The liberal tongue is so agile it can stretch any word or concept beyond all recognition. ‘Human rights,’ ‘constitutional,’ ‘family’ and ‘entitlements’ can all mean whatever the day’s marching orders dictate.
Here’s the setup: Bill O’Reilly recently anointed Bill Maher his pin-head of the day for suggesting that there is nothing wrong with embracing socialism a la Europe, and that government control of prisons, education, the military and hospitals is good. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell concurred, opining that socialist haters don’t really understand the concept behind the word. He basically repeated the rant from his interview in the current Playboy. “We’re all socialists… I’m a socialist because I support Social Security and Medicare. Everyone who supports these programs is supporting socialism — including most Republicans.”
In truth, Republicans, like all conservatives, hold various complex views on how to make caring for the poor, sick and elderly more compassionate and efficient. Someday, when public discourse is less demagogic and predictable, maybe the grown-ups can talk longer than two minutes at the microphone before having to call in armed security.
Liberal editorialists frequently sneer that even the most loyal Tea Partiers take advantage of Social Security and Medicare well beyond what they paid in. Yet that is less a matter of socialism than mere survival — public options, which derive their funds from the private sector, typically eclipse the choices inherent in a free market.
O’Donnell may be right to the extent that the word “socialism” is over-used. Say it too often and it packs little or no punch, despite the fact that, in this age of Obama, it far too often applies. And, by definition, meaning full or partial control of the means of production and distribution of goods, socialism does not cover prisons, police protection, the military or even education. Morally speaking, fuzzy definitions do not grant the federal government carte blanche to penalize for its own perpetuation the legal, voluntary transactions of a free economy.
Liberals cunningly believe their verbal dexterity can soften the blows of their disastrous social policies, and when they find themselves on the losing end of a widening chasm, they claim only minor differences with the winning side. O’Donnell concluded the he and O’Reilly differed only by a matter of degrees.
The defining liberal argument, the so-called death blow to any conservative/free market reforms is their smug self-satisfaction that ‘Hey, at least we’re honest’ (which, of course, they are not — watch any Democrat running for high office make a cowardly dash to the center around election time). Their charge that conservatives are closet socialists springs from their obsession with conservatives’ alleged hypocrisy. Otherwise dour, meek liberals spring to life at the incantation of real or imagined conservative hypocrisy, as if any Republican with a Medicare card justifies each and every piece of expansionist legislation proposed (for our own good, don’t forget).
Liberals know full well what socialism is and how it is perceived, thus their semantic dodges. They would rather nitpick the other side’s behavioral inconsistencies than defend their own philosophy in totality.
Liberals envision a world where all citizens conform to the same drab subsistence-level economic standards, with choice and license reserved for artistic expression and sexual exploration. Conservatives rely on the unlimited potential of individual achievement to provide health care and retirement options for everyone, from those at the top of the ladder to those with nothing.
The fact that I visit government-funded libraries and museums and take comfort that the police and military will protect me does not compare me to Lawrence O’Donnell and Barack Obama. And even if I don’t fully live up to the standards I profess, because you have proven me a hypocrite does not mean you have proven me wrong.
David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.