By Brianna Saylor, News Editor
Originally Published October 18, 2023
Is America becoming socialist? What is Socialism, and what does it mean to be a socialist? The latest McKenna School speaker attempted to answer these questions, on Wednesday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fred Rogers Center. The school hosted its second lecture in partnership with Young America’s Foundation as part of a series of lectures sponsored by the Center of Political and Economic Thought.
Mr. Kevin Hassett, former Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, spoke on “Stopping America’s Slide to Socialism”. Hassett served as the 29th Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for two years beginning in 2017, and Senior Advisor to the President on economic issues related to taxes, trade, substance abuse policy, and deregulation.
Before serving in the White House, Hassett was a prominent economist at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. His academic background includes time as an associate professor of economics and finance at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and a visiting professor at New York University Law School.
He consulted the U.S. Treasury Department and acted as an advisor to several presidential campaigns. Currently, Hassett serves as the Vice President of the Lindsey Group, a visiting distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution, an economic contributor at CNN, and senior advisor to Capital Matters, a project of National Review.
On Wednesday, Hassett began his talk by briefly discussing his new book The Drift: Stopping America's Slide to Socialism. He discussed the fundamental concept of socialism based on factors such as the struggle between capital and labor, partisan media coverage, income inequality, and wage growth.
Following Hassett’s talk, those in attendance–many of which included visiting alums and current students–were invited to ask Hassett follow-up questions. Richard Pazer, a Saint Vincent College (SVC) graduate, began by asking Hassett to provide a brief definition of socialism.
“Socialism is basically just the idea that the government owns the means of production...or more indirectly, dictating to the means of production, what they can and cannot do,” Hassett said. “A socialist policy, for example, would be a confiscatory marginal tax rate, so owning capital does not have much value. A socialist policy would be to plan and essentially tell people what to do, as it was happening right now, for example, in California where they are telling people what exactly the wage for fast food workers should be.”
Specifically, he drew attention to the struggle between capital and labor and its relationship to socialism. “When the government steps in front of free enterprise and tells people what to do–that’s socialism. But at the same time, you do have to realize there is a reason for government,” said Hassett.
Ultimately, Hassett reinforced the idea that in talking about policies that defend citizen freedoms, he felt it was vital that said policies preserve competition for workers because competition for workers is like the guarantee that there will not be abuse by capital towards labor.