L. Neil Smith's
Number 310, March 13, 2005

"Words and Guns"

The Thievery Society
by Todd Andrew Barnett

Special to TLE

Politicians are something else. When power attracts them like a magnet attracting metal, they don't hesitate to seize it—not even for a moment's notice. Once they attain the reins of that power, they impose a gamut of statist machinations upon the American people the likes of which no one has ever seen in the history of American politics. And then before you are aware of it, they will employ cute buzzwords that are merely crafted to be of paramount importance (when it really isn't) on one hand, but, on the other, are cleverly designed to disguise what they truly mean. When they use words like "freedom," "liberation," and "ownership," what they truly mean is "control," "slavery," and "thievery." President Bush's much-touted, much-heralded "ownership society"—a state-created machination devised and utilized to give "ownership" to you in the form of a nationally coerced savings program masquerading as private accounts while diverting funds from an aging nationally socialized retirement program, thus only guaranteeing a meager income—is an obvious epitome of said buzzwords.

Interestingly enough the phrase has already brought forth thoughts of old terms like "Great" and "New" (which were cleverly used to coin liberal phrases such as "the New Deal" and "the Great Society"). Whether or not one wants to believe it, the new phrase, catching "oohs" and "aahs" from the collectivistic rightist cheerleaders at the Republican National Convention in New York on August 30, 2004, has become the hallmark of the president's Social Security reform. In his nomination speech delivered before the GOP delegates, Bush stated:

"In an ownership society, more people will own their health plans and have the confidence of owning a piece of their retirement. We will always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers. With the huge Baby Boom generation approaching retirement, many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it. We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account -- a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away."

On the subject of home ownership, Bush declared:

"Thanks to our policies, homeownership in America is at an all-time high. Tonight we set a new goal: seven million more affordable homes in the next 10 years so more American families will be able to open the door and say 'Welcome to my home.'"

Unsurprisingly, party loyalists and their insipid sycophants clapped when Bush asserted that his newly-christened boondoggle would bring "security, and dignity and independence." How any conservative collectivist can stomach that amount of rhetoric peppered with loads of social engineering is beyond me.

Liberal Democrats, by and large, pooh-poohed the event, slapping invective after invective on the program with the help of their leftist allies, pundits, and celebrities. They believe that Bush's scheme will undermine—possibly bankrupt—the socialist Social Security system and jeopardize benefits for later generations. (This is, after all, a system that they want to preserve for posterity—a misguided position, considering that it doesn't take into account that the program has already headed for insolvency, which will undoubtedly transpire by 2029.)

One curiously wonders how they felt about the speech he gave at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota a month before the convention in which he said, "The reason why I continue to promote an ownership society in America is because I understand if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of the United States of America."

Apparently, the intent of the term is to make you believe that it can signify anything in any form: everything, in between of something, or nothing at all. Wall Street Journal columnist George Malloan erroneously—and unbelievably—thinks that the buzzword merely suggests a goal "to protect the sanctity of private property." Yeah, right. Tech Central Station writer Stephen Bainbridge, in a misguided fashion, is convinced that it calls for a national consumption tax that would supposedly "reward investment" and allegedly "eliminate the distorting effects of the current system"—a way for the government to own pieces of what you buy. However, Business Week quotes supply-side economist Bruce Bartlett when he correctly says that the label is "all retail politics, no vision," further adding, "They said, 'Geez, we've got this hodgepodge of things, we've got to sell them.'"

The point of the labeling effort is to spark strong interest in private savings and investments in lieu of allocating part or all of one's tax money into the ailing Social Security scheme. However, many are ignoring the fact that this is a well-coordinated attempt to squash the last surviving remnants of a free market private savings system by creating a GOP-endorsed, protected, and controlled state cartel that would have an incentive in deciding how the monies you invest into the so-called private retirement accounts would be spent and used—all at the whim of a federal bureaucrat.

The long and short of it is that this isn't a "pro-free market" or "pro-free enterprise" machination that many pro-Bush libertarians like Stephen Moore and libertarian think tanks like the CATO Institute would like you to believe. It's a government-subsidized, pro-welfare state scam concocted by the statists in the GOP camp, favoring the eventual destruction of the true private financial sector by converting it into a state-sanctioned mechanism while sporting the "pro-free market," "pro-free enterprise" disguise. In other words, economic fascism at its worst!

Let's understand that no one is opposed to ownership. You may be an advocate of private ownership. Your best friend, in contrast, may be an advocate of public ownership. Someone else may support individual or collective ownership. Try asking a Marxist about his view on the concept and he'll tell you that he's not opposed to ownership, but he merely supports "social ownership" (whatever that means). Ask a Trotskyite where he stands on the issue, and he'll tell you that he supports having the U.S. owning all the countries on his hit list. If you ask a criminal whether he believes in ownership, he'll tell you that he only stands for stealing as a form of ownership.

The left, of course, is partially correct in opposing the "privatization" of Social Security. Yes, this so-called move to give "ownership" of Social Security funds (which don't exist, by the way) by allowing the federal government to funnel the money into stocks (while incurring Social Security liabilities by creating trillions in new debt) is duplicitous in every way. But they fail to see what this effort will truly do. They don't understand that, because of the fact that it's a financially unviable (and inherently flawed) plot that will result in the eradication of true economic savings and growth, it avoids the real solution to the program's fiscally impending doom: slash the liabilities and wipe out the program.

A libertarian is one who believes that an individual owns and governs himself, whereas a collectivist is one who believes that we should govern and own each other. An advocate of slavery, national service, or conscription would have us believe that people can and must be owned by a collective group of individuals in uniform or the government. Thus, the merit of ownership is not the subject of dispute here.

Like it or not, Bush's label should be called for what it is: the thievery society. It has nothing to do with creating a true society that depends on wealth creation and savings. It has everything to do with redistributing wealth from those who rightfully reaped the fruits of their labor to those who didn't, even if it's done for the "moral good" of society.

That's not "independence" and "freedom" that Bush and his Republican charlatans are trying to advance. That's a recipe for economic fascism—government control, regulation, and subsidization of private industry in the guise of "free enterprise." If anything, the president's supporters are living in a fantasyland.

And what a fantasyland it is!

© 2005 by Todd Andrew Barnett. All Rights Reserved. Permission to reprint any portion of or the entire article is hereby granted, provided that the author's name and credentials are included.


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