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“We” are not all socialists now

One of the best journalists out there, Claudia Rosett, responds to the dimwit assertion in parts of the MSM that “We are all socialists now”. Quite. I would also be happy to see someone write denying that “we” are all Keynesians now, by the way. Who is supposed to be the “we” is never quite explained. It is just assumed by the issuers of such pronouncements that all those in positions of power and influence have signed on to a particular world view.

Rosett, as I remember, did great work in helping to expose that sink of corruption and double-dealing that was the Oil For Food Program of the United Nations, yet another reason for shutting down that organisation.

32 comments to “We” are not all socialists now

  • criminal

    “We” is anyone who Votes.

    This path of socalism has been chosen democracticly.

    Anyone and everyone who has taken part in that process is resonsible.

    Regardless of who you actualy voted for, the outcome was eventiable – by taking part you actively help factaliate the events.

    democracy is “the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty” – you can’t pick and choose the bits you like.

  • Johnathan

    There is, I think, benefit to our version of “we” in these crass pronouncements. These “we are all” statements make rather clearer than some are inclined to that Socialism and Keynesianism is what is being done now, rather than any variant on the Free Market, deregulation, Thatcherism, Reaganomics, etc. This means that as all continues to collapse in the manner well explained in recent Perry De Havilland postings, “we” (as in you and I) are less likely to get the blame for the debacle.

    The point about these big crises is that what gets done first is not what ends up winning, ideologically. On the contrary, what gets done first is what ends up getting the bulk of the blame. During the last Great Depression, steady-as-she-goes capitalism was the default position of the world’s rulers, Roosevelt included (at first), and that got the blame. That capitalism had already been destroyed, in terms of financial governance, didn’t save “capitalism”. And then socialism, Keynesianism, etc. did their thing and got the credit for the recovery. The recovery happened only because there was, mercifully, insufficient socialism and Keynesianism to completely abort it (although this did prolong the agony), but ideologically that wasn’t the lesson learned.

    Later it was learned that for washing machines etc., capitalism is best, but state control remained in place for financial matters.

    This time, I am more optimistic about the right things being learned. Sadly, this realisation, in the event that it does materialise, will only follow after a period of the wrong things being done.

    Which bodes well for our great great grandchildren, but not for our children.

  • the other rob

    An excellent article, which I might otherwise have missed. Thank you, JP.

    Of course Newsweek, in my experience, has always been a despicable rag. I was, however, struck by its sleight of hand (pointed out by Rosset) to do with C21 vs C20 conflicts.

    Surely, certain visionaries notwithstanding, the popular conception of the battles of the C20 were couched in terms of Left vs Right (with the same types at the heads of both factions)? Today, I for one applaud the fact that the man on the Clapham Omnibus has come to see the C21 conflict as Liberty vs Satism.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Criminal, the path of socialism was not chosen democratically: given the way the first-past-the-post electoral system works in this nation, it is in fact statistically nonsense to argue that the majority of the public voted for it, even if they had the remotest idea of what socialism is.

    Brian: well quite. I think that if the tag “socialism” is attached to the diasters now unfolding and that Big Government “liberals” or “conservatives” get the blame, then those of us who take a different view might benefit – eventually. But as you have said before, the key is the “narrative” and in rebutting, over and over, the canard that what has happened is the collapse of “unregulated capitalism”. Every time someone comes up with this crap, we have to slap them down, hopefully politely.

  • Jack Olson

    We are not “all Keynsians now” (a quote from the same President who said “I am not a crook”) and we never were. Keynes wrote that government should run a deficit in recessions to add liquidity to the economy and a surplus in expansions to take money out of the economy and thus prevent inflation. What governments actually did was run deficits in recessions and deficits in expansions. Even the purported U.S. surpluses in the 1990′s were fake since the Congress was raiding the Social Security Trust Fund.

    Nor are we “all socialists now.” So many of us are now rent-seekers that they have forced the rest to become rent-seekers in self-defense and they all seek to privatize gains while socializing costs.

  • Jay D

    I always took “we are all Keynsians now” as sort of a statement on practical reality. We don’t go around making financial decisions like we are living in a free-market system. Nobody does. We make decisions like we are in a Keynsian economy.

  • Millie Woods

    I’ve always laugh4ed my head off at Keynes’ response to a question about his so-called theories’ long term effects that in the long run we are all dead. How would such an answer go down if expressed by any other supposedly great thinker on the planet. The fact that after all these years people don’t jpin me in laughter but talk seriously about Keynesian economics proves that in the long run a lot of us will buy into the emperor’s new clothes view of reality. Still it is a great triumph for recycling.

  • Eric

    …the key is the “narrative” and in rebutting, over and over, the canard that what has happened is the collapse of “unregulated capitalism”.

    The problem is the statists control the organs of the media. Even going forward, when it ought to be obfious the market can’t be to blame when the government runs every-damn-thing, the coalition of true-believer statists, government employees, and people who get their opinions from the BBC will be a majority.

  • Eric

    I always took “we are all Keynsians now” as sort of a statement on practical reality.

    Keynes was convinced the state sector should never be more than about 25% of GDP. I don’t know exactly what we should call the current system (personally I’m leaning toward “soft fascism”), but it isn’t Keynesianism.

  • lukas

    Eric, do you have a reference for that assertion?

  • Eric

    Sigh. I can’t find one. It’s one of those things I’ve “known” for years, but either it’s wrong or my Google Fu isn’t up to the task.

  • Re: “we are all Keynesians now”… Someone already did deny it – quite a few smart folks in fact. Not that you’ll see CNN quote it, of course.

  • Michiganny

    Plamus, good point. I saw the same ad.

    Here is what they advocate instead of stimulus:

    To improve the economy, policymakers should
    focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the
    burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

    It would be great to see specifics: How much gov’t spending should be cut in ’09, ’10, and ’11? What is the time period for recovery using this and other measures? What should we do when banks fail? What will it cost? I would like to see some flesh on this.

  • el windy

    It all depends on whether we take Keynes to be “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive”. As a description of what govewrnments do it works quite well. Macchiavelli’s “Prince” is still an excellent analysis of how raw power is used – as a prescription for government it is definitely frightening, Sadly even Keynes had some confusion on this point.
    I sympathise with “criminal” on his assertion that if you take part you are also condoning the winner’s policies but abstention can’t be the answer because as the rules are set at the moment, even if only one person turns up to vote then that vote determines the winner.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    We don’t go around making financial decisions like we are living in a free-market system. Nobody does. We make decisions like we are in a Keynsian economy.

    I disagree. “We”, or at least I, spend, save and invest pretty much as under a free market system. If I borrowed money as Keynesian, then I might not give a damn about repaying my principal, etc. I save money – how every unKeynesian!

    Keynes was in some ways a wiser man than those who use his name to defend their current views. That said, I happen to think Keynes is greatly over-rated.

  • criminal

    Johnathan both gets and then completely misses the point here.

    Yes! You agree with me then, its a bad system – what ever name you want to tag it as.

    And so – anyone who partakes in the process is guility of its outcomes.

    If you vote then it You who are a member of the Guility

    Criminal, the path of socialism was not chosen democratically: given the way the first-past-the-post electoral system works in this nation, it is in fact statistically nonsense to argue that the majority of the public voted for it, even if they had the remotest idea of what socialism is.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If you vote then it You who are a member of the Guility

    Wrong. If I vote for a pro-capitalist party that actually reverses or halts some aspects of socialist lunacy, I am not. The “we are all guilty” line belongs to the satirical Peter Simple columns of the late Michael Wharton.

  • Bendle

    As someone who is not a libertarian, but who reads this blog because it features provocative writing, I have to say that I am surprised you find Rossett’s piece interesting. I’m with Michiganny in longing for some – or even one – specific example of what Rossett/the free market lobby/libertarians would like to see the US or Uk government do.

    Rossett’s suggestion that we re-read Hayek seems as moribund as the Left’s renewed advocation of Keynes.

  • Bendle

    As someone who is not a libertarian, but who reads this blog because it features provocative writing, I have to say that I am surprised you find Rossett’s piece interesting. I’m with Michiganny in longing for some – or even one – specific example of what Rossett/the free market lobby/libertarians would like to see the US or Uk government do.

    Rossett’s suggestion that we re-read Hayek seems as moribund as the Left’s renewed advocation of Keynes.

  • Bendle

    Er, I was also a first-time poster. Hence the above. Apologies.

  • criminal

    Wrong. If I vote for a pro-capitalist party that actually reverses or halts some aspects of socialist lunacy, I am not. The “we are all guilty” line belongs to the satirical Peter Simple columns of the late Michael Wharton.

    EXACTY – and You are NONE! of those things.

    You may have voted for a pro-capitalist party but they didn’t gain power, and they didn’t reverse socialism. THAT IS THE POINT!

    GULITY.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    No need to use block capitals, Criminal. It is usually a sign of madness. I’d watch it if I were you.

    So what is your alternative for voting for a pro-capitalist party, then? Those who voted Tory in 1979 did not get rid of socialism, but they sure got rid of some of it. Half a loaf is better than nothing.

    If you have better ideas, provide them or do the other thing.

  • Relugus

    Considering the Spentagon has bankrupted America with its trillions of dollars of waste, maybe its time for Claudia to argue for the privatisation of America’s incompetent and fiscally irresponsible Defense Department.

    Oh, and Claudia, where are those weapons of mass destruction your neo-con buddies harped on about?

    We are not all socialists, but we are certainly not all monetarists now. Monetarists have been just as comprehensively discredited.

    Britain is now facing ruin because we have no manufacturing industry (which the monetarists destroyed).

  • tdh

    Keynesian economics is an oxymoron. It contributes nothing in the way of nomos, and its stewardship is so poor that in the not-very-long run it destroys the woikos.

    We are most of us nowadays Keynesian proto-serfs, at the mercy of celebrities (cf. nobiles) and their infotainment-besotted supporters. We’re just waiting for the bread to run out.

    BTW, the “porkulus” package supposedly aims in part at eliminating freedom of speech on the Internet. I suppose that this is to be able to continue to divert suspicion from the hidden hand of the non-market as it witlessly twists the knife.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    we are certainly not all monetarists now. Monetarists have been just as comprehensively discredited.

    Really? Has the notion that massively increasing the money supply will trigger inflation and asset bubbles been “discredited?” I’d say recent events rather play straight into the argument put forward by the late M. Friedman that control of money is rather important. Of course there are differences between the “Chicago” and “Vienna” strands of free market thought over what to do about banks, money, etc, but I’d say the core contentions of the monetarists hold up pretty well. Provide some evidence to the contrary.

    And the canard that monetarism destroyed manufacturing in the UK is debatable: i’d say manufacturing was destroyed by the mix of inflation, trade union mass priviledges, high taxes, and the accumulated policy errors of decades. The idea that Maggie shut it down all by herself is not worthy even of the Guardian.

  • The Newsweek article made it clear who it was talking about. On the cover are two hands shaking, one red, one blue. The article explains that Republican and Democratic voters alike want more government right now, and that the future growth of entitlements will make us more like the social democracies of Europe. All of this is true (I lament it; Newsweek basically celebrates it).

    The most important part of the article is the admission that Bush was not a radical free-market president, but one who expanded government radically, both through regular policy and crisis response. If we can frame the debate that way, we can promote free markets a response to left-right statism, instead of being painted as failures of the “old order”.

  • Relugus

    Massive theft of taxpayers money:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/a-fraud-bigger-than-madoff-1622987.html

    Its time this criminal government agency was shut down permanently.

  • Gabriel

    Relugus, take it from one who derives significant enjoyment from throwing grenades into Samizdata comment boxes: your trolling sucks.

  • Oh dear, now we all will have to agree with Gabriel once again! What has the world come to?

  • virgil xenophon

    Gabriel, you beat me to the punch–but Regulus DOES raise a not insignificant point by his (and his like-minded cohorts) mere existence. Does one ignore such creatures in the hopes that they will go way and the belief that responding only encourages them–or does one rebut the quite obvious, verifiable errors of fact in their statements no matter how outlandishly, comically, in error–under the belief that to allow such figments of tortured imagination and sub-par schooling to hang in the air unchallenged allows them so assume an undeserved aura of truthfulness enticing to the uninitiated? Tiz not only a puzzlement but a very real quandary.

  • rbk

    Of course ‘we’ are all socialists now. How many anarchists are truly out there? 0.2%? Rosett is boring and most ‘libertarians’ are collectivists to some degree or another – my life isn’t up for popular vote. Remember that when discussing things like liberty and freedom…

  • Paul Marks

    Karl Marx himself did not go along with the “print and spend” faction (for all the mention of national bank with a monopoly of credit in the Communist Manifesto of 1848).

    This weird cross breed of Keynesianism and Marxism supported by Comrade Obama (some fool is bound to claim some racial angle in the words “cross breed”, but I am not going to bow to such fools) is more recent.

    As far as I can remember (from when I studied such mattes) it is from the Italian Marxist Piero Sraffa, with the help of his British friend Maurice Dobb.

    By the way there is an element of what Marx would have called (and not as a complement) utopean socialism as well – for example in that mutant, solar cell company in Colorado where Comrade Barack visited to sign the latest government spending binge.

    All 59 odd employees paid the same (regardless of their work) and all business judgments made by disscussion and universal agreement.

    This sort of “ethical socialism” may show the influence of Barack Obama’s first master in the Marxist arts – “Frank” was considered a heretic by the mainstream Marxists in Chicago, which is why he went off to Hawaii.

    How difficult is it to find out all of the above? Not difficult at all.

    How many Americans know it?

    About one in a hundred?

    There is the problem with democracy.