View RSS Feed

Memories of the 28th Century

The Place of Socialism in U.S. Politics

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Or: Why Bernie might as well give up now

Socialism is a term that is too broad to be especially useful, but it has some meanings that are significant to U.S. politics. In its broadest sense, socialism is an economic system that is democratic; that is, operated by the people involved. Democracy is rule by the people, in contrast with republican government in which the people elect representatives, aristocracy in which an elite rules, monarchy in which a single ruler runs things. Here in the U.S.A. many people mistakenly think that the government is a democracy, but the U.S. government is a republic.
Democracy is direct government by the people in the organization; everyone can vote on every issue. Democracy is a wonderful way to run a political entity, if the political entity is small and homogeneous.

Size is very important to democracy. The people must know each other at least to the extent of being able to recognize them as belonging to the state. Historically, no democracy has been able to survive when the population grew to more than about twenty-five thousand. That size limitation was true in ancient Greece, and it is true in democratically run towns in New England, where the open town meeting is the ruling body. Homogeneity is a related characteristic. If people regard everyone in the community as similar to them, then they are more willing to accept a consensus that is not what they originally wanted, and they are more likely to agree with everyone else to start with. Here in New England the tipping point on population has been dropping, because the population is less homogeneous, so there is less built-in agreement, and towns drop open town meetings when the populations are between fifteen and twenty thousand.

Socialism is similar to democracy, because it is economic democracy (I am excluding state socialism from this discussion). Syndicalism, worker cooperatives and similar, works well, because there is a built-in agreement at the beginning. Large scale cooperatives can work well, as long as the members have a common link that ensures that they are on the same page. Socialist governments can work in countries that have reasonably homogeneous populations. Iceland, Denmark, and other small, homogeneous countries do well, because the people regard their country people as relatives, and extended family. Larger countries have trouble retaining that sense of connection, and countries that are of mixed populations have even more trouble at that. The United States of America has become progressively less homogeneous over the years, and there has been less willingness to accept socialized economics, because each segment of the population wants to keep the evil outsiders from getting the benefits of being part of the homogeneous group.

Bernie Sanders is from one of the more homogeneous states, so he doesn't deal with as many people from outside groups, so he still sees the U.S. as a mostly uniform collection of people, and the programs that he supports are programs for a homogeneous population, not for the heterogeneous population that the U.S.A. now has. Bernie might do well as the chief of Vermont, but he is ill-suited for the position of president of the U.S.A.

But Bernie isn't the only one who is ill-suited. I think that most of the people running for President now are inappropriate for the job. Bush seems to be blind to the fact that there are any people other than him, and Hillary is similar. I can't think of any of today's candidates who are well suited for the job of U.S. President. Similarly, there aren't any socialist programs that are suitable to the U.S., except for programs that can be presented as something that people are doing for themselves. Social security only passed and was largely accepted not because it is a government program, but because it is a savings plan that each person does for himself. Obamacare is not being accepted, because the federal government is trying to take control of a significant part of thee economy. There is a way to make it work, but I won't go into that, because I don't like intrusive government.

If someone wanted to move that federal government in a way that would be more socialistic, then they would have to avoid the word socialist, but they could refer to communitarian programs, and the programs would have to be controlled locally, not by the federal government. In the early days of the U.S. there were many community base programs that were created and controlled by the local government separate from the state or federal government, and it wouldn't hurt to have some of those now, but the states and feds would stick their noses in.

What think you? Me as a communitarian candidate? Or some socialist candidate?

According to I write like Edgar Allan Poe, and that's fine with me.


  1. PeterL's Avatar
    "That government is best which governs least."
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    In the United States of America government has certain, specified powers. When government tries to do anything beyond those specified powers, the government is intruding into matters that are not appropriate. That is government that is intrusive.