When does socialism begin?

Dan Mitchell is, of course, correct when he says:

This is an appropriate point for the disclaimer that Obama is not a socialist, which technically requires government ownership of the means of production. As I’ve explained before, it’s much more accurate to say he’s a statist, a corporatist, or a redistributionist.

True enough, as long as we’re sticking to textbook socialism. But here’s a thought I’ve kicked around for a while: what, exactly, makes your property your property?

Okay, so you’ve got a piece of paper saying it’s yours. Just how far does that piece of paper go?

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At what point is, say, a factory owner so boxed in by government rules and regulations — so completely unable to make decisions about his own property without government approval — at what point does that piece of paper become meaningless?

Put another way: doesn’t ownership indicate control? At what point do regulations control so much that the property is effectively the government’s, and not yours, no matter what that piece of paper says?

My kids have a lot of Legos. The Legos are theirs. Their toys. But I can ground the kids from playing with them; take them away; force them to put them away; even order them to go play with them.

They own the Legos, but I control the Legos.

Remember the movie “Goodfellas?” The mobsters made a deal with a restaurant (caution: language), and then ran that restaurant into the ground. The legal owner of the restaurant — the guy holding the piece of paper — could only stay in business with their help, but ended up going out of business because of them, at which point the mobsters torched the place.

Who owned the restaurant? The guy with the piece of paper? Or the guys who had all the power over his business?

I’m not suggesting that we’ve reached this point. Not yet. Mostly. I’m just asking: when we say that socialism “requires government ownership of the means of production,” what exactly does that mean?

(Posted by The TrogloPundit.)

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