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Baumeister: “Ism”-Shouters Stir Fear, Show Confusion About Proper Role of Government in Economy

Dave Baumeister
Baumeisterism: commitment to accurate explanations of economic systems.

Dave Baumeister returns with commentary on the misuse of various economic isms:


I’m sorry you haven’t heard from me in a while, but I’m back to give some people a lesson on economic systems.

My guess is that some people will read this and say, “Boy, that is interesting,” and others will look at it and say, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” but as a history, government, and social science teacher, along with being an interscholastic debate coach for 20 years, I can assure you, I do know what I am talking about.

First, thanks to the Red Scare of the 1950s. conservatives have always used the “isms” to scare voters, such as, “If your vote for a liberal, that will lead to Socialism or Communism!”

But it seems today, many conservatives use these same tactics that have worked in the past, but they have no real concept of what socialism or communism are.

Fears of socialism should have disappeared with FDR. Prior to his presidency, the third “ism,” capitalism was all powerful.

In 1929, when capitalism was unchecked, banks and other businesses did pretty much whatever they wanted. FDR’s cousin Teddy (that guy on Mt. Rushmore) tried to control that a bit in the early 20th Century, but businesses still managed to get away with a lot.

For instance, in 1929, to make more money on interest, banks loaned money to folks so they could speculate on the stock market. 

In fact, that year, 40% of bank assets were tied up in those types of loans. Can anyone imagine today going to a bank and asking to borrow money so they can hit the casinos in Deadwood? 

Of course, borrowing money to play the markets is exactly the same as borrowing money to gamble. Thankfully, the government stepped in so this won’t happen again.

And when governments at any level regulate businesses, by definition, that is socialism. But the Great Depression taught us that in a country this large, businesses need to be somewhat regulated.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe capitalism is a great system, but regulations are needed. And what’s more, sometime the government needs to step in to help its citizens, as with Social Security (more “nasty” socialism).

There are really only two types who don’t like Social Security: really rich people who would rather use every cent they can to send themselves into space for four minutes, and some politicians who see raiding the Social Security Trust Fund as a way to reduce the deficit.

Please, be aware, though, when the government does this, they are literally stealing money from taxpayers.

Everything in that trust fund is money individuals paid in, or money businesses paid in as part of an employee’s salary, so it is earmarked for those individuals when they retire.

The reason this system was set up in the first place is because, in general, many people don’t save for retirement, and when they don’t have money and get too old to work, the government ends up paying for them in some way or another.

So, what is better? Our tax dollars being spent on indigent retirees, or those same retirees using their own money to survive?

There is a third choice, of course, which I like to call the “Logan’s Run option.” This is when, at a certain age, people are just killed to lessen the burden on society. Anyone over 30 should want to avoid this option!

And, by the way, that big budget surplus that Kristi Noem is taking credit for is all thanks to federal government covid money. Now, some of that money came from the Trump administration and some from Biden’s, but Noem’s surplus is ALL the result of SOCIALISM.

So, we should realize that socialism is needed for our country to work. And that leads us to “communism.”

Going back to the McCarthy era in the 1950s, communism has been a very bad label to put on people. This Red-Scare labeling continued through the Cold War, but since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, we have seen that Communism is nothing to be afraid of because as an economic system in large governments, empirically, it doesn’t work.

Communism is an economic system wherein everything is owned and controlled by the government.

To learn more about this, let’s use Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as our instructor. A week or so ago, she referred to her colleague in Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as “the little communist.”

Taylor Green was in high school when the Soviet Union fell, so by her own words, she really has no idea what “communism” means.

AOC refers to herself as a “Democratic Socialist,” and that position calls for the government to interact and do against some of the blind greed she sees with capitalism, but it is not a communist philosophy.

To prove Taylor Green has no idea what she is talking about, has Tweeted hate at an Atlanta restaurant owner – a private capitalist – who is requiring all of his customers to be vaccinated.

This requirement does not hurt anyone; in fact, it is probably protecting people, but, as is true in a capitalist system, if people don’t like the rules a business places on its customers, they have the right to do business elsewhere. (Anyone ever heard of “No shoes, no shirt, no service”?)

So, the only “little communist” here is, in fact, Taylor Greene, who is two inches shorter than AOC and advocates for governmental control of private businesses.

The moral of this very long story? Don’t let people use the “isms” to create fear, because they probably have no idea what they are talking about.

More to the point, I would take that a step further and say that anyone who uses words and phrases they don’t understand to make a point is just putting their stupidity on display for all to see, if they are willing to look.


  1. Uncle J 2021-07-30 10:12

    A very Trumpy relative has stated that he is also against the enemies of our country, the “Nazi-Democrats” as he put it. This person is a decendent of Polish & French immigrants, ironically.
    So add Nazi-ism to that. And ironic misunderstanding of fascism.
    But if that’s the attitude, hard to have a conversation. War-like, threatening attitude.

  2. Donald Pay 2021-07-30 10:25

    Well, one can quibble about definitions, and, as we all know, definitions change over time as people come to different understandings. Some people today believe any regulation of the market or of a private business by a government entity is socialism. But if you ask a real socialist about such a definition they would laugh at you.

    Such words, like colored fabric, become symbols to many people, and when those symbols take on a political hue they are on their way to being used for political purposes, which means the definitions get corrupted or changed. Look at “Republicanism.” It used to connote stodgy but steady progress based on the hard work of and fair play for the middle class. That has not been Republicanism since the cowboy capitalists and immoral majority came to duke it out during the Reagan Administration. It has been a steady decline in middle class values, where you can support the murder of people through all sorts of government policy, as long as those “people” are not fetal tissue.

  3. Mark Anderson 2021-07-30 10:35

    The worst thing that can be said about this article is that it’s a truism.

  4. Guy 2021-07-30 11:07

    I’m not perfect. I do my best to stay away from the name-calling and labeling, which feeds into the destructive demonization game.

  5. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-30 15:58

    Well..I’ve been through all this nonsense since I was a young man and the McCarthy era was waning and the John Birch Society took its place. I’ve concluded that in this country we, the people, don’t know much about economic theory (its an inexact science) but we instinctively have a feeling for economic “fairness”. Its not economic equity as much as its a proclivity for equal access to opportunity. As a people, we are pragmatic about how we extend and expand opportunity.FDR knew very little about economics. He wasn’t a deep thinker. One person who knew him well, said he was “A second class mind, and a first class personality.” He was a pragmatist and when faced with the collapse of the free enterprise system, he introduced what we call now a “mixed economy to extend opportunity and prop up what little of the economy remained after the depression, drought, dust bowl, and labor chaos. We are still fine tuning that mixed approach and it gets out of whack when the Billionaires it creates can launch themselves into space to get a few minutes of thrills. Time to readjust the balance between the haves and the have nots. Go Biden.

  6. Mark Anderson 2021-07-30 18:06

    You know Arlo I pretty much agree with everything you said, but the remnants of the John Birch Society have taken over the Trump party, formerly the Republican party. William F. Buckley is spinning in his grave. He had a good run and kept the Birchers at bay, but now it’s just total anti-intellectual bull from the right. No attempt at any kind of governance or anything other than swaggering nonsense. The American people really have no idea of the wealth gap in America. They have the sense of fairness that you are talking about but it’s looking the wrong way. The wealthy know they have to have near poor, hate the poor and the result is trying to keep people in their place. The internet should have made things easier, but it’s actually broken down into camps of awareness. Trump has a third of the country under his wing, they like his attitude. He really is nothing more than a grifter, lying loser and cheat, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything anymore. Biden wins because he is honest and trying. We will see if that’s enough.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-30 18:10

    Uncle J…I know exactly what you’re talking about. Nearly the entire Retired Men’s Golf League I play in is like your friend. Frankly, these are guys that got up at 6 AM every morning for 45 years and went to jobs that they considered stressful and filled with various conflict. They “had to work hard to survive”, or so they say, but we all know, it really wasn’t that bad, they actually enjoyed their work and benefited from the greatest economic boom in the history of man, following WWII. Now its over. They are old. The children are raised and gone. They still get up at 6AM but now they can only watch Fox and Friends to get their blood pressure up. They remain driven by stress and anxiety. If they survive, they usually mellow out after their first coronary. There is some wisdom in the old saying, “Life’s a bitch, then you die.” if you let it happen.

  8. grudznick 2021-07-30 18:36

    Golfism is worse than Environmentalism. Common sense Conservatism is what rules the day.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-30 19:14

    well..grudz…you’ve got my ears up…take a minute and explain Golfism..the best definition of golf I’ve heard is “A good walk ruined.”.

  10. Porter Lansing 2021-07-30 19:35

    Modern Socialism Defined
    -Examine European country’s way of providing services that nearly everyone uses, to their citizens, the cheapest method possible.
    -It began after WWII, when everything was in shambles and their was little money for repairs.
    -The idea is simple and brilliant. Pool everyone’s money and buy as a group.
    -That’s modern socialism.
    -Anything added to the description is just camouflage paid for by big business to protect billionaires.
    -European’s pay more in taxes, sure but they have more spending money left at the end of each month.
    -And more nice things to enjoy, giving them a much higher quality of life than Americans.

  11. grudznick 2021-07-30 19:36

    It is a sickness, Mr. Blundt. Worse than many, many others. It can drive men insaner than most, it can make conservative fellows consort with libbies. It bleeds a fellow of his money as surely as the lottery voluntary tax does. The sickness spreads slow but once a fellow has it you can almost never beat it.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2021-07-30 20:05

    well, grudz, never had it..I “sub” in the retired men’s league but since I’m a terrible golfer, I’m not in much demand…in business I was occasionally forced to play at some hoity-toity clubs to “improve business relationships with our customers and vendors” was water torture…at 50 I resolved to only play at fund raising events…I disagree about liberals and conservatives consorting together…A difference of opinion makes for a lively discussion, good politics, and a great horse race.

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-07-30 20:36

    grudz’s description of golfism is fully accurate.

    I had it from age 12 until age 40.

    Snow skiing, boating, surfing, and hot rods are similar addictions.

  14. Mark Anderson 2021-07-31 17:09

    Porter, I’m glad to didn’t include snooker or 8 ball in those addictions. Can’t wait to get back to them. They are great ways to relieve stress. The excellent beer chips in too. I thought I would have started my weekly games again but our Governor here in Florida is running for Trumps VP too, just like Kristi and it apparently makes you lose all sense of reality. It may take a few more months.

  15. M 2021-07-31 17:48

    Can someone explain the difference between corporate feudalism and corporate socialism?

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