Rick Perry Confuses “Socialism” with “Federalism”

In an interview with Time, Governor Perry offers the following:

No, I still believe [officials in the Obama administration] are socialist. Their policies prove that almost daily. Look, when all the answers emanate from Washington D.C., one size fits all, whether it’s education policy or whether it’s healthcare policy, that is, on its face, socialism.

The problem here may not be immediately obvious. Over the past three years, we’ve heard the term “socialism” bandied about with such frequency that it’s probably lost all meaning. But in case you’ve forgotten, “socialism” has a defined meaning:

Noun: \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\

(1) Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.

Centralized authority may suggest socialism — when it collapses into centralized ownership of industry — but the two are not identical. What Perry is actually criticizing could, at most, be described as a potential imbalance in the federal system, or disrespect for states’ rights, or (to the constitutionally ignorant, to wit, the tea party) a violation of the Tenth Amendment.

Now here’s the question. Did Perry misspeak, or does he know what he’s doing? With apologies to my Aggie readers, it’s not clear to me that Perry does actually know better, although he certainly should. Still, we should confront the possibility that the Republican frontrunner and likely nominee (see, e.g., this) has chosen to frame his recidivist, anti-federalist views in terms of America’s struggle with Communism, imbuing a battle as old as the republic with the moral force of that rivalry. And comparing something as blasé as the centralization of education policy to a conflict that almost brought the world to a nuclear end both does violence to language, and suggests violence in fact. Does the country actually benefit, when we elevate every political debate to the eschatalogical level, making it an issue of life or death? I expect not — but it increasingly sounds like we should prepare ourselves for that kind of campaign.

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5 comments

  1. Along those lines, our recently deposed (yesterday, in fact) market liberal/conservative right-wing government have spent the last ten years doing things like introducing standardised national school tests and curriculums, consolidating and cutting down on the local and regional government units – and just before the election even proposed doing away with the regional administration of the health system, so the whole thing would be directly run by the national government. (Maybe they were actually socialists… in disguise!)

    In a few days, on the other hand, we’re going to have a centre-left government with actual socialists in it, and they’re probably going to decentralise everything again.

    So, yeah.

  2. Here’s what I would REALLY, REALLY, REALLY like to see (which means there is almost zero chance it will actually happen):

    Why not, as a liberal, take a stab at giving voice to your opponents in a way that you see as more constructive? Specifically, you know what conservatives don’t like i.e. centralized authority in Washington with too much nationalization of certain policies. You say it’s not socialism. Okay – then what would you call it? What is a way that conservatives could respectfully disagree with the liberal viewpoint on the role of national government?

    Think of the exercise as a way of promoting that positive dialogue you always say you want.

    1. Didn’t I do that?

      What Perry is actually criticizing could, at most, be described as a potential imbalance in the federal system, or disrespect for states’ rights, or (to the constitutionally ignorant, to wit, the tea party) a violation of the Tenth Amendment.

      Why yes. Yes I did.

      1. So to the charge of an ‘imbalance in the federal system’ what is your reply?

  3. I will also add that on the issue of a national curriculum I am all in favor. Otherwise we end up with ID all over my beloved South and I just won’t tolerate that.

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