Open Letter to the Americans: Communism is Socialism But Socialism Isn’t Necessarily Communism

Political leaders, particularly ones from the Republican Party (but not exclusively), misrepresent socialism whenever they get a chance. They use the “S” word to scare you; they bring up horror stories about Stalinist Russia, gulags, and the specter of communism. (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard them use a failed state like Venezuela as an example of what socialism gets you. What they should do is show you what a successful socialist country looks like.) Canada is socialist. So is France, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Finland and a half dozen other countries in Europe alone. Australia and New Zealand are socialist. Citizens living in socialist countries enjoy higher standards of living than people residing in the United States; and every single country I mentioned is a genuine democracy where people are free to own private property, marry who they want, practice a religion (or not) if they want, participate in elections, form political parties, and so on and so forth.

Communism is one of many forms of socialism; it is accurate to say communism is socialism. However, it is not accurate to say socialism is necessarily communism. This is because there are different types of socialism (communism being only one kind). When most people hear the word “socialism” it is actually being used in reference to something called Fabianism; this word is an allusion to the “delay tactics” used to slow the invading armies of Carthage by the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximum Verrucosus (280-203 BCE) during the Second Punic War (218-201 BCE). Fabians reject the revolutionary doctrines of Marxism, recommending instead a gradual transition to a socialist—or more equitable—society. Fabians do not want to abolish private property or do away with fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech. On the contrary, Fabian socialists (or “socialists”) are trying to mitigate some of the worse aspects of capitalism—like exploitation and massive wealth inequality—by introducing social reforms like progressive taxation, enacting minimum wage laws, improving working conditions, and guaranteeing the right of workers to bargain collectively and to strike.

I wrote this because I’ve heard even Democrats (e.g. presidential candidate Julian Castro) conflate “socialism” with “communism”. The Demorats are supposed to be the “reasonable” ones but they appear to be just as ignorant of it as any Republican.

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Trump: We Need to Get Rid of Judges

Donald Trump observes “we have to get rid of the judges.”

Trump, in particular, was elected as a “man of action.” Laws get in the way of action. However, it is false and stupid to assume action for action’s sake will always be undertaken in the interest of the People. Laws are supposed to get n the way so that actions taken are well-considered and appropriate. The political philosopher John Locke observed that the freest societies were the ones with the fewest laws. So, yes, there’s something to be said about avoiding over-regulation. Locke also argued that a government could only govern if it had the confidence of the People, i.e. it had to rule with the interests of the People as a whole in mind (and not just one affluent tribe).

Experience and logic tell us that if a corporation can cut costs (thereby maximizing profits) by polluting the environment, it will; thus, regulation is required. Governments have used political power to marginalize minorities, e.g. the Jim Crow laws and segregation laws in the American South. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued this made the law an “instrument of power, not justice.” The law is supposed to be, in principle, a reflection of the fundamental principles of justice, e.g. no one is above the law and it is consistently applied on the basis of stare decisis (precedent).

Laws are necessary. Judges are necessary to interpret those laws because, in the great scheme of things, the average person lacks power and needs to be protected from a resource rich government and wealthy corporations.

The judicial branch developed out of the Western tradition as a foil to the executive branch in order to preserve the rule of law, e.g. think of how wise it is to not have all the decision-making power located in one branch of government. We separate different aspects of decision-making power–the Legislative Branch passes laws, the Executive Branch enforces those laws, and the Judiciary interprets those laws and their application–to prevent any one segment of society from dominating another.

Government action must conform with the law which itself reflects broadly what kind of society the People want to live in; that is, presidents and prime ministers cannot just make up the rules as they go along. Trudeau can’t place political pressure on Canada’s Attorney General to render this or that decision. Trump does not get to spend money unless he first has Congressional approval to do so.

Getting rid of judges might make it easier for a leader to do whatever they want, but that is the point: the People, if they are wise, do not want the leader to get to do whatever he/she wants to do when they want to do it. This is the form dictatorship takes, not democracy. If you value freedom, better still if you understand liberty, you must appreciate the importance of placing reasonable limitations on governments, corporations and individuals through the law.

Societies dominated by men of action, so-called, devolve into societies governed by the rule of caprice, e.g. kings in the 13th through to the 17th century in Great Britain ruled absolutely without consulting the People. The People rose up through the English Civil War and, only after constitutional limits were placed on the monarch, was the king restored to power.

The rule of caprice is characteristic of fascist states like Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s. Abraham Lincolon tells us what such societies look like when he said “perfect liberty for the wolves means death to the sheep.”

We need judges. Who knew? Sad.

Fascism 101: Pay Attention to Trump’s Quirks

President Trump recently claimed that the noise from wind mills cause cancer. Quirky opinion. He is full of quirky opinions, really. But people continue supporting him, overlooking his “quirks” because he promises to do some things they want. I don’t blame the people who support him who want a job. Not one bit. Completely understandable. I wonder, though: is it possible to elect and support someone who can get things done without simultaneously undoing 200 plus years of liberal democracy?

I hate the comparison (because I feel like it’s intellectually lazy) but, in all honesty, there are some parallels to draw with Germany’s situation in 1933: Hitler’s “excesses” (a synonym for “quirks”) were tolerated by the business class because he promised to put labor unions in their place (thus maximizing profits); the army looked past Hitler’s quirks because he promised to rebuilt the military (something the “weak kneed” Wiemar Republicans refused to do). Vice-Chancellor von Papen, and President Hindenburg particularly, looked past Hitler’s quirks because he would bring order to disorder (or make “Germany Great Again” (a trope Hitler literally used)). He quickly outsmarted both men and was dictator within a year of being made chancellor.

As it turns out, those “quirks” everyone seems to conveniently look past are kind of telling: they reveal what’s going on or not going on in the mind of that person you are supporting with such unqualified loyalty. Oh, I don’t support Trump, he’s cRaZy, but I like what he’s doing. So what is he doing?

Fascism is an insidious thing: democracies can evolve into them (as was the case with Wiemar Germany in the 1930s and Italy in the 1920s). Democracies die the death of 1000 wounds. Every time you look past a quirk because you or your tribe are going to somehow materially benefit, democracy becomes just a little weaker.

You cannot put a price tag on the rule of law. Once it’s gone, it’s gone (and only restored after great violence). History tells us as much.

The philosopher Hegel observed the only lesson history teaches us is that we don’t learn from history.

fascism_101

Pluralism Versus Tribalism

Pluralistic societies are less tribalistic and partisan. The advantage of this is you avoid the dysfunction that, say, led Germany to embrace Nazism to solve its internecine issues in the 1920s and 30s and a similar dysfunction that appears to be affecting the United States in 2019.

Pluralistic societies, like Canada’s, tend to have a strong sense of fairplay, the rule of law is entrenched, and although not everyone agrees on all issues individuals still largely possess a greater sense of overall civic responsibility. In the long term, the stablest societies—England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—are pluralistic, have minimal corruption, and a greater capacity for creating spaces where people who belong to historically marginalized groups and minorities can enjoy equality under the law.

The United States has had periods where it has enjoyed something akin to pluralism; however, while America is a nation of immigrants and a society that prides itself as one established under the rule of law, there are aspects to the political culture and history of the United States that makes it difficult for the country to maintain a genuinely pluralistic society, e.g. frontier mentality, rugged individualism, a disdain for government, and so on.

Canada in the Age of Trump

Months before Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and then the U.S. Presidency, Matthew MacWilliams, a University of Massachusetts postdoctoral candidate, stumbled across a striking way of looking at a candidate who seemed to defy all the rules of politics.
 
His polling research had revealed that parenting styles were a powerful predictor of voter attitudes towards Trump. In particular, MacWilliams discovered that those who preferred authoritarian child-rearing approaches—who valued traits such as obedience and good behavior in their children over curiosity or independence—were much more likely to back Trump. Moreover, their support wasn’t strictly contingent on traditional party preferences. As MacWilliam’s polls showed, authoritarian parenting preferences can be found among both Republicans and Democrats.
 
To further confirm his hypothesis, he also looked at correlations between those with authoritarian outlooks and more specific political views, such as attitudes towards the protection of minorities, terrorism and immigration. The results further confirmed the distinct alignment of values and politics that allowed Trump to win over working-class Midwesterners, religious South¬erners and even some affluent younger people, among them voters who might have balked at his positions on LBGTQ+ rights or looked askance at his behavior.
 
Extracted from Michael Adams’ Could It Happen Here? Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit.

Stand Up for Democracy

https://www.amazon.ca/Democracy-Chains-History…/…/1101980966

Democracy in Chains written by historian Nancy Maclean has written one of the most important books published within the last 100 years. If you want to see what the enemies of democracy are up to while Trump deliberately distracts everyone then give this a read; while everyone has been distracted by Trump’s antics (and he’s doing it on purpose because if there’s one guarantee its liberals will lose their shit at the least provocation), the Republican Party has garnered 24 of the 30 votes necessary to call a constitutional convention. The last convention was held by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc. back in the 1770s.

The objective of the new convention will be to repeal certain amendments. For example, they want to repeal Amendment 17. Amendment 17 was considered a victory by progressives back in the 1930s because it got rid of the practice of appointing senators and introduced the current system of having the People themselves vote for them. By repealing Amendment 17 the practice of appointing senators would be reintroduced and I can assure you that the will of the People will be utterly ignored. What you’ll see is an increase of corporate influence and interference over the organs of government.

You guys: if democracy fails in the United States it is only a matter of time before that sickness spreads to other countries. Quit falling for the distractions, put aside your petty differences, and come together.

Note: for context you need to also read a book published by Mark R. Levin (an influential thinker from the far right in the United States, e.g. The Liberty Amendments). You can see ALL of the amendments that the Right wants to push through. Another amendment is to make it illegal to pass budgets that create deficits. This sounds great in principle (i.e. don’t spend money you don’t have, etc.), however, this will be the Trojan Horse leading to the repeal of social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

One way or another, the United States will not look, feel or be the same following the next presidential election.

American Healthcare

The majority of Republicans don’t believe you should be required to pay into healthcare, or buy insurance, if you are young and/or healthy. This is an absurd way of looking at insurance.

Think of it this way: in rural Tennessee there was a fellow who forgot to pay for fire protection. So when his home started on fire the fire department arrived with one purpose–to prevent the fire from spreading to the man’s neighbors who had paid for fire protection. The man begged and pleaded for fire protection services to put out the blaze but they refused. He didn’t pay the fee.

You don’t buy insurance because you’re house is currently on fire any more than you pay taxes to pay for police protection services only when your home is in the act of being broken into. The whole premise of insurance is to have some capacity to deal with adversity, obstacles and problems, etc. in the future.

When it comes to healthcare you might not be sick now but odds are you’ll eventually, we’ll all eventually, make use of it; it makes some intuitive sense then to have everyone pay into insurance so we can pool our collective wealth avoiding such things as:

  • Bankrupting families who have to sell homes, cars, cash in assets, etc. to pay for exorbitant health care costs in order to seek treatment. When I was younger I had a number of medical procedures to determine whether or not I had cancer. These procedures would’ve cost me thousands of dollars (money I would not have had in my early 20s). Luckily I was born in Canada so I paid nothing for any of these procedures.
  • Pushing the elderly out of healthcare because a good proportion of them are stuck on a fixed income. My mother died of lung cancer in 1998. The various procedures to detect and attempts at treating the disease would’ve bankrupted my family; however, we paid nothing, not a cent for her treatment (and yes we did pay something, we paid taxes over time, and consequently we were able to worry about just caring for my mom in her last days instead of paying for her care).
  • Needlessly forcing young people off of their parent’s insurance plans, i.e. even young and apparently healthy people can suddenly grow sick.

I’ve met a number of Americans, particularly ones in their 20s, who were forced into the following gamble: don’t buy insurance this year so I can pay for that car or student loan. They gamble with the fact that cancer and a host of other illnesses do not discriminate and frequently appear as though out of nowhere. Why gamble in this way when it isn’t even necessary? There are, ironically, more cost-effective and productive approaches to healthcare than the private insurance Americans appear to love so much.

So, while there are some legitimate criticisms of a universal healthcare system like Canada or England has, e.g. long wait times, the use of older technology in diagnosis and treatment, etc. Canada’s system is far more efficient than whatever the heck America has had. Specifically, Canada has longer wait times because everyone–even homeless people–can access the healthcare system. (With that said, people who are seriously ill do not wait but are fast-tracked to the front so they can receive emergency treatment. Yet, no system is perfect, sometimes people do get overlooked…but far fewer compared to the millions of Americans who had no healthcare whatsoever prior to Obamacare.) The only reason you don’t find these longer wait times in the United States, historically speaking, is because private insurance systems naturally keeps millions of people out of the system because of cost. People who can’t afford insurance don’t make use of insurance or related health services. Good system? Stupid system.

In a meeting with all 52 senators at the White House today, President Trump argued that single payer (or the American equivalent of universal healthcare) doesn’t work because it would cost more money than would be taken in. I beg to differ. Canada, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland, Belgium, etc. all  have universal healthcare systems (or socialized healthcare) and these countries are doing fine. Healthcare outcomes in these countries are much better than what Americans experience by comparison. Why can’t some Americans see this?

If you bombard people with a trope like “universal healthcare doesn’t work” or “socialized medicine” doesn’t work enough, you can convince people through shear repetition that it doesn’t work. The thing is the American free-market approach, or placing profit over people, doesn’t work compared to what other G20 countries do (you can Google “healthcare comparison outcome” and you’ll find article after article backing up what I’m saying here).

Ideology and political culture. Free market fundamentalism is an ideology that’s alive and well in the United States despite being discredited by not delivering what it promises to do, e.g. trickle down economics. American political culture is prevents a lot of people from seeing socialism as a living option, i.e. people have been pounded and pounded with anti-socialist, pro-free market tropes, since they were young they cannot tell the difference between liberal socialism and authoritarian communism. Also, it would be difficult to establish a centralized system in a country like America because the United States, historically speaking, has purposely set up a system where individual states are preserved from interference from the federal government. A country like Canada, therefore, which has a strong central government was, and is, able to do things more seamlessly than America. This doesn’t mean you cannot establish a single system for America; it just means there’s an additional hurdle in the American context.