Chris Mathews asked an interesting question of Hillary Clinton in an interview recently, and repeated it to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The question was: what's the difference between a Democrat and a Socialist? Neither could answer the question. It caught both totally off guard. I'd like to take a crack at that question, at the risk of alienating my Democratic friends. But hear me out.


Socialism is the economic system of a variety of political systems such as communism and fascism. Russia, China, and Cuba are examples of communist dictatorships with socialist economies. Nazi Germany was an example of a fascist dictatorship and a socialist economy. Most countries in Europe are various examples of democratic socialism where the economics of redistribution is practiced just like communist countries -- but by majority rule rather than by dictators. This is what Bernie Sanders means when he calls himself a democratic socialist.


All the systems above are statist in nature. Statism is defined as the “concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry". The one thing that all of the above economic systems have in common whether with elected leaders or dictators, is an economy that is controlled, regulated, and directed by the government. They are all socialistic by definition. In fact, there is not a country on earth today that doesn't impose some degree of socialism.


The essence of socialism is the redistribution of wealth and the control and regulation of businesses, money, and private property. America is the only nation in the world that explicitly rejected this economic philosophy, as it was based on individual rights, property rights, and the rule of law, all of which checked government intervention into the economy. It explicitly rejected the majority rule aspect of democracy in favor of establishing a Constitutional Republic instead. At least that's what America used to be... 



That changed at the turn of the 20th century with the advent of the progressive movement.  The progressive movement was a move toward Statism and it successfully took over the banking system, moving from a market-based monetary system to a controlled monetary system in the form of the Federal Reserve System. It imposed an income tax for the first time in the nation’s history, explicitly designed to take money from the rich and give it to the poor. And it established dozens of government agencies to control and regulate virtually every aspect of American economic life. It wasn't a total takeover as in a command economy, but it was a foot in the door. The door has been widening ever since.


Obviously, the above agenda is mostly associated with the goals of the Democratic Party. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank are present day examples of a continuation of the takeover of industries -- the health, insurance, and financial industries, including Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac which are now nationalized and dominate the mortgage market. Democrats do not call this socialism; they call it social justice, or an Industrial Policy, income equality, or just plain fairness and common sense. The fact that Bernie Sanders calls it what it is has shocked Democrats. President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and almost all Democrats vigorously deny they are socialists.


The answer that Hillary Clinton gave to Chris Mathews' question was that she was a progressive, not a socialist. To all that know their definitions, a progressive IS a socialist.


"Progressive" was a term adopted by Democrats in order to ditch the old and tarnished label of "Liberal".  But the two are indistinguishable. Even though the term "progressive" is supposed to mean new and modern ideas, it cannot be separated from the progressive movement of the past which put forth old ideas, the same ideas that have been applied by most of the nations of the world for centuries. Until recently, all power resided with the governments around the world - except in America, where rights constitutionally reside with the individual. America is now joining the rest of the world as it moves toward greater and greater socialism. Barack Obama told us he wanted to transform our society, and he has.


The political fight that is being waged today is that of individual rights and property rights as envisioned by our founding fathers and set down in the constitution and the bill of rights, versus the "right" of the government to determine who has special rights and to what degree the government will allow individuals to exercise them and how.


If you doubt this, just consider the debate over the minimum wage. Should it be seven dollars and hour, ten dollars an hour, or fifteen dollars an hour. Democrats say reasonable people can disagree. But notice who's missing in this debate: the employer and the employee. The freedom of either to enter into a voluntary contract has been eliminated. It's now a matter of who's gang is bigger than the other gang in determining how much someone gets paid then dictating the terms of employment. Freedom, individualism, and rights have been abandoned. It's all about gang rule.


Ask Hillary Clinton about rights, and she will tell you she is for voting rights, gay rights, worker rights, women's rights, civil rights, human rights, black rights, and Latino rights. If you ask a Republican about rights, most will tell you they are for individual rights. The difference is one of special rights given to particular groups at the expense of others, versus unalienable rights equally inherited by all individuals. The Democrats define rights as a claim to a product, service, or wage, while the founding fathers defined a "right" as unalienable. They would turn over in their graves to hear that the 99% have the "right" to plunder the wealth of the 1%. Individual wealth today, in the land of the free, is up for grabs for any group that can steal it's fair share fair and square. 


The sanctity of the individual is the worst enemy of socialism. Individual rights protect the one percent from mob rule. In today's world, individualism and capitalism is claimed to be selfish and anti-social. Socialism is allegedly doing things for the "good of society" and "those in need". The individual is to be sacrificed for the greater good. The "greedy" businessman is the villain in Hollywood movies and the major target of socialists in real life. Groups override most rights of the individual, thereby setting up group warfare and voting blocs that determine which rights to enforce and which rights to violate. The referendum is todays popular form of mob rule.


Our founding fathers believed that if you allowed individuals to pursue their self-interest and allowed markets to distribute goods and services rather than government decree, we would have both freedom and prosperity. The result of that great American experiment was a standard of living attained beyond anything imagined in the history of the world. That system was called free market capitalism. And what has socialism attained over the centuries? Stagnation. This is not a theory. This is an empirical fact.


So, what is the difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders? It is only one of degree. Sanders would steal 90% of someone's money, where Hillary would only steal 48%. Ask a Republican, and they would generally agree to steal less. But the one thing that is different in most Republican tax proposals is that many Republicans would impose a flat tax where all individuals are taxed equally. All Democrats are for a progressive tax, which is a violation of equal rights. This they call fairness. A flat tax which eliminates all loopholes and subsidies, is the only "fair" tax there is.


And where most Democrats want more regulations and controls imposed by the central government, Republicans would seek less. Republicans want the free market to distribute goods and services in a free marketplace, not the government on the basis of whim, edict, and decree.  It's the age old battle between a government with greater control over individuals and one with less control. The battle is fought on both moral and economic grounds. Democrats tend to argue the social fairness case while Republicans tend to argue the case for individual liberty.


But there is no debate that socialism has failed to provide for the "general welfare", while free market capitalism has. From Cuba, to Russia, to China, socialism was rejected to one degree or another in favor of freer markets as socialism strangled their economies. America continues to be the envy of the world. Even given the worst economy in decades due to the imposition of socialist policies by the Obama regime, our economic system is still innovative, flexible, and productive. It's just much less so than it was. It is growing, but barely. 


One reason is because of the ideas that guide the economy today. Take Bernie Sanders’ idea of taxing investment transactions in order to fund "free" health care and education for everybody. Taxing investment causes less production, less employment, lower wages, and less prosperity.


The Chinese learned that lesson when they taxed, regulated, and controlled the means of production and went into stagnation for decades. The old Chinese adage was then born: "Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he will be able to eat for the rest of his life".  By taxing investment transactions, Sanders wants to confiscate the "fishing poles" of Americans. Taxing the means of production only hurts the average man on the street. It is Wall Street that funds new ideas, innovation, and creativity. It makes mass production of “fishing poles” possible. Capitalism brings capital and expertise together to the betterment of all of us. And of course, Wall Street is the enemy of socialists and progressives.  Cuba still has not learned that lesson. Neither has Bernie or Hillary. Hopefully the American electorate has, after seven years of the slowest recovery from a recession in the history of the United States.


The answer of how to get the economy moving in a word is freedom.


Let me conclude by pointing out one more thing: I am not a Republican. I'm an Independent. I have a lot of Democratic friends, but Democrats today are not what they were 20 years ago. Back then, there were fiscally conservative Democrats that embraced free enterprise. They were called “Blue Dog” Democrats who were against socialism but in favor of social issues and personal freedom. They were for a balanced budget, free trade, and a sound monetary policy. There are precious few of those in the Democratic Party today. Today, those people are called Independents.


The same is true with the Republicans. At one time there were moderate Republicans who were in favor of abortion rights, against the war on drugs, and would be ok with a tax increase if “the price was right”, as Ronald Reagan used to say.  Today's Republican is not a socialist willing to impose his economic ideas on others, but who instead would impose his moral ideas on others. Today that is called “a true conservative”. Both parties violate the founding father's concept of equal rights, where both personal and economic freedom is protected.


Both parties want to impose their idea of what's right on others. That is what has polarized this country. This country was based on freedom. And that means the freedom to do anything one wants, except to use force or fraud to attain goals. In a free society, you cannot have mob rule. Attacking the 1% and taking their money by force for some social good, forcing business to only invest here rather than in the world at large, breaking up banks and nationalizing financial institutions are all acts of force. In a free society, force (except in defense of one’s life and property) is outlawed.  Today force is advocated through taxation, eminent domain, controls, and regulations, and pitting one group against another.


Will it be Donald Trump’s friends that get the goodies provided by government or Hillary Clintons friends. I reject both. They are both perfectly willing to use force against certain groups to get an advantage. That is not the American way. The American way is freedom, independence, and personal responsibility.


Perhaps this is why the Independents of America today out-number both parties combined. If the vast voting public rejects Statism, whatever its present day label, and accepts the sanctity of individual rights instead, this country just might have a chance of remaining America.


If not, we will become like all the other stagnating countries in the world – and we are well on the way of doing just that.


Paul Nathan