It is an easy enough exercise to point and laugh at the deficiencies of capitalism, but still, always remembering that it is impolite to make fun of cripples and the lame. Socialism has gotten really terrible publicity; most likely from hanging around in some bad neighborhoods. The American idea of socialism is of some dogmatic commissar standing over us as we inventory our underwear, making sure we don’t have too many pairs of drawers. Or, that Socialism is some subversive foreign plot, hatched by enemy agents designed to break down the moral fiber of America, to weaken us, for conquest through either rock and roll or through comic books, video games or both.
If you would want to demonize something in the United States of America, simply tie it together with socialism and before long, you too could raise an angry torch-carrying mob or small army of ministers on phone-trees calling up the faithful to fight back the Red Menace.
Do you want to know what socialism is about? I mean, do you really want to know what socialism is about Charlie Brown? Socialism is a traffic light; it says the traffic stops for three minutes going this way and for three minutes going the other way. It doesn’t care what kind of car you drive or where you live. It divides the usage of the intersection fairly without standing or class. It is really a very simple solution to some very complex problems. Of course to conservatives, I suppose it does carve into that blessed freedom of theirs, which they are always so concerned about.
I imagine to a libertarian traffic lights must appear to be an abomination. Do they lay awake at night wondering, why can’t entrepreneurs and job creators like me, just run those pesky traffic lights? They have places to be and important work to do; while you, you’re just running to the grocery store for milk and Cheetos. Why can’t the rich purchase a sticker from the state which allows them to run traffic signals and stop signs? Think of the revenue a state might earn from a program like that! What, you don’t think that is a good idea? Or do you mean some things are more import than money? Like public safety. Are you coming around to our way of thinking, comrade?
The traffic light is a machine purchased by government to keep us safe. It regulates traffic, fairly, by giving everyone an equal turn. But it does limit your freedom and it is a big government program telling you what you may and may not do. The “School Zone” is 20 miles per hour; why? I know what I’m doing! I can look out for children and still drive 35! So socialism is about the equality of the individual, and we are all equal in the eyes of the traffic gods. Big government decided the safety of school children to be more important than anything else, even more important than making money. Isn’t that what we all want from government, a fair system? A system that treats everyone equally and gives everyone an equal opportunity and believes that some things are more important than money?
Did you know there is socialism at work in your town, right now, today, as we speak? Socialism is the public library; anyone may walk in, take a book off the shelf and sit down and read. No one asks for an ID or a utility bill to verify that you are in the right library. You can very easily get a library card and check out books and take them home with you; there are no credit checks, membership fees or means testing. There aren’t any gold, silver or platinum levels of membership, you know, where they keep the really good books. Every member is equal to every other member, and if you are late in returning a book, they charge you a dime or a quarter a day. They’re just trying to remind you to bring the book back; they’re not trying to clobber you. Can you imagine the fee schedule in a non socialist public library
The very idea of a public library is an exercise in the principal of socialism. The use of public money for the construction and maintenance of a public building and collection, to give the people all the information they may seek, on any subject, and to give it away for free, spending millions of dollars in public funds with no meter or metric to know whether it’s doing any good, but doing it anyway because it’s the library and you can’t have a decent town without a decent library. This is what socialism is all about — services for the public. No one complains too loudly about the escalating costs of libraries. No, they complain about the escalating cost of healthcare. Let’s try the socialist method; it seems to work really well in the library.
If fascism is the co-mingling of big business and government, socialism is the co-mingling of the people and government. Everyone in this country deserves some sort of half-ass, fair shake in life. Can we agree on that? Do we really want to see children born into urban squalor, who are then told to lift themselves up by their own boot straps? There are mobs of homeless people inhabiting our streets all across this nation because their jobs have been taken away. But why, why were their jobs taken away? Their jobs were taken away so the factory owner or stock holders could earn an even higher return on their stock portfolios. Their American jobs were sold to the lowest bidder to make someone else more money and devil take a hike, if they care one whit about throwing you under the bus.
Millions of Americans have been unceremoniously thrown under the bus, so that thousands could have millions more. That is an absolutely insane system of government; a government which allows the wholesale looting of its industrial base, then guts and threatens to gut social programs for needy people which have existed for generations, in order to pay the debts created by senseless wars, outsourcing and tax cuts for the rich.
What can we do for working people?” as a general proposition, finds its resemblance in a question that might be asked by the owner of a sheep ranch, “What can I do for the sheep?” The reply would be, doubtless, “shear them.” The ranch man takes care of the sheep that he may shear them, and it will be found that the men who ask with so much pharisaical solicitude, “What can we do for working men?” are the very ones who shear them the closest when the opportunity offers — strip them of everything of value that they may the more easily subjugate them by necessities of cold and hunger and nakedness, degrade and brutalize them to a degree that they become as fixed in their servitude as the wheels, cogs, cranks, and pins in the machinery they purchase and operate.
Eugene Victor Debs, 1890
It is barbaric to operate a society which profits from misery; which profits from your poverty or your misfortune. When you get sick in this country, everyone from the cab company to the funeral director looks at you as a business opportunity to make more money. Isn’t this sort of like a School Zone? Aren’t there some things which are more important than money? Shouldn’t this be a public library sort of thing? If you get sick, you should go to the doctor because that is what a decent community and governments do, providing necessary services to the public, for free. Oh, I admit that nothing is for free, but there is one thing that this country makes painfully obvious: you can’t build a decent society on the cheap.
I guess that is the crux of the issue here; what are you willing to accept as an American? Do you want a decent society, or a catch-as-catch-can, continuous disaster relief program? What’s the difference between a hurricane damaging our homes and economy, and a big bank damaging our homes and economy? I mean, besides our inability to put the hurricane in jail. Socialism says, you help the people because that is the sole purpose of government. To provide needed services to the populac; if not, what other reason is there for government? If the people are hungry, you get them food. If they are sick, you get them doctors, if they are unemployed, you find them jobs.
No different than the fire department. If your house catches fire, the fire department will come put the fire out. And fire trucks ain’t cheap and the firemen have to be well trained, but if that were all there was to this occupation, it would be of little note, because firemen are trained to save lives, not to just put out fires. The firemen won’t go into a burning house to save your watch or your TV; just your life. They won’t ask questions like, “Was this fire due to their own carelessness? Why should a fireman risk their life to save someone who acted irresponsibly?” Instead, they will rescue you at risk to themselves, because that is what decent, responsible human beings do. That is what socialism is all about Charlie Brown; it is about taking care of the people.
That’s why conservatives call Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, socialism; because it is an attempt at socialism and the generations who have received Social Security, like it, they like socialism a lot. Only our problem isn’t that we have too much socialism, it’s that we don’t have enough of it.
To work for the people, — that is the great and urgent necessity.
The human mind — an important thing to say at this minute — has a greater need of the ideal even than of the real.
It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live. Now, do you wish to realize the difference? Animals exist, man lives.
To live, is to understand. To live, is to smile at the present, to look toward posterity over the wall. To live, is to have in one’s self a balance, and to weigh in it the good and the evil. To live, is to have justice, truth, reason, devotion, probity, sincerity, commonsense, right, and duty nailed to the heart. To live, is to know.
What one is worth, what one can do and should do. Life is conscience. Cato would not rise before Ptolemy. Cato lived. – Victor Hugo
David Glenn Cox is a senior staff writer for TLR and an award winning author and musician; he is the author of the novel, “The Servants of Pilate”.