Welcome to the Curious Socialist

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Yesterday’s “Daily Article” on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, by economist and Abe-Lincoln-hater Thomas DiLorenzo, is titled “TIME for Socialism.” It begins:

Anyone who is still wondering why the so-called “mainstream media” was so hostile toward Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination will find an answer in the June 2 issue of Time magazine. Congressman Paul is a deeply educated student of economics, among other things, and an unabashed advocate of economic freedom and limited constitutional government; Time magazine is staffed by socialist ideologues who display little or no evidence of ever having studied economics at all.

The second paragraph of “How the Next President Should Fix the U.S. Economy,” by one Justin Fox, explains the real problem as Time sees it: Americans enjoy too much economic freedom. The natural solution, therefore, is to strip them of their freedom with higher taxes, more regulations, and greater regimentation of their lives. The cause of all of today’s economic problems, says Time, is of course Ronald Reagan, who supposedly cut taxes, went about “slashing regulation,” and preached “the gospel that individual Americans were better suited to make economic decisions than bureaucrats in Washington were.” Where on earth did Americans ever get such a crazy idea? …

It goes on in that vein. The critique is something of a misreading of my article, given that I was generally praising Reagan’s actions as appropriate responses to the economic difficulties of 1980, but wondering if maybe today’s economic questions demand different answers.

But it’s absolutely true that, by the standards of Ludwig von Mises, I am a socialist ideologue. So was Milton Friedman. Here’s an excerpt from the book Two Lucky People in which Friedman describes the goings-on at the first meeting of the libertarian Mont Pelerin Society:

[O]ur sessions were marked by vigorous controversy over such issues as the role of religion and moral values in making possible and preserving a free society; the role of trade unions, and the appropriateness of government action to affect the distribution of income. I particularly remember a discussion of this issue, in the middle of which Ludwig von Mises stood up, announced to the assembly “You’re all a bunch of socialists,” and stomped out of the room, an assembly that contained not a single person who, even by the loosest standards, could be called a socialist.

Another interesting thing about DiLorenzo’s piece is that it ends by concluding that my article’s prescriptions would lead to the “Sweden-ization of America.” Now I don’t think Americans would–or should–ever put up with Swedish levels of taxes or regulation. But after working through some big difficulties in the 1980s and early 1990s, Sweden has become–along with Denmarkone of the world’s great economic success stories. Horrors! Wouldn’t want that to happen here!

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