Founding Fathers, Socialist?

@moiracathleen @d_kuehn well i just want “socialism” to have some sort of meaning. if public works=socialism, then the word is meaningless

— Isaac Marmolejo (@TheLachmannian) June 6, 2013

In a twitter exchange, we were discussing this article, which tried to make the case that the Founding Fathers were socialists. Basically, what the author is saying is that the Founding Fathers thought that public works were necessary, thus they were socialists.

To me, the use of the term “socialism” in this article is just way too broadly defined. It basically has no meaning if one is going to define it that way. Just because socialists think public works are needed, doesn’t mean it is a solely socialistic idea, and those that think public works as necessary are thus socialists.

This is almost like calling Keynes a fascist because the Nazis and Keynes had some similarities between them. No, as with “socialism”, to define fascism this way to think that Keynes was an advocate of such philosophy is too broadly defined, and thus with no meaning to make any sense of the word.

7 responses to “Founding Fathers, Socialist?

  1. The misuse of the term socialist drives me nuts. Just the other day I was in an argument with some Miseans who said that price fixing and all regulation of the economy is socialism and thus left wing. I find such a view to be astoundingly ignorant. Certainly some kinds of economic control can be socialist in nature, but there is nothing about economic control as a whole that is either right or left wing. Indeed, throughout the bulk of history, things like price fixing were the norm for many if not most regimes, regimes which no historian or political scientist would ever characterize as left wing whatsoever. These individuals who try to equate control over economic activity as socialist are simply emulating the rhetoric of their cultural and political bias. The reasons why a regime may want to exercise control over the economy can be many, and often times it has more to do with the stability of crowd and obtaining benefits for the regime rather than pure “socialism”. The term socialist in my opinion if anything should be reserved for those measures which seek to remedy economic inequality through non-market means, with a substantial focus on alleviating the targeted class (the poor) and social engineering. Even that is a liberal use of the term, but if a government is doing something like rationing food during a war it is certainly not socialist in any way. Funny though, if price fixing really is socialist, then wouldn’t the Miseans who support the gold standard actually be socialists then?

  2. I think broadly defined is an understatement. Essentially the article insinuates that practically everyone other than probably Rothbard is in some shape or form an advocate of “socialism.” I agree that it is so loosely defined that it practically has no meaning.

  3. While I don’t agree with everything Dr. Michael Emmett Brady says, I think that one could make a better argument that the Founding Fathers were (in certain ways) conservatives in the manner of Edmund Burke rather than socialists in the manner of Soviet-type central planning…

  4. I have an unrelated question.

    If I am a capitalist in a area with a fixed gold standard and only one coin of gold…And I take that piece of gold and split it into two pieces, half for labor, half for materials. Then if I sell my commodity on the market there is no way I am going to get more gold than I started with, (no profit)…How is this overcome?

    • assuming the coin is not some abnormal size coin, the problem is overcome by fixing the system to where making a profit is easier. having a gold standard when there is only one coin in circulation is highly questionable as a ‘long run’ oriented system.

      In any case, having a gold standard w/ one coin in circulation is highly unrealistic, why bring it up?

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