the specific parts of the health care bill that he considers socialist. Two or three points will do.

    Or did someone on TV or RADIO just tell him what to think.

  22. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/22/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    Say Paul?

    Better trot on over to CNN…they’re spreading fresh canards about socialized medicine:

    • 62 percent say the amount they pay for medical care will increase.
    • 47 percent think they’ll be worse off when it becomes law.
    • 70 percent believe the federal budget deficit will go up — contrary to repeated claims from Democrats.
    • 56 percent view Obamacare as creating too much government involvement in health care.

    http://tinyurl.com/yk4rk5u

  23. Submitted by Nate Pete on 10/22/2010 - 01:08 pm.

    Mr. Swift, THAT poll is from March 22nd of 2010! In political years that poll died along time ago.

  24. Submitted by Rich Crose on 10/22/2010 - 01:47 pm.

    What a stupid question. Everyone knows we fought for Capitalism.

    We wanted to make sure everyone in this country gets an equal chance to earn minimum wage.

  25. Submitted by Annie Grandy on 10/22/2010 - 02:09 pm.

    Say Thomas Swift?

    Not too swift of you not to have read all the information about the poll. Further questions asked of those polled indicated that 30% of those who did not like “Obamacare” objected to it because it did not go far enough, cover everyone and provide the savings that a universal single payer system would give.
    Not too swift of you not to have gone to the dictionary and discovered what the word ‘socialism’ means(government ownership). ‘Obamacare’ does not legislate government ownership of medical care providers.
    Not too swift of you not to have thought it through that when everyone is covered by medical insurance, when they become ill or hurt, that insurance will pay not the taxpayer who pays now when they go to the emergency room.
    Not too swift, Thomas Swift…

  26. Submitted by Brian Simon on 10/22/2010 - 02:24 pm.

    Rich Crose writes
    “We wanted to make sure everyone in this country gets an equal chance to earn minimum wage.”

    Sorry Rich, minimum wage laws are socialism. In the perfect conservative world, everything is a market, none of which are interfered with by an overbearing government. Except bedrooms, of course.

  27. Submitted by Phil Dech on 10/22/2010 - 02:32 pm.

    This is probably quibbling, but those aren’t soldiers in that photo. They are Marines, along with one Navy corpsman.

  28. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 10/22/2010 - 02:54 pm.

    Brian (#24), bedrooms are a market too. One in which, judging from the time they have to spend here, trolls do not fare very well.

  29. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/22/2010 - 03:48 pm.

    Hiya Annie!

    Say, I swiftly detected a gaping hole in your conclusions. You claim that 30% of Obamacare haters want more Obamacare, not less.

    They didn’t get the full Monty, or is that Hugo, because the Democrat party parlayed their majority in the House and Senate to deliver a typically incomprehensible, utterly flawed pile of FAIL to the Democrat President.

    They *wanted* government ownership of the medical system (I think they were calling it “single payer” or some other nonsense), but were too inept to get the job done.

    That, however, does not discount the fact that it’s groundwork the Democrat party hoped to build their socialism upon next year.

    Pity there won’t be enough of them left to bungle it a second time.

  30. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/22/2010 - 03:51 pm.

    Obamacare establishes that health care is not a right, but purchasing insurance is an obligation. Purchasing insurance that’s too good gets taxed. Not purchasing insurance at all is punished.

    Nice going Keith, Betty et al

  31. Submitted by Paul Scott on 10/22/2010 - 05:07 pm.

    Dennis you summed up the bill rather nicely I thought.

    Swift: poll poll blah blah — polls are very important to conservatives when they can use them and unimportant when they can’t, which I believe Jon Stewart has made clear.

    But to the extremely tiresome and whiny, claim that health care reform was “shoved down your throat”: at the time said bill was shoved down said throats — a meme organized from Roger Aisles and dutifully spread forth by all his eager foot soldiers, even to this day in the Minnpost comment stream– polls showed that Americans opposed it in general, and supported it in specific. So you are are no doubt advancing the not so shocking claim that people who only know what they see on TV are unhappy with things.

    But hey, shoved town your throats? Really? I mean, its like, the only thing Obama ran on. I WILL REFORM HEALTH CARE, he said, and the majority of voters said We Want that guy! That, and the bill was created by hmmmm, let’s remember, oh yeah: MITT ROMNEY!!!

    If you want to get into unwelcome policies getting shoved down throats, I can tell you — elections matter. I didn’t so much feel like the Iraq war was my preference, for instance, not to mention the politicization of scientific research or the placing of industry goons in nearly every regulatory agency, etc etc etc.

  32. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/22/2010 - 05:45 pm.

    This slogan has it all. It combines patriotism with fear of big government in seven pithy words. One wonders, though, what the sign-makers think we should do about the millions of Americans who lack health insurance? The actual politics of the community is probably not on a sign.

  33. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 10/22/2010 - 09:39 pm.

    Richard we know what the think about those without health insurance: Don’t get sick and if you do, die quickly.

  34. Submitted by David Willard on 10/23/2010 - 12:05 am.

    Did the founders expect unelected, unconfirmed czars and czarinas by the dozens to run a shadow government? C’mon Progressyves. Did you really think your brand of government would be accepted by America?

  35. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/23/2010 - 12:25 am.

    Eric Black’s posts I find to be especially thought provoking. I think Eric asks in essence:

    “Is the billboard which asks:

    `Did our American soldiers die for socialism?’

    free speech or propaganda? and if it is `propaganda’, is `propaganda’ `free speech?'”

    I do not think `propaganda’ is ‘free speech’ and any “speech” uttered by a corporation in either money or broadcast form is inherently “propaganda” and should be denied protection under the First Amendment. Corporate speech in advertising, or “commercial speech” used to be presumed untruthful, and a legislature or Congress was justified giving it less than full First Amendment protection. The Supreme Courts over the last 30 years have repudiated these wise precedents and now made “propaganda” equivalent to free speech. Hence the billboard. Ironically, the billboard tacitly promotes the loss of freedom, which is the very thing it seems to oppose.

  36. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/23/2010 - 09:07 am.

    Sign maker, sign maker lend me your ear:

    Define your terms please.

    Did Sign Maker mean democratic socialism, social democracy or national socialism (fascism)?

    Socialism…either/or…or none of the above?

    Or do you think our men and women and Iraq and Afghan citizens died; and are still dying for what some, simplistically, patriotically conclude, was for god-and-country (whose god ,eh?)

    Or was it for oil or profit for a few (arch capitalism)?

    OR did they die for “Dunlap Tires; Paul Williams Tire Company”?

    Define your terms please. I for one ,really want to know.

  37. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2010 - 09:16 am.

    Man, we actually have people making a slide to socialism argument here. It just proves that hysteria is at the core of the conservative American psyche. The real question is how did a political party espousing hysterical fears gain so much currency on the American political landscape to begin with?

    The list of hysteria’s is long, Socialism in 1944 according to John, communists in the state department in the 50s, Socialism returned in the 60s with Medicare (according to Ronald Reagan). Then God got kicked out of the schools, and legalized abortion ushered in an era of euthanasia in the late 60s and early 70s. We entered the 80s just as the Panama Canal treaty threatened our way of life and the Soviets were on the verge of building bases in Nicaragua where they would be only 6 hours driving time from Texas. By the time we reach the 90s the whole place had gone to hell in a handbasket with feminazis, political correctness, and the bedrock of our nation (marraige) under siege. Then at the turn of the century we started saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas” and now we’re complete toast, stick a fork in us we’re done.

    I don’t know what’s more bizarre, that these people never tire of being wrong, or that the rest of us never learn.

    All I can say is beware of people who want to be afraid, desire perpetual crises, and have limited imaginations when it comes to solving problems but vivid imaginations when it comes to threats and dangers. Follow them at your own peril.

  38. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/23/2010 - 02:41 pm.

    (#19)Greg Kapphahn says:
    “I’d say our American troops died in Iraq for FASCISM, not socialism.”

    Greg, PLEASE read F.A.Hayek (see above #14) who very clearly elucidates that fascism and socialism are the very same identical thing, with identical outcomes when fully implemented.

    They are two implementations of the planned economy model espoused by elites who — each and every one — acknowledge that the sacrifice of individual freedom is demanded by the process as the government decides what shall be done and by whom rather than the free market.

  39. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/23/2010 - 03:15 pm.

    John–
    “The sacrifice of individual freedom” is civilization;
    “No limits on individual freedom” is anarchy.

  40. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/23/2010 - 07:32 pm.

    Hmmm… We’ve wandered rather far afield from the rhetorical question raised by the billboard.

    The answer to the billboard’s question, of course, is “no” if the definition of the term is the standard one of government ownership of the means of production and distribution. The answer might well be “yes” if the definition were to include some measure of equity or fairness in the society.

    The definition is of some importance because there has never been a human society – so far, at least – wherein government, whatever its “official” form, has not purposely influenced the workings of the economy. That is, there has never been the sort of “free market” that Ayn Rand, F. A. Hayek, Adam Smith, and assorted others, not to mention several of the faithful readers of MinnPost articles, have thought and written about.

    The works of those economists, while sometimes providing insights into the workings of national economies, are nonetheless largely devoted to economies that don’t exist, and have never existed. Even Hayek wrote that “There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision.”

    Among the ironies here is that it’s precisely the sort of “safety net” that Hayek describes that seems to raise the hackles of so many on the right who purport to be “free market” enthusiasts. Perhaps it’s because Mr. Hayek suggests in the above passage that a certain minimal level of humanity, verging on some consideration of that oh-so-socialist idea of the “Golden Rule,” ought to be maintained in any society.

    I think it unlikely that such genuinely “free market” economies will ever exist outside a few very controlled, laboratory-like experiments (which themselves will violate the laissez-faire doctrine so dear to the heart of today’s neoconservatives), since no actual society – which is, by definition, a community – could be created and maintained based on the sort of ruthless individualism that the relatively coherent members of the political right wing espouse.

    Many on the right, of course, are quite a bit less than coherent.

  41. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/23/2010 - 07:45 pm.

    Since when did Hayek become the Oracle of Delphi? When I was in college I had a copy of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom for a course. I kept it for a long time because it was a perfect example of the fact that just because you read it in a book, it isn’t necessarily true.

    Facism = Socialism? Are you out of your mind? Read Orwell, please. Orwell was a committed socialist and an anti-fascist. Read Animal Farm. Read Homage to Catalonia.

    As to Hayek’s off the beaten track Ayn Rand like academic analysis:

    Austrian-born free-market economist Friedrich August von Hayek suggested that high taxation would be a “road to serfdom,” a threat to freedom itself.*

    Friedrich Von Hayek was wrong

    On average, the Nordic countries outperform the Anglo-Saxon ones on most measures of economic performance. Poverty rates are much lower there, and national income per working-age population is on average higher. Unemployment rates are roughly the same in both groups, just slightly higher in the Nordic countries. The budget situation is stronger in the Nordic group, with larger surpluses as a share of GDP.

    Von Hayek was wrong. In strong and vibrant democracies, a generous social-welfare state is not a road to serfdom but rather to fairness, economic equality and international competitiveness.

    Source, Scientific American: http://bit.ly/bBeiBa

  42. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/24/2010 - 08:12 am.

    Just Curious…

    Small, insignificant, sidebar question here…who left the ladder leaning against the billboard; and why?

    Free speech is a two-way street, but as George Seldes once observed…

    “The main threat to Democracy comes not from the extreme left but the extreme right, which is able to buy huge sections of the press and radio” (and giant billboards); “a constant campaign to smear and discredit every progressive and humanitarian measure.”

    So my question is…why; who left the ladder?

  43. Submitted by William Pappas on 10/24/2010 - 08:53 am.

    The scourge of this election cycle is that an entire party has been built on demagoguery, misinformation and deceptive financing. The Tea Party image appearing on that billboard is based on the rediculous assumption Obama is a socialist and that the health care bill is socialism. Very few people even know what is in the bill but they are told by Fox it is socialism and we hate socialism. The billboard is a perfect example of what is going to happen to the political process as cororations overwhelm elections with gobs of cash that are not meant to inform but obfuscate. Those shadow organizations that use corporate cash to invoke fear that drives the uninformed will be controlling the dialogue and the message. This is not because they have a good argument but becasue they have the dough. I defend the right of free speech on billboards but the glaring problem is the Citizen’s United decision that allows unlimited corporate political spending. The last remaining shards of our democracy have just been handed over to the corporatists and the irony is that all those Tea Party members will suffer the most.

  44. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/24/2010 - 09:14 am.

    And then again on the aforementioned “Ladder” issue…

    and conspiracy theories, whatever.

    Someone from the far right may assume it was left there by a ‘terrorist’?

    Someone from from the far left could assume it was left there by a ‘freedom fighter’?

    And maybe a third party would wonder if the ladder was made of US Steel or a cheap China model?

    What the heck, the ladder is probably permanently attached to the bill board…so much for conspiracy theories on a rainy day…cheers.

  45. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/24/2010 - 09:48 am.

    Hayek? Yeah dude you’re pointing to a guy who predicted that liberal democracies were going to transform into socialist totalitarian regimes… in 1944. It’s 2010, what part of this are you not getting? This is just another of a long list of bogus hysteria driven right wing predictions. Again, don’t you guys ever get tired of being wrong?

    In the meantime, civil liberties in the United States have expanded dramatically since 1944, not contracted under the heal of tyranny.

    At the very core of this libertarian/conservative ideology is the contra-historical belief that we’re living in an era of government oppression. It’s simply delusional. More people have more rights and freedoms now in the US than at any time in history. The only people who are trying to restrict those rights are Republicans who believe they can ignore the constitution in the name of national security, and limit the pursuit of happiness to heterosexual couples. Well, having to share privilege with women and people with different skin color and religions doesn’t make you a victim of oppression… it makes you an American. At the end of the day we have a lot of people here who just don’t believe in Democracy. The whole enterprise of Democracy is to create a nation of shared benefits, liberties, prosperity.

    Libertarianism is inherently anti democratic because it denies it’s shared virtues and tries to replace them with purely individual acquisitions, as if society doesn’t exist.

  46. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/24/2010 - 10:09 am.

    Ray and Bill–
    You are of course correct.
    While I have not read Hayek, I have read Marx (both Carlo and Groucho), Hitler, GBS, Bakunin, Kropotkyin, and assorted others.
    As you say, NO perfect socialist or capitalist economy has ever existed; all in the real world lie on a continuum between the two.
    Polemicists emphasis differences, but in the real world most economies lie in the middle ground.
    And Adam Smith (I’m reading The Wealth of Nations right now) did not advocate a totally free market.

  47. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/24/2010 - 11:59 am.

    Keep in mind that Hayek was a socialist economist writing for fellow socialists about his concerns over the limitations of a planned economy.

    He had no concerns whatsoever about government — by laws restricting certain MEANS to undetermined ends — placing “rules of the game” on the free markets.

    However, he believed (and persuasively argued from facts and historical precedents) that planners who attempt to determine WHAT shall be produced and WHO shall produce it find themselves faced with the impossible task of determining these things without adequate information about the desires of every constituent and must necessarily subject ALL affected persons to THEIR priorities, making serfs of all.

    His problems with his own socialist beliefs sprang from his experiences under nazi leadership in his country, and forced him to conclude that while government SHOULD be involved in policing the free market system by laws affecting the MEANS it uses, only the free market system can effectively and fairly determine whose wishes for the ends should prevail.

    As a good socialist, he was in favor of such things as safety nets like social security in cultures rich enough to afford them.

    Obamacare would be anathema to him, however, to the the extent to which it seeks to determine the ENDS to be achieved, and not simply to regulate the MEANS used to get there.

  48. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/24/2010 - 12:56 pm.

    If one reads the New Testament, one would see that Jesus did die for a socialist state.

    It’s rather ironic when I see people who are all worked up about “threats” to their liberty now, who had nothing to say about illegal warrant-less wiretapping or the unitary executive theory or enormously increased surveillance without providing severe punishments for those who might misuse it. I find it outrageous that they compare themselves to the colonists who won our independence.

  49. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/24/2010 - 01:18 pm.

    In “socialist” Britain, the new coalition government has taken a chainsaw to public spending. A large number of public agencies are being shut down, and public employees are being let go through attrition and retirement, welfare benefits are being slashed, the navy is being told that it can no longer afford to have aircraft for its aircraft carriers and so forth. The British reaction? Oh well, we enjoyed the good times, some belt-tightening is probably in order.

    In “capitalist” America, almost everyone serious agrees that public spending is on an unsustainable trajectory unless entitlements can be cut and or taxes increased or both. The political response: neither the Republicans nor the Democrats dare to propose any serious cuts to entitlements, the military and the Republicans equate tax increases, even for the richest, with treason and blasphemy. The American reaction? We’re not quite ready yet for the fiscal austerity that will be needed to right our ship. Hmmm……

  50. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/24/2010 - 01:45 pm.

    John,

    You are correct but your analysis is a little more nuanced than I wanted to get. I always worry about having to apply “wonkish” to posts as Krugman sometimes does.

    My beef with some folks who like to quote Hayek is the simple minded reading that extracts only the parts of what Hayek said that suit their purposes.

    High taxation = road to serfdom. Stuff like that.

    Another pet peeve is that people really don’t seem to understand what socialism is. There seem to be a fair number of folks who accept fascism = socialism, which as pointed out earlier, is ridiculous. There is an even more ridiculous equation, often trumpeted by wing-nuts, that socialism = communism.

    My best,

    Bill

  51. Submitted by Tim Salo on 10/24/2010 - 06:15 pm.

    The Supreme Court did _not_ decide that corporations are legal persons. Rather, it decided that _because_ corporations are legal persons, they havw certain free-speech rights.

    OK, OK, the Supreme Court did actually decide that corporations are legal persons — in 1844.

    Google “legal person” for additional info.

    -tjs

  52. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/25/2010 - 08:07 am.

    Actually, some of “our” soldiers died for communism. We were allies of the Soviet Union during WWII. In fact, many men in the Navy and the Merchant Marine gave their lives getting supplies and weapons to the Soviets. Hmmmmm, maybe Obamacare is part of a worldwide Soviet plan? Maybe the Soviet Union only “appeared” to collapse but is secretly pulling the strings of a One World Order? Note we’ve all forgotten the insidious fluoride assault of the 50s. Will anyone in the “liberal” media have the guts to ask Obama about his secret allegiance to the Soviet controlled One World Order? I think not comrades.

  53. Submitted by Rod Loper on 10/25/2010 - 08:53 am.

    Does a corporate legal person have a “right to
    life”? How far does this legal theory go? Should we
    fight bankruptcy as if it were abortion? Where is the conscience of a corporate legal person located?

  54. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/25/2010 - 09:51 am.

    //”There seem to be a fair number of folks who accept fascism = socialism, which as pointed out earlier, is ridiculous.”

    Not so much. They ARE identical, in that each represents a planned economy model that Hayek persuasively argues must inevitably lead to the subjection of individual freedom to the demands of the planning elite.

    It is worth noting that he points out that times of “war” are particulary perilous, as citizens are persuaded to permit incursions on their freedom far beyond what they would normally allow. I see this present danger for us as well.

    The soviet model and the nazi model illustrated the outcome he predicts in his effort to persuade his associates (and us) to be careful what we wish for.

  55. Submitted by Colin Lee on 10/25/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    Wouldn’t a military pension and VA benefits meet the dictionary definition of socialism? Clearly, the billboard authors thought it was a hypothetical question and were, pardon the pun, dead wrong.

  56. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/25/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    John, foul ball.

    To say that socialism = fascism because they both represent a planned economy is going a little too far. One could easily argue that the way states and the federal government run things is an attempt at a planned economy…

    Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and even to a certain extent England do not equal Nazi Germany, Franco’s Spain or Mussolini’s Italy.

    And, although Hayek may make an argument that is persuasive to you, a lot of other folks are not buying.

    Bill

  57. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 08:51 am.

    Ya know it is interesting in a high school debate kind of way that conservatives are now equating fascism and socialism, and sounding the alarm over Obamacare.

    In reality the closest thing to a fascist ideology in the US is being advocated by right wing conservatives. The biggest proponents of a national security state with unfettered powers of surveillance, detention, and arrest are the Tea Party. Yet they claim to champions of liberty. Likewise the only proponents of Christian theocracy based on the national myth of manifest destiny are Tea Party- right wing conservatives. And finally the only champions of plutocracy and corporate supremacy in the matter of private property are right wing conservatives. The demand that every citizen conform to a narrow set of religious, political, cultural, and economic expectations is not emerging from the Obama administration, it’s always been the mainstay of the conservative movement, and any fascist society.

    I don’t know if it’s the product of confirmation bias, intellectual dishonest, or willful deception, but there you have it. The closest thing we have to fascists are pointing the finger at someone else. Is is simply ironic that these people were blind to the fascist tendencies of the Republican party?

    You can argue about Hayek all you want but the fact is that totalitarian regimes always emerge from the conservative end of the political spectrum. There was nothing liberal about the Soviet Union or the Mao’s China.

  58. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 08:54 am.

    Here’s a basic description of fascist economics from Wikepedia:

    An inherent aspect of fascist economies was economic dirigisme[12], meaning an economy where the government exerts strong directive influence, and effectively controls production and allocation of resources. In general, apart from the nationalizations of some industries, fascist economies were based on private property and private initiative, but these were contingent upon service to the state.[13]

    Fascism operated from a Social Darwinist view of human relations. Their aim was to promote superior individuals and weed out the weak.[14] In terms of economic practice, this meant promoting the interests of successful businessmen while destroying trade unions and other organizations of the working class.[15] Historian Gaetano Salvemini argued in 1936 that fascism makes taxpayers responsible to private enterprise, because “the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise… Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social.”[16] Fascist governments encouraged the pursuit of private profit and offered many benefits to large businesses, but they demanded in return that all economic activity should serve the national interest.[17]

    One significant fascist economic belief was that prosperity would naturally follow once the nation has achieved a cultural and spiritual re-awakening.[18] Often, different members of a fascist party would make completely opposite statements about the economic policies they supported.[19] Once in power, fascists usually adopted whatever economic program they believed to be most suitable for their political goals. Long-lasting fascist regimes (such as that of Benito Mussolini in Italy) made drastic changes to their economic policy from time to time. Stanley Payne argues that while fascist movements defended the principle of private property, which they held “inherent to the freedom and spontaneity of the individual personality”, a common aim of all fascist movements was elimination of the autonomy or, in some cases, the existence of large-scale capitalism.[20]

    The fascists opposed both international socialism and liberal capitalism, arguing that their views represented a third way. They claimed to provide a realistic economic alternative that was neither laissez-faire capitalism nor communism.[21] They favoured corporatism and class collaboration, believing that the existence of inequality and separate social classes was beneficial (contrary to the views of socialists).[22] Fascists argued that the state had a role in mediating relations between these classes (contrary to the views of liberal capitalists).[23]

    In most cases, fascists discouraged or banned foreign trade; fascists believed that too much international trade would make the national economy dependent on international capital, and therefore vulnerable to international economic sanctions. Economic self-sufficiency, known as autarky, was a major goal of most fascist governments.[24]

    Fascism was highly militaristic, and as such, fascists often significantly increased military spending.

  59. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 09:23 am.

    Looking at the previous description of a fascist economy two things are clear: 1) There doesn’t appear to be any political party in the US that strictly adheres to a fascist ideology. Corporate submission to the state is NOT a tenet of the Tea Party or right wing conservatism. So we talking about proximity to fascism not strict adherence in any event. 2) If you leave the service to the state component out of the equation, the only ideology in the country that comes close to demanding the necessary social, military, and economic components of a fascist economic system are right wing republicans.

    Now, if your willing to engage your imagination, and look at the history of totalitarian regimes, you can see how the demand for “patriotism” can be (and has been) transformed into a demand to service the state.

    Now libertarianism eventually clashes with fascism irrevocably, so no one should be arguing that libertarians will lead us into a fascist system. However, the idea that fascism will emerge from a national health care system or temporary take-over of some corporations simply flies in the face reason and history, unless you want to describe Great Britain as a fascist state.

    If a fascist state ever does emerge in the US it won’t develop as a result of liberal reforms, it will and always has emerged from a conservative exploitation of widespread fear and anxiety. One thing that is indispensable to any totalitarian regime is constant crises and threat. I’m sorry but if you try to find someone on the US political landscape who’s behavior looks like Stalin or Hitler, provoking divisions, exploiting racism and bigotry, promoting crises, building historical myths, proclaiming pure status as a patriot, and demanding ideological conformity- that person doesn’t look like President Obama or even Keith Olberman; that person looks more like Glen Beck or Ann Coulter.

  60. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/26/2010 - 09:54 am.

    (#54)Bill Gleason says:
    “…One could easily argue that the way states and the federal government run things is an attempt at a planned economy…”

    Yes, one could. And many do, with the Hayek predicted consequences. Ask Medicaid recipients, Aid to Families with Dependent Children recipients, unemployment recipients, and on and on.

  61. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 11:33 am.

    //”…One could easily argue that the way states and the federal government run things is an attempt at a planned economy…”

    One can make arguments if one wants, but it’s easier to simply make observations. Hayek and many other economists of his era created slippery slope fallacies. They all underestimated Liberal Democracy’s capacity to mediate class struggle with welfare programs. On the left, communists and socialist didn’t believe liberal democracies safety nets would be sufficient enough to satisfy workers. On the right welfare programs and regulatory systems were characterized as first steps towards command economies.

    History shows us they were both wrong, although the left may turn out to have been more right than the right. In the year 2010 not one liberal democracy has adopted a command economy, nor is there any semblance of class awareness or struggle. The safey nets and regulatory systems that post WWII liberal democracies created never came close to replacing capitalist economies with socialist (or fascist) economies.

    You can try to characterize liberal democracy’s attempts to provide some semblance of general welfare as a slide towards command economies if you want, but then you have to tell when that attempt failed or was abandoned. The last president of the US to organize anything that even remotely looked like a command economy was Roosevelt during WWII. Every other president or administration regardless of party affiliation has specifically denounced any such plan. Any cursory review of neo-liberal economic plans over the last several decades whether it be Carter’s deregulation’s of the the oil and airline industries, Reaganomics, Clinton’s huge privatizations of the public sector, Bush’s refusal to regulate the financial sector, or Obama’s refusal even offer a national health care plan as one of many options… reveals overt antipathy to any notion of planned or commanded economies. If someone has been making such an attempt, you have to tell us who and when. At any event as the BP oil spill, housing bubble, tech bubble, etc. clearly demonstrate, any attempts to create command economies have been ineffectual as to be literally invisible.

    The left may turn out be right about capitalism’s ability to construct and maintain sufficient welfare programs, at least in the US. Almost since their creation the safety nets and tax policies that created the middle class have been under attack, and have now been severely compromised. The pre-safety net wealth disparities have returned. It’s a matter of time before the majority wakes up from their stupor of positivity and realizes that disparity is the product of economic policy, not mere negative thinking. Sooner or later people will realize that the Polad’s didn’t get a stadium in the middle of a recession because they optimists. The deck is stacked, the table is tilted, and it doesn’t matter how positive your attitude is.

    We’ll have to see how this election turns out but I suspect the success of Dayton’s tax the rich proposal may be some sign of an awakening sense that we don’t have to live with crippling disparity. Will the resulting class struggle cause a slide into totalitarianism? I doubt it. More likely we’ll just rebuild and strengthen the safety nets, and establish sustainable regulatory regimes.

  62. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/26/2010 - 01:03 pm.

    Paul U–
    A small correction to a very good statement:
    Dayton does not really have a ‘tax the rich’ proposal in the sense of making the rich contribute a higher proportion of their income to the common good than the rest of us do
    (although his advertising sometimes implies this).
    He has (publicly) observed that in Minnesota the rich in fact pay a LOWER proportion of their income in taxes than do the middle class, and is proposing adjustments in the tax rates to compensate for this.

  63. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/26/2010 - 01:36 pm.

    I have said we will ALL pay the costs, directly or indirectly. Perhaps it is helpful to discuss HOW we will pay indirectly.

    How many employers, hit by tax increases, will “hold the line” on hiring, on wage increases, on 401k contributions, on health care premium contributions? If they do, who pays the cost of the tax increases indirectly?

    How many companies, similarly hit, will increase prices if they can, or downsize their packages while holding the price? And how many will lay off staff, leaving the rest to work harder to cover for it? If they do, who pays the cost of the tax increases indirectly?

    If tax increases come, how many small businesses, now just hanging on in a smaller economy, will decide, or be forced to decide by their banks, to close the doors and lay off their workers? If they do, who pays the cost of the tax increases indirectly?

    If laid off or reduced hours employees lose their homes to foreclosure, depressing home values for those who keep theirs, who pays the cost of tax increases on those who provide jobs?

    We all do.

    Government does not create wealth, it only redistributes it to those who favor it by their votes, disheartening those who create it .

  64. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 02:55 pm.

    //I have said we will ALL pay the costs, directly or indirectly. Perhaps it is helpful to discuss HOW we will pay indirectly.

    Sure, and we also need to discuss how we ALL benefit directly and indirectly, that’s the part of the equation trickle down economist always to want to delete from the conversation. This accounting practice of treating taxes as simple expenses is economically naive. Taxes are best understood as investments that yield returns. John’s formula asks who pays without asking who benefits, the assumption is that there is no benefit, cost, that’s simply mistaken.

    As for trickle down economics, the idea that we need to heap as much wealth as possible on the rich lest they not create jobs and opportunity for the rest of us… look around you, the wealthy have never been wealthier. You can ask how much is costs me be to tax the wealthy if you want, but you’re gonna have to tell me how much it’s costing to me to NOT tax the wealthy as well.

  65. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2010 - 03:02 pm.

    //A small correction to a very good statement:
    Dayton does not really have a ‘tax the rich’ proposal in the sense of making the rich contribute a higher proportion of their income to the common good than the rest of us do

    Thanks Paul B. And we’re arguing about Dayton’s tax proposal as if it’s a slide into command economies? These people used to be in a 92% tax bracket, but that was back in the days of socialist America… you remember don’t you, the 1950s?

  66. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/26/2010 - 03:42 pm.

    Don’t stop there, John.

    Don’t forget Medicare and Social Security, VA benefits … You’ve got to take the sweet with the sour…

    Hayek predicted exactly what? We should have had a melt-down in 1950 if he was anywhere near correct.

  67. Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/26/2010 - 06:42 pm.

    President Obama knows that the election on Tuesday will be a referendum on his Presidency, and it’s socialist/liberal over-reaching agenda.

    That is what the sign is pointing out; seems clear to me, and I think to many who will be casting votes on November 3rd. We’ll see.

  68. Submitted by John E Iacono on 10/27/2010 - 10:27 am.

    (#66) Bill Gleason says:
    “Don’t forget Medicare and Social Security, VA benefits … You’ve got to take the sweet with the sour…”

    Interesting that you should point these out.

    Ask any Medicare recipient about the restrictions, limitations, and government arbitrary limitations — as Hayek predicts.

    And ask any vet about the hassles in getting service related injuries even acknowledged, let along properly treated.

    As for Social Security, apart from being taxed on benefits, the only thing you need to do is get old, unless you need the disability benefits which require a lawyer. Probably due to the fact that this was one of the first planned economy safety net programs. Don’t worry, though: they will fix that somehow in the upcoming legislation.

  69. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/27/2010 - 11:31 am.

    Medicare and the VA have getting the highest customer satisfaction rating in the health care industry for over six years now. Just because their not perfect doesn’t mean they’re a slippery slope to socialism.

Leave a Reply