Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Response to Comments

So I’ll respond to the comments from my post below (who would have thought that a three word post would generate my most comments ever.)


Ah, the fun of trying to defend off-the-cuff comments. Of course I do not believe that we live in a “pure” market economy (and thus I believe that we, technically, live in a “blended” one.) And though I’m loath to use Wikipedia as a source, I concur that we do have some “semi-socialist” programs. However, even Medicare is not government ownership of production; the government buys the services of private individuals to provide medical care (albeit at a mandated, below-market rate.) A better example of “socialism” by the US government is the Veterans Administration where the government actually owns the hospitals and employs the doctors; other examples include public schools and public libraries (socialism by the state or local governments, rather than the federal government.) However, I would submit that if the United States is not the most free market of any country in the world it is very, very close. A “pure” socialist economy is one in which all means of production are owned by the all the people and controlled by them through the government. The following quote is from the principles of socialism of the Socialist Party USA: “In a socialist system the people own and control the means of production and distribution through democratically controlled public agencies, cooperatives, or other collective groups.” Communism is an example of non-democratic socialism; the Socialist Party purports to be working toward democratic socialism. Saying that the US is not a “pure” market economy is a little like claiming that your tap water is not pure because it contains trace amounts of something other than H2O.

The attempts to redefine socialism to mean government regulation or government services is a political scare tactic used by the right wing and other anti-government forces to whip up fear of the government or political opponents by attempting to link them to the now defunct demon of communism (think the Union of Social Soviet Republic). Government regulation is not government ownership. To attempt equate them is an attempt to confuse the issue and the public. Labeling opponents as communist has been a favorite tactic of the right for at least fifty years (think the attacks on Martin Luther King Jr., Senator McCarthy’s hearings, or the John Birch Society’s claiming that President Eisenhower was a communist puppet.) With the collapse of worldwide communism it can no longer serve as a viable boogieman. But Socialism is still around and is being used in much the same way. Equating regulation with socialism is an attempt to confuse the public into fearing regulation and attack policies based on emotional sound bites rather than facts. That the right wing has been successful in propagating confusion is no excuse to accept it.

I’m sure that we could find exceptions, but my observation is that most uses of the word socialism to describe Obama, the Health Care Bill, Democrats, or Liberals are attacks intended to be derogatory made by the right wing. I highly doubt Obama would consider himself a socialist, or the healthcare bill socialist. The aims of the Democratic Party are not socialist and even most liberals are not socialist (though it may be possible to argue that most socialists are liberals or at least left-wing.)

As I’ve said before on this blog if we are going to have real intelligent discussions about issues we need to abandon attempts to use words or catchphrases that are deliberately calculated to ramp up fear and diminish trust. We need to focus on facts, not fear. Labeling the health care bill as socialist was a deliberate attempt by some (which was then picked up by less knowledgeable others) to increase fear and loathing for the bill and those that support it.