Friday, August 3, 2018

Doug Greene — More Than Universal Healthcare: The Meaning of Socialism

Young people are turning to socialism, and Democratic Party politicians are adopting the term. But what is socialism?
My own summary answer is that socialism is the socio-economic system that favors people and the environment as a whole over other factors and and political theory that prioritizes human rights. 

This is in contrast to capitalism, which favors capital over other factors and accords highest priority to property rights.

Doug Greene presents his view of a Marxist-Leninist approach to socialism and capitalism, which seems to me to be past its expiration date. At the very least, it needs repackaging. But without altering the content, the repackaging would still leave the contents stale.

Marx, Engels, Lenin and others of their day had some ideas that still apply but they need to be adapted and integrated with new knowledge and emergent conditions.

But it is useful to review the fundamental principles.

However, where I think that most explorations of these ideas goes off track is due to focusing on objectives and means rather than the kernel of the design problem, which is necessary to elaborate a satisfactory design solutions. 

Basically, the priorities being used now are wrong and lead to social dysfunction, political unrest, and economic inequality that fuels the oligarchic power that is at the bottom of the class struggle between ownership and work.

These priorities are now socially and culturally embedded and institutionally established. Changing these priorities requires a system overhaul. In the West this means the transformation of bourgeois liberalism that resulted from the transition from feudalism to capitalism into a more integrated liberalism that integrates people, the environment and technology. 

Under feudalism, an oligarchy owned the means of production in the form of land during the agricultural age. Under capitalism, a similar oligarchy that owns industrial and financial capital in addition to land controls the means of production and reaps the greatest reward based on ownership rather than work. This also enable the negative externality of environmental degradation to be socialized while the gains are capitalized.

Under socialism, there would be no oligarchy controlling the means of production, workers and the environment would be favored by rights established in law, and there would be no incentive to socialize environmental degradation.

5 comments:

Bob said...

The article sets forth a good definition of socialism. What the New Deal and the DSA reminds me of is social democracy or SOCDEM. They should use this term and not be embarrassed by it. No sense in reformers pretending to be radicals - it just invites their opponents to demonize them.

Konrad said...

Socialism means that the central government owns and controls the primary means of production of goods and services. The more a government owns and controls these, the more it is socialist.

Universal Medicare (UM) is not socialism, since UM does not involve government ownership of medical care. Hospital and drug companies would still be privately owned, but much of their funding would come from the U.S. government.

“My own summary answer is that socialism is the socio-economic system that favors people and the environment as a whole over other factors and political theory that prioritizes human rights.” ~ Tom Hickey

Hypothetically yes, but in practice, socialism produces social strata, just like capitalism. The party bosses are in charge, rather than rich oligarchs. In capitalist countries, people exploit other people. In socialist countries it’s the other way around. Moreover the USSR was no more environmentally conscious than is the USA.

Both extremes have problems that end up being mirror images of each other. Therefore I prefer a balance between capitalism and socialism.

“This is in contrast to capitalism, which favors capital over other factors and accords highest priority to property rights.”

Only property rights for the rich. In capitalist nations, poor people have no property rights. To varying extents, poor people don’t even have rights over their physical bodies, or the lives of their children.

Tom Hickey said...

Socialism means that the central government owns and controls the primary means of production of goods and services. The more a government owns and controls these, the more it is socialist.

That is one definition of socialism.

There are others.

One form of socialism is public control of the commanding heights of the economy through participatory democracy.

Another form of socialism is worker control of the means of production through cooperatives.

There are others.

Types of socialism/Wikipedia

https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_socialism.html

Konrad said...

Wikipedia notes that “socialism” can denote a philosophical outlook. That’s fine, but it doesn’t produce practical results. I think the basic question comes down to who owns and controls the means of production of goods and services.

Do we want a handful of rich oligarchs owning everyone and everything?

Or do we want a government that (supposedly) represents the people to own everything?

Or do we want some mixture, combination, or balance of the two extremes?

Bob said...

No.
No.
Sort of, so yes.

We want reform of the status quo, which will then become the next status quo. What we don't want is a vision of the future that no one knows how to achieve.

That means rejecting Doug Greene's vision of the future. In doing that, we reject ideals and the repackaging of those ideals. We avoid the use of labels which have become meaningless over time. We look for specifics, as in practical solutions for tangible problems. We seek what is pragmatic.