San Diego – A few posts ago I showed how virtually all of the “freedoms” we take for granted or which are granted us by the Constitution are really all based on the results of a core freedom, the economic freedom that is attached to the Capitalist economic model. Whenever and wherever that model is diminished, it comes at the price of some freedom or other. The question continually then is “What Price Freedom?” or, put another way, how much freedom are you willing to give up for what appears to be (or is described to you as) an economic benefit. Are you, for example, willing to give up freedom to be taken care of by the government and not have to worry about supporting yourself? Clearly, a lot of people are quite ready to make that decision in the affirmative. Are you? You are about to get the chance…
Some of you are old enough to remember when, in the presidential elections, in addition to the main stream candidates we also a gaggle of other office seekers including Gus Hall running on the Communist Party Ticket for four unsuccessful tries. For some reason, lesser known among the “also rans” was Norman Thomas who ran on the Socialist Party ticket for six attempts at the presidency. it was over 40 years ago that Mr. Thomas issued the following boast…
“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened.”
Of course we have had socialist elements in our government since Woodrow Wilson. A huge leap toward a socialist economy was undertaken by FDR using the crisis of WWII as an excuse and cover. But the post war euphoria and boom, along with the wide-spread realization of where communism (the upper or later stages of socialist development according to Marx and Lenin) actually took a country due to a fairly clear view of the Soviet Union afforded by the war, its appeal waned as we soaked up the growth and prosperity of a capitalist society.
But memories fade, and a populace softens through generations of wealth and ease. Remember ‘wealth’ and ‘poverty’ are comparative terms and a person on the poverty level in the US is far better off than middle class citizens in much of the world. In many of the poorest neighborhoods in the US citizens have a working automobile and TV while in the Soviet Union, even though they made cars, you could not just go into a showroom and buy one and older cars were, as in Cuba, kept, maintained, and treasured since new ones were not available except to the elites.
But even though his economic philosophies have an unbroken history of failure, Marx was right in at least one sense, people have short memories and as soon as a parasitic class arises under the noses of the almost willfully ignorant upper classes, the situation is ripe for a change. It is my belief that we are at that point right now. We are being led by a person whose early years were modeled by a father who thoroughly embraced the centrally planned and commanded economy of the pure Marxist-Leninist ideology. And in adult life he sat for 20 years under the teachings of a theology that taught the fundamentals of victimization and the socialist economical ideas of Marx framed in the more commonly palatable terms of liberalism and progressivism. He is now using the debt and unemployment crisis for cover for the class conflict rhetoric just as FDR used WWII.
And no, before we go on let me clear the air on this one… I do not believe Obama created the debt crisis; it has been growing for years under several Presidents. But he certainly has made it far worse and I think that escalation has not been simply a case of mismanagement by a bumbling idiot as some claim, but a carefully thought out strategy to accomplish an end he clearly annunciated but we chose to spin as best suited our own desires, not as he meant it. We did not take him at his word because the words spoke something untenable so we interpreted them to fit our own needs. And that was a huge mistake.
The liberals, who are putting all their faith in the Thomas prediction, mask it by calling anyone who uses the term “socialism” some wild-eyed loon or conspiracist. They know exactly what the term means but are relying on the extremely good odds that most of the population does not. In our TV-drained minds socialism is socialism is socialism and all some thing other countries do, not us. But that is a fatally flawed view and has never been the case.
From William Godwin, Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon, down through Marx, Engels, Lenin, Wilson, Stalin, FDR, and Mao, the core concept of an economic system in which the means of production are either owned by the state or by the state in common with the citizens and are controlled cooperatively (meaning the State has a role in the command and control of the various means of production) has been expanded into various flavors from pure Marxist-Leninist, to even a variant known as libertarian socialism. Most differ primarily in the degree of cooperation between the government and the people in controlling the means of production. But most modern versions fall into one of two camps (or some blending of the two: “State Socialism” and “Social Democrats.”.
Those favoring “State Socialism” are in favor of the State owning and operating all of the means of production. However, those calling themselves “Social Democrats” favor public (read, “government”) control of capital and the means of production but within the broad outlines of a market-based economy. That system, sometimes called “Market Socialism” includes various economic systems where the means of production and resulting capital are publicly owned, managed and operated for a profit in a market economy. The difference between that and capitalism is that capitalists prefer private ownership of production and the profit in a market socialist system would be used to directly remunerate employees or go toward public finance (i.e. the government) to distribute as they will.
However, to Marx and his followers, these were not separate ideologies but rather part of a continuum which, starting with a people in a revolutionary “moment” in time, progressed through the “Social Democracy” state to “State Socialism” and finally as the process unfolded, to pure “Communism.” Is was not simply a slippery slope to him and his followers but the natural progression of economic history.
I would suggest that the assertions of Mr. Thomas are unfolding precisely as he expected and, further, that in accordance with that prophecy we are now being led further down the path; not by some wild Stalinist tyrant but by a person who has, based on his history and education, come to believe it is, in the most benign sense, where we ought to be headed for the good of all. He believes this so strongly and thoroughly that he is willing to sacrifice another term in order to lay an inescapable groundwork for that, to him, inevitable, evolution — not because he is a bad guy, but because he sincerely and fervently believes America, as he found it, was a bad place and one he wanted to transform into a place more like what he believes a good place should be.
But I disagree.
This is still America, a place where competing ideas are supposed to be welcomed, discussed, analyzed, and voted on. So having someone present his views is quite OK, after all Gus Hall and Norman Thomas did that for years in a very public run for the Presidency. At least, that is, until Mr Thomas realized, as he noted in his quote, that the proper path to his goals was not through open presentation but by subterfuge and deceit.
We can even ignore that the ultimate end of that desired evolution into communism, even from the Market Socialism starting point, results in a system where there is common (meaning governmental) ownership of both the means of production and the capital being generated and, theoretically, free access to the articles of consumption. Of course history has shown us in examples from Russia to Cuba to Venezuela to China how that always — always — devolves into an autocratic authoritarian despotic government. Nevertheless we can continue to ignore that history and vote as if there wwas not a long line of precedents to evaluate.
Marx foresaw a superabundance of the articles of consumption under his system but historical experience has shown us that human nature simply does not respond to that idea and the result has inevitably and without exception been shortages of nearly everything and what does exist being manufactured in the shoddiest of ways. But we can set aside our memories, if we still have them, of life in the Soviet Union and its client states and how that jibes with our own American ideas as to how life should be.
After all, we, as a still free people are still free to argue for the various systems we think would best serve the country. It is the President’s right to argue for his perspective as it is my right to disagree and oppose it. But in a few months his and my opinions will be subsumed into the collective opinions of the voting citizens of this country. I believe another four years in the direction we are now headed will prove to be a huge economic disaster if, indeed, that disaster has not already been set in motion. He believes that doing more of the same as he has done for the past years will solve it. But as more and more “push back” is coming from the citizenry, he is now taking to calling those who disagree with him “unpatriotic” and playing to the victim, parasitic mentalities of those who want to be taken care of.
If you believe in his vision then you have the right to vote for him to continue on his path. And who knows, perhaps he will be the first benevolent tyrant of the US and also the first one to ever, in the history of the world, to make a socialist economic model work. Time alone will tell. I could not possible disagree more with his world view and his policies and those who believe, as I do, that he is trying to transform this country into something I do not want for it, will vote for someone else almost out of desperation. Once again I may be forced to vote, not FOR someone, but AGAINST someone. What a tragedy.
But one thing is sure… this is set to become a most interesting next couple of years… it is nothing less than the issue of Freedom at stake. No, not in the short term and that is the problem. Americans are not long term thinkers, not chess players, in fact not even particularly good checkers players anymore. Short term bottom line thinking has ruined businesses, ruined the economy, and now is working away at the country itself. So the question is, does a short term increase at the level of slop in the feed trough seem worth giving away more of your freedoms? Or not?