American “freedom”

David Bentley Hart's artricle for Commonweal Three Cheers for Socialism: Christian Love & Political Practice has become an instant classic because of this passage ...

Is this freedom? From what, exactly? Certainly not from the state. The heavy hand of centralized government is no lighter—its proprietary power over its citizens is no smaller—here than anywhere else in the developed world. Quite the reverse. Certainly, where taxes are concerned, no government in the developed world is any more rapacious and no legal authority any more draconian. Here, moreover, no less than anywhere else, the state governs trade, makes war, passes laws, delivers mail, does all the most basic things the modern state does; but here also, to a greater degree than in any other advanced economy, the government raises its revenues for the express purpose of transferring as much wealth as possible from the working and middle classes to corporations and plutocrats. It really would be hard to imagine a democracy whose state wields greater power over the lives of average persons. To me, at least, it seems obvious that, where health care in particular is concerned, Americans are slaves thrice-bound: wholly at the mercy of a government that despoils them for the sake of the rich, as well as of employers from whom they will receive only such benefits as the law absolutely requires, as well as of insurance companies that can rob them of the care for which they have paid.

All this being true, the classical social democrat or democratic socialist might be forgiven for thinking that Americans are curiously deluded regarding their own supposed inalienable liberties. He or she might contend, at any rate, that a state that uses its power chiefly to dilute consumer and environmental protections in the interests of large corporations and private investors, while withholding even the most basic civil goods that taxpayers have a right to expect (such as a well-maintained infrastructure or decent public transport), is no smaller—and certainly no less invasive and dictatorial—than one that is actually obliged by the popular will and the social contract to deliver services in exchange for the taxes it collects. He or she might think that a government whose engorged military budget is squandered on wasteful (because profitable) redundancy, but whose public services are minimal at best, presides over a far more controlled economy—and a far more coercive redistribution of wealth—than does a government forced to return public funds to its citizens in the forms of substantial civic benefits. He or she might even have the temerity to see social democracy, properly practiced, not as an enlargement of the state’s prerogatives, but quite the opposite: a democratic seizure of power from both state and corporate entities, as well as a greater democratic control over public policy, taxation, production, and trade.

... but really the whole thing is worth the time.