“Everything the Government Does is Socialism”: A Child’s Guide to Libertarianism

Jack Parkos | @laissez_faire76

Libertarians promote free-market capitalism and little to no government interference in the economy. We oppose government control over the economy. Further, we oppose Marxist ideologies like communism and socialism. One problem with libertarians, however, is their false usage of the term “socialism“. Libertarians label things as “socialist” regardless of whether they are inherently socialist. This characterization hurts the movement.

False Socialist Labeling

During his state of the union address, Trump stated that “America will never be a socialist country.” Soon after, the Libertarian Party made an Instagram post explaining how America already is a socialist country. But some of their examples were not socialist. They claimed that eminent domain for Trump’s wall and foreign aid were socialist policies. These policies, while not preferable, are not socialist policies.

Moreover, a common Libertarian talking point is that Republicans and conservatives are actually “closet socialists” as they support a large military, strong border, and of course roads. This is simply foolish labeling. Nowhere is famous socialist or Marxist literature does it state that a large military is a part of a socialist system. Libertarians seem to have an idea that anytime the state does anything, it is socialism. But this is simply false. The state taking control of the economy is statism, but not all forms of statism are socialist. Statism can come in many forms. Many of the examples libertarians give as so-called “evidence” that America is socialist is an example of a mixed economy. A mixed economy is not socialist, but rather an economy of a mix of state action and the free market.

What Is Socialism?

Socialism is a form of Marxist thought and is often described as a stepping stone from capitalism to communism. Under socialism, the means of production are owned collectively by the state and the wealth is redistributed amongst the workers. The end goal of socialism typically being a communist system where the means of production are owned by the workers. Furthermore, socialism features a completely planned economy for the benefit of the working class.

Socialism has also evolved into social democracy and democratic socialism. This is where you get more into redistribution of the wealth and less of worker control of the means of production. These systems would have many government social programs. This is what Bernie Sanders advocates for in America, and many modern European nations feature characteristics of this.

Harmful to the Cause

None of this describes the American economy. While we may not live in a completely free market, we are not under a socialist economy. Our economy is not based on worker control of the means of production. Furthermore, no socialist ideas describe building roads or having borders.

This mentality of calling everything socialism only hurts libertarians. Calling Donald Trump and the Republican party socialist makes it appear that libertarians have no understanding of politics, and it is fair that one may assume this as Trump nor the GOP is socialist.

Many Libertarians need to learn the difference between statism and socialism. It would be better to economically criticize government’s central planning and defend the free market than call it socialism. It is very offputting for many people when someone claims that the military is a socialist program. Some people do not take the libertarian movement seriously, this faulty labeling may be one reason why.

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