Hillary Clinton offered a rare glimpse this week into her vision for a just and fair America:
It's also important to understand these [Bush administration] policies are consistent with the administration's theory about how we should manage our economy: leave it all up to the individual.
That's why they want to privatize Social Security and let individuals bear the risks. It's why their answer to the health care crisis is limited to creating health savings account, which allows the healthiest people to get the best deal, with little concern if the sickest get worse.
They call it the ownership society. But it's really the "on your own" society.
... It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few, time to reject the idea of an "on your own" society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a "we're all in it together" society.
Now, there is no greater force for economic growth than free markets, but markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed.
It is tempting to fisk Hillary's entire speech, given the sheer amount of half-truths and outright misrepresentations that it contains. But the most chilling remarks that she made center around her vision for a socialist America.
Here is the problem: Hillary wants the best of two worlds. She wants a "free market economy" in which business is privately owned and profitable, individuals are encouraged to be come entrepreneurs, and all employees have secure jobs with good pay and generous benefits. BUT -- she also wants a nanny state government that closely monitors both businesses and individuals in a continuous search for those who have "benefited unfairly." The nanny state would then have the incontestable right to undo these injustices by confiscating and redistributing any portion of that excess wealth as it sees fit. Hillary's nanny state would also have the power to impose a never-ending series of regulations on the market for the benevolent purpose of creating a "level playing field."
Unfortunately for Hillary, history seems to indicate that a perfect balance of power between a free market economy and a centralized nanny state is an absolute impossibility. The "level playing field" is a purely theoretical construct, a Utopian ideal that has never be directly mapped to a specific real-world endpoint; thus, no amount of regulation can ever guarantee that a "level playing field" would ever be created, let alone sustained. Further, if the amount of taxes confiscated by the state exceeds the threshold of tolerance of a free economy, then the economy will restructure itself in such a way as to cause "excess" wealth creation to approach zero.
The result, of course, is economic stagnation, brought about by the crippling uncertainties created when the money supply, interest rates, business regulations, and tax rates are kept in a constant state of flux by the government. No matter how hard the intellectuals try, this scenario seems doomed to re-occur. Modern-day France is a good example of this -- strict employment regulations, high taxation rates, and ultra-generous government benefits have created an economy with a permanent double-digit national unemployment rate and an unemployment rate for unskilled immigrant workers that is approaching 50%.
Even though Hillary and her minions want to avoid the miserable fate of traditional Stalinist states that destroyed all free market forces (and thus doomed themselves because they had no mechanism with which to create wealth) it seems unlikely to me that any socialist experiment, no matter how benevolent, can work better than a true free market economy. When a state becomes the sole entity that controls the creation and distribution of wealth, then by default it also becomes the entity that wields ultimate power over the lives of its citizens. It is government for the many, but by the few. The individual becomes a non-entity.
A true free market economy allows individual choices to be assimilated statistically into an aggregate system of supply and demand, while a socialist economy relies on a central command system that imposes a narrowly-defined set of calculated "choices" upon its people. Free markets encourage individual choices, because the real-time economy depends upon a steady flow of input. The real-time structure of free market economies also gives them the flexibility to quickly react to unforseen problems such as supply shortages or changes in demand. In socialist economies, individual choices create chaos within the command structure. Not surprisingly, the only things more detrimental to socialist states than individual choices are unexpected events.
Socialism has a long tradition of support among intellectuals. Even prominent 20th century Christian theologians such as Barth, Moltmann, and Reinhold Niebuhr supported a form of socialism administered by a benevolent government operating according to the Christian ethic of advocacy for the poor and powerless. But any system that disallows freedom of choice is incompatible with a free society.
The Anchoress also suggests that history and human nature are not on Hillary's side: "There is an enormous difference between a few dozen people voluntarily giving up their worldly goods for communal living, and forcing people to participate in such a society against their will. The first brings freedom for those who choose it. The second, historically, has brought tyranny, poverty, slaughter and the gulag."
The Beth Zone points out the "craziness of assuming that socialism automatically means more stuff for us. That’s the socialist sales pitch, that you’re one of the folks who’ll be on the “according to their needs” part of the equation ... [But] let’s face it: desiring socialism because you believe you should be getting more, and shouldn’t have to devote too much time and effort to earn your daily bread, and shouldn’t have to “work for the man” if you don’t want to, is greed. Looking down on your neighbor and believing he or she should be giving more and keeping for him- or herself less is greed. Likewise for believing you should get more of “society’s resources” because you’re special …" (emphasis added)
ADDED: I'm finally through with revisions. As of 10:15 PM 6/1/07, this essay is in final form.