A progressive argument to battle your conservative friends

Crazy times.
Divisive times.
“Them’s fightin’ words,” times.

I’m reticent to even broach this subject for fear of retribution or retaliation. But, fuck it, progressives need better ammunition to fend off the irrational arguments of the Radical Right.

  • “You’re all trying to convert this country over to socialism!”
  • “Get government out of my business.”
  • “Big government is bad business.”

Yeah, I hear your words. Let’s just do a little theoretical experiment and we’ll see where you stand afterward.

#1 You don’t like socialism? Then, you must not like government programs that operate on behalf of society. OK, then, let’s do away with the socialism we currently enjoy. No more:

  • Judicial system which provides for rule-of-law adjudication of crimes and grievances. No more suing that corporation for poisoning your toothpaste. No more court system to ensure crimes are tried and resolved.
  • No more police departments.
  • No more fire departments.
  • No more emergency services. Your call to 911 will go no where.
  • In fact, no more telecom system as corporations will now own the airwaves and you’ll have to pay that monopoly dues to rent the air waves.
  • No more highway system. No more bridges, tunnels, lights, or smooth driving anywhere.
  • No more banking system. No more Fed. Your money will now be controlled (inflated away) by independent banking corporations.
  • No more financial system. No more FOMC or SEC. The stock market will become a Wild West of robber barons.
  • No more FDA or USDA, the quality of your food and drugs will now be controlled by corporations.
  • No more EPA, your air, land and water will become as polluted as corporations want it.
  • No more OSHA, your jobs will be as risky and egregious as corporations can make them.
  • No more Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, you get old or sick, oh well.
  • No more national security or military. Foreign governments will attack with impunity, with both organized forces and insurgents.
  • This list goes on and on and on… ***

You don’t like socialism? Well, guess what? You already live in a socialist society. AND YOU LOVE IT! And if it were gone — you would suffer.

(You know who also loves socialism, that is, a social system of government of the people, by the people, for the people? … The wealthy and the corporations they run. But do they pay their share for all of these amenities? These privileges? These first-world services and benefits. NO THEY DON’T. You want to point a finger at someone? Point it at the wealthy and their corporations.)

So you say you don’t like socialism, but yet you live in a highly socialistic society as evidenced above. So which is it? Are you a hypocrite or do you just not understand that government IS society.

Next time some Right-wing conservative attacks your progressive, liberal ideals use this argument. We’re not that different. We all enjoy a vast and beneficial social system. Making it work a little better for all of us is what we progressives want.

#2 Without government “in your business”, protecting your business, you wouldn’t BE in business. Without the agencies and laws and equality built into the system (albeit somewhat half-assed right now), your business could and would get commandeered or monopolized out of business.

#3 It’s not that big government is bad, it’s that bad government is bad. Corporate lobbyists that drive legislation — BAD. Lifer politicians that treat their office like a royal award and act more for themselves than the people — BAD. The wealthy who think they can buy elections due to corrupt campaign laws — BAD.  Tax laws that ignore the monumental protections and benefits the wealthy enjoy without them owning up to said benefits — BAD.

Government IS us, We the People. If it’s not working for all of us, then yeah, let’s change it. But ignoring the fact that we’re already living in a valuable and advantageous socialism is denying the health and well being you’re enjoying right now.

[*** These are all social programs created by government to benefit society. Not “technically” socialism, but certainly part of the social fabric we voluntarily contribute to (taxes) and expect results from (all mentioned)…
Including: USPS, National Parks, HUD, FEMA, SNAP, public education, and hundreds of others.]


26 thoughts on “A progressive argument to battle your conservative friends

  1. I think people’s experiences are so different – and their definitions of what socialism/capitalism is, which where much of the unnecessary confrontation arises from. I think you kind of played the definition game in your post.

    My experience of having been born in one of the most socialist places that existed at the time made me very open to the writings of American founding fathers. There are so many unintended consequences to both philosophies. A common argument is that “socialism wasn’t done right” in the former Soviet countries. You need a stronger argument than that, because one could easily say, “capitalism wasn’t done right” in the US (though arguably a lot less wrong!). So, by that logic, why not keep trying to do capitalism right rather than migrate to socialism.

    My own view is that there are no perfect solutions. Empirical evidence is the best we’ve got. And a your redefinition of the social structures around you above shows that there are no absolutes either.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My point was to show how we’re already voluntarily paying for dozens of social programs — and we’re all better off because of it. We (the US) are just not quite there yet.
      And no, we don’t want to go all the way toward full socialism, capitalism’s function works well for Win/Win situations (https://anonymole.com/2017/01/07/when-open-markets-make-sense/). But we will need to go much closer to a socialistic society as job automation is going to destroy livelihoods in the tens of millions.
      The idiots who will be voting for Dickwad Drumpf tomorrow have no idea that most of their jobs will be gone in 20-40 years. “Bring Back Coal!” Yeah right.

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  2. In my opinion, the trouble comes not so much with the practicalities or logistics of a given economic theory, but rather the ideologies behind them. For example, Marxism preaches the dissolution of the nuclear family. This suggests something about a particular view of human beings and how society should be configured.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose I approach these topics with a naive ignorance. I *basically* know something about much of these aspects of society, but really, I think to myself, how would I solve the problems we are facing.
      If Marxism involves abandoning family, then that’s stupid. Capitalism’s Free Markets things people’s greed will iron out all the wrinkles. Also stupid. If pure socialism (communism) prescribes controlling the means of producing everything — fucking dumb.
      I think, given our growing predicament of automation, the growing inequality, the evil of profit of misery, the need for education and welfare — I try to dream up solutions that solve some if not all of these ills. Foolishly, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think you’re foolish nor ignorant. I personally know close to nothing about economic theories. My brain is just teflon for it somehow. All I remember is that Marx was a fat fuck who ate alI day and Engels bankrolled him. I can’t think of a source for that right now. Anyway. I believe the best way to understand the problems we face is the study of human nature. And unfortunately, it seems to be the worst aspects of human nature that governs the world. I don’t see any ideal arrangement into which people can be placed and be expected to behave accordingly, like a computer program. There will always been unscrupulous greedy people, from one end of the theoretical spectrum to the other, who turn everything into their own playground at the expense of others.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I think the problem is that people get fixated on the -isms and forget about taking care of each other. I don’t know what you’d call our system up here, but it works pretty well and no one’s going bankrupt over hospital bills.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. When you divorce economics from a discussion of “socialism” you’re promoting the same fallacious argument as the political ads. Socialism is about the redistribution of wealth for the workers, not “free shit” subsidies or social security/Medicare that are more representative of an annuity distribution. In a system of taxation for society’s benefit the only difference between despots and a “free” society is a ballot box. Socialism is not a governance device, it is an economic theory. I won’t line item your points up there but it might be wise to differentiate what is legislative, what is economic, and what is socialism. Socialism, primarily a way to take, say Amazon’s money out of the owner’s pocket and return it to the employees, sits somewhere between capitalism, where taxation and legislation are used to (theoretically) spread wealth and resources around to pure communism where a legislative body collects the profits and (theoretically) spreads it around for the good of all. Liberal or conservative the conversation isn’t about true socialism, it’s about where to draw the line of taxation for services and subsidies inside capitalism. “Free shit” subsidies do not equate to socialism. Make the argument for different legislative control of medicine, education, etc, don’t sell or define that in this economic system as socialism. Because we pay for schools and roads and retirement benefits and merely defer management to legislative bodies.
    Put workers co investment as pay into the equation instead of a laundry list of how government runs certain aspects of your life, yeah. Don’t call it socialism until you do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Socialism and capitalism are economic models that depend on specific societal programs (government) to work. Agreed.
      I’ve made the argument regarding legislative control of systems which are social in nature in my Win/Win : Win/Lose argument in prior posts. And yes, it’s the line we must shift regarding how social we want to make things like medicine and education.
      Regarding my laundry list, all those things are social constructs. Remember toll roads? Paying the owner/maintainer of a road for safe passage? The guild system of education. I suppose the first need for taxation was to raise a standing army for defense. Again, a tax enacted on the people (merchants at the time) for a social good. Before then, the fiefdoms, knights and shit, were the means of defense.
      I suppose social need, money and government are tied up together such that thinking we can separate them now, is folly.
      Bottom line Taxation = Socialism, no matter how you look at it. A pure capitalistic society would have zero tax and corporations paying for all of our social needs, “I owe my soul to the company store,” style. And communism is total taxation, the people (system) own everything. Right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Taxation and the service(s) derived are not de-facto socialism. You can’t all those things in a big pot and call stew socialism. The big free shit health care that is not a platform nor socialism is simply another matter of choice that we hand off to the government. Like USPS and government $ for road improvement which are allocated by legislation written under the duress of graft. It still ain’t socialism. The last health care fiasco was not only poorly conceived and executed it was also built around an arbitrary caste system. If the want is single payer government managed healthcare then it needs to be free and equitable across the board, not who gets it free, who gets it subsidized and who gets it in the ass and it should have nothing to do with health insurance from employers, which should be un-privatized. Uncle Sam pays the doctor, period. Take that seriously because its a step away and right into the shit pile of all insurance. Imagine Bodily Injury in an auto accident running up against driver error. Sam and Progressive be subrogating that forever. Personally it’s no big deal/ Legislated use of tax dollars is not socialism. Making things right for the workers of a society is socialism.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I may not know the formal definition of socialism, but I’d say that taxation and subsequent use of that money for society’s benefit (like roads, clean water, disaster relief, military, etc.) is a social construct. If that’s not socialism, then oh well. It sure sounds like it.
          On healthcare — yeah, just go the distance already. Pull a Norway or Sweden. Shit, those folks are twice as happy with life as us lame-ol’-americans.

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          1. Economic and governance philosophy is like meaning of life philosophy and religion. Social or societal constructs under capitalism aren’t socialism they same way Baptists aren’t Catholics. Although that’s even more ridiculous because various Protestant religions who rail against Rome name their churches after saints. Go figure. Easy way – deferred to representative management of tax on income is democratic capitalism. Socialism can be loosely compared to Unions only on a grander scale. Socialism is about the worker. Capitalism about the boss, communism is about hippies. I think.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. But isn’t “taxation” that gets used for society’s benefit, no matter what economic or government system, a social-ism?
              It’s the numbskulls who decry all taxation as an invasion into their personal finance. When the fact of the matter is, we all benefit from what our taxes buy.
              So, “worker” and who support them, seems to be your defining factor. If society supports them (health, welfare) — socialism, if they support themselves through wages — capitalism.
              This solely seems to be the trigger point. Sure our tax dollars are socially spent to build roads, and pay air-traffic controllers, but we’re not gonna consider “those” as social constructs. That’s what I take issue with.
              Maybe we need a new term for the system where ALL the amenities we enjoy that are paid for by our taxes.

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              1. Semantics. You do this quite a bit. One from column A, one from column B, Dave’s stew gets this specific label for whatever reason. Call it Dave’s Stew Viewpoint. There is nothing in socialism as per the worker about subsidy. More like the more you produce the more you are returned, nothing about a welfare state. Social or societal constructs as you call them are merely what “we” agree on to abdicate management of for the good of society at large. I don’t want to manage freeway projects. I’d like to fire all the school boards but am too lazy to mount a ballot driven overthrow. What we need a more accurate definition of is welfare state. Get over how Dave sees it and wants to put a trendy media, not fact driven label on it for the sake of debate. Here’s a joke as a parable. How do you get a guitar player to turn down? Put a chart in front of them.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi A. Mole,

    Nice post! The roots of socialism can be found in the French Revolution and centers around societal control of economic production and markets. That kind of idea can be contrasted with communism which calls for the government ownership of all modes of production and market exchanges. Interestingly, price and costs are reputed to be objective quantities in the communist state and not subjective variables. Command and control production systems are terribly inefficient and, of course, led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. This is perhaps the main weakness with communism and something you and I discussed earlier. Do you recall? Anyway, Marxism is an economic and social theory that has many aspects to it and people have been arguing about what constitutes a Marxist for around 200 years. The only two Marxists that I really know for sure are Marx and Engels. Trying to prove someone is a Marxist is like calling someone an idealist or a cynic. There are definitions and origins for both of those and both can be damaging, if not lethal, to human endeavor. The main socialist we have today is Trump. His subsidies for different economic sectors, certain individual businesses, and his attempt to control price/cost through tariffs and government intervention are hallmarks of socialism and communisms. His threats and actions to punish certain individuals, businesses and economic areas (think urban centers) through government actions are absolutely socialist and communist. So now we arrive at the big question: what is a capitalist economy? I can assure you the USA is neither a capitalist nor free market country and you are right, mostly what we produce in the way of goods and services comes from a hybrid of market enterprise, social distribution, heavy government intervention, and a series of laws and legal rulings that greatly favor the wealthy and corporations. The little guy can’t catch a break and the poor are trapped in a Malthusian condition that persists despite Malthus being so very fucking dead for all these years. Malthus overlooked the technological variable which theoretically could change the way we calculate production, especially agricultural production, from a linear analysis to an exponential one. This was a grave mistake and one which both Marx and Lenin noticed. For me, this is one of the greatest contributions of Marx and Lenin, they saw the potential for technological transfer from the industrial nations to the developing ones. Of course, being humans, we fucked up that idea through our lack of equity and a few things like colonialism, military intervention to steal resources, political power grabs in weak nations, corporate/industrial pollution, and all of the problems that come from racisms, xenophobia, and forced religious conversion. So there you have it A. Mole as a species we are fucked and Trump is the classic example of a piece of shit who has gotten other pieces of shit to follow him. As I just said, but it is worth repeating, we are all fucked and nobody gets out alive. Thanks again. Duke

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree on all fronts, Duke.
      Where I try to (not in this post) draw a line between where socialism and capitalism should be divided is in my Win/Win vs Win/Lose theory (voiced here in the past).
      Yeah, where I think government has fallen down most egregiously is in maintaining the rules of the game.
      “• We’re gonna give every one justice, safety, protection, education, health and welfare. • We’re gonna regulate all the areas of utility (air, water, land, electricity, airwaves, roadways, air traffic, etc.). • And finally, we’re gonna create a level playing field where entrepreneurs and business can create and produce and provide goods and services. Now, go have fun.”
      That’s the ideal government system, in my book. We almost got it right. Europeans got it more right, especially Scandinavians. So, it’s possible, but yeah, it may be too late for the U.S.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I miss the socialism we once had in Yugoslavia where we were wealthy, had safety, free education and healthcare, where everything was about people and for people. Unfortunately, it turned out ‘by people’ couldn’t work in the long run as some got greedier than others.
        Scandinavian countries, and partly Germany, are an example ‘for people’ can work without the ‘by people’ part. Don’t know how long, but it’s working. It’s the state that assumes primary responsibility for the welfare of its citizens and, if you ask me, a nation in which such a system works is a happy nation of progressive people.

        I said partly Germany because healthcare got worse. You’ll never go bankrupt because of your medical bills here (you won’t pay your bed more than 10eur per day), but some of the things we had 10 years ago are gone. Both doctors and patients are complaining but there’s nth they can do.

        Socialism spoils you. Living in a social state spoils you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Spoiled by socialism… That made me think. And it’s true, to a degree.

          But then I got to thinking about what we expect living in a first world nation and that these expectations are not unreasonable. I expect clean water to come from the tap. That my effluent is whisked away by a sewage system. That when I flip the switch the lights come on. I expect that the roads are operable and that the bridges don’t collapse. I expect that criminals will be caught, that fires will be extinguished and that all the stuff I buy is safe and free of toxins. Are these expectations unreasonable?

          Life, not too long ago, used to not be like this. Am I lazy and spoiled because I have high expectations of an elevated standard of living?

          Now, perhaps as these amenities expand, I’ll become coddled and imperious as to what I believe I am due. But would a 19th century person not think the same of us today? No doubt they would think us ungrateful of the luxurious life we appear to live. But what of the person who will live in the year 2120? How spoiled would they appear to us?

          But I agree, there must be some healthy mix of socialism, the care and feeding of the populace, versus the competitive markets and the pursuit of excellence in all regards of existence. How we accomplish this? I don’t know, maybe it just continues to evolve slowly as it’s been doing for the last few hundred years.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. No, you’re not spoiled. Just realistic (or is it idealistic nowadays?). These aren’t unreasonable expectations. I expect us to live better too, given everything we know and have accomplished and we’re sinking deeper down. 21st century, my ass!
            If everyone would believe in this healthy mix, where would we be now?

            Liked by 1 person

  6. The trouble is not so much socialism as Marxism.

    Americans both on the left and on the right and even in the center have trouble differentiating between the two.

    Which has led to the current divide.

    A lot of U.S. Democrats aren’t just socialist, they’re out and out Marxist.

    And speaking of the EPA, it was Richard M. Nixon that was responsible for creating the EPA.

    He had been a strident opponent of air and water pollution all his life.

    And he greatly expanded the Social Security program for senior citizens back in the early 1970s saying, “We’re all Keynesians now.”

    I always thought if Nixon hadn’t had the U.S. Presidential election stolen from him in 1960 (thanks to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s political machine stuffing ballots in the state of Illinois), he’d have been a great President (no doubt considered a socialist by some).

    It was having that election stolen from him I believe which made him paranoid and a crank.

    And that paranoia led him into Watergate.

    If he had been President in 1960-64, he probably would not have got the U.S. too involved in Vietnam.

    Of course neither would JFK had he lived.

    He had already ordered a reduction of U.S. troops in Vietnam and then he got assassinated.

    It was good old boy Texas Democrat LBJ who got the U.S. heavily involved in Vietnam.

    And Nixon was left to clean up the mess when he got elected in 1968.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Marxism may re-arrise when automation, the means of production are greater than 50% of all work. When robots do most of our jobs, then who should own the robots? The autocrats? They would certainly think to. When that happens, and it will, then the pitchforks and torches will come out of the sheds and the oligarchs will pay the price. That is, unless a peaceful transfer of ownership can manifest itself. Divest all corporations of their power and give it, in pieces, to the people. Ha, yeah, like that’ll ever happen. (ker-flush, “Somebody once told me the world was gonna roll me, I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.”)

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