curse or cure
ROBERT J. LEWIS
pockets and empty hearts rule the world.
We unleash them at our peril.
I saw America's
economy last night,
people raiding dumpsters at a higher rate than normal in my home
Digging through garbage shouldn't be a career.
Thanks Democrats. Thanks Republicans
there is anything that will finally dismantle
the modern democracies of the West,
it will be the . . . angry reduction of politics
to the hyper camps of left and right.
is that, invaded by the external,
we may be driven out of ourselves, left with our inner selves
and thus become transformed into gateways on the highway
through which a throng of objects come and go.
Ortega y Gasset
word socialism comes from the Latin socius, meaning companion,
partner, ally or association, and from sociale, to combine
or share. The dictionary defines a society as “an aggregate
of people living together in an ordered community,” sharing
the same public spaces and subscribing to a common culture. As
a political-economical theory, the term socialism became current
in the middle of the 19th century in England as a reaction to
both conservatism and liberalism for having lost sight of, degraded
the notion of partnering and sharing -- the centerpieces of any
meaningful social contract. Socialism argued that free market
capitalism did not adequately provide for the equitable distribution
of the nation’s goods and services.
the Industrial Revolution onward, free market capitalism has presided
over the emergence of two distinct economic classes: the haves
and have-nots. Today, the richest 1% of Americans own more than
35% of the wealth.
free market capitalism where the means of production are in the
hands of private enterprise, socialism advocates state ownership
as the most effective means of addressing the public interest
(roads, sanitation, education, medical research, policing), since,
as Kenneth Galbraith noted in The Affluent Society, the
individual regards his personal wants as inherently superior to
public wants and shouldn’t be expected to esteem his public
library’s acquisition budget more than his Rolls Royce collection.
Implicit in socialist doctrine is a critique of human nature:
the hoarding instinct and the Bob Marley “no care for me
no care for you” reflex. In countries that produce more
than they consume, socialism operates under the conviction that
no one should be made to suffer from want in the midst of plenty.
As both a political and economic theory, socialism attempts to
restore the original meaning of partner and ally in the term socius.
that animates socialism must not be confused with the deformations
imposed by Marxism (Stalinism) that calls for the abolition of
private property, ‘total’ state ownership of the means
of production and banning religion. We note that it took less
than a century and a death toll that confounds the mind for Communism
to collapse on foundational principles that failed to take into
account human nature.
debased political climate that forfeits all pretence to civility,
no one in the Democratic party is advocating for the elimination
of private property, the proscribing of religion or turning in
toto the means of production over to the state. To imply
otherwise is as disingenuous as it is mean spirited, the ploy
of the demagogue and last retort of the tolerant-challenged for
whom the perfect world is the one made in his image or op-ed piece.
To even suggest that Bernie Sanders, for example, wants America
to be refashioned in the image of a Marxist command economy and
single-party rule is a misrepresentation that borders on calumny,
and yet this is the great lie the radical right is bruiting, defaulting
to demonization and prevarication for lack of fact and sound argument.
definitions are in order.
herring is an oft used rhetorical device. It functions through
the deliberate diversion of attention from the original argument.
Conflating American socialism with Marxism is a red herring gone
is a government tax imposed on foreign goods. The gesture acknowledges
that under free market capitalism the home made product cannot
compete with the foreign product. The first effect of a tariff
is to artificially raise (inflate) the price of the foreign product
so the home made product is more competitive. What Tariffman (Trump)
doesn’t like in socialism is what he doesn’t like
in himself, which makes him a self-hating socialist.
is when a government grants a business (corporation) or industry
financial support in the form of a cash payment or tax relief.
A subsidy functions like a tariff. When Trump announced he was
going to subsidize the farming industry to the tune of 28 billion
dollars (2018-19), he was in effect guaranteeing the market price
for products, which under free market conditions would be overpriced.
Without the subsidy, home grown corn, wheat and canola wouldn’t
sell and would have to be either dumped or donated to famine relief
– and, we note parenthetically, the farmer would go broke.
Thanks to an anti-free market, socialist intervention, the protected
farmer lives to see another harvest. And that has been the way
of the western world for the past 150 years.
the radical right has already decided on what socialism is, it
excuses itself from participating in a empirical investigation
and/or meaningful dialogue about socialism’s behaviour (the
telling gestures that define it) and the manner in which its distributive
mechanisms directly implicate people’s lives; from farmers
to textile workers to manufacturers, most of whom, under free
market capitalism, would be on the dole fomenting insurrection.
the auspices of the radical right, the term socialism has been
twisted into a bully pulpit for no other purpose than for the
faithful to advertise their loyalty to party and principle, or
to vaunt their rhetorical dexterity, or, in the spirit of the
groupie, to cozy up to the party heavyweights with whom they share
common cause, all the while refusing to do due diligence with
the essential question: How does America stand with socialism?
constitutes a socialist intervention as opposed to a free market
we understand Trump who swears by free-market capitalism, but
routinely levies tariffs, provides for massive subsidies and refuses
to eliminate welfare. Trump refers to himself as “the tariff
man,” apparently unwitting to the fact that a tariff is
a true-blue socialist gesture designed to protect local manufacturing.
not submit the concept of tariff to an economic forum to know
that it is an affront to free market capitalism. To argue otherwise
or repurpose the gesture as an example of capitalism’s exemplary
pliability is as fatuous as a man with a sperm-ejecting penis
insisting he is a woman or of indeterminate gender.
yet the rank and file of the radical right, observing America’s
decline nationally and globally, continue to submit that socialism
is the cause. It does not occur to them that their conviction
and certainty would be all the richer if combined with even a
nano-allowance of doubt (humility), and, in the spirit of thinking
outside the box, to at least consider the possiblity that one's
most precious beliefs as well as the maps of the world change
with the passage of time.
was a time when most of the world’s scientists and researchers
immigrated to America not only for its unmatched freedoms but
because America understood that its ascendency depended on its
researchers having access to the best facilities and latest technology
which it was willing to finance. Today, as a percentage of discretionary
spending, Research & Development (R & D)
is less than half of what it was in 1962.
wonder there is a looming crisis
in the production of new antibiotics. The labs
are going bankrupt due to lack of funding. And where you would
expect America’s conservative billionaires to step up to
the plate, they instead enlist cadres of right wing journalists
to cause-and-effect the sum of the nation’s ills to its
fatal embrace of socialism.
shrinking of the middle class and decline of family values have
been singled out as major causes of America’s decline. Since
the 1980s, for low income earners, real wages have not kept pace
with inflation, forcing both parents to work to make ends meet,
and devolving the responsibility of raising children to iPhone-care
and daycare moms – “motherhood as paid employment.”
Who stands to gain by keeping the minimum wage low? The fat cats
at Wal-Mart or the men and women who work the aisles and 'person'
the checkout counters?
of party, politics and spin, any economic gesture that tampers
with the free market is socialist. Trump can advertise himself
as a free-market capitalist until he turns Republican red in the
face, but if we measure Trump by his gestures, he’s a socialist.
Eighteen percent -- and counting -- of all imports have been hit
with protective tariffs since Tariffman took office.
America’s position on socialism requires of its critics
and scholars that they examine and report on the country’s
economic gestures as a whole, bearing in mind that a charitable
person is not someone who represents himself as such, but who
is demonstratively charitable. It is one thing for the US to represent
itself as a capitalist country, and for China to market itself
as Communist, but do their gestures correspond to the representations?
And if there is a divergence between the said and done, is it
fair or reasonable that we look to our journalists to report on
the truth, especially since “journalism is the activity
of gathering, assessing and presenting news and information?”
The first truth of 'advocacy' journalism is that it trumps the
disinterested pursuit of truth.
with today’s partisanship is that it mistakes the bubble
that it is for the larger world, and a much better one as its
impassioned advocates see it and insist we see it, or be set out
to sea. At its extremes, advocacy journalism is a cult that confuses
confirmation bias for epistemological certainty, and posits as
fact that which properly belongs to speculation. Until the party
faithful decide to make their presuppositions about the world
that which, a posteriori, most deserve to be called into
question, their faith will never be tested -- or bested, which
begs the question: in whose best interest? Both the extreme right
and left are so entrenched in their postions they are incapable
of distinguishing the whole from hole they're in.
economic truth about America, and one which economists from both
sides of the aisle would agree, is that the country would not
survive in a free market economy where all the world’s goods
are up for sale. Most of today’s socialist legislation is
implemented to offset wage disparities between countries in order
to protect local industry and manufacturing – that is to
Under the constant threat of globalization (the global market
place), almost every aspect of American life has been tempered
by socialism. Socialism (protectionism) is a necessity, without
which the US would be on life-support. With India leading the
way, the US is one of the most protected, socialist states in
the world. America’s dependence on socialism is like an
asthmatic’s to an oxygen tank. America exudes, is marinated
in socialism, and yet the radical right insist it's an existential
threat. They have managed to conflate the socialism that every
mixed economy features with Marxism. And regardless of whether
or not they have been acting in bad faith or have been seduced
by their own sleight-of-mind and the giddy heights that derive
from empowerment (changing minds), in today’s degraded political
environment socialism is a loaded term that no politician can
afford to ignore.
can be no redacting the meaning and purpose of the nation’s
unacknowledged favourite terms of endearment: tariff, subsidy,
tax relief, bail out and anti-trust are all dyed-and-tried socialist
gestures designed to protect the home and native land, which makes
the election in November a choice between two competing visions
of protectionist-socialist platforms.
concerns radical right journalists who have wilfully misrepresented
(slandered) the term socialism, they deserve nothing less than
our indignation as well as our pity, for the words and years squandered
out of both a misguided sense of party loyalty and overriding
need to compensate for a poorly understood obfuscated
inner deficiency. That they are the second victims
of their life’s vital labours offers no consolation. The
first victim is truth, and all the men and women for whom the
pursuit of truth is the guarantor of their authenticity, without
which the promise of a better America remains stillborn.
What's your basis for that claim? Which socialist author has
made that a central part of their advocating?Why is it that
tariffs are so commonplace in capitalist economies and how does
that compare to socialist societies?
This essay is silly.
Not every departure from untrammeled free market
capitalism is socialism. Requiring a doctor to have an accredited
medical degree interferes with pure buyer-seller interactions.
There is no such thing as pure free-market capitalism, anywhere.
Minimum wages "interfere" with the market. Regulation
of any sort precludes pure-type free market exchanges
Social democracy is a hybrid economic theory and
practice. It is far more worthy of discussion that the inane,
ideological, uncomprehending American political discourse.
Social programs and tax regimes account for why
different nations have different income and wealth distribution
patterns. Public policy and regulatory regimes set limits on
what capital can do. In some countries that are essentially
capitalist fracking would be forbidden. There are carbon taxes
in some and not in others. Oil companies look and act the same
in most of them within their regulatory and taxation regimes.
So this essay is silly. The categories are too
crude and inclusive. Trying to make sense of Trump's economic
theory is a fool's game. He can't distinguish a deficit from
a trade deficit.
How does lowering taxes for the rich make Trump a socialist?
"Both the extreme rightand left are so entrenched in their
postions they are incapableof distinguishing the whole from
hole they're in." Yes yes yes.
Now, as far as 'socialism'
is concerned, that term has been so evacuated of content over
the last century that it is hard even to use.
I mean, the Soviet Union, for example, was called a 'socialist
society.' And it was called that by the two major propaganda
operations in the world.
The US, the Western one, and the Soviet one. They both called
it 'socialism,' for opposite reasons.
The West called it 'socialism' in order to defame socialism
by associating it with this miserable tyranny.
The Soviet Union called it 'socialism' in order to gain whatever
. . . to benefit from the moral appeal that true socialism had
among large parts of the general world population.
But this was about as remote from socialism as you can imagine.
I mean, the core notion of at least traditional socialism is
that . . . what you mentioned,that working people have to be
in control of production and communities have to be in control
of their own lives and so on.
The Soviet Union was the exact opposite of that. Working people
had no control over anything. They were virtual slaves.
And the collapse of the Soviet Union is in fact a small victory
for socialism, in my opinion. It eliminated one of the major
barriers to it, and should have been recognized as such.
If we use it in the traditional sense, which you brought up,
that goes -- you know -- that goes straight back in American
You read about the working class press in the mid-19th century;
the press published by artisans and what were called 'factory
girls,' young women from the farms working in the textile mills
and Eastern Massachusetts which was center of the beginning
of the Industrial Revolution.
Their press was calling for (that their theme) was that 'those
who work in the mills ought to own them.'
Wage labor, which was called 'wage slavery,' was regarded by
most Americans as not very different from slavery.
Even the Republican Party regarded wage labuor as just at best
a preliminary to free labour, but intolerable because it's kind
Large part of the Northern population fighting Civil War was
fighting under that banner.
This goes straight through the 20th century, the idea that people
should be in control of their own destinies and lives,including
the institutions in which they work, the communities in which
Call it what name you want, but that's traditional socialism,
and there are today attempts to describe a kind of detailed
vision of the future, based on these notions,the most extensive
and detailed one I know is by Michael Albert at ZNet, which
you mentioned, that's participatory economics.
You don't even have your definitions straight, nor do you stick
to your own established definitions. This reads like a book
report written by a person who is unfamiliar with the topic
and spent more time paraphrasing various Wikipedia entries than
actually reading source material. Protectionism isn't socialism.
For the vast majority of the existence of capitalism, in the
vast majority of instances of it, it has quite clearly not been
free market capitalism.
The problem really is whose definition do you go with: you call
it socialism, for someone on the right it's free market capitalism.
But maybe it doesn't matter what it is if what it is is best
for people in their everyday lives for paying rent and buying
groceries and sending their kids to school.. I agree that both
sides aren't listening to each other and we have to do better
So Trump is now a socialist? And Stalin and Hitler were humanists.
"The spirit that animates socialism must not be confused
with the deformations imposed by Marxism (Stalinism) that calls
for the abolition of private property, ‘total’ state
ownership of the means of production and banning religion. We
note that it took less than a century and a death toll that
confounds the mind for Communism to collapse on foundational
principles that failed to take into account human nature."
4th paragraph in, and that's where I stopped.
also by Robert J. Lewis:
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& Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the
Library and Archives Canada.