Friday, June 22, 2007



-----1. Definitions
-----2. By Necessity
-----3. By Choice
-----4. The Exception to Choice
-----5. Territories for each ideology
-----6. Welfare-State Socialism
-----7. Great Society Socialism
-----8. Communism

1. Socialism is a huge concept that ought not to be defined in one phrase but is of many types. It requires a list of characteristics to describe it, and any real society is never simply "capitalistic" OR "socialistic"--it is always a matter of type and degree, depending on how many of these qualities are present. I would list these characteristics as being the most fundamental:
---Elimination of absolute poverty by government action;
---Reduction of relative poverty and inequality by government action;
---Full employment;

---Rent control;
---Government building housing more than the private sector does;
---Residents rent, rather than buy, their housing;
---Government tries to reduce or eliminate the inequities due to bad private-sector practices due to racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism, cronyism;
---Sharing in general;
---Government setting of wages, prices, rents, etc.;
---In a poorly-performing capitalist economy, the store shelves are loaded with wonderful merchandise the customers can't afford, and the merchants have to have sale after sale and offer deep discounts; in a poorly-performing socialist economy, the customers have to wait in long lines to get a chance to buy the second-rate, often scarce or shoddy merchandise;
---Progressive taxation according to people's ability to pay, resulting in decreased inequality;
---Equal opportunity for all;

---Rationing of food, fuel, etc.;
---Regulation of industry, commerce, finance, and markets;
---Publicly-created and owned infrastructure--public schools, utilities, roads, hospitals, etc.;

---Basic, simple, down-to-Earth economic system. Late capitalism overloads with lending and borrowing and all sorts of fancy accounting. Especially debt--it reaches the point where you have to borrow anew in order to pay back prior loans, and the lender himself/herself/itself can't lend without borrowing the money. Under socialism, there is no lending or borrowing, and no fancy acounting, only bookkeeping any high-school dropout could understand.
---Public policing and guarding, and armed forces managed without contracting out any tasks to the private sector;
---Government planning of the economy;
---Government driving of the economy, directing its growth according to public ideals, popular objectives and national or world needs rather than private profit;
---Public ownership of the means of production;
---Broad distribution of power.

---Full implementation of basic freedoms, human rights, civil rights, and democracy. It has to be noted that such basics as free and fair elections and freedom of speech and worship were prohibited in the great socialist states of the USSR and China and others. The reason(s) for that need to be studied, but anyhow as far as I am concerned these basics have to be supported even if that requires an additional war after the Revolution will have already brought socialism to the world. Yet patience may be what's called for--probably some day a Gorbachev (or, earlier, a Khrushchev)will arise to liberalize a dictatorial regime. I'm of no help in deciding whether, in France in WW II for example, you should join the Resistance or wait for the Nazi rgime to soften or even cooperate with it a little in order to try to ease it--even though I do know that we do need now to overthrow the presently-existing global regime.
---International travel: Everyone should travel all over the world--yet the communists--socialist regimes--erected the Berlin Wall. There is a lot that has to be said about that, because indeed such restrictions may be humanistically necessary for a developing socialist country to impose to prevent a brain drain. But the problem could be solved if countries will cooperate--of course, the Berlin Wall went up at the height of the Cold War, when the West had no interest in cooperating with the Reds. A poor country that has invested a lot in educating and training doctors and other professionals who could earn vastly higher salaries in neighboring rich countries, should have the right to hope that these educated people will stay to help their country advance. The doctors, etc., must have the right to travel abroad, but not to emigrate, I mean they should be able to spend 5-10 years abroad but not the rest of their lives except insofar as the rich countries could compensate the poor country by increasing aid.

2. Socialism by Necessity.

Capitalism basically does not work.* It can run along for 50 or more years, with a booming economy--as we have seen in the United States from 1945 to the present; but it will eventually collapse; and when it does, then society has to turn to socialism. Of course, these are matters of degree--in fact, the US has had a mixed economy perhaps 75% capitalist and 25% socialist since WW II; that is too capitalistic a ratio, and when it crashes, we will need to shift to--not 100% pure socialism, but perhaps a 50-50 mixed economy.

Let me elaborate on how and why "capitalism does not work," because many people don't see this, they think the US economy is working just fine (or some indeed think it would be working just fine EXCEPT for the taxes, regulation, welfare, etc.--the very elements of socialism in it).

Here are some signs that our capitalistic system is not working:

---Tens of millions stuck in poverty;

---Millions unemployed and underemployed (underpaid, forced to work at unsuitable jobs, working part-time while needing full-time work, etc.)

---Ever-rising burden of debt--personal, corporate, and governmental;

---Ever-increasing financial tricks--stock options, derivatives, hedge funds, private equity, etc.;

---Government's inability to meet its ordinary obligations, maintain infrastructure, disaster relief, etc;

---Mass overspending, Americans spend more than they earn. This is what keeps the economy going, but it's not sustainable in the long term.

---Undersaving, millions are approaching retirement age and will not be able to retire without slipping into destitution. Of course, when people finally wake up and start saving adequately, it will cause the economy to collapse.

Basically, capitalism does not work* because it continually concentrates the wealth, ultimately resulting in mass impoverishment, collapse of effective demand (the capitalists can't sell the goods their factories produce), and Depression, with mass unemployment and rising bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, homelessness, hunger, crime, and social unrest.

These problems can only be fixed by a huge redistribution of wealth and massive government job-creation.*

Another large reason capitalism doesn't work is that it does not adequately take care of the environment. It results in pollution, perhaps climatic change, and resource-depletion. Increased regulation and long-range, global planning--i.e., socialism--are necessary to solve these problems.

*I put an asterisk when I say capitalism does not work, because I actually believe that any and all of these political philosophies--including capitalism-- could work under the right conditions or by the right definitions. If we were all saints, any type of system would work just fine (but we are sinners). There are certain types of people who will thrive under a capitalist regime--competent, competitive, extroverted, lucky, healthy, small-minded people happy to concentrate their energies on schmoozing and money-grubbing. And probably not only them but many other types of people besides, depending on the particulars of any given capitalistic regime, or the particular niche they may find themselves in--e.g., philosophers will in general fail and founder under capitalism, yet one may become the friend of a rich patron and do very well so unpredictably and ungeneralizably. Maybe the general rule would be that to make most systems work it is necessary and sufficient that most of the people living in them be dedicated to making them work (along with an adequate resource base and protection from predators, of course).

What is essential is that anyone who finds himself or herself unhappy in a capitalistic regime must have the right to move to socialism, etc., and vice versa.

3. By Choice
Everyone should be able to live under whatever type of politico-economic system they want, whether that be like the type of regime promoted by Democrats (from the centrist Clintons to the liberal John Edwards to the progressive Democrats like FDR with his New Deal) or like that advocated by Republicans ranging from the centrist Eisenhower to the conservative Reagan-George W. Bush; or beyond these, ranging from socialist to libertarian, or communist to anarchist.

4. The Exception to Choice

There is one great big exception to this freedom of choice--namely, that the very rich are going to have to pay heavy taxes even if they want to live in a low-tax, small-government libertarian regime. Since less than 5% of the population is that rich, this would still leave over 95% of the people free to choose their form of government; and even for that richest 5%, they may still enjoy all of the other characteristics of whatever regime they choose--such as perhaps the unlimited right to have abortions or own guns or stay out of popular wars, to name just a few freedoms you might have in a libertarian regime besides the low tax. But also, there is this consideration, too: While the very rich are bound to have to pay the highly progressive taxes that are levied by the highest levels of government (national, international, global, and Solar Systemic), they might still save a bundle of money in a libertarian system by not having to pay much state and local taxes.

There is another exception, too, that should go without saying but maybe I had better say it anyhow, and that is that not even the most libertarian systems can evade their responsibility to protect the environment. It should be obvious, for example, that a chemical factory cannot avoid anti-pollution regulation just by relocating to a libertarian place. This is especially obviously true if it pollutes air or water that subsequently flow to populated areas. But it even does raise the question of whether companies in a libertarian state ought ot be allowed to pollute their own land, air, and water. I don't think so, but this will be up to others to decide, and it is apt to be a matter of degree.

5. Territories for each ideology

This freedom of choice is impossible today, but it should become possible in the future, when humanity spreads out across the Solar System. But even before then, we can make it possible by establishing territories for each form of government and economy. For example, fifty thousand square miles could be carved out of the Idaho-Montana-Dakotas area for a Libertarian regime, and another 50,000 square miles could be designated in California for Democratic Socialism, and so on. These territories would need to be subsidized, protected, and regulated by the Federal government, which is feasible if all parties are willing to cooperate in a friendly manner for the greater good of all, namely for the sake of giving everyone the right to choose what kind of system they want.

Each politicoeconomic system should develop its territory and way of life in accordance with its philosophy. It should invite tourists to visit and participate, in hopes of educating and persuading them of the benefits of its system, so that it may gain population and grow, and gain influence in the general society, the nation as a whole and its choice for type of government.

Three of the territories would be for "Welfare-State Socialism", "Great Society Socialism", and "Communism." Studying these three will give you the best understanding of what I mean by "socialism". In my SPACE blog, these three systems are similar to what I propose for Mars, Earth, and Venus, respectively. However, be aware that different people mean different things, and their ideas will influence how these places develop.

6. "Welfare-State Socialism" is like what I propose for Mars, "45%" socialism--meaning that the government runs 45% of the economy, and that the minimum wage is 45% of the mean wage. The main motivation for this form of government is to solve the problem of poverty by establishing high minimum income levels. (I actually propose for Mars a great seasonal swing from near-libertarian (10% socialism) rural-suburban summers to near-communist (80% socialist) densely-populated urban winters. The Welfare-State form is kind of the average of the two and might be found in the big Martian cities in summer and in the suburbs in winter.

Here, economic growth is mainly driven by the private sector, though that is heavily taxed and regulated, and the taxes are used mainly for improving the lives and opportunities for the (relatively) poor.

The richest one-thousandth of the population, despite very high taxes on the very rich, still wind up, after taxes, perhaps 300-500 times as rich as the average.

This is a representative democracy, where power is more broadly distributed by proportional representation and the rotation and sharing of political offices (see my blog on restructuring the government).

7. "Great Society Socialism" [apologies to LBJ] is like what I propose ("60% socialism") for planet Earth in the late 21st century. Here, the government (like the voters) has a vision of the kind of ideal future world they want, and so the bulk of the economy is guided towards that ideal. In this case, the primary guiding ideal is the "Space Age for All", aimed towards giving everyone everything they need to travel to, colonize, settle, and build civilizations on, all of the worlds of the Solar System. Beyond that, there is a further ideal of developing the Earth into a world of great excellence, achievement, excitement, beauty and variety, equal opportunity and equality, with very high and rising levels of affluence, education and knowledge, creativity and the arts, health and fitness and longevity, etc., for all.

The richest one-thousandth of the population, due to over 99,5% tax rates on the super-rich, wind up only about 30-40 times as rich as the average.

This will be a direct democracy, with power distributed hopefully nearly equally by the method of governing by discussion groups open to all (see my blog on Direct Democracy).

8. Communism [apologies to Marx and so many others] is like what I am proposing for Venus, "75% socialism". Here we aim for the perfection of the human race (and ultimately animals, too) with every person to be a genius (achievable through education, training, medicine and surgery to raise their IQ to 200 or more and ever-rising) and similarly outstanding and ever-rising in physical strength, creativity, morality, etc. We aim for many of the same ideals as in "Great Society" socialism though on a grander scale, a fantastically exciting, diverse, beautiful and egalitarian Solar System (not merely our own planet), with the additional important factor that we are paying the much higher taxes that are needed to actually accomplish it (while a 75% tax rate might sound only 15% higher than the "Great Society"'s 60%, that 15% is budget surplus that can be invested to yield huge public benefits; also, it leaves the individual taxpayer with 40% less money after taxes).

Due to extremely high confiscatory taxes on the rich, the richest one-thousandth of the people wind up only about 3 times as rich as average.

In this high stage of socialism, power is equalized via full promotion (see my blog on Solving Unemployment...). Thus, there are the rulers and the ruled, but everyone eventually gets promoted to Emperor of the Solar System, so all are really equal. Yet there will also be discussion groups open to all people, as in the "Great Society", so this helps to add another dimension to the equalization of political power.

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