To follow on my previous post, Fascism is NOT Far Right!, a review of the current, and some historical perspective of the philosophical, political, economic and social spectrum prevalent in today’s societies is warranted. Being a United States citizen, I have summarized my findings and collection of thoughts in to The Modern Philosophical, Political, Economic and Social Spectrum – United States of America.
In the previous post I state:
“the startling conclusion today, is that the traditional left-right debate between Conservatives (Republicans) and Socialists (Democrats, Labor, Marxists, modern day Liberals) are actually a clash between two groups on the left.”
“To set the record straight, all collectivist (Socialist, Communist, Fascist, etc.) dictatorships and democracies have in common a large central government influence and are on the left. Some leftist governments and philosophies, of course, are more extreme than others. Anarchy, is on the far right. That leaves the limited government proponents, Classical Liberals and Libertarians, in the center.”
After reviewing this topic at length, I note several striking aspects inherent in current literature and debate:
- Anarchism, the absence or complete elimination of government, is almost completely wiped from history or ignored in current discussion. It is the antithesis of Statism, and represents the “far-right”. This cleansing of history is, no doubt, a calculated move to push limited government proponents to the fringe right, when, in actuality, they are at the center. Of course, the founding fathers of the United States faced this same challenge and were labeled extremists by oppressive government proponents in their time as well.
- Through unrelenting propaganda, ignorance and sheer momentum of thought, Fascism is consistently and incorrectly placed on the far-right of philosophical, political, economic and social spectrum, when clearly all evidence and logic point to it being on the far-left. In fact, attempts are made to equate capitalism, which thrives under a free-market and limited government systems, with Fascism. It is impossible for true, free-market, capitalism to exist under either extreme of Statism (Fascism or Communism) or Anarchism. Even in Socialist Democracies, history shows that capitalism declines in to Crony/Socialist Capitalism, which is not free-market capitalism at all, under a powerful government influence.
- Confusion reigns over the distinctions between Socialism, Statism, Fascism and Communism. Some of the confusion is, of course, deliberately injected in to the argument through agenda of the far-left Socialist radical elements in both major political parties, the Democrats and Republicans.
- It is not until you do a thorough review of history and understand the full set of philosophical, political, economic and social spectrum, that you realize just how far left the United States of America, as a whole, has moved in the 240, or so, years since it’s founding.
A visual representation of The Modern Philosophical, Political, Economic and Social Spectrum – United States of America (the US Spectrum), is as follows:
Note that in modern times, Socialism is firmly embedded in United States politics and economic structure. And, the country is, literally, one step away from a Totalitarian Police State with very little, to no, personal or economic freedom. Some, in fact, may claim we are already there. I invite you to research that on your own, and will write about it in future posts. For now, let me take some time to walk through the US Spectrum, from “far-right” to “far-left”.
Far-Right, No Government, Individual Freedom
belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion.
An interesting piece entitled A Brief History of Socialism in America (Published in 1900) provides not only a comprehensive early history of Socialism in the United States, but also uncovers an Anarchist movement within the Socialist movement at that time.
“The year 1872 was an important one for the cause in America for it witnessed the removal to New York of the headquarters of the Marx International. This came about in this way: There had been a growing feeling between the two wings of the organization. On the one side were those who believed in the ballot, headed by Marx, on the other the followers of Bakunin, who were Anarchists.”
How can it be that an Anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, and Karl Marx, a devout Socialist and the father of Communism, were part of the same movement? Answer: They both despised Capitalism! Marx wanted to use government to squash Capitalism, Bakunin thought the way to crush Capitalism, was to completely eliminate government stating, “The trouble lies not in any particular form of government, but in … the very existence of government itself.” Both Socialists and Anarchists, by the way, can be associated with communal societies. Again, however, the dividing line is whether the society is formed under a controlling government, or not.
One can only imagine that, at the dawn of mankind, Anarchy ruled. In fact, while never holding substantial power (whatever that can mean when you do not have any government), Anarchists exist in the United States up to this day. For many who despise government, anarchy at first blush may seem like a viable solution. Get rid of government; no taxes, no rules, no regulations; what’s not to like? Dig deeper, however, and one will realize that a civilized society needs some form of limited (but strong) government to protect life, liberty, personal property and the pursuit of happiness. There are many modern examples of countries that descend in to chaos and anarchy when a leader, liked or not, elected or not, is removed from power. Much of human history attempted to fill the role of government through, in one form or another, Monarchy or Dictatorship. Libertarianism, said to be over 2,000 years old, has been an answer to both Anarchy on the far-right, and to Monarchy and authoritarian rule on the far-left.
Center, Limited Government, Individual Freedom
Libertarianism is based on the values of justice, prosperity, responsibility, tolerance, cooperation, and peace.
“Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They’re called libertarians.”
Straight from the Libertarian Party web site:
Libertarian: A person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action.
Libertarian: a member of a political party advocating libertarian principles.
Libertarians believe in, and pursue, personal freedom while maintaining personal responsibility. The Libertarian Party itself serves a much larger pro-liberty community with the specific mission of electing Libertarians to public office… …Libertarians strongly oppose any government interfering in their personal, family and business decisions. Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do no harm to another….In a nutshell, we are advocates for a smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom.
The modern day Libertarian movement is most closely linked with the ideals on which the United States of America was founded.
Republicanism is the original (added) guiding political philosophy of the United States. It has been a major part of American civic thought since its founding. It stresses liberty and “unalienable” rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent in their performance of civic duties, and vilifies corruption. American republicanism was founded and first practiced by the Founding Fathers in the 18th century. For them, according to one team of historians, “republicanism represented more than a particular form of government. It was a way of life, a core ideology, an uncompromising commitment to liberty, and a total rejection of aristocracy.”
“Republicanism may be distinguished from other forms of democracy as it asserts that people have unalienable rights that cannot be voted away by a majority of voters. Alexis de Tocqueville warned about the “tyranny of the majority” in a democracy, and advocates of the rights of minorities have warned that the courts needed to protect those rights by reversing efforts by voters to terminate the rights of an unpopular minority.”
Do not confuse the modern Republican Party or Conservatism with Republicanism. While the Republican Party is named after Republicanism, and many of it’s grassroots members may indeed support libertarian principles, the fact is that the vast majority of current Republican Party politicians and elected officials support ocialist and conservative (Social Conservatives) policies, NOT libertarian policies. And, the Republican Party as a whole is on the left of the political spectrum, not the right, or even in the center.
Also, like the Republican Party should not be confused with Republicanism, modern-day liberalism, should not be confused with Classical Liberalism. Classical liberals hold the ideals of libertarianism, while “liberals” are simply socialists of another name. See further discussion below on Socialism.
A discussion of Libertarianism would not be complete without reviewing and defending capitalism, an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Correctly so, capitalism is associated with libertarianism, as both thrive under freedom and limited government. Much maligned by left-wing radical Socialists, capitalism is sometimes blamed for all that ills mankind. It is impossible, in this post, to cover every error of reasoning, every misstatement of fact, every incorrect economic theory or assumption and every unhinged baseless diatribe against capitalism, so I will leave it for now. But, the fact remains that if one look at not the intentions of socialism as a form of economic system, but at the results of Socialism vs Capitalism, an unbiased and critical review of the results leads to one conclusion and one conclusion only; no economic system has even come close to outperforming Capitalism in improving the life of the common man. Despite this, Socialism is, by far, the most widely practiced economic and political structure utilized in the developed world today, with often times catastrophic results. That does not stop the Socialists, however, from pinning the blame for their failures, on the back of Capitalism.
Far-Left, Authoritarian Government, Personal Freedom Subjugated to the State
International Socialist Review points out in, What is Socialism?
“The distinctive feature of much of this public discussion of socialism—with some exceptions—is that most admirers and detractors generally share a common (and hollowed out) idea of what socialism is: namely, state intervention in the economy”
Most Socialists would go on to explain how, beyond the technicalities behind state ownership of the factors of production vs. private ownership in the factors of production, and massive intervention in to the economy, Socialists have arrived to help their fellow man. Some, I have no doubt, are truly sincere. Others, are clearly motivated by envy, greed, racism and/or power. Regardless of their intentions, what one must always keep in mind, is that Socialism is simply taking by force from one person, and giving it to another, or more likely than not, keeping it for themselves. And, that the purveyors of good deeds, have a very long and dubious list of outcomes and “success stories” (see here, here, here, here, here).
Regardless, and even prior to the mass-murder of hundreds of millions of people in the name of Socialism, Socialists learned long ago to distance themselves from the term “Socialist”. A group in the 19th Century ran for political office as Nationalists:
“Bellamy and his converts at once organized clubs, which, with a cowardice that was perhaps justified, they called Nationalist clubs, and they persisted in calling their Socialism “Nationalism.” (Source)
As you will see, “Liberalism”, was a term coined in the United States to refer to Socialists in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Today, there is very little activity within any named Socialist Political Party or movement. Instead, and keeping with tradition, modern-day Democratic Socialism in the United States falls under three branches of “political philosophy”: 1) Conservatism, 2) Liberalism, and 3) Progressivism.
Strongly associated with the Republican Political Party, “a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)”
Perhaps Conservatism is on the right of Progressive philosophies, but the modern-day practice (not ideal) of Conservatism remains on the left, and firmly under the heading of Socialism. Through big (not limited) government, Conservatives look to interfere with individual liberties on many social issues including abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage and many other matters. Their focus on war and compulsion towards military spending make Fascists of the 20th century look like penny-pinching peace loving hippies from the 1960’s. And, the continuation and/or expansion of state-owned enterprises including the Postal Service, Amtrak, Social Security, Medicare, numerous welfare programs, the Federal Reserve and many, many, many, other federal programs and bureaucracies would not be possible without Conservative Republican support. The fact of the matter is, that a voter in the United States is, in the end, left with very little choice on the form of government his or her country adopts in any election year. Far from being a choice of two opposites, the established Republican and Democrat Parties offer but a Hobson’s choice.
Liberalism and Progressivism
Liberalism is Socialism. In the U.S., Norman Thomas, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party in the 1930’s and 1940’s, argued,
“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism,’ they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day, America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”
How right he was.
Making up the Democrat Political Party, Liberals and Progressives form the left-wing of the left-right paradigm, within the far-left-wing, two-party Socialist government of the United States of America. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between a Liberal and a Progressive. And, I will let one of them explain it:
“It seems to me that traditional “liberals” in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A “progressive” are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.”
“To put it in more concrete terms – a liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). A more “progressive” solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry’s profiteering and market manipulation tactics.”
So, Liberals and Progressives have the same goals, simply different (and more aggressive) means to an end.
So, what is the difference between a Progressive and a Socialist? Here is a comparison, but it is not one I subscribe to:
“Socialism is an economic system where the government runs and controls the production resources collectively owned by society to achieve its common good. Progressivism ,on the other hand, is a political philosophy that seeks to raise the standard of living of the average member of society in order to achieve a positive social change.”
What this fails to point out, is that the Progressive political philosophy chooses to fulfill it’s mission through Socialism. They could form a not-for-profit charitable organization and seek out donations for their cause. They could start a business to supply consumers with products they need and share the profits with those they wish to help. But, they don’t. Instead, they enlist the government to achieve their results through force. And, that use of force has been, and continues to be, the defining trait of the Socialist movement.
Fascism and Communism
“The chief difference between the two is that fascism is rooted in nationalism and seeks to create a socialist utopia within the confines of a particular country’s borders; thus the Nazis, for instance, embraced “National Socialism.” Communism, by contrast, seeks to transcend national boundaries and promote a worldwide proletariat revolution, where the foot soldiers are bound together not by a common nationality but by their membership in the same economic class. Apart from this distinction, communism and fascism are kindred spirits of anti-capitalist totalitarianism.”
And, at the root of both, is Socialism.
As I point out above, the Socialist movements of Communism and Fascism had far reaching and devastating consequences in the 20th century. While it would appear on the surface, at least for now, that the risk of a repeat of those events today, or in the near future, is quite low, that could have been said back then as well. It took decades for events to unfold as they did. Karl Marx, the father of Communism, had long been dead when his dream of Communism was realized with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Adolph Hitler formed the National Socialist Workers Party in 1920, but did not rise to power until 1933. In both of these cases, and other cases, triggering events, or the culmination of a particular set of circumstances acted as the tipping point. So, we could, indeed, experience a rise of far-left-wing extremism again. Or, could we experience a return to a system of free-market Capitalism and Libertarianism? It has been over 80 years since the New Deal dismantled many of the free-market Capitalist principles the country was founded on, and it’s remnants remain to this day.
Those in power have been growing Socialism in the United States of America for close to 100 years, so I do not think Socialists and their privileged beneficiaries will walk away quickly, or give up power without a fight. The disciples and descendants of Karl Marx and those that came before him, have succeeded in taking a once free country and turned it in to an increasingly oppressive authoritarian state, much like the founding fathers escaped. Monarchies have been replaced by politicians, bureaucrats, labor unions, left-wing university professors and an army of transfer payment recipients, bent on the status-quo. But, under the apparent calm waters of Utopian Socialist life, there are signs everywhere that storms may be on the horizon. So, whether it be market or economic turmoil, war, poverty, starvation or displacement, a collapse of Socialism could cause a major upheaval of power, and with it, the potential for bloodshed and vast social, economic and political change.
The only question is; will the United States of America continue to move left, or move back to the center where it began?