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Posts Tagged ‘Concentrated wealth

Frances Moore Lappe: socialism, capitalism, and confusion

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Why are People Afraid of Saying “Socialism”?

Knee-jerk reactions to words like “socialism” and “capitalism” get us nowhere. We need to first define the terms.

March 30, 2010  by Frances Moore Lappe   AlterNet

‘Socialist’ has become the new favorite term of derision–working its fear-making magic because, for many Americans, socialism equals the great’government takeover.’ It’s assumed to be not just un-American but downright anti-American. Tea Partiers at their round up in Searchlight, Nevada, told us that’socialist’ Harry Reid’hates America.’ Our national aversion to the S-word isn’t necessarily a problem. But the term’s rapid rise as a political pot-shot, points to a huge problem: our culture’s lack of a common civic language, words on whose meaning we at least vaguely agree. Without it, we can’t hope to talk to one another about what matters most. ‘We have a language of capitalism. We have a language of Marxism. But we have no language of democracy,’ historian Lawrence Goodwyn once remarked. And we need one. Capitalism and socialism. Imagine if we just got some clarity on these basic terms alone. First, capitalism. To most of us, it’s quintessentially American. Many of us assume it’s democracy’s essential partner. But what is it? Capitalism is an economic system in which the person or body owning capital productive resources like raw material and labor—has the power to make decisions as to the use of these resources and who benefits from them. The capitalist is in control, not the workers, not the community members, not the government. It is a system in which capitalists seek to gain for themselves the highest possible return on their investment.

Reduced to these elements, it’s no surprise that capitalism returns wealth to wealth, leading to a jaw-dropping chasm between rich and poor: In our country meaning that one percent of households now have as much net wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

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The real pandemic: willful suspension of disbelief

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Lone Ranger 2Americans always expect a “savior” to show up at the last minute to save the day.  Generations of  movies with happy endings, soppy political speeches and focused advertising pitches have not been wasted: Americans’ rose-colored glasses make the targets painted on their chests quite invisible.

Paul Street of ZNet recently commented on a Frank Rich column about the Corporatist “Punking” of America:

In an opinion-editorial bearing the provocative title “Is Obama Punking Us?” Rich notes the absurdity of Republican efforts to frighten the electorate by claiming that Obama is a socialist. “They have it backward,” Frank observes (without bothering to explain what would be wrong with having a socialist president). “The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy.”  ……

Rich is on to something, no doubt about it. But isn’t a little late in the game for the Sunday Times’ reigning “left liberal” to be figuring this basic sort of stuff out? When exactly did he wake up to the discomfiting but elementary and long-understood fact that American “representative democracy” is crippled by “too much [corporate and military] representation” and “too little [actual popular] democracy” (Arundhati Roy)? It’s more than a century past the time when the prolific American philosopher John Dewey darkly noted (in the age of U.S. Steel. JP Morgan, Social Darwinism, and the Billion Dollar Congress) that “politics is the shadow cast on American society by big business.” ……

….what has U.S. President Barack Obama (endorsed by the Times as a change candidate before 2008 election) – Mr. “Change” himself – tried to accomplish other than to make the American corporate profits system “work more efficiently” without “dismantling the [capitalist] framework” and with power (and wealth) still concentrated “at the top?”

I admit to doubting that Americans will ever wake from their self-imposed hypnosis. At least until they and their ragged childen must roam the streets for scraps.  What is certain is that the Lone Ranger will not be coming this time.