by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The history of this meme is the history of rank stupidity. Tweeting it out yesterday, the documentarian and serial fabulist Michael Moore appended an approving jab of his own. “Outrageous!” Moore wrote in ersatz indignation, “my taxes are redistributed to plow someone else’s street! Socialism!”
Take that, capitalists! You’re all socialists and you don’t even know it!
To paraphrase the timeless Edmund Blackadder, this would all be extremely clever were it not for one tiny little flaw: It’s bollocks. Far from exposing America’s many liberty-conscious conservatives as a bunch of unwitting reds — or illustrating once and for all that the United States’ historical aversion to Fabianism is built, ultimately, upon quicksand — the claim serves primarily to demonstrate that there are far too many people in this country who do not know what the word “socialism” actually means. …
… [T]he vast majority of the programs featured by the meme’s author are not “socialist” at all. Indeed, of the 55 items listed, I can count only a handful that have anything whatsoever to do with the abolition of private property, the nationalization of industry, the central planning of the economy, or “the governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution.” The vast majority are either “public goods” (i.e. “non-excludable” and “non-rivalrous” offerings such as the CIA, the FBI, the police, the military, the courts, street lights, public monuments, roads, sewers, etc.); quotidian government operations of the sort that are found in all political and economic systems (the Census Bureau); services that, in practice, can really only be provided or operated by the state (the IRS, the Secret Service, prisons, the White House); services that can feasibly be provided privately but toward which governments are inevitably tempted (NASA, the postal service, garbage collection); or welfare provisions that, while certainly redistributive in nature, are not necessarily “socialistic.”