Saturday, April 27, 2019

Socialism

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't yet, aka the Stickies) to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.


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"The only way to save the world is through socialism, but a socialism that exists within a democracy; there's no dictatorship here."   -Hugo Chavez


Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I am a wild-eyed libertarian with a bleeding heart and conservative impulses; I have written about this before. Long ago, when I was still a callowyute, I identified as a socialist but only for about a minute, minute and a half.

Technically this statement is incorrect because at the time I called myself a socialist people did just that -- called themselves this, that, or the other -- as in I'm a socialist, or I'm an unrepentant ne'er-do-well. To the best of my knowledge the phrase, or at least as it's used (and used and used and used) nowadays, "I identify as" hadn't been invented yet. Just sayin'

I long ago abandoned socialism, which I confess was relatively easy since all that I actually knew about it was what little I learned in high school, but in my defense, socialism has an obvious appeal to many young people in general and to certain baby boomers who came of age in the sixties and seventies in particular.

As far as "many young people in general" goes, "A man who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart. If he remains one after 25 he has no head." -King Oscar the II of Sweden, maybe...

As to certain baby boomers, identifying as a socialist was considered cool to those of us of a hippyish/leftward bent and served to upset many old people (defined at the time as anyone over 30) as well which made it doubly cool.

[Barton Swain on the current fascination with socialism: "After a long series of failures and moral debacles, it doesn’t suddenly make sense as an economic doctrine. But it does make sense, somehow, as a cultural attitude."]

However, If any old people that you know (defined as anyone you know that's older than I am) claims that socialism was widely embraced in the sixties and seventies hit 'em with, "Oh yeah, well then what the hell happened?" Let the sputtering, rationalizing, and etceterizing begin.

Most callowyutes of my acquaintance at the time, friend and foe alike, couldn't become hipper versions of their parents fast enough. Me? I chose an unusual path, I became a hippie with a job. I got over it, but it took awhile.


[Sorry, an obligatory digression has just manifested in my consciousness. The famous boomer rallying cry, don't trust anyone over thirty, was/is backward. It should've been/should be, don't trust anyone under 30 -- including yourself.

If you're under thirty and the preceding paragraph triggers you, please accept my insincere apology. It's not an attack, it's a stone cold fact. It's biology. I've pointed out before that H. sapiens brains don't reach maturity till about the age of 25, a fact discovered by car insurance companies long before science made it official. I should've said till at least 25.   

You're unlikely to understand just how true this is and just how important this is till you're 30, at least 30 (it's a catch-22 thing).  

Old people who care about you should point this out to you, in various forms and fashions, repeatedly, even though they know you're unlikely to believe them. It's part of the job. I wish I had been told this more frequently than I was although it probably wouldn't have done any good. Still, the right person at the right time... Oh well, wouldacouldashoulda.]


OK, where was I, ah yes, socialism. I think that Marie-Louise generated the digression. When I began I had only the vaguest notion of what I was going to say about why I have a problem with socialism but all is suddenly clear.

Arguing against socialism is a fool's errand because there are myriad definitions of socialism floating around that depend on who's at the podium. Not only that, all 39 of the people that are currently running for president who are also waving the socialist banner tend to be light, and often variable, on details.

They all have two things in common though. First, they all enthusiastically embrace the time-honored political tradition of promising a long list of freebies as well as secular salvation for all -- paid for with other people's money.

Second, when confronted with the nightmare that is Venezuela or the literally hundreds of millions of deaths generated by certain dictatorships of the proletariat of the last century they are suddenly not socialists, they're social democrats.

Ahh! socialism light!


Personally, I'd have no problem living in an America that was a social democracy (that's my bleeding heart part) that, like in the Nordic countries Uncle Bernie likes to point to, also had a thriving private sector wherein a man person that wants to bust their ass to get rich is free to do so (this is part of my libertarian part).

Unfortunately, Uncle Bernie tends to not mention that the Nordic countries figured out (the hard way) this is absolutely necessary to help finance a social democracy.

Emphasis on help, because

Without everyone paying high taxes, it doesn't work. Uncle Bernie and his ilk don't like to talk about that because without the claim that the evil rich can pick up the tab there goes all that juicy resentment and demagoguery that gets people elected and fuels the Outrage Industrial Complex.

Tweet, tweet.

Oh, I almost forgot. Social democracies tend to be top-heavy with laws, speech codes, hate crime statutes, and have Rules&Regs out the wazoo. I've got a big problem with that (that's the other part of the libertarian part).

And while I'm at it, I'm all about the personal cultivation of the classic virtues in order to ascertain what's moral and ethical (as well as what's tacky and gross, that's the conservative impulses part). Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day. 
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