Sep 22, 2013
The context here is a life-long discussion with an old and cherished friend who has lately called me out for alleging that President Obama is a socialist and leader of the nation's current crop of socialists. My friend the professor insists he is something else, sometimes using the term "pragmatist," and seems to insist that socialism must assume the classic form theorized by Marx and Lenin, among others.
The latest chapter from my end of the internet:
You are my oldest and dearest friend, so it is with affection and respect I say you're being a trifle obscure here. Unless, of course, you are replaying that old 33 1/3 LP we've spun before -- enough times that it is getting scratchy.
I am well aware that the classical definition of "socialism" is "state ownership of the means of production." Of course we're not there yet. Furthermore, however, you are the last person in the world who needs reminding that socialism, like all the ideologies I can think of, creeps.
The socialist ideal is not "state ownership of the means of production." That is simply one of the mechanistic devices -- usually late in the theoretical revolutionary game -- to achieve the actual desired end. I summarize that aim as total control of individuals by a tiny cadre who combine four qualities: (1) a thirst for power; (2) a not necessarily accurate belief that they know better than the individual what is good for him; (3) another sincere -- but accurate -- belief that they know what is good for themselves; (4) the political astuteness -- demagogic and Machiavellian -- to achieve their ends.
It makes no difference to Barack Obama who holds the deed to General Motors. If he can control its products, income, wages, working conditions, and degree of competition, he has satisfied his political goals.
Neither he nor anyone else on what we call the "left" cares who owns the shares of my bank. So long as they control the interest I pay and receive, decisions about who shall and shall not be entitled to loans, and the degree of privacy afforded my banking transactions, they have all the authority they desire.
In fact, I suspect sophisticated socialists rather fear actual ownership. It would burden them with responsibility for the results of their industry. With the softer sorts of statism, which this administration promotes daily, they are always, always, free to argue that the robber barons violated Title 10, Chapter 12, Section 69, Paragraph 1238, Subparagraph 13, Lines 3 and 3c.
"... and that's why the People's boots fall apart in the rain and cost a month's wages. "
The issue is not one of ownership. It is of who shall be permitted to make decisions. Just as a little thinking exercise, let's try to recall the cases in the past five years when Mr. Obama demanded that some decision-making authority be taken away from the state and returned to a private citizen