by Victor Davis Hanson
Are There Really Socialists?
Two unconnected developments were announced this past week. President Obama is releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, despite the absence of a global embargo or horrific natural disaster — and despite a litany of assertions from 2008 that drilling and increased supply might only have a marginal effect on prices.
Like the sudden Afghan withdrawal announcement, the tapping is largely explained by political worries about reelection, as in increasing oil supplies to lower gas prices by election time — and thus avoiding campaign ads equating Obama’s opposition to drilling with high prices at the 2012 pump.
In a second piece of news, the Europeans seem to be winning far more plane orders than Boeing. One wonders whether that fact is remotely connected with airlines’ collective worries about obtaining orders on time and as specified — as in uncertainty whether Obama’s NLRB ruling  that attempted to shut down a nearly $1 billion new aircraft line in South Carolina translates into something like “who knows what those Americans are doing next?”
All this raises some questions. The strangest things about the global statist crack-up are socialists’ unhappiness with their socialist utopia, and their subsequent efforts to avoid the consequences of the very redistributive state that they themselves once so gladly crafted.
Greece is the locus classicus. Why are the Greeks protesting? Against whom? They obtained long ago the promised bloated sector and high taxes that all schemed to avoid. Their alma mater EU is hardly a demonic capitalist-run plutocracy, but a kindred socialist state. Is Greece an oil producer, industrial powerhouse, high-tech innovator — anything that might explain the sort of upscale life, modern infrastructure, legions of Mercedeses, and plush second homes that one began to see in Greece after 1985?
In truth, socialist Greeks are furious that they have impoverished themselves and demand that private money and far harder-working Germans bail them out — but why so, when socialism should not need outside capitalist-generated dollars? Could not the Greeks, Soviet style, set up a Cuban collective, and adjust their lifestyles (there goes Kolonaki culture) to their means, living in an opportunity of result utopia with a huge public sector, more siestas, high but ignored taxes — with a collective good riddance to those awful intrusive German bankers?
Here at home, Obama got his Obamacare. Why, then, did he grant hundreds of exemptions — many to northern California liberals? Should they instead not have lined up to volunteer to implement such a wonderful, long-needed entitlement?
He said energy would rightly sky-rocket, given his determination to curb fossil fuel production (cf. “bankrupt” coal companies). Why then is Obama concerned that gas hit $4; is not such a high price a welcomed retardant to burning hot fuels? The higher the gas prices, the more that subsidized wind and solar power, and electric cars are attractive, and thus the more we enjoy “sustainable” power. Right? Am I missing something about this desire within our grasp of “living within our means”?
Obama enjoyed big majorities in both houses of Congress; and on the campaign trail he had promised a de facto amnesty under the euphemism of “comprehensive immigration reform.” So why did he not grant such exemptions, and absorb 11, 15, or 20 million new “citizens” from Oaxaca? Is not that the point of amnesty, to welcome in new constituencies who will remember a benefactor at the polls?
We have heard that taxes, more taxes, and more taxes are the cure for the massive deficits, run up by out of control spending. OK, fine. But why then does multimillionaire John Kerry go to great lengths to avoid taxes on his yacht (why a luxury yacht when so many have so little?); why are redistributive overseers like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, Tom Daschle, Charles Rangel, and Hilda Solis either late or delinquent in paying the federal, state, or local governments what they owe? Were not high taxes on the upper incomes like themselves the point of it all? Should not they pay all they can to ensure that their brethren receive needed entitlements? I thought Bono would lead an international effort of multimillionaire rock stars to relocate to socialist states like Ireland or Greece, so that they might gladly pay 75% of their incomes (which at “some point” they had enough of) to help others closer to home. Why instead is he fleeing  to low-tax nations? Did not such socialists have enough money by now without undermining the socialist state?
This discussion is, of course, a belabored example of why and how socialists do not like socialism. Indeed, statism is not a desired outcome, but rather more a strategy for obtaining power or winning acclaim as one of the caring, by offering the narcotic of promising millions something free at the expense of others who must be seen as culpable and obligated to fund it — entitlements fueled by someone else’s money that enfeebled the state, but in the process extended power, influence, and money to a technocratic class of overseers who are exempt from the very system that they have advocated.
So what is socialism? It is a sort of modern version of Louis XV’s “Après moi, le déluge” – an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in which elite overseers, for the duration of their own lives, enjoy power, influence, and gratuities by implementing a system that destroys the sort of wealth for others that they depend upon for themselves.
Once the individual develops a dependency on food stamps, free medical care, subsidized housing, all sorts of disability or unemployment compensation, education credits, grants, and zero-interest loans — the entire American version of the European socialist breadbasket — then expectations for far more always keep rising, with a commensurate plethora of new justifications, usually in the realm of someone else having more than the recipient, always unjustly so. The endangered aid recipient is always seen as being pushed off a cliff in a wheel chair — therefore, “they” can afford to give “me” more; things are not “fair”; there is no “equality.”
Cutting back $2,500 a month in combined benefits and subsidies to $2300 a month is always seen as far more heartless and cruel than not in the first place giving someone without subsidies a mere $200 a month. For every dollar taken, two are demanded. And that creates a powerful constituency for whom the shrillest rhetoric of oppression is, well, never too shrill. Revolutions are not fueled by the very poor seeking their daily bread, but by those on entitlements that revolt at the thought of less to come. A rioting Greek today is far better off than his parents in 1973 when I first arrived in the country; and he would remain far better off even under an “austerity” plan. But his expectations have soared geometrically with each euro received, and he now has convinced himself that not to have more is to have nothing.
History is not kind to such collective states of mind. Pay an Athenian in the fifth century BC a subsidy to go to the theater; and in the fourth century BC he is demanding such pay to vote in the assembly as well — and there is not to be a third century free democratic polis. Extend to a Roman in the first century BC a small grain dole, and by the late first century AD he cannot live without a big dole, free entertainment in a huge new Coliseum, and disbursements of free coined money. Let the emperor Justinian try cutting back the bloated bureaucracy in sixth-century Constantinople and he wins the Nika riots that almost destroy a civilization from within even as it is beset by hosts of foreign enemies.
Social Security started out as a few dollars a month to the elderly, in their last two or three years of life, to ensure that they could feed themselves without the indignity of borrowing from their children. It has morphed into someone living well for twenty years on far more money taken than was put in — or a young family with a dyslexic child on “disability” for life. To cut any for the latter would cause far more riot and mayhem than not to have given the former anything in the first place — despite the fact that the 21st-century recipient was far less needy and got far more than the early 20th-century recipient who needed more and got less.
What Stops Socialism?
I fear bankruptcy alone.
Who are socialists?
There are none. Only technocratic overseers who wish to give someone else’s money to others as a means of winning capitalist-style lifestyles and power for themselves — in a penultimate cycle of unsustainable spending. When this latest attempt at statism is over, Barack Obama will enjoy a sort of Clintonism, a globe-trotting post officium lifestyle of multimillion dollar honoraria to fund a lifestyle analogous to “two Americas” John Edwards, “earth in the balance” Al Gore, a tax-exempt, yachting John Kerry, a revolving-door Citibank grandee like Peter Orszag, or a socialist Strauss-Kahn in $20,000 suits doling out billions to the “poor.”
That is just the way it has been and will always be.
Out West Update
I thank readers for security tips in the aftermath of an awful month of burglaries and thefts, and plan to implement many of them, since one cannot flee and give in to the tides of lawlessness. Two postscripts: this week Fresno was declared the car theft capital of the United States, and Selma, two miles away, was found to be a breeding ground (as in specimens found) for the West Nile Virus carrying mosquito. So I am wondering whether the steering wheel “club” of the 1980s is on its way back, along with DDT? (PPS: I remember my grandfather’s stories that there was out here malaria on occasion in the late 1890s before the advent of the Mosquito Abatement District and pesticides, and horse thievery was once epidemic: so are we post-moderns becoming pre-modern, as 2011 in decline resembling 1890 on the upswing?
Pajamas Media Flashback: Laughing at the contradictions of Socialism in America 
URLs in this post:
 NLRB ruling: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/boeing-vs-the-nlrb-a-naked-power-grab-by-radical-pro-unionists/
 fleeing: http://pajamasmedia.com/tatler/2011/06/25/u-pay-your-tax-2/
 Laughing at the contradictions of Socialism in America: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/laughing-at-the-contradictions-of-socialism-in-america/
©2011 Victor Davis Hanson