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Dare We Use the S-Word?

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Posted on May 1, 2009
Painting on May Day
flickr.com

By Scott Tucker

“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the supporter of capital, and deserves the higher consideration.”—Abraham Lincoln in his first annual message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861.

Finally we got someone other than another white guy in the White House. Finally, after the long linguistic train wreck of the Bush years, we got someone who speaks in complete sentences. Finally we got someone who shows an interest in the world beyond the borders of border fences and country clubs. And now that we’ve got the son of a Kansan mother and a Kenyan father presiding in Washington, the right-wing guttersnipes have gone back to an old game. They have set up Barack Obama for target practice as a socialist.

May Day, 2009 is therefore a good day to remember Obama’s repeatedly stated faith in a capitalist economy. For the true believers on the right, that is not good enough. Obama sometimes suggests that freedom should not be reduced to the free market. Likewise, he has suggested that big banks and big business require public oversight and regulation. These deviations from four-square gospel capitalism are sufficient for the heresy hunters on the right to find reds in the White House beds.

Red-baiting is a hallowed tradition in American public life, though that practice had more traction back in the days when this country also had more militant unions and more voters willing to vote for genuine reds. Nowadays, red-baiting through mass market broadcasting, blogs and videos seems slightly surreal. Why use high-tech messages to finish off an old-fashioned low-tech notion such as socialism? Isn’t that a bit like using the latest missiles and military drones to zero in on dinosaurs that were scary once upon a time?

Maybe not. Maybe the cheerful Cossacks at Fox News can teach us something important about democracy and socialism here and now. They seem to think that socialism has all the vitality of the common cold, and all the viral genius for going sideways when attacked with common antibiotics. They may have a point. They may not know much, but in the realm of politics they do know the difference between viral and bacterial agents. Viral agents require strong antiviral medicine. And yet the common cold is still outwitting modern science.

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In politics and culture, a viral message is successful when it spreads by casual contact and rapid contagion. In order to enter our personal streams of memory, there has to be something fitting between these messages and the multiplying messengers.

So if socialism was the political swine flu of the 20th century, why go back? Who needs to revisit those far gone fevers? That, in essence, is the argument of those who believe that capitalism is next to godliness. The cure for the viral agent of socialism is not just cleanliness, but obsessional hygiene in public life. Any trace of social democracy thus becomes a creeping socialist stain on democracy. The very word “regulations” is spoken by Fox pundits with the accent of scandal, as if the subject was San Francisco or Scandinavia.

Fox News is like the eye of God at the pinnacle of the pyramid on all our dollar bills: it aims to be the eye of universal surveillance. This means something like the eye of the state, except for the brute fact that the official ideology of Fox News is the most dumbed down kind of Ayn Rand anarchism. These supervisors of public culture are always looking out for any sign that your 10-year-old child will catch the fever of socialism in an elementary school class on American history.

Again, they may have a point. If American history could be taught with real honesty in elementary schools, the kids would be learning plenty about free speech and about free elections.  They would learn that Frederick Douglass, Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs belong in public life and in public memory.

The dirty open secret about these “libertarians” is that they love liberty for the rich and hate liberty for the poor. They say they want a government small enough to drown in a bathtub, but in fact they want a hot date with the state. They really love big government. Really Big Government – the kind that dictates our sex lives and marriage partners; the kind that gives tax shelters for the rich and emergency room health care for the poor; and the kind that imposes a de facto draft on the working classes so they will be pawns in imperial wars till kingdom come.

Ask a dozen of your friends to name the single open socialist in Congress, and how many could do so? But if you have read this far, then your sample of friends may already be skewed by your own political leanings left-of-center.  Well, the answer is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The good news about American democracy is that he was permitted to take office. The bad news is that he remains boxed in by all the bogus “pragmatism” of the big corporate parties.

Sanders is often a voice of reason against shady business in high places. But we need more than a voice of conscience in Congress. We need more than dissent. We need open socialists in local city councils, and we need a democratic socialist party with real electoral traction. The Socialist Party of the United States has a noble history, but presently it has no electoral profile at all. If we look at the program of the Green Party of the United States, we will find some strong elements of social democracy. And with the advantage for voters that the Greens do gain some victories in local elections. The obstacles are much greater if we consider national elections and Congress.

It’s easy to blame Reds and Greens for failing to attract more voters. Sometimes we pretend that big elections are big buffets with all the truly delicious dishes given equal space on the table. Then voters just need to sit down and make a meal of whatever we find tasty. This is the free market model of American politics. But this is false advertising. The censorship and corruption we tolerate in our broken electoral system creates a vacuum in public life that gets filled by career criminals in big banking and big business. Congress has now become the front office of the ruling class.

The United States falls far behind decent standards of social democracy in health care, housing and public transportation. Why? We have no thorough public debates about such issues, and indeed the workable solutions to such problems are dismissed in the name of political realism. This happens in every major election. The stranglehold of the corporate parties on public funds and public life will not be broken without an open political struggle. That struggle will include electoral politics, though politics never begins nor ends on election days.

The Democratic Party has long given voters all the persuasive logic of a protection racket. The message, in various versions, amounts to this: Sure, we spit in your face and ask you to pretend it’s rain, but the other crew would also break your arm. And the partisan methods of driving political opponents out of the public arena have a familiar mafia charm. One example must suffice here. In Pennsylvania, the majority of “progressive” Democrats covered themselves in shame when the “independent judiciary” was used as a partisan hammer against Green Party candidates such as Ralph Nader and Carl Romanelli.  Did they protest on principle? Were they willing to defend open elections, even and especially for political opponents? No, they either looked the other way or they joined in a chorus of vituperation against the Green Party. Under the pretext that Green ballot access petitions were not strictly up to code, these candidates were subjected to heavy fines. But their only crime was daring to challenge the two corporate parties.

The current global economic crisis is not just another roller-coaster ride. Many sane and sober observers fear that the international locomotive of corporatism is going off the rails. Is this a necessary crisis of the capitalist system, determined by the self-destruction and self-renovation of a perpetual motion machine? Or is it simply—simply! —a failure to follow the good old rules of financial accounting, with plenty of sunshine on the public ledgers? This way of thinking neatly separates the public motive of private profit from presumably private bad habits such as theft and fraud. That is colossal nonsense. The privatization of public resources (including the public treasury) means all of the “private” bad habits of corporations have catastrophic public consequences.

The notion that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds is very dear to the hearts of capitalists. They assure us everything will turn out alright in the long run. Yes, the old chestnut from Keynes is fitting here: “In the long run, we’re all dead.” And there really is something all too philosophical about taking the long view of lost jobs, vanishing pensions, and cancer patients who can’t afford chemotherapy. The long view means the view from the managerial heights of the corporate juggernaut. The long view means someone is comfortable sitting behind the steering wheel—while others are simply thrown under the wheels.

“Capitalism After the Fall” was the title of an article by Richard W. Stevenson in the April 19, 2009, issue of The New York Times. Democratic capitalism (as the Ford Foundation and The New York Times would say) has taken a tumble, but will surely rise again. This is a cheerful view, as though a gardener scans a bed of roses and says, “Tough luck! Winter slammed my favorites, but these are hardy perennials. Summer is another season.” This will always be so generally true that politicians will always lull the general public with these sweet lullabies.

Barack Obama has been singing such lullabies lately. What else can he do? He, too, needs time and breathing space, and not just the general public. The fact that the two corporate parties have vast interests in common does not make the partisan political arena any less treacherous. What will Obama and his economic advisers offer us in the years ahead? Stevenson quoted the suspicions of Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute:

“They want much more of a European-style social democracy in which people are far less exposed to the vicissitudes of a market economy, and they want to have much easier access to manipulating the private-market economy.”


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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, May 3, 2009 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

Re: topofthemorningtoya

Your comment: The upper classes exist as a result of superior productivity.

Let’s not stop there!  Superior productivity is the result of SUPERIOR LABOR and of TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES. TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES are usually a result of the educated middle class. NOT the other way around.  But let’s not stop there either, consider the internet built with TAX DOLLARS which private big money suddenly claims, they put no dollars in.  How about TAX FUNDED research for pharma, in their own labs and at universities, private interests profit, but they did not PAY for the very research that they CLAIM is what makes their products so expensive!

Regarding your other comment, Actually, you stated (to put it in context)”far more threatening to their pseudo-self-esteem than lacking an alturistic pretext at any given moment is the presense of a man of authentic self-esteem; and who isn’t afraid to display it by owning nice things.”

Displaying things as an act of self esteem IS flaunting it, Are you trying to convince me or yourself?

As for the 100 richest people, here’s 400 of them.  That was hard, did I “save my life”?

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2008/54/400list08_The-400-Richest-Americans_Rank.html

I have to get busy, be back later.

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

totmty—You response is so histrionic that it does not deserve a response, but here is someone who said it better than I could. (he also sounds like a grown-up!)

(It is nearly impossible to argue morals with a person who has none. There are really hard to counsel , too…)

http://www.zompist.com/libertos.html

“Unacceptable morality”
“Ultimately, my objection to libertarianism is moral. Arguing across moral gulfs is usually ineffective; but we should at least be clear about what our moral differences are.

First, the worship of the already successful and the disdain for the powerless is essentially the morality of a thug. Money and property should not be privileged above everything else—love, humanity, justice.

(And let’s not forget that lurid fascination with firepower—seen in ESR, Ron Paul, Heinlein and Van Vogt, Advocates for Self-Government’s president Sharon Harris, the Cato Institute, Lew Rockwell’s site, and the Mises Institute.)

I wish I could convince libertarians that the extremely wealthy don’t need them as their unpaid advocates. Power and wealth don’t need a cheering section; they are—by definition—not an oppressed class which needs our help. Power and wealth can take care of themselves. It’s the poor and the defenseless who need aid and advocates.

The libertarians reminds me of G.K. Chesterton’s description of people who are so eager to attack a hated ideology that they will destroy their own furniture to make sticks to beat it with. James Craig Green again:

Typical excuses are “the common good”, “public morality”, “traditional family values”, “human rights”, “environmental protection”, “national security”, and “equality”. Each appeals to the confused hysteria of a segment of the population. Each allows property to be denied its rightful owner. Each denies the concept of self-ownership.

Here’s a very different moral point of view: Jimmy Carter describing why he builds houses with Habitat for Humanity:

From my rural boyhood, when I often spent the night with black neighbors who lived in unheated and dilapidated shacks, to my years in the White House when I saw the plight of the homeless and those trapped in poverty housing worldwide, I have known that shelter matters. And I know, as a Christian, that I have a responsibility to serve where I can, that as I treat “the least of these”, I treat my Creator.
Is this “confused hysteria”? No, it’s common human decency. It’s sad when people have to twist themselves into knots to malign the human desire (and the Biblical command) to help one’s neighbor.”

(unquote) You dont have to be a christian, or have low self esteen to believe in human decency. Apparently, you have no such belief, so feel the need to decry those that do.

http://www.marxist.com/usa-right-wing-populism-phantom-menace.htm

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By topofthemorningtoya, May 3, 2009 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

KDelphi,

You are so inculcated with collectivism that the moment you step out of it for a minute, you fall right back into it.

I demolish your dishonest flank-manuever that environmentalism is about property rights, and so all you can do is start spouting off about how me, here, right now, has some moral obligation to some hypothetical human who might live on earth 9,000 years from now.  that i should actually shape my life and my ambitions around this consideration in any degree.

you know what?  the earth could get hit by a meteorite the size of Brazil tomorrow and all of your moaning would be moot.  just imagine the greenhouse effect of that why don’t ya?

altruism is a catchall term for any sort of whining anti-human to spare himself from his congential incompetence.  at first it was sacrifice yourself to your neighbor.  then it was to the nation.  then it was to the world at large.  now it’s to plants and animals and hypothetical people who may not ever exist.

i do know one way to up the odds that they might exist:  industrial civilization.  oh no, couldn’t have that.

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

It is not to me to define it. It is to a person that asserts that we a still living in the type of environment that we arose from and, that, we , as humans, are not having a negative impact on that environment.

I am not advocating a “return to a natural state” nor not returning to one, I dont see how it could be done. But, what we are doing now, is unsustainable.

To say that we cant be negatively impacting the planet, because “we are a “part of it” ( I believe that that sums up the argument, without belaboring it) is to pretend that no species effect their own environments negatively. Many do and , in fact, go extinct. I’d rather not have that happen to my species…

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By topofthemorningtoya, May 3, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

Outraged,

1: The middle class exists as a result of the upper classes.  The upper classes exist as a result of superior productivity.  Analogously (and often directly related), the small business in this country would not be any where near as profitable as it is if not for big business.  If every small business had to make it’s own paper clips and it’s own automobiles, it’s owners and employees would be living in medieval huts.

2:  The middle-class, flush with fiat currency straight off of Federal Reserve presses, were every bit as guilty for investing in nothing in the 1920’s as were the upper classes.  No, big business shouldn’t be looking to the gov’t for bailouts today, but when you consider the amount of taxes they pay, it starts to seem less unjust.  It does set the wrong precedent though.

3:  I didn’t say “flaunt” it, I said display it.  Aside from Gates, Buffett (the token apologists for capitalism), and the Walton family, you couldn’t name the 100 richest Americans to save your life.

4:  Your entire point that the man who believes that his material success being a symbol of his pride and worth being delusion, it amounts to nothing more than a run-down 1986 Ford Pinto clunking down the road with the bumper sticker:  don’t let the car fool you, my treasure is in heaven.

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By Nomascerdo, May 3, 2009 at 10:07 am Link to this comment

Define “natural state”?

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

Leefeller—HOw am I supposed to “answer” that environmentalism is a scam? I dont answer things that seem very obvious to me, because I have answered them a million times. Maybe there is a scientist here…

Libertarians believe in property. They believe in privitization. That is about it.

As for Socialism or LIbertarianism, I agree that the neo-liberal game we are playing now, is the worst of both worlds. But to contend that a person is given life, and, yet, no right to any of the necessities to survive, is just beyong comprehension to me.

We will live together as brothers or perish together as fools. (paraphrase—MLKJ)

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, May 3, 2009 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Re: topofthemorningtoya

Your comments: “The danger, Paolo, in selling the Libertarian framework for society to the other commentors here is that they do not agree with you that people should be well off.  They, like anyone, will say that they believe that, but they don’t.”

Why would anyone not want others to be “well off”?  What do you mean by “well off”, that’s a generic status and could be interpreted many ways.  What was it that CREATED the middle class?  It was the BALANCE of power and money, which meant education, libraries, roads, safety nets, etc.

“As one person who replied to something you said pointed out:  in a laizzes-faire society people would develop the habit of only being interested in themselves, and would feel no obligation to help society in general.

This is true, of course, but the difference between someone like yourself, and the rest of the people on here, is that you don’t regard that as a bad thing.  Besides knowing that even poor people in a free society live their small lives for completely selfish reasons, you see that in order to regard selfishness as a virtue, a person has to implicitly consider their own “self” as worth being number one.  That’s what makes you able to advocate laizzes-faire capitalism.”

America has had a Laissez-faire system, it was before “The Great Depression”, remember…. this was when BUSINESS and MONIED INTERESTS allowed to operate freely, bankrupted and ripped off thousands and povertized thousands more; many died.  It appears they’ve come full circle…. AGAIN, using the very same tactics.  But you omit the fact that they ARE NOW AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH, stealing even more billions.

As for the portion of your text I highlighted, am I to understand that you think totalitarianism a good thing? For most people - especially TAXPAYERS - whose money these “supposed” capitalists always come crying for once they’ve corrupted the nation, it’s people and it’s government this is not the case.

“And so, to cover it up, they look for other, easier ways to feel like they’re worthwhile people.  And that’s where their alleged love for humanity comes from.  They wrap themselves in altruism and “social conscience” and proceed to loudly remind anyone who lacks what they have that he is evil.

Which, incidentally, is the real purpose of their game.  I said that the reason why these people here won’t buy the Libertarian framework is because they don’t want people to be well off.  Well, far more threatening to their pseudo-self-esteem than lacking an alturistic pretext at any given moment is the presense of a man of authentic self-esteem; and who isn’t afraid to display it by owning nice things.”

According to you, a man of authentic self-esteem; supposedly is one “who isn’t afraid to display it by owning nice things”.  You’re joking right….lol.  I don’t know where you live but around these here parts that is known as “a man with a small dick”, since he needs those things to make himself “feel” big.

“They just want to make such a man go away.  If they can’t pretend he doesn’t exist, then they’ll use the government to make sure he can’t exist.”

This, “such a man” that you speak of, exists only in his own mind.  They fool themselves over and over again by imaging that everyone covets their artificial grandeur.  They rationalize that even on a level playing field they would arise the victor, when in fact they KNOW this to be false.  And is why they habitually use lying, undermining, stealing and the povertization of others to maintain this figment of their own imagination and attempt to “shore up” their self worth with things they don’t need and many times don’t seriously want…. lest they be exposed as the little men they really are.

Most would call “such a man” delusional.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, May 3, 2009 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

Speaking for everyone on the thread, seems presumptions, but it must easier that way. Lump all alleged opponents as all the same. Must be a rule to never answer their questions.

The gospel has been said, as the door to door salesmen always uses the same pitch, buy it for it is, the best their is. Proof positive? Because it is said so and written in the journals.  Any questions will not be answered, because only opponents ask questions.

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 9:54 am Link to this comment

totmty—That might be true , if we were living in a natural state—-we are not.

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By Nomascerdo, May 3, 2009 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Socialism is a centrally planned system built on debt and borrowing, fiat money, government force, oppression,mediocrity, and human suffering.

Capitalism is an organically derived, adaptive and dynamic system built on savings and productivity, charity, creativity, human freedom, and liberty.

In this country we have an unfortunate combination of socialism and fascism and we are turning our back on even the most basic virtues of the free market that have raised the standards of living in this country and made it, at one time, prosperous. Those who saw this coming and have a solution based on liberty (the free market economists and political economists of the Austrian school) continue to be ignored, while those who created this mess (the central planners and elite power broker banksters of the Keynesian / neo-con / neo-liberal, empire building “do-gooder” persuasion) continue to gain more and more power and control over the economy, and an ever growing, intrusive, and powerful government.  The wars will continue, the impoverishment will continue, the enrichment of the few will continue, and the loss of liberty will continue.

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By topofthemorningtoya, May 3, 2009 at 9:45 am Link to this comment

KDelphi,

Your comments only prove that environmentalism, all of it’s posturing as a scientific movement to the contrary, is in reality simply the last bastion of the discredited ideology of socialism.  People such as yourself hate themselves so much, and are so infected with malice towards those who do not hate themselves, that they have gone to the ends of the earth (literally, as in when you hear them bitch about polar bears) to keep from having to gain authentic self-esteem.

environmentalism is perfect too.  marx is spinning in his grave wishing he had thought of it.  it is far more totalitarian than anything the communists or the national SOCIALISTS ever thought of.  literally anything can be construed as “the environment” and, the average American being innocently sympathetic to the claims of the rights of others, takes the bait every time.

here’s why your pseudo-American premise that pollution is a violation of your rights is bunk:  pollution is necessary to survive.  you (like 95% of the rest of the world’s population) wouldn’t even be alive to bitch about your “rights” being violated if it weren’t for pollution.

it is utterly ridiculous to claim that somehow the very phenomenons which give rise to your existence somehow violate your existence.  the only explanation for opening one’s mouth and saying something like that is, as i have, said a profound hatred of all of the things which make life worth living.  a hatred of reason, of production, of freedom, of happiness.  and most importantly, a hatred of one’s own self.

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

Paolo—We tried “voluntarily investing retirement money elsewhere”—its called IRA’s and 401k’s.

Without regulations, the stock mkt managed to gut the middle class, who had been tricked into seeking higher returns. (advocated strongly by Reagan, continued by Clinton)It plays on greed. This “alleviated” big businesses role in pensions.(did they invest that money into “more jobs”? no..) NOw, they are trying to get everyone to BUY into the “health inasurance’ scam, to eliminate employers’(and society’s) resonsiblity from that. (Do contracts mean anything? No , just for buonuses for rich guys) So they could do a class action suit—oh , thats right, you guys would eliminate that, also. So how many would have to die from a certain product , before business would slack off and people would get wise?(would it be your child or grandmother?) What about stupid people that never catch on? Survival of the fittest…social darwinism.

The avg lineworker has zero “access to the courts”...and what about the “poor suckers” that bought into a “bad plan”?If there is no money available from what is left, how do they seek recourse? There is never an answer in Libertarianism as to what happens to our fellow humans who “fall through the cracks”. I just feel that laissez-fare economies make that all the more likely.

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By KDelphi, May 3, 2009 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

topofthemorning to ya—I dont believe that people should be “well-off” to the detriment of others, and, overuse of resources, to the point of endangering the planet…if they are, it infringes on my rights. Advocating selfishness seems to be the new virtue that makes it impossible to endorse pure LIbertarianism. I try to read som e of these guys, and, gawd, I just think “what would happen to…” and I know their answer—-they dont care.

Libertarians seek to ignore the fact that this planet has limited resources. YOu may think that hoarding more for yourself doesnt effect others, (and can deny that is turns you into Simon Cowell or Donald Trump)but, it does, in fact. It is not simple “
altruism” (although, if you have been there, empathy is easier), it is survivaL and caring about the species on the planet, but, most especially your own. If is about being part of an advanced group of mammals. If you do not feel that way (most Great Apes live in communal group), you must be a reptile…

Paolo—So when would you “stop the demon of SS”? NOw? What would you do with old and disabled people living on it? Oh, continue it for “those dependent”, Ive heard. For how long? Who decides? What happens to whats already been paid into it? How do we account for money that has been raided from it for years, by both parties to pay for wars? What about kids, who have bad parenst? What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow and cannot “produce”? (charity care is broke)

It breaks down into the worst kind of trickle down economics and I still do not see how it is not Social Darwinism…

People are free to “give to charities” now…what stops me from “giving to charities” is no money..

Outraged—”...  Capitalism and democracy are distinctly at odds.  Capitalism endorses a totalitarian agenda, while democracy is a construct of the wishes of The People.”

Exactly….

truedigger3—Not trying to contradict you, but, the Chinese economy is doing fantastic compared to western style capitalist ones—their “stimulus pkg” worked, almost immediately. I have concerns about the environemental impact of a huge “middle class” lifestyle anywhere,(ie modeled after US former “middle class”) and, I do not know as much about China as some here…so I do not know enough to endorse it or ney…as Folk says, it is difficult to get good, honest info about it here…

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Paolo's avatar

By Paolo, May 3, 2009 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

Yet another libertarian observation:

A poster, in response to my observation that, in a free society, you would have to PERSUADE people to sign up for your retirement plan, rather than force them, responded (tongue in cheek) that he tried to start his private social security plan, but no libertarians signed up.

Unwittingly, this poster has pointed up one of the great benefits of a free society. You may well think your plan (because you thought of it) is brilliant, and that anyone who doesn’t go along with it is a fool. But in a free society, you can’t force them to go along with your obviously brilliant logic.

If it does end up that your plan is bad, you might hook a few suckers. Then, when your financially doomed scheme failed, those whom you had mulcted would have access to courts of law and could at least seek some restitution.

In a pay-or-else, government force system, no such restitution is possible. When the whole pyramid scheme eventually collapses, millions are cheated out of their forced investments, and there are no means of recourse.

Bernie Madoff, in the biggest private pyramid scheme ever (never detected, as usual, by our ever-helpful government agencies who promise to protect us), managed to steal a few billion bucks—less than the budget of a small federal agency.

When Social Security goes bust, the unfunded liabilities will be in the trillions, impoverishing almost everyone.

Which brings me to yet another devastating critique of Social Security. If it’s really such a self-evidently grand program, why not make participation in it voluntary? Shouldn’t people want to voluntarily sign up for a program, if it obviously is so sound?

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By topofthemorningtoya, May 3, 2009 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

The danger, Paolo, in selling the Libertarian framework for society to the other commentors here is that they do not agree with you that people should be well off.  They, like anyone, will say that they believe that, but they don’t.

As one person who replied to something you said pointed out:  in a laizzes-faire society people would develop the habit of only being interested in themselves, and would feel no obligation to help society in general.

This is true, of course, but the difference between someone like yourself, and the rest of the people on here, is that you don’t regard that as a bad thing.  Besides knowing that even poor people in a free society live their small lives for completely selfish reasons, you see that in order to regard selfishness as a virtue, a person has to implicitly consider their own “self” as worth being number one.  That’s what makes you able to advocate laizzes-faire capitalism.  When a person doesn’t feel that way about himself, they have a hard time accepting himself, and an even harder time advocating a political system that would allow him to fully express what he knows he doesn’t have.

And so, to cover it up, they look for other, easier ways to feel like they’re worthwhile people.  And that’s where their alleged love for humanity comes from.  They wrap themselves in altruism and “social conscience” and proceed to loudly remind anyone who lacks what they have that he is evil.

Which, incidentally, is the real purpose of their game.  I said that the reason why these people here won’t buy the Libertarian framework is because they don’t want people to be well off.  Well, far more threatening to their pseudo-self-esteem than lacking an alturistic pretext at any given moment is the presense of a man of authentic self-esteem; and who isn’t afraid to display it by owning nice things.

They just want to make such a man go away.  If they can’t pretend he doesn’t exist, then they’ll use the government to make sure he can’t exist.

You’re never going to win with these people.  They don’t care if their ideals are irrational.  They don’t care that their socialist scheme have not and will not ever achieve, in fact, their stated goals.  They are nihilists to the core, and the only reason why they advocate anything less abstract is to spare themselves from having to look at themselves as how they truly are.

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By ardee, May 3, 2009 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

Paolo rants:
“The financially doomed Social Security system was started because millions of people saw their savings evaporate in the government/Federal Reserve collapse of 1929.”

A rant of my own:
One must first object to the premise that the system itself is doomed, though I am certain this poster would want it to be so. So far there have been 11 years in which the Social Security program did not take enough in FICA taxes to pay the current year’s benefits. During these years, Trust Fund bonds in the amount of about $24 billion made up the difference, not bad for a 70 odd year old system.

Secondly one must understand the entirety of the social security system and its benefit to our citizenry, for example: Keep in mind that the Social Security Act itself was much broader than just the program which today we commonly describe as “Social Security.” The original 1935 law contained the first national unemployment compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs, and the Aid to Dependent Children program.

To hang ones hat upon the insolvency or unfairness (?) of social security, or to claim it to be against the best interests of the nation as a whole is to have no place to actually hang that hat.

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By Louise, May 3, 2009 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

I always chuckle when I hear/read Libertarian views. Much like “pure” religion, they are based on a set of principles guided by the proposition that all things are absolute. That we are all created equal, and that anyone can do anything for themselves, anytime.

If that were true, there’d be no need for government or a capitalist market. No need for parents or police, churches or homeless shelters.

Capitalists would have to move to other countries to find a labor force willing to slave labor. 
(Oh wait! They already have!)

Money would have no value if it couldn’t be eaten, burned or traded. Those who have a great deal could keep it. Those who have none wouldn’t steal it. We could go back to the barter system where everyone gets what they need based on their ability to produce and trade.

People stuck in one room walk-ups can raise mushrooms in the closet. People who inherited grand-dads fortune can stuff mattresses with their money, and barter a mattress for a weeks worth of food.

The crippled and the insane can move into empty government buidings, and the homeless can do the same.

Taxes will be done away with, because nobody will have an income to tax. When the roads and bridges collapse into ruin we can all get horses and donkeys to transport us about. And some entrepreneur can gather horse and donkey shit to be bartered to backyard farmers for a pig or a hen. Spas and gyms cant run on a pound of mushrooms, which will be good for the indulged. They’ll have to learn to walk again.

The very wealthy will have to learn how to take care of themselves, so we can all become absolutely equal.

We wont need health care because the filth that industry produces will go away completely, as will the industry. Big Pharma, unable to survive on pigs and chickens will fade away, as will all the poison chemicals they have blessed us with. Anyone who wants to survive will labor ‘till they drop dead from stress and exhaustion, and wont have time to get sick. There will be no need for social security because there will be no old people, having done the same. Dropped dead I mean.

The population will quickly shrink and infant mortality will skyrocket. Which should please the anti abortion folks, since every pregnancy will be guarded lest a necessary, soon to be born family provider is lost.

People clustered in cities will be the first to see a rapid drop in population, as backing up sewers lead to fatal epidemic. Those lucky enough to live outside the city will only have to worry about bands of hungry people coming to clean out there larder.

What happens across the ocean, or the border will have no meaning since we wont know once the electric grid has collapsed and nobody has a working phone, TV, radio or computer. Everyone will have to learn how to write on paper again, if they can find paper, or something to write with.

Yes, in a world of absolute and absolute equality, eventually everything will collapse, absolutely!

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By Leefeller, May 3, 2009 at 7:57 am Link to this comment

Blame is easy, reality is hard. Selling fantasies by Proselytizing has been done before, if one wants anarchy, they must look to the perfect world of Somalia, no restrictions on guns, no government to speak of, no Social Security, no need of health care, has something to do with life expectancy. Surely, if Libertarians were in charge. There would be no exiles in Somalia?

Somalia, the perfect poster child of the Libertarian dream! Feel the goose bumps!

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By Folktruther, May 3, 2009 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

truedigger 3, thank you for objecting to my comment that world power is shifting toward Asia where most people live, and especially China, which is currently replacing the US as the world’s leading power.  Your objections are the standard preconceptions and presuppositions of the American mainstream truth and of American economics.  I know you are sincere but they are complete Orwellian bullshit from beginning to end.

The reason that they American people are so deluded is because the American power structure, with TV and modern advertising techniques, has been very successful in deluding us.  We are miseducated misinformed and misentertained from childhood to identify with emotional truths that serve the interests of oppressive power.

Nowhere is this deception more evident than in American economics. The unemployment figures have always been frabricated, but now the inflation and growth statistics have also been falsified, largely by Greenspan and Summers at the end of the Clinton administration.  In liberal economics there has never been a similar statistic for economic inequality so, as far as we know from the stats, the economy could be speeding along wonderfully and ten percent of the people accrewing ninty percent of the income.

I can’t go into detail here, but US foreign policy is largely made by private enterprise and a more realistic book has been written by the Peterson Institute called CHINA’S RISE. China and US economices are so differnt it is difficult to compare them, but in terms of material production China’s GDP is already larger than the US’s. The American media simply emphasizes what is bad about China’s economy while excluding comment about how it is better.

For example, in the last quarter fo 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009, China’s GDP slid to a little over +6%, the lowest in a decade.  But the US GDP slid to -6% in both quarters!  But there is never a direct comparison such as I am making.

The Chinese worker may get wages a tenth of the US conterpart.  But, as the economist James Gailbraith stated, the basic food, clothing, transportation and housing is about a tenth of the cost. in 2003, one could rent a small two bedroom apartment in an old building in Shanghai for about 20$ a month. 

China produces five to ten times as much steel, coal, cement, and other basic commondities as the US, and is working its way up to producing hi-tech products.  In the first quarter of 2008, China sold more cars than the US.

China has developed a superior form of capitalism, what I have referred to as party capitalism since Western economics doesn’t acknowledge it.  In a few years china will have twice the GDP of the US, and this is mostly domestic production. The pretense that the Chinese economy is based primarily on exports has been debunked recently by the Britich ECONOMIST.

But the only way Americans will ever know that they are being systematically and strategically conned is if these matters are discussed openly, with the candor missing from the mainstream truth.

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By Paolo, May 3, 2009 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

More from a libertarian perspective:

The financially doomed Social Security system was started because millions of people saw their savings evaporate in the government/Federal Reserve collapse of 1929.

It is interesting that various posters here decry capitalism as “unsustainable,” when that is exactly a description of the socialist, Federal Reserve, government intervention system. It is unsustainable. Bubbles are unsustainable—yet the natural inclination of all governments, once they get complete control of the currency, is to inflate.

Then, when the inevitable bursting of the bubble occurs, they blame the free market for what their own policies created.

Now, we have the ultimate, most gigantic bubble ever conceived: the doomed Social Security system. Eventually, to pay for it, future generations will either be forced to pay such high taxes (either in the form of taxes, or in inflation) for it, that they will either revolt, or go into a black market economy.

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By Leefeller, May 3, 2009 at 7:01 am Link to this comment

Tried to start my own Social Security Plan. Turned out it is a lot harder than it sounds. My mistake may have been trying to sell to Libertarians. Just figuring since it was their idea, they would be interested in signing up.

Seems Libertarians are really good at spouting off why one shouldn’t do something and how wrong it is, but their plans seems to have some problems. Like no track record and far as I can tell, they don’t work?

Maybe the Libertarians can show me a Social Security plan they set up that works? Don’t tell me to invest in the Wall Street boys, some of my neighbors are not doing so good with them.  Wonder if Mad Max has Social Security?

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By Purple Girl, May 3, 2009 at 6:27 am Link to this comment

“For the People and By the People” IS a socialist concept (in it’s most fundmental sense).“Trickle Down” Economics is the socio economic system our Ancestors fled and waged a war to free US of.
Taxes are a ‘Christian’ concept when they are used to multiply and redistribute ‘Fish & Bread’ (essential resources) among those in need.Additionally the adage regarding ‘teaching a man to fish’ is akin to providing viable access and ability to Fish (access to the Free market)
Small Gov’ts manage the necessary national needs and requirments as a collective global entity, but stay out of irrelevant things like..Personal choice and freedoms.
The 2nd admendment guarantees the right to Bear Arms- but not arsenals.And the ideology of ‘Guns and God’ is the exact thing we are fighting in the ‘War on Terror’.
The ‘Right’ has become confused, they have mistaken their ideals with those of the Corp’s interests. They have fallen into the concept that if it’s good for the Corps, it’s good for the citizens…Instead of as Lincoln so rightly pointed out, It’s the other way around.
There is no ‘Third Way’ in American Politics, there is ‘WE the People’ which is represented by the Gov’t which acts as Our Collective agent, internally and globally. No Third Agent was ever a consideration by our Founders, whether it be industry, military or Religion.
If you want to claim to be a ‘Red blooded’, ‘True Blue’ american never forget ‘For & By the people’, perhaps “All” and “ONLY” should have been added to eliminate any confusion, or deception.

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By truedigger3, May 3, 2009 at 4:07 am Link to this comment

Folktruther wrote:
“As world power shifts from the West to Asia, where most people live”
____________________________________________________

Folktruther,

I assume you are talking about China.
What you described above might happen but in the
very far abstract future.
There is no any indication that this is happening
now. With all the talk about China this and China
that, in reality, China is nothing but a huge sweat shop for transnational companies, mostly US companies.
China depends immensely on foreign markets, mostly USA to export the products of these “sweat shops” and
the inflow of foreign capital and technology.
As they say, if the US economy sneeze, the Chinese
economy will catch a severe flu. Can you imagine what happen when the US economy catch severe flu as
is happening right now??!! All indications are that China is suffering badly right now and don’t forget, a large portion of the Chinese reserves are in US Treasury notes.!
There is no comparison between the 2.5 trillion dollar Chinese economy and the 14.5 trillion dollar
US economy. How much time do you think China need to
close that gap and it is already running into very
serious environmental problems.
And don’t forget, China has very nervous wary neighbors.

You also wrote:
“At that point the possibity exists of some form of real socialism in the US, since it’s continued decay leaves revolution of some kind likely.” 

There is no indication whatsoever of that will happen.
In my humble opinion, the best system will not be
following any certain dogma, but will be a pragmatic mixture of different systems.
For example the privately owned Federal Reserve System should be nationalized and the issuance of paper currency should be only by the government.
There should be strict regulations for business and
and corporation should not be allowed to grow beyond
certain size.
There should be a national health care system and
a good social safety net.
The banks and the financial system should only finance producing products and services and not
speculation and shenanigans.
Oil, gas, coal and the production and distribution
of electricity should be nationalized.
Logging from the Federal and State forests should
be also nationalized.

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By Outraged, May 2, 2009 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment

Re: Paolo

I like a “checks and balances” system.  But the system you endorse has none.  I know we’ve gone around and around regarding this many, many months ago…. but still, what FACTS can you give which could possibly qualify your stance?  I agree with the libertarian “individual rights” or as I personally see it…. one of CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

Complete and utter capitalism has historically been an UNWORKABLE model.  I know you CLAIM this is because of “intervention”.  Ironically…. this is PRECISELY my point.  That is…. when capitalism is faced with a detriment of any kind they immediately and unhesitatingly endorse socialistic premises.  Glaringly, they do not endorse these premises FOR EVERYONE, but for themselves only.

In this reality, your assumption, no matter how valid in “a perfect world” loses its credibility.  We do not live in a perfect world.  Your proposal that such exists…has NEVER once materialized, except in the case of “the little guy” business owner.  Sure…. these experience the cold hard facts of capitalism, however in what we consider “big business” it has NEVER materialized.  There are no shangra-la’s, and for this reason we need to be discerning and NOT buy into what appears “a good idea” unless we have experienced or have evidence that this, factually…. WOULD be viable solution.

Democracy is the VOICE AND WISHES OF THE PEOPLE realized.  Capitalism and democracy are distinctly at odds.  Capitalism endorses a totalitarian agenda, while democracy is a construct of the wishes of The People.

In this same vein, my experience tells me The People do not wish to annihilate every form of capitalism…... however, they absolutely and unhesitatingly WILL rid themselves of that portion of captialism which disregards their “winning card”.

Our “cards” are EVERY BIT as valuable as theirs…. they know this, and so do we.  All propaganda aside, of course.

http://www.alternet.org/story/139052/enraged_about_corporate_greed_kidnap_your_boss/

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By Tony Wicher, May 2, 2009 at 10:32 pm Link to this comment

Re Folktruther, May 2 at 9:07 pm #

“I bascially agree with Anarcissie, even though I belive in class struggle socialism.  I don’t think socilaism is on the world agenda in the next few decades.”

  x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx

Democracy = Socialism. Capitalist Democracy = Social Democracy = Democratic Capitalism = Democratic Socialism.

Free market regulated by a democratic government in the interest of society as a whole = democratic socialism.

I think the winds of history are blowing Obama and the country in that direction. But I’m sure we can agree that the forces of reaction are strong and the battle has hardly begun.

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By Folktruther, May 2, 2009 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

I agree, Anarcissie.  Civilization is only possible after the economic problem has been solved.  And this is primarily a power problem.  consider: a doubling of productivity could be taken as decresing the work year in half, and this doubling occurs at least every few decades in the developed capitalist economies. It has been occurring in China every seven years or s.

this is effectively concealed in liberal economic theory.  But if we had increased leasure from the mainstream economy, imagine the kinds of things that we could create in a volenteer economy.  Well, its impossible to imagine because as many things, ideas and creations could be made as people could think of.

KDelphi- I have tried to work out ballpark figure for a surpprise-free projection of future developments, and the only thing I think credible is that the future is not as far away as people think.  History has accelerated enormously but our old ideas, repeated endlessly in the mainstream truth, keep us from seeing it. 

The earthchildrren living today will live in a very differnt world at the end of their lifetimes.  Hopefully it will be a better one, but this is not a forgone conclusion, to say the least.  But if the Chinese ruling class promotes its own collective interests, it can rule by economic and diplomatic means, rather than the military means of British, German and American imperialism.

Will China do so?  They are currently making noises about building aircraft carriers, which is not a good sign.  As long as people do not control their own economic and political systems, the future is problematical.  Class based power is oppressive power, and human liberation from this oppression can only come from the superceding of classes.

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By Anarcissie, May 2, 2009 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

I’m willing to believe that traditional capitalism maximizes industrial production-consumption, but I question whether that’s necessarily a good thing overall, especially as one moves beyond primitive to consumerist capitalism.  Note also that traditional capitalism is associated with a strong, centralized Hamiltonian state, not the ideal of most libertarians, but popular with a lot of practicing capitalists.

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By KDelphi, May 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment

Folk—-just curious…how long do you think that that could take?

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By Folktruther, May 2, 2009 at 6:07 pm Link to this comment

I bascially agree with Anarcissie, even though I belive in class struggle socialism.  I don’t think socilaism is on the world agenda in the next few decades.  As world power shifts from the West to Asia, where most people live, (a democratic development of the most people having the most power) the most obvious historial problem is developing the underdeveloped countries and moving the people to the cities.

The most effective model for doing so appears to be Chinese party capitalism. The Chinese state owns a thrid of the economy and all of the land. The party can therefore plan to use the market system effectively, investing 40% of its annual GDP tio attain a stable 10% growth, unparrelled in history. China, according the Peterson institute now has over 170 cities of over a million population; Europe has about 40, the US has 9.

As China takes leadership of the world power system, as Asia has usually done throughout history unbeknownst to most Americans, it will no doubt establish a new form of imperialism, hopefully less barbaric that US or British imperialism.  At that point the possibity exists of some form of real socialism in the US, since it’s continued decay leaves revolution of some kind likely.  What forn this will take is still not known or how it will come about.  This is what we should be thinking about now.

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By truedigger3, May 2, 2009 at 5:43 pm Link to this comment

paolo wrote:
“Social Security is a doomed pyramid scheme in which everyone is forced to participate, whether or not they like the lousy returns on investment.”
____________________________________________________

So, you like the GREAT returns on investment where
many retirees or close to retirement folks recently
lost between 40% to 60% of their nest egg.
Do you want to depend on the crooks and fraudsters of
Wall St. to handle your nest egg??!!  Good luck!!
Social Security is one of the best run government
programs. It has funds that grantee 100% of current
benefits until the year 2043 and may be more.
With little adjustments in benefits and taxes
the program is viable for the foreseeable future.
How about rolling back some of Bush’s obscene tax
cuts that benefited mostly the super-rich, that will
help.
All the talk about the crisis of SS is hogwash mixed
with bullshit. The purpose of such talk is to privatize the program and hand the money to Wall
St. crooks.

Paolo, Life sometimes has its nasty surprises and
you might find yourself only with Social Security
and medicare to depend on!! So, layoff that liberitanian nonsense which under the guise of
freedom will allow big business/money to run
amock without any restraint abusing their employees,
customers and the environment.

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By KDelphi, May 2, 2009 at 5:37 pm Link to this comment

Paolo—”..regarding the tendency in a free market economy for luxury items to rapidly become available to everyone. Classic examples of this are the automobile, television, cell phones, and computers—all of which started out as expensive luxuries reserved for the elite, but which rapidly became available to everyone with a modest income. Thus, a free society is not Darwinism, in the sense that one set of people get better off, at the cost of everyone else being made poorer. In a free society, everyone tends to get richer as more and more innovative products become available to everyone.” 

Where is this magical place, where everyone can afford pc’s, automobiles and cell phones? (If you think that the tent cities just opened since the stock mkt crash, you must live far from an inner city)It would be a very filthy place, and it wont last long. It would be unsustainable. That is why capitalism produces the greatest wealth gaps in every country where it is adopted…the greatest continuity of “wealth” and standard of living, is in the Scandanavian coutnries, where they have Democratic Socialism.


Please give an example where an unregulated “free mkt” (laissez fare) has produced more wealth for the people, as a whole. Not just the “
upper middle class”.... The general well being of everyone…

Some site the ‘Austrian” model. Well, Austria is undergoing the same effects that have ravaged all unregulated Capitalist countries. Unemployment is soaring, and, they are having homelessness, also. The country has loaned enormous amounts to Eastern Europe, which, it seems, not, Western Europe is going to not be able to bail out.

The EU has a substantial social safety net, which keeps most Euyropeans from suffering the worst effects of the Capitalistism’s fall…but, then, when they asked for the uS to regulate, of course, we will not do it. We will go from bust to bubble to bust to bubble until we realize that the laissez-farte mkt does not work.

“Accounting for almost 50% of total Austrian foreign bank assets, Eastern Europe clearly stands out. Around 45% of Austria’s lending to Eastern Europe goes to economies such as Romania (USD 43.7 bn), Hungary (USD 36.9 bn), Russia (USD 22.4 bn), Ukraine (USD 14.3 bn) and Bulgaria (USD 5.5 bn).
Since all these economies are currently facing severe economic slowdown or are suffering from painful economic adjustments of past exuberance in private sector credit, Austrian banks are exposed to rising household and business loan defaults.”

http://www.thinkaboutit.eu/2009/03/austrianeconomy/
Published online: 8 September 2006
“...  Sustainability of Austrian public debt is investigated in the context of political objectives such as stabilizing the business cycle, increasing chances for being re-elected and implementing the ideologies of political parties. Several tests indicate that Austrian fiscal policies were sustainable in the period 1960–1974, while from 1975 on, public debt grew much more rapidly. The development of public debt in Austria seems to be driven not primarily by ideology, but by structural causes and a shift in the budgetary policy paradigm.”

http://www.springerlink.com/content/320h576327721721/

Sounds all too familiar to me…I do not support the neo-liberal model that we have been attempting since Reagan…but, doing more of the same with less regulations doesnt seem feasible…

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By ardee, May 2, 2009 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paolo, Thank you for the continued insight into your political philosophy, and, unfortunately, a continuation of the belief that it is utopian in nature, fails to provide for the realities of human nature or the hard evidence of current practices.

Social Security is the single most successful govt run program in the history of our nation, and is still, despite decades of looting begun under Johnson, solvent for the next twenty plus years. It provides income to seniors in a reliable manner and even adjusts for inflation. yet you folks on the libertarian side of things absolutely detest it.

I cannot help but wonder. Just as I cannot help but wonder at your “solution” to our health care crisis; let each man or women start his/her own coverage. Did you really type that with a straight face? Is that how you and your family are dealing with such needs? Do you really believe that insuring one persons health can possibly be less expensive that insuring a million or so of us, or perhaps even the 47 million currently without care of any kind excepting emergency room services, the single most extravagant form of care? Do you fail to grasp, or even care that fully one half the bankruptcies in the nation are health care related? Or that most of those believed themselves covered by care until they found the worm in the health care insurance apple?

I do not take the road that some might in that I will not engage in attacks upon libertarianism, will not call it white man’s selfishness as has been stated so many times. Instead I will simply note my belief that libertarians are basically good folks who fear government when they should fear the way they are duped, robbed and mistreated by the forces of unregulated capitalism that usurp our governmental processes. Instead, and incredibly, libertarians call for less not more regulation.

When socialists criticize capitalism ( at least this particular socialist) I criticize accurately the power that it has over the decisions made by our elected legislators, power used to corrupt govt into building vast wealth for the few instead of caring for th eneeds of the many.

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By Paolo, May 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

More libertarian views on this subject:

I have been asked whether or not I support Medicare and Social Security. Answer: of course not!

Social Security is a doomed pyramid scheme in which everyone is forced to participate, whether or not they like the lousy returns on investment.

I go back to the ultimate point: if you think you have a good idea for a retirement plan, then, in a free society, nothing prevents you from starting one, provided you can find customers. If you wanted to start a retirement program on the same basis as Social Security, you would be arrested for starting a Bernie Madoff type Ponzi scheme.

If you think you have a great idea for health care coverage, nothing in a free society prevents you from starting one.

Regarding “Social Darwinism,” one poster quoted Von Mises, I believe accurately, regarding the tendency in a free market economy for luxury items to rapidly become available to everyone. Classic examples of this are the automobile, television, cell phones, and computers—all of which started out as expensive luxuries reserved for the elite, but which rapidly became available to everyone with a modest income. Thus, a free society is not Darwinism, in the sense that one set of people get better off, at the cost of everyone else being made poorer. In a free society, everyone tends to get richer as more and more innovative products become available to everyone.

To reiterate: when socialists criticize capitalism, what they are usually criticizing is not the free market, but the problems brought about by government intervention in the free market. Thus, we hear it said that “capitalism has failed” because of the recent bubble economy and housing meltdown, but these two phenomena are much more appropriately laid at the doorstep of government intervention—not capitalism.

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By Eric L. Prentis, May 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

FOX Diarrhea News is explosive but at the same time it is runny, stinky and full of corn.

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By Louise, May 2, 2009 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

In my view, the only appropriate “s” word in our current financial meltdown is, Shitheads!

The definition of a republic is a state without a monarch. A political system in which supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. Democracy is a form of government in which state-power is held by the majority of citizens within a country, who all have equal access to power and enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties. Our founding Fathers created a republic, which by their very definition was a form of democracy.

No where in the original founding documents do we find government defined by the words socialism, or capitalism.

Yet here we are, living in a nation thoroughly governed by capitalism. Which over the past four presidencies has born remarkable resemblance to pure plutocracy. The fact that all but one of those presidents was republican speaks volumes. The fact that the one president who wasn’t republican made positive strides by accommodating capitalist greed speaks even louder. But the thing that speaks the loudest, is that “one’s” willingness to sign away the rule of law which kept the capitilists in check.

Lack of vision, or complete indifference to the consequence? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing we do know is his place in history and his behaviours can be a little better understood if we remember by the time he came into office our Congress was already owned by the “conservative” capitalist model. And the fact that we accepted that and still do, speaks volumes to our inability to understand exactly what capitalism is, or is supposed to be.

Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned.

A distinguishing feature of capitalism is that each person owns his or her own labor and therefore is allowed to sell the use of it to employers.

In a “capitalist state” private rights and property relations are protected by the rule of law of a limited regulatory framework. In the modern capitalist state, legislative action is confined to defining and enforcing the basic rules of the market.

Given that reality, it’s easy to understand why we’re in the economic mess we’re in today. We have watched as the rule of law and limited regulatory framework has been done away with. We have watched as labor rights have been whittled away. And laborers have been attacked, vilified and belittled, until their great value in the capitalist model has become indistinguishable from simple obligation to labor.

We have watched as “share holders” have been elevated to a level of respect and value which far exceeds any actual contribution they make to the creation of the product and/or service the capitalist offers.

Full employment is the normal equilibrium for a competitive economy. When in our history have we had full employment? And when did employment achieve a level of fairness? When were those who worked to produce the goods that the capitalist needs to support their capitalism, treated with respect and a level of recognition of their value in relation to the success of the capitalist goals? Where are we today? We watch in disbelief as the “capitalist” blames labor for all their woes. And amazingly labor capitulates and gives up even more of their right to sell the use of their labor for a fair wage.

So in reality we do not have a capitalist model running our Congress. We have a group of obscenely wealthy familial patriarchs who believe more than they believe anything, they have the perfect right to take it all. To hold it all. And to put everyone and everything else beneath their own value. And that value is based on a sense of self-entitlement, based on little more than who they are.

But, there’s a lot more to a political/corporate criminal enterprise than a few labels, although in my view, that’s what our “capitalist” market is today. A political/corporate criminal enterprise being run by shitheads!

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By KDelphi, May 2, 2009 at 10:05 am Link to this comment

Thank you. Anyone who ever reads my posts knows how i feel about this…so…

“In regard to economic policy, the Clintonistas allowed Bill Clinton to continue the bipartisan obfuscation of class divisions in the United States. To speak openly of the working class or of the ruling class made all the career politicians deeply uneasy. That came too close to plain language, and all too close to acknowledging a continuing class struggle of the very rich against the working and middle classes. Like a magical incantation, the phrase “middle class” served to submerge the general public in a warm bath of classless solidarity.”

So true—no one wants to talk about “class” in the US, until they are lower class..

” We are not children under the care of 18th century fathers. And if that sounds scary, then it’s time for we, the people, to grow up.”

Amen! The cold war is over, folks! I wonder if people truly think about the implications of returning to strict Constitutionality…ladies? non-Anglos? non-landowners (or heavily mortgaged?)

Paolo—so you would like all those who cannot care for themselves to live on charity—-please include social programs such as social security and Medicare as those you are against, and I will listen. Too many times I hear people rant against “social welfare programs” and, then, find out that they themselves live on some type of social program, or plan to! The excuse is, “I paid into it”—we all did.

If we would just tax the churches, we could provide for everyone. Ludwig von Mises “..the only means to well-being is to increase the quantity of products. This is what business aims at”—I dont want to live in a society like that. Maybe Texans do.

More Ludwig von Mises:“The rich adopt novelties and become accustomed to their use. This sets a fashion which others imitate. Once the richer classes have adopted a certain way of living, producers have an incentive to improve the methods of manufacture so that soon it is possible for the poorer classes to follow suit. Thus luxury furthers progress. Innovation “is the whim of an elite before it becomes a need of the public. The luxury today is the necessity of tomorrow.” Luxury is the roadmaker of progress: it develops latent needs and makes people discontented. In so far as they think consistently, moralists who condemn luxury must recommend the comparatively desireless existence of the wild life roaming in the woods as the ultimate ideal of civilized life.”

Sounds miserable to me…oh, thats right it is. And unsustainable.

Really?? Really?!

ardee—agree, but, I believe that what Libertarians like Paolo are suggesting is Social Darwinism. If I am wrong, please correct me, paolo, and explain how people like vonMises are not advocating , simply, survival of the fittest….and that is not a society. It would be better to go back to wildness..how?

As far as Anarchism, there seems to be as many anarchists as there are people…some of it makes sense some doesnt. I think that some newbies to it just like the sound of the word or the “letter A” symbol… THe UAW seems to be fine with taking over 55% of Chrysler—-now, if they would just grant some ownership to workers—-who knows if they would like it. Wouldnt anyone else like that, an auto company owned by line workers?? If I could afford it, I’d go out and buy one! They would actually be accountable and responsible for their own products—-imagine..no more obfiscation of Ford Pintos…

Who are those in charge of the “means of production”? Are they a select group, or couldnt any human being of average intelligence do what the “manangers” are doing, if this society werent so class-based? I am just asking…the myth of opportunity in the uS…its fading fast.

“Growth”, without which capital has no putpose, is unsustainable…

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By felicity, May 2, 2009 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

It has been suggested that by way of Specter’s recent defection, Senate Democrats can no longer use their lack of numbers (along with a Repub in the WH) as an excuse for voting Republican.

Senate Democrats have been forced by their new majority into matching their legislation to their rhetoric.  In other words, they’ve finally got to put their ‘money’ where only their mouths have been for far too many years.  And if they don’t?  Then get OUT OF MY PARTY.

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By Anarcissie, May 2, 2009 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

Socialism is “the ownership or control of the means of production by the workers, or by the community in general.”  I don’t see any sign of large numbers of people in the U.S. desiring to go to the trouble of controlling their means of production.  What they appear to want, for the most part, is a better performance on the part of the ruling class.  Under those circumstances it seems somewhat premature to talk about socialism; things are not going to change much.  As for the rightists ranting about how Obama is a socialist, they’re just making “socialism” popular, although neither they nor their audiences know what it is.

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By Leefeller, May 2, 2009 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

Anarchism has it’s merits if you are a Somalian Pirate or Warlord. Anarchists seem to believe in some sort of sappy romantic individualism.  Everyone doing their own thing, that is until the Romans come along.  Seems the Greeks were a form of Anarchism. Even the mutchkin’s were anarchists before the Wizard came along, Good and bad is always defined by the powerful, and would be in Anarchism.  In the Wizard of Oz it was the witches who did the defining.  With the world population as it is since Greece, please provide an example of a benevolent Anarchy and please don’t say the Pope.   

Advocating, anarchism seems to be an inside joke privy of a private club with their special hand shakes funny hats and tattoos, why not suggest we all become anarchists? “Sounds good to me”. 

Now maybe Somalia is not really a textbook definition of Anarchism, but it is the one that comes to mind.  If Anarchy happened in my home town of Hoot Owl, I am supposed to believe War Lords would never materialize in my neck of the woods? Why do I envision the Hatfields and McCoys haveing a shoot out over a parking spot at the local Piggly Wiggly?  Anarchism supports the survival of the person with the biggest stick. If Mad Max were not a movie, it would be a documentary on Anarchy. Oh, and were do the lemmings fit in?

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By ardee, May 2, 2009 at 6:12 am Link to this comment

I have been absent from this site for too long, apparently. It is so difficult to find an honest debate regarding the relative merits of a socialist governance and the contrasting problems besetting an unregulated capitalist form.

The tide of support, almost faith based I suggest, for the candidacy of Barack Obama stemmed more from the legacy of his predecessor and the candidates brilliant ability to speechify than from any real hope that an Obama Presidency would bring us nearer to a socialist form of govt. He is, as are all our leaders frankly, an avowed adherent of capitalism.

I would take exception with the libertarian view of Paolo:
“In a free society, nothing will prevent YOU from helping the poor.” That is, the manner one chooses to help others, in a free society, is an individual—not a collective—choice.”

A rather typical example of the politics of Liberarianism, lets continue unrestrained capitalism and take it to its ultimate conclusion and , by some miraculous occurrence, always unspecified , we will see an emergence from the increasingly selfish and greedy actions that has always, and will always, characterize capitalism.

I would offer that a socialist movement, forming as it must out of the collectivism of unions, neighborhoods, communities and people coming together from the bottom up, is the only way to ensure the social safety net that must, perforce, be the ultimate goal of governance.

Thanks to Truthdig for a terrific article and a great jumping off point for a necessary discussion.

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By Dave Schwab, May 2, 2009 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

Excellent and thoughtful article. Good to see the Green Party get a substantial mention here. I think of Truthdig as the cutting edge of progressive politics, and I’d love to see writers here give more consideration to Greens and other political movements outside of the corporatist establishment parties.

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By prole, May 2, 2009 at 1:17 am Link to this comment

It’s always a good idea “to talk honestly about class politics”. However, “if the Founding Fathers said nothing foundational about social democracy”, it’s probably because it didn’t exist in their lifetimes, so they can hardly be blamed for that. “Social democracy” is of course different from “democratic socialism” which in turn is different from Bolshevism, other communisms, Anarchism and many other leftist variants. None are really applicable to an agrarian society, all modern forms of collectivism have been engendered by industrialization. And now in what has been called a post-industrial society, socialism is still necessary but not the classical marxian variety hinging on an industrial proletariat. Unfortunately, actually existing “socialized” economies in Eastern Europe and Asia didn’t always live up to their socialist values democratically - although they certainly had to contend with extenuating circumstances - and were often guilty of the same ‘productionism’ and enviornmental sins as capitalist economies. Any emergent socialism will, at this stage in history, have to start from an ecological point of view. Democratic socialism - or better still, libertarian socialism, i.e.  Anarchism - would be better for the majority of the human species but it doesn’t automatically follow that it will be better for the rest of life on earth and beyond, without special attention to enviornmental quality. That has not always been a central feature of socialist thought, let alone praxis. It’s imperative to get away from the capitalist commodification of the enviornment with such sleights-of-hand as emissions trading and class-based risk-shifting. Any new socialist movement must also somehow manage to avoid the traditional downfall of the Left - sectarian strife. Obama - who was endorsed during the campaign by Rupert Murdoch - and Fox News and their ilk can be easily overcome if Leftists can ever overcome their worst enemy - themselves. Alas, Leftists historically have always expended more time and effort attacking one another and jockeying for position than they have in uniting to defeat the Right. Maybe it’s because they don’t put so much emphasis on elaborate theory, but the Right has always been much better at maintaining unity on issues that matter to them, while the Left continually dissolves in factionalism. Theory does matter but unfortunately much of the population tends to be apolitical, not looking much beyond their next paycheck. So Keynes, who as much as anyone tried to find a new practical paradigm, probably had it right with his ironic double entendre, ““In the long run, we’re all dead.””  The Left will go on squabbling, the Right will go on ruling, the people will go on toiling and moiling, the enviornment will go on collapsing and we and our “latest missiles and military drones” that “were scary once upon a time” will go the way of the dinosaurs.

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By truedigger3, May 2, 2009 at 12:08 am Link to this comment

An excellent and insightful article.

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By hippie4ever, May 2, 2009 at 12:07 am Link to this comment

When discussing socialism many peoples’ social conditioning kicks in and images of the Cultural Revolution run amok through their synopses. Actually, socialism is a rather pragmatic addendum to the capitalist system, but that’s not what we have here in the U.S.A. Here it’s socialism for the rich and laissez-faire capitalism for the poor. The usual hypocritical greed masquarading as philosophy, and all for obscene profits a.k.a. thefts. The greatest fear of our oppressors: that we will organise and unite people against exploitation.

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By Leefeller, May 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

An article worthy of repute, and not only because I agree with most everything. While reading, I could not help but refer similarities in style, to “Hightower” of “Chat and Chew Cafe” fame. 

Scott Tucker, covers a tremendous amount of ground, one does not know where to start, so I won’t at this time.

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By geronimo, May 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not Just The S Word, The R Word* Too

“Otherwise?”

“Doomsday.”

“Based on?

“Perpetual war + global warming + economic collapse.

“The answer being?”

“Yes we can.”

*Revolution

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By Joel Whitehurst, May 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stated ideals and goals, in the case of the Obama administration, are absolutely negated when you consider that the “noble idealist” appointed a bunch of crooks and ne’er-do-well professional politicians to sing backup for him. 
How can one respect the honesty, for instance, of a treasury secretary who didn’t even bother to pay taxes for eight years, or a Secretary of State whose sole professional experience was with a law firm where all the other partners ended up in jail?
All of the well-spoken words in the world can’t erase the fact that the vice president spent about 40 years in congress without having accomplished a single noteworthy thing.  It’s fairly obvious that the lackluster Joe Biden was appointed as a life insurance policy for the president, and not as a highly qualified backup to serve the American people in case of a dire emergency.
I think that, if Obama’s high-flown rhetoric was, in fact, honest, his appointees would be more suited to the positions they hold, and far more qualified to exercise their vital responsibilities.  The people of this country deserve and expect that.
Obama’s verbal idealism has no more substance than the people he’s chosen to help him govern.
Think about it.

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By Big B, May 1, 2009 at 4:39 pm Link to this comment

Change is coming. It will, of course, arrive in other nations long before it comes to these shores. The poor have risen up in many Central and South american nations in the last few years to vote in socialist leaning governments. Radical Islam has rallied the downtrodden in many a middle eastern country to their own backward pseudo-religious socialist revolution. African nations are still fighting our cold war with the left over munitions of military misadventures past. The poor in all these nations are symbolically storming their own Bastilles. They have been used as a means to an end by the Capitalistic west for centuries now, and now that we have inadvertinetly armed them to the teeth, and kept them in poverty, we must now reap the reward of our unchecked system with a growing movement towards socialism in the emerging third world.

Change will come slow in the US because we americans will beg borrow and steal in order to maintain our standard of living, without realizing that it was socialism within our system that created the american middle class. (and of course, begging borrowing and stealing got us in this mess in the first place)Capitalism’s only solution to get itself out of a worldwide economic crisis caused by too much accumulated debt is to, predictably, borrow our way out of it. It is thinking like this that has dogged capitalism, and has created the instrament of it’s own demise, envy of the haves by the have-nots. The poor REALLY out number the rich now. It’s just a matter of time.

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By Smoove, May 1, 2009 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Socialists have it all wrong. Corporations did not grow strong because our federal gov’t was too weak, rather corporations grew strong because our federal gov’t has grown too powerful and intrusive.

The crux of the issue is that government coercion is up for sale. Our democratic process has given the politicians far too much control over our lives. The politicians have taken the power we (the people) granted them and promptly sold it to the highest bidder. When you think about it, there is nothing inherently nefarious about corporate behavior. They just happen to be the highest bidders.

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By Paolo, May 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

In my libertarian view, Scott Tucker gets it all wrong.

The great libertarian economist, Ludwig von Mises, pointed out long ago that capitalism is blamed for whatever goes wrong, even if it is government intervention that caused the problem.

Today’s problems are a classic example. The Federal Reserve, a typical creation of the so-called “Progressive Era”, is a quasi-government institution that has total power over the creation of money (a power that should not be given to any person or any institution). Using that power, the government debases the currency, and creates a cycle of “boom and bust” through artificial creation of bank credit.

Then, the free market takes the blame for having “failed” when the bubble goes pop.

Now, as a libertarian, I am also no fan of Fox News, which I regard as just another branch of the big government fan club, with an emphasis on the Neocon variation.

Regarding the fact that poor people exist, the ultimate statement that destroys the socialist position is: “In a free society, nothing will prevent YOU from helping the poor.” That is, the manner one chooses to help others, in a free society, is an individual—not a collective—choice.

If you have a great idea about how to help the poor, show your fellow free society citizens some respect, and CONVINCE them to give their money to your cause. The socialist approach is not to convince, but to take by force.

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