Modern socialism

Matthew Yglesias complains about Victor Davis Hanson referring to Obama’s “socialist view of government.” (Strangely, though, he chooses to direct his attack at Glenn Reynolds.) Yglesias’s point is that Obama doesn’t advocate governmental ownership of the means of production, so it’s not fair to call him a socialist.

I can appreciate his point, in light of the regrettable tendency of our political culture to rob words of their meaning (e.g., “liberal”). Nevertheless, I think that Obama — and today’s left in general — does advocate a socialist view of government. Oh sure, he’s willing to let people continue to hold the title to their land, capital, and labor (after all, how else can we tax them for it?), but the government will tell them how to use it. The government doesn’t need to own the means of production, as long as they can control it.

Moreover, let’s not forget how much of the means of production (and distribution) the government does already own. Most of the highways, airports and mass transit, all of the airwaves, most of the schools, most sanitation services, the Postal Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and an enormous amount of land. I think it’s safe to say that Obama would privatize very little of that.

Obama not a socialist? Technically, perhaps, but it’s a distinction without much of a difference.

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