Pharyngula

Pinko Jesus-hating!

Confirming my obvious un-Americanism, let me praise two things: Godlessness and Socialism. And here, watch a video that ties the two together.

(Actually, I’m not against America. I’m just for a godless America that cares about the welfare of its citizens.)

Comments

  1. #1 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    As countless examples show (Cuba, USSR, North Korea, communist Eastern Europe), there’s nothing like socialism to improve the well-being of the people.

  2. #2 jeff
    May 28, 2006

    Socialism and communism are different (see Wikipedia for a good overview). Anyways, I wouldn’t call capitalism a resounding success – I think there are a lot of socialist ideas that deserve serious discussion (I for one, would like to see everyone have basic needs covered).

    There’s lots of socialist ideas mixed in with my everyday live that I enjoy. Food is a good example – food bought at your local co-op is grown locally and organically – which is good for everyone involved. I just get frustrated when any attempt to improve our society at the expense of pure capitalism is immediately discarded as “communism, and that didn’t work”. There’s things to be salvaged here.

  3. #3 ZC
    May 28, 2006

    Hey, Roman. You forgot the fastest growing economy on the planet, China. And you overlooked those nasty communist Christians, (Acts 4:32-35 – 32) “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

    “Self-lubricating hand”. LOL!

    Take Care –

    ZC

  4. #4 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    1. China started developing when it dropped all socialist stuff.
    2. I don’t take my economy lessons from the Bible, thank you.
    3. When you talk about “good sides of socialism”, you’re talking about different ways in which the capitalism can work. Socialism is not when people start agriculture co-ops. Socialism is when people *are forced* to join ones. And it never worked.

    The same is with welfare. There are some areas in life (health care being the prime example) when welfare is necessary. But it’s not socialism, either. Socialism is when the general idea is that market should be steered by the state. And it never works. State can correct the market, not steer it.

  5. #5 guthrie
    May 28, 2006

    Well, China is not technically a communist state, more the kind of state capitalist country that Stalin loved and many more actual communists and Marxists despised, once they learnt more about what went on inside.
    China is growing fast primarily because it is open to trade and has a larage, spare workforce, a good exchange rate, and is starting from such a low base anyway.

  6. #6 Caledonian
    May 28, 2006

    When you strip away all the layers of social convention, personal intellectual habit, and outright self-deception, I suspect the vast majority of people in the West want a rational society that cares about the welfare of its people.

    There is a significant distinction to be made between society and government, however, particularly when we consider how we want that concern to be implemented.

    The ideal scenario is probably a rational government for a society that cares about the welfare of its people. Switching the two doesn’t seem to work very well at all.

  7. #7 Christopher
    May 28, 2006

    , “3. When you talk about “good sides of socialism”, you’re talking about different ways in which the capitalism can work. Socialism is not when people start agriculture co-ops. Socialism is when people *are forced* to join ones. And it never worked.”

    This doesn’t strike you as an extremely arbitrary definition? It basically amounts to, “It’s not a commune if you can leave”.

    Which raises the question, what DO you call a non-authoritarian commune? What vocabulary do you suggest to describe a state with centralised, governmental control over key industries, like power, water, and mass transit? Under your definition, you can’t say, “It’s a fairly socialist state”, so what WOULD you call it?

    You’ve moved the test for being socialist away from the economic aspects and into the authoriatarian aspects. It’s the “No True Scotsman” fallacy; Just as a Scotsman becomes “Somebody who doesn’t drink tea” a socialist society becomes “One that is heavily authoritarian”.

  8. #8 steve s
    May 28, 2006

    Socialists don’t agree on exactly what socialism is, but let’s stick to the basics and say that all businesses would be nationalized. Time is a business. Newsweek is a business. The New York Times is a business. You want to put George W. Bush in charge of those things?

  9. #9 guthrie
    May 28, 2006

    Dman thing ate my original comment.

    I broadly agree with Caledonian.

    As for socialism and growth, I understand that the UK grew more, (Somewhere around 4 or 5% a year) during the decidedly socialist era after WW2, than it has done since Thatcher, Major and Thatchers love child Blair were in power. (Around about 2 to 3% IIRC)

    And I certainly wouldnt call China a proper example of a free market capitalist country, not to mention its flagrant lack of democracy that shows that development and political autonomy are not related. And lets not get into UK politicas, where the industrial evolution was over before we had universal suffrage.

    Oh looky here, people voluntarily joining what are to a large degree socialist entities:
    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=10329

  10. #10 guthrie
    May 28, 2006

    Steve S- the basis of much of socialism and communism is that the workers in each business would be in charge of them. Hence GW wouldnt get a look in.

  11. #11 steve s
    May 28, 2006

    It’s my impression that in socialist countries the government does control those industries.

  12. #12 rob
    May 28, 2006

    “What vocabulary do you suggest to describe a state with centralised, governmental control over key industries, like power, water, and mass transit?”

    well, up until a few years ago, it was called “canada.” then the ideological fear mongering around state (i.e. public, i.e. “by the people”) ownership took hold, and the mass sell-off began. service declining, prices increasing… *sigh* pinochet would be delighted.

    let’s take the insurance corporation of british columbia for an example. it’s well-run. makes a profit. it’s terribly efficient, and it keeps the purse-stings tightly closed. basically, its like any other insurance corp. the difference is that when it makes a profit, the revenue pours back into the government where it is then spent on programs that benefit people.

    when they finally succeed in selling it off, the profit will go… where?

    why is the corporate beuaurocracy better than the public one it replaces? why is it better to have the company’s profit concentrated in a few hands, rather than redistributed to the people? why is it better to have insurers that can deny access to clients based on where they live, or to which demographic they belong?

    because public ownership is tantamount to stalininism? puh-leeze.

  13. #13 Jonathan Badger
    May 28, 2006

    Well, China is not technically a communist state more the kind of state capitalist country that Stalin loved

    Modern China absolutely *isn’t* a state capitalist country. In state capitalism, the state (and not private concerns) owns the capital. Yes, there are some factories still owned by the Chinese state. But they are in the minority these days. If modern China tells us anything it is that capitalism and democracy need not be linked.

    And I doubt that Stalin (or Mao) would love modern China.

  14. #14 Stanton
    May 28, 2006

    “And I doubt that Stalin (or Mao) would love modern China.”

    Especially since Stalin referred to Mao and his cohorts as “margerine Communists,” among other things.

  15. #15 steve s
    May 28, 2006

    So let’s say you’re Sergey and Larry, going to Stanford in a socialist USA, and you get an idea for a great search company. What do you do?

  16. #16 Loren Petrich
    May 28, 2006

    I’ve noted that capitalism groupies totally adore socialized military and police forces, or at least go to great lengths to avoid finding fault with the concept. They never demand that these forces be disbanded and that people defend themselves or hire their own bodyguards if they want protection.

    “Your self-protection is your responsibility! You have no right to demand that the government extort money to finance your self-protection if you are too lazy to protect yourself!”

  17. #17 windy
    May 28, 2006

    So let’s say you’re Sergey and Larry, going to Stanford in a socialist USA, and you get an idea for a great search company. What do you do?

    Would there be “search companies” in this alternate socialist USA? What they did was get an idea for a search *engine* and write their thesis on that. So I assume they could still do that. But what to do with the search engine after that? Depends on what kind of socialist state this is. But isn’t Google a rather centralized design, something a state could implement? 😉

    (This reminds of the delightful alternate history story “The West is Red”. In that alternate reality centralized planning and computing worked best…
    http://www.sfsite.com/11a/road44.htm)

  18. #18 TylerD
    May 28, 2006

    “As countless examples show (Cuba, USSR, North Korea, communist Eastern Europe), there’s nothing like socialism to improve the well-being of the people.”

    Yes, and laissez-faire capitalism has zero problems. Except for corporate welfare, corporate special interest lobbying, exhorbitant insurance and medical costs, conglomeration, wages being pushed down to poverty level while CEO compensation shoots through the roof, planned obsolescence, recessions, depressions, bank panics, overprescribed drugs, unnecessary surgery, and environmental degradation.

  19. #19 tacitus
    May 28, 2006

    As this discussion shows, it’s always easier to argue against the extreme, on both sides. Few people these days want to see a purely centralized society, or a purely capitalist society. Both extremes concentrate too much power with too few individuals and leave the rest of the people out in the cold.

    The more rational debate is over how much government regulation and involvement is just right–and how to get our representatives in government to care about what’s in the public’s interest and not just their own!

  20. #20 bad Jim
    May 28, 2006

    Godless America
    Land that I love…

    I’m a fairly successful, prematurely retired capitalist, yet I think that this country could use a little more socialism than it has now, like single payer health care. Year after year my company had to pay more for less health care for our employees. That’s not the only system that’s broken.

    I’ve got one word for anyone who thinks that private enterprise always does better than government: Enron! (And there are a lot more words where that one came from.)

  21. #21 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    Steve S- the basis of much of socialism and communism is that the workers in each business would be in charge of them. Hence GW wouldnt get a look in.

    In theory. In practice, some sort of a “socialist party” would emerge – you can’t run all things by plebiscite, can you? – and take control over things — voila, you slide into what has been practised in the Soviet block.

    The problem with socialism is that it assumes that all people will have to join. If only a part does, then the other part of the economy, being more efficient, will outperform the socialized part. Thus, you have to *force* people to join. And you get the authoritarian state.

    There is no way to separate the economics from the power distribution. You can’t nationalize the economy and pretend you have a free society. What is the freedom of speech worth if the government owns the printing presses?

  22. #22 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    You’ve moved the test for being socialist away from the economic aspects and into the authoriatarian aspects. It’s the “No True Scotsman” fallacy; Just as a Scotsman becomes “Somebody who doesn’t drink tea” a socialist society becomes “One that is heavily authoritarian”.

    Socialism has been tried around the world for almost 90 years. In each and every one of the successful attempts at creating a socialist economy, the result was an authoritarian state. An experimental verification of an ideology couldn’t get more decisive than that!

  23. #23 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    […] and environmental degradation.

    Do you know how much the natural environment was destroyed in Soviet block countries? The answer is: a lot.

  24. #24 Roman Werpachowski
    May 28, 2006

    I’ve got one word for anyone who thinks that private enterprise always does better than government: Enron! (And there are a lot more words where that one came from.)

    If you saw the amount of corruption in socialist countries, your eyes would explode.

  25. #25 Jonathan Badger
    May 28, 2006

    “And I doubt that Stalin (or Mao) would love modern China.”
    Especially since Stalin referred to Mao and his cohorts as “margerine Communists,” among other things.

    Well, yes, Stalin disliked Mao and his bunch (supposedly because they interpreted Marx “incorrectly” but in reality because they refused to become Soviet puppets.) But my point was that Stalin and Mao favored the sort of state capitalism which modern China certainly isn’t.

  26. #26 tacitus
    May 28, 2006

    Unfettered socialism and unfettered capitalism will result in similar outcomes–corruption, environmental degredation, disenfranchisement, etc. etc.

  27. #27 Jonathan Badger
    May 28, 2006

    I’ve noted that capitalism groupies totally adore socialized military and police forces, or at least go to great lengths to avoid finding fault with the concept. They never demand that these forces be disbanded and that people defend themselves or hire their own bodyguards if they want protection.

    Obviously you’ve never encountered libertarian gun nuts then. Such people really _do_ believe that the correct way to deal with a burgler in your home is to shoot him yourself rather than calling the police. And there’s the whole “militia” movement (essentially private armies; remember when fear of the government was a _right-wing_ trait?) besides. These people are more self-consistent than you give them credit for; scarier than hell, maybe, but self-consistent.

  28. #28 windy
    May 28, 2006

    Socialism has been tried around the world for almost 90 years. In each and every one of the successful attempts at creating a socialist economy, the result was an authoritarian state. An experimental verification of an ideology couldn’t get more decisive than that!

    You mean communism. Several social democracies seem to be puttering along, their socialistic tendencies notwithstanding.

  29. #29 Christopher
    May 28, 2006

    Roman: You don’t seem to understand my argument. My point is that your definitions artificially restrict the dialogue; We can’t talk about one country being more socialist then another, because you’ve defined socialism as a binary; A country either is or isn’t socialist.

    But my point is that capitalistic societies can have differing levels of socialism; Canada has government health-care. America doesn’t. To me, it’s easiest to say, “Canada is more socialist then America”. If we want to go even furhter, a country could even nationalise oil production, which would make it even more socialistic, and yet it would still be mostly a capitalistic society.

    You’re saying that such statements are wrong and can’t be made.

    My question is, how do YOU propose we talk about differing levels of government control?

  30. #30 archgoon
    May 28, 2006

    Loren Petrich wrote:

    I’ve noted that capitalism groupies totally adore socialized military and police forces, or at least go to great lengths to avoid finding fault with the concept. They never demand that these forces be disbanded and that people defend themselves or hire their own bodyguards if they want protection.

    “Your self-protection is your responsibility! You have no right to demand that the government extort money to finance your self-protection if you are too lazy to protect yourself!”

    No, the above quote is actually not unheard of. Anarcho-capitalists exist.

    Also, Roman, it’s a bit absurd to argue that we’ve had a whole bunch of independent communist revolutions over the past 90 years. Most of them were being financed, directed, supported, and prevented from being overthrown by the Soviet Union or China. Not that I’m advocating we try again under more controlled conditions, I just find that argument to illegitimate.

  31. #31 Loren Petrich
    May 28, 2006

    Jonathan Badger, you’re right about such characters. But many self-styled libertarians do seem fond of government military and police force.

    Also, as to protecting the environment, it wasn’t the “free market” that did it, it was government regulation of business, which many capitalism groupies consider grievously wrong. And what they point to in the Soviet bloc is a consequence of the economy-over-environment policies that they typically favor. Complete with governments that squashed criticisms of such policies.

    If a rich “preservationist” bought large amounts of land and decided to keep it wild, I wonder how many capitalism groupies would wail “No fair! No fair! No fair!”

  32. #32 TylerD
    May 28, 2006

    “Do you know how much the natural environment was destroyed in Soviet block countries? The answer is: a lot.”

    It’s very sobering to learn that there are posters on even more enlightened sites like ScienceBlogs that can completely miss the point of someone’s post and cherry pick parts to respond to.

    The point of my post was simple: conservatives and libertarians are always eager to point out the problems with centralized government solutions but are almost never even capable of admitting that the “free enterprise” system is capable of just as many ills as socialism.

    I am not a socialist, but your typical progressive liberal. That is to say that I have a problem with socialism is actual practice because it doesn’t produce in practice it aims for in theory. The general idea of a government that operates in the interest of the common good instead of rich, private interests is in no way bad, as long as it is balanced out with individual civil liberties. What you get in the end is a mixed economy, and it irritates me when conservatives prove themselves incapable of getting their collective lips off of corporate america’s rear end to realize that corporations don’t always act in the interests of the people and need to be regulated.

  33. #33 outeast
    May 29, 2006

    What we have here is a failure to communicate…

    IIRC, Roman is based in Poland (at least, that’s the impression I’ve got). In the West, we’ve had generations of political philosophers and so on building on the difference in meaning between ‘communism’ (or communism in practice) and ‘socialism’, with the latter commonly applied to a wide range of approaches to the provision of social welfare and so on within a capitalist framework.

    In the old communist bloc, that distinction is far less utilized – the communists referred to themselves as socialists and thus the communist/socialist distinction simply has no heritage. The claim that that wasn’t really communism cuts precious little ice here, too.

    In discussing politics with people here I’ve found that you just can’t use the term ‘socialist’ – a lot of people who are very much in favour of social democracy take grave umbrage if you impute ‘socialistic’ tendencies to them. It’s too loaded a term.

  34. #34 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    I’m a fairly successful, prematurely retired capitalist, yet I think that this country could use a little more socialism than it has now, like single payer health care. Year after year my company had to pay more for less health care for our employees. That’s not the only system that’s broken.

    The USA would probably use more state control in its health care system. That is not to say that health care run by the state always works OK. I have two points to what you say:
    1. it is very hard to quantize “how much health care you get”
    2. health care getting more and more expensive is the nature of the beast; everyone wants to get the best treatment, and it COST OF F…NG LOT OF MONEY

    Actually, I live in the country where the health care IS run by the state. I get to see a different kind of ills than the ones in the USA. For example, a widespread bribery in public hospitals.

    I have come to the general conclusion that achieving a health care system which pleases everyone is impossible, unless you’re Saudi Arabia.

    Unfettered socialism and unfettered capitalism will result in similar outcomes–corruption, environmental degredation, disenfranchisement, etc. etc.

    Of course. The difference is that unfettered capitalism does not imply autoritarian regime, so the society can correct the ills. This is not the case with unfettered socialism, which to be implemented necessitates an autoritarian regime, taking the power away from the society. Thus, the two are not equal evils.

    You mean communism. Several social democracies seem to be puttering along, their socialistic tendencies notwithstanding.

    But they’re capitalisms with a varying bit of welfare and state intervention thrown in. They’re not socialisms!

    Also, Roman, it’s a bit absurd to argue that we’ve had a whole bunch of independent communist revolutions over the past 90 years. Most of them were being financed, directed, supported, and prevented from being overthrown by the Soviet Union or China.

    Cuba started as an independent revolution. Castro was pushed in the USSR’s arms by American hostility.

    If a rich “preservationist” bought large amounts of land and decided to keep it wild, I wonder how many capitalism groupies would wail “No fair! No fair! No fair!”

    That’s how one of the biggest national parks in Poland was founded 😉

    To sum up:

    Where I differ with you guys is that I don’t consider “socialism” to be something which you can have in varying quantity. If you decide to introduce state-run health care, good for you. But it’s NOT socialism. Socialism is when you decide that your neighbour cannot run his bakery but has to give it over to the “worker’s commune”.

    BTW, I gather that the “co-ops” someone mentioned in one of the first posts are perfectly legal in the US economy. How come people are not starting them in large numbers, if they are so cool? How come there is no Microsoft run by nerds working for it?

  35. #35 G. Tingey
    May 29, 2006

    Roman Werpachowski and others seem to be having Humpty-Dumpty problems.

    WHat is “Socialism”???
    William Morris or Stalin?
    Because they are very, VERY different.

    Here in Britain we have a “scoialist” health system.
    It is by no means perfect, but it’s a lot beiter than yours in the USA.

    I believe some municiopalities in the USA don’t even have a refuse/garbage collection service – “because that’s socialism”.

    Erm …
    I think I detect madness here.

    BTW. William Morris’ childhood home is about half-a-mile from here ……

  36. #36 Somewhat
    May 29, 2006

    Registered just to say this

    It seems most posters here are american and have a lot to learn about socialism. A starting point would be to realise there might be a reason there exist a word describing something called socialism and you need it and cant just call it communism. Hopefully this will spark an intrest and make you want to learn more.
    Now, im not a socialist BUT i live i a country that has had a socialist goverment for most of the 20th century. Therefore we have mostly free healtcare, havent been in a war for 100 years and are more or less always ranked amongst the top 10 nations when someone(UN/amnsty etc) has anything positive to say about a country. We wouldnt have been in this position whitout the socialist party.
    socialism isnt a black and white deal, there are several benefits that can be incorporated in a capitalist liberal state. such as free healh/dentalcare and better social security.

  37. #37 guthrie
    May 29, 2006

    The definitions thing has already been adequately dealt with. I am on the side of those who say we can have a chunck of socialism. I woudl be interested in finding out what Roman would call the current set up in countries such as Sweden and the UK, because it certainly isnt laissez fairre capitalism.

    [quote]
    The problem with socialism is that it assumes that all people will have to join. If only a part does, then the other part of the economy, being more efficient, will outperform the socialized part. Thus, you have to *force* people to join. And you get the authoritarian state.[/quote]
    Up to a point, yes, that is the idea. But somehow we are all also stuck in this capitalist free market economy as well. You cannot escape that some kind of system with everyone a part of it exists. So, perhaps a mixed economy is the answer, but it will be inherently unstable, due to the conflicting power struggles.
    Also you seem to assume that economic efficiency is the be all and end all, which to many people it is not.

    [quote]
    There is no way to separate the economics from the power distribution. You can’t nationalize the economy and pretend you have a free society. What is the freedom of speech worth if the government owns the printing presses?[/quote]
    Thats right- power goes with economics. Now, how is that any different from today?
    It is clear that you have little idea of what has been done in the past and can be done in terms of organised economies and proper political involvement in society. Sure, the gvt might own the printing presses, but who owns the gvt?

  38. #38 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    I woudl be interested in finding out what Roman would call the current set up in countries such as Sweden and the UK, because it certainly isnt laissez fairre capitalism.

    Welfare state.

    Up to a point, yes, that is the idea. But somehow we are all also stuck in this capitalist free market economy as well. You cannot escape that some kind of system with everyone a part of it exists.

    A “there is no true freedom” fallacy. There is a significant difference between the system where you are legally forbidden to start your own company, and the system where it’s just competition which drives certain economic models out of the market. In any capitalism a bunch of fellas may start a company “owned by workers”, either succeeding or failing. The reverse is not true for socialism. Get it?

    Also you seem to assume that economic efficiency is the be all and end all, which to many people it is not.

    Actually, it should be quite easy for you to notice that in my post which you responded to, my foremost concern was with civil liberties.

    Thats right- power goes with economics. Now, how is that any different from today?

    Today, wealth is distributed among individuals. You have Fox News, but you also have George Soros. In socialism, all wealth is in one hands. So you have a dictatorship of the person at the top. And there will always be someone “at the top”.

    It is clear that you have little idea of what has been done in the past and can be done in terms of organised economies and proper political involvement in society. Sure, the gvt might own the printing presses, but who owns the gvt?

    In socialism? The Party.

    Let me recapitulate: since socialism sacrifices economic efficiency for the sake of other values (like equality, price control, welfare), in order for it to work the more effective competition has to be eliminated. Note that in most areas of the economy where the state is heavily involved, competition from private companies is limited or outright forbidden (postal service, security, telecom monopolies). If you wish to extend state control over all areas of the economy, you have to limit private enterpreneurship in all areas of the economy as well. Since there will always be a significant number of people who’d like to run their businesses, you must trump their desire to do so – i.e., violate their civil liberties. There is no way around it. Note that whatever you say about workers, not bureaucracy, running the companies, Marx – the father of socialism – openly said that there is a need for a group of “enlightened” individuals to push the masses to socialist heaven. Hence, you get The Party.

    Also, socialism is not just that “workers” (in reality, The Party) own the means of production. Socialism also means that the society collectively takes care of all human needs. Which leads to:
    1. removal of all invidual means of satisfying those needs (i.e. no homeschooling, for example)
    2. since the assumption is that we build an ideal, conflictless society (Marx’s idea), we have no need for those burgeoise device meant to solve conflicts – like independent courts or the rule of law).

    Also, note that socialism involves central planning. Central plannings requires a LOT of information. The need to amass LOTS of information requires… a LOT of bureaucracy and a LOT of state officials sniffing around. Only a small step from the police state. In fact, I seem to recall some economists long ago proving that successful central planning requires so much information that processing it would be a too giant task to handle. The market economy is the way to distribute this task, to may it doable.

  39. #39 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    A note to all participants: the fact that I dislike socialism does not mean that I am against such things like public health care or public basic education. Just for the record.

  40. #40 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    PS. American participants should note that UK in Europe is not an example of a welfare system, but an example of laissez-faire. Just ask any Frenchman 😉

  41. #41 Keith Douglas
    May 29, 2006

    Lots of “word essentialism” being played about here.

    Better to discuss actual proposals. For example, one can debate the merits of local participative planning (involving characteristics thus and so), or this, that and the other thing.

    One thing to note is that there is a whole space of politicoeconomic arrangements which have never been tried beyond a small scale, and certainly not at the country level. These are all the arrangements that fall loosely under the sphere of “economic democracy”. IMO, they must be implemented to replace the vapid and wasteful consumerism. The idea is to replace both sorts of top-down planning (hierarchical corporations, centralized government) with voting and debating and consensus building on what to produce. There are many variations, of course, and these can be debated too.

  42. #42 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    Keith, we already have a way to decide what to produce. It’s called market. In short, you produce what people want to buy. There are some things where markets do not work (health care, basic education, environment protection, high culture), but apart from those, why bother with anything else than the market economy?

    If small, local companies will satisfy the customers’ needs better than large corporations, they’ll win.

  43. #43 Andrew Wade
    May 29, 2006

    There are some things where markets do not work (health care, basic education, environment protection, high culture),

    Yes, exactly. (Add in natural monopolies). Which is why many of us here advocate what I would call mixed economies, and many (but not you) call socialism. Up here in Canada there is a debate relevant to your definition of socialism: should privately-run health clinics be allowed? But for many people state run health care is by definition socialist. You’re free to disagree with their definition of “socialist”, but that is what they (and I) mean by the word.

  44. #44 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    Of course, in every of these cases the state should limit its role as much as possible. If some things can be equally well run by private companies, it’s better to let them be run by those. In this way, the state can focus its resources on the crucial tasks.

    I don’t like your (and others) way of using the word “socialist” because it gives a nice and cozy feeling to a dangerous ideology. The fact that you do something similar in nature to the proclaimed aims of socialism does not mean that you are even partially implementing socialism. In socialism, the authoritarian part is crucial. Socialists of the old days acknowledged it openly – that force will have to be used to change the order of things.

    BTW, early socialists (in the XIXth century) were especially venomous towards the first attempts of the states (like Bismarck’s pension plan) to do welfare, because it showed that laissez-faire capitalism could be corrected and undercut their aimes of abolishing it completely.

  45. #45 windy
    May 29, 2006

    I don’t like your (and others) way of using the word “socialist” because it gives a nice and cozy feeling to a dangerous ideology.

    Some might say that wanting to denounce some words or concepts as evil is a first sign of authoritarianism 😉

    BTW, I gather that the “co-ops” someone mentioned in one of the first posts are perfectly legal in the US economy. How come people are not starting them in large numbers, if they are so cool? How come there is no Microsoft run by nerds working for it?

    Ever heard of Linux?

  46. #46 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    Some might say that wanting to denounce some words or concepts as evil is a first sign of authoritarianism 😉

    No, it’s someone making a judgement. Let’s not get postmodernist here :/

    Ever heard of Linux?

    Years ago, dear lad. Been using it since 2.0 kernel. Technically it’s an achievement. Commercially it ain’t. And believe, the current state of Linux would look much different without the stream of money coming from companies like IBM. BSD did not get such backing and it’s a niche compared to Linux (which is itself a niche, so go figure…).

  47. #47 windy
    May 29, 2006

    Years ago, dear lad. Been using it since 2.0 kernel.

    I am not a “lad”, and so have I, but since I am somewhat older than you, that is not such a special achievement to me 🙂

    And I don’t think the point of Linux is to be “commercially” invincible. I’m not going to argue Linux is especially socialist, but OTOH, doesn’t free software embody this principle rather well:

    “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”

    😀 ok, now I need to get back to work…

  48. #48 BlueIndependent
    May 29, 2006

    Yes, I’m sick and tired as well of socialism being equated with communism. They are not the same thing, period. There has never been a purely communist state for one thing (I don’t even believe it’s possible to ATTEMPT a purely communist state to the core), and second of all a lot of the countries that used the term “socialist” in their name were anything but.

    Just because some country uses the term in its name doesn’t mean it’s actually living up to the true definition of said term(s). North Korea calls itself “democratic” (the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of North Korea, DPRK), and I doubt anyone here would actually defend their use of the term “democratic” in their name. It’s obvious they are not, and likewise calling the former Soviet Union “communist” misses the fact that they were effectually a dictatorship. Nothing was truly “owned by the greater public, not by any individual”, which is what Marx was arguing for. It was all owned by Russia’s elite and enforced by the KGB. Sounds more like a “mafiaship” to me.

    Hitler referred to his party as the “national socialists”, but he stole the name from the opposing German socialist party, who by the way had nothing to do with oppressing the Jews. Hitler was also misusing the term “socialist” completely, and his style of leadership was dictatorial, and distinctly right-wing. How else to explain the “master race” certitude, messianic religionism, and the xenophobia-in-practice that he espoused and promoted?

  49. #49 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    Nothing was truly “owned by the greater public, not by any individual”, which is what Marx was arguing for.

    Marx was arguing for a lot of beautiful (in the eyes of some ) things. However, a lot of Soviet totalitarianism is a consequence of Marx’s ideas. I refer you to an excellent essay by Leszek Kołakowski “Marxist roots of stalinism”. Unfortunately, I could not find it anywhere on the Web.

    Hitler referred to his party as the “national socialists”, but he stole the name from the opposing German socialist party, who by the way had nothing to do with oppressing the Jews.

    He did not only stole the name but welfare policies as well.

  50. #50 BlueIndependent
    May 29, 2006

    He did not only stole the name but welfare policies as well.

    That may be so, but it again does not point to a larger effort on his part to enact socialism far and wide. One or a few policies does not an entire government ethos make. Even if Hitler stole *some* of the other socialist party’s ideas, it does not equate that his very direct oppression of the “lesser” peoples, the “undesirables”, was a cause of socialist policy.

    Hitler believed in the oppression of those people and his own self-serving righteousness as the basis of his leadership and his plan. All else was tertiary to that. That is where I am arguing the distinction must be made. There is no socialist policy that says that Jews and blacks and mentally-retarded people must be purged from society. Eugenicism is the proper term for that.

  51. #51 BlueIndependent
    May 29, 2006

    Oops, forgot to finish…

    Anyhow, I’m with Caledonian as well on this. I do not see the wrong in wanting to provide a safety net that happens to be called “welfare” for American citizens. In fact I think if this country were half as God-fearing and Jesus-following as it claimed to be, we’d have just that.

    If you want to argue who should handle what, private companies or the state, then we can argue on that. Government should not handle everything of course, because we know that fails. But they should also not be completely discounted because of that. Private companies can arguably pose equal or greater threats if corrupted, which as we know is entirely a possibility.

  52. #52 Roman Werpachowski
    May 29, 2006

    I agree with you guys. It costs more not to have a general health care, in fact. People not treated get more sick and in the end you either let them die or do expensive treatment.

  53. #53 Corey S
    May 29, 2006

    From MSNBC

    This past weekend, anti-gay activists picketed at Arlington National Cemetery , who have been demonstrating around the country at military funerals, sang “God hates America” to the tune of “God Bless America” and held signs that read “God is America’s terror”, “Thank God for dead soldiers”, “You’re going to hell”, and “Bush killed them.”

    Across the street, a handful of people from the conservative group known as FreeRepublic.com held a large sign saying, “God bless our troops, defenders of freedom, American heroes.” Other signs said, “God does love our defenders of freedom” and “This Memorial Day, thank a soldier for your freedom.”

    Margie Phelps, spokeswoman for the Westboro, Kansas, church group, said the group was protesting because “Congress doesn’t have the power and can’t pass enough laws to stop the wrath of God” against homosexuals.

    “America is doomed because she has institutionalized sin and exalted homosexuality,” she said.

  54. #54 guthrie
    May 30, 2006

    Wow. I guess roman and I have completely different views on word definitions and what we think things could and should be like, and how best to achieve them.

  55. #55 Delta
    May 30, 2006

    First off, the USSR, North Korea, and the like aren’t the type of socialist states that many socialists support. A key ingredient in a functioning socialist state (with functioning being defined as working for the people) is that it be democratic. None of the cited examples are democratic. I saw someone comment that socialist ideas always lead to authoritarian groups. While unfortunately in the past many of the well-known socialist or communist revolutions led to authoritarian regimes, it hasn’t always happened. In fact, if the US government didn’t crack down on socialist dissent in the period around WWI in terms of free speech “violations” and again in the 1950s with McCarthyism, we’d likely have a much more unionized and socialistic democracy (similar to those in Europe). Socialist ideas were very popular at the turn of the century, and socialists were elected to many public offices in many states.

    In my view the real problem is authoritarian institutions. If history has taught us anything it’s that governments do not actually represent the people, and thus they have no legitimacy. Economic tyrannies, which dominate a capitalistic society, are equally authoritarian and harm society. The idea of a free market is an absolute fantasy which is used to fool people into supporting an economic system that isn’t in their own self-interest (unless they’re one of the few who was born into vast wealth). My view is that anarcho-syndicalism is the best solution.

  56. #56 madjoey
    May 30, 2006

    Phelps on one side, Freepers on the other.

    God Bless America, indeed.

  57. #57 G. Tingey
    May 31, 2006

    “A note to all participants: the fact that I dislike socialism does not mean that I am against such things like public health care or public basic education. Just for the record.”

    From Roman W. …..

    BUT, Mr. W. many people scream “EVIL SOCIALISM” the moment these things appear.

    Socialism can mean William Morris – who owned and run a very successful company, whose designs, I’m very glad to say, are still available (The wallpapers and fabrics are AMAZING)
    Or it can mean Stalin, and a lot of things in-between.

    And this thread has still not seemed to have produced a consensus on this issue.

    More clarity needed …

  58. #58 melior
    May 31, 2006

    How many red-blooded American, communist-hating, socialism-fearing, armchair “capitalists” would support a pure free market system if they were required to begin the contest with no inherited wealth? I’d say exactly zero… and with Roman Werpachowski leading the parade to Canada.

    Jesus wept.

  59. #59 moioci
    May 31, 2006

    Sorry to go back on-topic, but the video (remember the video?) suggests that the kid’s eight years of Catholic school set him up to deny evolution. Not so. Catholic doctrine has no problem with evolutionary theory, and Catholic schools routinely teach theistic evolution as totally acceptable.

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