Archive for the ‘Socialism’ Category

Can the Democrats be Liberated “from the cult of neoliberalism”?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 4th, 2009

Check out Michael Lind’s piece in Salon.com. If I understand him correctly, this is what he means by neoliberalism, a political perspective opposed to progressivism: “New Dealers and Keynesians are wrong to think that industrial capitalism is permanently and inherently prone to self-destruction, if left to itself. Except in hundred year disasters, the market economy is basically a sound and self-correcting. Government can, however, help the market indirectly, by providing these three public goods [environment, healthcare, and education], which, thanks to ‘market failures, the private sector will not provide.” Cick here to read the full piece.

Countdown to Health Care (Insurance?) Reform

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on August 3rd, 2009

Will Americans sign off on a substantial health care (insurance?) reform or any reform at all? Or will the some institutional forces that prevent progressive reform in any area of American society prevail once atmpphp0zEOqv[1]gain? The “deliberative” debate in August should be the determining actor. I have no idea why anyone-except the insurance companies and other profit mongers parasitically defending the status quo–would want to prevent a significant health care reform bill, especially when in our present circumstances health costs are likely to bankrupt the American economy. However, I am aware that people who should know better will throw the terms “socialism” and “socialized medicine” around blatantly and subteley in different contexts to scare the American people into dreading a government takeover of health care just as the government as police, firefighters, and so forth have taken over public safety. Heaven forbid!(Yes, I know there are those who want these public goods “privatized” also.)  But there is no such animal as “privatization” if that means people and industries being able to operate outside the shadow of government. One doesn’t enter civil society without government. Privatization means enlisting government to skew the playing field in favor of a privileged few and let millions of others suffer unjustified inequality. When will Americans learn, as other western nations, have that health care is too important to leave it in the hands of those who revere greed?  Just one moment, there’s a governmental official at the door waiting to explain to me when I must die.

Is Obama Abandoning the Progressive Left?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 24th, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama came to power in large part due to strong support from a progressive Left. Opposition to the Iraq War, support for health care, the greening of America, and other progressive issues constituted a strong appeal to a progressive Left starving over the past several decaObama2des for progressive solutions to national and international problems. Now, however, Mr. Obama is exhibiting behavior, especially in his appointment to key White House and Cabinet positions that suggest he’s moving toward a center-liberal position. So much for the accusation that Obama is a socialist. Elements of socialism don’t even appear in his preliminary choices, except to those reactionaries regarding progressive taxation as socialism. Indeed, it might be helpful to distinguish three politically Left positions: liberalism, progressivism, and radicalism. Socialism might arise in the tail of progressivism and certainly should arise in Left-radicalism. Obama, at most, is somewhere between liberalism and progressivism and his recent behavior draws him from progressivism to liberalism. Socialism would mean complete central control of the finance system and the economic system. Imagine public officials on the board of corporate governors or permanently determining how a system of credit is to be designed. This might find Left progressives or radicals licking their lips, but you won’t find Obama in the mix. Liberalism seeks a social safety net to protect individuals of a large capitalist government from slipping through. Social democracy in northern Europe and Canada are examples of nations committed to this form of liberalism. Truly Left progressivism accommodates democratic socialism, while radicalism would accommodate state socialism. This tripartite division is far from perfect, but it does serve the purpose of suggesting that the American Left is far more complex than those who believe anyone advocating universal health care must be a socialist.  The pressing question is whether the progressive Left will be able to conscientiously stand behind Obama and for how long.  For observations related to this question click here.

Of course, the ravaging of the American economy and finance systems by insufficient and inefficient regulations have caused the present devastating economic and national security catastrophic. Perhaps, we’re due for a shift in the American capitalism paradigm. In the spirit of the philosopher Richard Rorty, the dichotomy killer, perhaps we will be able to turn a page on whether solutions should be capitalist or socialist and seek principled pragmatic solutions that cohere with a certain class of our fundamental values and aid us in jettisoning other fundamental values that are simply no longer viable.

More on “Socialism” and “Spreading the Wealth Around”

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 2nd, 2008

Americans concerned about “socialism,” “spreading the wealth around,” and “class warfare” might do well to check out this piece in CommonDreams.org. Here’s a taste:  According to the Republican candidate for U.S. president, John McCain, whose family wealth exceeds $120 million, and who owns eight houses and thirteen cars, Democrat Barack Obama pusathomas.jpgoses a grave threat to our democracy and economy because he will, as he told a voter in Ohio, ‘spread the wealth around.’  . . .  Though socialism has been essentially dead for decades, and there is no viable left in the United States, the McCain campaign is resurrecting claims of  ‘class warfare’ and calling Obama a radical. On one point, McCain is right: there is class warfare in the United States, and for the past three decades, it has been waged from the top down, by the wealthiest class, the likes of John and Cindy McCain, against the middle- and working-classes of America. ‘   . . .  Since the 1970s, middle- and working-class Americans have seen a fairly steady decline in real income, with brief spurts of recovery in the 1990s. Overall, however, the trend has been downward. By the year 2000, average net worth for Americans, adjusted for inflation, was less than it had been in 1983. . . .  Subsequently, propelled by tax cuts for America’s wealthiest and deregulation of financial markets and corporations, between 2001 and 2006 the average income of the top tenth of Americans increased about 15 percent a year, to about $250,000, while the average income of the lower 90 percent decreased, the first time since such data was first collected in 1917 that those conditions of increased wealth at the top and decline for everyone else had occurred. More to the point, the average income of the top tenth of wage earners is about 8 times greater than the bottom 90 percent, a wealth gap greater than that under Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. . . . Since the mid-1970s the top 1 percent of households have doubled their share of national wealth and now have more wealth, 60 percent or more, than the bottom 95 percent.  Meantime, in the late 1980s and 1990s, inflation-adjusted net worth for a median household fell, from about $55 to $50 thousand dollars, and about 20 percent of households had zero or negative net worth [more debt than assets]. Those numbers are growing rapidly, especially as home foreclosures reach record heights.” For the entire piece click here.

One terribly destructive distinction, propagated by both the left and the right, but more by the right, is a contrast between government and the people. While it is fashionable to say America’s choice, given the impossibilityfriued.jpgy of dislodging the two-party system, is between  “big government” and “really big government,” when republican democracy works as it is supposed to, the “government” is the people. Whether the people’s government should engage in lavish spending for the rich or for the poor, it is the people’s representatives who decide to do so. When the people’s government decides to curtail spending, again, it’s the people’s representatives who decide that that is the preferred course. If, in American republican democracy, the people can’t control its representatives, then that’s a systemic problem that the people can alter, with the will to do so, even if that requires, as it certainly will, engaging in greater participation in the nation’s politics than most American are willing to do. If the people choose not to alter this defect in American constitutionalism, then perhaps it’s because the people like things the way they are. But then let’s abandon the notion that “government is the problem, not the solution” because ultimately that only means the people are the problem, not the solution. Our entrenched political vocabulary conceals the people’s ultimate role in self-government and forces political culture to chase shadows. Americans can take the reins of self-determination, if they so choose. Though it does take imaginative leadership to remind us of our constitutional power to do so.

Lind on the Question of Obama’s “Socialism”

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on November 1st, 2008

Check out Michael Lind’s article in Salon.com.  Here’s a sample: “John McCain, struggling to catch up with Barack Obama in the last days of the campaign, has finally found a theme for a campaign that until now story1-2.jpghas lacked one. He is running for the White House to defend capitalism against socialism. Because Barack Obama in an unguarded moment to Joe the Plumber said he wanted to ‘spread the wealth,’ McCain and Palin are painting the senator from Illinois as a ‘redistributionist’ or ‘redistributor’ (they can’t decide on the appropriate term), a subversive and sinister figure who is peddling ‘socialism.’ It’s not enough for McCain to run against Obama as though he were George McGovern. McCain is trying to equate Obama with Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, the socialist candidates for the presidency of yesteryear. Never mind that Jonah Goldberg has spent a couple of years denouncing liberal fascism. Fascists last week, progressives like Obama are now socialists. Which is to say, ‘commies.'” To read the entire piece click here.  It would be helpful if those who bandy about the term “socialist” knew what it meant. There’s a huge difference between “social democracy” and “democratic socialism,” for instance. We know one thing about this criticism, however. Socialism is a bad thing. Consequently, there’s no point in actually understanding its meaning, I suppose.