One element of moral bankruptcy is intellectual bankruptcy, to wit, belief in the effectiveness of statism and collectivism. This is one reason why I counsel kids who are thinking of going to college (unless it's to acquire very specific knowledge in science, engineering, medicine or the like) to do something more intelligent with their time and money. The higher education system is totally controlled and populated by morally and intellectually bankrupt instructors who are believers in socialism.
It's said Obama is a socialist. I don't doubt he's sympathetic to socialism but, to be true to the meanings of words, he's a fascist.
Let's define these terms and two others with a little help from Karl Marx. His recommended solutions are part of the world's problems, but his analysis of conditions was often quite astute. As Marx pointed out, political systems are all about the ownership and control of goods, whether consumer goods (houses, cars, clothes, toothbrushes) or capital goods (farms, factories and other means of production). Although he didn't break it down this way, his analysis gives us four possible economic systems – communism, socialism, fascism and capitalism.
A communist advocates state ownership and control of all the means of production and all consumer goods. That's a practical impossibility, of course, even in the most primitive aboriginal bands. The idea is even more absurd and preposterous for an industrial society. But that doesn't keep professors and politicians from pretending that it's a good idea, even if just in theory.
A socialist advocates state ownership of society's means of production but accepts private ownership (with state control) of consumer goods. While it's a big improvement over communism, socialism is also completely impractical and always either collapses or evolves into fascism. North Korea and (now to a lesser degree) Cuba are the world's only socialist states.
A fascist advocates nominal private ownership of both the means of production and consumer goods – but with strong state control over both. In other words, you can own mines, farms, and factories – but the state reserves the right to tax, regulate or even expropriate them. Fascism has nothing to do with jackboots and black uniforms; you can have those in communist and socialist states as well. It has to do with a corporate state and a revolving door between business and government, with each protecting and enriching the other. Fascism can be maintained for a long time but necessarily entails all the problems we now face. Almost all the world's states are fascist today; they differ only in degree and detail.
A capitalist advocates the private ownership of everything. An extreme capitalist may be an anarchist, who believes that anything people need or want should be, and would be, provided by entrepreneurs at a profit.
No country provides a perfect example of any of these four arrangements. But every government promotes one or the other as a theoretical ideal. In most places, certainly including the US, the "mixed economy" is put forward as a good thing; the "mixed economy" is a polite way of describing fascism. Nobody wants to call fascism by its name today because of its strong association with Hitler's "National Socialists." In any event, look and analyze closely before you use these words and attach any of the four tags to any country.
In that light, it's funny how the Chinese are still referred to as communists, even though communism was tried only briefly, under Mao. In fact, up to the mid-'80s, China was a socialist state. Now it's a fascist state. China's Communist Party? It's just a scam enabling its members to live high off the hog.
Sweden is usually referred to as socialist, but it's always been a fascist country. All of its means of production – businesses, factories, farms, mines and so forth – have always been privately owned but heavily taxed and regulated. The presence of lots of "free" welfare benefits is incidental. People often conflate a welfare state with socialism, but they're two different things. Socialist states necessarily become too poor to provide any welfare. Fascist states can better afford it and usually offer some in order to help justify the government's costly and annoying depredations.
There is no truly capitalist state in the world today; perhaps Hong Kong comes closest (although not very close).The early US came quite close in some regards. In fact, the West as a whole was quite free in the century from the fall of Napoleon in 1815 to the start of World War 1 in 1914. Almost everywhere taxes were low and regulations few; there was no inflation because gold was currency everywhere; there were almost no serious wars and passports hardly existed, which enabled most anyone to travel almost anywhere without permission. It's no accident that, in percentage terms, the 19th century saw far greater and wider advances in prosperity than any time before or since. Capitalism is both natural and ideal – but, oddly, it doesn't exist anywhere. Why not? I'll explore that shortly.
One sign of intellectual bankruptcy in the US is the absence of serious discussion about capitalism (except in small, specialized forums). Nearly all political debate is about how to fine-tune a fascist system to best suit those who benefit from it – or who think they do. Almost everyone in the public eye is a political statist and an economic collectivist. Those who start attacking the heart of the matter, like Andrew Napolitano or even Pat Buchanan, are quickly evicted from their bully pulpits.
What made America unique was its foundation in a philosophy of freedom. That word, however, has become so corrupted that the younger Bush was able to use it two dozen times in some of his early speeches without being laughed off the stage or targeted with shoes and rotten vegetables. Perversely but predictably, Bush is today presented in the mainstream media as a free-marketeer, in order to pin blame for the current depression on the free market. This is as much of a hoax as calling Hoover a supporter of the free market. One is forced to acknowledge a bit of respect for Obama's intellectual honesty, in that he almost never speaks of "freedom" or "liberty."
But pointing out the sad state of the world today serves little purpose. It's rare that an intellectual argument changes anyone's mind. Opinions are mostly a matter of psychology. But it's almost impossible to change someone's psychology and the attitude with which he views the world, simply by presenting facts and arguments. A person's beliefs have much more to do with his character and spiritual essence than anything else.