Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's this socialism thing?

After watching last night's debate and the introduction of "Joe the Plumber", I began listening to some of the reactions. Throughout the day today, I also listened. Talk radio, television and even my trip to the DMV this morning provided me with an opportunity to hear what people are saying.

Many people seemed to be afraid that Barack Obama was about to introduce socialism to the US. Their voices shook and their eyes clouded over. When pressed to define socialism, they couldn't. They painted word pictures of a Stalinist state, grey and colorless, a drone-like state. A lot of it was outdated Cold War rhetoric.

I began to search Google for an academic definition of "socialism". I found a few but most were so heavily propagandized that I couldn't cite them. As someone who has written for a good long time (over 40 years), I recognize how language is used and the implications of one word being chosen over another.

To put it in very simple terms, socialism is a political and economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state.

Now that hardly sounds like anything Obama has in mind. Obama has never suggested getting rid of private property. Nor has he suggested that all wealth be redistributed. He has said that those who make over 250K a year will experience a tax increase. So I wish people who have not done their research would stop connecting anything Obama is doing to the now thoroughly demonized socialism. That is a word being thrown about willy-nilly without definition to generate fear among an anti-intellectual population which has been brainwashed into believing predatory market freedom equals real freedom. As I've said here before, your ability to choose between red shoes and blue shoes doesn't constitute real freedom. That's market freedom. Think about it.

In my opinion, Obama is offering policies that would bring the US into alignment with the rest of the industrialized world. The US is the only industrialized, first world country on the planet that doesn't have a health care plan for all citizens. It is the only first world country that doesn't provide an affordable education to all its citizens. It is the only first world country that still has a death penalty.

Real freedom is the right to have a job, health care, housing and food. That is civilization.

It really is time to get rid of predatory capitalism and put it in its proper perspective. Capitalism is great for non-essential products and services. If you can make a better DVD player than me, I'm all for it. Capitalism, in its highest form, encourages creativity and innovation. Survival should not be a competitive event. It shouldn't be a crap shoot when it comes to feeding the children.

As far as I'm concerned, the time has come for someone like Barack Obama. The last eight years, which were really a result of eight years of Ronald Reagan have made this nearly feudal state acceptable. It's really time to turn that around and become a respected member of the world community.

Do you agree? :)


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25 comments:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I agree totally that survival should not be competitive. And it seems that if everyone's basic necessities were taken care of automatically, it would free up our creativity in both the artistic and practical spheres to improve life for all members of the community.

The McCain-Palin camp seeks to demonize Obama in every possible way. Since "Socialism" has long been a dirty word here but few know what it actually involves, they are promoting lies about his intentions regarding it. People fear what they don't understand, and they intend to profit from that fear.

Border Explorer said...

//As someone who has written for a good long time (over 40 years)...//

...you can write a very fine post.

It is horrible to use fear as a motivator. Yet the demonization of the work "socialism" is exactly that.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I agree. The sooner we can stop this polarization and all work together to provide each citizen's basic needs, the better.

Anvilcloud said...

Yes I do.

starrlife said...

Totally on board! What's with all of these sensationalistic smears?!

ThomasLB said...

What Reagan did was say, "Nobody in the economy matters but the shareholders," and built all of his policies around that premise.

The press fell for it hook,line, and sinker. Look at how much coverage the Dow gets, and compare it to how much coverage wage stagnation, unemployment, and poverty get. America has one-third of its population at or near the poverty line- one third!- and most people don't even know it.

Capitalism works at the small business level. I'm all for family-owned stores and restaurants. But owning shares should not be allowed. The leisure class should not be allowed to feed off of the working class.

Cecilieaux said...

I hope you could hear me applauding.

In fact, I wrote something about the details here

http://cecilieaux.blogspot.com/2008/07/le-socialisme-americaine.html

For a quick review of every post of mine mentioning socialism, see here

http://cecilieaux.blogspot.com/search?q=socialism

I´m not an egomaniac, those are very short takes. Probably one of the best serious analyses of what has been happening in this country socioeconomically is

The Great Risk Shift by (Princeton prof) Jacob Hacker

In brief, Hacker examines economic public policy and business practice since the 1970s and shows how the risks of living have been shifted to wage earners and the benefits to profit reapers. He has a proposal that has been discussed many times at the Bookings Institution's Hamilton Project, which is a huge font of information. (One of Obama's economic advisers, Jason Furman, was director of the project for a while.)

Stacia said...

The Marxist definition of socialism is not a political system, in that the state would cease to exist and everything would belong to the people. However, I think it's pretty much been proven that this is unrealistic.

People ask how I can be a Christian and a socialist (going back to Cold War fears) and I guess it's because Jesus gave my favorite definition of socialism, "If you have 2 coats and your brother has none, give one of your coats to your brother." (And I don't remember where that's from, but would be happy to look it up for anyone.) I think this is what Obama is doing, and that's why I support him.

Leann said...

I love the way you write!!

I agree with you 100%.

The thing that annoys me most about this whole election are the people who don't think for themselves but believe all of the retoric that is being passed down in the newspapers, the internet, and through their own peer groups.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Hi Chani, I got your question on my blog. I wasn't able to find a publisher for my first two novels. I'm still trying to market the second one. If I don't find any interest, I may self-publish it in a year or so. I would be sure to list that on my blog.

Thanks for inquiring.

MsLittlePea said...

Oh you know I do Chani! I'm canvassing again tomorrow and phonebanking on Sunday, driving some people to early vote Monday, signwaving all over my city and more canvassing in the next two weeks. In this age we live in where information is so much easier to get, one has no excuse to look,learn, think for herself instead of falling for those focus-group-zing-words we're thrown every 5 minutes. It's time to stop substituting the opinions of "experts" and "pundits" for our own and educate ourselves even when we disagree. Because then, at least we will be disagreeing with our brains rather than our emotions.

Defiantmuse said...

YES! Fully.

3brainer said...

Great post. Yes, I totally agree. I just posted on my Myspace page something just very much in this vein, entitled "Socialism is not a dirty word." I have to admit though, you say it more eloquently.

And speaking of eloquence, notice how McCain and even Joe the Plumber refer to Obama's eloquence in almost a sneering way? Isn't being well spoken a desired trait for a politician? Eloquence is better than stammering lies, but hey it might be elitist to say that. And they have come to equate intelligence with elitism and somehow demonize that! The way words get manipulated to stir up division is just appalling sometimes. I can't wait til this is over and President Obama can get down to work.

ewe are here said...

And, heck, if anyone have been 'socialists' lately, it's the Republicans... what with their buying into our banks and mortgage companies and such.

Sigh.

It's amazing how twisted this has all become.

Go Obama.

Peace said...

your ability to choose between red shoes and blue shoes doesn't constitute real freedom

right on sister!

citizen of the world said...

There has actually been a great wealth re-distribution over the past 8 years, from the poor and middle class to the rich. It's past time it got re-re-distributed. I voted for Obama today.

investigators thailand said...

This just proves how ignorant some people are. They throw big words like ‘socialism’ to make their point but really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. I’m all for Obama too, as McKain is really just about the status quo—he’s just using different words—and the status quo really isn’t doing anything for anyone, right?

Carla said...

Canada has strong socialist tendencies and I think we're the better for it. We all have health care, no one will be left to die in the street because they don't have a plan, nor will they have to empty out their savings to pay for it. I think a country is only as strong as their weakest link. It should be our goal to take care of all our own so that we can all become stronger and contribute to the good of all. Besides, it feels good to help your neighbour.

Kathryn Knoll said...

I have been a nun for 43 years. Living in community, we hold all things in common. We share our wealth with one another according to each one's need and own nothing ourselves. Our cars are held collectively, our properties, salaries earned from work we do, and all other material goods are held in common. We provide health care, education, vacations, whatever we need for each of our community members as is needed. The vitality of the community is the responsibility of each member to uphold and support. Maybe this is an example of socialism, I don't know... We have quite a bit of freedom and experience daily happiness and peace. We are able, because of this commitment and calling, to serve the greater world around us and are some of the most highly educated and accomplished women on the planet. And, no, the Catholic Church is not financially responsible for us. The wealth we have, we have either earned collectively or have received as gifts from people who value our creative and cultural contributions to our world. Having lived this way all my adult life, I am not sure why people would be afraid of this. It is really quite freeing. Though, there may have been a time when we didn't have a choice as to the color of our shoes and dress style, those days are long gone. We each have a lot of say as to how we live our lives and what direction we want our community to move in. One of the keys to our success is that we move forward, together, united in common goals, hope and vision and are committed to one another and our mission. Do we disagree with one another? All the time, but, there is an understood sense of respect and love we have for one another that is foundational. We are willing to let go of our comfort zones for the sake of a new idea that may serve the greater good. Maybe it is time for a bit more of that kind of thinking to take place in our country, now. What ever happened to the UNITED States of America? I wonder.....

Janet said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

My book club friends were over for dinner last night. Funny, we never discussed the Canadian election that just passed but we spent 45 minutes discussing Obama and McCain.

Lloyd said...

An interesting clip... http://www.keatingeconomics.com/index.html

Well written.

Amy Y said...

Personally, I love the idea of socialism. When people say Obama is a socialist like it's a bad thing, it puzzles me. I think we SHOULD care about our community, do things to better the entire community, and focus on our similarities as a community. I think a lot of the things that we enjoy ~ schools, roads, police, firefighters, etc are all socialistic ideas.

Richard said...

I agree with your description of "socialism", and view of government funded medical care.
I don't believe that taking from the rich to redistribute to other classes is right. This will only lead to stagnation of the system.
why work if the government will give me everything that I need. Why bother getting educated?.
Our capitalistic system my not be perfect, but an awful lot of people are trying to get here, many risking there lives, or face jailing.
People are seeking utopia, but utopia can not coexist with the world that we live in.

Angela said...

Don't tell anyone, but I'm a socialist at heart. I feel we should all take care of each other and it's the closest thing politically that approaches that idea. I don't think most people have any idea what it really means.

painted maypole said...

well, I'm late to this party, but I AGREE!