Summary: Economic crisis … a leftist radical President … Can socialism be avoided, or is it our destined fate? Perhaps these things are more complex than we usually imagine? Here are some different perspectives on the danger.
1. One of our elected leaders shows the way
Representative Barney Frank, on CNBC’s “Closing Bell”, 20 October 2008:
Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of this money. (source)
2. Matthew Yglesias
Not that anything about the current “socialism” rhetoric is meant to be taken seriously, but isn’t the closest thing to socialism on the American policy agenda the status quo situation in Sarah Palin’s Alaska? You have collective ownership of valuable natural resources that generates lots of revenue for the state, and then the government makes “spreading the wealth around” through the Permanent Fund, etc. its main priority.
It’s actually, for all the flaws of Alaska politics and public policy, a pretty good system. But I think the best way to think about it is that it’s an example of a somewhat special case in which socialism is a good idea.
Of course another time where you need a dose of socialism is if, for example, there’s a financial system emergency and the government needs to partially nationalize large banks in order to recapitalize them. But that’s been brought to us by George W. Bush with the support of John McCain.
— From “Socialism“, 21 October 2008
Does anyone know why Alaska gets these oil revenues, and not the United States government? See the payments from the Alaska Permament Fund.
3. Another viewpoint on our socialist bailout of banks
“Havoc – 41 Theses“, Truth and Beauty, Eric Kraus, 13 October 2008 — Excerpt, A Conversation with Joanna
“Socialism” – she almost screeched, “Socialism” – they are calling this “Socialism” . The miserable f….s!” ”I am a Socialist” she groaned, “and this has nothing whatsoever to do with Socialism. It is simply another bailout for the rich at the expense of the rest of us! It is the capitalists protecting their own kind!”
In one of the most embarrassing misuses of language we have ever witnessed, the press is full of allegations of “socialism”.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind the reader that “socialism” was not conceived of as a term of abuse for unwanted government intervention in the economy. Taxation, regulation, some government intervention, etc. are all aspects of Capitalism – at least of every real Capitalist economy available for study (like for Marxism, where there is limited utility in analyzing the Platonic ideal Marxist economy which never actually existed, we see limited upside in discoursing about an ideal free-markets Capitalist model – instead, one must seek to analyze the successes and failures of the real, historical examples). There is no need to get the socialists involved here.
What the various schools of Socialism have in common is essentially that they are at least nominally meant to protect the working classes from the depredations and abuses of the rich. What we are currently witnessing in the Western world, the US in particular, is NOT Socialism. It is a particularly unfair and unbalanced form of Capitalism, whereby the errors and excesses of the wealthy are paid for to an unusually large extent by the common man.
4. Macaulay on laissez-faire government
The English historian and Whig politician Thomas Babington Macaulay described the theory of laissez-faire government (1830):
Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the people by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties — by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment—by maintaining peace, by defending property, and by observing strict economy in every department of state.
5. The Myth of Rugged American Individualism
This is a devastating rebuttal to Macaulay. He describes the strong hand of the Federal government in the development of America, mostly at the instigation of business interests. Regulation of railroads
- Construction of waterways
- the US Barge Corporation
- Highway Building
- the Department of Commerce
- the big pork barrel
- the Bureau of Standards
- the Federal Trade Commission
- the Anti-trust Acts
- the Federal Farm Board
- the Moritorium and Frozen Assets
Please do not attempt a rebuttal to this essay without first reading it, no matter how great your mastery of the Force.
Update: 6. “Doing Socialism vs. thinking about it“, Marc Ambidner, blogging at The Atlantic, 22 October 2009
This socialism thing.
- It would have been more convincing had McCain opposed the original bailout and not proposed austerity for everyone and then ruled out lots of programs and then proposed lots of new spending.
- Palin is going on about Obama and wealth redistribution.
Palin taxed oil company profits and cut $1200 checks for every Alaskans. That’s spreading the wealth. Redistributing some money.
The McCain campaign talks about Palin’s executive experience. So Obama might have socialistic inclinations. Palin’s gotten it done.
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