Sunday, March 3, 2019

We Are All Socialists

                                                                                                written 24 February 2019
                                                                                                published 3 March 2019

            To sell their agenda to the population, Republicans use focus groups to craft sound bites, regardless of truth.  "The smoking gun could be a nuclear cloud" was used to generate fear, and support our 2003 Iraqi invasion, which destabilized the region, cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives and created ISIS.  No weapons of mass destruction were ever found. The current Republican sound bite distraction is "Freedom or Socialism".  
            Capitalism prioritizes money and competition, while socialism prioritizes people and cooperation.  All advanced countries have a combination of both.  Not all socialist economies are state-owned Soviet tyrannies, and not all capitalist economies are Nazis fascist tyrannies. 
            Capitalism facilitates the flow of goods and services by converting specific physical values into a more negotiable form called money, much like fire changes potential energy into useful kinetic energy.  Since money has no inherent value, social regulation is needed to develop a healthy civilization.  Regulated capitalism is like regulated fire, which provides social value by heating our homes, cooking our food, and powering our industry.  Unregulated "free market" capitalism is like the firestorm that destroyed Paradise last summer, a short-term event leaving toxic waste in the aftermath.
            Numerous American socialist structures already benefit the general public welfare and help society thrive.  For example, Ukiah's citizens have owned their electric power system for over 125 years.  There are no executives making million dollar salaries or bonuses and no shareholders, yet we get reliable power at 2/3 the cost of the bankrupt private utility that serves the rest of the county.  Most cities have publically owned sewer and water systems.  Everyone drives on publically owned roads, paid for by county, state, and federal taxes.  Social Security and Medicare are two very popular socialist programs at the federal level.  
            Life has a socialist bent.  Our bodies operate on the cooperative socialist principle "to each according to its needs, from each according to its ability".  A healthy body requires that every cell and organ be nourished and the structure is organized to nurture that cooperative goal, as should a healthy civilization.  We are biologically hard-wired to feel the experiences of others.  Mirror neurons in our brain generate sensations that mimic what we observe happening to another.  This is the physiological root of empathy.
            An individual with little or no empathy will exhibit antisocial behavior, typified by disregard for the rights and feelings of others.  This is called sociopathy or psychopathy.  There is evidence that sociopaths are created, and psychopaths are born, but there is a spectrum to these distinctions.  Sociopaths are generally less educated, and have some awareness of their emotional limitations.  They make up about 4% of the general population and 25% of the prison population. Psychopaths are generally better educated and better able to pass in normal society as they have little or no conscience.  They make up about 1% of the population, but as much as 10% of corporate executives, and 20% of the prison population.  These highly functional, antisocial individuals are disproportionally attracted to the economic power of capitalist corporations, therefore society must regulate capitalism in order to protect itself.
            Capitalism tends toward monopoly as it matures, which is socially unstable.  Today, 2200 global billionaires own the majority of everything, and the rest of us scramble to survive.  When the system crashes, capitalists expect society to bail them out.  After unregulated capitalism crashed the economy in 1929, decades of social reform and regulation were required to rebuild our country.  In the last 70 years, most of these regulations have been dismantled by capitalist interests, allowing the greed of the financial industry to destroy the economy again in 2008.  The Republican government used more than a trillion taxpayer dollars to save the banks, but not the thousands of foreclosed homeowners.  Profits are capitalized, but capitalists legislate laws to pay little or no taxes, thus hindering the funding of social programs that help citizens who suffer under this distorted economic structure.  
            The next time you hear someone chanting "Freedom or Socialism", remember that they may not be mentally ill, but they are certainly willing to sacrifice the welfare of you, your family, and your society, to make a profit for the highest bidder.