Reason for a New Age

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    What you will expect to see here are discussions of politics and tangentially economics. This blog will do its best to present a rational look at the world of today, how the modern world came into place, and the issues that are currently being discussed in the public realm.
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Posts Tagged ‘socialism’

Words – Democracy (and Socialism)

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/11/13

The last word I described was a “scary” word that ended up being innocuous. This week’s is the exact opposite. We do not want Democracy, for it is something scary, and you should be glad we don’t live in one.

A democracy is, simply, a governmental system where everything is decided by popular vote among the general populace. Ignoring extreme cases like California’s amendment process where it’s fairly simple for the general populace to directly create and pass law, the US is a Republic. We have people who work as professional legislators, examining issues and the options for resolving them, who are free to make decisions for us all based on the power invested in their job. That is by any definition a Republic, not a Democracy. And it points out one of the principal issues of a Democracy — the average man does not have the time nor resources to study an issue and all the complexities around it. Asking him to vote on the topic is just as useful as getting together a panel of average people and having them vote on the best method for making cheese — yet none of them even knows how to make cheese.

Most central to the thoughts of the founders of our nation, however, was the issue of the Tyranny of the Masses.

In a Democracy, if everyone around you is Christian, they will all vote that you must attend church every Sunday, that you must not have sex before marriage, that you must pray before classes at school, etc. And because their vote is law, you are forced by them to do all of these things regardless of whether you are Hindu, Shinto, or atheist. It’s only when you have respectable, philosophic judges in power who can look at the greater issues like personal freedom that you have any protection from everyone else.

In a Democracy, if the people are enraged, they’ll lash out in an emotional way. Imagine if back in the 80s, when Japan’s automotive industry was overtaking ours and people were taking hammers to Japanese automobiles in the street, that we had lived in a Democracy. Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone to war, but certainly we would have imposed stiff tariffs or simply banned their automobiles from entering the country. And the end result would have been that our cars would have remained worse, falling apart, unsafe, and using far too much gas, while the rest of the world was zipping along to work every day in much better vehicles.

The only task given to the people in our system is the power to decide who we think is a reliable, honest person who can be trusted to fairly examine issues and make reasoned decisions about them. Even at this I would say the general masses have failed. Instead, we vote the same way that we watch sports, picking a team and jeering at the competition.

This is, however, where the misconception that we are a Democracy comes from. Ancient Republics did not have their legislators chosen by the general populace, whereas ours does. Hence we are termed a “Democratic Republic”. While I think that there are better terms than that which would be less prone to confusion, “Popular Republic”, “Modern Republic”, etc. the point remains that the key word is Republic. A blue dog is not a “blue”; it is a “dog”.

Now I’d like to return to the question of Socialism, to address a point that I couldn’t until I had first discussed Democracy.

Some might complain that my statement that “Socialism is a desire to end classism” is wrong. They would likely argue that Socialists sought governmental rule by the proletariat (i.e. the common man), and that this is the true definition. While technically this is a historically accurate definition, I personally don’t buy it any more than I buy that Socialism refers to a particular economic system.

Firstly, let’s say that this definition is true and in the world there are such things as a Proletariat and a Bourgeoisie (i.e. the elite), then do they really mean that they want the elite of the nation to switch places with the common man? I’m fairly certain that they do not really mean that the average person should be allowed to govern while the elite work the farms and milk the cows, if for no other reason than because this makes the commoner elite and the elite into a commoner. You’d still have the elite ruling the nation; it would just be a different group of people. Overall, it makes no sense. What they must really mean is that everyone, elite and commoner together, are equals and govern the nation together. But that’s just Democracy. If they were really seeking that, they wouldn’t have needed to coin the term “Socialist”. There was already a word for what they wanted.

Just as in the case of Socialism getting linked to economics, I’m fairly certain that the issue here is that Socialism was also linked to politics. They sought to become a classless society and many felt that a Democratic system of government would be necessary to achieve that. A Republic or other hierarchical system of government would implicitly create classes of above and below, whereas in a Democratic system there wouldn’t be that divide. Presuming that some secondary option exists to have a classless society than Democracy, however, I think that Socialists would have been perfectly happy with it. And as it turns out — in my opinion at least — a Republic is not antithetical to a classless society. I don’t think a politician is my better, I just think he’s a professional in his field just as I am a professional in mine. I suspect that most people feel the same.


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Words – Socialism

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/11/06

Nice big scary word. Perhaps not as scary as Communism, but certainly up there. The thing though, is that it actually doesn’t mean anything (that’s the beauty of it).

Historically, as best I can tell, the advocacy of Socialism meant basically that you supported the value of a classless society where all are equals. Do you believe in meritocracy? Yes? Socialist scum! By simple virtue of the Declaration of Independence announcing the intention of forming a nation where all men are equal, we are all Socialists. It’s really that simple. If you ask why it is that Americans tend to relate Socialist beliefs to those crazy Europeans, it’s because the nations there persisted with a class system through the 19th century (and to some extent into the 20th) that caused this to be so. Equality versus classism was a fairly big issue there until comparatively recently and hence Socialist forces were rampant. In the US, there was no need for a Socialist movement and the people who rallied and cried out that there was were mostly ignored as morons — because they were. Not because Socialism was bad, but because we already had it.

Through the rest of the world, there’s a major party that is Socialist in probably every single nation. Personally, I’d happily live in the UK, Australia, Austria, Norway, or Switzerland and I don’t think I’d experience a particularly drastic change in lifestyle than if I moved to a different state in the US, so far as governance goes. The reason for that is, essentially, because the Socialists did their work and made Europe and Australia into a group of meritocracies like the US is. That the parties stuck around with the same name is nothing more than a demonstration of inertia. That the Communist states were “Socialist”, while true, is wholly irrelevant to anything.

Where there is a problem is in that since Socialism has already been achieved in most of the modern world but the word has kept kicking along, it’s come to be used by everyone and their brother for things that have nothing to do with social equality. There’s the secondary problem that, like I discussed with Karl Marx, many of the original advocates of Socialism advocated non-free market economic policies in the belief that this would be the only way to create equality. In result you end up with one group of Socialists thinking that Socialism is “characterised by a free association no longer based on coercive wage-labour, organized on the basis of relatively equal power-relations, self-management, collective-decision making and adhocracy rather than hierarchical, bureaucratic forms of organization in the economic and political spheres of society.” AKA anarchism. And yet another group will believe that it is the belief in trade unions, yet another in social safety nets, while others think that nationalisation and economic planning are bad and its the ability for the individual to make choices which should be stressed. That is to say, it’s likely that for any political or economic belief in modern day, you can find a Socialist group which has advocated it. And that makes sense since in modern day most nations that we would be observing are Socialist. All but the most peculiar of fringe groups wouldn’t be Socialist. And honestly, if there’s a group in the US which is advocating a return to class-based society, they’re so fringe that I doubt I will ever hear of their existence, but that would be the only political or economic group which was truly not Socialist.

So what should you call people who espouse a belief in big government handouts? Pro-handoutists? You don’t really need to get creative. It’s better to use a word that isn’t a real word but which everyone understands than one which doesn’t mean anything. You may as well call them a “poopyhead” for all that it means in any rigorous way.

If you support trade unions and want more of them, say that. Don’t say that you want your Capitalism mitigated with a light sprinkling of Socialism. That’s just meaningless. Even if you argue that in the context of modern day America it does make sense, then I’d still say no. Say precisely what you mean because half of everyone in America thinks that by Socialism you mean an authoritarian government which enjoys reading your emails and sending you to the Gulag. The word has become useless for any reasonable discussion in the US. And outside of the US, you’re probably just referring to a local political party not an idea — so just reference the party instead of the word. It’s not hard and there’s no chance of being confused for someone advocating anarchism.

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Insurance, Loans, and Socialism

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/01/13

I recently gave an overview of the philosophy of loans, so I won’t cover the basics of that here. I will give an overview of insurance first though.

Say that everyone faithfully saved up money to deal with emergencies: Broken legs, burnt down house, car crash, etc. You’d end up with a bunch of people who, out of sheer good fortune, had an excess of money because they had saved without ever having an emergency. Then you would have other people who were horribly in debt, due to a string of misfortune that could never have been predicted. We might, as a society, know that the odds of any one person breaking his leg is 1 in 5000 per year, but no one knows which specific people are going to be the ones to whom this occurs. There’s no way for an individual to know ahead of time how much he is to save up. We can tell him based on actuarial data how much he should save on average, but that is horribly inefficient.

Not to mention that people aren’t good at saving up without sticking their hand in the honey jar.

Each of us knowing that we are as much at risk of tragedy as anyone else, we join hands and set up a fund that covers the average amount of emergency funding for each, knowing that some will need less and some more, but that it will all balance out in the end. A person who puts in money without ever hardly taking any out might feel cheated, but of course he might just as well have been the one who drew out the most. Overall, it is a fair system.

The worry comes, however, that someone might abuse the collective fund. If you were to simply leave a basket full of money that each person could take when they had an emergency, you’d have rather a lot of people with emergencies. And so you need some third party to manage the fund and to ascertain the honesty and value of each request. Of course, this person has to be paid himself, but it is easy enough to say that his wage is a separate fee from the actual insurance payments and any extra insurance money there may be in a year can never be added to his wage. And there you have a system which is at least decently trustworthy and beneficial to all involved.

Now a thing that people might not realize is that most social programs are simply insurance or loans.

I will be employed for some percentage of my life. I can’t know for how long that period will be or how often, but I certainly need to continue to feed myself during this period. And so, when I am working, some amount of money goes to a central fund that then is shared among all when this sort of emergency transpires. This is a case of insurance that happens to be government run.

In many countries (the UK and the Scandinavian countries, for example), anyone can go to college. A person is given a minimum funding for both their lessons and their livelihood. If their grades are not kept to some minimum, the funding is stopped. But in either case, once they have found employment, the money that they used to go to college is taken back. This might occur as either a set tax through the whole country, or a fee imposed on that one individual. Now you might say that it can’t be a loan if the entire nation is taxed to put only a few through school, but as I have stated, the philosophical purpose of a loan is to see and achieve a better future. Those who go to college and end up creating the better things in life are benefiting everyone in the nation, and so it could be said that everyone is indebted to that person. (Note that I would not personally choose this approach.)

Social Security taking care of the old through their retirement, is another case of insurance. People, not knowing for how long they will live nor how much aid they will need in their last years, pay into a fund (in advance) that then sees them through this period of time. Some need more, others less.

Even communist-style equal wages could be called a vast business of insurance. Each person, not knowing how great his personal needs will be in life, simply cedes all money that he earns, taking back as much as he needs, rather than as much as he earned. And of course, then, the party that oversees the insurance fund makes sure that any one request is honest and decides how much it costs to cover.

Returning to the Law of Toos, the issue of socialism is one of quantity and specific setup. You can’t say it’s entirely a bad thing unless you are quite happy to get rid of your automobile insurance, health insurance, student scholarship, and other such things. Humanity as a whole benefits to some extent by aiding one another, as I will show in my next blog.

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