Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Definition of Socialism

In 2011, payments to individuals were 65 percent of federal spending, up from 26 percent in 1960. America has created a welfare state, whether Americans admit it or not. link


mmazenko said...

No, actually, the definition is "Government control of the means of production."

But, that's just, you know, one of those ... facts.


Darren said...

No, government control of the means of production would be communism.


mmazenko said...

Actually, communism would "common" or people's control of production and property. It's actually an absence of government, and instead a system of community focusing on shared or "communal" beliefs.

Darren said...

So there's no such thing as a communist govt? Come on, get your head out of the book and look at reality. (Even the book recognized a transition period before the state withered away and everyone lived happily ever after)

pseudotsuga said...

Payments to individuals were 65 percent of federal spending in 2011. Those funds which those people are receiving are government, not private funds. So the government is spending 65 percent of its budget giving people money. And that wealth is created by taxes, of course, which is "government control of the means of production." Clearly a lot of people are on the Uncle Sam payroll, and for those people, government produces their nice little paycheck. Sounds like a welfare state to me, which is one form of socialism, even if it isn't the "pure drop" which some argue it MUST BE, before we can call it socialism. Thus, some can argue that Obama is not a socialist, because he fails their semantic purity test.

mmazenko said...

Your right. The transition on the way to workers paradise was a communist dictatorship - which of course wasn't communism. You can find that on a kibbutz.

Regardless, your definition of socialism ... isn't. But here's a fun fact:

The percentage of Americans paying no "income tax" increased from 29% in 2001 to 47% in 2009 under a Republican president and a mostly GOP Congress. And the primary reason that the working poor don't pay "income tax" is because of the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits - these are both Republican ideas.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Actually, who cares about the subtle distinctions?

I don't have to be a herpetologist to know I don't want to be bitten by a venomous snake and I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the endless varieties of socialism to know it's a bad idea that only varies in the swiftness and the depth of brutality which inevitably result.

Sorry, but the fact that there are worse forms of socialism and not quite so bad forms of socialism just isn't a good selling angle.

Like I've already mentioned, and no one seems much interested in pursuing, the really interesting question about socialism is the reason some people, otherwise intelligent, capable people, seem drawn to socialism.

In some cases the answer's pretty obvious. Che Guevera was pretty clearly a conscienceless sociopath despite being a doctor.

Under the assumption, Mike, that you're not a conscienceless sociopath, please articulate the reason, against a backdrop of uniform failure and worse, that you're drawn to socialism?

Anonymous said...

Socialism draws intelligent people when it provides services we can't provide ourselves. Socialized fire departments, socialized schools, socialized national defense. The problem is too much socialism, not socialism itself.

mmazenko said...

Actually, Allen, the only world you've ever known - and probably lived very comfortably in - is mixed market capitalism. And, so that "degree" is quite relevant.

Darren said...

Anonymous, in none of your examples do we see taking from one group of people and giving to another--"redistributionist" policies, as it were. What you described isn't truly socialist in the political sense of the word, so please, let's not play games with definitions.

allen (in Michigan) said...

That's nice, Mike. Now, care to address the question: why is it that against a backdrop of uniform failure and worse, that you're drawn to socialism?

Sorry anonymous, socialism doesn't "draw intelligent people". It draws people from all across the IQ spectrum and pretty much any other metric you'd care to name including the income spectrum. It's the "why" that interests me.

Perhaps some of that intelligence could be directed at a bit of introspection, hey?

I won't hold my breath.

pseudotsuga said...

I suspect that the fascination with socialism is the value of "fairness." Those for whom socialism is most attractive likely feel that things ought to be fair in life, because fairness is a good value to have. Socialism is an attempt to strong-arm the fairness. It also makes some people feel good (or at least assuages their guilt) because they can feel that they are helping people who are victims. It's siding with the underdog.

allen (in Michigan) said...

And "fairness" is a child's virtue.

Fairness is indifferent to the limitations imposed by the real world.

A fight that can't be won should still be engaged in - always - in the name of fairness. A fight in which victory leaves you worse off then simply walking away has to be fought in the name of fairness. Fairness is the unappealable virtue and the all-purpose excuse. It's an absolute good the championing of which arms its proponents with an impenetrable moral shield from all adverse consequences.

mmazenko said...

Allen, I will never understand what parallel universe you live in because growing up in the United States and living and traveling abroad, I know of no "backdrop of uniform failure and worse." And, far from being drawn to socialism, I simply understand and appreciate the mixed-market capitalism under which I have lived so wonderfully for more than four decades. Where are you living? Zimbabwe?

mmazenko said...

Seriously, Darren? You started this with talk of socialism, and then you criticize someone else for playing loose with the definition. For as long as I've read this blog, you have cried "socialism" over the concept of mixed market capitalism and social programs.

Oh, and here's a recent quote from Mitt Romney on 60 minutes. "In reforming Medicare we will give more benefits at less cost to the low income earner while giving fewer benefits at higher cost to the high income earner."

As Jon Stewart noted, "That's freakin' redistribution!!!"

Darren said...

Socialism and statism are very related, but not the same thing. You need statism to have socialism, but you don't need socialism to have statism.

You like this "mixed market capitalism" gig. Fine. The less "mixed" and the more "capitalism", the better off we'd all be.

Why you refuse to see that we're bankrupting ourselves with social programs, I truly don't understand. But the numbers not only don't lie, they're *screaming* the truth to you. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

mmazenko said...

Yes, it really is all about the numbers. And until 2001, the numbers were looking good - or certainly manageable. Granted, there was a long term obligation that was growing based on the very foreseeable tide of retirees (from the largest generation ever). And, there was the expected problems of continually rising health care costs as demand went up along with increasingly complex medical technology.

So, knowing very clearly, these absolute costs, it made very little sense to continually cut revenue. But we did - based on a long-discredited theory that revenue would actually increase. But it didn't obviously. The most egregious error was basing all this fuzzy math on the naive hope that nothing would come along and derail the economy and cut revenue even more - like a terrorist attack or a banking failure. And, then to enter two wars while simultaneously not increasing revenue to pay for the obvious costs was a particularly gross bit of negligence when looking at the numbers you claim to revere.

This doesn't even address, of course, the simple concepts of means testing and adjusted benefits payouts to avoid "bankruptcy" that you say is screaming at me.

So, you're right, D. The numbers don't lie, and neither does my historical account. And the reason you can't see it is the reason we disagree.

I wonder if we could meet somewhere in the middle - with real numbers.

Darren said...

Now you're just sounding like an Obama acolyte. The two fronts in the war on terror cost less than the porkulus package of 2009 cost, at least up to that date.

The wars didn't help, but trying to blame our economic problems on them is pathetic. This one president has presided over a 50% increase in the national debt. 50-freakin-percent. That number doesn't lie.

mmazenko said...

It's mostly - almost entirely - about a growing retirement population, and cutting revenue when it was obvious non-discretionary costs had to go up - way up. That was unconscionable accounting.

Darren said...

Our 50% increase in national debt in the last 3 1/2 years was all about retirement? Really? 3/4 of a trillion in porkulus notwithstanding....

And calling redistribution payments "non-discretionary" is a great way for lawmakers to shield themselves from responsibility, but those costs need to come *down*, not go up. They don't *have* to go up.

allen (in Michigan) said...

Oh, don't say never, Mike. One day you may find the internal resources to grow up in a way you've so far refused to and accept that, other then mom and dad, the only people who owe you anything are the people with whom you have a signed contract.

You may also come to the realization that you're not the moral exemplar you'd like to think you are, being neither as generous as you'd like to think you are and certainly not generous enough to impose your views on the matter on others.

The backdrop of uniform failure is simply an observation on the history of socialism which inevitably leaves people worse off then without socialism and to the degree to which socialism dominates their lives. You could offer examples of the successes of socialism. If any come to mind feel free to do so.

As for that "mixed-market capitalism", that's just a nasty compromise in which people such as yourself, by making promises you can only keep by seizing the wealth of others, impose as much of your will on the balance of the population as facile explanations and the encouragement of hatred and envy allow.

You and the policies you espouse are brakes on the economy. It's a tribute to powerful wealth-creating qualities of the free market, and a nagging suspicion on the part of the electorate that what sounds to good to be true isn't, that allows you and me to "live so wonderfully". We only need to look at Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland to see what happens when people such as yourself get to run a government for very long.

Darren said...

And California. Don't forget California.