The assertion that America is well along Friedrich von Hayek’s ominous “Road to Serfdom” may sound as outlandish as the notion that the Nazis were left-wing extremists, but a great body of evidence suggests that America – despite its capitalist principles, ideals of liberty and constitutional protections for the individual – is already a quasi-socialist state.
There can be no doubt that America lacks some of the traditional trappings of a socialist state. With the possible exception of Massachusetts, we have no people’s republics. Our national flag is not red and yellow, and it does not sport the dread hammer-and-sickle. We have two major parties, and neither one of them calls itself social or socialist, much less refers to itself as a front. Karl Marx is not deified here, and none of our leaders have ever attended Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, although I have my suspicions about Howard Dean.
But consider the following evidence. Socialism is, more than anything, concerned with central state control of the economy. In the perfect worker’s paradise, there would be 70 beautiful virgins – sorry, wrong paradise – that is to say, the government would control 100 percent of expenditures, or in modern economic terms, account for 100 percent of GDP (gross domestic product).
Marxists, like Christians, must lament the fact we live in a fallen world, as the closest any society has yet come to realizing this communist nirvana is that of Cuba, which last year could boast of its government accounting for 60.2 percent of its GDP. Even the standard bearer of international socialism, the Soviet Union, fell far short of this achievement, with its government outlays totaling a mere 29.37 percent of GDP in 1990 despite the benefit of 73 years of totalitarian rule by the workers’ vanguard.
And where does the United States fall? The answer might surprise you. Of the $10.4 trillion U.S. economy, 19.5 percent is federal spending, more than four times higher than in that bastion of capitalism and individual freedom, the People’s Republic of China, where the government only controls 4.7 percent of the economy. Add in the 12 percent controlled by state and local governments, and we have an American economy which is almost one-third given over to government of one form or another.
This was not true historically. As the chart below shows, in 1930, government spending accounted for only 5.3 percent of the economy. This changed rapidly with the ascension of Franklin Roosevelt, who – in addition to seizing the nation’s gold – tripled the level of government spending even before the start of World War II.
Fortunately for America, her economic growth was such that even the incredible expansion of her government could not keep pace with it, thus mitigating somewhat the sclerotic effects of socialism on an economy. A more accurate picture of the metastasizing federal cancer can be seen in the comparison of government spending with population growth. The chart below shows how federal spending per capita has increased 250 times over the last 73 years. This figure does not correct for inflation – nor should it – since inflation is caused by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve printing money and is a form of government confiscation in its own right.
Nor is government spending the only statistical evidence that America has devolved into a quasi-socialist state. Over 703 million acres of American land are not private property of any kind, but are owned collectively by the federal government. This vast acreage amounts to 31.1 percent of the United States. With the addition of land to which title is held by state governments, the total amount of American land owned communally is 39.8 percent. This shows that significant progress has been made toward the communist goal of abolishing private ownership of land, at least in America.
But I do not believe that such progress is predestined. I do not believe in the inexorable hand of History. I do not believe in the inevitability of the United Socialist States of America anymore than I believe in the inevitability of the Napoleonic empire, the Third Reich or world revolution.
The argument that “we can’t go back” is nothing more than a propagandistic lie. What goes up not only can come down, it will come down. Even if the socialist structure is constructed in its entirety, it will one day collapse of its own self-defeating contradictions. It would be much, much better, though, if it is never allowed to be completed in the first place.
Note: Data sources used were CIA World Factbook 1990, 2002; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Summary Of Receipts, Outlays, And Surpluses Or Deficits (-) As Percentages Of GDP: 1930-2005” table 1.1, also table 1.3; U.S. Bureau of the Census; the Heritage Foundation; the National Wilderness Institute.