Socialism is really all right

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

Thomas Paine (a Founding Father who wrote lot of good radical stuff for his times), in his “Agrarian Justice” said, “All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.”

[This is about sharing the wealth; a term for socialism. There is not a lot of sharing of wealth with capitalism unless you as capitalist happen to be magnanimous. Or feeling guilty. And . . . taxes are socialism, which is why the rich are always weeping for tax cuts as the rest of us just pay ‘em as they come.]

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Thomas Cooper, wrote, “Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass.” [This had to do with the need to regulate banks, which are often the manifestation of capitalism at the top of its greed quotient.]

Benjamin Franklin, writing in the Pennsylvania Gazette in favor of legislation that would erect a public hospital to provide free care for the impoverished, wrote: “When the good Samaritan left his Patient at the Inn, he gave Money to the Host, and said, TAKE CARE OF HIM, and what thou spendest more, I will repay thee. We are in this World mutual Hosts to each other; the Circumstances and Fortunes of Men and Families are continually changing; in the Course of a few Years we have seen the Rich become Poor, and the Poor Rich; the Children of the Wealthy languishing in Want and Misery, and those of their Servants lifted into Estates, and abounding in the good Things of this Life. Since then, our present State, how prosperous soever, hath no Stability, but what depends on the good Providence of God, how careful should we be not to harden our Hearts against the Distresses of our Fellow Creatures, lest He who owns and governs all, should punish our Inhumanity, deprive us of a Stewardship in which we have so unworthily behaved, laugh at our Calamity, and mock when our Fear cometh. Methinks when Objects of Charity, and Opportunities of relieving them, present themselves, we should hear the Voice of this Samaritan, as if it were the Voice of God sounding in our Ears, TAKE CARE OF THEM, and whatsoever thou spendest, I will repay thee. But the Good particular Men may do separately, in relieving the Sick, is small, compared with what they may do collectively, or by a joint Endeavour and Interest.” [This would be a nice piece of literature to introduce into Congress to get rid of pharma, for-profit hospitals, insurance, all of which are alien to “public hospital to provide free care for the impoverished,” as Ben said; and to indulge in a little socialism – that ‘joint endeavour’ phrase above.]

The word “socialism” has been taught as the big fright that might topple capitalism. It is scary to many because of the “socialism” of Communist Russia, where nothing works very well – communism, capitalism, socialism. We’re not sure why nothing works there, but it might in be the DNA of their history.

In general, socialism has to do with social justice – spreading the wealth, democratic control of social things like roads, law enforcement, firefighting, educating everybody not just those with money; making sure that workers are not taken advantage of financially, physically, time-wise, and so forth.

Socialism. Yikes! We’ll have to share toothbrushes!

To many it’s scarier than fascism, totalitarianism, dictatorship; and definitely scarier than capitalism, a form of social interaction that came along because of the Enlightenment of the 1600s, when in the evolution of humans’ responsibility to one another, folks began to understand personal freedom and the idea of the pursuit of their own happiness, and apparently their own huge desire for stuff. Unregulated capitalism, however, basically began to benefit only the people on top, the capitalists. Socialism reared its helpful head to the benefit of everybody out here.

On-the-road socialism is a good example of why we need socialism. Ford, the capitalist, built Fords, the cars, and then realized he had to pay his workers enough money to buy those cars because there weren’t enough rich people to buy the thousands of vehicles rolling off his assembly lines. Once there were lots of people on the roads in their new Fords, more roads and better rules of the road had to follow because chaos was at hand. The government stepped in and made it happen; Voila! Socialism, and working to the benefit of all. Now the Mercedes Benz owners as well as the Ford pickup folks get to benefit from the scary idea of socialism protecting them from the very real scary side of capitalism.

Combined, socialism and capitalism tug and pull at each other, but they often work just fine: we have a very decent systems of roads in this country and people are smart enough, in general, to obey the rules of the road, for the most part an avoidance of death behavior. This whole road business, which includes our city streets and alleys, gravel roads past our farms, bridges over our rivers, tunnels of subways as well as our cross-country transportation system, is socialism at its best. Without it, travel to the coast or to the store would be a nightmare.

Any of us who say we hate or are frightened of socialism should remember our favorite socialistic savior – Social Security. The wealthy have their own financial security in their great amassing of wealth; the rest of us, working from day to day, benefit hugely because we pay into the fund as we work, our employers pay in also; and when we become old, we have enough money to carry us to the grave with dignity. There was a time when the ordinary mortal did not have this cushion, or fallback, of social justice.

The Founding Fathers such as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson have long been revered for their foresight. Also their compassion to their fellow humans.

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