“socialism on the cost side”

One of my friends (again, someone who should know better), sent me a Newsmax email spiel for Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, by Peter Schweizer (no, I’m not going to provide a link, why give this expletive deleted any business). I was curious about what the blogosphere had to say about it, so I did a search… so far, several pages into a Google search result, I came up with a big fat zero in terms of comment by anyone other than a few right wing blogs and a moderate or two. Fortunately, Amazon.com and Publisher’s Weekly came to the rescue:

… many of his charges are egregiously hyperbolic, as when he suggests that Cornel West is a “segregationist” because he bought a home in a largely Caucasian suburb. Schweizer clearly knows the limitations of his argument, since he backpedals from many of his most damning statements in his closing remarks. For all its revelations, in the end, this volume reads less like a critique of liberal philosophy than a catalogue of ammunition for ad hominem bloggers.

That is all you need to know about the book. The real point of my posting, however, is this analytic gem from Robert E. Powell that I found in the comments. I took the title to this posting from it, click through to find out what Robert means by this (note: the bolding is mine).


[Schwizer]: “When a conservative fails to live up to his ideals, it’s bad for him (drug addiction, gambling); but when a Leftist fails to live up to his ideals, it’s GOOD for him (a bigger home, more financial security for his family).”

Now this is a great example of clever and deceptive logic. Why? Because there are two orthogonal axes of left vs. right: economic policy regarding markets and social policy regarding personal behavior. The economic policy spectrum goes from socialist to unregulated “free market.” The social policy spectrum goes from libertarian “anything goes” to authoritarian state-regulated behavior. Note that the statement above shifts from personal behavior axis to the economic axis, comparing apples to oranges.

The appropriate example is to make economic comparisons on both sides:

When the conservative lives up to his ideals, it’s good for him, but bad for everyone else. Conservatives call this “ideal,” “economic freedom” with low regulation and taxes. But his “freedom” carries a price for everyone else because it externalizes the costs of doing business onto the public. That’s redistribution of costs or, as I call it, “socialism on the cost side,” which is far more prevalent than any redistribution of income. For example, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) site estimates there’s a 5-year $1.6 trillion national backlog of infrastructure projects: developers have externalized these costs onto the public to pay for the infrastructure that allows them to sell their product. Plus, each year Americans spend 8 billion hours stuck in traffic with lost productivity costs of $43 – $168B. And then there’s the more obvious externality of pollution that causes economic damage, sickness, and death and public costs to clean up the mess. All of this is essentially theft.

On the economic front, when the liberal lives up to his ideals, it costs him; but it’s better for everyone. That’s because regulation prevents pollution and associated injury and death. And impact fees internalize the costs of growth so that “the market” can actually properly value choices.

On the social axis: When social conservatives live up to their ideals, there’s coercion: imposing their “values” on others. When social liberals live up to their ideals, there’s freedom: “live and let live.”


Brilliant, eh? This is a classic libertarian (“liberal” in the old sense of the word) analysis that deconstructs the fake “free market” ideology of the economically darwinian right, whose analysis never takes into account public goods, the common good of society as a whole, or externalities.

One thought on ““socialism on the cost side”

  1. Terriffic smackdown Thomas. I am frequently amazed at the twisted logic that wingnuts find persuasive. I wonder if Wampum could add a category for most tortured exercise in faulty logic?
    A special hubris category for O’Reilly would be good. On A Franken this morning I discovered that O’Reilly was taking personal credit for gasoline prices going down. According to Bill, oil execs and CEOs were so terrified of Bill’s cutting exposes that they saw the light and lowered prices.

Comments are closed.