Video: What exactly is socialism?

posted at 3:00 pm on May 17, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Good question, says NRO’s Kevin Williamson to Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie in this interview. People tend to confuse regulatory states with socialism, and vice versa. Williamson has just published The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, and Gillespie walks him through a few of the commonly-thought examples of American socialism. ObamaCare? In theory no, but in practice, yes. Public schools? You bet; government owns the means of production. How about Sweden, an example hailed and reviled on the Right and Left, depending on the argument? You’ll be surprised at Williamson’s answer:

What’s the real definition of socialism? How is it distinct from regulation and a social welfare state? Why are intellectuals still enamored of a system that brought us Stalin, Hitler, and more recently Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il? And what can the United States learn from Sweden about free enterprise and capitalism?

It can learn that the socialist model fails even where people have largely supported it. As Williamson notes, the Swedes have been moving towards free-market capitalism over the past several years, thanks to the dysfunction that socialism creates. It’s a good interview, and the book looks like a fun read.

In fact, maybe the people running General Motors should buy a few copies for themselves:

In late 2010, General Motors agreed to sponsor a propaganda film celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP made film titled (translated to English) “The Birth of a Party” or “The Great Achievement of Founding the Party” is set to premiere all over the Communist nation on June 15 reported China AutoWeb last September. The auto website adds:

“As the CCP marries totalitarianism with capitalism and fools the people with entertainment, only the “politically correct” or stupid–or those who pretend to be so–can get rich. And GM seems to know this very well. While Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo have all rushed to please China’s rich and powerful through physical enlargement (offering models of extended wheelbases), Cadillac gratifies the party orally, singing praises through a film.”

According to the above report, the film will discuss events that led up to the formation of the CCP following the 1917 Russian Revolution. When the movie first went into production GM signed up Cadillac as the “chief business partner” with the Communist Party, stating: “Cadillac whole-heartedly supports the making of the Birth of a Party.”

Or maybe they just like the business model:

The United States government currently own 33% of the GM company following the auto-bailouts of 2009, and GM CEO Daniel Akerson describes China, as the “key to [GM's] success.” (h/t The Detroit Bureau)


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Sadness all around.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:06 PM

If any of you call Obama a socialists, you are a racist –Gregory

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:07 PM

In socialism school lunches are provided.

In communisms they are not. Kids have to bring theri own.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:09 PM

The modern socialist dictator doesn’t have to own the factory. He can just own the board of directors.

RBMN on May 17, 2011 at 3:11 PM

Interesting that it’s Cadillac. I had heard that the Chinese are in love with Buicks since the last emperor drove one and it is considered the premier luxury brand in China.

Kafir on May 17, 2011 at 3:11 PM

GM can go $*#@ themselves. I will NEVER buy anything from them. EVER!!!

capejasmine on May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

GM lurves it some China…

…doing the jobs that Americans won’t do (without big-assed union bennies).

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 3:13 PM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom is a book written by the Austrian-born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) between 1940–1943, in which he ”warned of the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning,”[1] and in which he argues that the abandonment of individualism, liberalism, and freedom inevitably leads to socialist or fascist oppression and tyranny and the serfdom of the individual.

In February 1945 a picture-book version was published in Look magazine, later made into a pamphlet and distributed by General Motors. The book has been translated into approximately 20 languages and is dedicated to “The socialists of all parties.” The introduction to the 50th anniversary edition is written by Milton Friedman (another recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics 1976).

Change.

the_nile on May 17, 2011 at 3:13 PM

May Engels and Marx die again and again…may they be tortured in the abyss of hell.

I hat that picture on the book cover. That’s were all this blight origineated from, a rich looter…

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:13 PM

I believe it was someone at Hot Air who once commented that Socialism is Marxism without an AK47.

Shy Guy on May 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I can’t wait for the UAW’s big push to unionize GM’s future Chinese workers. That ought to be a hoot.

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM

The difference between socialism and communism is that at least communists are honest about who is in charge. This is especially evident when socialists speak of ‘public property’ that only the nomenklatura are allowed to control.

There is little difference between a welfare state and socialism, it is just a matter of degree.

Vashta.Nerada on May 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM

I believe it was someone at Hot Air who once commented that Socialism is Marxism without an AK47.

Shy Guy on May 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM

That was then.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Obama is Chavez.

Chavez is Che.

Che was Marx/Engels/Lenin.

Obama just lives like a Capitalist billionaire barron.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:17 PM

capejasmine on May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

+1000….And this coming from a guy who has owned nothing but Pontiac Grand Prixs. GM is dead to me.

search4truth on May 17, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:15 PM

It is looking more and more like it’s either time to fight like hell or mourn the country we have lost.

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Why Michele Bachmann is very likely running!!

Nearly Nobody on May 17, 2011 at 3:25 PM

The public provision of non-public goods and the use of central planning to get that done.

By that definition every government is socialist.

sharrukin on May 17, 2011 at 3:26 PM

if it walks, talks and acts like a socialist it’s a socialist.

unseen on May 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

I’m glad Kevin Williamson is on our side, along with so many other young & bright people.

HellCat on May 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Boy am I glad to see people outlining the difference between social welfare states and actual socialism.

ernesto on May 17, 2011 at 3:30 PM

I hate that picture on the book cover. That’s where all this blight origineated from, a rich looter…

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:35 PM

It is looking more and more like it’s either time to fight like hell or mourn the country we have lost.

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 3:22 PM

No mourning. One must stand for something.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:36 PM

Boy am I glad to see people outlining the difference between social welfare states and actual socialism.

ernesto on May 17, 2011 at 3:30 PM

For the fiscal insanity to stop, people will have to be shown that difference. The former is what’s killing us and people can’t see the forest for the trees.

Uncle Sams Nephew on May 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Boy am I glad to see people outlining the difference between social welfare states and actual socialism.

ernesto on May 17, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Your arrogance smells through the internet. Go get cleaned up.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM

So maybe someone here can tell me if this is true or not.

My husband said that someone told him that Ford didn’t show that they took bailout money because they borrowed money from GM but the money that GM loaned them was bailout money. So in essence, all US companies were bailed out, but GM and Chrysler were upfront about it.

I can’t find anything on this, but this kind of underhandedness is exactly how socialism works so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it is true.

Lily on May 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

The perfect lesson on socialism:

An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single
student, but had once failed an entire class.

The class (students) insisted that socialism worked since no one would be
poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said,
“OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.”

“All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so
no one will fail and no one will receive an A.”

After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The
students who had studied hard were upset while the students who had
studied very little were happy.

But, as the second test rolled around, the students who had studied little
studied even less and the ones who had studied hard decided that since
they couldn’t make an A, they also studied less. The second Test average
was a D.

No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average grade was an
F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling, all resulted
in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else.

To their great surprise all failed. The professor told them that socialism
would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater
their reward (capitalism) but when a government takes all the reward
away (socialism) no one will try or succeed.

stenwin77 on May 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

stenwin77 on May 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

They need more lessons like that in schools… and elsewhere.

That is the problem with socialism is that it takes away the incentive to succeed and punishes the hard working. A fundamental misunderstanding of human nature.

sharrukin on May 17, 2011 at 3:52 PM

The Audacity of Impertinence

WASHINGTON – Eight years as president is enough, thank you. At least that’s what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says President Barack Obama told her the other day.

Clinton said Tuesday that she and Obama often marvel over foreign despots who want to stay in power for decades.

She told a State Department forum that neither she nor Obama can understand leaders who refuse to transfer power and cling to office for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.

She says she and the president joke: “Oh, my gosh. Can you imagine?”

Clinton says Obama told her, “I’m going to win re-election, and then I’m done,” a remark that drew laughter from the audience.

U.S. presidents are constitutionally barred from a third term.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Your arrogance smells through the internet. Go get cleaned up.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM

He’s a sniveling little grievance-monger. It’s best to ignore the preening fool.

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Better yet, what is the difference between Progressivism and Socialism?

Chip on May 17, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2011 at 4:00 PM

One wonders if that was a case of the mask slipping of our Dear Reader.

Chip on May 17, 2011 at 4:06 PM

GM can go $*#@ themselves. I will NEVER buy anything from them. EVER!!!

capejasmine on May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM

Well, maybe if we were all good little sheeple we would all buy our cars from Government Motors instead of buying from all those foreign competitors and then GM wouldn’t have to turn to China and brown-nose them up to their eye sockets for their Bailout: Part Deux.

Nahhhh. I’m with you. If it is touched by the hand of iL Duce Barack Hussein Obama, it is toxic.

Anyone but GM!

FlatFoot on May 17, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Socialism is more than ownership of the means of production. Ownership implies direct control. So other means of direct control besides ownership should also be included in the definition of Socialism. Those other means of control can be direct influence on management decisions, strategic planning, business decisions, products offered, funding, budgeting, staffing, etc. In many sectors of the economy the government has direct influence and therefore cannot rebut the presumption of control. Of course the implication is: Socialism.

WordsMatter on May 17, 2011 at 4:10 PM

My favorite line in this is that socialism is “perpetual adolescence.”

Star20 on May 17, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Boy am I glad to see people outlining the difference between social welfare states and actual socialism.

What difference does it make? They both lead to the same evil ends.

single stack on May 17, 2011 at 4:20 PM

“Why are intellectuals still enamored of a system that brought us Stalin, Hitler, and more recently Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il…”

Because admitting that your whole ideological belief system is an utter and complete failure is not possible…

… when you still have morons who will believe your lies and vote Democrat.

Seven Percent Solution on May 17, 2011 at 4:23 PM

While Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volvo have all rushed to please China’s rich and powerful through physical enlargement (offering models of extended wheelbases), Cadillac gratifies the party orally, singing praises through a film.”

Very Freudian (emphasis mine).

I need a cigarette.

UltimateBob on May 17, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Good clip.

Murf76 on May 17, 2011 at 4:24 PM

I spend a fair amount of time in Sweden for business, and I can tell you that Socialism is sucking the very lifeblood out of the people.
The ones with good jobs have to deal with so much internal politics and glass ceilings, it’s actually quite disgusting. And those without good jobs, spend so much time only doing what they need to do to meet their “requirements”, that they have completely given up all thoughts of achievement, or in understanding they COULD be onto to bigger and better things.

You would have to spend some time there to understand probably, but the utter despair and dog eat dog internal politics, is difficult to witness.

KMC1 on May 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM

So other means of direct control besides ownership should also be included in the definition of Socialism. Those other means of control can be direct influence on management decisions, strategic planning, business decisions, products offered, funding, budgeting, staffing, etc. In many sectors of the economy the government has direct influence and therefore cannot rebut the presumption of control.

That’s fascism in practice, which is a variant of socialism.

single stack on May 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM

Just look at it through the lens of collectivism, and 99% of it falls into place.

Any scheme for societal provision that requires everyone to participate, positing a shared fate/responsibility/standard of benefit or systemic performance, is collectivist.

Socialism is a set that has a large area of intersection with collectivism. The overlap isn’t perfect even in theory, and in a sense, socialism is an offshoot of collectivism. It is certainly a political manifestation of it, in the sense of brokering pure collectivism for practical politics.

Collectivism is antithetical to individual rights.

Obamacare is collectivist by nature.

J.E. Dyer on May 17, 2011 at 4:29 PM

I spend a fair amount of time in Sweden for business, and I can tell you that Socialism is sucking the very lifeblood out of the people.
The ones with good jobs have to deal with so much internal politics and glass ceilings, it’s actually quite disgusting. And those without good jobs, spend so much time only doing what they need to do to meet their “requirements”, that they have completely given up all thoughts of achievement, or in understanding they COULD be onto to bigger and better things.

You would have to spend some time there to understand probably, but the utter despair and dog eat dog internal politics, is difficult to witness.

KMC1 on May 17, 2011 at 4:26 PM

This bozo in the video seems to think Sweden isn’t all that socialist. I think he has just redefined socialism to absurdity. His definition essentially means government itself, rather than government control (direct ownership or indirect control) of the means of production.

sharrukin on May 17, 2011 at 4:34 PM

The takeaway quote for me is this:

“You don’t have to take over the factory if you can just act as if you own the factory.”

single stack on May 17, 2011 at 4:37 PM

This bozo in the video seems to think Sweden isn’t all that socialist. I think he has just redefined socialism to absurdity. His definition essentially means government itself, rather than government control (direct ownership or indirect control) of the means of production.

sharrukin on May 17, 2011 at 4:34 PM

One thing about ALL Europeans, is that they are ALL arrogant, and EVERYONE of them believes their country does it “right”.
And EVERYTIME I go there, I have to hear about how wonderful Obozo is, how we have people just dropping dead in the middle of the streets because we “don’t have healthcare for the poor” and so many other media propogated lies, it’s hard to even get riled up anymore when I’m over.
Meanwhile, I see Swedes living in their miniscule apartments, getting drunk 4 nights a week, and waiting for the “little Saturdays” and their Welfare checks. It’s not their fault though, they can’t even imagine how good we have it here in the U.S., and that’s not a slander, it’s just true. The people themselves are really great people, it’s not their fault, it’s Socialism and the slow death that creates.

KMC1 on May 17, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Meanwhile, I see Swedes living in their miniscule apartments, getting drunk 4 nights a week, and waiting for the “little Saturdays” and their Welfare checks. It’s not their fault though, they can’t even imagine how good we have it here in the U.S., and that’s not a slander, it’s just true. The people themselves are really great people, it’s not their fault, it’s Socialism and the slow death that creates.

KMC1 on May 17, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Exactly. It’s utterly destructive to the will. We need a system that harnesses human nature and directs it towards accomplishing the common good as well as allowing individuals to advance themselves and keep the fruit of their own efforts.

Socialism cripples that impulse and in doing so shatters the community bonds that had previously existed. It isn’t a viable system long term.

sharrukin on May 17, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Had many GM cars/trucks over the years. Never again. You couldn’t give me one of their cars now. I even make it a point not to rent a GM or Chrysler product. Although Ford has done a great job of late, my next car won’t have the UAW label.

ClanDerson on May 17, 2011 at 4:51 PM

I love these guys, but why are they so funny-looking?

YehuditTX on May 17, 2011 at 4:53 PM

I posted this as a comment on the Nancy Pelosi article, but it seems appropriate here also. (Sorry if this double-posting offends anyone. That was not my intent.)

The four major problems with top down decision-making societies are that:

1) they tend to become more and more autocratic (as Friedrich A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, 1944, points out);

2) their decision-makers (even when trying to what’s best for all) cannot get things as right as bottom-up decision-making societies can (as Thomas Sowell has so elegantly explained);

3) the decision-makers generally tend to decide on the bases of their own interests rather than on society’s overall interests (as biosocial theory and behaviorism tell us);

4) unlike Marx’s assumptions that top-down benefits would flow “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” actually, they flow “from each according to his ability, to each according to his connections” (as Nancy Pelosi’s ObamaCare waivers prove).

And it is because of these problems that I think it would be best if all of us were small government, bottom-up decision-making conservatives.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on May 17, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Whenever Sweden is brought up I have to trot out this great video. I can’t resist.

visions on May 17, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Had many GM cars/trucks over the years. Never again. You couldn’t give me one of their cars now. I even make it a point not to rent a GM or Chrysler product. Although Ford has done a great job of late, my next car won’t have the UAW label.

ClanDerson on May 17, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Me too, no more UAW products, even Ford. I look for Toyota and Nissan made in right-to-work states.

Same for all products, yes to Publix, no to Kroger.

slickwillie2001 on May 17, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Whenever Sweden is brought up I have to trot out this great video. I can’t resist.

visions on May 17, 2011 at 4:56 PM

Worth watching.

hillbillyjim on May 17, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Whenever Sweden is brought up I have to trot out this great video. I can’t resist.

visions on May 17, 2011 at 4:56 PM

AWESOME Video!
There is an awakening happening in Europe, as things have gotten worse.
I just hope for their sakes, it’s not too late to start correcting some of the problems.

KMC1 on May 17, 2011 at 5:34 PM

We may only own 33%, but our third is more expensive than the other 67%.

Oleta on May 17, 2011 at 5:56 PM

We may only own 33%, but our third is more expensive than the other 67%.

Oleta on May 17, 2011 at 5:56 PM

Yep, and more expensive than we know, because the size of the feddle gummint’s holding is so large that it is illiquid. Investors rightly suspect that Government Motors is getting favorable treatment because of the owner, and that props up the stock price.

The special tax ruling (only for GM) that is worth $16B is also being ignored by the liberal media. More money down the rathole.

slickwillie2001 on May 17, 2011 at 6:40 PM

“All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so
no one will fail and no one will receive an A.”

stenwin77 on May 17, 2011 at 3:42 PM

The professor lied.

unclesmrgol on May 17, 2011 at 11:35 PM

Had many GM cars/trucks over the years. Never again. You couldn’t give me one of their cars now. I even make it a point not to rent a GM or Chrysler product. Although Ford has done a great job of late, my next car won’t have the UAW label.

ClanDerson on May 17, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Every vehicle I’ve ever owned has been GM, but as soon as my Denali dies for good, I’m done. My wife is from a Ford family, but I’d prefer to buy a non-union vehicle next. Toyota here I come.

Free Indeed on May 18, 2011 at 9:08 AM

Gold & Silver, Good vs. Evil and the Triumph of the Insanity Principle.

http://theeveningchronicle.blogspot.com/

LCT688 on May 18, 2011 at 9:30 AM

The professor lied.

unclesmrgol on May 17, 2011 at 11:35 PM

You lie. The Professor doesn’t grade on a curve.

Slowburn on May 18, 2011 at 11:17 AM