If you try, you can look at a situation academically without getting fully tied up in idealism. Sure it’s almost impossible to get your politics out of the equation, but if you try, you can at least consider the facts and arguments that people make. At that point, one should at least try to empathize with those arguments before completely dismissing them.
For me, this is such a reasoning, and my hope isn’t that you simply agree with the conclusions I may draw, but understand how those conclusions might be made. For this “study” we are going to consider a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately — socialism — and a new term that I’m making up called momoism. We’ll start with a definition.
Socialism is defined as “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.”
There have been a lot of claims that our current administration is moving us toward socialism. While that’s certainly hyperbole, it has an element of truth. (This is where you must consider facts, and be logical, not emotional). To restate the definition, Socialism is the ownership of entities by the government. These entities control production, and distribution of both capital (money and products) and land in the community as a whole (the Country in this case).
Are we socialist? No. We are primarily a privately run country. Almost all our goods and services are produced by private companies. One could spend hours talking about all of the privately produced and distributed capital, and all of the land owned privately. We are still a regulated capitalist country in terms of the economy.
But of course, the element of truth regarding socialism *does* exist. The Government has owned many entities such as Social Security and Medicare or years. While these entities are completely owned by the government, the industries they are in are not. Social Security is a division of financial insurance, a sort of life insurance, and Medicare is a division of Medical insurance. To some these partial ownerships are “steps” toward socialism. That’s certainly valid, as the invention of Social Security is certainly closer to Socialism than without it, but it’s a pretty minor leap if one is honest.
Recent events can also be seen moving closer to socialism. I’m obviously speaking of the health care reform just passed. But before we get to that obvious piece, there’s *more* socialism in addition on to that bill that was added last minute: Student Loans. Prior to the passage, student loans were not completely controlled by the government, but now they are. One could look at this two different ways: Student loans as an entire industry, or student loans as part of the overall loan industry. Either way, the step towards socialism exists, but once again it’s minor. The fear, of course, is that each of these minor steps add up. That’s hard to argue against. And to bring it back to health care, the reform aims to improve coverage by in part adding more people to the government systems. A very minor step only in terms of numbers. Otherwise there really isn’t much in it towards the academic definition of socialism.
The definition of socialism also mentioned land ownership. Did you know that as of 2008, the government owned around 30% of all land? Further, that 30% is primarily land that contains natural resources (oil/gas/mineral). (http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/federally-owned-land.jpg). Further, the current administration has been making plans (and indeed has been) buying up land. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/mar/02/white-house-land-grab/)
That brings us to Momoism. Yes, it’s a made up word. I will define momoism as “a system of government, led by an executive with complete power over industry, and commerce, while suppressing opposition”. First notice that I don’t mention government ownership, rather control. In momoism, the government seeks to control and regulate all industries, while leaving them under private ownership. The executive, of course, is either the leader or the “administration” and has ultimate power.
A fictitious country, let’s call it Momoland, would be under the control of the “Momo”. The Momo would regulate industries like Heath Care by controlling who gets what, how much companies can charge. Even though Momoland might have other branches of government, they would largely be controlled by the Momo. Such power would inevitably lead to the government controlling other aspects of life, and could end up up with the government controlling speech, religion, and other apsects of everyday social life.
Now obviously Momoism is an extreme situation, and I bring it up to make a point. While there certainly are people who believe Socialism is a valid government, others think it’s evil. The truth is that all governments have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’m not here to debate that. Momoism, though, is evil in the way I’ve described it. Full control over your life, while ceding ownership to citizens is akin to Socialism. Both systems control industry, though momoism does it through law and regulation, while Socialism is more honest about it and gives the industry to the “people” (government). Socialism is usually democratic, still giving the people the opportunity to elect it’s officials, who then in turn enact laws. Momoism pretends to do that, but ultimately cedes power to the Momo and his branch of government. While the people may elect other Momos, and even sub-Momos, ultimate power still lies at the top because the top controls all of the private companies.
Yes Momoism is an extreme, and certainly no modern government participates in full-on Momoism. Yet, there are some similarities between Momoism and Socialism. I already alluded that whether the government controls or owns an industry, the end is similar in that the industry must act according to the governments rules. Socialism takes a lot of control away from the people beyond elections, but Momoism takes it to the extreme.
Now let’s say everyone was arguing about our government heading towards Momoism instead of Socialism. I, of course, would say the same thing: It’s a hyperbolic argument that only has elements of truth. The recent Health care bill, of course, adds more regulation to an industry going so far as to tell private companies that they must cover people regardless of condition. In the insurance industry, that’s difficult to overcome. I don’t wish to get into that argument here, so it should be sufficient to say that each step taken towards telling an industry what to do, leads us closer to momoism. Further, each time the Legislative branch gives the Executive branch more power, as was given countless times under the Bush Administration (eg. the Patriot Act which was recently extended under the Obama Administration) leads us closer to Momoism. Even more of a step towards Momoism was the recent bailouts of multiple industries. The bailout of GM, for example, led to the government getting more of a say what a private company can do. Once GM took the bailout they were obligated to fire their CEO (regardless of what the company and it’s investors wanted), cut entire lines of cars (again regardless of whether they were moneymakers or not).
And of course, recent talks and attempts by the government to regulate the internet (Net Neutrality) and the airwaves (The Fairness Doctrine — Renamed to include the use of “diversity” and “local”) which essentially tells us that even though we can say what we want, we have to make sure someone else will say the opposite, in equal time, before we say it. But there I go again, getting dangerously close to idealism.
The point of all this is that we have taken steps toward both of these “isms”, and there are those of us who think both “isms” are not good for a lot of legitimate reasons. It’s much too simplistic to simply say “Obama is a Socialist” or a “Obama is a Momoist”. Neither are true, but the actions taken by this government, over a long period of time (decades) have moved us closer towards both and further away from our roots. One can argue that it’s a good thing, but certainly one can argue the opposite, and have good reasons for doing so. Pure forms of both are not good for America.
Now, one final thing. Perhaps you were smart enough to make the connection. While I said “Momoism” is made up… it actually is not. Please replace the word “Momo” with “Dictator”, “Momoland” with any number of countries in the WWII era, and “Momoism” with Fascism. Do *NOT* replace Obama with Hitler, as that’s a non-starter for me, but do recognize that the term “Natzi” is a the shortened verson of “National Socialism”.
Of course when we bring any of those terms up one immediately conjures up “Hitler”. It’s a false immediate comparison, and in Academic terms, should not be tied to each other exclusively. If suddenly you are offended, and think that I’m part of the crazy “Obama is Hitler” wacko fringe group, you don’t know me, and never will. I would ask you to not read my blog, and sever any ties to me… we have nothing more to discuss. Seriously, I feel that strongly about it. Otherwise, I simply ask you to consider why *some* people bring up fascism and socialism, as it’s a legitimate concern to them. History has not been kind to either form of government. Let’s leave the hyperbole out of it, and recognize the arguments for what they are: Legitimate debate.