What kind of socialist are you?

Published 11:00 am Monday, January 2, 2012

So, I’ve just returned from spending some time in Wisconsin doing work for my small business. Over the last 30 years of my career, with many visits, I have to say that I think they are wonderful, mostly down-to-earth people.
Wisconsin has one of the “All Star” conservative governors in our nation in a state that is heavily industrialized. Yet, there are aspects of Wisconsin politics and governance that, as an outsider, make you wonder if the residents are really aligned with their governor.
I tend to listen to locals when I travel and my business gives me the privilege of spending time with people from all walks of life. There didn’t seem to be a consensus on any issue I heard discussed much like what I’ve noted here at home.
There seems to be a lot of emotion about the role of government and a lot of fear and anxiety about “socialism.” Well there is a big difference between socialism and democracy, but both are aimed at governing societies.
Some of my “right leaning” friends and family keep flinging the phrase “socialism” around like strings of beads at Mardi gras. My first question is “what are they talking about?”
They don’t seem to distinguish between socialism and democracy and wrap up anything that involves governing society as socialism. It gets confusing.  One thing I know is that I have yet to hear someone argue for socialism, but I have heard plenty of viewpoints coming from both the left wing and the right wing of our political spectrum that are aimed at more government to manage our society.
The Romans introduced modern civilization to the “tribal” societies of Europe and put into motion one of the most significant events in human history. This is when society began to move from tribal to national societies.
These early efforts lead to modern societies and eventually to our own country based on Democratic principles. But it was and still is all based on governing society for the common good. However, from what I’ve been hearing, many people now consider the governance of society in any form as socialism.  I guess that makes any form of governance (tribal, religious, national and international) socialism. And as a result, it makes us all socialists.  So let’s go with that.
Given the “new” definition of “socialism,” there seems to be four kinds of Socialists (yes, based on the new definition, you’re one of them).
Type No. 1 is a real socialism and in this case, it is Communism. Let’s see, let me just say a few words or phrases such as China, the old Soviet Union, North Korean and Cuba. These are forms of governance based on socialism, but in the form of Communism.
Type No. 2 is the American left wing. They tend to lead with their heart and ideologies about human beings and governance.     They tend towards governance to protect us from ourselves and away from individual accountability. They see the benefits of government without seeing the costs and compromise of individual rights.
Type No. 3 is the American right wing. This type of socialist thinks “capitalism” is a form of governance based on the “invisible hand of capitalism” concept.  They tend towards restricting individual rights based on “Nationalism” and self-righteous (and sometimes religious) dogma.  They favor governance that tends to restrict input from the lower economic class because they see that as socialistic behavior.
Type No. 4 is the pragmatic and Independent wing. Independents are more interested in solving problems. They tend to base decisions on facts instead of ideology. Like the middle class, they are under constant attack from the left wing and right wing for not acting “ideologically.”  They are an endangered species.
So with the new definition of socialism we are either socialists or anarchists. Unless you’re an anarchist, then you’ll have to pick which type (type 1 through 4) you want to be.
The real problem with this “new reality” is that we have all become victims to ideology, not beneficiaries. These right and left wing ideologies are enforced by powerful special interests that don’t care a whit about Americans. It’s all about power and greed in their worst contexts like the forces that came to bear and caused this current economic disaster.
I have become very intolerant of the simple-minded “ideologies” that have dominated our political lives for the last 40 years. I don’t care if it comes from the right wing or the left wing. Both factions appear to let others do their thinking for them and then they become disciples of the “sound bite.”
Only pragmatic statesmanship has ever moved us forward and made us stronger and that is what we need to deal with the long-term government deficits, the constant erosion of a “value-based” economy and the resultant deterioration of the middle class.
Right or left wing forces are too ideological to solve even the simplest challenges and have demonstrated their folly so clearly in the last 40 years. And worst of all, none of the leaders of these factions are willing or capable of admitting how wrong they are. And they are wrong about so many things.