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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Socialism is coming!

If you haven't heard it yet, you just haven't been paying attention. The right is surging back against the president's left because "We don't want socialism in America!" In the demonstrations and blogs and news and practically everywhere you look, angry Americans are protesting the socialism that is just around the corner. This whole "health care reform" thing is the current catalyst for the fire, but we saw it before when the "financial recovery" plan hit the news and so on. "We don't want socialism in America!"

Now, I don't mean to defend the president's financial choices nor do I plan to offer support for his health care reform plans, but I do need to say something here. Get over it, folks. You don't want socialism in America? It's too late. It's already here.

Socialism is an economic system. While capitalism encourages private business ownership and minimal government interference, socialism advocates government or public ownership of the resources and production of goods. Capitalism operates on the "earn your way" process while socialism goes with an egalitarian approach where everyone gets the benefits rather than simply those who work for it. Now, it is true that we are largely a capitalist society. Most businesses are privately owned. In a majority of the cases each person gets what they earn, not what they don't earn. We're mostly capitalist. But don't fool yourself into thinking that we are all capitalist.

Where do we find socialism in America? Well, besides the obvious (There is a socialist movement in the country.), how about the very popular idea that it's good to take from the rich and give to the poor? That's not capitalism. That's egalitarianism. Encouraged by class wars and urged by the left, this idea is getting more and more traction. Whether it is right or not is irrelevant. It is not capitalism; it is socialism. But we've instituted genuine socialism already in various places. Our sense of compassion for the elderly led us to put in Medicare. This system provides health care for the elderly regardless of what they own or earned. It takes from the rest and gives to them. It is a prime example of socialism. Or how about the welfare system? That is clearly a product of socialist thinking. Take from those who have to give to those who do not (regulated by the government, of course). The Postal Service is a clear case of American socialism, a government-owned business. And none of this has anything at all to do with the current president.

When the Obama administration nationalized something like $85 billion of American corporate and business assets, it was a step into socialism. Support it or decry it, it is still the case. When the government takes ownership of a health care option, even if it is only one, it is socialism. The president is not a socialist, but he seems more comfortable with a more centralized control of the economy than leaving it in the hands of private enterprise. And he's not finished tinkering with things yet.

In other words, the president is certainly leading us toward more socialism. You may disagree. You may agree and be happy about it. I don't think it's a real question. But all this "We don't want socialism in America!" stuff is nonsense, folks. It's already here. We let it happen. We even like some of it. So let's stop clamoring against the cows we already let out of the barn and figure out if they're better off out there and, if so, maybe we should let out some more ... because I'm pretty sure we won't be closing the door on socialism any time soon.


Naum said...

Tossing labels around like "capitalism" or "socialism" really is just a rhetorical ploy to reduce an argument to raw primordial emotion and eschew deliberative reasoning on a matter.

First off, pure capitalism is an idealized model as impossible as pristine socialism. Even at it's base conception, one must totally ignore factors like land and privilege granted to economic players of that scale. Also, laissez faire capitalism in itself bears the seeds of "creative destruction" as many neoclassical economists acknowledge — private entities grow so large, and inevitably by default become entangled with the interests of "public" government. Furthermore, private enterprise itself has been a cheerleader and urged for government meddling when it suits their interests — just examine U.S. history and every major industry, from railroads to electricity have all entailed lords of industry lobbying for and possessing the power to gain all sorts of tangible and/or legislative goodies. Railroad barons were given immense tracts of land and bought and sold Congress critters like common stock. Early in the 20th century, utility companies corralled government to bring order to the early chaos of a purer capitalistic state.

Dreamy eyed libertarian economic utopians like to point to these as not failings of laissez-faire capitalism, but as unnecessary and harmful intervention. But they fail to recognize that such developments that unjustly hoist the interests of a privileged few over all are an inevitable fate in such an economic model.

Furthermore, these free market theoreticians obscure the truth that the private institutions they cherish and uphold themselves were bootstrapped by "socialistic" means, or many instances worse, by direct force — land stolen from native Americans, slave labor (which did not end in 1865, but continued until World War II and even today, for some industries, is a major economic factor in offshore factories). On the more benign side, "private" (does that include companies with "public" shares of ownership?) business ownership has benefited, especially in the Post World War II Age, from a preponderance of public goods — just about every major technological advance in the 20th century is a result of the public dime (or R & D from a state sanctioned monopoly like AT&T before their court ordered dissolving). We, today, exist in a world made and constructed due in large part to the acts of an "evil" "socialistic" government.

In this screed, the post office is mentioned. Early on, in the nation's history, newspapers accounted for 90% of post office traffic. In other words, a large public subsidy was delivered to a function considered essential. Today, people decry the U.S. Post Office, but unlike earlier times, it operates 100% from its own revenue.

Finally, it's folly to be so rigid in adhering to 18th century neoclassical economic thinking (even though a good bit of their prescriptions have been ill perceived or misunderstood) in the 21st century.

Stan said...

Naum: "Tossing labels around like 'capitalism' or 'socialism' really is just a rhetorical ploy to reduce an argument to raw primordial emotion and eschew deliberative reasoning on a matter."

First off, someplace along the line you seem to think that I wrote in favor of one or against another, and that I encouraged the deliberate removal of reason. This is obviously another case where you didn't read what I wrote. I said we live in both a capitalist and socialist society and we should "figure out if they're better off out there". I was decrying socialism in America. I was begging the right to stop whining about it.

Second, a "screed" is defined as "a ranting piece of writing". This was one of the shortest pieces I've ever written, and likely the most middle of the road. I didn't complain about any of the "socialism" that exists today in America. I merely pointed it out. In fact, I asked if perhaps we should do more of it.

So please, do me the courtesy of reading and understanding to a reasonable level what I write before you do your own rant against something I never said.

Naum said...

Sorry, I enjoy reading your posts which are most often sensible, but this one was a tad schizophrenic, — you start off in one vein but end in another - …the president is certainly leading us toward more socialism…, employing a "label" that purposefully obfuscates the issues of the day, enveloping it all in a Manichaean wrapper.

Steve Martin said...

Bigger government leads to smaller people.

Smaller government leads to bigger people.

Govt. is not the solution to the IS the problem.

We have an ignorant electorate, that is for sure.

Danny Wright said...

You are right in that it has been incrementally coming since the great depression, and much to many’s chagrin. But now it’s coming like Hitler's Blitzkrieg

Ryan said...

I once again agree with you on everything, that is, except for one small statement: "The president is not a socialist..."

I'm not sure on what basis you make that statement, but everything about his past from his books to his college involvement, to his community organizational involvement, to his friends, to the people he has appointed to positions in government, to every policy he's pushed thus far in his presidency strongly, suggest that he is a socialist, and a staunch one at that.

Now, whether that is a good thing or not is not going to be debated by me, just as you didn't debate the merits of capitalist or socialist ideaology. I just thought it necessary to point that out.

Stan said...

@Naum, having explained what socialism and capitalism meant, I simply said that we are headed towards more socialism. I didn't make a judgment call and encouraged people to examine "Is it good or bad?" That's only "schizophrenic" if you either assume an answer on my part ("Definitely bad") (which I haven't offered) or disagree that the government involving itself in more ownership is socialism (which is not my definition, but the textbook definition). I didn't say it was good or bad. I said, "Stop complaining about it because it's already here."

@Dan, It's interesting. I heard a French immigrant complain, "I left France because of the socialism there and it's getting to be as bad here." Yes, it's here and it's growing.

@Ryan, I'd say (or I did say) that he's not a socialist. He has socialist tendencies (obviously). You'd be surprised (or maybe not) at the high popularity of socialism on the campuses of today's American colleges and universities among both academics and students. I'd say that Obama has that same tendency, but he's not in favor of taking over all private enterprise (true socialism), so I don't classify him as a socialist.

Danny Wright said...

I have to agree with Ryan on this one. President Obama is most certainly a socialist.

Stan said...

Apparently the real socialists disagree with both of you. I'd agree -- socialist tendencies -- but he isn't a full-blown socialist ... at least not yet.

Danny Wright said...

I see governing like a socialist in a still relatively conservative country, and actually being a socialist, as two different things. If the president were king in stead, I'm sure his socialist worldview would be evident.

In spite of the great gains of socialism in the last half century, most people still are not comfortable with the term. Therefore it should not surprise us to read stories like these trying to convince as many people as possible that their president is not the dreaded "socialist", as some claim, but instead just a right down the center plain ol everyday moderate.

Naum said...

Who decided to print trillions of dollars and give them to banks? The Bush Administration. Who decided to print hundreds of billions of dollars and give them to AIG? The Bush Administration. Who decided not to tell General Motors and Chrysler to work out their problems in bankruptcy court like any other company not smart enough to recognize the implications of pension and health care guarantees? The Bush Administration started with the Detroit bailout.

Stan said...

Naum, I suppose you're directing that at Dan (and Ryan). (If you're directing it at me, it makes no sense.)

You have to understand the difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. That Bush's administration did some things that were "socialist" is true, but the question is whether or not President Bush wanted the government to take over private enterprise. He clearly favored private enterprise in the hands of private enterprise, while people are not so sure about President Obama on that issue. So while the Bush administration did some things that were socialist, the question isn't about what they did, but what the two administrations (or rather presidents) intended overall.

David said...

Socialism sounds nice, but its communism that is better. Of course, true communism would only work in a perfect world, and no government that has been tried has been perfect, not even theocracy, but that's because there is always the sinful human element.

Ryan said...

Ok, ok...if we are going to get technical, then we're talking about our president being a fascist with marxist tendancies. I was using the term as loosely as you were to describe the policies...sorry.

As for the response with regards to the Bush administration, yes, Bush was not the fiscal conservative he claimed to be, and I certainly wasn't pleased with him for that. But saying that "he started it" doesn't excuse the behavior of the current administration.

Danny Wright said...

The question: Is President Obama a Socialist?

Anything about Obama here:

"Who decided to print trillions of dollars and give them to banks? The Bush Administration. Who decided to print hundreds of billions of dollars and give them to AIG? The Bush Administration. Who decided not to tell General Motors and Chrysler to work out their problems in bankruptcy court like any other company not smart enough to recognize the implications of pension and health care guarantees? The Bush Administration started with the Detroit bailout."

Nope. Conclusion-it is a fallacious argument; red herring maybe; or perhaps an ad hominem fallacy?

President Obama is still a socialist.