The Founding Fathers demanded socialism.
Section 8 of Article I, for example, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” That same Section also authorizes Congress “To raise and support Armies,” and even “To provide and maintain a Navy.” Although the text does not preclude privatization of these public institutions — indeed, they continue to include entrepreneurial elements to this day — the Framers understood that they would certainly have public, social elements as well. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams — among others — all signed this document. They agreed that the new national government would facilitate communication and defense through taxation. They agreed that these essential services would not have to be purchased on the open market. They agreed that these services would not be limited to those who could pay fair market value.
The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (who skipped the Constitutional Convention in favor of traipsing off to Paris during that hot summer in 1787), also supported the fledgling Nation’s foray into socialism. Perhaps the greatest of all of America’s socialized institutions, the Nation’s modern highway system
, was begun in 1806 by then-President Jefferson’s authorization of the Cumberland (National) Road. Transportation, too, was deemed to be one of the Nation’s essential services that could not be relegated to private industry.
The Congress did President Jefferson one better. It socialized the great bulk of America’s navigable waterways in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The founding generation recognized early on that the national government needed the power regulate interstate commerce—this was written into Article I of the 1787 Constitution—and waterways provided the most important channel of commerce. The national government, using this authority, opened America’s internal waterways to commerce. These immense “social” highways proved a boon to entrepreneurial activities (and perhaps saved the Nation).
Communication, transportation and mutual defense provide only the most obvious examples of the Founding Father’s interests in socialized institutions. Contrary to some popular reports, many in the founding generation had “republican,” communitarian leanings. Our forefathers were not devout disciples of Adam Smith, let alone Herbert Spencer (who in the mid-nineteenth century infamously coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”). They were pragmatists, capitalists and socialists, willing to try whatever was necessary to insure that the American experiment did not fail.