The promise of equality

What happens when the dreams of socialists are realized and we have a government that is dedicated to equality and dignity for all?

If you’re an employee of the Venezuelan state oil company, you better vote for President Hugo Chavez when he stands for reelection next month -or you might lose your job.

The root of the problem is that, in practice, leftist ideology demands that it's adherents politicize everything. No area of life is separate from the political. Your job, your marriage, your friends, your family: everything is subject to collective control.

This is what they mean when they say that corporations should be under 'democratic control'. 'Democracy,' as they are defining it, is the control of the collective.

Think that the corporation you work for is making you into a, "wage slave"? What are you when the state is your 'corporation'?

Under Chavez's rule, this might appear to be simply an unspoken commandment. After all, the halls of state companies and ministries are covered in Chavez paraphernalia and many employees religiously wear red, the color of the leftist leader's "Bolivarian Revolution." But this blunt message was actually delivered by Rafael Ramirez, Chavez's energy minister and president of state oil company PDVSA, to company directors in a recent closed meeting captured on video and released to the media by Chavez's opponents. The apparent ultimatum poured salt on the opposition's wounds from 2003, when Chavez purged the company of dissidents after they led a devastating national oil strike. "We threw 19,500 enemies of the country out of this company," Ramirez said with remarkable candor in the video, "and we're prepared to keep doing it to guarantee that this company is aligned and corresponds with the love that the people have expressed for our president."   ~time.com

What price equality?

Egalitarianism is a cancer. But the promises are plentiful and golden.

Free education and medical care systems have been established. Illiteracy has been eradicated. More housing for the poor has been built in two years than in the previous 20 years. Workers self-management of some major factories has been developed and millions of hectares of unused, yet arable land has been taken from large companies and re-distributed to landless poor people.  ~venezuelasolidarity.org
Is the promise of eradicating poverty worth the price of losing all your freedoms? Of surrendering all your decisions to the state? And is the promise even real?

Liberal politics mirrors and is built upon these promises of equalizing the inequities of life and making sure that everyone gets a 'fair share'. Liberal Democrats, knowingly or not, have completely accepted this ideology and since the Democrats are back in power in congress I think it's appropriate to talk about where these ideas come from and where they tend to lead in practice.
Class Struggle
American workers have a chance to be heard.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

...This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.   ~Jim Webb, Senator-Elect, Virginia
I'd like to pose a few question regarding this issue:
Is this issue about equality or envy?
Is it moral to be rich?
How much money makes you rich?
Is this really about money or power?
If power corrupts, wouldn't it be, in fact, moral to make you powerless?

Posted by Eric Simonson at November 21, 2006 11:36 PM
Comments
Comment #196140

Eric,

With you, there is no middle road, is there?

From your point of view, all concern about the increasing disparity between the uber-rich and the rest of the country must be a sign that those to the left of, well, you, must want collectives, must want fiscal equality for all, must be, well, communists. It’s a fallacy, of course. I don’t know if you are old enough to remember Reagan firing all those air traffic controllers for striking, but how is that different from Chavez (who I consider a blowhard, btw — sorry to shatter your preconceptions) firing oil workers for striking? For the record, I think both actions were abominable — in Reagan’s case, it actually lead to increased fatalities, if I remember correctly.

Let me ask you this, Eric. If you have no problem with 1 percent of Americans taking in 16 percent of income (which is double what they took in before Reagan), then would you have a problem with 25 percent? 50 percent? 75 percent? Money is power, and when we realize how money shapes politics and influences elections, why shouldn’t we be concerned with massive wealth disparity in a democracy? At any rate, Republicans favor policies that enable the uber-rich to get wealthier and to thus increase the gap between them and the rest of the country, while the Democrats favor policies that tend to decrease that gap. In your mind, that means Democrats want to completely level the playing field. That’s ridiculous. Oh, there are some true blue socialists in this country, I have no doubt, just as there are some true fascists, but most people on the left are no more classic socialists than are most Republicans fascists.

If you are truly interested in discovering the roots of “leftist ideology,” all you have to do is study history. It’s a quite natural reaction to exploitation of the working class during the industrial revolution.

Perhaps you do this because you feel that as a Red Column writer it’s your duty, but genuine social and political critic wouldn’t turn a blind eye to the actions of those whose ideology you agree with. I understand the impulse, of course. As a younger man, I was quite vociferous in my attacks on the right and an apologist for the actions of the left. But as one gets older, one realizes the world isn’t as simple as that.

Posted by: Trent at November 22, 2006 12:22 AM
Comment #196141


Equality.

It depends the moral compass of the individual.

One can never have enough right?

Both.

Money is what corrupts power. Look at your government.

Posted by: jlw at November 22, 2006 12:29 AM
Comment #196156

Eric,
I’d like to ask you a few questions:

Do you believe Marie Antoinette’s famous quote,”Let them eat cake.” has significance?

Was the monarchy moral?

Noblis Noblige, does it mean anything?

What is the difference between Money and Power in Capitalism?

If power corrupts, and powerlessness is moral,why did the founders of this country diffuse it through a weak central government and balances of power? Didn’t they know what they were doing?

Posted by: gergle at November 22, 2006 3:11 AM
Comment #196158

Eric; Question one. Is this issue about equality or envy?
Amswer: Niether. It is about stability. Too imbalanced for too long and it will be corrected. Did not Miss’Let them eat cake” have her head chopped off?
Put another way: The simple board game of Monopoly. What happens when one person gets all the money? The game is over. Do you really want the game to be over?You might not like what comes next.

Posted by: BillS at November 22, 2006 3:26 AM
Comment #196181


Eric: Do you think the former right wing government in Venezuela bears any responsibility for what is happening there now?

Posted by: jlw at November 22, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #196247

Eric-
You quite simply fail to get it. Most Democrats and Liberals find Chavez’s methods disgusting. Just because Chavez is a leftist, doesn’t mean we like him. Chavez is a totalitarian, and your average liberal hates totalitarianism regardless of what wing is in charge.

But you’re not asking us, you’re simply assuming we support them. You even go so far as to say that we support him even if we don’t know it.

Bullshit. Nobody should be forced into voting one way or another. Nationalizing an industry is not the answer. Liberals believe in market economics, not pure and unmanaged, but nonetheless based on the notion that under most circumstances, the consumer sets prices best, not the government.

But of course, you don’t ask our opinions, you tell us what they are out of your vastly greater experience of what it’s like to be a liberal.

Seriously, I know what I believe, and I know that I am a liberal, and I know I don’t support Chavez. It was boneheaded of Bush to back the coup that took him temporarily out of power, because without that, he wouldn’t have had a real world excuse for his obnoxious behavior.

My liberalism is about not reinforcing the distinctions that naturally develop. Fact is, we will always have those who gain more than others, whose income exceeds others for whatever reasons. The Republican party, though, has ensured that these people, despite their quite apparent lack of need, get these breaks instead of those who legitimately might need them.

Republicans like you can claim that you’ve made the market freer, but that’s not true. Just look at energy deregulation. They found that due to all the secrecy, the limited number of players, and the ability of producers to arbitrarily manipulate prices by the timing of their power generation, that the current systems actually cost people more for the same power, even though realistically, costs could be brought down.

Markets are not arbitrary entities. They need to function in the real world, with at least enough rules to make sure that the market effects truly are market effects and not merely manipulations.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 22, 2006 6:13 PM
Comment #196404

Stephen,

You quite simply fail to get it. Most Democrats and Liberals find Chavez’s methods disgusting. Just because Chavez is a leftist, doesn’t mean we like him. Chavez is a totalitarian, and your average liberal hates totalitarianism regardless of what wing is in charge.

I’m not so sure about that Stephen.

There is a spectrum of political belief within every label. And liberal is a political label.

I believe you when you say you support market economics. However, the rhetoric of the left largely ignores this. (With some exceptions.)

Stephen, you must admit that there is a core constituency within the left that is exactly as I describe. Perhaps they are more vocal.

Seriously, I know what I believe, and I know that I am a liberal, and I know I don’t support Chavez. It was boneheaded of Bush to back the coup that took him temporarily out of power, because without that, he wouldn’t have had a real world excuse for his obnoxious behavior.

I’m glad you don’t support Chavez, but there are many liberals and many leftists who still do. There are those who will say his methods are not so good but then go on to make excuses.

Did Bush back the coup? And even if he did does that give Chavez any legitimate excuse?

The Republican party, though, has ensured that these people, despite their quite apparent lack of need, get these breaks instead of those who legitimately might need them.

Here is where the rubber meets the road when we are talking about liberalism. Are Republicans giving tax cuts to the rich because they don’t want to give tax cuts to the poor? Or is it a fact that when you give refunds, the nature of a refund means that you have to have paid something in the first place in order to get some back.

This argument that tax cuts go to the rich but not the poor is plainly false.

Taxpayer 1 pays $90,000 in taxes.
Taxpayer 2 pays $1,000 in taxes.
Taxpayer 3 pays $0 in taxes.

Govnt passes 10% tax cut…

Taxpayer 1 gets $4,500 back.
Taxpayer 2 gets $50 back.
Taxpayer 3 gets $1,000 back. (Due to earned income credit. My guess-timate for illustrative purposes.)

Is this unfair? Or pandering to the rich?

Posted by: eric simonson at November 25, 2006 1:07 AM
Comment #196497

It seems your example was too good Eric. Nice work. Logic wins over liberalism every time it’s tried. They can argue all day long that they don’t support a socialist agenda. Take from those that earn and give it to those that don’t. Have the government collect it instead of private charities. Sound familiar?

Posted by: Realist2 at November 26, 2006 2:16 PM
Comment #196507

Realist2,

Eric’s guesstimate shows that the taxpayer fortunate enough to have an enormous income receives 81 percent of money. This has the effect of lightening the burden of the well off at the expense of the middle class. I realize you probably favor regressive tax cuts and have no problem with widening the gap between the wealthy and everyone else. But I’m not certain that’s in the best interests of a Democracy because money is political power. Right now, 1 percent control 33 percent of the wealth in the country. Do you think we should increase that percentage? The wealthiest 20 percent controls about 85 percent of the wealth. The bottom 80 percent control about 15 percent of the country’s wealth. These are 2001 figures so they may have changed slightly.

http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

Posted by: Trent at November 26, 2006 5:40 PM
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