Economist Thomas Sowell is one of the most clear-thinking conservatives on the scene today. As such he often sees things others of us do not, and he has done it again. In a recent column for Townhall, Sowell questions the practice of calling President Obama a socialist. Sowell is not defending the president. Rather, he is making the point that conservatives—myself included–have been using the wrong term to describe Barack Obama. According to Sowell, President Obama is not a socialist, he is a fascist—an important distinction. I, for one, am willing to accept Sowell’s gentle slap on the wrist and admit that he is right.
Allow Dr. Sowell to explain the distinction in his own words: “It bothers me a little when conservatives call Barack Obama a ‘socialist.’ He certainly is an enemy of the free market, and wants politicians and bureaucrats to make the fundamental decisions about the economy. But that does not mean that he wants government ownership of the means of production, which has long been a standard definition of socialism. What President Obama has been pushing for…is more insidious: government control of the economy, while leaving ownership in private hands. That way, politicians get to call the shots but, when their bright ideas lead to disaster, they can always blame those who own businesses in the private sector.”
If the issue in question happened to be baseball rather than economics, we would say that President Obama wants to control the rules of the game, not own the team. Then, when his rules make it impossible for a given team to win, he can blame the team, not the rules. This, of course, is fascism and I should have seen it a long time ago. But then, when it comes to political commentary, Thomas Sowell is the master craftsman and I am the budding apprentice.
In retrospect, fascism is a much “wiser” economic philosophy for President Obama to adopt than socialism—at least in the scheming nefarious sense—because it is ideally suited to accommodate his propensity for deflecting blame. Having run out the string on blaming President Bush for the continuing failures of his administration, Barack Obama needs another approach, an approach that allows him to blame others for his failures without the restrictions of time, logic, or common sense. In fascism, he has found that approach.
Sowell uses the example of insurance companies to demonstrate how controlling the economy while leaving company ownership in private hands suits President Obama perfectly: “…the Obama administration can arbitrarily force insurance companies to cover the children of their customers until the children are 26 years old. Obviously, this creates favorable publicity for President Obama. But if this and other government edicts cause insurance premiums to rise, then that is something that can be blamed on the ‘greed’ of the insurance companies.”
In this example of government tampering with insurance policies, President Obama can falsely portray himself as a kindly father figure trying to help struggling Americans get by when, in reality, he knew all along that premiums would have to rise to accommodate the extended coverage. The president’s perfidy notwithstanding, nothing in life is free. Additional insurance coverage costs additional money in the same way that buying additional gasoline costs additional money.
I will give the last word in this discussion to the estimable Dr. Sowell: “Back in the 1920s…when fascism was a new political movement, it was widely—and correctly—regarded as being on the political left. Mussolini, the originator of fascism, was lionized by the left, both in Europe and America, during the 1920s. Even Hitler, who adopted fascist ideas in the 1920s, was seen by some, including W.E.B. DuBois, as a man of the left.”