John SIDNEY McTheuselah and Caribou Barbie have finally unveiled their latest last-ditch smear tactic*: Obama is a (gasp!) SOCIALIST! Here’s from Senator McCain’s radio address today, after reintroducing us to the dance sensation that’s sweeping the nation: “Joe the Plumber“:
My opponent’s answer showed that economic recovery isn’t even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to “spread the wealth around.”
You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism. And a lot of Americans are thinking along those same lines. In the best case, “spreading the wealth around” is a familiar idea from the American left. And that kind of class warfare sure doesn’t sound like a “new kind of politics.” […]
At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives. They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Senator Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut it’s just another government giveaway…. As Joe the Plumber has now reminded us all, America didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by letting government “spread the wealth around.”
[* Their PREVIOUS, last ditch, ‘Hail Mary’ smear, the “Ayers” swiftboating continues, unabated.]
And, in the expected lockstep, Gov. Palin made the following statement (among others) yesterday:
WEST CHESTER, Ohio (CNN) — It’s not uncommon to hear Democrats accused of socialism at Republican campaign events. It’s less common to hear it directly from a Republican candidate — let alone the party’s vice presidential nominee.
At a Sarah Palin rally in Richmond on Monday, for instance, two John McCain supporters held up a large white banner reading: “Obama is a Socialist/Marxist.” Shouts of “Socialist!” and “Communist!” often emanate from GOP crowds when McCain and Palin speak of Obama’s tax plans.
And on Friday… at an Ohio rally in which Palin was discussing Joe Wurzelbacher, more commonly known as “Joe the plumber,” who told the Toledo Blade that Obama’s plan to “spread the wealth” was “a pretty socialist comment.”
Palin picked up on Wurzelbacher’s quote on Friday.
“Sen. Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best to redistribute it according to his priorities,” she told the audience.
“Joe suggested that that sounded a little bit like socialism” …
I’ll give you a moment to clean up after wetting your pants. After all, when Sam the Unlicensed Plumber says that we’re on the verge of “socialism” a fearful nation MUST, by rights, take notice.
Because, thank ghod, we live in a country ruled by video-bite loops, repeated endlessly.
So, to quell the incipient panic of an horrifically un-hirsute nation, let us SEE who the enemy is. The horrors of the Dread Spectre of Socialism follow. Small children and pets should be taken out of the room, lest the horrors of socialism traumatize them.
Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism by nature concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital, and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.
Socialism is not a discrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and program; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionism and economic rationalization, sometimes opposing each other. Another dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split on how a socialist economy should be established between the reformists and the revolutionaries.
There is a great fallacy about “freedom” and “free markets” that is at play here. It is a virtual political mantrum of the Modern Era that in any story about money, the term “free market” must be used once every thousand words. (Trust me on this. I’ve been writing since typewriters and carbon paper, and it’s a powerfully fictitious law.)
But the “free market” of capitalism is, at a fundamental level, at odds with democracy.
Democracy makes us all equal. Capitalism makes us all UNequal — it is a fundamental paradox that lies at the heart of American society and culture. It’s probably no accident that many of the greatest crusaders against social inequity were, themselves, to the manor born, of our capitalist temples.
You know: the ones that are either crashing to the earth, or gobbling up the remains of the fallen: “Merrill Lynch” used to be Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith. Pierce, Fenner and Smith were sacrificed at the altar of corporate image repackaging (and logo redesign) sometime in the 70’s.
But Capitalism does not need democracy to flourish: just look at modern China. Capitalism is a separate philosophy that has nothing to do with democracy and is, as noted, fundamentally at odds with it. Mussolini, who created fascism (although its expression immediately diverged, from Franco to Hitler) defined it as the marriage of the state and business.
To really muddy the waters, the “Nazis” were the “National Socialists” of which they were nothing of the kind.
Capitalism does quite well under fascism, as well, one notes. A lot of the capitalists on this side of the Atlantic liked doing business with the Nazis, including Joseph P. Kennedy, Henry Ford, and, of course, George W. Bush’s grandfather. But, the point is, that during the worst days of the Nazi scourge, capitalism functioned quite well in Germany. During the height of the Civil War, the underground commerce between the North and South never ceased. Quite a healthy trade took place in cotton in Occupied New Orleans, which the Union commander was officially ordered to “look the other way” at: Yankee gold for Confederate cotton, trade which both desperately needed.
Capitalism, per se, functions quite nicely in all sorts of environments. In fact, we have seen two truly lassaiz faire capitalist economies (Ayn Rand’s dream) in the Twentieth Century: 1930s Chicago and 1990s Russia. (There were others, of course.) That sort of capitalism requires that guns be present to ensure the transaction is fairly transacted. (If the shooting starts, it is generally bad for business).
A good generalized way of looking at it is this: capitalists see the trees only; socialists tend to only see the forest.
When socialism and capitalism collide, as philosophies, they are distinctly at odds with one another. On the other hand, democracy and socialism blend very readily together. Both are concerned with consensus and equality. And the fundamental drift of the 20th Century was a drift in the direction of socialism.
Indeed, there are many socialist institutions (and I mean “socialism” in the broadest sense of the term) that we take for granted:
Interstates, highways and roads. It wasn’t long ago, here in Oregon, that wagon trains were faced with a Hobbsian choice: they could put all their possessions on a raft and ride the whitewater of the Columbia River from the Dalles to Portland. Many perished on that last few miles of the trip. Or, they could pay the toll to take the Barlow Road, which wasn’t much of a road, and cut across the alluvial apron of Mount Hood. And cost a pretty penny.
Now, we would find that unthinkable. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would BUILD a road, and no one would question its necessity or utility. But, at the time, Barlow was just following the hyper-capitalism of the times. Eugene, Oregon was founded as the best place to run a toll ferry across the Willamette River. Now the taxpayer-funded and owned bridge of Ferry Street takes the commercial enterprise’s place, and no one questions it social utility.
We’re a nation born, nurtured and grown to maturity in commerce. But “Free Trade” inevitably leads to panics, recessions and, yes, depressions. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market” works, all right, but more like geology and evolution work than you would like: what is an “adjustment” to the economy can take a significant portion of your life, rolling over you like a steamroller squashes a toad.
Socialism tries to take into account what Jeremy Bentham called, in his Hedonistic Calculus: “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
As does, not coincidentally, democracy.
But the point is that socialism and capitalism balance one another in our current society. We see the “socialist” utility of the interstate system, and, through the awarding of highway contracts, it’s good for business, too. And commerce rolls on those roads twenty-four-seven. Capitalism and socialism peacefully co-existing, side by side.
Or, Social Security, which is socialist, yep. But when we stop to consider that, prior to Social Security the most common cause of death among the elderly was hypothermia, we have, generally, agreed that the pittance that Social Security provides sees our elderly into the years following their retirement.
They don’t freeze to death, at least. No one can be found in any electorally significant number who would advocate for their freezing, in fact.
Socialism’s background is varigated and multiferousnessatrix (or is that “-trice”?) but the essentials were outlined already, from Wikipedia, above. (Hallelujah.)
It isn’t difficult. And it isn’t scary. And calling anybody generically a “socialist” is only an insult if you’re a moron. And you, dear reader, are not a moron.
A classic “socialist” organization would be a labor union, where the interests of the workers is included in the contracting of the work. Many are against this, I know. But no one is actively scared of labor unions in the rhetorically bomb-throwing sense of “socialist” that McTheuselah and Caribou Barbie are using, with this whole Sam the Unlicensed Plumbing guy question, as marionetted with extreme marionettiquette by the Rovian Campaign of McCain.
Here. Read these two paragraphs and you will know MORE about “socialism” than 99% of the population in general, and 99 and 44-100ths percent of the Republican base:
Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society. Modern socialism originated in the late nineteenth-century working class political movement.
Socialist thought and organization predate Socialism as ideology, which emerged in the first-half of the nineteenth century. In fifth-century Persia, the Mazdak proto-socialists challenged Noble and Clerical privilege, criticized private property to achieve an egalitarian society. In sixteenth-century literature, Utopia (1519), by Thomas More, posits a socialist utopia. In the nineteenth century, as socialist thought coalesced to formal ideology and programme, William Morris denoted the priest John Ball (1331–1381) as the first socialist in England, for having been a leader of the Peasants’ Revolt (1381); moreover, Ball is credited the saying: When Adam delved and Eve span, who was, then, the gentleman? In the mid-seventeenth century English Civil War, the contemporary political socialists include the Levellers, and the Diggers, advocating common tenancy of land. In eighteenth-century France, Enlightenment criticism of enforced socio-economic inequality is Jean Jacques Rousseau‘s gist in the Social Contract, that begins: Man is born free, and he is everywhere in chains. After the French Revolution, François Noël Babeuf advocated common land-ownership and politico-economic equality of Citizens. [Wikipedia]
Beyond that, “socialism” seems to be whatever you happen to be pointing to at the time. But, seemingly, always nefarious, always sinister, always a menace. Or, at least that is what I divine from the Oracle Joe the Plumber.
If Sarah Palin and John McCain believe that Joe/Sam’s entrepreneurial theories and his expertise in the economics of taxation are so impressive, then who am I to disagree?
Who among us realized that such savants walked among us on the streets each day?
I’ll bet that if the Nobel Prize selection committee had known of Joe’s plain-spoken economic sagacity they’d have thought twice before naming that socialist Paul Krugman from Princeton. You wuz ROBBED, Joe!
Thank goodness that ONE brave senator knew that YOU were the economist that this “economic downturn” was looking for.
But I really wish they would TELL us all WHICH “socialism” they were talking about*, and why it’s so gosh darned evil and satanic and bad and stuff.
[* And which kind of capitalism you mean by ‘free market’ while you’re at it? I mean a $5000 ‘tax credit’ isn’t actually anything if you don’t have any after-tax income to offset it with. It’s kind of like giving away fog, or ACTUAL donut holes.]