Monday, October 27, 2008

It really is all about Joe.

I ran into, by accident, another blogger who posted a piece about socialism. She waxes eloquent about the societal improvements that have evolved throughout the 19th & 20th centuries, which she attributes to socialist principles (don't have permission for a link, but comment & I'll show you). About each advancement, she says, “If you like --- having your weekends off, not stepping over sick homeless people, etc. ---, you can thank a socialist.” Being fair, in some regard she may have a point. However, on balance, I think we’ve got it licked:

If you like early detection & treatment of breast, uterine & cervical cancers, you can thank a capitalist.
If you’ve needed an emergency C-section (as I have three times), & had medical equipment on hand for the job, you can thank a capitalist.
If you’re relieved because of the advances in dental sciences, you can thank a capitalist.
If you’re thankful that vaccinations are available to keep your children safe from horrible, tragic diseases, you can thank a capitalist
If you have the chance to save for your own rainy day? To provide for your family with enough to spare, you can thank a capitalist

If you even know there’s something called a ‘Gamma Knife’ for exquisitely delicate brain tumor surgery…
If you like your computer for the blogging that’s so easily accessible to your fingertips…
If you’re glad you have contact lenses…
If you’re thankful for car seats that keep your children safe…
If you’re thankful for the car you drive…
If you’ve ever considered the advancement of home electricity, refrigeration, heating/cooling, indoor plumbing…

…you can thank people like Joe – yes, the Plumber – a capitalist.

Human nature doesn’t go out of its way to innovate, engineer, produce, improve, advance, compete - without incentive. Folks like Dr. Phil call it “secondary gain.” It’s the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor that drives human nature forward. It compels productivity. Innovation & invention is the fruit of its toil.

Face it. We are selfish creatures. We want ours; & we want it better. Voila the capitalist society: teeming with advancements, opportunity for personal wealth; a place where the rising tide really does – eventually – lift all boats. (There are holes in this analysis; I agree. That’s for another post. I’ve got so much to say – you’d run ‘screaming into the night’ if I tried to fold it all in now.)

Is it perfect? No. It’s a human enterprise. There are bad apples in every barrel. On this point alone, some urge that the answer is socialism: an even-playing-field-utopia. I argue that socialism removes the playing field, changes the rules & kills the game.

You may say, “Look at the Swedes. They’re socialist & they’ve got Volvo.” Yeah, they’ve got Volvo. Just Volvo; & they bring it over here to make it really sing.

I also argue that socialism would neuter American innovation. Punishing success by revoking ‘profit’ (by confiscatory taxation, or punitive regulation) from those who strive to compete freely. It would dis-incentivize innovation, suffocate ingenuity, squelch productivity, & strangle the American dream. Look at history. Do you see any society advance by leaps & bounds like ours, as a result of socialist principles?

If you look for capitalist ills, you’ll find them in spades. (Heck, we’ve seen the whole deck in the past month.) Slow down, though… We’ve also seen the malignancy grown by forcing ‘socialist principles’ on the free market, too. Can anyone say Community Reinvestment Act of 1977? Can you say government-forcing-banks-to-supply-Sub-prime-loans-since-then to those who couldn’t shoulder them?

If you think it’s time to throw the baby out with the bathwater because of AIG, Lehman Bros., etc. you must first confront this: why do people from all over the world risk their lives to come here? Why do people cross deserts, swim across oceans on the strength of their own arms & legs, to wash up on our shore? Ask them & I guarantee you’ll hear something like this, “Freedom from tyrannical government, a chance to make it…opportunity.”

If you think it’s time to chuck it all & head for that utopian playing field, I ask you to ponder: what innovations will we miss? What advances will we thwart by tossing a system that “capitalizes” on some of the most ingenious qualities of the human mind & spirit? What greater good will we stunt: autism treatments? Cancer advances? Alzheimer’s therapies? Energy development? Scientific progress?

We are that “shining city upon a hill,” whether we realize it/want to admit it or not; & it’s not because we’ve followed Karl Marx. We are a hero to the world (a fallen one, for the moment, but a hero nonetheless), and the world is drawn to heroes. That’s why they come. The world needs a hero.

Be thankful. For the moment, the world still has one.



stephanie said...

I have been reading some of your posts. I really admire how passionately you write. I lean towards the right politcally so it is nice to know that there are still people out there that share my same values.
Keep writing and I will keep reading.

Susannah said...

Thanks so much, Stephanie. Your words are very encouraging. I'm learning just how many of us do share the same values. We need each other! :) Thanks again.

Lydia Netzer said...

Hi Susannah! I enjoyed your post. I think you make excellent points and I agree that we definitely need bits of *both* systems in place to have a really strong country. Capitalism is *definitely* motivating, and in a good way. We need it too.

Lydia Netzer said...

Of course, one fundamental difference in your post and mine is that no one is jumping around calling McCain a capitalist and saying that he's going to bring down the country because of his awful capitalist ideas. My post was written to remind people that socialism isn't all about seizing private property. Your defense of capitalism is a little hollow when it was not preceded by an attack.

Susannah said...

You're right. No one is calling Mr. McCain a 'capitalist' in a derogatory fashion, per se. However, I respectfully beg to differ that my post is 'hollow' because of that one assertion.

I have listened quietly for years while liberals/media/leftists disparage the "rich", "big business", and even small business (they don't provide this/that), when the fact is those are the engines of work/jobs/productivity in our society. I have listened quietly while those same voices have effectively blamed capitalists for the plethora of ills in our society, and promoted abdication of personal responsibility, championing the Government as the panacea. So no, nobody is 'accusing' Mr. McCain of being a capitalist, but I absolutely will not listen quietly any longer while Mr. Obama champions a seismic shift in the foundational system of our great nation.

And one more thing...we do differ in our understanding of socialism. I firmly believe that it's seizure of personal property. Without seizing one's private property, there is nothing to "redistribute" to others. So, thanks a lot Lydia, for engaging this discussion. I really mean that - or I wouldn't have posted a comment to you. Safe to say we can agree that we disagree. Ain't it a great country? :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lostcheerio! First off, I read your blog on thanking a socialist and I found it very thoughtful, rational, and well-said. I am a conservative politically, but I agree with many of your statements and respect your point of view. You are one of the view Obama supporters I have come across who could actually verbalize a logical reason to support him. Susannah is one of my very best friends and we talk a lot about all this stuff so I'd just throw out that her statements are anything but hollow. Like me, she is a believer in American free enterprise and that is what she is defending. It has nothing to do with John McCain. It's much bigger than that. I'm not a huge McCain/Palin fan and I am disillusioned with Bush and the Republican party. But McCain is the best choice I have for what I believe. Obama is so far to the left that I find him a little scary - a threat to MY way of life. And I'm doing all the right things. Went to college, got married and stayed married, then had kids, working hard, saving for my kids college, saving for retirement, living very modestly, paying my taxes in full without complaint. I don't have any wealth, just good income. Below $250M I might add. But my husband and I are both accountants and our computations show that our taxes under Obama's plans will probably increase at LEAST $17,000 annually. That takes away my ability to continue to save for college and retirement. I'm one of the few who is doing everything right and he's about to ruin my ability to do so. I am scared and I just don't see how an Obama presidency can be good for me or for America.

Cristina M. said...

I love your post, you are so right in many ways. I thought I am almost alone in thinking that Obama is a socialist/communist and every single country that embraced that ideology went bad, very bad. How come so many people don't want to see that??

Susannah said...

Thanks Christina~ You're not alone. The MS Media just wants you to think you are. Look @ my post "Read MY Lipstick" - it speaks to that. Also, create a link & fwd my 'All About Joe' post to as many people as you want - your whole address book? :)

I was surfing blogs last night & was very heartened that almost everybody is writing/commenting about Joe/socialism. Follow some blog links & see what they have to say.

And thanks for stopping here. Come on back any time!

Scott Howard said...

Hey Susannah
I had a Volvo once and loved it...I think. Anyway, you nailed it. I'm glad medicine is not socialized. Think DMV and waiting in line forever. Great post!

Susannah said...

We had a Volvo once too. That particular one was a lemon; had to get rid of there's a metaphor for ya!

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Hi Susannah,

I just wanted to point out to you that Joe the Plumber isn't a capitalist.

The capitalist, in this equation, would be the man he works for. Joe doesn't own the company, so all he has to sell is himself, in the form of his labour. This would make him part of the proletariat, the mass of people who do not own the means of production and therefore sell their labour to others, who use it to make a profit for themselves.

I'd also like to point out that without the work of Eugene Debs and other great activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we'd all still be working 20 hour days, six and seven days a week, for insanely low wages. There would be no weekend. There would be no 'worker's compensation'. There would be no OSHA, no protection for labour. There would be no regulation on child labour.

In short, we'd be living like we did before Socialist activists fought to get the government to change the paradigm.

So the next time you look forward to a weekend, or a paid vacation, or a holiday at work, please thank a Socialist.

Haev a nice day.

Susannah said...

Thanks Satyavati~ You make similar points to Lydia (lostcheerio) in her post, to which I responded w/ mine. I agree that she (& you) make some interesting assertions, & in some ways you both have a point. I won't belabor the "Joe" particulars you raise b/c, of course, his part of the equation is a metaphor for hard-working capitalists. (see my post again for details)

Thanks again for your comment. You obviously are passionate & have thought through your positions carefully. That's actually refreshing to hear, whether we see it the same way or not.

TAO said...


I like your blog! But I do have issue with your comment about Sweden. If you look it up they have higher median household income than we do, a higher standard of living, and they live longer. So, I wouldn't blow them off so quickly with the Volvo comment.

You are very religious and proud to be an American...but we should acknowledge that socialism has benefited our country in a variety of ways and we are better off for it. We can also be very thankful for capitalism also because as you are aware we have enjoyed much prosperity from capitalism.

But I cannot help but wonder, with your religious bent how you can be satisfied by saying that man is by nature greedy.

If you read Karl Marx you would also realize that he believed that capitalism develops into socialism and socialism evolves into communism. He would be the first to acknowledge that Russia could never be considered a communist country because it was never a capitalist country. You have to evolve from one system to another you cannot just implement it.

Remember, taking weekends off was not an act of charity on the part of capitalists...they realized that their employees needed time off to shop and they needed shoppers. We have mandatory public education because we no longer had a need for child labor. FDR started social security as a way to get old people out of jobs so that we could give what jobs we had to younger people with family and kids....

Welfare may not be an act of charity but rather a way to control those who refuse to work. It is actually a way to lower crime than an act of charity. Besides if you have full employment you also then have wage the unemployed serve as a reminder to workers not to get too pushy on raising wages...

Sometimes liberals can be a capitalists best friend! :)

Susannah said...

Thanks for your comment TAO. I appreciate you bringing up some solid points. Dialogue is clarifying.

First, I don't deny that socialist principles have provided a soft place to fall for "some of the least of these" in our society...(after several years working rural community mental health, I've seen some of the worst of it)...but, so does capitalism (see 'Joe'). My post was a reaction to the vilification of capitalism as selfishness (so says Mr. Obama) & the attempt at portraying socialism as the panacea. While capitalism clearly isn't perfect, socialist principles can do great harm to the human spirit by squelching the facets that we all need in order to build self-efficacy: drive, autonomy, ingenuity, etc. Your closing illustrates the method by which socialist principles castrate human drive (very often for political gain). If those in power can keep the masses 'controlled', they can keep their vote, thereby keeping power. Wouldn't it be healthier to incentivize people toward productivity for the betterment of our society & humanity (see 'Joe' again)? I humbly beg to differ w/ the social engineering approach. If people lead producive lives, rather than sitting on the dole, there would be lower crime. Think about it: living a fulfilling, productive life w/ a sense of autonomy & self-determination is far better than to feel trapped in a socio-political manipulation designed to keep people down. That only breeds frustration, contempt for authority & thus, higher crime. Haven't we seen it enough, already?

Secondly, thank you for asking about my faith. You've surmised correctly: it is extremely important. It's who I am. (Though, 'religious' sounds so stilted. Let's go w/ 'faith,' shall we?) Plainly, yes. I am very satisfied w/ saying that human nature is greedy, b/c it is. That, & worse (Romans 3:23). My faith informs me that we are sinful beings, redeemed by Grace at the cross & resurrection. It's not something that I have accomplished (Ephesians 2:8-9), but humbly & gratefully acknowledge. This understanding allows me freedom to live, b/c God has given me a way to relinquish the greed, envy, anger, etc. Through Christ, I can lay down in freedom the fight against myself, & get on w/ the business of living life abundantly (John 10:10). It's all about Jesus. I could go on, but then I'd be called an evangelical Christian! Oops, I think I gave it away...(see 'Primary Perspectives') :)

Anyway, I am grateful for your visit & your comment. Please stop by again. I'll check out your place, too.