Are we headed for socialism? It's more like social democracy

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I meant to write this column four years ago when Barack Obama was first elected president. Now that I am mourning the results of this past election, it seems like a good time to quit procrastinating and finally finish the job.

This president often is accused of being a “socialist.” But his real view – and the direction we are going in – can be better called “social democracy.” It may not sound like much of a difference, but if we’re going to either adapt to or oppose the current trend, we need to understand exactly what we’re in for.

SO WHAT’S THE difference? Let’s take a brief look at where “socialism” came from. Socialism began in the 18th century as the idea that people should live together voluntarily in communities in which they would work together and enjoy the fruits of their labor, together. (The idea was not entirely new – various small Christian societies had practiced such a lifestyle.) Its followers believed that cooperation was better than competition.

Socialism changed drastically in the 1830s when a Frenchman named Louis Blanc argue that the free market was inherently unfair to the working man. The rich, Blanc argued, could always hire cheaper hands from the mass of the unemployed, so that the working man would never receive his fair share of the value of what he produced.

Blanc wanted governments to create work for the unemployed so that the owners of enterprises would have to pay workers more. This was not new or radical, as even the Roman Empire had
done this. But the basic idea of modern socialism – that the free market cheated workers – had been born.

Where socialists increasingly differed with Blanc was the solution. If the system was inherently unfair, then the system had to change. The socialist solution was that the means of production – factories, mines, and the large landed estates, for example – should belong to the people as a whole. In other words, nationalization.

The appeal of this doctrine was enormous, and socialist parties became major powers in Britain, France, and Germany by the early 20th century. The first socialist-led governments appeared after World War I. The popularity of the word “socialism” can be seen from the fact that it was adopted by the two most infamous dictators in European history – Hitler and Stalin.

THE SERIES OF catastrophes that defined the history of Europe between 1914 and 1945 – two world wars, the Russian Revolutions, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, the violent imposition of communism in Eastern Europe – led to a desire for political peace, so that prosperity could return. Instead of the political violence that happened in so many places in Europe between the wars, relative peace emerged as a result of compromise that came to be called “social democracy.”

So what was it? Simply put, socialists agreed to abandon the idea that the means of production had to be owned by the community. In return, working families would receive cradle-to-grave benefits, involving a level of welfare spending unknown on this side of the Atlantic. In other words, private enterprise continues, but there is compensation for its (alleged) unfairness.

The election of Barack Obama in 2008 felt like a watershed in this regard. The promise of national health care – “Obamacare” – represented a huge step. True, the federal government already handled 40 percent to 50 percent of the country’s medical bills via the Veterans Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, military and dependents’ care, and various miscellaneous programs, but there truly was a change in thinking. This election has confirmed that. When Rush Limbaugh said the day before the election that this was the last chance to stop Obamacare, he was absolutely right.

Why has this happened? Was it simply part of inevitable trend in the Western world? Maybe, but there are other factors. Black voters have an entirely different view of the role of the federal government than other Americans; small wonder, as twice (in the 1860s and again in the 1960s) freedom only came about because of federal intervention. The Hispanic communities have a very different historical relationship with the country, but they do share one important feature with the black community: a high poverty rate, which makes the argument that the market is unfair more appealing. But even without international trends, racial/ethnic issues, and, even Obama, the appeal of “social democracy” would grow here. The reason: declining mobility.

SOCIALISM NEVER gained the foothold here that it had in most European countries. The reason? America enjoyed a much higher rate of mobility – the ability to move from one socioeconomic class to the other – than was generally true in Europe. In recent years, the American mobility rate has slipped and is now lower than in many European countries.

Why this is so is not the point. What matters is that this is the
reality – and until ways are found to address it, the trend toward social democracy will not be reversed.

(The writer is chairman of the Department of History, Anthropology and Philosophy at Augusta State University.)

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Young Fred
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Young Fred 11/25/12 - 03:38 am
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The price of "fairness"

This discussion of socialism leaves out one very important point, as does most all discussions on this subject. One could argue that it should be self-evident, but this is America 2012, not much is “self-evident”.

Dr. Tuyll wrote:
“...But the basic idea of modern socialism – that the free market cheated workers – had been born.

Where socialists increasingly differed with Blanc was the solution. If the system was inherently unfair, then the system had to change. The socialist solution was that the means of production – factories, mines, and the large landed estates, for example – should belong to the people as a whole. In other words, nationalization.”

Ah, but you see, when commerce is collectively owned “by the people”...who are the administrators???

In practice socialism is not that different from communism. Regardless of how much purist screech about the point.

The bottom line is a totalitarian government.

And make no mistake, in our case, as the supposed champions of a free people, the bottom line is all that matters.

Going forward, what will we do? Will we give over more and more of our freedoms for the sake of so called “fairness” as determined by the administrators? And if we do, who will foot the bill? And at what price?

crkgrdn
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crkgrdn 11/25/12 - 10:16 am
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Many opportunities, yet little aspiration

As for why this nation is in this state, I don't see a lack of opportunities and thus social mobility, but rather a departure from those values that made this nation great.

Never before in history have there been as many opportunities for training for better jobs. The United States is awash in technical colleges and universities.

When we place the nation's current lack of interest in social mobility -comfortable on our couches with our fast food, sports and celebrity shows- immigrants arrive to take advantage of our educational system then either stay here or return home for a better living.

Motivation comes from your family, community and friends. And, when your friends, family and community don't value education, aspiration and good old fashioned gumption then the result is what we are witnessing.

Nearly 50 years ago the youngest person elected president challenged Americans to consider what we could do for our country rather than ask what out country could do for us.

No sports team member wants to sit on the bench, I expect, but it looks as if that will be just fine if we are still being paid.

So sad. So much human potential lost. The nation is squandering her resources in so many untold ways.

I am a baby-boomer, born just after World War II. My fellow boomers and I often talk about the current situation and wonder if the world is just passing us by. We suppose so. The generations following will make their own world and they will finally have to take some responsibility.

Retired Army
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Retired Army 11/25/12 - 10:19 am
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Young Fred writes: "The

Young Fred writes: "The bottom line is a totalitarian government."

So what totalitarian government allows free elections? We haven't seen the end of that here in America and I doubt we ever will. Modern communications has given all of us the ability to be a part in checking the abuse of power.

I do agree with the letter writer, in that the Right's assault on labor over the last 40 years has resulted in a movement that is designed not to enrich the middle class, but simply put protect them from the abuses of unchecked greed.

As I see it, the progenitors of unbridled corporate profits at the expense of the working folks who provide corporations the means for that profit, are now reaping what they have sewn.

When Ronald Regan assaulted the labor movement and at the same time invented the myth of "Trickle Down Economics" he fired the opening shot of class warfare. What we see happening in America now is the backlash to that foolish set of ideas. People have been forced to turn to their government to help out with the economic status forced upon them by those disastrous policies. Depriving two generations of the economic prosperity that their fathers and grandfathers enjoyed, coupled with an assault on social freedoms so hard fought for, has come home to roost. And, greed, as always, is the main culprit.

KSL
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KSL 11/25/12 - 10:35 am
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Free elections? Where has

Free elections? Where has there been reassurance of that from the top going forward? Pennsylvania and the new black panthers, just one example.

Jane18
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Jane18 11/25/12 - 10:56 am
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Retired's comment

Come on, can't you see what is already happening? KSL is correct, and that is just what we have seen.....I'm sorry Retired, you seem to be fairly intelligent, but you, swcohen, techfan and others are too easily deceived.

Retired Army
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Retired Army 11/25/12 - 11:12 am
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KSL11/25/12 - 09:35 am

KSL writes: "Pennsylvania and the new black panthers, just one example."

Yup, all 2 of those scary negroes intimidated me too. Ya think?

Dixieman
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Dixieman 11/25/12 - 11:45 am
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Dixieman has 1 billion points

This man knows nothing about history or human nature. And he is a PhD and department chair at GRU-A? I weep for the future of our nation if this kind of indoctrination is allowed....

crkgrdn
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crkgrdn 11/25/12 - 01:23 pm
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self inflicted

The rise of lack of social mobility is self inflicted.

And, Dixieman, Van Tuyll's observation is just that, an observation. I see no design to indoctrinate students or even you. What is happening to our nation is of great concern because our freedom hangs in the balance. Folks are in the position to vote to take what we have earned through our discipline, work and perseverance.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 11/25/12 - 04:02 pm
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Good Column

I appreciate Dr. vanTuyll's column. I agree that we are headed not toward a system where the U.S. Government nationalizes critical businesses. We are headed (indeed we are already ankle-deep in it) toward a system where private ownership of industry is allowed, but critical decisions are made by the government, with the board of directors watching helplessly. We got a taste of it with General Motors and with Solyndra. I'm sure our intrepid posters here can name a dozen more. There are a lot of 2012 Obama campaign contributors who are lining up for their piece of the pie, their chance at crony capitalism.

I'm not too happy with Dr. van Tuyll's term "social democracy." Instead I prefer the term "fascism." It has history, and it describes the same system Dr. van Tuyll describes in his column — private ownership, government control. Winners and losers are determined by the Washington Politburo, not by the marketplace.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 11/25/12 - 04:46 pm
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Unbridled greed

Yes ... we do have that greed in this country.....think about what happened to the housing industry--the banking industry....do you think the ceos were thinking of the damage that will come to this country...h** no.....it was get mine & get out as fast as they could....no not all but enough to knock us down to our knees & almost into a depression......
We have lost many decent paying jobs ....some small towns are nothing more than a ghost town now.....where did they go you say....well to other countries paying very little to the workers......the amazing thing is that we can change the flow if we tried......there are so many goods we don't really need.....& so much we can buy right here in this country......food can be grown & is healthier too....do we have the will to do it.....
I ask for American products in most stores ....some say they are hard to come by....maybe so but I still ask.....if you ever travel down in south Georgia I want you to look at the empty huge buildings & parking lots......textile mills---esp. were hit.......some are suffering a lot/.........maybe not in Augusta as much because of the medical centers & Ft Gordon...
Can Obama change it...I doubt it but I don't think Romney could either.......only the people can really change the flow & we will have to come together to do it......
btw....RArmy is more than just fairly intelligent....he just is on the flip side of politics of many on here........but I see him willing to compromise more than some others...

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 11/25/12 - 06:51 pm
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RA

"Yup, all 2 of those scary negroes intimidated me too. Ya think?"

OK, maybe not you

BUT

How many do you think they did scare?

F4therTime
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F4therTime 11/25/12 - 09:12 pm
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I think the point should be...
Unpublished

What if it had been a white guy standing outside of a majority black polling place scaring black voters with intimidation? The national media would have been raking them over the coals and demanding Obama to direct Holder to investigate and file charges. I would be willing to wager on that.

KSL
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KSL 11/26/12 - 12:02 am
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RA

I absolutely detest addressing you, but you asked for it this time. I am not discussing the election 4 years ago. I am speaking of the reports of Republican poll watchers being disallowed to do their jobs. If this was bogus reporting, direct me to the truth. Otherwise, stand down!

Oh, by the way, why did our esteemed attorney general 4 plus years ago allow even 2 to get away with what they did then? It seems to have proved to make them more bold this time around.

Isn't the Obama administration touted as being for the rights of all? Well, all but the "rich." Heck, he is rich. But he sure doesn't lead by example. There is nothing stopping him from paying to the government more than the taxes he legally owes. Wonder why he doesn't if he feels so strongly the wealthy are not paying enough.

KSL
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KSL 11/26/12 - 12:06 am
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I am still curious as to why

I am still curious as to why so many in his administration and Congress cronies are tax cheaters. Hey, I know it has been a while, but the Clintons did not start out all that squeaky clean on taxes themselves.

burninater
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burninater 11/26/12 - 12:06 am
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Free elections? Where has

Free elections? Where has there been reassurance of that from the top going forward? Pennsylvania and the new black panthers, just one example.
--------
Ironic that "just one example" was YOUR word choice, as for the past four years those two scary negroes have in fact been the one and ONLY example y'all have come up with.

Meanwhile, fast forward to 2012 where entire Democratic precincts in Florida had 8+ hour waits to vote. YET WAIT THEY DID. Seeing those lines on TV, and hearing Romney's puzzled statement that "they were supposed to win in Florida", creates one of those connect-the-dots where the picture is clear before a single line is drawn.

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 12/06/12 - 08:55 am
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So waiting in line due to
Unpublished

So waiting in line due to high voter turnout equates to standing at the door with a billy club?

Humble Angela
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Humble Angela 12/06/12 - 09:15 am
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Yup, all 2 of those scary negroes intimidated me too. Ya think?
Unpublished

What's the limit on the number of voter intimidation cases you have to ignore before you are allowed to procecute?

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