True capitalism does not exist. Anywhere. In the Known Universe. At All.
You think I’m kidding? Name me one place where true capitalism, as a social structure driving the economy of a real country, actually exists. It just doesn’t.
The United States Is Not A Capitalist Country
The United States of America famously claims to be the bastion/defender/premier example of capitalism. Many of us know this is a lie. If we don’t, then shame on us. The recent $700 brazilian bailout should have taught us otherwise. Now we’re talking about a bailout for automakers. Sure, that may not happen, but it’s telling that we’d even consider it. Besides that, the alternative being discussed — allowing them to declare bankruptcy — is really just another form of socialism: bankruptcy utilizes the apparatus of government to prevent people rightly owed money from collecting it in order to ensure the bankrupt company or individual will survive.
Earlier this year, the United States government began taking over certain large businesses to prevent them from collapsing. After the government seized Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the CEO of Rogers Holdings noted,
America is more communist than China is right now. You can see that this is welfare of the rich, it is socialism for the rich… it’s just bailing out financial institutions. This is madness, this is insanity, they have more than doubled the American national debt in one weekend for a bunch of crooks and incompetents. I’m not quite sure why I or anybody else should be paying for this. (“US Is ‘More Communist Than China’: Jim Rogers” (September 8, 2008) CNBC.)
Socialism, or Feudalism?
Is it “not socialism” when it only supports large companies and the richer segments of society? I suppose an argument can be made that it isn’t: it’s more like feudalism.
One of the definitions of feudalism is “control by an entrenched minority especially for its own benefit: social, political, or economic oligarchy.” (“feudalism.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (15 Nov. 2008).)
This, actually, is a fairly good description of the United States at least from 2000 through 2008. But it began long before 2000.
The Socialism of the Corporate-Military-Industrial Complex
The most recent — and currently most prevalent — form of socialism was born out of World War II.
In 1961, President Eisenhower recognized that the Federal government was being drawn into the seizure of power by corporate schemers who collaborated with powerful military officers and their network of supporters. He saw how the corporate-military-industrial complex was first aided and abetted by the lend-lease programs of World War II. [These internetworked groups and their agents] find it opportune to have their activities subsidized in some way by the United States Treasury, the American taxpayer and the wealth of the rest of the world. (Charles Merlin Umpenhour, Freedom, a Fading Illusion (2d ed. 2005) p. 154.)
If the unfortunate reign of George W. Bush has taught us anything, it has taught us about the power of corporations, particularly the oil companies who, if they didn’t actually start the war, are the major benefactors of it.
Building a Better Society
The point is, America is already a Socialist country. But does welfare for the rich, and not for the rest of us, really build a better society?
What would happen if we took the money spent on the war in Iraq and spent it on social programs in America? With just the money California taxpayers will pay for the war, we could provide over 34 million people with health care, or put renewable electricity into more than 148 million homes, or fund 12.5 million university scholarships for a year, or any number of other beneficial things.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to try some of these things and see what happens to society?
Socialism, Not Communism
Whenever someone — and now I suppose that someone includes me — suggests experimenting with American socialism, many, if not most of us, think only of the horrors of Communism. Yet, Communism is not Socialism and, in fact, there are varieties of Socialism. As noted above, we practice a form of Socialism already; it’s just not a very beneficial form for the majority of Americans.
So I’m not suggesting we implement Socialism: we already have. I’m suggesting we consider experimenting with another form than the one currently ensconced in the laws passed by Congress. These laws aren’t limited to the most obvious: the recent bailout packages. The economic laws favoring the corporate-military-industrial complex constitute a largely hidden, yet invidious, form of Socialism. I say we begin to experiment with real Socialism by re-directing dollars away from the corporate-military-industrial complex and towards more social programs. If war is so profitable, let these companies fend for themselves, while we use our tax dollars to improve, rather than destroy, societies.
And let’s be clear about another thing: I’m not calling for a “Communist America.” I’m only suggesting that there might be some kind of alternative to the Corporate Socialism we currently practice. Because, in the end, I can’t tell the difference between our Corporate Socialism and the Social Darwinism lately offered up by the last Republican presidential contestant.
How Will You Answer the Question?
And so I ask the question, “Should America try real Socialism?”
What do you think? Leave your comments using the form below. I’m interested in what you have to say!