Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Myth of European Socialism

There are a lot people out there who seem confused about the European model.  It is NOT socialism.  Few "socialist" parties in Europe espouse socialism (government ownership of the means of production and government control of prices).  Most abandoned socialism after World War II as the contrast between true socialism (Soviet Union) and capitalism/welfare state (USA) models became evident.  (The U.K. Labour Party was still espousing true socialism in the 1990s, leading to all sorts of economic disasters, usually reversed by the Conservative Party after the economy collapsed.)  The capitalist welfare state gives most people a slice of the pie because there is someone still baking pies to be taxed.

The question of what is the correct level of welfare spending and to whom, remains the primary question in capitalist welfare states.  The big problem is that the welfare state throws crumbs to some to cover over the enormous redistribution of wealth to the wealthy that are usually at the core of these welfare states.  As Milton Friedman observed, "If you ask college-educated middle class people how to help the poor, they design a system that employs college-educated middle class people.")  My sister worked for L.A. County Welfare in 1968 just out of college.  The way in which the system was abused primarily for the benefit of the workers led her to quit.


Will said...

"Few "socialist" parties in Europe espouse socialism (government ownership of the means of production and government control of prices)."

That is communism they are defining, not socialism. Typical socialist trick of re-defining the terms to hide what they are doing.

Clayton Cramer said...

My impression is that socialists distinguish from communism by allowing civil liberties.

Jim said...

I think there are different flavors of socialism. Nazis were socialists but the government didn't own the means of production. My understanding is that instead, they implemented high taxes and heavy regulations such that the private companies did the state's bidding.

There are several quotes from Ayn Rand making the distinction that communism is sort of the political means to enforce socialism. Your comment about civil liberties has some truth but it seems to me that at a certain point, people find out what a raw deal socialism is that the state decides that those liberties are getting in the way of the "greater good."

On the subject of civil liberties, one is private property (including the fruits of one's labor).

Clayton Cramer said...

National Socialism was a heresy of socialism, much like Fascism. In the early years, National Socialism supported government expropriation of department stores so that Aryans could run stores in these largely Jewish-owned businesses. As National Socialism became a creature of some large German businesses, they changed from ownership to regulatory control, such as mandating cartels into which small firms had to be absorbed. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich describes how within a couple of years, companies were complaining about the rise of regulations and taxes. Of course, slave labor camps that rented out labor to Krupp and I.G. Farben became means of production and destruction.

Clayton Cramer said...

Jim: The Allende government in Chile started using allocation of newsprint to shut down opposition papers while keeping supplies to socialist papers.

Eskyman said...

"There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism—by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide."

--Ayn Rand, who didn't much care for either; neither do I.