Is Obama A Socialist?

May 1, 2010

There are numerous posters and signs around proclaiming that calling President Obama a Socialist.  I recently had an interesting conversation about the nature of socialism and the validity of people calling Obama a Socialist.  Ron Paul has also recently gotten into the conversation and debate concerning the question is Obama a Socialist.

To consider the question, one needs to understand what is a socialist or socialism.  According to Wikipedia “Socialism is a political philosophy that encompasses various theories of economic organization based on either public or direct worker ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources”.  Wikipedia adds “Socialists generally share the view that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and derives its wealth through a system of exploitation.  This in turn creates an unequal society, that fails to provide equal opportunities for everyone to maximize their potential, and does not utilize technology and resources to their maximum potential nor in the interests of the public”.

The argument from people claiming that Obama is not a Socialist is that under the Obama administration, there is still private ownership over the means of production.  Many people go on to claim that Obama is really a Corporatist.  Recently, Ron Paul argued that Obama is not a Socialist, but rather a Corporatist.

According to Merriam Webster, Corporatism is “the organization of a society into industrial and professional corporations serving as organs of political representation and exercising control over persons and activities within their jurisdiction”.  To paraphrase, the means of production are still owned privately, but the government exercises a great deal of control over the means of production.

The argument goes that since Obama did not take over the health care industry 100% in health care reform or provide a public option, he is not a Socialist and he fits more in the mold of a Corporatist.

However, the argument misses the mark.  Obama has been very open in stating that he favors a single payer health care system where the government runs the industry.  He believes that our economy is unfair and that one of America’s biggest faults is that our system doesn’t lead to the “social justice” that he believes is lacking in society. 

Obama has also taken over GM and ownership of the company is mostly shared between the Government and Unions.  The Credit Card reform puts strict limits on credit card companies even putting government oversight that will stifle innovation.  The pending financial reform would have the government decide when a company engages in behavior that is “too risky” and enables the government to step in an take over companies that the government deems to not be well run.

Rather than get bogged down in the debate on the various degrees of policies that make Obama a Socialist or a Corporatist, the underlying fact is that Obama is not a Capitalist and would prefer that there is a great degree of government involvement in the markets rather than support the free market system that has dominated the American system since the founding of the country.

America became an economic super power by embracing free market principles for the majority of the history of the country.  Problems often arise in the American Capitalistic free market system when the government steps in to exercise some control of markets.  Obama decries banks that made bad loans, but fails to mention that the government requires banks to make a certain percentage of loans to high-risk low income borrowers if the bank wants to operate on the national level.  This isn’t to say that banks didn’t make stupid decisions that helped lead to the financial melt down of the last few years, but the government played a large role in pushing the behaviours that lead to the crisis.

It is not important to label President Obama a Socialist, Corporatist, Marxist, or Communist.  It is important to understand that President Obama does not believe that Capitalism and free markets are an important part of what makes America great, but rather something that needs to be changed to redistribute power and wealth.

Rather than be against Obama, Socialism, Marxism, or Communisim and argure which philosophy most accurately describes what Obama believes, we need to be for the American free market and the system of Capitalism that made America great.

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