Tag Archives: socialism

Apples and Oranges

I am getting fed up with the lack of intelligent discourse in this country and the revisionist use of words which inhibits civil interaction and discussion.  I’ve had it!

I wish we could start with an agreement of the definitions we use when discussing economics and politics.  For example, Capitalism and Communism are ECONOMIC systems.  Democracy, Totalitarianism and Fascism are POLITICAL systems.

Yet some people insist on comparing Democracy vs.  Communism, or Capitalism vs. Totalitarianism or Fascism.  This is like comparing apples to oranges.  The far right of the Republican Party is very good at confusing people by using the apples to oranges comparisons, when any intelligent, educated person knows this is a totally stupid comparison which holds no weight.  You cannot have an intelligent discussion unless you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

The right wing uses all these terms loosely and whenever they think it suits them.

You can have a Democratic political system and a Communistic economic system.  You can have a Totalitarian political system and a Capitalistic economic system.  But you can’t equate Communism to Totalitarianism nor Capitalism to Democracy (though both have existed in history) and be discussing the same theories.

One must discuss the Economic theories and Political theories separately, if we are to reach some kind of consensus on the direction of where we want to go as a nation.  Keep in mind, as with all things, these “labels” are part of a continuum.  Totalitarianism is at one end of a continuum and Democracy at the other end.  It is true of Capitalism and Communism.  They are at the poles of the continuum and polarizing any continuum, be it political, economic, social, sexual, is at the root of most problems confronting the world today.

Labels!  How I hate them!  Remember the rainbow.  It is a continuum of color.  It is a spectrum that includes colors (frequencies of light) not even visible to the human eye.  If I could bring you a rainbow up close, I dare you to be able to point to the exact place where one color becomes another.  If I could stand every human being in a line according to the color of their skin, I dare you to be able to go up to the single person where white becomes yellow or brown becomes black.  You can’t do it.    It is only when we ask this enormous row of people to mingle that we actually can see a white person standing next to a black person and decide they are of different races.  But the truth is we are just one race, the human race.

Yet to make life simple, because we tend to distance ourselves from anything complex, we arbitrarily divide continua into discrete groups, merely as a convenience.  And we seem to long for conveniences.  So we label people as white, black, yellow, brown, red…. and we arbitrarily divide the rainbow into familiar colors, though the continuum of colors, blended together is pure white light and it is pure white light through a prism of glass or moisture in the air which divides this white light into the spectrum of colors.

I digressed on this explanation of a continuum because it is important to remember that when we divide a continuum into parts and give it a label, we are doing so as a matter of convenience.  In truth, it is arbitrary.  Yet these labels are used so haphazardly, and most often, they become reality or what we think is reality.  It is not.

So when talking politics, talk politics.  When talking economics, talk economics.  But do not try to compare a political system to an economic one or vice-versa.  Is this too much to ask of a Tea Partier?  Or a Progressive?

There is one “ism” that does combine the political with the economic.  And that is Socialism.  It has become a nasty word and that is a real shame.

“Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism.”

Poor Marx!  So disparaged, yet such an intellectual.  Socialism is not a bad word.  Along the political and economic spectra which we have chosen to divide into categories and label, is a blending of the two continua.  It is a transitional state, but contrary to Marx, it does not necessarily mean it will transition to the opposite pole of the continuum to Communism.  It does not have to mean the overthrow of Capitalism.  As a Democracy, we have a choice where we want to end of on the political and economic spectra.

We already have many examples of Socialism in the United States:  social security, medicare, the highway system and other infrastructure.  We also have an excellent example of it by studying the way Native Americans have organized into “collectives”, namely their Tribe.  And the development of capitalistic enterprises among many tribes is actually their way of behaving as commune-ists within our “capitalist” system.  How many of us wish we were part Native American so we could receive an annual stipend based on the profits tribal casinos make!  Share and share alike!

The commune, Hunga Dunga, and others like it, also were “tribes” of a sort.  They worked within the capitalist system but regarded it as “outside” themselves.  Within the communes, both democracy and communism reigned in harmony with each other.  Share and share alike.  How monies were to be spent was a democratic decision.  We democratically decided to share and share alike.  No one was left out.  No one received more than another.  We democratically decided to pool monies for democratically chosen goals: land, food, clothing, shelter, and yes, ways to satisfy personal desires such as the Bobby’s piano, Baird’s art supplies, Laura’s loom, Lizzies trip to Hawaii, and my own journey around the world.

With patience, everyone got what they wanted as well as what they needed.  We thought living in such a way, and proving how well it worked would be a microcosmic model for the rest of society.  They would see how well it worked, and they would follow.

It didn’t happen.  But it is rising to the surface once again.  The Health Care Reform Bill was not what I wanted.  Health care should be as universally available as getting on a freeway on-ramp.  Highway systems for all, Health care for all.  It’s just common sense.  It is the role of government to put the welfare of its citizens as its top priority.  All else is secondary.

Let those with big ambitions make all the money they want.  I have no problem with capitalism as long as it is based on the production of goods and services, not the production of non-tangibles, such as sub-prime mortgage derivatives, or interest on investments, ie, money made off money.

We have many examples of commune-ities living a voluntary socialist life, some bordering on communism, but the commune-ity is still working within the rules of capitalism.  Now the need is to determine the rights of citizens to an access to those things necessary for a basic, healthy lifestyle, while still allowing others to become as rich as they want as long as they are providing a service or product.  Wealth begetting wealth should only be allowed if it is regulated and taxed in a way that it will benefit the rest of the population through social programs.

Corporate capitalism has totally disfigured the intent of Adam Smith’s capitalism, upon which this nation was founded.  It is no longer the capitalism of profit made from the manufacture of goods, but rather the capitalism of profits made from profits through investments and the interest earned on those profits.  No tangible product or good is produced.  It is a giant lie.  It is the worst form of capitalism.  I don’t even like using that word for it.   “GREEDISM” at the expense of the people might be a better term.

So when discussing economics and politics, be clear that you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, and not apples to oranges.  When you do the latter, no one wins, because it is not a discussion based on rational thought.

Always remember the rainbow.  Always remember that all things in nature are part of a continuum which we arbitrarily divide into categories and label,  only for our CONVENIENCE.  The labels and categories do NOT reflect TRUTH.

Once people realize there is nothing to fear, that there CAN be a blend of socialism that meets the basic needs of citizens, AND capitalism, which meets the needs of those with initiative and ambition, all within the framework of a DEMOCRACY, then maybe civil, rational discourse can be accomplished.

Word are powerful.  Labels are dangerous.  Use them with thoughtfulness and the greatest of care.