Rebuttal to Walter Williams' "Socialism is Evil"

 by image - August 1, 2004

Walter Williams is a "conservative" syndicated columnist, who promotes "Libertarian" ideology. I was somewhat surprised however when I saw his recent article, Socialism is Evil, in my local newspaper. Though my reply to his article is too long to make it as a "letter to the editor", I did e-mail him in rebuttal to his claims.

 Here is a link to Williams' "Socialism is Evil" article:

 Walter E. Williams- Socialism is evil 

 My letter to Walter, in revised form:

Walter, Walter, you are really stretching these days.

Must you really break down to using such childish terms as "evil" to describe modern economic systems?

First let me go into a little American economic history; this will be brief and simplified.

Vast open "unclaimed" wilderness. Millions of natives killed, enslaved, or driven from their land. Millions of Africans enslaved for hundreds of years and bred in captivity like animals, constituting one of the largest slave systems in the history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land freely "given" to white settlers by the American government (after it was "acquired" from the natives).

A nation emerges out of a newly settled land of virtually untapped resources where there was so much "unclaimed" property that almost every white person was able to acquire some for free or nearly free. America was born out of perhaps the single largest redistribution of property in the history of mankind. 100% of America was "redistributed".

At the turn of the 20th century the Industrial Revolution takes root in America and a system of ownership of the means of production by a very few emerges. Prostitution, child labor, poverty, homelessness, and abandonment of the elderly all increase, as does the suicide rate. Lynching of blacks to "keep them in their place" continued as well.

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With almost all of the wealth of the nation owned by a handful of people, progressive income taxation and trust busting began. Teddy Roosevelt led the charge by stating:

"…the National Government should impose a graduated inheritance tax, and, if possible, a graduated income tax. The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. Not only should he recognize this obligation in the way he leads his daily life and in the way he earns and spends his money, but it should also be recognized by the way in which he pays for the protection the State gives him." - Theodore Roosevelt 1906

When federal income taxation was implemented by Woodrow Wilson it fell almost entirely on the wealthiest Americans. This, coupled with the post World War One economic boom (caused by massive American profiteering from the war), led to somewhat of a subsiding of class antagonisms, while still providing the money needed to run a modernizing country.

But of course this all came to an end with the Great Depression.

Government spending, yadda yadda, WWII comes and goes and low and behold the immediate post war era sees the largest peace time increase in government spending and redistribution of wealth to help poor and working class families in American history. The majority of the recipients of government assistance during the 1940s and 1950s were poor white families.

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(Notice that the highest peace time spending took place under Reagan and Bush Sr.)

Guess what? While the American government was giving aid to millions of families during the 1950s and 1960s with taxes raised almost exclusively from the wealthy through a highly graduated income tax, do you know what happened?

The large American middle class was born for the first time in American history.

Do you understand that the most "socialistic" (as you describe it) time in American history was the 1950s? By the 1960s much aid was being given to minority families as well, and guess what? The programs do largely work.

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(Notice the decrease in poverty rates under Democratic Presidents and rises under Republican)

Boy, America must be some kind of "evil" place, just imagine: wealthy people (who have acquired their fortunes by making profits from the work of other people or from simply owning claim to natural resources, such a oil (which wasn't made or produced by that person and which that person may have never even labored to acquire or bring to market)) in America (where the "poor", "oppressed", rich people paid high taxes during the 1950s and 1960s to help to build the most stable middle class in American history) are FORCED to pay for the maintenance of the social infrastructure that has enabled them to acquire their fortunes! Oh the outrage!!

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(Prior to 1941 virtually all income taxes were paid by the wealthiest 5% of Americans)

Keep in mind that during the 1950s virtually all of the wealthy were white people so make sure that in the future you point out that in reality it was not the poor blacks, who were excluded from politics, employment and education during the 50s, but rather the POOR RICH WHITE MEN, who were sadly oppressed by the 98% tax bracket who really suffered.

Forget the fact that some people are born (or should I say placed by God) into wealthy families with every advantage and some people are born (or should I say placed by God) into poverty, without proper medical care, without proper nutrition, without the type of environment that leads to a healthy and productive development.

Let's just forget that for a second, because after all, this MUST be all part of "God's plan", and "Lord knows" that "just because you are born poor doesn't mean you don't have all the exact same opportunities that a rich baby has", or perhaps you can say, "being rich has its own problems and challenges as well".

But let's just forget that, because we all know that just because you can't choose your parents, "God" is doing it for you, and when he chooses to give the blessing of motherhood to a poor single mother, regardless of how bad or irresponsible the parents may or may not be, the child has every equal opportunity to be successful just like the rest of us. The last thing that a child born into poverty needs is the big bad EVIL government coming along and trying to feed it or make sure that it has a place to live as opposed to living on the streets or pay for special school programs to try and makeup for the lack of quality care that it gets at home, THAT is just down right EVIL. Only Satan could conjure up such hideousness!

So as I said, let's forget that whole aspect of it altogether and just look purely at the economics of the situation and what this private property business is all about.

Let's just go ahead and "imagine" how great our country would be without these evil programs (that helped to build the American middle class).

In order to imagine America without these programs we can simply look at America before the programs (sort of).

The "evil" of Social Security for example:

Before this evil program was implemented there was a growing number of elderly going homeless, committing suicide, and dying of starvation in America. The true evil of this program is that it interfered with "God's plan", which is to weed out the weak and the sick to keep the pack lean and productive correct? Or was that part of Darwin's theory about evolution, I forget?

Now I have to wonder, what was society like BEFORE the advent of modern capitalism and the Industrial Revolution?

Well, if you take the older communal societies, (naturally socialistic that is) people would live with their families, often in shared communal neighborhoods. The community would pitch in to help care for and feed the elderly and people often lived with their parents their whole lives or at least brought their parents back into their homes when they were too old to care for themselves.

Even going more primitive, in tribal cultures the young productive members of society would WORK to create extra resources, such as food, that were then brought home to GIVE to the elderly. Hmm... this is starting to stink of socialism!

Well, let's look at Social Security today, we have the younger members of society working and some of that labor produces resources that are given the elderly to care for them. Boy that's evil. After all, the young folks don't owe anything to the elderly do they? Hell, they just came before and helped to build his great nation of ours and make the lives of the young possible. It's EVIL to think that the young, whose lives are only made possible by the hard work of those who came before them, should help to care for the elderly. That's just down right Satanic!

But wait, there's more, we still haven't fully imagined America without aid for the poor and the elderly.

Let's see, without these programs we could expect things to be similar to the way they were in the 1930s before their implementation, could we not? Actually it would be worse because in the 1920s and 30s about 25% - 30% of Americans were farmers. Now only about 1% of Americans are farmers, which means that only about 1% of Americans could be self-sufficient (probably less since most farms today are factory farms, not family farms).

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Of course, capitalism and industrialization are the reasons why Americans as individuals can no longer be self sufficient like they used to be. So, let's imagine a modern America without welfare and Social Security.

Well, you can bet that crime would increase massively (real crime that is, not the fake so-called crime of taxation, but actual muggings, armed robbery, extortion, sales of drugs, prostitution, etc). The number of homeless would go up; that surely wouldn't be good for business would it? And this seems to be where most conservatives get confused, because you fail to recognize that the Welfare State is a product of capitalist society and that the purpose of the Welfare State is to benefit the wealthy by controlling the poor by keeping them placated instead of revolutionary like they were in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century.

I may be figuring this whole thing out though. You see the number of people in prison in America has exploded over the past 20 years, and of course the majority of those behind bars are black Americans. In some states people permanently lose their right to vote after having been convicted of a federal crime. America now has the highest prison population in the world and it's still growing. If funding for programs such as Social Security and Welfare programs were removed the American Prison-Industrial Complex could continue to expand at a rapid rate, producing vast profits for the growing privately-owned prison systems (which still require taxes to fund), a business that makes billions of dollars a year. By the way, I'm sure you know that lobbyists for private prison corporations also lobby law makers for harsher penalties and longer sentences, but of course that's just good business. It is the American way right?

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13% of adult African American males have permanently lost their right to vote due to laws that prevent people with federal convictions from voting.

But hey, the way that the prison system has been ramping up lately I'm sure it can take a few million more inmates. After all that might help reduce the "unemployment rate".

If you could just eliminate all this "evil" "redistribution of wealth" (because after all, redistribution of wealth from the working class to the wealthy through ownership of rights to value created by workers is God's will, right?) you can help to bring class warfare to a point and bring America closer to a new revolution. Way to go Walter, way to go.

Yours truly

P.S. Walter, are you opposed to the Stock Market too (a system that by definition takes value from workers and redistributes it to the wealthy)? Are you opposed to banking and the charging of interest, because after all according to the Bible God said:

Exodus 22
24   And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
25 If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.

Luke 18
21   And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
22   Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Leviticus 25
35  'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.
36
Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you.
37
You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.

Ezekiel 18
13 He lends at usury and takes excessive interest.
Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head.

Strangely it seems that  your God may be a socialist! If you are going to try to use the Bible to oppose social assistance programs, perhaps you had better actually read it first, and then you should direct your efforts against the very things that create the need for such programs in the first place, ya know, like taxing the poor, low wages (the minimum wage is now lower than it was in 1950 when adjusted for inflation), discrimination, unequal funding of schools in low income areas, excessive corporate profits, corporations that pay 25 cents an hour to Chinese workers instead of hiring Americans who are looking for jobs, a school system that is behind the schools of Europe and Asia, etc. Since profits are the result of paying workers less than the value that they create through their labor, who exactly is stealing from who? As I said, the Welfare State is simply an enabling tool for capitalism. Without it you have to change the fundamentals of the system, which means eliminating the root causes of these problems, which means eliminating capitalism itself. So it's your choice Walter, the Welfare State or capitalism; which one do you want to eliminate?

Additional Note - September 13, 2004:

P.P.S. One of the most interesting things about "conservative" voters who oppose government assistance programs is that the conservative states are the largest recipients of government assistance. In fact, the real redistribution of wealth in America is taking place from the liberal states to the conservative states. Government programs such as the Rural Electrification Project, the Federal Highway System, and farm subsidies have disproportionately benefited conservative rural America, projects paid for disproportionately by the liberal urban economic centers. "Conservative" America is actually the largest recipient of redistributed wealth in America. As the table below shows, there is a net flow of money from "Democratic" states to "Republican" states via federal spending. 

The first step Walter, is for all the poor conservative states to stop "stealing" from the wealthy liberal states. 

States' Balance of Payments with Washington, 2001 (dollars in millions)

Republican vs. Democratic States During 2004 Presidential Election
  Taxes Paid Spending Received Surplus/Deficit
California $264,344 $206,245 -$58,099
New York $166,554 $126,990 -$39,564
Illinois $96,686 $71,520 -$25,166
New Jersey $75,115 $51,657 -$23,458
Texas $134,809 $121,571 -$13,238
Michigan $67,886 $56,185 -$11,701
Massachusetts $59,779 $48,188 -$11,591
Connecticut $36,416 $25,351 -$11,065
Washington $49,651 $40,233 -$9,418
Minnesota $36,519 $27,384 -$9,135
Colorado* $33,898 $26,618 -$7,280
Wisconsin $34,609 $28,966 -$5,643
Nevada* $15,014 $10,631 -$4,383
New Hampshire $10,315 $7,006 -$3,309
Florida* $110,294 $107,395 -$2,899
Ohio* $69,127 $66,341 -$2,786
Indiana $36,733 $34,630 -$2,103
Oregon $21,241 $19,826 -$1,415
Georgia $52,225 $50,822 -$1,403
Delaware $5,750 $4,632 -$1,118
North Carolina $47,579 $47,748 $169
Wyoming $3,583 $3,824 $241
Vermont $3,731 $3,984 $253
Rhode Island $6,990 $7,458 $468
Utah $11,358 $12,139 $781
Nebraska $10,415 $11,469 $1,054
Idaho $6,683 $7,977 $1,294
Kansas $16,503 $17,806 $1,303
Maine $6,904 $8,643 $1,739
Iowa $16,725 $18,523 $1,798
South Dakota $4,293 $6,095 $1,802
Pennsylvania $83,052 $84,880 $1,828
Arizona $30,057 $32,392 $2,335
Alaska $4,200 $6,685 $2,485
Montana $4,359 $6,910 $2,551
North Dakota $3,288 $6,169 $2,881
Hawaii $6,903 $10,185 $3,282
Arkansas $12,476 $17,469 $4,993
South Carolina $20,799 $26,070 $5,271
West Virginia $7,793 $13,064 $5,271
Tennessee $33,225 $38,986 $5,761
Kentucky $20,509 $27,210 $6,701
Oklahoma $16,667 $23,790 $7,123
Missouri $33,718 $41,452 $7,734
Louisiana $21,371 $29,249 $7,878
New Mexico* $8,487 $17,156 $8,669
Mississippi $12,094 $21,023 $8,929
Maryland $41,779 $50,966 $9,187
Alabama $22,437 $33,205 $10,768
Virginia $52,858 $74,802 $21,944
Total Account Balance for Red States $85,644,000,000
Total Account Balance for Blue States -$193,925,000,000
* Red States won by only 5% of the vote or less

Data complied from:
New York's Balance of Payments with Washington - The Public Policy Institute
Election 2000 maps
Winners and Losers in the Tax Game -- 12-18-2000

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