When polled, Americans express relatively well-defined views on both. And while nowhere near a majority of the American electorate favors a completely socialist system, a recent Gallup poll indicates that more than four in ten Americans think “some form of socialism” is a good thing. But what is “some form of socialism?” A society is either socialist or it isn’t. The state either owns the means of production or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground. Even our openly socialist politicians rarely advocate anything near as drastic as government control of the means of production.FEE.org
These four in ten Americans, and the politicians who speak for them most vocally, are not advocating socialism at all; they are advocating what we should really call “transferism.” Transferism is a system in which one group of people forces a second group to pay for things that the people believe they, or some third group, should have. Transferism isn’t about controlling the means of production. It is about the forced redistribution of what’s produced.
Federal transfers are money the federal government gives directly to people or to state and local governments. These are not purchases. To be a transfer, the money must be given in exchange for nothing. The earned income tax credit, income assistance, and payments from various welfare programs are transfers. So, too, are Social Security benefits. While workers tend to regard Social Security benefits as returns on their Social Security taxes, legally, Social Security taxes are simply part of the government’s tax revenues. Workers are not entitled to Social Security benefits. Who says so? The Supreme Court in Flemming v. Nestor (1960). In reality, Social Security benefits are simply transfers—gifts—from the federal government to retirees.ibid
Contrary to type, politicians speak in very clear terms about the benefits they would like to finance by transferring money from one group to another, and they have had predictable success with it. Most Americans cannot imagine a country without Social Security, Medicare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. And politicians never seem to run out of new ideas regarding what they might be able to achieve with even more transfers of wealth. New ideas are typically well-defined, at least on the benefit side. Student loan forgiveness, universal basic income, Medicare for All, and every other piece of proposed redistributive legislation offers an obvious benefit for an equally obvious group of people.
The lack of clarity comes when the politicians get around to explaining who will pay for all of it. Their answer is inevitably some form of “the rich,” who will finally, we are told, pay “their fair share.” None of this is ever defined, which explains the United States’ present $23 trillion debt. Transfers are tricky political business because politicians need to point to who benefits and by how much while at the same time hiding who will actually be paying.ibid