On Twitter yesterday, Glenn Greenwald made a tweet which prompted a small exchange between us:
Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald
The Right’s weirdness: assassinating citizens w/o due process (Yay, Freedom!)- bolstering private health care industry (socialist tyranny!)
He ended the exchange with:
@MarkStoval I know it is – but it’s not socialism
Lately many “conservative” opponents of Mr. Obama have indeed characterized this administration as socialist, or having strong socialist leanings. I differ with this characterization and so told Mr. Greenwald. I see he agrees with me that the “health care situation” is not “socialism” but I don’t know if he agrees that it is not capitalism either: he may be using that common, incorrect definition of capitalism that says it is the same as crony-capitalism, fascism, or corporatism.
Mr. Obama does not believe in free-markets, on the contrary, he has demonstrated his fundamental hostility towards the truly free market. But an honest examination of his policies and actions in office reveals that he is a corporatist just like Mr. Bush who preceded him in office. Mr. Obama is very much a corporatist and in many ways that can be more insidious than being an outright socialist.
Socialism has always been defined as government ownership of the means of production; it is a system where the government directly owns and manages businesses. Corporatism is different. It is a system where businesses are nominally privately owned and controlled but are, in fact, controlled by the government. In a Corporatist State we see government officials acting in collusion with their favored corporate interests to put polices in place that give those interests a highly favored position, if not a near monopoly position. This is obviously to the detriment of both competitors and the general public.
A careful examination of the “health care” policies of the Obama administration shows the practice of corporatism. As an example the health care bill that the SCOTUS just ruled constitutional does not establish a Canadian-style government-run single-payer health care system. Instead, it relies on mandates forcing every American to purchase private health insurance or to pay a fine which is now called a “tax” or a “penalty” depending on who in government is talking. Large insurance and pharmaceutical companies were enthusiastic supporters of this new legislation because they knew that they would be enriched by Obamacare. To call the President a corporatist and his health care bill “crony-Capitalism” is a more accurate description of the President’s agenda and actions than to call it “socialist”.
To call Obama a “socialist” allows the President and his defenders room to easily deflect that charge by pointing out that the historical meaning of socialism is government ownership of industry and everyone can see that the medical industry is still remains nominally in private hands. (please notice the word “nominally”)
We need to understand that though the current system is not pure socialism, neither is it free-market (laissez-faire) since government controls the private sector through taxes, regulations, and subsidies. Future Statists from the collectivist left to the fascist right will be looking to blame the “free market” when this boondoggle fails as it most assuredly will. We must not allow the disastrous results of corporatism to be ascribed incorrectly to free market capitalism. Government is the problem; it can never be the solution.