Most people live life day by day. They are too busy and harassed to ever form a general outlook about the human existence that they are part of. Their ideas have no intellectual scope. Their minds manifest little or no penetrating perspective. They don’t have the knowledge to criticize the world at large. They live in a busy flatland with mountains arising all around, but they don’t know how to climb them, don’t have the means to gain a height from which you can see an endless vista of alternatives and possibilities.
Social reformers are different from the ordinary person. They see beyond the usual constricted view of life. They are inspired to try and remodel the world. They are sensitive to human suffering, and are dismayed by human inequities and groups that dominate and exploit others. The true reformers have the imagination that tries to picture very different possibilities and alternatives to the life that we currently live. They yearn for a world in which creation is revered rather than mere possession, where work gives the joy and the satisfaction of accomplishment rather than a record of cheerless exertion in which workers have no voice in the work’s direction. They were emotional people, enthusiastic, mental active, gifted with a high degree of imagination, and they deployed their minds with the goal of lessening the suffering in the workplace. They think of the world not as it is, but as it could be made. Without a sense of what is valuable, a sense of what is to be preserved and treasured, any society is on the verge of cultural and political suicide.
And then there are people like Mr. Gregg. Notice the name. Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee. On a site called, The Hill, he warned us against the supporters of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and his menacing socialism: “They might start with the experience of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Notice the name. Or the National Socialist movement called Nazism. Notice the name again. Or Maoist China, a socialist state again in name. Millions of people died under these banners of socialism and millions more were impoverished.” Gregg says that socialism impoverishes the masses and lowers their standard of living. He names Greece, Spain and Portugal as an example of socialist failure and added, “The list goes on and on. Country after country, where the demagogues of class warfare and “something for nothing” economics have sold their bill of goods to a frustrated electorate, has seen not only a drop in its standard of living, but in many instances peoples’ freedoms and lives destroyed. He ends with this baleful warning, “Try to find such opportunity or such prosperity in a socialist nation. It does not happen.”
But it does, and Mr Gregg reveals himself as a meathead. He doesn’t seems to know of any other kinds of socialism except the totalitarian, which is hugely disappointing. A sense of objectivity should compel you to study a subject before you denounce it, but Gregg is not aware of any such obligation.
You would think a man as dogmatic as Gregg would take the pains to find out that in Denmark there are a rapidly rising number of millionaires whose wealth exceeds one million U.S. dollars and has a thriving equities market. In fact, 69.00 Dames describe themselves as millionaires according to the RBC’s annual World Health Report, according to news reports.
Socialism in America
Socialism in the U.S. has a long history, dating back to 1694 when German Second Adventists founded two Utopian colonies including the Women in the Wilderness, which had a great influence in setting up the Pennsylvania colony. They believed America was the land of the Second Coming and made ready. Two centuries later, such groups flourished from Maine to Texas, about 80 of them in all.
In Europe, socialism dates back to the French Revolution to the writer Babeuf and his expounder Buonanarotti who were the first reported socialists on the Continent of Europe and whose writings were read by Marx and Engels. In 19th century, Europe wanted to complete the political revolution by a social one, and many different people tried to promote this. There was Abbe Lamennais who wanted to establish a Christian society, and there was the Frenchman Paul Leroux whose writings were read with approval by Goethe. Leroux fought for equality for women, the elimination of property, reincarnation, and the rehabilitation of Satan. The novelist, George Sand, was his lover.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, many ordinary people were tyrannized by the Machine and Classical Economics. In the mid-1840s, there was a phrase that galvanized many of the truly morally thoughtful in Europe, “Poverty in the Midst of Plenty.” The industrial revolution had transformed social and political life of Europe, and the individual was increasingly powerless and helpless before the Age of Machines. Some critics urged political action be taken to improve the “mute masses,” such as expanding the suffrage, while others felt that political change was impotent in the face the evils of the new economic order. The industrial machine was wielded by a body of ruthless owners who were undermining the social bond and isolating and crushing the individual. In fact, abundant production didn’t produce prosperity especially since overproduction produced so many economic failures. Anyone who reads even a smidgen of the first volume of Das Kapital will read narratives of young children being worked almost to death, putting in 16 hours a day and kept at their tasks by beatings from factory thugs. Indeed, some parents would beat their children in order to avoid such beatings at their place of work. There were many groups involved in this ferment of protest against economic inequities: English Chartists, German Burshenschaten, and the Carbonari of Italy among others.
One of its first socialist theorist in America was Charles Fourier, (not to be confused with Jean, who was a mathematician.) Fourier wanted to equalize labor and rewards by classifying tasks, talents, impulses and adapt the work assigned to the individual’s’ temperament and emotional satisfaction in a society of common consent. His ideas didn’t involve using force to impose its ideals. August Comte, his secretary, added his own ideas for such a program, and, over time, Fourier’s ideas were lumped together with the Utopian Socialist, Robert Owen.
The ideas of Fourier came to life during the age of American Romanticist with such figures as Emerson, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, C.A. Dana. In New York, Brisbane, and Horace Greeley and Henry James were believers of the ideas as well. One socialist community was set up at Brook Farm which ended up being the setting for Hawthorne’s Blithdale Romance (which turned out to be a tragedy in the book.)
Another socialist project was named New Harmony, set up in Indiana by the British utopian socialist Robert Owen. He was an extremely successful businessman with a kind and generous heart. Back in Britain, he had created a group in Britain called New Lanark, a society where he had provided his workers with good housing, schools, recreation, and a good livelihood. His followers set up ‘cooperatives” where the consumer members reaped the benefit of wholesale prices and shared profits.
One of Fourier’s disciples was the duke St. Simon, who wrote a book, New Christianity which depicted a society in which tasks and goods would be insured by bankers and scientists whose callings made them expert planners and calculators whose role was to be central in a society dominated by machines. He then realized that the expert planners could only succeed if they were backed by widespread public support. Knowing that most people are indifferent to public affairs, they enlisted the help of artists who portrayed the new order as fashionable, attractive and fulfilling. Fourier’s ideas were to be fulfilled in America because it had land, cheap labor, and whose political tradition tolerated (or ignored) groups outside the political mainstream.
The followers of Fourier all agreed that the economic ideas of Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Malthus, John Stewart Mill, were in error. (Malthus, for example, wanted to reduce the number of poor by urging them to practice sexual abstinence. Too many children made a family even poorer, he said. ) All were thought to be apologists for economic inequities which they mistakenly believed were the laws of nature. They rejected the doctrine of ‘lassez-faire’ because it was a system in which workers were mercilessly exploited and turned into treadmill animals. Capitalism had inflicted untold miseries on innocent workers. Early socialists were friends of the workers, eager trying to alleviate the needless misery inflicted on them by industrial leaders. They were idealists, not cynics. They were animated by love, not greed for fame.
Sanders is suspicious of massive financial power only because such power exhibits all the shortcomings and faults of those who wield it. His protest against the inequities of wealth is based on this perception. He is suspicious when one group constantly dominates all over groups by their wealth rather than by their merit. The compliancy of the wealthy, their attitude that they are the most important segment of the country, irks him, and it does me. The belief that the wealthy are above the law irks him even more.
I think by the term “revolution” he doesn’t want a sort of rebellion which might use force; he wants a new examination of the American political system that has passed from a democracy to an oligarchy. Like today’s Russia, America now has its own oligarchs. What he urges is a moral regeneration on the part of the rich and ordinary citizens as well. He wants a spirit that creates rather than merely possessing. Surely, that is a fair point.
And Sanders’s suspicions are justified. It is clear that America’s economy doesn’t function properly. In an April 18 piece by Paul Krugman, he points out: “You see, profits are at near-record highs, thanks to a substantial decline in the percentage of G.D.P. going to workers. You might think that these high profits imply high rates of return to investment. But corporations themselves clearly don’t see it that way: their investment in plant, equipment, and technology (as opposed to mergers and acquisitions) hasn’t taken off, even though they can raise money, whether by issuing bonds or by selling stocks, more cheaply than ever before.
“How can this paradox be resolved? Well, suppose that those high corporate profits don’t represent returns on investment, but instead mainly reflect growing monopoly power. In that case many corporations would be in the position I just described: able to milk their businesses for cash, but with little reason to spend money on expanding capacity or improving service. The result would be what we see: an economy with high profits but low investment, even in the face of very low interest rates and high stock prices.
I am including the site and urge everyohe to read it. Robber Baron Recessions
Paul Krugman, New York Times