One Year Later: Are we socialist yet?

Of all the effects of 2008's economic meltdown, the most significant might be the growing belief that the country is now on the road to socialism. Within days of the government's 2008 bailout of Sallie Mae (SLM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), the media began to resound with complaints about the country's supposed shift leftward; over the next few months, investors and commentators began declaring that the United States was now more socialist than Canada and more communist than China.

The first problem with this pink panic lies in its assumption that capitalism and socialism are irreconcilable enemies, that markets are either completely free or completely government-controlled. The truth, however, is far more complex: after all, if socialism and capitalism were such diametric opposites, then one could argue that the first time the government paid an employee, gave a contract to private industry, or loaned money to a failing company, it effectively made the leap into socialism. If this was the case, then America has been socialist for most of its history.