Barack Obama — A Semantic Investigation

Jonah Golberg on the Orwellian linguistic politics of Barack Obama and his fellow neosocialists:

There was little prospect, Hayek wrote, of America or the Western democracies deliberately embracing what he called the “hot socialism” of the Soviets. “Yet though hot socialism is probably a thing of the past,” he wrote in the preface of the 1956 edition of his masterpiece, The Road to Serfdom,

some of its conceptions have penetrated far too deeply into the whole structure of current thought to justify complacency. If few people in the Western world now want to remake society from the bottom according to some ideal blueprint, a great many still believe in measures which, though not designed completely to remodel the economy, in their aggregate effect may well unintentionally produce this result.

The non-hot socialism Hayek was describing often goes by the name of “social democracy,” though it is perhaps best understood as an American variant of Fabianism, the late-Victorian British socialist tendency. “There will never come a moment when we can say ‘now Socialism is established,’” explained Sidney Webb, Britain’s leading Fabian, in 1887. The flaw of Fabianism, and the reason it never became a mass movement on the Left, is that the revolutionary appetite will never be sated by its incrementalist approach. The political virtue of Fabianism is that since “socialism” is always around the corner and has never been fully implemented, it can never be held to blame for the failings of the statist policies that have already been enacted. The cure is always more incremental socialism. And the disease is, always and forever, laissez-faire capitalism. That is why George W. Bush’s tenure is routinely described by Democrats as a period of unfettered capitalism and “market fundamentalism,” even as the size and scope of government massively expanded under Bush’s watch while corporate tax rates remained high and Wall Street was more, not less, regulated ..

Obama is no Marxist. This is a point lost on some who like to highlight the president’s indebtedness to the ideas of the late radical Saul Alinsky, who was no Marxist either. Rather, Alinsky was a radical leftist and a proponent of “social-ism” before Blair named it. He believed that all institutions, indeed the system itself, should be bent to the needs of the underprivileged and the downtrodden in the name of social justice. Bent, not broken. Like the progressives and various Marxists, Alinsky was a proponent of radical pragmatism, using the tools available to change the existing order. This was the core of what the New York Times, in a remarkable 1913 analysis surveying Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas in the wake of his third-party campaign for president, dubbed T.R.’s “super-socialism”: “It is not the Marxian Socialism. Much that Karl Marx taught is rejected by present-day Socialists. Mr. Roosevelt achieves the redistribution of wealth in a simpler and easier way”—by soaking the rich and yoking big business to the state. “It has all the simplicity of theft and much of its impudence,” the Times asserted  ..
President Obama’s health-care plan is a pristine example of this approach. He is long on record saying he would prefer a single-payer system if we could design one from scratch. But since he has to work from within the confines of the existing system, he has given us ObamaCare instead — which, again, is now merely a “critical first step.” It uses insurance companies as governmental entities, akin to utilities, to provide a now-mandatory government service. The insurance companies will make nominal government-decreed profits on top of government-decreed “fees” and “premiums” (the quotation marks are necessary given that rates will be set by government and enforced by the Internal Revenue Service).

.. As with Webb’s Fabian socialism, one will never be able to say of Obama’s developing doctrine, “now socialism has arrived.” On the night the House of Representatives passed the health-care bill, Obama said, “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction.” Then, speaking specifically of another vote to be taken in the Senate but also cleverly to those not yet satisfied with what had been achieved, he added, “Now, as momentous as this day is, it’s not the end of this journey.”

Under Obama’s neosocialism, that journey will be endless, and no matter how far down the road toward socialism we go, he will always be there to tell the increasingly beleaguered marchers that we have only taken a “critical first step.”

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