Astrogirlkel got the ball rolling a few days and I've struggled to figure out where to go with it. She talked about patriotism and how it seems to be manifesting itself these days. I watched the Jon Stewart vs. Chris Wallace discussion (another blog post) and Stewart referenced the fact that FoxNews viewers were the least informed among those polled. Before we get too far into that little debate I thought we should look at two terms that are bandied about these days. (Definitions from dictionary.com)
Socialism- a theory or system of social organization that advocatesthe vesting of the ownership and control of the means ofproduction and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.
Fascism-a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce,etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
So, let's start off with some easy questions. First, which one of those sounds more like America today? As so many pointed out in Kel's post, we can question whether control stems from the corporation to the government or government to the corporation. Yet, I don't think anyone could argue that we are weighted towards the socialism.
Mind you, we have socialistic elements and Mussolini isn't exactly right around the corner, but you get the idea. Yet, people keep mentioning socialism as if it the second coming of the bubonic plague. I think the last definition in dictionary.com is the reason. It intimated that socialism is often a transition stage between capitalism and communism. This is but one reason why I love classical definitions. Since I'm not running for high office I have no need to mince words on these things.
Karl Marx's failing was that he failed to recognize our ability to compromise our condition. The development of unions was a general response to the plight of the proletariat (I know stop using those big words). Similarly, government intervened and modified the rules some. The end result was a world where one did not have to vacillate between capitalism and communism. Give humanity a nice pat on the back.
On the flip side, those that want total control have become smarter and sneakier about their desires. Dictatorships are not acceptable in polite society. So, one must set aside classical notions of methods and focus on result. Have there been times when you felt you were unable or discouraged from voicing a contrary opinion? Those around you may not have been carrying a machine gun, but the effect was similar. Often this is where the patriotism comes into play. Those wielding the stick often have altered the message ever so slightly as to appear to be two different forces.
Now that we know the rules of the game it is time to discuss which we find more preferable. No, this is not a zero sum game, but when one moves away from the collective they move towards the individual. In economic terms, the collective have rights while individuals fall under buyer beware. Deregulation moves us back to the times when corporations followed the famed invisible hand. Funny, when we first heard the term we thought of what Judge Reinhold did in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Maybe we weren't all that wrong.
Am I advocating socialism? Only sith lords and Dick Cheney deal in absolutes. What I have learned in close to forty years of life is that we pay one way or another. Do you want the government to get a larger portion of your check or do you want a corporation to get it? Funny, we seem to have a greater number of people openly engaging that question. If the money is no longer in my wallet or bank account then what is the difference?
The sad thing is that there is actually a difference. Government money goes to making the country a more livable place. Is there waste? Sure. Do we always agree on how they go about it? Of course not. Still, at the end of the day we know where the motivation lies. A corporation exists to make money. This by itself is not evil, but it is repugnant to forego our responsibilities to our citizenry in the guise that a private company will provide for our needs. Some Italian guy named Machiavelli once said that we cannot serve two masters. We will love one and despise the other. At least, that's how I remember it. The Penguin classic is getting a little dog-eared.
One cannot despise a corporation for wanting to make money anymore than despising a fire ant from biting you after stepping on their home. It is basic instinct that runs to core. I haven't figured out the fire ant's place in the world, but the corporation has one. That motivation has some positive utility. Faster, better, and cheaper all happen based on profit motive. Still, we must always remain cognizant of those things which will hurt us if we focus too much on faster, better, and cheaper. Profit motive tends to dictate that one of those three be sacrificed when push comes to shove. If I need a heart transplant or cancer treatment I don't want someone deciding which one of the three to pull from the pyramid. At the end of the day, having the lowest marginal tax rate in the world isn't much consolation when your life is in the hands of profit motivation.