Sunday, March 18, 2007

Socialism and Democracy – The People’s Combination

Limited by Words
“Why are you getting all dolled up?”
“Don’t you remember? I told you we’re going to a social this evening. It ought to be fun.”

“Mr. Smith, you’ve been a model prisoner during your incarceration. The board sees a man before it who’s paid his debt to society and is now ready resume his place as a productive part of that society.”

“Why are you sitting here in the corner all by yourself? Why don’t you mingle and be more sociable?”

“Do you know him through your job or do you know him socially as well?”

We many times see definitions in articles published at this site. Writers will use them to strengthen a point or to remind people that the meaning of a certain word isn’t in and of itself positive or negative. Writers want to remind people at times that words can be manipulated so that they imply positivity or negativity.

Dictionary.com defines the word social as:

  1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club.
  2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.
  3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society: a social event.
  4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in a community, rather than in isolation: People are social beings.
  5. of or pertaining to human society, esp. as a body divided into classes according to status: social rank.
  6. involved in many social activities: We're so busy working, we have to be a little less social now.
  7. of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community: social problems.
  8. noting or pertaining to activities designed to remedy or alleviate certain unfavorable conditions of life in a community, esp. among the poor.
  9. pertaining to or advocating socialism.
  10. Zoology. living habitually together in communities, as bees or ants. Compare solitary (def. 8).
  11. Botany. growing in patches or clumps.
  12. Rare. occurring or taking place between allies or confederates.

    –noun
  13. a social gathering or party, esp. of or as given by an organized group: a church social.

There is nothing negative in the examples given above in how the word “social” or any variation of that word might be used in a sentence.

The definition obtained from Dictionary.com implies that “social” is not only not negative, but also helpful in human relationships.

Yet, if the dreaded suffix “ism” is used, social becomes synonymous with tyrannical. In fact, when many Americans think of “socialism”, they think of a condition that flies in the face of some of the meanings for the word social.

For example, if the “social club” is the entire society, government surveillance replaces companionship.

“Suited to polite or fashionable society” becomes forced to be politically correct under penalty of law.

Alleviating “certain unfavorable conditions of life” becomes stealing portions of workers’ income and giving that money to people who refuse to seek employment.

The Commies Are Coming
The ghost of Joe McCarthy still lives on as well. Socialism will lead to communism and Americans have no desire to live in a communist state.

The truth of the matter, however, is that there is not now, never has been and will never be a truly communist nation state. According to Karl Marx, the ultimate communist society would work from the premise “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

There has never been a nation state in modern times in which there has been no governing body and in which the occupants of the nation state voluntarily live peacefully in accordance with Marx’s premise. Some may say that human greed will never allow such a community and others may say that it’s human nature to want to be compensated in line with one’s donation to society.


Living Wage Vs. Living High Wage
Greed is obvious in today’s world and for sure in today’s Former United States of America (FUSA).

What being over compensated means cannot be debated to a satisfactory conclusion. Whether or not someone is over compensated can truly be said to be a subjective opinion.

William McGuire, the CEO of UnitedHealth Group from 1992 until 2006, received a total compensation package of $1.1 billion in his last year on the job.

Does anyone in the world need to be compensated with $1.1 billion? There aren’t many who will answer “yes” to that question, but there are those who will ask, “Who should dictate that $1.1 billion is over compensation?”

On the other end of the spectrum, what a “living wage” is can also be debated.

Does a living wage merely provide food and clothing? Not according to what Teddy Roosevelt said in 1912.

In his progressive Bull Moose Party nomination acceptance speech, Roosevelt said, “We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living--a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit a reasonable saving for old age.

Hours are excessive if they fail to afford the worker sufficient time to recuperate and return to his work thoroughly refreshed. We hold that the night labor of women and children is abnormal and should be prohibited; we hold that the employment of women over forty-eight hours per week is abnormal and should be prohibited. We hold that the seven-day working week is abnormal, and we hold that one day of rest in seven should be provided by law. We hold that the continuous industries, operating twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, are abnormal, and where, because of public necessity or for technical reasons (such as molten metal), the twenty-four hours must be divided into two shifts of twelve hours or three shifts of eight, they should by law be divided into three of eight.”

According to Roosevelt, a living wage offers more than basic clothing and the ability to live in a healthy enough state to work.

One of the most important points that Roosevelt makes is that he makes it clear that the government is needed to ensure that his definition of a living wage is realized. To make sure that some of his criteria are met, he said that it should be “provided by law”.

Yet, the meanings of overcompensation and living wage are, indeed, subjective.

Enter Socialism
Americans who fear that leaning toward a socialist society will morph The FUSA into a “communist” dictatorship should learn about The Swedish Model.

In 1932, the Swedish government began to protect what it considered the natural rights to life of Swedish citizens. While these “cradle to grave” services resulted in Sweden becoming one of the highest taxed nations in the world, it ensured that Swedish citizens received state sponsored health care, education, pensions and other basic life sustaining services.

The Difference Between a Government and an Economic System
It’s important for Americans who fear socialism to remember that since 1932, Sweden has held open and democratic elections. Democracy has not suffered at all in Sweden.

When the Swedish Model was introduced, Swedes and their government had an unusually trusting relationship. This, combined with the fact that Swedes were known for their strong work ethic, enabled the model to work well for most of its existence.

However, as one might expect, much of the citizenry has begun to expect government generosity while forgetting how it is that the government has been able to be so generous for so many years. Too many Swedes have begun using the government sponsored social safety nets in lieu of seeking employment.

Between 1932 and 2006, The Social Democratic Party, the party that ushered in the Swedish Model, led the Swedish government for all but nine years. What should put Americans who fear the word “socialism” at ease with that word is that, in 2006, Swedes saw that the pendulum of generosity had swung too far toward the take and too far away from the give.

In the 2006 general election, Swedes expressed their distaste for some of their fellow Swede’s behavior by voting the Social Democrats out of office and voting in the more centrist New Moderate Party.

The New Moderates aren’t looking to obliterate the model. They know that Swedes still want to maintain the safety nets. They just want the government to create more incentives for people to work and, consequently, add to the financial inventory which the government can utilize to maintain the basic Swedish Model.

Conclusion
The word “social”, in all of its variations, is not an intrinsically negative word. Consequently, “socialism” isn’t an intrinsically negative word nor an intrinsically negative economic system under a democratically elected government.

If the government of The FUSA socialized healthcare or otherwise made it available to all of its citizens, the nation would not be in danger of morphing into a Soviet Style government which was always misnamed “communism”. In fact, communism, as envisioned by Marx, Engels or Trotsky will never gain a foot hold in any nation state because of humanity’s basic desire to have more than some predetermined base line.

Sweden and other European nations, as well as some Latin American nations, have shown that degrees of socialism within a government and the loss of democracy are mutually exclusive.

If Americans want to keep all of the money they earn in lieu of providing for fellow Americans who are in need, so be it. However, they should promote that way of life from a position of knowledge and not based upon misinformation expressed by the extremely wealthy.
They should also keep in mind that whatever services Americans enable their government to provide might include one or more services that they may someday need.

To friendship,
Michael

“You cannot wake up a man who is pretending to sleep.” – Chinese Proverb


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