Of Socialists, Capitalists, and Progressives

Posted on September 16, 2018

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A few weeks ago we looked at “democratic socialism.” Let’s broaden the scope a bit of put socialism into a larger context and so understand it better.

To simplify a complex subject is not always simple: capitalism is generally a label for a system devoted to making wealth with the least amount of government control; socialism is devoted to distributing a nation’s wealth to further equality. The first is usually associate with freedom of decision and action, while the second is associated with a more rigid imposition of rules and regulations to distribute a nation’s wealth equitably. Various forms of socialism–like communism, progressivism, and the left–have been around this country for a least a couple of centuries.

They both have had champions, and their points of view accepted over the years by substantial percentages of the population.

One hundred years ago this country was involved in the greatest military struggle to date in the world, the First World War. We also were moving into the greatest stage of wealth production ever known to man. And just like today, with the information revolution (think computers, social media, cell phones, etc.), there are plusses and minuses to deal with. Or, to put it into the language of our great western movies, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly.

For some today progressivism is a badge of honor, a system to level the playing field, enfranchise and entitle the poor, eliminate poverty (remember LBJ?), and give everyone a chance, whether it is free education all the way through college or free medical care. At the turn of the last century, when Teddy Roosevelt sprung into the presidency, progressivism was not a branch of the Democrats, but also embraced by Republicans who wanted to blur the immense gaps between the super wealthy and privileged and the rest of America. The graduated income tax was first created in 1914 to do precisely this.

Progressivism, on the other hand, claim its critics, will destroy the brains, the spirit, the liberty, the muscles and sinews by which this country grew so powerful and created so much wealth. Progressivism is simply another branch of socialism which is devoted to equality and a classless society. The mechanism for socialists, communists  and Marxists to bring their goals to pass is the government. It is simple. If you want to produce more equality, you need more government. And, historically, government needs to acquire and exercise authority at the expense of liberty.

What are the great socialist experiments of the twentieth century? The Soviet Union, Cuba, and China are three, although Venezuela today is rapidly turning into the shambles of a country courtesy of the socialists who control it.

Government dictated virtually all life in these countries, which evolved into tyrannies of the communist party to ensure the success of their political ideologies. If you think of these countries, totalitarian dictators like Josef Stalin, Fidel Castro, and Mao Zedong come to mind. And, while we are at it, also think the mass extermination of peoples (Soviet Union under Stalin), the persecution and elimination of critics (Soviet Union, Cuba, and Red China), and mind control sometimes described as parroting the correct ideology of political party in power—the communists—and so be “politically correct” if you’ve ever wondered where that phrase sprang from.

What do we have today in the U. S.? We have a republic where the power is reserved to the people through the ballot box, and a form of capitalism that    has produced more wealth than any other country in history. It hasn’t always been evenly shared. Go online and read about the “Robber Barons” to get a feel for that era. Or try Franklin Roosevelt and the 1930s for the reverses of capitalism. Or how about Martin Luther King, Jr. and what can be accomplished in the name of freedom, liberty and equality under a republic and through Christianity in the 1950s and 1960s?

On July 4, 2018 our newspaper had a wonderful set of quotes from famous men and women in celebration of our liberty. I especially liked two I had never read before, one from the Marquis de Lafayette: “Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.” And the second from Condoleezza Rice: “The essence of America—that which really unites us—is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion—it is an idea—and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.” Amen.

Published as “Socialism, capitalism have their champions” in The Tuscaloosa News, July 15, 2018

 

 

Posted in: History, Politics