Saturday, September 22, 2012

A communist fascist? Part two: Socialism

This post is part two of a three part discussion on the importance of understanding words when you use them in the course of a political discussion. Part one of the discussion, A communist fascist? Part one: Intro, contains the discussion overview. It is recommended that you read it first, as references are made in this post to points made within that one.

In this section, we'll define two words, and take a look at how they relate to the political landscape. Webster's provides us with two relevant definitions of the word 'socialism'. We'll take a look at both of them. They are:
1) Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
2) A stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.
The second word, actually a phrase, that we are going to look at for this section is 'crony capitalism'. We'll use the definition given by Investopedia as it provides a meaningful discussion for us to examine. Crony capitalism is defined there as:
A description of capitalist society as being based on the close relationships between businessmen and the state. Instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government in the form of tax breaks, government grants and other incentives.
The ACA, (aka Obamacare, aka Romneycare) is the most often cited reason for calling Obama a socialist. But does the ACA fit that description? It certainly doesn't fit the first definition. The ACA requires that people purchase insurance from a private company. The government does not control the means of production for or administration of the insurance.  It does however, fit the description of 'crony capitalism'. Citizens are required, by law, to give money to a private entity. The very notion of forcing someone to give money to increase the wealth of someone else is the opposite of socialism. It is also the opposite of laissez-faire capitalism. The discussion on the Investopedia page linked above does a good job of explaining why both sides hate crony capitalism. Of course, both sides blame each other, as tends to happen in a polarized society.

But does the ACA fit into the second definition of 'socialism'? It's very hard to see how it could. First, the requirement that it be a transition to communism is not met. There are more misconceptions about what communism is than there are for socialism, and we'll discuss it in great detail in the next section. For now, let's just define it as an extreme form of socialism. We've already established that the ACA goes against the principles of socialism, and thus communism. (If you don't agree with that, please read the next section.) Second, since everyone is required to pay for their own insurance, or to pay a fine, it can hardly be called an unequal distribution of goods according to work done. So it doesn't seem to fit the second definition of 'socialism' either. It still fits nicely into the definition of 'crony capitalism' though.

In my opinion, crony capitalism is just as bad as socialism. Calling Obama a socialist for the ACA instead of a crony capitalist is no different than calling the murderer in the example from the previous post a rapist.  Nobody who knows what socialism means is going to take you seriously.  And people who might otherwise be sympathetic to the actual problem, are never going to hear the appropriate argument, at least not from you.

But what about welfare programs, such as food stamps? Do they make Obama a socialist? Well, first of all, if they do then every president in quite a few years has also been a socialist. Luckily for all of those past presidents, welfare spending doesn't fit the bill either. It's obvious why food stamps and other welfare programs do not fit the first definition. The government giving people money for food is not the same as the government making and distributing all of our food. The government is giving people money to give to private businesses.

Welfare spending might seem to fit into the second part of the second definition of socialism, it can be called an unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done. But, it in order for it to meet the second definition, it must also be proven that Obama is trying to move us towards a communist society. We've already seen how the ACA moves us away from a communist society (and unfortunately, away from a free market society as well). Obama's appointing of numerous Wall Street cronies who were a part of the banking crisis to cabinet positions also seems to move us toward crony capitalism and away from communism because the people in charge have a vested interest in making sure that certain industries succeed. One of the big ways that crony capitalism emerges in when the people who are writing the regulations are the people who we are supposed to be regulating. It's like letting criminals write the criminal code. It is horrible for society, it's something that should be talked about, it's something that should be stopped. It is not, however, communism. It's the opposite. It's private enterprise backed up with government interference. Since Obama cannot be simultaneously moving us toward communism and away from it, and we know that he is moving us toward crony capitalism, which is in direct opposition to communism, then it stands to reason that any increase in welfare spending doesn't fit into the first half of the second definition of socialism.

One more thing that I want to point out in this section is the meaning of the word 'socialized'. We hear this word used a lot to describe various entitlement programs. The way we use it here in the U.S. is mostly as a synonym for "government subsidized." In a truly socialist society, the word would mean that a business (and as such, it's means of production and administration) is owned either by the government, or by the workers themselves.  So please be aware of context when you use the term, as it has two different meanings.

Also, although I have given examples of how Obama's policies have allowed businesses to benefit, and shown how this fits the definition of crony capitalism instead of socialism, some my not believe that these are bad things. They may have perfectly valid reasons for thinking so. Simply replacing the word 'socialist' with the word 'crony capitalist' in your rants against Obama is not enough. You need to understand why you dislike crony capitalism. By itself, like socialism, it is just a word. Although often used as a pejorative, both of these words contribute nothing to a discussion if you are unable to articulate why you are against them. It is also important to note that many on the right are guilty of crony capitalism as well, which is why so many of them choose to use the inaccurate word 'socialism' to bash Obama instead. It helps your case in a discussion if you learn to judge politicians by their policies and not their political alignment alone.

I'll post a link to part three here when it is finished.

No comments:

Post a Comment