July 05, 2016
“Lemme hear that dirty word: socialism!”

The western world is in crisis as shown by the Trump phenomenon and the Brexit vote.

Some call it reductionist to claim immigration and racism are not central to the discontent. But imagine for a moment a world unlike the current one in which every individual had enough: food, housing, clothing, medical care, transportation provided for all. In such a world, I argue, racism would remain a factor in social and political life, but its impact would be reduced because some subset of this issue involves unearned white privilege and a sense that something I’m due as, for example, a white American I’m not getting because someone with a darker skin color has cut line in front of me. This undeniably racist sentiment is ugly and must be confronted for what it is, must be shown to be culturally unacceptable. But I claim it is separate from the issue that everyone must be provided for economically.

A universal basic income is one of many approaches that might create this world. But to approach the issue from the viewpoint of technique is to miss the main point: capitalism is failing on the world stage. It fails to meet its stated goal of providing a good life for all because its basic premise prevents such an outcome. What, after all, is capital? It is the profit accumulated from the efforts of labor to convert raw materials, whether they be coal and iron or data, into finished products. That difference in value is created by labor and the results should accrue, at least mostly, to labor. In capitalism, it accumulates into the hands of capitalists, who quickly become more powerful than labor, able to dictate terms that keep labor underpaid and dependent. Such a system by its very nature does not distribute the fruits, it concentrates them. That is indeed its stated goal.

One can argue that in times of scarce resources capitalism provides efficiencies unavailable to more egalitarian systems. But as noted as early as Keynes, we no longer live in such times. The question now is how to distribute the necessities of life to every individual in the world at this wonderful new stage in which humanity is richer than it’s ever been throughout history. One thing is certain: capitalism will not provide an answer to a question antithetical to its basic premise.

On the other hand, socialism is designed precisely to answer this question. Its basic premise as I understand it is that decisions affecting society as a whole should be made with society as the prime beneficiary. This does not mean Elon Musk shouldn’t have a higher income than a clerical worker; it means social policy should not focus on enriching the rich at the cost of impoverishing others, as it currently undeniably does. It is, for example, manifestly not in society’s interest for some people to own multiple houses and yachts while others cannot feed their children, let alone themselves. If by democratic means we were to create a solution for that problem, we would boost both our productivity and our morality; we would be participating in the creation of a fairer state. To me it seems obvious that incorporating socialist ideals is a requirement of the world that has evolved.

This will of course require changes in our sense of morality. Many now believe that slackers deserve to be hungry; but considered from a high level socially-oriented viewpoint everyone having enough provides more positives than negatives, and as a group we benefit even if some take advantage of the situation. Morality must evolve along with ideology; refusing viable work, for instance, might become similar to publicly expressing racist sentiments: something not acceptable to SOCIETY and not considered viable as a lifestyle.

Thus I stand with J. Billington Bulworth in saying, “Let me hear that dirty word: socialism!” Great movie, ignore the IMDB rating; it's more valuable than that 6.8 captures. Check it out if you’ve never…

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at July 05, 2016 01:52 AM
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