New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof: The Military as Socialist Model for America

In his latest column for the New York Times, “Our Lefty Military,” the iconic “liberal” commentator Nicholas D. Kristof has now come clean on the reality of his own collectivist views that military means and organization embody the “liberal ethos” (“progressivism”), an admission that liberals rarely face up to. While numerous liberal and conservative pundits have long mistakenly supported military Keynesianism (see here and here) as necessary for national defense and economic prosperity, Kristof has now taken this view far further to claim that the military provides the all-inclusive socialist model for all of society.

Interestingly enough, the recognition that militarism is socialism is consistent with that found in the Independent Institute’s new edition of the classic book by the renowned historian Arthur Ekirch, Jr., The Civilian and the Military. But in direct contrast to Kristof, Ekirch opposes militarism, showing why such command-and-control government is exactly contrary to liberty, prosperity, human decency, peace, and the rule of law. As a result, we can only be grateful to Kristof for drawing this very clear line in the sand for others between the good of liberty and the evil of tyranny, with him supporting the latter.

According to Kristof:

The business sector is dazzlingly productive, but it also periodically blows up our financial system. Yet if we seek another model, one that emphasizes universal health care and educational opportunity, one that seeks to curb income inequality, we don’t have to turn to Sweden. Rather, look to the United States military.

You see, when our armed forces are not firing missiles, they live by an astonishingly liberal ethos—qqqand it works. The military helped lead the way in racial desegregation, and even today it does more to provide equal opportunity to working-class families—qqqespecially to blacks—qqqthan just about any social program. It has been an escalator of social mobility in American society because it invests in soldiers and gives them skills and opportunities.

Really? Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs has documented in his book Depression, War, and Cold War and other works that it is government intervention into financial markets that “periodically blows up our financial system.” And, such interventions include the exact Federal Reserve and New Deal-type policies that Kristof and other “liberals” support.

And as Research Fellow Jonathan Bean reveals in his Institute book, Race and Liberty in America, desegregation not only began in the private sector decades before federal courts and laws intervened, but it was government regulations (e.g., Jim Crow laws, labor regulations, etc.), including that mandated by the military, that institutionalized racism on a huge scale and made desegregation so difficult.

Kristof approvingly quotes General Wesley Clark, who ran for the 2004 Democratic Party nomination for president, on the nature of military organization:

It’s the purest application of socialism there is . . . It’s a really fair system, and a lot of thought has been put into it, and people respond to it really well.

Clark commanded Operation Allied Force in the unconstitutional Kosovo War during his term as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000. In his retirement, Clark became an early and avid supporter of the war in Afghanistan and while initially a critic of the war in Iraq, he went on to support expanded U.S. military forces there because he believed the U.S. invasion and occupation was “undermanned.” As a “progressive” Clark has further indicated that he likes the Democratic Party because it stands for “internationalism”, “ordinary men and women”, and “fair play.” Hence, both Kristof and Clark believe that achieving the “liberal ethos” requires socialism, and militarism is the ideal form to do so.

Kristof goes on:

The military is innately hierarchical, yet it nurtures a camaraderie in part because the military looks after its employees. This is a rare enclave of single-payer universal health care, and it continues with a veterans’ health care system that has much lower costs than the American system as a whole.

Perhaps the most impressive achievement of the American military isn’t its aircraft carriers, stunning as they are. Rather, it’s the military day care system for working parents.

While one of America’s greatest failings is underinvestment in early childhood education (which seems to be one of the best ways to break cycles of poverty from replicating), the military manages to provide superb child care. The cost depends on family income and starts at $44 per week.

“I absolutely think it’s a model,” said Linda K. Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, which advocates for better child care in America. Ms. Smith, who used to oversee the military day care system before she retired from the Defense Department, said that the military sees child care as a strategic necessity to maintain military readiness and to retain highly trained officers.

The German-Prussian “Iron Chancellor” Otto E. L. von Bismarck could not have said it better in his establishing the German welfare state (Sozialstaat) in order to pursue imperial wars in the 1880s.

Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me.

In his article, Kristof unmasks his own deeply held admiration for the Total State, exalting the military in every respect not just as a “compassionate” and “egalitarian” welfare state, but as the socialist model to organize the entirety of American society:

So as the United States armed forces try to pull Iraqi and Afghan societies into the 21st century, maybe they could do the same for America’s.


Or as the fascist Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini stated:

All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.
—Speech to Chamber of Deputies (9 December 1928)

Fascism conceives of the State as an absolute, in comparison with which all individuals or groups are relative, only to be conceived in their relation to the State.
—”The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932)

David J. Theroux is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute and Publisher of the quarterly journal, The Independent Review.
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