The Socialism Meme — How Dumb Are We?

The Socialism Meme — How Dumb Are We?

The dumbest warp in the “conservative” brain is the skewering of anything they do not like about Obama as socialist.

Let me define some terms.

Socialism is state control. It is based on colectivism, Greatest good for greatest number. It opposes individualism and free enterprise. In practice, it can range from Naziism (national socialism) to benign state-run societies that permit a measure of capitalism and individual initiative. Opponents of socialism tend to equate it with big and all-pervasive government.

Capitalism is a process of growth based on the use of money to create more money. It is generally the product of exploiting the weak and poor for the benefit of capitalists who have money to invest and whose goal is to increase their stake.

Democracy is a complex term because it means more than simple majority rule. It carries with it the idea that all people matter and that a government should be of the people instead of merely for the people.

Liberalism is likewise complex. It has become largely understood to mean permissive and inclined to solve everything by helping those who are seen as disadvantaged. In truth liberalism is a viewpoint that embraces the essence of democracy but which also affirms the key role of the individual and of responsibility in the scheme of things.

Conservatism in practice during the past fifty years or so has become so far removed from its roots that we now have a Libertarian category for folk who can no longer accept what conservatism has become. What it has become is the sponsor of an ideology which embraces impunity (the end justifying the means regardless), an implicit form of state control in our massive military-industrial apparatus and the most mean-spirited display of regard for all Americans that can be imagined.

This does not describe all conservatives but it does capture the contradiction between a conservative regard for the individual and limited government and the cherry picking attutude that turned conservatives into the largest creators of government debt in our history, the largest support for ill-founded wars and the group most happy with our tendency to jail anything we don’t like that moves.

This all adds up to the reason why Obama is so popular. Among leaders, he has assiduously tried to avoid labels and reclaim from each of the above what is actually the best meaning of the terms. Instead of socialism, he wants a responsive government that is less military-industrial than it has been. Instead of unbridled capitalism, he wants a measure of profitability and individual initiative to get our economy out of the 20th century and into the 21st.

He believes in the “of the people” side of democracy. And he plucks from the welter of conservative confusion the pristine importance of responsibility and individual initiative.

The source of the visceral hatred of Obama is not his race but his smarts. We are watching the seven deadly sins crop up with regularity from the wingnuts as they reckon with the fox who has eaten their ideological chicken coop dry.

In the context of this discussion, it can be seen that the socialism meme is not about to gain any traction. The fact is that the conservative Francis Fukayama has been more right than wrong in his thinking about where we are. Liberal democracies are the gold standard of governance.

Can we move on to something else and let politics be a debate about real nuts and bolts rather than dumb memes?


Using Money To Make Peace — Toward A New Kind of Warfare

OK, laugh.

But we are pouring lives and billions down the drain all over the world and money could accomplish a whole lot more with less expense and fewer (or even no) lost lives.

I’m serious. Dig this.

In Pakistan they figure if they more than double certain sorts of aid (the kind that educates people not to be terrorists) it becomes economically viable for corrupt officials to gravitate to our side. Yes, I am talking bribery. Carrots. The point is, it is cheaper than making weapons and training soldiers to become targets. And I bet it accomplishes more.

I propose a contest.

Try using money for a month to do what you want to get done militarily. Compare the costs. I will bet you that a million spread here and there, say to build a needed bridge or purchase 100 donkeys or buy some seeds, will outperform a bunch of soldiers with guns every time. You get what you want on the cheap.

I am not saying disband the service. I am saying have a fair contest. If money (aka smart bribery, aka targeted help) works better than ammo and soldiers, then turn the soldiers into smart bribers. It’s that simple.

Money has worked forever to buy peace, i just has not penetrated the military mind or, for that matter, the political mind. If we can bail out a bunch of Wall Street good for nothings with billions, we can surely risk this experiment.

Face it, you will do the same thing I am proposing anyway. The only problem is you will combine it with military stuff and that will more than cancel out the positive effects. You will say you are doing the money thing, but you will be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Get the hell out of AfPak militarily. Stop playing that this is a war. It is a slow suicide mission. Every military thing you do strengthens the will of a proud and stubborn people. How smart do you need to be to figure that out?


Go the cash route. Cash with strings. Cash with observers — soldiers who are learning to function in some other way than as killers and targets. I am not saying do not defend against the Taliban. Sure, set up a perimeter that is clearly not part of an offensive maneuver. Or begin to withdraw to the point that it will be obvious that you do not intend to fight.

President Obama is very wrong on one single point. (I never say such things. You read this and forget it.) He is wrong in saying that the only way we can stop Al Qaeda is by doing what we are doing, wasting millions of dollars and daily lives on a pipe dream. The way to stop Osama and Company is with a combination or ridicule and proportional retaliation for any actual attacks.

For example, if Osama, or whoever is in charge, launches a killing attack somewhere, do something bad enough in the area where the planning is going on so that they will think twice about their strategy. No one is going to fault a proportional response. A teargas in the caves sort of thing.

What we have now is not proportional. It is silly.

We need to unite geeks and soldiers and play this like a non-lethal war game. Money has a value. It can be used to achieve lots of things. We are pouring it down a bottomless drain if we think we can win AfPak without going through a major attitude adjustment.


Is Obama’s Program Economically Doable?

Letter from Washington
Money Talks
Can Peter Orszag keep the President’s political goals economically viable?
by Ryan Lizza