Is “Democratic Socialism” Different Than Plain Old Socialism

I hate to keep harping on this topic and hopefully I won’t have to as Bernie Sanders becomes less and less likely to win the Democratic nomination. It is quite apparent that many people, mostly under 35, think that “Democratic Socialism” is a new thing, maybe a more compassionate and modern take on the socialism of old that has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in the last century. Maybe the Bernie Sanders socialism takes all the good things out and throws away all the bad things? Let’s just see about that.

As a comparison between old world socialism and Bernie Sanders socialism, I’ll use the 1936 Constitution of the U.S.S.R. and various parts of BernieSander.com and other Bernie Sanders websites. If you remember in my previous blog on socialism, I explained the difference between capitalism and socialism. I think it’s only fair to point out that socialism is not inherently evil. It is a political system devised with the best intentions, I’m sure. Socialism advocates for the very poor people that, in the end, suffer at its hands. This is because of a very simple principle, as it turns out. The cornerstone of freedom and prosperity is the right to own things. Sounds simple right? How can you pin 100 million deaths due to starvation and mass murder on the right to own things? Well, in socialism, the cornerstone of the philosophy, what really makes it work is that individuals can’t own anything. The state allows citizens to own personal property, like their clothes and maybe a home, but stuff you would use to make money, called the means of production, including your building, machinery and all the other things you would need to run a business, are owned by the workers and more generally, the government. It stands to reason that if an individual can’t own the means of production, then they can’t really own anything.

That’s a bold claim. So how can I say that? Well, take a quick look. I think we would all agree that we own our own bodies right? My thoughts, what I’m good at, nobody can take away. So far so good, I hope. I also own my time, because I can choose to use my time here on earth however I choose. Good, bad or ugly. Let’s take that a step further and say when I trade my time, thoughts or talents for things like money or food, I also own those things I gain in the trade. Stated differently, if I trade my time by working, for money, since I own my time, I then must also own the money. By this logic, I can also truly own things by trading that money which I own for other things which I must also own. So far I don’t think many people would disagree with me. Even the Soviet Constitution agrees with me so far. Here’s where I must depart from socialism, and why in that system a person really doesn’t own anything.

This is a line of logic based on the socialist system:

  • I buy a home. Do I own it? Yes
  • I buy a printing press. Do I own it? Yes
  • I buy a typewriter. Do I own it? Yes
  • I start a home based newspaper with myself as the sole employee. Do I own it? Yes
  • Sales increase and I need help, so I hire a few employees. Do I still own my business? No, the employees take ownership of the means of production.
  • Do I still own the typewriters? No, they are part of the business.
  • Do I still own the printing press? No, they are part of the business.
  • Do I still own the home? No, it is part of the business.
  • If I purchased those things with money I gained by trading my time and talent, how can I say I own my time and talent? I can’t.
  • If I don’t own my time and talent, do I own myself? No

With this simple illustration you can see that in a socialist system you not only can’t own things, you don’t own yourself. Your time, talents and treasures are effectively owned by the state government. In socialism the collective group is more important than the individual. This system is enforced by workers unions and cooperatives that are organized by the state. These entities take ownership away from the person who started the business and give it to the workers in those unions and cooperatives. The state dictates the wages based on the income of the business to ensure everyone gets an equal share. This is outlined in the Soviet Constitution I linked to above in the section about “The organization of Society“. Just to recap, in the old socialist system the government, through unions and cooperatives takes over your business, dictates your wages and hours worked by the employees.

What about Bernie Sanders? Well in fact, he absolutely does believe in union and cooperative employee ownership of business. Dictated through government mandates. He absolutely does believe in government dictated wages for employees. Under the guise of income inequality, a socialist mantra, he proposes to steal from the rich and give to the poor, dictate the minimum wage, which is arbitrarily set by government bureaucrats. Class warfare, pitting the rich against the poor, is a classic socialist tactic. Bernie calls the rich the 1% and the poor the 99%, in the old socialist system they called the rich the bourgeoisie and the poor the proletariat. Same exact thing. Create a boogeyman to fight, divide the people, making it easier to control everyone.

How did the old socialist system deal with the needs of the people? In chapter X of the Soviet Constitution, it outlines the “Fundamental Right and Duties of Citizens“. This is mostly a list of positive rights, with a few negative rights thrown in at the end: freedoms of speech, press, assembly and street processions and demonstrations. The positive rights include: the right to a job, leisure time (set workday and paid vacations), free healthcare and social security, free education from elementary to college and vocational school, paid maternity leave for women along with free daycare for their children and the right to join trade unions and cooperative associations.

If any of that sounds familiar, that’s because you have heard it before. Bernie Sanders thinks you have the right to a job, free healthcare and social security, free education from elementary to college, 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for women and expand public unions and grow cooperative businesses.

In chapter X of the Soviet Constitution, not only did they outline workers’ rights, but also the duties they were expected to perform. This is crucial to socialism. Everyone likes the rights because they benefit, but in the end the state has to have a way to provide all those benefits and therefor has to require that the citizens do their part. In the case of 1936 Soviet Union people were required to work, unemployment was illegal. If you did not have a job, a job would be designated to you. If you don’t work, you are an enemy of the state. Military service is mandatory, if you do not serve you are an enemy of the state. If you break any rules, you are an enemy of the state. You have freedom of speech, but if you speak out against the state, you are an enemy of the state. There is freedom of the press, but the state controls the press. There is freedom of assembly, which is state controlled. This is the ugly part of socialism, the part Bernie Sanders won’t tell you about. Without the Capitalist notion of competition and market incentives, a void is created that can only be filled by force.

This is the downfall of socialism and why it has never really worked anywhere it has been tried. It all stems from ownership of things. When a person does not own things, that person does not care as much about those things as when they do own them. Think about things in your life. Do you treat public restrooms as nicely as you treat your own bathroom at home? If you have rented a car, do you care as much about that car as you do your own? When you win a gift card in a contest do you spend that money as wisely as you spend your hard earned money? If you are honest, the answers are all probably no. That does not make you a bad person, just a bad socialist. There has been no system in the history of the world that has propelled people into health, happiness and prosperity like capitalism has. This is because capitalism gets around the problem of incentive by acknowledging the natural right to ownership. When you own it, you have an incentive to take care of it. As we drift closer and closer to a socialist state, we will also go the way of the old Soviet Union.

At the very least, you can at least now see that there is very little, if any, difference between the Democratic Socialism proposed by Bernie Sanders and that of WW2 era Soviet Union. To be fair to Bernie, he’s not the only one with this ideology. He’s just honest enough to admit it. Always vote for freedom.

The Problem With Corporations

“There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve seen this meme, or some variation, floating around social media a lot this week. I guess it’s supposed to prove that Bernie Sanders is right and we need the government to control all these out of control corporations that control the government. I am assuming that it is supposed to carry more weight because Teddy Roosevelt was a republican, so republicans must think what he says makes sense. Well it doesn’t. It reeks of 100 year old garbage, said by a garbage president, and would only make sense to people who don’t bother to think about the words they read beyond the mouth that those words came from. In other words, a typical Bernie Sanders supporter.

So what’s so wrong with this statement? Let’s break it into its parts to find out.

The first sentence is ok. There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. ” That makes sense. When you limit the power of the government, the people under that government are freer. That is to say, a less powerful government would have less authority to make rules that would affect your life.

The second sentence is the problem. “In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations, who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.” This is a nonsensical statement. To explain why we first have to understand what a corporation is and does, generally, and the part the government plays in the role of a corporation.

A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by the people who have invested money into the business. These people are called shareholders. Usually, there are a main group of people that decide which direction to take the business of the corporation in order to make the most money for the shareholders. These people are called the board of directors. When people sue corporations, they are not suing the shareholders or even the board of directors, they are suing the actual corporation, which is legally considered a person. Some people have a problem with this, I don’t. The goal of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders. No more, no less. They have a self-interest in making the government work for them and they are very good at doing just that. I have a huge problem with that.

A government is wholly responsible for the existence of a corporation. Governments rely on experts in various areas of life for the purpose of regulating commerce for a variety of purposes. Since the government is not an expert at anything really, it makes sense that they would rely on bankers to draft banking regulations, and manufacturers to write regulations for manufacturers and farmers to make farming regulations. Of course, the experts writing the regulations have an interest in writing them in such a way as to make competition from new ideas easier to battle. New business regulations are easy to afford if you are already rich, it’s the little guy with a great idea that will have trouble getting off the ground due to these regulations. On top of these regulations, governments pass laws allowing people to copyright and trademark their ideas so that no one else is able to use them to improve on the products or ideas being protected by the government. The truth is that without government corporations would not exist.

So why the second sentence in Teddy’s quote nonsensical? Well, because without corporations the government could still function as it does today, but without the government corporations could not function as they do today. Corporations, at the end of the day, just want to sell you stuff. They can’t force you to buy their products unless a government helps them to create a monopoly, like with your internet/cable providers or your healthcare options. At the end of the day, you can tell the corporation no. With governments, they are able to write laws that force you to act in a certain way and to deem your behavior illegal, even when you are not hurting others. If you tell the government no, bad things will happen to you.

I ask you, which entity is more dangerous? The one with the power to control your life or the one that wants to sell you stuff? Is it a rational position to say that governmental policies have made corporations too powerful, so we need more governmental policies to make them less powerful? Wouldn’t a simpler solution be to eliminate the governmental policies that made them too powerful in the first place?

If it is a true statement that when a government is smaller people have more freedom, then making the government bigger to deal with a problem strictly created by the government cannot by definition make you freer and to the contrary, will make you less free. The truth is that you have much more control over the corporation than you do over your government. You vote for an American president once every 4 years, an American senator once every 6 years and an American congressman once every 2 years. We vote for and against corporations on an almost constant basis with our dollars. Corporations fear you more than your government does and it’s not even close.

When you hear politicians speak about the problems with big business controlling the government, listen to make sure their solutions are not making government bigger. When they start sentences with: “We will make those corporations…” what they really mean is that “We will make the government more powerful.” When the government gets bigger corporations get more powerful, no matter what they tell you. Who do you think is going to write all those anti-corporation laws?


Why I’m Not a Socialist and You Shouldn’t Be Either

I am writing this blog mainly for those under 30 years of age, who have no working memory of what socialism looked like in the world of grownups 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago. I’m not much older than you, 42, but I can still remember watching the news about the “arms race” and negotiations between the US and Russia. I wasn’t old enough to be scared, but the older people around me were.

Today’s socialism bears very little resemblance to the bad old days of the cold war. Nuclear bombs have been replaced with safe spaces, trigger warnings and social justice. Make no mistake, one is no less dangerous than the other. Socialism today has been made to feel safer because the word “democratic” has been placed before it, as if people voting for it makes it any better. I’m not going to be talking about the socialism that you see in the black and white films in your history class today, although the ideas you think are great did come from those people, no, I’m going to be talking about modern socialism. Hopefully, by the end of this you will understand why you should not be a socialist.

One of the main problems, I think, is that young people have no idea what socialism, or it’s opposite, capitalism, really are. Let’s take a look at each system and see if we can determine the attraction that each may have. The truth is that on the outside, socialism has much more appealing selling points than capitalism does. In actual definition there in only one word of difference between them. In the history of the world there has never been a bigger difference from just one word.

Socialism- A system where the means of production are controlled by the public segment of society.

Capitalism- A system were the means of production are controlled by the private segment of society.

Now that you have a basic definition let’s get a little more descriptive. Karl Marx described socialism as a system that “takes from each according to their ability, and gives to each according to their need.” That sounds really good on the outside. Everyone contributes, and is given what they need to live. But let’s dig a little deeper by asking the questions, who decides? Who decides how much I am able to give? Who decides how much I need to live? Your answer may very well be, the people we vote for will decide! Ok, fair enough, the people you vote for how much you work, at what job, at what wage. The people you vote for decide how much of that wage they decided you should make you get to keep. Do you see where I’m going here? In a socialist system, you lose your personhood. You lose your right to own property. You lose your right to be an individual. The collective group of the community becomes way more important than any single individual. “But we are all in this together! The community is more important that the individual!” I hear you saying this, but let’s just put that on the shelf for now and get back to in in a bit and talk about capitalism.

One of the people responsible for my becoming a libertarian was Dr. Walter Williams, he describes capitalism as a system where in order to reap the rewards of society, one must first serve society. Admittedly, that does not sound quite as enticing as the description of socialism on the outside. Making a person work in order to benefit from society seems mean. Let’s use an example to illustrate what he meant by that description. Bobby wants to buy some food. He goes to the store and asks for some BBQ chicken. The store owner asks Bobby if he has served society and Bobby says yes, he served society by delivering newspapers. The store owner asks for proof of this service and Bobby produces money given to him by the owner of the newspaper. With this money Bobby buys the chicken to eat. So who decided what Bobby had the ability to give? Who decides what Bobby needs? The answer to each of these questions is Bobby. A capitalist society empowers the individual to serve themselves. A community is broken down into interactions between individuals where both parties feel better off after the interaction. While socialism looks better on the outside, once you peel back the layers, capitalism is much better vehicle to freedom.

Still, this is not a perfect picture of modern socialism, Bernie Sanders socialism or Scandinavian socialism. Social justice and 3rd wave feminism are just trying to empower oppressed groups right? Well, let’s take a look at that and see what the connection is to what I have described above. To understand “social justice”, you have to google the terms, “Frankfurt School”, “Critical Theory”, “Cultural Marxism”. Yes, that Marx! The same guy who I used to describe socialism above. “Social justice” assigns a hierarchy to groups of people based on their standing in society. It’s a ladder system, the higher you are on the ladder, the less oppressed you are and therefore the less rights you have. It’s ok for any group lower on the ladder to attack any group higher on the ladder. If you don’t see the ugliness here, I’ll just go ahead and point it out. It’s a system not concerned with elevating the rights of the oppressed, it’s a system concerned with lowering the rights of the oppressors. Still don’t get it? It tears people down and punishes them if they try to build themselves back up. Until we all share the misery equally. “Wait a minute!” you say, “How can standing up for the oppressed be that bad!” you say. Well ask yourself some questions. Who decides which groups are oppressive and which are oppressors? That’s right! Your benevolent dictators do! Your elected officials that you have given all your individuality to get to decide where you belong on this ladder. “So what!” you say, “I’m a gay, female, ethnic minority and low on the ladder, I can only benefit from this system!” Yes, I guess for now you do. At least until your particular group passes someone else on the ladder, then you too will need to be brought down a peg or two. In this philosophy of life, you are giving away your freedom to a benevolent dictator because you feel like your group is too weak or stupid to take care of themselves. 3rd wave feminists think women are too stupid to compete in the job market and must be protected from evil men. LGBTAQ’s are too weak and stupid to get along in society full of straight people so they must be protected and sheltered from the evil breeders. This philosophy denigrates who you are. You make yourself less than in a grand competition to see who can get to the bottom first.

When you look at the big problems we have today in our government, like the corporate lobbying, special favors, bank bailouts, etc…, understand that crony-capitalism, where the corporations control the government, is actually a form of fascism and the government is really the one in control. The people who enforce the law are always in control. Fascism is just another branch on the socialist tree. The problem is not too much business, the problem is too much government.

This is why being separated from your individuality to benefit the collective is so bad. When you lose the power to decide what is good for you, society as a whole suffers. When you hear terms like “safe space”, “inclusion”, “multi-culturalism”, “patriarchy”, “rape culture”, “misogyny”, “trigger warning”, “micro-aggression”, “feminism”, “problematic”, and all the other “social justice” buzzwords, run the other way. As fast as you can. Learn the power you possess as an individual. These buzzwords do not reflect the reality of the world you live in. You are more important than the collective.

This socialist movement of “social justice” is more dangerous than the bad old days of the cold war because it entices free people to become slaves. You freely give up your liberty for social equality. What you are doing in essence is giving up freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and all your other freedoms for free college, free food, free healthcare and free housing and all the other “free” stuff promised by the benevolent ruling class. I get that you are probably at an age where you have up to this point been taken care of most of your life and the dangers of what I have described are not immediately apparent, but one day you will understand what it means to be on your own. I know the notion that you can remain a child of the state is attractive, but once you give away your freedoms, you can never get them back. It doesn’t work that way. One day, the odds are that you will be working at a job that will allow you to take care of yourself and you won’t need the governments help. Do your future self a favor and learn earlier rather than later the dangers of modern socialism. Please don’t vote away you freedom, and mine, to the highest bidder.

The Politics of Feelings

Watching the political coverage lately, I feel like I’m living in a bizarro world where the laws of common sense are completely the opposite of common and things that make sense. This is true on both sides of the political spectrum. I am not going to use this blog to condemn or praise either side. I will criticize both sides, and try to work through what I think may be happening though. I chose the below examples because they are the ones in the spotlight right now. Every other Facebook post is about one of them. These are guys you either love or hate. I hate both of them. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. Having said that, I think I get both of them.

On one side you have democrats like Bernie Sanders, who want to make everything “free”. College is free. Healthcare is free. Jobs for everyone at whatever arbitrary wage he deems “livable”. You want it? He’ll give it to you. Free. Unless you are one of those evil people who actually produce what the rest of us consume. If you are one of those evil people you will pay, oooohhhh you will pay. People love them some Bernie Sanders. Especially college students who by and large have never had to pay for anything. People love him because he “says it like it is”, and is not afraid to ruffle some feathers. He is a self-described socialist and is not afraid to admit it (unless he’s running for president, then he denies it). One compliment I can give Mr. Sanders is that I get the feeling he truly believes what he advocates. Honesty is a rare commodity, especially in Washington, DC. It’s easy to see young inexperienced people and old hippies could fall for the dribble that he spews. I mean really? Free college for anyone who wants to go to a state college? I guess the professors, textbook providers, school related businesses and everyone else related to public universities will be perfectly ok with providing their goods and services at no charge. No? Well how do those people get paid if the education is free? Oh, that’s right. Those evil producers who make everything and give everyone jobs will be forced to pay for your kids’ college. Free.

On the other side you have republican superstar Donald Trump dominating the airwaves and social media. Love him or hate him, he is saying what conservatives want to hear right now. He is riding the wave caused by his remarks about Mexicans a few weeks ago. Apparently, he thinks half the people coming from Mexico illegally are rapists and felons. Of course that is wrong on a variety of levels, but it taps into the feelings of American’s towards illegal aliens in a very Trumpesque over the top way that makes people scream, “He says it like it is! You can’t handle the truth!” Trump has the appeal of not being a Washington insider. To my knowledge he has never held any kind of office. What Trump is, is an opportunist. In the past he was a huge admirer and supporter of Hillary Clinton and universal healthcare. He calls himself a “big second amendment guy” and then advocates for outlawing assault weapons, because only criminals and cops need those. Now that it’s a popular position, he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare. He wants to reduce or eliminate corporate taxes, but advocates for a 14.25% one-time tax on the top 1% because they hold 99% of the wealth and can afford it (paraphrasing). He is really good at making general statements and platitudes without having an actual plan to back them up. He is the worst kind of crony capitalist in his own business pursuits. He at one time tried to take private property through eminent domain. He has strengthened the already dizzying array of necessary license agreements necessary to open a casino in Atlantic City to make competition against him harder. The one compliment I will give Donald Trump is that he is really good figuring out what people want to hear and then telling them that. In times past, I will remind everyone that “crony capitalism” went by a different, more sinister name. You can discover that name for yourself.

So what does all this mean? Why these two? My best guess is that these two guys fill a need. They are a voice that is getting overshadowed by the established leadership on both sides of the political spectrum. People are sick of hearing meaningless political talking points, stated in the same words by different politicians and pundits over and over again. They are saying new things, in a non-politically correct way that speak to the core belief systems of normal citizens everywhere. They are blunt and unapologetic in their commentary. Frankly, it’s refreshing to hear something different. Never mind what they are actually saying is nonsensical, ridiculous, without factual merit and utterly ridiculous in many cases. They make themselves seem to the average guy, with no political pull, just like them. They will work for you when they get to Washington. I would caution everyone to not only listen to what they promise, but to ask how they plan on doing it. Before you grab your pitchfork and cleverly worded poster and head out to the Mexican border or a mega-millionaire’s home, say to yourself, “I know I liked what he said, but does that make it true?” I would certainly personally benefit if all state schools were free, but can we really get enough new money from rich people to pay for it? No. Of course not. Sure, illegal immigration may be a problem in some areas, but are half of them really rapists and felons? No, of course not.

Bottom line, get past the feelings politicians give you. The worst thing anyone can do in politics is trust a politician. Americans love to cheer for their team and boo the opposition. Politics is not sports, it’s not professional wrestling with baby faces and heels. These are real people with real control over your lives, treat them as such. Like I said, I’m not condemning Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. If they weren’t in the headlines I would have used other examples. If you like them, by all means, you be you. I just think you are wrong, that’s all.