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Socialist Graces

By       Message Richard Girard       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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"By concentrating on what is good in people, by appealing to their idealism and their sense of justice, and by asking them to put their faith in the future, socialists put themselves at a severe disadvantage."Ian McEwan (born 1948), British author. City Limits (London, 27 May 1983).

The Republican tactic of implying that Barack Obama is a "socialist," and his programs constitute "socialism," is failing spectacularly, as it should.

John McCain, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican peanut gallery wouldn't know a real socialist (or bona fide socialism for that matter) if one came up and planted a big, wet, sloppy kiss on their lips.

To be fair, most Americans have little if any idea what actually constitutes socialism, as opposed to Communism, or even simply social justice. Conservatives tend to conflate any attempt at social, economic, or political justice and equalization of opportunity with socialism.

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I remember that the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's, headed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was wrongly accused of being a socialist-if not actually Communist-conspiracy by people like J. Edgar Hoover, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. So was the labor movement in the United States from the 1880's to the 1930's (and, admittedly, sometimes it was), and most of FDR's New Deal Programs.

My dictionary defines socialism as: "1. a. A social system in which the means of producing and distributing goods are owned collectively and political power is exercised by the whole community; b. The theory or practice of those who support such a social system." (The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright Ā© 1992 by The Houghton Mifflin Company.)

Not one of Barack Obama's proposals fits these parameters, including the reality behind his comment about "spreading the wealth." That statement is a concession to the simple truth that Voltaire pointed out almost two hundred-and-fifty years ago, "In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of the citizens to give to the other." As I pointed out in my article "Taxing the System" ( October 21, 2008), the sole choice is whether the wealth will be redistributed from rich to poor, or poor to rich. For the last twenty-eight years, it has been redistributed from the poor, working, and middle class to the richest Americans, to the detriment of our nation and its institutions.

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To demonstrate the average American's ignorance of what constitutes socialism (as opposed to social justice); I have put together fifteen quotes from non-socialists and professed socialists, both Marxist and Fabian. I have changed a couple of anachronistic words in these quotes, but I challenge you to tell me which quote came from a professed socialist(S), and which from a non-socialist (N). My answers and sources are at the end of the article.

1. "The citizens of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state."

2. "The American Constitution, one of the few modern political documents drawn up by men who were forced by the sternest circumstances to think out what they really had to face, instead of chopping logic in a university classroom."

3. "Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only shifted it to another shoulder."

4. "Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

5. "It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize."

6. "The development of civilization and industry in general has always shown itself so active in the destruction of forests that everything that has been done for their conservation and production is completely insignificant in comparison."

7. "Increased means and increased leisure are the two civilizers of man."

8. "The country that is more developed industrially only shows, to the less developed, the image of its own future."

9. "What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of living might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility; what an extension of agriculture even to the tops of our mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads, and other public works, edifices, and improvements . . . might not have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good, which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief."

10. "Laws for the liberal education of the youth, especially of the lower class of the people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant."

11. "The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier."

12. "[T]he unequal division of property... occasions the numberless instances of wretchedness which... is to be observed all over Europe."

13. "The ordinary man is an anarchist. He wants to do as he likes. He may want his neighbour to be governed, but he himself doesn't want to be governed. He is mortally afraid of government officials and policemen."

14. "Freedom, morality, and the human dignity of the individual consists precisely in this; that he does good not because he is forced to do so, but because he freely conceives it, wants it, and loves it."

15. "[It is] the people, to whom all authority belongs."

If you correctly identified as socialist or non-socialist the author of more than nine of the fifteen quotes, without consulting your computer or a book; congratulations, you are extremely well read, or have had a first class education, or both. I would guess the average score will be six or seven. If you got three or fewer, turn off Fox News; quit reading Drudge, O'Reilly, and Coulter; quit listening to Hannity and Limbaugh. Start reading. Widely. I suggest beginning with Kevin Phillips' Democracy and Wealth, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, Thom Hartmann's Screwed, or Professor Ravi Batra's Greenspan's Fraud. If you are ambitious, try Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (followed by Kenneth Lux's Adam Smith's Mistake), and Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man.

However, most Americans can take some comfort in knowing that they are not entirely at fault for their deficiency. I lay much of the blame at the feet of Ronald Reagan and the Republicans, who have consistently underfunded education and de-emphasized the arts and social sciences for almost thirty years. I especially fault George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program. I think "No Child" has raised the dropout rate, as schools push people out to avoid loss of accreditation and funding.

Not that the Republicans bear all of the responsibility for America's poor understanding of its history, and what is behind that history. Too often, history classes have used rote memorization of trivial facts, rather than challenge the students to think critically about our nation's history. We are not taught about the Greek and Roman history that influenced the writing of the Constitution, or the horrors of the Wars of the Protestant Reformation-including the English Civil War-which dominated the Framers' decision to erect a wall between church and State.

The social sciences-history, geography, political science, anthropology, etc.-are important because they challenge the student's preconceived notions of how the world works and his place in it. The arts (including literature) are important because they challenge our perceptions of beauty and reality.

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The inadequacies of our education system was brought home to me on Sunday night as I watched 60 Minutes, and the segment on the derivative market, and its relationship to our nation's current financial crisis.

I had heard the term "bucket shops" in relation to Wall Street before, and was aware, tangentially, that they had been the cause of the Panic of 1907, in which J.P. Morgan had intervened to save several American banks. This did not stop the resulting depression. Several states passed laws outlawing this practice, as eventually did the Federal government. This fiasco provided impetus to the creation of the Federal Reserve six years later.

What I did not realize (until Sunday) was that what the "bucket shops" were engaging in was what we now call "credit default swaps."

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Richard Girard is an increasingly radical representative of the disabled and disenfranchised members of America's downtrodden, who suffers from bipolar disorder (type II or type III, the professionals do not agree). He has put together a team to (more...)

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