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Issues & Insights

AOC’s ‘Free Stuff’ As ‘Public Goods’ Is An Old Socialist Game

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
nrkbeta via Creative Commons

I&I Editorial Board

The political left has long tried to hide its true intentions and character through the use of euphemisms. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has learned to play the game as well as anyone. She has demanded that taxpayer-funded handouts be considered “public goods.” It’s a convenient justification for taking the property of productive Americans and giving it to those who have more political favor.

“People like to say, ‘Oh, this is about free stuff,'” the New York Democrat said at a Bronx town hall meeting over the weekend, before Thanksgiving. But “this is not about free stuff,” she said.

“These are public goods. They’re public goods. So I never want to hear the word or the term ‘free stuff’ ever again.”

Ocasio-Cortez was referring to taxpayer-funded programs such as tuition-free public college, public housing, universal health care, infrastructure, and even public libraries.

This is politics as usual for the left.

Socialists want to be called “progressives” because they know socialism carries baggage (though it’s become a less-toxic term than it once was because the left has taken over the academy, and conditioned a generation to believe it’s a more just system of government).

The forced redistribution of wealth and tax hikes fall under the category of “shared sacrifice.”

Tax cuts are “giveaways to the rich.”

Spending taxpayers’ money on the left’s favorite programs is an “investment.”

The free market is weighed down with the label of “unfettered capitalism.”

“Fairness” rationalizes the bypassing of constitutional limits to enact purely political legislation.

The left’s lust for government firearm seizures is concealed by its appeal for “common-sense gun laws,” its insatiable drive for gun control is disguised as a campaign for “gun safety.”

The true meaning of “corporate social responsibility” is state-control over private economic matters.

History reminds us that Vladimir “Lenin established the Bolsheviks’ sinister propensity for euphemisms,” that “expropriation” was a stand-in for grand theft, and that “mistakes” was “the universal Communist euphemism for the atrocities committed in the name of building a new world.”

Don’t assume this means we’re calling Ocasio-Cortez, whose free stuff would cost about $40 trillion, a communist. We’re not. But she has described herself as a democratic socialist and is closely aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America, which has little use for civil society. Americans are free to draw their own conclusions about her from the known facts, including her effort to disguise her spending proposals as a means to advance the common good.

Using the phrase “public goods” might make Ocasio-Cortez feel smart, but it doesn’t mean what she claims it does. True public goods, says economist John Phelan, “have the characteristics of being both non-rivalrous (my consumption of it does not leave less for you to consume) and non-excludable (if I pay for it, it still benefits you whether you pay or not).”

“National defense is the classic example,” Phelan continues. “The U.S. military protects me but that doesn’t mean that there is less protection available for you (non-rivalry). Also, if I pay toward the upkeep of the military and you don’t, it will still protect you (non-excludability).”

Phelan goes on to explain why Ocasio-Cortez is wrong.

  • Education is rivalrous due to the limits on the number of students who can fit into a classroom, and is excludable because it’s possible “to stop kids who haven’t paid from sitting exams or graduating.”
  • Libraries are rivalrous because “if I take a book out you can’t,” and excludable since “you can also require people to get a card before taking books.”
  • Roads are rivalrous because “you can’t drive on the same bit of road as me, at least not at the same time,” and “the existence of toll roads shows that roads can also be excludable.”

It’s possible Ocasio-Cortez is not playing games with words. She might actually believe her own rhetoric. If so, she is in need of remedial instruction. The Boston University graduate who majored in international relations and economics apparently learned little from that prestigious institute of higher learning.

— Written by J. Frank Bullitt


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I & I Editorial Board

The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

5 comments

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  • It’s sad that some Americans actually need an article to explain that the “common property” paradigm is a Communist mainstay. It’s like explaining that chefs prepare food.

  • “So I never want to hear the word or the term ‘free stuff’ ever again.” Here goes, FREE STUFF!. Wow, that felt good.

  • This is how bad the American education system is when we have a young lady trying to scam the people with this idea that everything is free, that all property belongs to everybody, & that the govt should structure every part of the economy & our lives.

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Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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