Socialism!

In which our recurring guest, Chris H., finally throws away the shreds of pretense surrounding his pinko leanings.

In my earlier BCC guest post, I mentioned in the comments that I would further explain what I mean by socialism. Not sure if this will help, but it is what it is.

I refer to myself as a socialist for a number of reasons. In one sense, it is empirically accurate. In a discussion a few years back, I insisted that I was a liberal egalitarian and not a socialist. While this is technically the case, the difference is practically irrelevant. At least, that is what J. Nelson Seawright argued, and I have come to realize that he was correct. The philosopher Julius Sensat argues that socialism is an attitude and not so much a program. [1] It is an aversion against inequality. The political theorist Michael Walzer argues that socialism is essentially an argument for true democracy. Government, and economy, of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Another reason that I now proudly use the term socialist is because It has such a negative connotation. So, in a way, I have adopted the label socialist with pride, in the way that homosexuals have taken on the label queer, a term that was once a slur and now used with pride.

For many years, I only used the term in certain company. This started to change when my wife informed my stake president, a prominent conservative Republican in Utah, in a temple recommend interview that I was a socialist. She didn’t think anything of it, and I started to care less about what others thought as well.

Now, let me share with you a little of what socialism is, when I use it. It is not what David O. McKay was talking about when he talked about socialism. It is not what you were likely taught about socialism in K-12 or in American Heritage (unless you took it from me). The mention of this term brings back all sorts of Cold War thinking, much of which was creepy then, though somewhat understandable. Clark Goble has often told me that I do not really understand conservatives (while I used to be one, he may be right). I feel that same way about many who throw around the term socialist. They probably still won’t like it, but they should know what it is they do not like.

“The era of capitalist triumphalism is a difficult one for socialists…” says Stephen J. Fortunato, and this is true for all egalitarians. [2] What then are we (those sympathetic to the concerns of socialism) to do? Is socialism dead? Is market capitalism the only answer?

Fortunato, thinks that there is a place for socialism despite the apparently justified pessimism about its prospects. The dilemma is that while the need for socialism still exists, many have removed socialism from the table of ideas and classified it as a historical relic which is now outdated and broken. Yet, who decided this? The forces of capitalism have long associated socialism with Stalinism. By doing so they undermined the possibility of an open discussion about how socialism could be applied to the west. With the fall of Soviet Stalinism, came the fall of socialism. Right? Well, I do not think so. See U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ response to Stephen Colbert on this issue.

Gerald Cohen, the late British socialist and political philosopher, asked in a 1992 article the question: “Is there still a case for socialism?” [3] Cohen argues that the Soviet experiment promised, yet failed to achieve, “instead of class exploitation of capitalism, economic equality; instead of the illusory democracy of class-based bourgeois politics, a real and complete democracy; instead of alienation from one another of economic agents driven by fear and greed, an economy characterized by willing mutual service.”

The failure of the Soviet Union does not undermine the validity and value of these goals. Cohen, like me, thinks these ideals are still worth pursuing.

Cohen, himself well known for his defense of Marx’s theory of historical materialism, argues that socialists should move away from some of the positions traditionally held by Marxists. Particularly, Cohen is critical of the emphasis on economic and political central planning that he feels resulted in undemocratic institutions. This is rooted in Cohen’s contention that socialism is the real democratic alternative to the rather undemocratic Western “democracies.” Cohen adds, and I love this, that “to the extent that something is democratic, it is good, but it is false that, to the extent that something is planned or controlled, it is good.”

Albert Einstein, in his classic 1949 argument for socialism, also warned of dangers of the planned economy:

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Democracy is the best answer to the ills of both capitalism and socialism.

One contemporary approach to socialism, is known as market socialism. This is the type of socialism that we see in much of Europe today. For Cohen, market socialism has a number of advantages or strengths. The most notable strength is that it is the most feasible in the contemporary political climate. The reason for this is that market socialism maintains much of what we might call the capitalist market system in place. Business, as one might say, would still be as usual. The difference would be that market socialism would seek to bring about economic equality through taxation and transfer payments. This would also take the form of robust public education and universal health care.

However, we would still have the market. If we still have the market, we still have the alienation and exploitation.

Marx recognized that the problem with capitalism was not just the unequal distribution of wealth, but also, and possibly most importantly, that capitalism strips individuals of their humanity. Does market socialism offer the cure for these ills as well? Cohen is skeptical.

Alienation is a product of modern society and not just capitalism. It cannot be completely avoided. Additionally, I think that the Hegelian/Marxist concern about alienation is overly wrapped up in the idea that there is a certain type of good life that best fits humanity. I think the members of humanity should be able to pick and choose the good life that they themselves want. A liberal form of socialism, possibly market socialism, is best suited for allowing this.

What is Cohen’s prescription for the socialism of the future? Well, he does not offer one in this article, at least not in the form of a political or economic plan. He has addressed this issue further in two recent books that I hope to tackle soon. But I think that is the point, socialism, like liberalism and conservativism, should not be a set of policy proposals, but a guiding perspective within the political struggle.

Mogget once described my role as being that of starting political fires and yelling “Socialism!” I do not think it was meant to be a compliment. But it is true.

Fire in the hole.

———————————–
1. “Socialism as an Attitude.” In Equal Shares: Making Market Socialism Work, ed. Erik Olin Wright, pp. 250-262. London and New York: Verso, 1996.
2. Furtunato, Stephen J. “The Soul of Socialism: Connecting with the People’s Values” Monthly Review. Volume 57, Number 3. 2005
3. Cohen, G.A. “Is There Still a Case for Socialism?” Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 12. pp. 3-18. 1992

Comments

  1. Socialism is not:
    - Strict control by central government
    - Other totalitarianism
    - A “new world order”

    Socialism wants to expect from people according to their abilities, give to people according to their needs. That’s what I was taught by a conservative history teacher, and Adam Smith more or less confirms it. Unless my sucky memory of names is playing me for a fool…

  2. Not sure about Adam Smith, but “from each according to their ability and to each according to their need” is one expression of the socialist sentiment. Marx says something similar to this but it is not unique to him.

  3. Making it as easy as possible to start a new small business and making corporate raiding less profitable we could have a real market system (where nobody is big enough to dominate, in other words, no more national domination of one brand/company) plus a competitive word, where we could profit from not having some bureaucrat deciding who sells what for what price.

  4. Marx may have said it, too, but he added some Hegelian assumptions about dialectics and atheism, and then the Soviets turned it into something unrecognizable.

    The real joke is to call Soviet communism Marxist-Leninist (though Lenin had more to do with it than Marx, but IMO Lenin was a Utopian socialist).

  5. Ugly Mahana says:

    Interesting thoughts. I don’t think I quite understand your position though. If you don’t mind answering the following questions, I think I would understand your position better. (Full disclosure: I’m pretty certain that I disagree with your politics, but I am not asking these out of a desire to prove you wrong. I am seeking honest enlightenment.)

    1) What do you mean by alienation and exploitation?
    2) How would these be avoided in a socialist system?

    (Full disclosure on question 2: I tend to think that exploitation is unavoidable under any system. It seems to me that under a socialist system, the person of the exploiter would change, but that explotation is still possible, and its existence would depend on the good graces of the managers of a socialist system.)

    Anyway, thanks for your perspective. I look forward to learning in the comments.

  6. Well, come on, now you’re just asking for a foot dusting. We all know that God’s invisible hand directs the free markets, and it will smite the pinkos who dare oppose it.

    Seriously though, I’ll admit I’m not sure what a socialist economy would look like other than a “planned economy”, but I have the general impression that any time wealth transfer comes into play, its main economic effect is to discourage work by those on the margin (people who don’t necessarily need assistance, but could benefit from it if they just decrease their current income/living standards/etc. just a little bit). Ending with, all people living closer to equal, but the mean and median living standards being greatly reduced, i.e. the poor do a little better, but the middle and upper classes do much worse, and economic progress is slowed due to there being a lack of premium for new invention and innovation.
    Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but I believe the best motivator is the carrot, if people can see the benefit from personal effort they will work harder and economies in general will progress.

    The problem I see with our current model is that it is TOO socialistic. And not in the traditional-republican sense that we tax and give like Robin Hood. Instead my problem is that if you have a 401(k), mutual funds, VUL, VA, a pension, or any other common Wall Street investment, then YOU are the man, I promise you that each and every one of you that has some form of modern day “retirement” is an owner of the evil Phillip Morris (Altria), Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, etc. And yet none of us have any say in what happens at our companies we own. We own without managing, and these companies get “too big to fail”, make foolish short-term profit decisions that are detrimental socially and economically in the long run, and no one stops them unless the government steps in. The C-corp shareholder business model is the real failure. If you want to let capitalism work correctly (or have a successful economy) the businesses have to have owner-control – and therefore be much smaller by nature.
    I’ve probably missed some very important points in my analysis, I’d be more interested in seeing your opinions than trying to prove a point. Let me know where I’m wrong.

  7. StillConfused says:

    I don’t know much about all of the isms in the world but the statement “from each according to their ability and to each according to their need” makes me want to spew. I know that I would have no intention to increase performance if it was just going to someone else. To me, the ideal situation would be were government provides very limited services and we all pay for them pro rata (either divided equally among all the citizens or divided based on use, something along those lines) and then everyone is free to fail or succeed as they desire. What kind of an ism would that make me?

  8. I would also bring up that President (Overlord?) Jason Wharton has also expressed some fairly negative views of Socialism. (ref.#87, 101 – with some interesting commentary on 143) His words should caution us against this form of economy, yay, we should shun all who promote such economy.

  9. As I’m sure you know, The United States was founded as a Republic, not a democracy, and the framers of the Constitution never intended it to become one.

    Capitalism is not the problem. The gradual, intentional reformation of our Republic into a “pure democracy” is the problem.

    “We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”
    Joseph Smith

  10. ““from each according to their ability and to each according to their need” makes me want to spew”

    Really? How do you deal with D&C 42, then? This verse, say:
    And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church, that they cannot be taken from the church, agreeable to my commandments, every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family.

  11. One should be careful what all-cap acronyms he strings together in the middle of a comment–no matter what that comment is about.

  12. Chris, very interesting discussion (along with the old one back at FPR you linked to). I have of late been distancing my Democratic Party leanings from my understanding of gospel principles (ie, the gospel is independent of political institutions), and you’ve given me another dimension to consider.

    In spite of it’s attachment to Karl Marx, I’ve always found the statement “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” to sound very compatible with how I understand the underlying doctrines of our faith in Christ. I think of that statement whenever I read Matthew ch. 25 about the sheep and the goats, and who is on the right hand of God. Much here to think about.

    While I have always supported free markets conceptually, I heard a discussion on NPR recently that the basic assumption of many economists that the market is always basically “efficient” has been called into question with the events of the last 18 months. I guess that I see a reverse redistribution of wealth that was going on, for example the big brokerage houses leveraged 35 to 1 on their assets, thus accelerating, at least while it lasted, the movement of wealth from the middle class upwards to the most wealthy. It would seem to me that while most small business people would like to grow that big, the reality is that they likely are limited by the concentration of capital and economic clout with larger conglomerates. I tend to think of Walmart, with all their market clout, making life more difficult for the small businesses forced to compete with them as a prime example.

    Am I understanding what you are talking about here correctly?

  13. (11) Wow, it took me a minute to figure out what you were talking about, and I burst out laughing when I realized. Okay, for the record I was talking about Variable Universal Life insurance, and Variable Annuities.
    Sorry for you gutterheads that read more into it than that.

  14. After living in Europe for my sabbatical, “Market Socialism” looks pretty good compared to the mess we are in now.

    Kristine, brings up the ‘ism’ that seems to get forgotten often in today’s political climate: Zionism (Mormon sense). ‘No poor among them,’ is something we can work on now.

  15. Mark B.,
    I love you.

  16. Can I have a Niblet?

  17. I think socialism is a very admirable goal. My biggest issue is how to achieve it yet still maintain the dynamism present in capitalism, and I haven’t heard a good answer to the dilemma.

    I was just at a medical conference and spent some time talking with someone who does what I do in the Kaiser system. She sees about 1/2 the number of patients I do, and does fewer cases. Being on salary, there is no incentive to squeeze in that extra patient. I don’t have the answer there.

    Also, we need to be careful in holding up Europe’s model as “ideal”. Because of various rules trying to protect workers yet provide a safety net, the system has evolved to where young people find it very difficult to find a job. Unemployment in France for someone up to age 24 is over 20%. In England, it is nearly 20%. Etc. Many young people find that their social benefits are equivalent to what they’d make at a starting job, so they just “hang out”.

    I think the ideal solution would be on an individual level, where we all truly took care of our neighbor. On an institutional level, however, what would you implement if you were given your own country and a clean slate?

  18. Cynthia L. says:

    You can have a whole full-size Nib, Mark B.

  19. StillConfused says:

    #10. My point exactly. I don’t care for any of that talk whether in religious settings or in political settings. I just stick with the basic principals of free agency. I will be honest that I would never do the whole consecration, United Order thing.

  20. #7 Still confused. You would not have a problem if the people it were going to were your children or grandchildren.

    I think that one reason that market socialism works in Scandinavia is because the society is very homogeneous, that is everyone looks like everyone else. i.e. we are all related. Therefore when we pay taxes we are supporting our relatives who are a lot like us.

    Why it does not work here? Because the poor are mostly Black and Latino, not at all like us white middle class tax payers. Why else would the South be so red now? Because the latent racism insists that they do not want taxes to pay for “them.”

    I mean, I have spent a fortune on other people, their housing, their food, their education. I get nothing back for that, even one daughter that is not currently speaking to me, except the pleasure of their company sometimes. So, what is the difference between that and paying for some poor inner city kid’s education and health care to give him a leg up.

  21. Velska (#4),

    “Marx may have said it, too, but he added some Hegelian assumptions about dialectics and atheism,”

    Not is the mood to defend Marx, but the man’s body of work was pretty vast and impressive. Cannot blame him for the Soviets anymore than we can blame Smith for the Industrial Revolution.

  22. (20) I have a real hard time agreeing with your premise. If I understand you correctly: We give food/shelter to our family in need, socialism has some merit and works to some extent in Scandanavia, ergo, capitalists in the USA are racists. Thats a lot of jumping around.

    I imagine that for most people that the issue lies in what each person believes a “leg up” to be, much moreso than whether or not the recipient is white, black, red, yellow, or blue. We could talk for days about how programs that attempt to throw money at problems generally fail. I don’t want to throw money at inner-city kids, personally. And I think that if I’m going to give from my ability according to anothers need, I feel much more comfortable doing it through fast-offerings, Red Cross, direct relief (i.e. personally taking an interest in a needy person’s life), etc. than I would handing the money over to the government and expecting them to solve social problems. At least thats how I prefer to give a “leg up” and I’m perfectly fine with it going to a purple inner-city kid.

  23. Ugly Mahana,

    Alienation: Marx describes how humans become alienated first from the means of production when they enter into the factory. Prior to industrialization they actually owned and benefited from their own labors (so the thought goes). In the factory, they have not ownership and feel alienated from a central aspect of their daily existence. Additionally, despite living in crowded cities, their work and living conditions cause them to be alienated to be alienated from their neighbors and community. This alienation from ones neighbor leads to one essentially be alienated from our own very humanity (he views us as largely social creatures). Marx views this as a result of industrialization/capitalism. I am not sure if that is truly the case, but I can relate to such alienation in my own life. The best cure is BCC.

    As for exploitation: It occurs in many settings, Marx views it as the profiting off of anothers labor simply on the basis of divisions in ownership (something like that). Sure exploitation cannot be avoided completely. I am a Kantian, so I think the key is that if we are using the labor of others for our own profit, we must ensure that we are also treating them with human dignity.

    In the post, I state that I do not think that socialism is a total cure for either of these two ideas. Keep in mind, Marx is talking about industrial revolution Europe. The life of the worker truly sucked. I think that alienation is still very much with us (increased by consumerism amongst other things). Likewise exploitation has evolved. Is it as brutal? No, but it is still inhumane to an extent. Marx thinks that he has the solution, I am not much for grand solutions.

  24. Excellent post, Chris. But you didn’t quote me! I’m hurt.

    The Cohen book you refer to in the post is really a small masterpiece; the finest short introduction to non-Marxist socialist reasoning I’ve ever read. I recently used it as the centerpiece of a lecture I gave to our local chapter of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), and ‘m going to be running a book club discussion of it at the end of the month. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    In the Mormon context, it’s also important to keep in mind that, assuming one has rejected the historical determinism of Marx as an element of one’s argument for socialism (or social democracy or Christian socialism, which is how I describe my own preferences), then one is left with the development of a socialist ethos, and that has to begin with local communities as much as with broader states. The ward basis of Mormon society will, someday, I hope (once we actually get serious about redeeming Zion) become important building blocks for a socialist communitarian mentality.

  25. 152 (#6),

    I am not arguing for a socialist system, but a place for the socialist voice in the political discourse. The actually system we end up with with be the result of compromises between factions.

  26. guest,

    Did you read the post?

    Anyhow, the quote is from Oliver Cowdery, not Joseph Smith (he was not even at the meeting where the statement was accepted). However, nothing in my post goes against any of the principles found in that verse. Ironically, Cowdery’s belief in private property is one of the reasons he left the Church.

    My use of democracy is actually very similar to the way in which Madison used “republic.” The term “the republic” refers to an entity committed to the public good and it has been used in very different ways by the likes of Madison, Plato, Rousseau and Cicero (amongst many others). Robert Dahl talks about this, check it out starting about page 179.

    I make no mention of pure democracy. Not sure what your point is.

  27. Marx asserted that the cost of capitol is the same for everyone. The cost of materials the same. So aside from some details, the only way a manufacturer can compete is by squeezing labor costs. Since the capitalists have the power money and influence and the workers are weak, the workers get squeezed.

    No faulty reasoning here. The question is how to protect the worker? To create meaningful jobs (like Saturn promised). To make working life beneficent for people.

    Raw capitalism is insanely cruel. Take our capitalist health insurance business. The famous case where the policy was terminated because the patient forgot to put on the application that she was under a doctor’s care for acne as a young woman, just before her breast cancer operation. This is only capitalism in operation. Why would you expect different?

  28. I just wonder, with a government as large (economically, population-wise, and geographically) as ours, if any compromises could even be effective. It seems to me that social-based economic decisions try to solve problems inherent to New York, Boston, or LA. We all pay for them. And yet the problems of Salt Lake City, Omaha, and Loving, TX don’t get solved because they’re completely different. Maybe a states-rights movement should take place before any heavily socialistic movements (?)

  29. Mark B: I snorted out loud. That made my night.

  30. 152 #22

    This was not my idea about the South and taxes. Anyway the chain is long and indirect, not particularly appropriate for a blog and I have forgotten the original source, probably the New Yorker Magazine.

    The connection of racism and Republicanism is well-known.

  31. 152,

    Maybe a states-rights movement should take place before any heavily socialistic movements.

    I think there is a necessary truth to this. A truly socialist ethos needs to be built in an environment where people can be fully conscious of, and see and appreciate the egalitarian consequences of, their decisions. It is genuine debatable how much of that, if any, can happen in more than a local context. I think that if socialism, of any variety (Christian, democratic, market, etc.), is to have a future, in will have to be joined with argument for localism–which means, in America at least, a willingness to contemplate a greater degree of decentralization. (“Decentralization of what?” he asks–defense? health care? civil rights? immigration? I don’t have an easy answer.)

  32. kevinf (#12),

    Not sure if I had that in mind, but it gets to what I am thinking of in general. A key aspect of socialism, as I envision and practice it, is not so much to call for a socialist system, but to challenge the assumptions of the capitalist ideology and I think those details call aspects of that ideology into question.

  33. Russell.

    Sorry for leaving you out, you are an inspiration for much of this. I have followed some of you posts about DSA at your blog. I currently struggling through Cohen’s Rescuing Equality. If anything, he is one of my favorite theorists to read.

    There is very much a disconnect between the social/community emphasis in Mormon life and the ideas of social unity beyond the ward. Not sure what to make of it, though I think most American Saints at one the same wave-length of StillConfused in #19.

  34. StillConfused (#19),

    I am all for agency. I actually think that an egalitarian society is needed for everyone to be able to actually exercise their agency.

  35. Ugly Mahana says:

    Thanks for the response.

  36. I think you’re bumping into an important semantic issue here, Chris (#33). For a wide variety of reasons, not all of them clear to me, many LDS seem inclined to view the notion of free agency through the lens of modern property rights and unregulated exchange. Not sure what to make of that, but that association by itself is fascinating and probably worth its own post.

  37. Brad,

    My interpretation of the relationship between equality and liberty has roots in Rousseau. Mormons are hopelessly Lockean. I should explain that later. Being a Rousseau-type amongst ardent Hobbesians and Lockeans is torture and contributes to my alienation.

  38. Can any of the permas free my response to guest from moderation? Thanks.

  39. Ugly Mahana (and anyone else):

    For an interesting discussion about alienation I would invite you to check out this podcast interview with political philosopher Jonathan Wolff:

    http://philosophybites.com/2008/05/jonathan-wolff.html

  40. “I know that I would have no intention to increase performance if it was just going to someone else.”

    And people wonder why the government feels a need to step in and provide welfare…

  41. The deep Lockean liberalism which the majority of American Mormons, even well-informed ones, carry with them through their readings of scripture is a fascinating topic, which one can examine through scripture, theology, the history of the church’s tangles with the government through the 19th century, our cultural fetishization of the U.S. Constitution, and more. Nate Oman once wrote an ambitious four-part post at T&S (beginning here which argued that the deep theology of Mormonism was individualistic, rather than communitarian, and hence supported a baseline negative reading of liberty (individual rights and all that). I didn’t like his conclusions–despite the bone he threw to Zion as a clearly communitarian, borderline socialist ideal–but his argument was a strong one nonetheless.

  42. StillConfused says:

    Actually, I am probably not a good example for any analogies here. I am one of those mean mommies who make my kids earn their way through life. I personally think that providing much for them removes their drive and ambition. That is my fear with any of these socialist programs. How do you prevent them from removing drive and incentive?

    As a Southerner (even though I now live in Utah) I will ignore the comment about racism in the South or among Republicans because I view it as inflammatory and grossly bigoted. I do however know that many farmers and blue collar workers who work hard for a living expect others to do the same. That is not racist because it has nothing to do with race. Farmers of all races that I know share that same hard work ethic.

    I think it would be interesting to have a socialist state/country/community where those who were interested in that lifestyle could go and those of us who were not interested did not have to be a part of. If it is really as groovy as thought, people would want to move there.

  43. Bruce Rogers says:

    It has often been said that “the Soviet experiment with Socialism failed.” Unfortunately, that statement is not true, because the Soviets never adopted Socialism in the classical sense. Lenin and Stalin just established another Dictatorship with themselves as the Dictators. Even tho Stalin fought against Hitler, it was not “right” against “wrong”, it was just one dictator against another dictator. That is why the Soviet system eventually failed.
    The phrase “from each according to his ability and from each according to his need” is often credited to Marx, but Marx just copied it from the writings of Paul in the Book of Acts in the Bible. Karl Marx spent years in the public library in London writing many good sentences, but only to deceive people to accept himself as a dictator. Dictators always use good things to try to justify their evil, selfish desires.

  44. “I think it would be interesting to have a socialist state/country/community where those who were interested in that lifestyle could go and those of us who were not interested did not have to be a part of. If it is really as groovy as thought, people would want to move there.”

    I think that may speak to where we differ. I view political community as an intrinsic part of who we are. It is not a volunteery aspect of human life.

  45. The connection of racism and Republicanism is well-known.

    Other than the facts that:
    1. The Republican party was responsible for ending slavery in the United States
    2. Progressives tended to be die-hard eugenicists
    3. The Democratic Party dominated the South from the 1840s to the 1980s
    4. Most of the votes against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were cast by Democrats

  46. I think much of the problem is proximity.

    I am much more inclined to support and have “socialistic” tendencies towards my neighbors and my community. If there was a “bishop” over a ward-level group of people (500-1000?), where we knew each other’s wants/need/resources/etc., it might work.

    As the group gets larger and larger, however, I get more and more cynical. I absolutely have no faith that a centralized group of leaders in Washington DC over 300 million people will make any rational decision that is truly for the “good of the nation”. They are some of the most self-centered people I have ever heard about, saying and doing anything to get reelected. And this is also what history has taught us re: socialism. Small groups can work for a while. Large groups fail astoundingly, and often cost their country tremendously in terms of progress, let alone the millions of their own countrymen who have died directly as a result of centralized policies.

    Capitalism can be very cruel. Greed is rampant. It would be nice to have the idealism of socialism, but I don’t know how it would work on a national basis.

  47. Socialism is a great idea if you can do it without exercising massive amounts of government power. As Gerald Ford said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have”.

  48. Mark (#45),
    All those things are true. Still, beginning with Goldwater and in earnest with the Southern Strategy, the connection is in fact well-known. Ken Melman apologized explicitly for it a few years back.

  49. Mark,

    I think that is a reference to the Southern Strategy. Conservatism is likely more accurate that Republicanism, though still a gross-over-generalization and not worth replying to.

  50. “Farmers of all races that I know share that same hard work ethic. ”

    How many farmers can afford to farm anymore? I grew up in farm country–they farm because they enjoy it, not because they earn enough to feed their families. It certainly doesn’t provide health care. That’s what the 2nd full-time job is for.

  51. StillConfused says:

    #44 “I view political community as an intrinsic part of who we are. It is not a volunteery aspect of human life.” Does this mean that socialism would not be voluntarily chosen?

  52. SC (#51),
    I think it means that we are inherently social and political beings. We exist inescapably as parts of communities. We cannot be otherwise.

  53. StillConfused,

    Society is not voluntary. All policies and laws should be brought about through democratic means.

  54. Lyndee (#50),

    That is impossible. Why would they farm if they have no good economic motivation or incentive? :)

    BTW, you have no idea what it does to my heart to see you comment on one of my posts.

  55. Large farms (five hundred acres or more) can and do take in healthy sums of money. Agriculture is about a $100 billion dollar industry in the United States. There are about two million farms in the U.S.

    About forty percent of them are “residential / lifestyle” farms that don’t make a lot of money. Including those, about sixty percent of all farms have sales of less than $100,000 per year. The other forty percent with sales of $100,000 per year or more are where most of the money is made, virtually all by family farms. Corporate farms are only about 2% of the total.

    http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/demographics.html

  56. (30) “The connection of racism and Republicanism is well-known.”

    Who said anything about republicanism?? I was under the impression we were talking about capitalism.

    True capitalism discourages racism. If I hire a less qualified white person at a higher price than an equally or better qualified blue person, than I am doing something that will be discouraged by the “invisible hand” I will be paying a premium for my racism that will receive no monetary benefit. Now if you reply that I as a white person have a benefit to band with other whiteys to hold blue man down and exploit him then 1) that is cartel behavior, not free-market behavior and 2) over time this strategy would still be discouraged by a free market because somebody is going to come along and hire blue for a cheaper price and benefit therefrom.

    I thought this was a discussion of economics, not political ideals. And lets not go throwing around the “R” word assuming because I’m capitalistic that I must listen to Glen Beck *shivers*

  57. Sorry, you lost me at the point where your wife mentioned your political/economic inclinations in her temple recommend interview. The following may be self-evident to Mormons, but not to me, so maybe you can clarify:

    1) What your beliefs have to do with her fitness to enter the Temple.
    2) Whether there is a political or economic litmus test to getting a temple recommend
    3) Whether the information was gratuitously provided by-the-way or whether it was solicited by the stake president
    4) Whether it is a duty of a Mormon in good standing to testify against his/her spouse if asked directly

    And for the bonus round,

    4) Why it is called a “recommend” (which elsewise in English is not a noun) instead of “recommendation” or “pass”. In general, how is Mormon jargon translated into other languages? Is an attempt made to use archaic-sounding foreign terms as well, or do they just use modern word forms? What about the endless acronyms (SP, EQ, RS, etc): are they acronymized in foreign languages too?

  58. Mark,

    “About forty percent of them are “residential / lifestyle” farms that don’t make a lot of money.”

    These are the farmers that Lyndee is speaking of. Calling them lifestyle farmers implies that it is a hobby. The farmers we know (Lyndee and I) would farm/ranch full-time if such venture were economically viable. These people are farmers to the core. Having to work full-time on top of farming contributes to …. alienation.

  59. Dan

    Obviously I can’t speak for Chris personally, since I’m not him, but I imagine his wife mentioned it tongue-in-cheek in response to a question, probably to ilicit a laugh. But I don’t know.

    To answer 1,2 and 4
    1)none
    2)no
    4)not officially, but if we know of anyone living well outside of what is considered proper regarding “temple worthiness” its my belief that we do have some responsibility to mention it to a leader. But this may or may not be a universal belief. To my knowledge officially no. And Chris being a socialist would in no way constitute living outside “temple worthiness” or warrant someone tattling on him.
    4.1) In Spanish it is translated recomendacion (recommendation). Don’t know the etymology of our using “recommend”

  60. Dan,

    1. I put it this way in a comment on the original post about that incident:

    “I think that it came up while discussing my schooling (in poli sci) and our future plans. My wife offered it as part of a larger discussion. I am pretty sure that it is not something he was digging for and likely fell under the category of “That was more that I needed to know.”

    I think they were likely discussing our economic/financial situation at the time, which was a bit of a struggle. He loved to talk politics with us, so it was something that almost always came up and always is a friendly chat.

    2. Nope, no political litmus test. We both passed.

    3/4. Again, it was not viewed as “testifying against” in anyway, but part of a discussion about how our family was surviving. I am pretty sure it was offered by my wife (Lyndee in comment #50) out of the blue. We were pretty active and public Democrats, so it was already well known that we were not in the local political mainstream.

    As for the bonus round: I have no idea. Any takers?

  61. 152,

    Actually, it was less “tongue-in-cheek” and more matter-of-factly.She is honest like that.

  62. “And Chris being a socialist would in no way constitute living outside “temple worthiness” or warrant someone tattling on him.”

    They even let me teach at BYU.

  63. Russell Arben Fox,

    I’m a little surprised that you didn’t throw a bone out to Distrubutism as a means of having your cake and eating it too since it was following your link to Front Porch Republic that led me to recognize that I am one. I find the idea of more and more centralized power very dangerous and a move that both socialists and big business seem to espouse.

    For those who are unfamiliar with the term “Distributist”, Wikipedia shares a good summary:

    According to distributism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (state socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in Chesterton’s statement: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

  64. The farmers we know (Lyndee and I) would farm/ranch full-time if such venture were economically viable.

    One of the problems is you have to have a (relatively) big farm. Under-capitalization is a big problem for a lot of wanna be businesses. I know – I have started or participated in starting half a dozen wanna be businesses myself. Most of them lie soundly in their graves.

  65. Chris H–I like your brand of socialism and I think one’s political preferences are theirs to define.

    I’ll tell anyone that I am a Socialist and I am pretty OK with anyone’s spin on that term. Yes, I really am OK with the government taking your money (and mine) and redistributing it to care for the elderly and the poor, and pretty much anything else you can throw at me.

    But that’s just me.

  66. Chris,

    I admire your effort in casting a softer light on socialism for those here. You share a lot in common with Bridget Jack Myers who attempts to bridge a needless gap. One problem that I foresee is how exactly to deal with what prophets like David O McKay and Ezra Taft Benson (among others of that era) say about socialism. Were they merely mistaken in how socialism was defined? I mean, I’m with you about Stalin and Lenin. They didn’t actually practice socialism but plain, simple brute dictators. But these two guys, and Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh and Mao Tse Dung and a whole bunch of other individuals who we cast in unsavory light (some deserved and others not) will forever be tied to “socialism.” While on the other end, those who we esteem as prophets of the Lord, our God, stand with hands quite clean denouncing “socialism.” Was socialism just never given the right chance to give its name a better legacy?

  67. Ron Madson says:

    Speaking of Ezra Taft Benson and socialism, I offer this little piece as my Modest Proposal to End Socialism once and for all by taking to the logical conclusion ETB’s words in his essay “The Proper Role of Government.” http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/a-modest-proposal-to-end-socialism/

  68. Sorry I rang the bell. I apologize for being too terse in the previous posts. I grant that there were some large gaps in my original posts but I falsely assumed that they could be filled in by the reader.

    Families are very socialistic. We support our children on welfare until they get their feet under them and even beyond. Disabled children and troubled children are not left to starve in the street. It is well-known that hunter-gatherers have a very “socialistic” system of all for one and one for all. Hunter-gatherers are really an extended family. Close clans favor each other. The further we move from a close family relationship the less likely we are to be supportive and more likely to be suspicious and antagonistic.

    This is why the parable of the good Samaritan is pertinent. The Samaritan was a stranger, not a Jew, and was kinder and more free with his goods than the Jews who were the victim’s brethren. Jesus mentioned that even bad people will be good to their children. It is very difficult to be good to the stranger who has different beliefs, looks, language and clothing.

    #42 claims that it was bigoted to point out that the Republican South was racist. From the beginning the South was Democratic because the Democrats were the liberal party. The Whigs were the party of the elite. Unfortunately the South had a long history of slavery so that many if not most of the Southern Democrats were also racist. When the Democratic Party included an civil rights plank in the party platform, Lyndon Johnson, a noted Southerner and arch-politician, knew that the Democratic party was going to loose the South. Not because of anything else but civil rights. The Republican Party could not have been more pleased to accept the new membership rather than adopting a similar plank in their party platform.

    One can point out, I suppose, that there has been a shift in the meaning of “liberal” over time. In the 18th century it meant power to the people and against monarchy. In the 21st century it still means power to the people but in general against economic forces rather than political. The early emphasis was on individual rights (against a tyrannical overlord) where the modern liberal emphasizes economic justice (against a capitalist overlord). Thus Marxism and socialism.

    #56 thinks that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not economic. I am not sure how he can come to that conclusion. Republicans favor the ultimate free market, to a fault. Democrats, being less ideological in a certain sense (what ever works…) and more interested in leveling the economic playing field as mentioned above, have substantially different views of what economic life should be and the role of goverment in that life. In my view the party of Ayn Rand has got to look economically different from the party of universal health care. Anyway true capitalism is not antithetical to slavery. Anything to lower costs.

    The view I expressed earlier is that the Republican economic view of self sufficiency and small government merges very well with the idea that we should not pay for the slackers who live off the system. This can be viewed as at least partly racially motivated because the poor “slackers” are very largely racial minorities.

    I am of the Good Samaritan persuasion. I believe that a follower of Christ should be, because that is His model. There are many good people who have been fallen upon by a dysfunctional system who need help. When you have a large segment of the population who are in need then you need a substantial provider. The Church, and other private charities, do a pretty good job of transitional help, but for large groups of people with difficult or intractable problems it is not sufficient. I consider, for example, 30 million without health care protection to be a large number with difficult economic problems.

    There are the hardworking poor who will work to get ahead. We want to help them. There are the incapacitated poor whom we should help. There are the lazy who work the system. So why should we short change the people we should and need to help because of the bad few?

    It is very difficult to help strangers.

  69. Fortunate are those who come by their convictions through struggle.

    Most Americans are not so fortunate. I have no doubt that the great majority of Americans (myself included) believe more or less what our parents believe (perhaps daring to be differing in small ways like approving of SSM or sideburns). Arguing about -isms with such people as us is subversive: you are asking us to deny our programming.

    I believe in a strongly progressive tax system, but so what? So do my parents (and most fellow Catholicly-raised). I cannot take credit for this “progressive” stance. It is easy to give up what you do not value, so it is no great accomplishment for me to forgo an entrepreneurial “birthright” my birth parents never taught me to cherish. Zakat is a mitzvah. Noblesse oblige is a bribe.

    Yes, even if taxes are merely a bribe paid to assuage one’s guilt about not being homeless, or protection money against the fear of going hungry, then sign me up. Guilt and fear are things my Bohemian and Irish forbears have bequeathed to me in abundance. I can’t help it: socialized capitalism is the pursuit of a pessimist, and I pursue it proudly.

    But who ever heard of a Mormon pessimist?

  70. Fortunate or not, Dan, accepting this sort of policy ideal is a struggle most bitter for me. Your statement about a parent bequeathing a set o values to you resonates with me, as I was taught as earlier as I can recall to work, save, and work some more. I was taught that you only get what you earn, I should never expect anyone else to do my work or earn my wages for me, and that there is great joy in making your own way.

    I want to be a team player, but the struggle to change my inherited ideals is not only difficult, but tastes bad and feels hollow.

  71. Banned Steve says:

    In any debate when you’re explaining, you’re losing (Sure wish Nibley could have grasped that). After about a hundred year struggle between Socialism and markets, markets won. The reasons behind it are self evident. There’s nothing meaningful being added here. Get over it and move on.

  72. Scott,
    I’ve never felt the notion that you (or any individual) should work to be incompatible with socialist ideals. So I’ve never really understood that critique.

  73. Peter LLC says:

    What about the endless acronyms (SP, EQ, RS, etc): are they acronymized in foreign languages too?

    Yes.

  74. Anne (U.K.) says:

    I still find it hard to get my head round the connotations the word ‘socialist’ seems to have amongst members in the US. It’s no big thing here, we even have Church members elected to Parliament as MPs, members of parties espousing socialist principles, and these chaps are lauded in the British Isles Church News (an insert we get in the Ensign) for getting involved in the community. They are ‘used’(using the term in the best way) by the Church here when Church committees need a bit of advice, representation, whatever.

    I have always thought, as an outsider, that U.S. LDS fear of socialism is not that, but fear of government instead. (Back to the old Second Amendment discussions.)

    Anyhow, my take from a European POV.

    Nice post, btw.

  75. Anne,

    Thanks.

    Scott,

    I am not looking (let alone struggling) to change your beliefs, inherited or otherwise (though I am sure those views have been informed by experience and study). I am not one of those people who thinks that those who think differently than I are somehow flawed or must not have thought about it enough.

    Just trying to explain my perspective, which according to Banned Steve means that I must be losing the debate. That, and he didn’t read the OP.

    Daniel,

    I recognize those difficulties and address them in the post. I am hoping to avoid a ETB brawl. Not the point of this one.

  76. StillConfused, #42:

    I think many people would move to the socialist ideal state after they fall victim to some illness that either costs much to treat or that takes away their ability to work.

  77. 42 & 76–it is called New York State and we do indeed get plenty of refugees from other states who come and enjoy our substantial social safety net. And not all of them are Mormon Graduate Students.

  78. I think that there still is a disconnect.

    Socialism needs not be centrally planned and exert much control over people’s private lives. It’s what was done in Soviet Union, but that was not socialism.

    Further, under socialism, ownership of means of production would be closer to the production than what it currently is in America. As someone said, if you have a retirement plan that invests in funds, you’ll own a piece of some huge conglomerate; how much does your word weigh?

    Think of a model based on small to midsize businesses, with low threshold for starting a business, while making it difficult to grow “too big to fail.” Free-market competition would keep prices in check. Not impossible to do, but current systems keep the small from becoming midsize very efficiently (by any successful small company being bought up by a huge one as a way of eliminating potential competition).

    And, agaiin, socialism does not equal totalitarianism. The anti-socialism sounded by ETB and DOM came from being associated with Soviet brand of totalitarianism.

    Still, no “ism” is going to solve the ills of humanity, for all systems can be abused, and consequently will be abused by some.

  79. “Still, no “ism” is going to solve the ills of humanity, for all systems can be abused, and consequently will be abused by some.”

    Is anyone claiming otherwise? Are”isms” even systems?

  80. Mark (#64)

    “One of the problems is you have to have a (relatively) big farm. Under-capitalization is a big problem for a lot of wanna be businesses. I know – I have started or participated in starting half a dozen wanna be businesses myself. Most of them lie soundly in their graves.”

    These people live on land that has been in their families for three to five generations. In previous generations they were able to support themselves. To them farming and ranching is who they are. It is not just another business venture. Some celebrate this as creative destruction. Easy for them, their way of life is not being destroyed.

  81. #77 ESO,

    The demographic facts are as follows.

    States with large expensive leftish style governments with large social nets and strong unions specifically NY, PA, NJ, IL, MA etc. have seen large job and population losses in the past few decades when compared to other more conservative states. This is best illustrated with the census driven congressional seat allocation. Just for example NY has lost multiple congressional seats to states like NC, TX, GA etc. The pattern plays out every 10 years.

    Here is the pattern in 2000 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_census_reapportionment.svg

    The projected pattern in 2010: http://www.electiondataservices.com/images/File/NR_Appor08wTables.pdf

  82. While I’m open to good arguments for a European style “socialism,” in my mind the OP has some real problems.

    The major problem as I see it is that the post confuses communication with the technical meanings of words. I’m sure Chris H understands what the word “socialism” means far better than I, especially in academic discourse. However, insisting on using terminology that the user is confident will be misunderstood (especially in ways that create an emotional reaction in the listener) is a recipe for increasing misunderstanding, and strikes me as elitist. Somewhat ironic, given the particular term under discussion.

    So, if part of the goal is to have constructive conversations with people about income inequality, health care, etc. I’m not sure how starting to “care less about what other people [think]” helps.

  83. #82.

    for the projected 2010 numbers see page 15 of my link. The map shows it the best.

  84. This is really good to see religious folks talking about socialism again. Despite what many (religious and not) in the US believe/think/say the world is not just a tree to be cut down and sold. We have a responsibility to each other and to our environment and (if so inclined) to God. This is not a political issue or Republican/Democrat issue, but one of ending corporate slavery. We are all slaves to big business and big money, and if you think otherwise you are a fool. Unlike the (admittedly sometimes corrupt) government, big business has never had our interests in mind and never will. Their stated objectives are the exploitation of labor and the environment and regardless of what “jobs” they create they are destroying “livelihoods.” Keep this discussion going, PLEASE! Viva!

    bbell if you actually read this article you might actually comprehend its meaning… this is not a question of losing or gaining jobs, it is a question of equity, justice, and human-scale living. Not to mention those states have lost jobs because they have lost huge populations and because global capitalism has moved their jobs abroad. Ponder that one.

  85. Good to see Mark D and bbell adding some common sense to this discussion. Joseph Smith knew about Socialism.

    “In public pronouncements in Nauvoo, the Prophet made clear his support of the enduring economic principle of individual ownership. The issue was raised in September 1843, when a traveling English socialist, John Finch, preached from the stand in the grove. Smith responded by denouncing Finch’s socialism. At the same time, he also discounted a communitarian system that Sidney Rigdon had endorsed in Kirtland before converting to Mormonism. … In a second sermon ten days later, with Acts 2 as his text, the Prophet preached for an hour, “designing to show the folly of common stock. In Nauvoo,” he said, “every one is steward over his own.”

    The Prophet had concluded that the leveling effect of the New Testament ideal could not be realized in the world of ordinary men.”

    Dave Banack’s excellent (but under-appreciated) post on T&S is the source.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/11/what-happened-in-nauvoo-part-2-flourishing/

  86. I think the economic/demographic exp of socialism lite as practiced by CA, NY and other deep blue states should serve as a warning for other states not to follow in their footsteps.

    There is a reason that when non american auto companies build plants they build them in conservative states. Its also why the Arlington TX GM truck/SUV plant is still open and its counterpart in MI is closed.

  87. re: 84
    I agree with your numbers, bbell, but not your conclusion.
    People follow jobs, and jobs follow low costs. Companies are racing to the bottom and the unemployed have no choice but to follow.

    But where does this all end? Doesn’t the increasing economic polarization in the U.S. bother you at all? And if so, what would you do about it? The trends are all in the wrong direction nationally, and you can’t blame liberal New England and crazy California for everything.

  88. Mike,

    The trend lines on the demographics/economics are decades old. Its not something that just popped up when the economy cratered. When you look deep at the ecomonic polarization data the deep blue states tend to be more polarized. The folks they have lost are the middle class families. Think CA folks moving to AZ and other close states.

    Yeah its really bothersome to me actually. Esp since I am an economic refugee from IL and was essentially forced out of IL after my first child due to the trends we are discussing

  89. One last point, and I will go away. Those who truly care about the poor should fully embrace capitalism. As the attached points out, it is the best of all our imperfect systems for truly helping the poor. To summarize its conclusions: “Historically, economic growth, not redistribution of wealth, has proven to be civilization’s most effective weapon against poverty.”

    http://www.fte.org/capitalism/lessons/conclusions_and_caveats/index.html

  90. Agree 100% with #90. Night night.

  91. Chris,

    Re your #79 in response to my #78: There seem to be people, who think, that “the invisible hand” of the market capitalism will cure all ills. IOW, capitalism will; the problem, according to them, is not that capitalist system has now failed, but that there’s not enough capitalism.

    Which, in a way, is true; markets should be let alone as much as is possible, and then take care of the casualties some other way but not by trying to make “the market” take care of the sick and otherwise unable/unwilling to sell their skills/products.

  92. This reminds me of a work colleague who spent time talking about how Wal-Mart was the “root of all evil”. And it is true, there is a very dark underbelly to capitalism and globilisation.

    That being said, a month or so later, she was talking about something that she bought the day before at Wal-Mart. I brought up our prior conversations and she replied, “I know, I’m torn, but it is so cheap.”

    It’s really a matter of degrees. Someone in the US who might be struggling and want socialism to help ease the burden would still be a “rich” person to the vast majority of the world. Should we, as a United States / European society give up our money to even things out throughout the world? And if the answer is “no”, then why should one US state give up sources for another state? Or one city for another city?

  93. Sorry. One more thought.

    In the past month or so, the Church has spent tens of millions buying up real estate around the Salt Lake City area. If the Church truly espoused the socialistic model, this money would have instead been given to the poor or less fortunate. Instead, they claim that by reinvesting their capital to make even more money, they will be able to potentially help more people at some unspecified time in the future. Or maybe they will do just like they did again, taking the proceeds from this to invest in yet more business ventures. This sounds like a very capitalistic system, from the highest levels of our own Church.

  94. John C.,
    That is because you ignored the second half of the equation. It is not about work alone–it is also about being paid to work.

    I work really hard, and long hours. I would not be willing to work the same number of hours for 20% less payment. It is really simple. For some, the trade off is worth it (state pension?); for me, it’s not.

    Chris,
    I know (or accept your statement, anyway) that you are not trying to change my mind, but that is an entirely irrelevant point, since you don’t need to change my mind to vote for things that run contrary to my preferences. Unless you propose a world in which your voting outcomes only affect you, it is just condescending lip service.

  95. Mike S, the Church is not in the business to give away all assets. The members are the ones responsible for caring for the poor. The organization just facilitates that. It is the duty of the Church leaders to make sure that it is capable of continuing that facilitation — not to give away all for a moment of relief.

    Again, it was the members who consecrated their property to the Church; the Church then distributed that — that’s redistributionism. So is, actually, doling out fast offerings. We can argue about the society’s role at larger scales — I don’t think that a central government bureaucrat should be deciding what my life standard is; but that’s not a socialist model. That would be totalitarianism.

    But it is also totalitarianism that in Mississippi you can be jailed for having two illegitimate children, or fined for using vulgar language. Also, it is illegal to teach somebody what Polygamy is, in Mississippi.

  96. Reference to the last: dumblaws.com. Plenty of examples. Plus there’s the Patriot Act, which Obama sanctioned, despite giving lip service to freedom from being spied on.

  97. The following statement by Dallin H Oakes reveals why socialism is wrong headed. (see reference below).

    Hope you over learned socialist brainiacks will be able to comprehend it and realign accordingly.

    “… 7. Some persons have a finely developed social conscience. They respond to social injustice and suffering with great concern, commitment, and generosity. This is surely a spiritual strength, something many of us need in greater measure. Yet persons who have this great quality need to be cautious that it not impel them to overstep other ultimate values. My social conscience should not cause me to coerce others to use their time or means to fulfill my objectives. We are not blessed for magnifying our calling with someone else’s time or resources.”
    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=7087

  98. Scott,

    Would you work 20% longer if I told you that Haitians were starving and your work here would save their life there? Now suppose you are in Haiti and you hear moaning under the rocks but you’ve finished your 8-hour shift. Do you keep digging? 70 x 7 times as much you have yet to give to be even with what you owe.

    One cannot win these mind games. The correct answer is: yes, obviously we should evenly distribute our wealth around the world. All humans are our brothers and sisters. We do not do so only because we are selfish and ungodlike. I live uncomfortably comfortably with this unpleasant state of affairs, but I know at least never to feel entitled to my luck (and that is what it is, luck not self-achievement: too many external benefits have flown my way undeservedly for me to take credit for them).

    And feel free to interpret the 70×7 comment above as rank condescension if you wish.

  99. Cynthia L. says:

    Go Weston!!

  100. Dan that actually depends on if you are in a union or not.

    See your shift is over and there is no scheduled overtime so you face a host of potential conflicts. Do you dare anger the union overlord by taking a job that a fellow union member could take? Plus that area of the disaster site has benn assigned to another worker and he has already gone home. How dare you step outside your job description!

    If your a nonunion guy you start digging

  101. “Should we, as a United States / European society give up our money to even things out throughout the world? And if the answer is ‘no’, then why should one US state give up sources for another state?”

    Good question. And you’ll notice that in general all those “deep blue” states that “practice socialism lite” (CA, NH, IL, MA, MI, MN, NY, OR, WI) pay out much more in federal taxes than they receive in federal expenditures. The opposite is generally true for all the “deep red” states that are supposedly bastions of free-market capitalism (AL, AZ, ID, NC, OK, SC, UT, WY).

    In other words, most of the “deep red” states are ironically the equivalent of Reagan’s imaginary welfare queens.

  102. #95: velska

    I have a hard time with your argument about the Church only being a “facilitator” in giving money away to the poor. According to the Church’s own website, they have “only” given away around $270 million in actual cash towards humanitarian needs. This sounds like a lot, but it’s over more than 2 decades and comes out to less than $15 million per year.

    Just in the past month or so, they have spent tens of millions on real estate just in the Salt Lake City area. They are spending $2-3 BILLION on a mall. They probably take in billions each year. All to give away, on average, $15 million per year in actual cash. We probably spend more than that on imported marble for temples each year.

    So, using the argument that the Church is a “distribution mechanism” for humanitarian need rings quite shallow in my mind.

  103. Steve Evans says:

    Reed-O, I guess Elder Oaks doesn’t believe in any system of government, then, because they all involve coercion by the state.

  104. Mike,
    Keep in mind too that the real estate purchases, mall construction, etc. is not the Church per se. These investments are not made with tithes and I believe are handled exclusively by the business arm of the Church.

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if cash donations were $270 million. I believe that the vast majority of the Church’s humanitarian efforts are not included in that sum (i.e. donations of goods and services, labor, etc.).

  105. Steve Evans says:

    btw, Reed-O, you spelled “Brainiac” wrong.

    oh, and insulting people is not the key to longevity on this site – consider this a friendly warning.

  106. bbell–as others have said, I do not dispute your numbers, only your conclusions. Yes, NY is currently in economic and population decline, but I do not blame that on social services–there are a host of other causes to people leaving.

    All I was saying was that there are people who specifically come to NY enjoy the benefits of our society. There are lots of people in my stake, for example, who could probably have written exactly what you have, probably vote Republican/conservative all their lives, and probably think socialism is of the devil. It hardly deters them from having free babies while they are here, and as many of them as possible before they flee back to red states because it doesn’t get better than free health care.

    That said, I live here on purpose. I am fine paying into a social safety net. If I had major issues with it, I would likely live elsewhere.

    And I have been a union member my entire adult working life and do not recognize the “union mentality” you ascribe to us in comment #100. Perhaps there are professions that operate like that, but certainly not all.

  107. Geoff B,

    Surprise to see you engage me in a forum where you cannot delele my response.

    Where have I ever argued against “individual ownership”?

    Did you read the post? Really?

    As for your link. Not sure how a fancy powerpoint constitute evidence for your argument.

  108. Left out a few letters in 107 for impact (oh, and I cannot write well).

  109. (68)
    “#56 thinks that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not economic. I am not sure how he can come to that conclusion.”

    Obviously I realize that Republicans and Democrats have different economic views. My point was to say that just because I’m capitalist doesn’t mean that I’m a republican. The capitalism currently practiced in the US is not true capitalism, nor is it my brand of capitalism. And the practices of the Republican Party have never reflected my beliefs. I’m not a Republican; is I guess thats what I’m trying to say.

    “This is why the parable of the good Samaritan is pertinent. The Samaritan was a stranger, not a Jew, and was kinder and more free with his goods than the Jews who were the victim’s brethren. Jesus mentioned that even bad people will be good to their children. It is very difficult to be good to the stranger who has different beliefs, looks, language and clothing.”

    To me the government or any entity demanding money/goods from me to distribute at according to their will in no way reflects what the Good Samaritan did. In order to be a Good Samaritan, don’t I need money or goods in order to be able to give them to a needy?

  110. Scott B,

    “Unless you propose a world in which your voting outcomes only affect you, it is just condescending lip service.”

    Okay, I feel like I have missed something. You have no worries. My vote carries little weight even within my own political party. I should go join Russell’s. I am a political theorist for a reason, I love the conceptual aspect of the ideas.

  111. (105) “oh, and insulting people is not the key to longevity on this site.”

    Unless you’re Steve Evans — OH SNAP!!!

  112. bbell,

    #81,

    ah, but yet California has had a strong increase in population during this time. Perhaps the population shifts have little to do with how much socialism there is in a certain state and more with other factors, such as housing and new business opportunities. The decline in population in states such as the Rust Belt should be seen in light of the trends in manufacturing, where jobs have been shifted overseas. New York City still thrives as a hub of financial gazillionaires. Why is that? After all, tax levels here in the city are quite high.

    But hey, if non-socialists wish to flock to their own Galt’s Gulch in the desert, I personally have no problem at all with that. More power to them. :)

  113. MikeInWeHo says:

    Personally, I would gladly see my income drop 20% if in return we could see universal health care, solid pensions, paid time off for all employees, etc. Yes, I know it’s easy for someone in my particular situation to feel that way. I do believe, however, that the Scandinavians have figured it out the best of any region on earth….the Swedes and Norwegians in particular. The have ruthless businesspeople (Ikea, et. al.) in an economically just, very affluent society. It’s humane capitalism. Brilliant!

    I do not accept the argument that their success is only possible because they are small, homogeneous countries.

    And no, I’m not moving there. Better to stay here and vote.

  114. I agree with Mike in #113.

  115. Dan Weston (98.)-

    Scott,

    Would you work 20% longer if I told you that Haitians were starving and your work here would save their life there? Now suppose you are in Haiti and you hear moaning under the rocks but you’ve finished your 8-hour shift. Do you keep digging? 70 x 7 times as much you have yet to give to be even with what you owe.

    Interpreting a desire to have more than X% of a gross paycheck direct-deposited into a bank account as a desire to keep that same X% of a gross paycheck in a vault to swim around in like Scrooge McDuck is not fair. Of course I believe in helping people in need. I’m not a monster (not in that way, at least), and I give as much as I can possibly give, and frankly resent it when my desire to keep what I earn is construed as an unwillingness to help those in need. I just personally believe that it is important for me to choose to give; if I never receive, I can never make that choice.

    I live uncomfortably comfortably with this unpleasant state of affairs, but I know at least never to feel entitled to my luck (and that is what it is, luck not self-achievement: too many external benefits have flown my way undeservedly for me to take credit for them).

    I agree entirely with this statement. I desire to give, and give generously, all that I have. I have been blessed by the kindness and good hearts and generosity of so many people throughout my life. I would be an unbelievable ingrate if I didn’t try to follow in their example in giving.

    And feel free to interpret the 70×7 comment above as rank condescension if you wish.

    Meh. Even if you were trying to be condescending, you’re still a better man than I.

  116. I am not addressing Mike, he beat me out for the Best Commenter Niblet (there really should be a silver and bronze)….just kidding.

    I do appreciate Mike’s emphasis on continuing the struggle by engaging politically. While I am tempted to flee the country, my biggest temptation is to run to my ivory tower and not come out.

  117. Chris H. (110),

    Okay, I feel like I have missed something. You have no worries. My vote carries little weight even within my own political party. I should go join Russell’s. I am a political theorist for a reason, I love the conceptual aspect of the ideas.

    Sorry, nice try. You don’t get to preach a certain set of ideals over and over and then pretend to not care if people agree with you. If you don’t want to convince others of the virtue of your stance, why talk about it?

  118. I am trying to be understood.

  119. I think that the proxy-riposte in comment 111 by 152 isn’t getting enough attention. It is pretty brilliant, folks. And no, I am not 152.

  120. oudenos,
    It is was a brilliant riposte the first time it was made, years ago. Unfortunately, the trashbin at BCC is overflowing with attempts to imply that moderators should moderate themselves.

  121. “I think that the proxy-riposte in comment 111 by 152 isn’t getting enough attention. It is pretty brilliant, folks. And no, I am not 152.”

    Except that comment 105 (to which comment 111 responded) wasn’t an insult. Which takes a lot of the brilliance off comment 111.

  122. #119: brilliant? Try hackneyed and obtuse.

  123. I guess I don’t trust the government to decide how to use my abilities or what needs are…. I’d rather trust a church leader that I can pray about and know if they’re right then do something based on that knowledge.

    I enjoy choosing to give, and making my giving individually suited….

    back to insulting of moderators and snapping

  124. Oh snap! I guess I am the booby after all! I will see myself out.

  125. Chris H, the reason your responses get deleted on M* is, as I have explained several times, they are personal attacks on me and/or other commenters and do not deal with the subject at hand. Your comment on this very thread is a good example. My comments dealt with the issue at hand — your comment was a personal attack on me. I have asked you many times as kindly as possible to avoid ad hominems, but you apparently are unable to make comments without turning things personal. It saddens me that you respond this way.

    I have made two substantive points in this thread:

    1)Joseph Smith specifically spoke out against socialism and rejected it.
    2)Capitalism brings more economic growth, which helps the poor.

    Would you like to address either 1) or 2)?

  126. Mark Brown says:

    and

    3)Implied strongly that anyone who doesn’t agree with your position lacks common sense.

  127. MikeInWeHo says:

    I’m not sure we’re all even using the same definition of the word socialism in this discussion.

  128. But Geoff (@125), you’re kinda illustrating Chris’s point. Your quote from Joseph Smith @85 seems to point to a different concept of socialism than what Chris is describing. Also, contrasting economic growth with redistribution of wealth @89 is somewhat of a false dichotomy. There’s no reason why they can’t co-exist, as they do well in western European economies.

  129. (122)

    Ummmm, ouch. I’ll try to be more innovative in my one-liners.

  130. SLO Sapo, I guess it depends on one’s definition of “liberal socialism.” Based on many, many discussions with Chris H, his prescription is something to the left of what you see in market socialist societies in northern Europe, for example.

    But even if we are discussing nothern European socialism, I have two points:

    1)Joseph Smith extolled the virtues of individual ownership. Any “liberal socialist” society necessarily involves massive forced redistribution of wealth. I don’t see this fitting into Joseph Smith’s worldview, especially if you consider D&C 134:2 (ie, “the right and control of property.”).
    2)Economies that adopt “liberal socialist” models grow more slowly than economies that adopt more free market models. The examples are legion, from Ireland in Europe to Chile in Latin America to India. India is especially instructive: for 40 years after independence, India adopted “liberal socialist” policies in a democracy. Hundreds of millions mired in poverty with very little social advancement. Twenty years of free market policies since then? Huge economic growth, lifting literally hundreds of millions of people out of stifling poverty.

  131. “With the fall of Soviet Stalinism, came the fall of socialism. Right? Well, I do not think so. See U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ response to Stephen Colbert on this issue.”

    Chris, what did Bernie Sanders say?

  132. Mark Brown, #126, point taken. I repent.

  133. Chris, what did Bernie Sanders say?

    Well, I for one do not want to know what he said. Oh, I hate the Colonel with his wee beady eyes. And that smug look on his face…he puts an addictive chemical in it that makes you crave it fortnightly.

  134. Geoff,

    #130,

    Joseph Smith extolled the virtues of individual ownership. Any “liberal socialist” society necessarily involves massive forced redistribution of wealth.

    Are you saying that those who own their own homes and their own cars and their own TVs in Sweden don’t actually own them? You are saying that “individual ownership” is the opposite of “socialism” which you now restate “liberal socialism.” But socialism is not about state ownership. That would be communism.

    Secondly, what the heck does “redistribution of wealth” actually mean? Whose right is it to wealth and who gets to decide that? The market on its own? When has the market on its own actually decided the proper distribution of wealth? Are you referring to, say, the 1800s when people like John Rockefeller and the rest of his type made the rules fit their needs, so that the wealth was distributed toward them and away from those who worked their butts off for them? Who gets to set the value of labor? You think there actually is some invisible hand that guides the market? And that this invisible hand is not influenced at all by the mighty of this earth in their favor? Right now, the wealthy get to decide the distribution of wealth. And they’ve got the market cornered.

    Economies that adopt “liberal socialist” models grow more slowly than economies that adopt more free market models.

    Can you show evidence of this please.

    Twenty years of free market policies since then? Huge economic growth, lifting literally hundreds of millions of people out of stifling poverty.

    A simple flick of the switch and India changed miraculously. Amazing.

  135. Mike, how right you are! “Socialism” is to many the symbol of totalitarian control and power grab; confiscating your property &c.

    But that was Soviet style “socialist realism”.

  136. #104 Jim

    I think you (and many others) are splitting hairs about he “business arm” of the Church and the “other” arm. I could argue the same thing on an individual basis. What I make at work is my “business income”. I spend it on things I need, like food and clothes and housing etc. I also take some to invest in the stock market and in my 401(k) so I will have more assets for sometime in the future. I import marble from China and wood from Africa to my house is nice. And after all that, whatever is left over from my “business” expenses I could give to charity.

    If I keep the same ratio as the Church and take in $3 billion, giving $15 million away each year, that would be about 0.5% of my income. I could pad the number and then include my “non-cash” things I do as a “donation” as well, including my home teaching and my helping someone move and service time working with the YM, etc. So, if I make $100,000, I could give away $500 and call myself a humanitarian (because I do also give away $1500 worth of time each year in “non-cash” goods and time).

    Would anyone suggest that my 0.5% was enough? Would some rather raise my taxes by 5% to give to other people? Would someone rather raise my expenses by 20% through taxes? And if it’s good enough for me, isn’t it good enough for the Church?

  137. Economies that adopt “liberal socialist” models grow more slowly than economies that adopt more free market models.

    Can you show evidence of this please.

    Daniel, Geoff B.,
    The data can be tortured until it cries uncle for both teams. Let’s not please bore everyone with copied and pasted statistics on GDP, PPP, VUL, VA, or anything else, okay?

  138. 137
    Now you’re just beating up on me.

  139. Scott (#133),

    I hate the Colonel, too. Common ground.

  140. Scott B, just one little link, and then I’ll stop.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_India

    –Growth was anemic during India’s socialist period.
    –Growth has improved since 1991.
    –Poverty has decreased signficantly.

  141. Geoff,
    If I allow you one, I have to allow Daniel one, don’t I? This is, after all, a thread encouraging egalitarianism.

    In anticipation of Daniel’s response, I glare at you, Geoff B.

  142. “…don’t see this fitting into Joseph Smith’s worldview, especially if you consider D&C 134:2″

    D&C 134:2 represents Oliver Cowdery’s worldview. To view Joseph Smith as somehow an advocate of individual private property rights is completely detached from the actual history of Joseph Smith. However, I am not looking to defend early Mormon communalism.

    “…based on many, many discussions with Chris H, his prescription is something to the left of what you see in market socialist societies in northern Europe, for example.”

    No, that is exactly what I am arguing for. This is far to the left of the American Democratic Party.

    Not looking to get into a back and forth about the realities of Europe. Though I saw a job listed for the University of Bremen than I need to now take a closer look at.

  143. India is a liberal socialist state. Nice of you to argue my side Geoff.

  144. Since I am allowed one link, I present you the following

    A comparison of GDP growth rate between Finland and the US.

    That should do it, I think.

  145. Daniel,
    You had to go with Finland, didn’t you?

    Thanks a freaking load, Geoff B.

  146. I did indeed. Dude, over in Finland, they provide maternal AND paternal leave for families who have kids. That’s like totally cool. I like Finland. :)

  147. It looked to me like Finland’s growth rate has been about the same as that of US. (According to Daniel’s linked graph). The early 1990s recession was sharper, but so was the recovery from that. In 2006, Finland 4.85%, US 2.87%

    Add Estonia, and you’ll see that their ultraliberal (no restrictions) market economy from early 1990s created both greater growth and more dramatic recession. (Estonia’s pre-1990 GDP numbers are completely fake. Soviet Ruble was worth toilet paper on free markets.)

    And “going the way of Finland” is a scare tactic sentence in conservative circles. Universal health care, free University education, Social Security for people unable to work is tolerable. It does a lot for one’s dignity not to have to beg for food. And Dignity prevents people from committing desperate crimes. Hence, crime rate is much lower, so is infant mortality, life expectancy is higher, GNP per capita is higher, if memory serves. I’ll have to check.

    But Finland is not “socialist” in the Soviet way, the way the scare word insinuates.

  148. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, Joseph Smith may have extolled the virtues of individual ownership, but he didn’t do so consistently, and his personal behavior and penchant towards communitarianism counterbalances the quotation you’ve offered. I would suggest that he is not as easy an example to offer up as you’d like. Other modern prophets are far more stark and easily interpretable (e.g. ETB), though perhaps they have less gravitas in your view?

  149. For what it’s worth, Scandinavia does really well on the gini coefficient. In the US, we’re fairly poor, in the bottom half.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html

  150. Steve, I quoted Joseph Smith because I don’t think it’s well-known that he knew about socialism and rejected it. I think the point of Dave Banack’s post was the Joseph tried communitarianism earlier in the Church’s history and didn’t like its results. Thus, the emphasis on the relative prosperity of the Nauvoo days.

    In terms of gravitas, I suppose all modern-day prophets should carry equal weight. I can’t think of a modern-day prophet who extols forced government-mandated confiscation of wealth to redistribute it to others. Can you? I think we can agree that all modern-day prophets, and indeed all prophets and admirable religious figures, have encouraged voluntary and generous giving to the poor. The scriptures are full of examples of communitarianism, and I look forward to the day there will be no poor among us. But as Joseph Smith said, we failed men don’t appear ready for that now, and so the issue is, what governmental and economic system will help bring prosperity to the largest amount of people while protecting free will and property? My answer is free-market capitalism.

  151. StillConfused says:

    “The correct answer is: yes, obviously we should evenly distribute our wealth around the world. All humans are our brothers and sisters.” I don’t think that we should. I think that those who earn it should be allowed to keep it (or spend it, give it away, invest it etc) as they see fit.

    Don’t use terms such as “the correct answer” or “obviously” to express your opinion. Opinions are not absolutes. That is an annoying communication flaw. If something is your opinion (which the foregoing statement is), it reads a little better if you are honest about that.

  152. This was a great post and one I have been thinking about lots lately. We live in a country that is predominately socialist as in medical and educational. It seems to work well for them, but there is resentment among the ones with the money towards the poor they feel they have to help. And by the way the poor look just like the rich here, no different colors there and it does not help. Also there are a few of us that have been contemplating a sustainable living community. It is hard to even think about something like that without immediately thinking about regulating to cover yourself. We are Western however much we try to shake it :)

  153. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, I think you missed the point of my comment, which is that Joseph Smith did not consistently reject socialism.

    Here’s the thing I can’t get — what’s so important about property rights?

  154. steve, you just opened another slimy can of worms for geoff to fling about. thanks.

  155. Just to keep mfranti from getting grossed out, I will leave such discussions for another day. Have a nice evening, y’all.

  156. StillConfused,

    Sorry I confused you. I should have been more precise. The correct answer for a Christian is: yes, obviously we should…

    These are not my opinions, but those of Jesus, and yes they are absolutes for those who call themselves his followers:

    1) we should evenly distribute our wealth around the world

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/matt/19/21-24
    “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven”

    (Obviously, if thou wilt not be perfect, please disregard this advice.)

    2) All humans are our brothers and sisters (in Christ)

    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mark/3/35
    “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

    3) we should be required to evenly distribute our wealth around the world

    Just kidding… :) Neither I nor Jesus ever made this claim.

    4) I don’t think that we should [distribute our wealth evenly around the world]

    Oops, those were your words, not Jesus’. Perhaps this is a new revelation given to LDS? I do not see how this is compatible with any New Testament scripture I am aware of.

  157. “what’s so important about property rights?”

    Wish I had the time to analyze that one. It goes to the heart of the Lockean liberty aspect of American political ideology mentioned earlier in the thread.

    mfranti,
    Look at what you have done.

  158. what? what did i do?

    chris, you posted an excellent OP and it was totally ignored by those that absolutely must! prove that your brand of politics is of the devil.

    imo, their response was no appropriate for the tone of the op. but hey, i’m a nobody round here.

  159. Just playing with you. You rock. My brain, however, has been fried by the whole process. So, I am glad that you diverted what may have required more of my efforts. Thanks my friend.

  160. Steve Evans says:

    Chris, I agree with your view. Honestly, I think people, particularly Christians, need to examine deeply what’s so important about ownership and property. We LDS tend to link it to principles of stewardship, but that’s a totally different egg.

  161. “what’s so important about property rights?”

    Suppose your neighbor can’t make rent, so he hires a locksmith to open your door, and moves his family and all his families’ belongings into your apartment, starts eating your food, throws out all the furniture he doesn’t like, and then when you and your family return from your vacation he says, I’m sorry we don’t have room for you here. Would that be a problem?

  162. Mark, I think the real question is this: Is the right to property really equal to the right to life and the right to liberty. I tend to agree with Rousseau: Property right are an important right within the social contract. However, they are exactly that, a right within society. It does not come to us from God (Locke even more or less admits this) and it surely does not exist in nature.

    Property is a secondary good in that its value relates to higher goods which it helps to secure. It is not a valued good in and of itself.

  163. Steve, I don’t know what you mean about linkages to the principles of stewardship in this regard. There are a lot of really simple questions in this thread, but not very many simple answers.

    You ask what is so important about something like property rights, and I ask why my responsibility for the welfare of my fellow man changes depending on whether or not I decide to work tomorrow or not. I don’t see any relationship between the two ideas.

    I don’t expect you can provide with me with a satisfactory answer, just like I doubt I can provide you with a satisfactory answer about property rights.

  164. Chris H: In practice, rights to life and liberty don’t exist in nature either. They are only rights relative to society, the same as all other rights.

    I do think that the rights to life, liberty, and the fruits of one’s own labor are natural rights, however. That doesn’t mean that they exist in nature, but rather that societies containing more than one person naturally function the best (maximize happiness etc) when such rights are granted, protected, and preserved in some reasonable balance with all other natural rights.

    Due to the rejection of creatio ex nihilo, I do not believe that any natural right is a God given right. I do believe, however, that all natural rights are divinely protected and endorsed, in some reasonable balance with all other natural and divinely granted rights.

  165. Mark D.,

    Problem? More like an opportunity: to turn the other cheek and offer him your car. Then you and your family would take up your walking sticks and follow Jesus, unburdened by all that junk that won’t fit through the eye of that needle.

    I am totally baffled by the linkage between God, country, and property rights. Wasn’t this evil alliance forged in the Great Apostasy? Maybe you can connect the dots for me.

  166. Wasn’t this evil alliance forged in the Great Apostasy?

    Such TREACHERY! A Catholic appealing to the Great Apostasy!

  167. IMO it comes down to whether you prescribe to a Millsian Greatest good for the Greatest Number of People (and in my opinion – most evidence points to this being served best by capitalism. Although like Scott B. said, you can torture the data to whatever end.), or to Equity for All (Socialism, natch). And those belief systems are pretty core to anyone’s paradigm – unlikely to be persuaded in the course of a blog commentary. So anyone trying to pummel another person with “the truth” whether it be of Jesus, Joseph, or Enoch seems a little futile.

    Additionally I don’t get why some people keep saying that Jesus was obviously Capitalist or Socialist (or he would subscribe to one or the other). His earthly ministry somewhat predates either of these isms in their current form. I don’t think Jesus ever ran for office, even if he was royal blood. Quite frankly, from what I can tell, politics were beneath him. Thats not to say that this discussion isn’t important, I think it is, but to say “Well Jesus would . . . ” I dunno, seems a little presumptuous.

  168. And I get the strange feeling, call it a hunch, that Dan (166) is a little more giving in the blogosphere than he probably is in real life. Maybe I’m wrong . . . but I’ve never met anyone that giving . . . if you are as charitable as you claim we all should be on this blog, well I’d like to shake your hand.

  169. 152, please see in #98 the sentence containing “uncomfortably comfortably”

    No, although I am very giving of my wisdom in the blogosphere, I am quite stingy with my time and money. I confess I am still learning to own this sad reality. I do hope at least that my “uncomfortably comfortable” will never become a “comfortably uncomfortable”.

    I hope we can still shake hands away should we ever meet.

  170. Scott B.,

    From what you’ve written here and in a couple other posts, it seems like your rejection of taxation as a tool for meeting social responsibility stems from a common-sense, earn your keep work ethic. How do you feel about taxing inherited wealth?

  171. blt,
    Some other time. I think I’ve worn out my welcome in this thread already.

  172. (170) fair enough, and I look forward to it.

  173. I didn’t get the feeling that anyone was intending to send you to a gulag–at least, not for the stuff you have written here–but okay.
    I think that part of the reason there is such a divide on this issue is that when a socialist thinks of revenue sources, she tends to visualize grossly overpaid executives and trust fund brats. When a free-marketeer thinks of the same, she tends to imagine a self-sufficient farmer, surviving on wits and sweat alone. I’m not sure either generality engenders rational dialogue on the subject.

  174. No one was sending me to the gulag. ;) Just time for me to bow out.

  175. No one is sending you to the gulag for this . . . although there seems to be some concern about audio levels, which you may need to work off in the acid mines.

  176. By the way, reviving the Zeicast is really cool.

  177. Suck up.

  178. Scott isn’t being paid for deejaying, so he must be compensated in love.

  179. That love will then be confiscated by Mr. Steve Evans, who will redistribute it to non-permas and trolls in the form of textual castigation.

  180. Indeed he will. The man has no respect for my right to keep the love I’ve earned from the masses by poorly sewing low-quality audio files into a string.

  181. A guy in our ward (years ago) had gotten in trouble financially. The bishop told his brothers, who were quite well off, that they should help him.

    The sister-in-law (one brother’s wife) was my wife’s friend, and she went ballistic, complaining to my wife about the Bishop. She said, “but we’ve earned what we have!”

    Just as a background info; the brother in trouble worked at least as hard as the well-off family members, but the trouble was his customers started going bankrupt in the early 1990s real estate bubble-burst and he just lost his income. The service and goods he was offering were in high demand, but the wannabe buyers had no money.

    Was what the Bishop wanted totally unfair?

    What is this earning anyway, when it seems that the difference between rich and poor is that rich happened to be in the right place at the right time.

  182. I’m tired of hearing people, who happened to be born to parents who could give them a good education and then happened to find employment with a company that has not yet laid them off, saying how they have earned their high standard of living.

    People, anything anybody has in this world is from God. If you work hard, who gives you health to work? And if you say you’ve earned that, what about those, who have done everything you have and more, and are sick or unemployed?

    I seldom see people, who’ve worked themselves up from abject poverty, be so very eager to tout how they have earned what they have.

  183. Bill Gates recently gave $10 billion to help with vaccines around the world. This is on top of the tens of billions he has already given. He (and many others) obviously made this in a capitalist world.

    2 questions:
    - Would he have been able to have the money to be as charitable in a socialistic system?
    - Would we all have the computers we are typing on in a socialistic system? Or would we all be applying for time on the centralized computers that characterized the system prior to the personal computer?

  184. Also, I have been very blessing in life. I have worked very hard and devoted nearly 2 decades after high school to get her, but have also been very lucky. I am fortunately able to help many around me. I have helped people take vacations they haven’t been able to. I have helped people whose businesses needed a hand. I have helped people move. I have helped people on missions. I have helped YM and YW do things they couldn’t afford.

    I have received a lot of blessings and benefits from this. I have grown as a person. I also think the people we have been able to help have grown as well.

    I contrast this with a system where Obama and company want to raise my taxes significantly. This money is going to go into the black hole of government. Perhaps some may trickle down to some person, but there is absolutely nothing that the government does efficiently other than sell influence.

    What will result:
    - I will not benefit at all. It is one thing to help someone where both the giver and receiver are helped (the giver often more). It is another thing to have some faceless government entity raise my taxes for the “greater good” that I know is a hopeless morass of waste.
    - I will become less efficient. At a certain level, by the time you pay federal taxes, medicare taxes, state taxes, tithing, etc., the incremental increase in benefit from work disappears. If patients have to wait an extra month because I no longer work that extra 1/2 day per week to make things better for them, that’s just a part of the “system”. Other countries deal with medical waits fine.
    - I will have less money to help people actually in need around me. My own charitable giving will go down, as I’m already “giving” through the government and taxes.

  185. Mike S, if it’s not too personal for you to share, I’m curious where you went to college and med school and how you paid for your education.

  186. “If patients have to wait an extra month because I no longer work that extra 1/2 day per week to make things better for them, that’s just a part of the ‘system’. Other countries deal with medical waits fine.”

    How much money do you make?

    Also, President Obama has proposed returning taxes on the rich to pre-Bush levels. It’s good to see that your two decades of hard work, personal growth, and vacation-giving weren’t spoiled too much by those years of oppression. I don’t know how Master Gates survived those gray years.

  187. Gulag? Nice touch. We do not send people to the gulag in market socialism. How are we going to tax Scott is he is in the gulag?

    Bill Gates never complains about the welfare-state, but everyone seems to complain on his behalf.

    Anyways, I am going to have to back out at this point. Thanks all for your partipation and comments. You are all great. Even Scott.

  188. Chris,
    I have no idea what this discussion has been about. I seem to have entered some portal into a bizarre world. Get out while you still can.

  189. Mike S.,

    #185,

    I contrast this with a system where Obama and company want to raise my taxes significantly.

    So you make over $250,000 a year? You’re doing quite well my friend. You’re in the top 5 percentile, I believe. Not bad. I mean, I’m just sayin’, Obama has already raised the taxes on the ultra rich, and he will probably raise it a bit more. But if you make less than $250k a year, then you’ve got this all wrong dude.

    As for your results, if you personally refuse to continue working hard and taking the extra mile to do what you have to, then hey, that’s what you will do. But you will leave a vacuum which others will fill, and the work will get done. This is the greatest flaw in Ayn Rand’s silly philosophy, the idea that if the “elite workers” were to somehow flee to their little Galt’s Gulch, no one will fill that gap, and everyone will beg for those guys to come back. That is utterly ridiculous.

    If you personally refuse to do your work, you will get fired, and someone better will be hired in your place. You are free to go hang out in Galt’s Gulch with your other selfish friends. Meanwhile, the world will move on past you and leave you behind.

  190. blt,

    #187,

    Also, President Obama has proposed returning taxes on the rich to pre-Bush levels. It’s good to see that your two decades of hard work, personal growth, and vacation-giving weren’t spoiled too much by those years of oppression. I don’t know how Master Gates survived those gray years.

    Gasp! Bill Gates actually started making his computers in the true Dark Ages: The Carter Administration! The filthy rich were taxed at like 70% in those days. It’s a miracle any work was done by those filthy rich. Surely they work much much harder these days when they’re only taxed at 35%

  191. I’m not familiar enough with Ayn Rand’s work to really comment on whether or not her philosophy was silly (familiar, but not familiar enough).
    However, movements of elite are not unprecedented. Hence the German Brain-drain previous to WWII when they saw Hitler rising to power. We gained Albert Einstein, and many others, because of this demographic shift. Obviously this shift was not centrally economically driven, but to think a brain drain or human capital flight can’t be economically based . . .

  192. 152,

    movements of elite and non-elite are quite common throughout history. The question is not of movement. Mike S. thinks there are no consequences to him reducing his workload simply because tax levels are higher than what he likes. If he chooses of his own free will to not be as innovative as he used to be, he’s the one who loses out, not the rest of society around him. There is always someone to replace him.

  193. Where are the footnotes?

  194. 193 – on that note I respectfully disagree. I think that they both lose something.

  195. 152,

    Oh sure. We lose on Mike S’s talents. Yet life will go on with or without his contributions.

  196. Dan Weston, #57 asked about the term “recommend.” This looks to be an LDS neologism. The earliest reference I have seen is from 1881 in Kimball’s JMH article “The History of LDS Temple Admission Standards.” I reckon a little more digging would help discover an earlier date since it seems to have already been a generally recognized term at that point. I didn’t re-read the article, and I don’t have time to, so feel free to check it out. But if you find something earlier, return and let me know!

  197. BHodges,

    I hadn’t noticed that the footnotes did not make the post. What do you think, this is Juvenille Instructor or something?

    Here it is:

    1. “Socialism as an Attitude.” In Equal Shares: Making Market Socialism Work, ed. Erik Olin Wright, pp. 250-262. London and New York: Verso, 1996.
    2. Furtunato, Stephen J. “The Soul of Socialism: Connecting with the People’s Values” Monthly Review. Volume 57, Number 3. 2005
    3. Cohen, G.A. “Is There Still a Case for Socialism?” Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 12. pp. 3-18. 1992

  198. The Einstein Article is not in the footnotes, but there is a link in the text.

  199. A few comments and I will leave. I am astounded by the comments I received, but I think they are mostly related to people’s lack of facts:

    - I went into medicine to help people. I wanted to be a doctor since I was a little boy. I see people every day with no insurance, with Medicaid, etc.
    - It was a very long road to get where I am. After HS, I spent 5 years in college, 2 years on a mission, 4 years in medical school, 5 years in residency, and 1 year in a fellowship (or 17 years after high school)
    - These weren’t easy years either. In the end of medical school and in residency, I averaged 100+ hour weeks for years on end. My record is over 150 hours in the hospital in a 168 hour week.
    - I went days without seeing my kids. I would go in the hospital at 5:30am on a Friday when they were still asleep, and would get home at 10:00pm on a Monday when they were still asleep
    - I borrowed A LOT of money

    Speaking fairly bluntly about money. I collect a lot of money now. At the same time, I have very high expenses just to keep my doors open. It costs me $10,000 per week to pay my malpractice insurance, my staff, my rent, my supplies, etc. All before I make a single dollar. And all whether I’m there or not, on vacation or working. It is a busy life still. I am still on call for my patients whenever they need it, 24 hours a day.

    Do I get paid well now? Absolutely. Putting it in context, studies have shown that with the time value of money, you give up a lot initially to become a doctor. Compared with a UPS driver that starts working right out of high school, the average doctor has to be in practice at least 6-7 years to make up for the “lost wages” (this is on top of the 17 years after HS it took me to start “working”). And if the UPS driver actually worked the hours the doctor worked in his/her training, it would take over 15 years in practice to make up the difference (ie. 32 years after high school in my case – or age 50).

    At the end of the day, I’m just another person trying to help folks. As many of you pointed out, I am very expendable. If I died in an accident today, people would still get care, innovation would still happen, life would go on.

    However, as a society and system, there will be major problems. My care for people and my innovation might not mean much, but on a system-wide scale, there can be profound implications. We may not have innovations – perhaps no one cares. The vast majority of the innovations in medicine have come from the United States, not socialized countries. They just take the innovations that are created and funded here and use them there. Why is that?

    The whole point of my post is that I have been blessed and have been able to help a lot of people, both professionally as well as in my community and Church. I have helped a lot of people who have struggled during difficult times, the same as people have helped me in the past. I have grown a lot through this. Reality, however, is obvious. If anyone starts getting paid less and less, and what they do make is going to be taxed more and more, their behaviors will change.

    I’m sorry this post caused so much resentment in so many people. I will go away now and not plague this board again. But if any of you ever need medical care, I’d still give it to you whether you could pay or not. And if you were ever down on your luck, I’d still help however I could.

    Good bye.

  200. BHodges, thanks for the info. There do seem to be a fair number of LDS neologisms in English. It is curious that many of these seem to be adequately translated into other languages via paleologisms. I wonder if anyone has ever cataloged a full list of LDS neologisms and their origins, while institutional memory is still fresh. Anyway, end of threadjack!

  201. MikeInWeHo says:

    Please don’t leave, Mike S.

  202. Mike, thanks for an excellent last comment. You did sneak one question in there that goes to the heart of the discussion:

    “They [other countries] just take the innovations that are created and funded here and use them there. Why is that?”

    It’s called differential pricing. It is the very capitalist idea that when you have large fixed costs and small unit costs, you have an incentive to sell at almost any price that won’t load your higher markets. Result: sell cheap to Canada, but lobby hard against reimportation of drugs under some fictitious scare about quality control.

    Socialist countries that we subsidize are acting very capitalist to take us up on the offer (and who could blame them!). This is a clear case of capitalism for the socialists, and socialism for the rich, with the American taxpayer/medication buyer picking up the tab.

    If we cannot socialize medicine, we should make it more capitalistic. This monopolistic hybrid is worse than both worlds.

  203. “I’m sorry this post caused so much resentment in so many people.”

    Um, Mike S, you are assuming that anybody really cares.

  204. Hey, thanks for putting the footnotes in the post. I heart BCC.

  205. Um, Chris H., for the record, I do care.

    Mike S. and I clearly have much we disagree about, but there is a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable. I value his contribution to this thread. He has given me more to think about than you have.

  206. Mike S.,

    Reality, however, is obvious. If anyone starts getting paid less and less, and what they do make is going to be taxed more and more, their behaviors will change.

    Indeed. They’ll find a job more suited to their personality, character, and beliefs. It’s the beauty of the system we have. Don’t get too emotional about your earlier comment and the responses you got, at least from me. Your emotional appeal in this last comment of yours doesn’t touch me. I’m glad you’ve found a way to help others out, but you complain too much dude. You’ve got a great life. Even with all the upfront cost of the career you chose, your life is way better than the UPS truck driver who probably doesn’t complain as much as you do about finances. You’re going to give your children far more opportunities in life than the UPS truck driver can. And you’re going to let tax policy ruin that? Dude…

  207. (207) I think I might have to disagree again, all things being equal and comparing apples to apples. If you take the Net Present Value of both people’s earning over the course of a 45 year career. IF the UPS driver worked the same number of hours as Mike (including post HS study time as work) and factored in the cost of education with interest on student loans. I bet they’d be surprisingly similar. Now if you took someone that really was upper-class for lower work- such as an investment banker with a measly Bachelor’s degree. Or even better, any salesperson who “makes it” with no education at all. Then you might have a better point Dan. But as far as doctors go, I can’t think of another career that currently rewards the worker less for the amount of work, and risk that the person puts in. They don’t make as much as they used to relative to cost of living.

  208. Hey, John C: Look, I am sitting on my hands.

  209. Remind me not to shake your hand, Chris. I’d rather take the risk that you are actually a devil masquerading as a blogger.

    (reaches for Purell)

  210. I was advised that it is sometimes better to “sit on my hands” rather than shooting off sharp and nasty responses. I was not really sitting on my hands, but was instead extending special hand gestures that I reserve for certain capitalists and the self-righteous.

  211. StillConfused says:

    Doctors have it rough actually. The amount of work and schooling that they have to go through is crazy. They need staff and equipment. I can recall seeing a doctor/surgeon to have a nugget removed and remember commenting to him that it wasn’t right that he made less than I did (even before insurance repricing).

    On the other hand, my doctorate took 2.5 years (with no masters needed) and all I need is a computer and a phone. But law is where I belong and guts make me puke — lucky me.

  212. Actually, the ridiculous cost of a quality medical training is one reason to have at least some government funding for tertiary education, too. Now a medical school is purely a business, and that people still go there seems to mean it’s worth the cost in the long run, and not much of a risk at that. Certainly the UPS driver will feel his work less rewarding after 50 years of a dead-end job (if he starts after HS and never gets additional education, he’s not likely to see career advancement).

    But then, we have the scions of the higher strata of society, who don’t really sacrifice much else than idle hours at the club getting an education in medicine or law.

  213. But malpractice insurance at $10,000 a week?

    How can I get into the malpractice insurance business?

  214. I think Mike S was talking about all his office overhead, of which malpractice is a part.

  215. Oh, yes, the staff, rent, supplies that I skipped by accident.

  216. (211) Self Righteous? Wow I really hope that wasn’t a jab at me. Given the fact that I’m not a doctor, but was just defending what they do against a pretty strong attack claiming ingratitude. And given the fact that I know I make less than you Chris, and well, probably just about anyone else commenting here – I make $5 less per hour than I did when I graduated High School, adjusted for inflation.

  217. Of course, you were a drug dealer in high school, so that’s really not the proper comparative point.

  218. Construction worker. Blue collar to the bone.

  219. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 208, 212, etc.
    This is an area with which I am very familiar. The practice of medicine has changed dramatically over the past few decades. A young doc with massive student loans who becomes a GP in a rural area may really struggle, but a specialist in a big city can become a multi-millionaire if she runs her practice right. This is especially true for specialized docs who perform certain procedures. Many physicians choose to follow the money.

    Dan’s right; the current healthcare system in the U.S. is a big, economically distorted mess. Some providers and hospitals are getting very rich, while others are being run out of business. Big teaching hospitals put up billion-dollar towers to burn off their excess cash while smaller communities wind up with no ER within many miles.

    As an aside: I have a good friend who started working for UPS at age 18, sorting packages. Never went to college a day in his life. Three decades later he’s a senior account exec making over 200k/year. Because UPS is management-owned (now partially management owned), he also received stock which he sold for more than 2 million dollars. He’s also in their pension plan and will be able to retire by 55.

  220. Of course thats not the point. I just wanted to get some orientation for where the “self-righteous” comment came from. I guess I’m not a big fan of personal attacks.

  221. I am a huge fan of personal attacks. Yet, that one was not aimed at you, 152.

  222. 152,

    Sorry for the confusion. #209 was not is response to you, either.

  223. 152,

    Sorry for the confusion. #209 was not in response to you, either.

  224. 152,

    What do you do now? I actually do not make much as a visiting instructor. I will also likely be unemployed at the end of August.

  225. (222) Glad to hear it, I was a little confused.

  226. (225) Ah, got the impression you were full-time, not adjunct. We’re probably about even then. I’m an Office Manager/Bookkeeper. But I make a lot less than the position usually does. I was a Stockbroker/Financial Advisor – but my start date just happened to be the EXACT same day the Dow hit its highest level ever – i.e. pretty much every day of my short career the stock market went down. And every investment I suggested was worth less by the time I was forced out of my job.

  227. Who then? Don’t keep us in suspense!!!

  228. 152, I am full-time but not permanent and therefore on the bottom of the payscale. I appreciate the work that all here do, both on the blog and in their careers. I have also racked up a lot of debt….to be a political philosopher. Should have been a lawyer (if anyone is tempted to go into how hard it is for lawyers right not…do not make me hunt you down).

  229. Scott, I am over it. Not you. Well, at least not today. But l like you. I do not do well with being preached to by strangers (okay, it was aimed at 200 and 206). This is why I usually check out during sacrement.

    I am less than civil while blogging sometimes. The reason: I am a really nice Dad, husband, and teacher. I just assume take it out on Mike S on occasion, even if it hurts the feelings of Dan Weston.

    Now that I realize that in America, being a doctor makes him an oppressed person, I feel bad.

    Listen, I am a freaking socialist. If I took these things too seriously, I would get pretty depressed and angry (enough issues as it is). I may be cranky, but I am not angry. I like being the weirdo.

  230. My wife tells me I am cranky at home. I may have overstated the “really nice” part. But, I do not snark at home. Only here. Count yourselves lucky.

  231. Chris,
    I think Dan Weston took your “who cares” as you saying, “Who care about your view?” as opposed to what I think your intended idea was (“Meh, it’s just a blog post, I doubt anyone is really upset.”).

    As for Mike S, I can’t speak for him, but I think the point he’s trying to make is not that he’s oppressed, but that using someone’s current income is not a perfect–or often, even helpful–measure of whether or not someone is “rich” because it doesn’t reveal what costs/debts are hidden underneath their job title.

  232. Scott, no doubt. My reaction against his comment had more to do with the “everybody is being mean to me, I am leaving” at the end of the comment.

    My theory of justice (which I really do not address here, this is more a general political disposition) holds that doctors should make more than others for some of the reasons he and other have mentioned here. Doctors fill a special social purpose. Paris Hilton does not. Additionally, we want good people to put in the effort that Mike (and my doctor friends) have put in to become doctors. Incentive and reward in still an important part of Rawlsian lliberal egalitarianism and/or market socialism. I also assume that it is not this incentive that led Mike to become a doctor, but his desire to help others (as he says). Yet, the costs might scare off many a rational person were it not for the incentives.

    Now, I have sufficiently bored all.

  233. #231: “I may have overstated the “really nice” part.”
    - Sounds right to me

    #230: ” I just assume take it out on Mike S”
    - If it makes you feel like a bigger man, go for it

    #204: “Um, Mike S, you are assuming that anybody really cares.”
    - Um, the mother’s whose child’s broken arm I took care of today cares. The uninsured patient I saw for a post-operative visit for a surgery I did for free cares. The son whose mother can now walk again cares. The other 35 people I saw whose lives are improved all care.

    #222: “I am a huge fan of personal attacks”
    - What did you actually do useful today for society in your job? Or in your entire career?

  234. Mike, read 233.

  235. “What did you actually do useful today for society in your job? Or in your entire career?”

    I corrupt the minds of hundreds of good Mormon kids.

  236. Apparently sarcasm is lost in the written word. Mike, sorry for being so rude. BTW, at 350 pounds I am in no way trying to feel or be like a bigger man in anyway.

    No worries, this is my last guest post. Heading back to lesser travelled blogs.

  237. I’ll miss you, Chris! Oh, wait! I’ll see you at home. Mike, Chris really is a good guy. Sorry if he hurt your feelings–he has a very dry sense of humor that gets lost on some.

  238. Chris,

    I wasn’t going to comment again, but I hope this is not your last guest post. It was after all not the post but the comments that I found problematic.

    I will say that I found your weakest point was brought up right at the end in #233: “Doctors fill a special social purpose. Paris Hilton does not.” Sys who? Capitalism has the advantage that we all get to vote (with our dollars) whether doctors or Paris Hilton are more valuable for each of us. Socialism presumes to decide this for us.

    My problem with capitalism is only when people get to vote (with their dollars) themselves a pay-raise (via lobbying and monopolistic self-dealing), then use that money to vote some more. Doctors are not the poster child of this activity, so I when the thread became centered on Mike S. I thought the good stuff got away from us.

    Anyway, enjoyed your post. :)

  239. 152,

    #208,

    Let’s do the math. Let’s compare a UPS worker (apx $40,000) and a doctor (apx $150,000).

    Education costs (all things being equal, neither has scholarships but all their education costs come out of loans)

    UPS worker = bachelor’s = $40,000 (state school)

    doctor = bachelor’s = $40,000 (state school) + master and doctorate $180,000 (private schools) = $220,000

    They work 30 years earning the same amount

    UPS worker – $40,000 X 30 = $1.2 million over 30 years

    Doctor – $150,000 X 30 = $4.5 million over 30 years.

    Subtract their education costs

    UPS worker – $1,200,000 – $40,000 = $1,160,000

    Doctor – $4,500,000 – $220,000 = $4,280,000

    percentage wise, the doctor pays 1% more for his education, but earns over $3 million more than the UPS worker over the 30 years. It’s not even close dude. Even if you calculate tax levels, it’s still not even close. A doctor gets far more for his initial investment in education than a worker at UPS.

  240. Daniel,
    Although that was a phenomenally impressive piece of arithmetic, it ignores risk, hours spent studying, stress, children who don’t know their father, hours worked, missed t-ball games, and myriad other things–the most important of which is personal lifestyle preference. This argument is just like every other cost/benefit/growth debate: the data will say whatever the crap you want them to say. Please stop.

  241. Chris H:

    I know I’m coming to the discussion late and maybe you’re exhausted but you never actually explain what is so inherently bad about inequality. If you had to choose between a society where the top-to-bottom-ratio (TBR) was 5:1 but the bottom quintile lived below some minimum recognized standard or a society with a TBR ratio of 100:1 but all lived above some minimum standard?

  242. Your math is terribly off.

    1) As per a post above, a UPS driver doesn’t necessarily need a Bachelor’s degree. The cost of the education is therefore theoretically $0.

    2) The UPS driver starts work at age 18. Assuming retirement at age 65, he/she works 47 years.

    3) The doctor starts work after 4 years college, 4 years medical school, 3-5 years residency, 1-3 years fellowship. They therefore start “working” at age 32. Assuming the same retirement, he/she works 33 years.

    4) The doctor puts in 80-100 hour weeks for years of training. You would also need to assume the UPS worker working the same number of hours at 1.5x rate for hours between 40-100 (therefore salary is $100k+ per year) when equivalent to training, and 40-60 hours when in practice.

    This alone would throw your calculations WAY off.
    UPS – ($100k x 14 years + $80k x 33) – $0 = $4,040,000
    Doctor – ($150k x 33 years) – ($220k tuition) = $4,730,000

    However, the thing that makes it even more off than fixing your numbers is the time-value of money. One dollar earned at age 18 is worth much more than one dollar at age 32 (ie. interest). In equivalent dollars, this would greatly benefit the UPS worker. I could look up the formula for this, but will leave it to someone with more business sense than me.

    So, just on a numbers basis, you were completely out of the ballpark. There are also the other non-tangible things mentioned in #241.

  243. Scott,

    I totally agree with you. There’s no real way to quantify the pros and cons of either job. There are doctors that are quite successful in the full sense of the word and others who fail because they lose track of one important aspect of their lives (playing with their children, for example). The same goes with a UPS worker. I don’t portray one job as actually better than the other. From a strictly financial point of view, there’s no question which job is better. Factor everything else and the picture gets murky, as you note. Mike’s original point was that a doctor might decide not to do his job as well as he should simply because tax levels change against his preference. That’s just utterly selfish and ridiculous, and frankly, that doctor ought to be fired. Clearly he’s not happy with his job. What’s worse is that Mike’s point isn’t even accurate. He originally said that Obama is raising his tax. Unless he’s making over $250,000 (which is possible), he’s simply wrong. Obama has been quite clear on this point, and his actions show it. The stimulus package passed last year included tax cuts for those making under $250,000. That’s 95% of the American population. Forgive me for not shedding a tear for the 5% of the American population that holds 20% of the wealth.

  244. Mike,

    #243,

    But the UPS driver does not work 100 hours a week, and it’s not his fault that the doctor does. If the UPS driver did indeed work 100 hours per week, then his salary will obviously start adding up closer to that of a doctor. I don’t think anyone disputes this. Look, I’m not in any way disparaging doctors. They are an invaluable product in our society. We’ll be alright without UPS drivers, but we’re in bad shape without doctors. What frustrated me with your initial comment which I commented on, was your point that someone in your position, a doctor who saves peoples’ lives, would, of his own free will, decide to lessen his work because he doesn’t like the levels of taxation. I find that despicable.

  245. Dan Weston,

    I will still be blogging elsewhere. I aspire to someday be BCC material. For now, I just do not have the temperment for the big time.

    Briefly to your point: by “special social purpose,” I was making a moral assesment. Doctor perform something vital to society. Markets may give value to Paris Hilton, but that does not constitute a social purpose. I think markets play an important role, and contemporary socialists acknowledge that role. Something like that.

  246. Enough of the doctor/UPS driver discussion. Really.

  247. PaulM,

    I address (or try to) the inequality/equality issue in this previous post “Equality, Social Unity, and Cooperation” (of which this one is a follow-up).

    See: http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/01/21/equality-social-unity-and-cooperation/

  248. Lyndee (#238),

    Thanks babe.

  249. Chris H:

    Your earlier post only addresses the human reaction to inequality and not inequality itself. I’m still curious as to which of the two hypothetical societies you’d describe as more “moral”.

  250. It would depend on what that social minimum is to some extent. Additionally extreme, inequality would undermine the possibility for real democracy, which for me, would be a significant moral consideration. So, my initial reaction would be neither.

    For me, inequalities are acceptable if they benefit the least well-off within society. An ideal distribution of wealth would be one where all live above the point of absolute equality. This is possible because the competion and incentive that might lead to certain inequalities will increase the total productivity and wealth of a society. However, these inequalities are only just to the extent that they lift the least well off above that initial point of absolute inequality.

    I would think that inequality is best understood in terms of a curve than a ratio. Might need to explain that under conditions of better rest.

  251. re: 245

    That’s actually a very good point. What matters is not how much one makes a year, but rather how much one makes per hour. Only that way do we factor in the one variable which is arguably priceless (or at least equally distributed to all working people).

  252. Eric Russell says:

    Could someone please do the math for me between a golf caddy and a county coroner? I’ve been trying to decide between the two and need some help with the cost/benefit analysis. Thanks.

  253. Steve Evans says:

    Eric, just do both jobs at the same time. Think of the synergies.

  254. Think of the syngergies if you went for the trifecta of hitman, coroner, and golf caddy. Kill rich people with golf clubs, declare them dead, and look through their pockets for loose change.

  255. Mike S.,

    Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, where a man who is living quite a good life just doesn’t get it.

  256. Socialized Security is in the news – needs more money, more financial bondage for all.

    Socialized Medicare is predicted to soon go bankrupt, will need more money, more financial bondage for all, and so on.

    Why no direction from the church concerning the new 4th mission of the church – to take care of the sick and needy, to be accomplished by compelling all members to pay into a fund like SS or Medicare etc.

    Why didn’t the founders (inspired or not), mention the need to socialize to take care of the needy and sick?

    Has J S Jr. advocated any type of system of care that excluded free agency to participate or not.

    If socialization is the way- so all are taken care of equally, why are there three degrees of heaven plus the top 3 levels where is the security in that?

    Shouldn’t the folks given the Lords New Testament talents have been socialized so they all would increased the same, instead of that free agency blunder we read about?

    Satan was the 1st great Socialist/Liberal/Progressive.

    Are you numbered as a socialist with him?

  257. Reed- O, maybe read the post next time before throwing out some irrelevant comments about Satan, etc. If he was the first great socialist, Jesus was the second. :)

  258. Satan was the 1st great Socialist/Liberal/Progressive.
    Are you numbered as a socialist with him?

    Okay at BCC:
    Vehemently disagreeing with Socialism.

    Not okay at BCC:
    Implying that fellow members of the Church are like unto Satan himself because of a political preference.

    Bye, Reed-O.

  259. BHodges, thanks. Well played.

    Scorr, thanks for being great.

  260. No prob, comrade.

  261. C’mon Reed-O. Can’t we learn to “disagree without being disagreeable”? That’s what President Hinckley said. Oh, wait, no, it was Barack Obama. Oh, wait, no, it was both of them.

  262. Mike S (at various comments) you ask if a socialist system could give as much money as Bill Gates. The answer is (expletive deleted) yes. Countries you’d consider socialist give considerably more (8 times more, approx) to the developing world than the United States.

    “The goal for industrialized countries is generally 70 cents per $100, but only a few northern European countries actually reach that mark. Sweden is already just past the 1 percent figure, while Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands hover at or above 0.80 percent.

    The United States, while the largest in terms of overall aid, has long been stuck among the least generous in terms of the size of its economy. In 2007 it gave nearly $22 billion in aid, which represented 0.18 percent of its gross national income”

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/norway-hikes-aid-despite-economy/

  263. Someone’s numbers are off.

    1) As per a post above, a UPS driver doesn’t necessarily need a Bachelor’s degree. The cost of the education is therefore theoretically $0. However, to become a UPS driver, in the experience of people I know who have worked for UPS, and verified as much as one can do on the web, it takes an average of about 8 years working at poorly-paid often dangerous part time work before you can be considered for a driver position. You also have to be able to lift 150 lbs.

    2) The UPS driver starts work at the company at age 18. By the age of 26 he (or she) has moved up to a driver position, if really, really lucky; do you have any idea how difficult those jobs are to get? Assuming retirement at age 65, and assuming no career-ending health problems, such as being unable to lift 150 lbs anymore, he/she works 39 years as a driver.

    3) The doctor starts work after 4 years college, 4 years medical school, 3-5 years residency, 1-3 years fellowship. They therefore start “working” at age 32. Assuming the same retirement, he/she works 33 years.

    4) The doctor puts in 80-100 hour weeks for years of training. You would also need to assume the UPS worker working the same number of hours at 1.5x rate for hours between 40-100 (therefore salary is $80.5k+ per year) when equivalent to training, and 40-60 hours when in practice.

    This alone would throw your calculations WAY off.
    UPS – ($80.5k x 6 years + $60k x 33) – $0 = $2,463,000
    Doctor – ($165k x 33 years) – ($220k tuition) = $5,423,000

    However, the thing that makes it even more off than fixing your numbers is the status that accrues with being a doctor relative to that of a UPS driver.

    So, just on a numbers basis, you were completely out of the ballpark. There are also the other non-tangible things like the chance of death (one UPS employee is killed a month, on average) or injury (60,000 UPS employees are injured a year) .

  264. All of this quasi-quantitative analysis and cost-benefit analysis (that Utilitarian evil) is violating Scott’s wise council in comment #241.

  265. #265: I agree with the post in #241, where Scott states that you can say whatever you want with numbers. For example, in #264, agnes threw out the amount the UPS worker would make between ages 18-26 for some unknown reason. Also ignored was the fact that if someone makes 40k / year for 40 hours, and if hours 40-80 are paid at 1.5x, the amount should be 40k+60k = 100k, not 80k. And, most importantly ignored, is the time value of money. If you actually compound the money made between age 18-32, the cumulative totals don’t match until past age 50-55.

    I do agree that there are also non-tangible things like the stress of getting sued, the chance of getting stuck with a needle during a procedure and getting HIV or Hepatitis B, etc.

  266. Andrew Teasdale says:

    Chris H.,

    Your post title intrigued me. I read with interest, particularly when I read that you would explain what you meant by socialism. However, at the end of your post, I’m not sure I knew much more than I did at the beginning. You talk about governmental and economic systems, so I think your concept of socialism probably can be, at least, partially conceptualized in these domains. You are favorable toward “market socialism” but don’t like the idea of a “market.”

    Maybe you agree that “socialism is an attitude and not so much a program.” That’s nice, but in the absence of any action or program, what does it mean?

    Can I give you a fairly simple scenario and ask that you respond how you think, with your socialist perspective it should work?

    Say three people live on an island: Chris, Russell, and Andrew. Chris owns one cow. Andrew two. Russell none. One day, Chris and Russell get together and decide that everyone ought to be “equal.” They decide that everyone ought to have one cow. The solution is obvious. Andrew needs to give one of his cows to Russell. Chris and Russell know Andrew to be a good guy, so they approach Andrew and explain that everyone ought to be equal and that he should give one of his extra cows to Russell. Andrew, for reasons of his own, declines their offer.

    Chris and Russell, still believing that everyone should be equal, are in the majority. They could even vote on the issue if there was any doubt. But given it’s a clear 2 – 1 they don’t bother. However, there’s a problem. They want equality but Andrew obviously doesn’t. Chris and Russell could go and steal one of Andrew’s cows, but they don’t like that idea. So, they deputize Chris and approach Andrew again. This time, instead of asking Andrew for his cow, they simply explain that this is a democracy, Andrew is in the minority, and they are here to take his cow. Andrew says, “Nope. You can’t have my cow.” Chris, the deputy (appropriately authorized), pulls a gun from a holster, puts it to Andrew’s head and says, “Please, give us your cow.”

    Andrew still has a choice – his cow or his life. We’ll leave it a bit of a mystery what he decides to do.

    So, that’s the scenario. It’s fairly simple – 3 men and 3 cows (well, and a gun). However, if we’re talking about principles, any that we want to apply on a societal scale should apply in this simple scenario and help us understand what the 2 socialists (if indeed they really are) and Andrew should do.

    Does your view of socialism have anything to say about what any of the actors in this scenario should do or how they should behave?

  267. “Does your view of socialism have anything to say about what any of the actors in this scenario should do or how they should behave?”

    No, not really. I would invite you to read Cohen’s book if you feel that my description of socialism in inadequate. He is much better at it.

  268. Andrew,
    As far as I can tell, Chris ain’t endorsing coercion. So I’m not at all sure how your example is remotely relevant. But congrats on drawing on a straw man that I’ve heard 48,000 times already.

  269. Hey guys, sorry I’m late to the thread. I just was wondering how the OP feels about trying to foist Satan’s plan onto the members of the Church. THX!

  270. BHodges,

    LOL (really!). Made my day.

  271. Ok, seriously. Andrew, I do not see how your story actually translates to the societal level. In that situation, I would share with Russell and hope that you stay away. You might get lonely and decide that it is better to share and therefore also get the benefits of society. Russell and I are pretty cool. Come, we are both political theory professors. What more could you ask for. Now, Russell seems to have some conservative tendencies, but the beard makes up for that. Additionally, he does seem to be a bit too fond on 1980s music. This will have to be dealt with.

  272. Andrew Teasdale says:

    Chris,

    OK – you don’t like the scenario. But seriously though, what does it mean to you to be a socialist? You mentioned democracy. You mentioned markets. I’d figure that you’d be an advocate for some policies and be against others. What, more practically, do you mean? What principles would guide your actions?

  273. I am a bit burned out by the post but here you go:

    Universal Health Care

    Unversal K-12 and Higher Ed.

    State supported family/maternity leave

    Welfare programs that do not seek to make the poor feel like dirt.

    Publicly financed political campaigns which take money out of the scenario of elections. We should not have to almost always choose our favorite millionaire.

    Public Jobs programs.

    The guiding principles would be these:

    1. Equality of basic liberties.

    2a. Offices are open to all.

    2b. Economic arrangements must benefit all with the only acceptable inequalities of wealth be those that most benefit the least well off

  274. Now, Russell seems to have some conservative tendencies, but the beard makes up for that. Additionally, he does seem to be a bit too fond on 1980s music. This will have to be dealt with.

    If we’re all stuck alone on a desert island with nothing but ourselves and a few cows to keep us company, pretty soon we’d all have beards, and you’d all be begging for my 80s music. You think it wouldn’t happen? Oh, it would; it definitely would. Just give yourself a fortnight of nothing but spearing fish and making cheese, and you’ll be all “Russell, lay some of that Eddie Grant on me! Or OMD! Or Murray Head! Please!” Just you wait. Believe me, I know how these things go.

    Rawls’s basic principles are deeply appealing to the egalitarian mind, but they ultimately rest on a rather dubious proposition, namely that non-egalitarians will be convinced to act in an egalitarian way (but not too much), because it is in their self-interest to do so. I think Cohen’s If You’re an Egalitarian, How Come You’re So Rich? spells out the problem pretty well.

  275. As soon as this BYU gig is up, I will have the beard, too. Looking forward to it.

    Now that I think about it, the 1980s music might not be so bad.

    I am sympathetic to Cohen’s critique of Rawls’ prinicples (though I am not sure if he is all that far apart from Rawls). Andrew wanted more specific principles, and well, I am a Rawlsian. Those are the priniciples I have at my finger-tips.

  276. Chris, you are NOT getting a beard. We are past that.

  277. See, I do not worry about the coercive state because I am used to my coercive spouse.

  278. Andrew Teasdale says:

    So, it took about as long as I expected to get back to my analogy. You replied that you wouldn’t ask for my cow and you’d just share your cow with Russell (and, BTW, I agree, Russell’s a great guy) and, somewhat hurtfully : ), stated that you’d hope that I’d stay away.

    However, you’re not going to let me stay away. In fact, you’re going to come after me. Well, you will not do it yourself, you’ll send your agent to come get me. Why? Because you need me – you need my cow. Someone has to pay, eventually, for all the things you listed. I know you’d like to pay for them all (and I have this funny vision of you filling out your 1040 and writing at the bottom, “And here’s an extra $5k just because I love you so much and want to support all the good you’re doing”) out of the love of your heart, but you simply don’t have the means. You need help. So, here’s how you do it. You get your friends together and vote to yourselves and your ideals my property. You didn’t write “state sponsored” at the beginning of every item, but I’m guessing that’s what you have in mind (please correct me if I’m wrong!)

    Which gets us back to the somewhat abrupt introduction of the gun in the first scenario. Everything the state does is done at the end of a gun. If you don’t believe it, try not paying your home property tax and see what happens. Eventually, someone wearing a gun will deprive you of your life, liberty, or property. So, your democratic socialism is really nothing more than you and your friends getting together, forming a majority, and robbing me of my life, liberty, or property. I will be forced to pay for your state supported universal health care, state supported K-12 and higher ed, state supported family/maternity leave, state supported campaigning, and state supported welfare programs that don’t make people “feel like dirt.”

    There is no agency nor love in your plan – just force and control.

    Sorry, you’re tired of the thread and I don’t mean to be a pest. I hoped that you were perhaps moving toward Zion and was interested in that discussion. I fear though, that you’re going the other direction and I suspect neither of us has the energy for that discussion.

    And funny if I didn’t spend Saturday loading my wife’s iPod with all my ‘80s CDs. : )

    Peace.

  279. (yawns, looks around, prepares to dispense wisdom of Solomon)

    Andrew, if you truly didn’t mean to be a pest, I doubt you would have commented as you did in the first place. I don’t care about your property.

  280. I hoped that you were perhaps moving toward Zion and was interested in that discussion. I fear though, that you’re going the other direction and I suspect neither of us has the energy for that discussion.

    Whether you have energy or not, no one at BCC has the energy to listen to you suggest that your fellow Saints are following Satan because they disagree with your view of politics.

  281. “There is no agency nor love in your plan – just force and control.”

    Whatever. Your arguments are old and tired.

    ” I hoped that you were perhaps moving toward Zion and was interested in that discussion.”

    I would tell you where to put that argument, but as you may have noticed, my wife is following the post.

    I have been arguing about this topic now over three posts at BCC with a total of over 500 comments over the three posts. I cannot repeat the conversation with every individual. You are not likely to be satisfied with anything I say. Take it as my honest expression of my views and move on.

  282. Andrew,

    #279,

    How free are individuals in a community? At what point will an individual be forced to change aspects of his life in order to live within a certain community? Whether those changes come out of respect for the culture of the community or the laws of the community. Your description of the state enforcing with a gun is just simply not realistic, and misses out on a whole range of complexity in a community and a society. It’s generally the reason why others here have become bored with that particular point.

  283. Move on, Dan.

  284. Chris H. – Nice lead-in btw. I couldn’t stop laughing after reading the first sentence. In all seriousness though, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on bringing us up to date on the latest in socialist ideas. I look forward to future posts about Cohen’s works.

    Above, you quote Stephen J. Fortunato that the “era of capitalist triumphalism is a difficult one for socialists.”

    Question – when was this supposed to have taken place? “Market capitalism” is no longer operable within the United States “mixed economy” as Dr. Robert Higgs pointed out in Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. And the U.S. has a long history of implementing various forms of socialist programs. But as Dr. Charlotte Twight pointed out many years ago, these programs have really just fostered a type of Participatory Fascism system within the country.

    So, isn’t “market socialism” just another term used by socialists to give the masses the illusion that there is still a “free-market” system in operation since it presently operates under more of a fascist-type system as Twight described? :) (tongue-in-cheek).

    Ok, levity aside, how do you suggest the “the right of self-ownership” with the “right to equality” be resolved? Even Cohen had difficulty confronting this conundrum. (See Stephan Kinsella’s article in the second link below).

    For those who may be interested, see G.A. Cohen – David Gordon and G. A. Cohen, the Rothbardian-Hoppean Marxist? for reviews of some of Dr. Cohen’s works. He was certainly held in high esteem by some of those of the Austrian economics persuasion.

  285. Bruce Rogers says:

    I am not sure that true Socialism has ever been tried. Dictators have claimed to use it, but the dictator actually owned it. Some of the concepts have been used in England, but dishonest citizens limited its effectiveness.
    I hope that one day we will be able to live honestly and enjoy it.

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