18.9.19

WHERE ARE THE VULGAR MARXISTS?

Robert Freeman is of the view that a lot of people throw the term "socialism" around in such a way as to render it meaningless.  "So, let’s get over the infantile smear words. I won’t be calling my opponent a butt-head. If he wants to call me a socialist, you know what level that’s at."  He's probably right about that, although with all the sectarian variations of socialism lurking somewhere to the left of George McGovern and his heirs and assigns, he's likely to be excommunicated from the next gathering of Trotskyists.

That might not matter, as it is moving the national Democrats he's after.  "Socialism is when people come together in an economy to solve common problems that none of us could solve on our own."  Oh, goodness, a joint-stock corporation can accomplish a lot of that, and in such a way as to harvest some trade-tested betterments (meaning people see signals of where resources ought go.)

It's interesting, though, that the heirs to the people who made the most noises about the evils of the American High are now among the most vocal at claiming credit for it happening.
Anybody here ever driven on an Interstate highway?  That’s socialism.  It was everybody in the economy solving a really important problem—how to move about the country efficiently—that that none of us could have solved on our own.  It was the creation of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican president.

Oh, and by the way, it set off the greatest expansion of the economy in the history of the country.  It made possible the staggering panoply of culture we know of as “suburbia.”  It was the Golden Age of American Capitalism, catalyzed by a capitalist president enacting a socialist policy.
Sorry, no.
Anybody here ever used the Internet?  That was created by a government agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  The technology itself was invented during the Nixon administration.  Nixon was a Republican president.  It was turned on by the same agency in 1983, under Ronald Reagan, another Republican president.  That is socialism.

Anybody here ever been made safer by the military, or felt safer knowing that police or fire or first-responder services were there?  That’s people coming together to solve problems that none of us could solve on our own.  Socialism.

Anybody here ever fly on an airplane?  Guess what, your safety was guaranteed by thousands of standards set by the FAA, and by air traffic control, run by the same agency.  Socialism.  Anybody here ever used prescription drugs, or drunk water or breathed air or eaten food that was made cleaner or safer by government rules and standards?  Guess what?  That’s socialism.
I wonder what kind of incoming he's going to take from his left for saying the military or the police or fire or air traffic control are proper uses of public funds.

Apparently he's never heard of rent seeking.
Here’s the truth:  if we’re going to make good policy, we need to ask how we distinguish good socialism from bad socialism.  Because that’s the real problem we face today.

We’re not going to stop socialist interventions in the economy because without them, a capitalist economy collapses.  But so many of the bad things in our economy come from the rich using the government to make themselves richer, but at the expense of everybody else.

That’s bad socialism, because is doesn’t help the vast majority of the people.  It only helps those with money who can afford to buy politicians.  Any of you ever bought a politician, had him write legislation just to make you, personally, richer?  I didn’t think so, but that’s how bad socialism works.

The Great Recession I just mentioned is a stunning, almost unimaginable example of bad socialism.  It was caused by native capitalist greed and by bought politicians loosening the regulations on banks making mortgage loans.  The banks went crazy, loaning trillions of dollars to people who they knew would never be able to make the payments.  You might reasonably ask, why did they do it?
It's the rent-seeking, stupid, and the True Believers will remind readers that as long as there is private ownership of some means of production, the state becomes the executive committee of the capitalist class, and what Mr Freeman is pushing is at best conservative or bourgeois socialism "desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society."

It's useful, dear reader, to read and understand The Communist Manifesto, if for no other reason than to discover all the False Doctrines that are competing with Marx and Engels's vision.  It's also useful to read it to discover that bourgeois society ought not continue, as "The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class.  He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth."

Fortunately, no.  But that rising inequality trope is a central theme in all the Democrats' presidential fora.  Whether they intend it or not, they're channelling their inner Marx.

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