Do You Know Your -isms?
Communism, socialism, and fascism are all statism, and American capitalism is more like corporatism.
In the public arena, significant terms are often misused or misunderstood. In the last few years, the rise of socialism in the Democrat Party has brought the very word “socialism” into the daily lexicon, as Democrats are promising free stuff for everyone without explaining how all of it will be funded other than vague promises and/or threats to tax the rich. So, what is the difference between socialism and communism?
The Left criticizes the Right for being “fascist,” but in reality, most on the Right are working to establish capitalism or free markets that emphasize private property and personal opportunity via policies that cut regulations and honor work. There is obvious confusion about these terms, because fascism is a leftist ideology.
There’s a useful parable dating back to 1944 published in The Modern Language Journal:
- Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
- Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then gives you some milk.
- Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then sells you some milk.
- Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
- Nazism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.
When looking at the cow parable, we see clearly that in the systems of socialism, communism, and fascism, the government controls decisions regarding wealth, work, (re)distribution, and property rights. As Harry Binswanger explained almost a decade ago, these three are best categorized as statism, where individual rights and freedoms are minimized and even ignored.
Ayn Rand, the Russian-American philosopher and author of Atlas Shrugged, observed that statism means that one’s “life and work belong to the state — to society, to the group, the gang, the race, the nation — and that the state may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own, tribal, collective good.”
Statism appears in the policies and politics of the Left, which promises healthcare, education, universal incomes, and other goods and services paid for and provided by the government. Moreover, despite the loud cries of the Democrats that Republicans and those on the political Right are “fascists,” Democrats are instead the ones implementing a fascist tool when they use censorship, a critical element to feed the American people the current leftist party line.
While fascism technically leaves private property in the hands of individuals, the oppressive government controls, regulates, and dictates wealth, production, and (re)distribution with no freedom of speech or right of dissent. The Cancel Culture of today’s social media and tactics on the Left to censor, silence, and control have more in common with the practices of the National Socialist German Workers Party than a constitutional republic “instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” to secure certain unalienable rights endowed by our Creator. Remember, in its day, National Socialism sought a replacement to free-market capitalism with the collectivism and good of the ruling elite of the select political class.
By definition and practice, socialism, communism, and fascism are statist economies.
Is the economy of the United States, even when led by policies on the Center-Right, a free-market economy defined as capitalism? Do we see businesses and sectors of the economy with minimal control consistently and fairly regulated? The answer is, unfortunately, no. It’s actually corporatism that’s becoming the accepted way of life and commerce in America. Big corporations and special interest groups petition and influence government, requesting special regulations, subsidies, reduced taxes, and preferences. Government permits and protects representational monopolies and gives preferential protections for the biggest businesses and interests.
How would a government characteristic of corporatism deal with your cows? You have two cows. The government licenses, regulates, and taxes them while subsidizing Big Cows-R-Us to mass-produce milk. You’re free/forced to compete with Big Cow, which touts its woke policies and practices in response to social media pressure to garner more favor with politicians who dole out favorable carve-outs, grants, and tax breaks. You’re forced to work at another job and sell your two cows and buy milk from the company whose policies you don’t support but your taxes subsidize.
Plainly, the only -ism that Americans should permit is capitalism. All others have failed throughout history, and that’s no bovine scatology.
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