A Brief Note on Socialism. This ought to get me into some trouble.

There has been a lot of talk lately about Socialists, Socialism and whether the U.S. is becoming a Socialist country.  It seems like whatever Socialism is, it is something that everyone understands, or pretends to, without ever actually defining it.  Mostly it seems to revolve around the fear that the government is going to control the private sector too much, including the private lives of citizens.  Free market capitalism is the right answer to our problems and the sure path to well being.  Isn’t that right?

Whatever form of capitalism we have had, it has never been free and it has always been in transition.  Consider that the modern public corporation is hardly over a hundred years old.  From the colonial period through the Civil War corporations were businesses chartered by governments, state governments for the most part, to achieve a specific public good with private investors putting up the money, taking the risks, and reaping the rewards, if any.  The birth of the modern public corporation, broadly owned by many shareholders and in business for its own private purposes, did not come over night but evolved over a long time right into the 20th century.

These, and other businesses such as sole proprietorships, partnerships and limited liability corporations, have never really been free to do whatever they want.  Laws and regulations have always given them a range of opportunities, limitations and protections.  In other words, something of a government crafted system has arisen that establishes the framework within which private enterprise can work, and for most of our lifetimes that framework has been systematically manipulated to create what can only be called Corporate Socialism.  

It has become a framework that leaves ordinary citizens, even business owners, as mere pawns.  Certainly we Americans have a tremendous amount of freedom, and we treasure that, but it’s also true that some of that freedom is illusory.  A good example is the health care system.  Some would have you believe that a national single payer system of health care would “put the government in control of your lives” removing individual choice, creating huge bureaucracies of uncaring clerks, and giving up the many advantages of competition.  I’m not sold on a single payer system either, but what makes anyone think we have control or choice now?  Huge bureaucracies of uncaring clerks already control our health care destinies, and competition is not about providing the best care at the lowest price, but about out foxing the other company to produce the highest yield for corporate salaries and the annual report to investors. 

Some have accused me of being a left wing, pinko, liberal but I think of myself as a classical conservative.  I hope that the next president and congress will move to turn corporate and other business regulation to focus more on the public good, and that they will be courageous enough to recognize what it is that government can and should be doing because it can do it better than the private sector.  I recognize that the likelihood of that is minimal, but it’s worth a shot.

7 thoughts on “A Brief Note on Socialism. This ought to get me into some trouble.”

  1. Very good! Fear of \”Socialism\” is mainly fear of a bugaboo word, and is used mainly to manipulate unthinking (or \”non-analytical\” as Martin McCaw likes to call them) people into voting against their own best interests. To watch this process in even rawer forms locally, watch Spokane TV for the Idaho political ads. Ancient education mostly focused on teaching rhetoric, which taught students how to use to persuade. In the process of teacing them how to manipulate an audience\’s emotions by words, it also taught how to defend themselves against being manipulated by the words of others! To be \”analytical\” listeners!

  2. More thoughts on the power of words: Medieval college education in the so-called Liberal Arts began with the trivium-grammar, rhetoric, and logic. This study led to the bachelor\’s degree, which came to considered sufficient for many who did not desire to go beyond to the more abstruse quadrivium-Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music, which led to the master\’s degree. The widespread political drive to outlaw \”gay marriage\” is really opposition to the use of the word {\”marriage\”. If the proponents of gay marriage would settle for words like \”civil union\” or \”partnership\” to accomplish the same legal result, half the opposition would drop away. But those who wish for \”marriage\” want the dignity of acceptance which they think that word would imply.The study of Rhetoric was not just teaching to win debates, but to teach sensitivity to the power of words.

  3. i find it interesting that when people begin talking about a concern for the greater good in their hope for health care or economics they are socialists and they are evil. since when is hoping to provide health care for more people or for ALL people a bad thing? i know, i know! when it means i have to pay for it…when they take MY money…but wait, isn\’t MY money actually God\’s money? yeah, but……….

  4. McD,Anon (Dr. B.) and I remember the many pamphlets that came out after WWII describing Socialism as the secret strategy of the Communists for taking over the world. There were dozens of them and they were written in the scariest of words. One of the top rated early TV shows was \”I Led Three Lives\” about an American double agent, mild mannered insurance agent by day, American spy infiltrating Communist cells by night. Each episode clearly described the Red Menace so close to taking over America. Socialism\’s first goal was to extinguish Christianity, it was said, and all the proof you need is to look at Europe today to see how little church going there is and how much Socialism there is. A lot of what we are hearing today is an echo of all that, and like an echo, the source is hard to discover and the substance of the echo very slight.CP

  5. i see your point in terms of historicity. in fact, thank you for reminding me of where other generations are coming from.but i wonder then why my 20 and 30 something friends think socialism is bad? when they speak out against Norway and Sweden (which having visited these countries, i see the toll state religion, not socialism has had on Christianity)they talk about economics and rights being revoked. it\’s funny they don\’t mention anything about their faith being challenged; it\’s all about their money potentially going bye bye…check out my post on health care…in their opinion, it\’s a \”privilege\” reserved for those who work hard. apparently working in fields picking my berries so i can have yummy pies doesn\’t count as hard work. therefore, the berry pickers don\’t get health care…

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