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Emergent Socialism

USA MAP For much of conservative America, ‘socialism’ is a dirty word. And yet, today all those conservative radio talk show hosts had to take a deep breath, twist up their mouth, and say that dirty word over and over again. They’re not just saying it as penance for failing to energize their base enough to defeat Obama, they speak it today out of fear for what is to come. I hate to spoil their doomsday parade, but Obama will be more centrist than leftist. In fact, Obama will likely disappoint the far lefties because he won’t be lefty enough. To all your conservatives who are afraid of the word (socialism), and all you liberals who are sure its just around the corner, this post goes out to you.

First off, the notion that America is not a socialist country is a quaint denial of our political and economic history. America taxes its citizens to provide services and fund its programs. The government subsidizes business and individuals. Wake up folks, we socialize all sorts of things. Stop pretending we don’t. It’s no longer a question of whether or not America should tax its citizens in order to subsidize; it has become a question of what should be subsidized and how.

Second off, the size of our population and our land mass necessitates socialization. When my interest intersects your interest–whether we agree or disagree–we are faced with the specter of socialism. This leaves us with two questions. If we agree: do we pool our resources and accomplish something that neither one of us could have accomplished alone? If we disagree: how do we determine whose rights prevail? This has been the state of human politics from the dawn of ‘human.’

This brings me to my duh moment. For lack of a better name I call it “Emergent Socialism.” It goes a little something like this. There are programs/people/businesses/types of infrastructure that inherently lend themselves to the ‘social.’ Here’s the rub. Up till now in American history, socialism has, in the main, been a dirty word. And so, the implementation of the ‘social’ has been approached in an ineffective, inefficient, back-room, grubby-handed, ad hoc sort of way. It has lacked a coherent, guiding principle.

Enter free market. If the market had a semblance of freedom, citizens wouldn’t put up with the subsidization of private industry for the sake of profit. And yet, because we haven’t had a guiding principle, this is exactly what has happened. To paraphrase Andrew Young, “Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.” It’s an embarrassment.

As we recover from eight years of de-regulation (aka socialism for the rich), I have hope that we can head in a new direction. Not pure socialism, I don’t think that works in a country our size. Neither can we put up with this non-sense de-regulation. So, if you’re listening Barack, let me suggest a new guiding principle: Emergent Socialism.

Let the principle of the ‘social’ guide what we decide to declare worthy of our subsidization. Let’s not be afraid to socialize what inherently lends itself to socialization, and let’s not be afraid to pull the plug on things that are not inherently social.

This leads to questions about tax appropriation, state and federal responsibilities; it leads to questions about the intersection of our interests, questions that hopefully we can begin to answer in a coherent and meaningful fashion.

In closing I’d like to leave you with the question that emerges above all the others: what can we accomplish together that we couldn’t alone?


  1. I like that way of approaching it–“what can we accomplish together that we couldn’t alone?”

    I was just talking to my dad about this. He’s from Denmark, and he was recently visiting there. Denmark is a socialist country, yet it has been recently ranked (along w/Sweden–also socialist) in the top 10 countries with the highest quality of life and happiest citizens. There is no poverty. Everyone has quality health care and a high quality education. Of course, their taxes are high, but judging by the high percentage of citizen satisfaction it doesn’t seem to be an issue. I’m not saying this system would work in the US. I’m just saying that Americans tend to act like socialism is the ultimate evil–that it cannot serve it’s citizens well, or that it just doesn’t work. We would do well to recognize that this isn’t true across the board. Perhaps it’s time to either redefine the concept, or just gave it a different name.

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  3. Are you defining “socialism” as government appropriation and distribution of goods/funds according to need? If so, I think we need to socialize travel. Every person deserves to get out and see the world. (But let this happen only after we socialize alternative fuels. However, I don’t want the government touching my internet, music, movies, or any art–I don’t trust them enough).

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