“Begone, filthy socialist!” Such seems to be the spirit of the times according to Fox News, whose pundits have attempted to justify the pseudo-argument that our economic woes are an aberration in the capitalist system, and that any move towards economic involvement by the government amounts to a socialist agenda. If one was the paradigmatic red-state barbarian, who sits on the couch eating Cheetos, cleaning his or her constitutionally-allowed assault shotgun while watching, and all the while with glazed eyes and drooling slightly, that line of false reasoning might indeed seem plausible. The fact of the matter is, however, that our current economic recession and woes relating to health care are not some inexplicable malfunction of laissez-faire capitalism: this is the precise result of the so-called “free market”, and like it or not the American dream that this nation was founded upon is itself socialist. Government involvement to halt economic exploitation is not a threat to our rights as Americans, it is a guarantee of them, and socialism need not be used as a pejorative.
First of all, if Glenn Beck or any of his loutish brethren took the time to read a bit of political theory they would find that the concept of freedom our country was founded upon is not the libertarianism-101 ideal: that is, a complete absence of external interference in one’s affairs. The American ideal of freedom was outlined very well by Isaiah Berlin, and before him by theorists such as Kant and Rousseau, and it is the following: every citizen has the right to equal opportunity, and must be allowed to act as he or she will to the greatest possible degree; but if such action deprives another of their right to equal opportunity, the state must be able to pass legislation through a democratic process that protects against such exploitation. In other words, this ideal is tantamount to socialism as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary (3rd edition). This does not deprive individuals of the right to private property, as communism does; it simply helps to ensure that economic exploitation be checked when and where it occurs.
In addition to the false equating of socialism with communism that conservatives of the Fox News genus commit, it should be clear to anyone with a functional brain that deregulated, free market capitalism is not only indifferent to any ideal of equality or justice but is designed to exactly work against those ideals. If free market, laissez-faire capitalism indeed did promote freedom and equal opportunity, it would have to rely on the following scenario: each citizen starts on an equal economic footing, each pursues his own interests, and each interest can be maximized without interference from the other. In reality, we have seen that it functions in no such way: capital gradually becomes concentrated in the hands of the upper classes, which deprives those born into a less fortunate situation of the right to act according to their full potential. Marx and much later thinkers such as Cohen have made this perfectly clear, but apparently it’s too much to ask that Fox News pundits actually research the theories they preach.
For all those concerned with the lack of freedom that “socialist” agendas supposedly result in, it is perhaps more pertinent to look at how laissez-faire capitalism inevitably results in such exploitation. And this is not outdated Leninist theory: this is an empirical fact that we have witnessed throughout the 20th century in particular. The American government was founded on ideals that freedoms need to be protected by the state, yet free market capitalism has precisely served to not only widen the gap between rich and poor but has undeniably been a primary aspect of the machine driving our recession. Capitalism, especially in the form touted by Neanderthals such as Gekko’s maxim that “greed is good”. A recent editorial by a Fox News pundit tried to advance the ridiculous theory that our economic woes can be attributed to a few greedy individuals who corrupted an otherwise egalitarian system, and called said individuals to task for it: yet the author, like so many other ultra-conservatives or so-called libertarians, fails to realize that the capitalist system functions exactly as it was meant to with those individuals and as a whole. Simply put, the solution does not lie in limiting government involvement with the economy; quite the opposite., obeys no ideals of justice or morality: it simply operates by the
One might object that this all works well in theory, but what about socialism in practice? Such an objection can be answered by simply regarding the facts as we see them in our current global economy. The U.K., itself an acolyte of the Thatcher laissez-faire legacy, is experiencing a seriously faltering economy stemming from the predominance of concentrated capital without a base of actual workers’ production. Similarly for the U.S. Norway and Sweden on the other hand, both countries with economies functioning along the general socialist paradigm, have not only weathered the recession better than any other nation (China excepted) but can also boast the highest rates of government aid and the highest standards of living in the world. One might argue that correlation does not equal causation in such an isolated case, but with the woes of the U.S. and the U.K. as a referent it becomes perfectly obvious.
So let us be perfectly clear and return to our original point. Our current wage gaps, polarizations between rich and poor, exploitations by corporate thugs are not an aberration in the capitalist system, nor is lessening government controls on the market a viable solution. To return to the true American ideal of equal opportunity, and its reconciliation with the Lockean freedom to accumulate private property, requires that ultra-conservative anti-socialist paranoia be dispensed with. It needs to be realized that America was founded on the idea that the government cannot simply step back from economic affairs, but must involve itself only so far as to ensure that each American citizen is allowed to act to the best of their potential. Freedom of the markets need not extend to the markets becoming despotic, yet morons such as Bill O’Reilly preach the exact opposite. This sort of preaching merely fans the flames that lead to class struggle, exploitation, aristocracies and the dictatorship of what Marx called “the universal whore”. Therefore the reality of the situation should be clear to any intelligent being: priorities regarding government involvement in health care and the economy need to be rethought, and such rethinking cannot involve a regress into the anarchy and injustice that laissez-faire capitalism has produced. Fox News has shown itself to be the epitome of failed thinking in this regard, and it’s about time that they make the choice between thinking practically and simply shutting up.