Here is the way I look at the current USA socio-economic-political system. Bernie Sanders is merely trying to get a better balance by shrinking the rigged-market capitalism, and increasing both the fair-market capitalism and the democratic socialism. He certainly is not in favor of dictatorial socialism.
Notice that there is no category that has the word “free” in its name.
October 25, 2015
When I originally posted this, I did not publish the text of an article i was working on for fear that all the verbiage would cloud the point I wanted to make. Using some suggestions from Brian Selden, I think the article has been clarified a bit. Moreover, without some of the words, some of the point is lost. So here it is.
New Terminology for Socio-Economic-Political Systems
It helps to start out by quoting the preamble to the Consitution of the United States of America.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Democratic Socialism in the USA is part of promoting the general welfare. No other part of the Socio-Economic-Political system as described below has this mandate as its primary focus.
To explain what Bernie Sanders means by Democratic Socialism, we need to put that term in context with three new terms. The three new ones are Dictatorial Socialism, Rigged-Market Capitalism, and Fair-market Capitalism. There is no category with the word “free” in its title.
First I’ll describe what the Democratic Socialism of Bernie Sanders means to me. My simple explanation is that democratic socialism is the realization that people banding together in the form of government can accomplish some things better than the private sector can. To make sure that there are checks and balances on the power of government, we use democracy to run the government. With this definition of democratic socialism, it seems fairly obvious to me that the USA has always been a mix of democratic/socialism and various flavors of capitalism from its very inception. The proportions in the mix have varied over time.
How can you tell which things are the most likely to be best performed by government? The things where the overall welfare of the people is the main measurement of success, and profit is not the main measure.
For purposes of illustration we can think of the current Socio-Economic-Political system of the United States of America apportioned very roughly as something like the following pie chart of Figure 1. I think that Bernie Sanders’ main point is that the current balance among these sectors is way out of whack. A balance of the blue and the green, with minimal red and yellow would be preferable to what we have.
One of the points of the pie chart is to say that our current system already has a large dollop of Democratic Socialism. Below is a list of some things that you might think of putting in that category that we already have
- Democratic Socialist Programs in The United States Of America
- Retirement e.g. Social Security System, 401K, IRA
- Health Care e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA for now
- Regulation e.g. FDA, SEC
- Enforcement – e.g. police, prisons, judicial system, district attorneys, attorneys general
- Services e.g. post office, AMTRAK, public transportation
- Infrastructure e.g. roads, water, sewer
- Recreation e.g. national parks and monuments
- Organizing e.g. Air traffic control, FCC
- Education e.g. Pre-K through 12th grade schools, public colleges
- Basic research e.g. NIH, National labs, NIST, DARPA
- Defense e.g. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard
- Economic System Foundation e.g. The Federal Reserve Bank creating and regulating our money supply.
- Fair and free elections
Let us round out the discussion by mentioning what might be in the other categories. You might notice that some people in our country experience some of these activities being in a different category from the experiences of majority, male, white, European descended, Christian, heterosexual citizens.
- Fair-Market Capitalism
- Small businesses
- Worker co-ops
- Local banks
- Workers e.g. unionized, non-union
- Rigged-Market Capitalism
- Big banks
- Multinational and other large corporations
- Hedge funds
- Tax loopholes for corporations and the rich
- Easy bankruptcy for the rich, tough bankruptcy for the rest
- Trade agreements solely for the benefit of the rich and their corporations
- Stiff penalties for petty crime, but no penalties for white-collar crime on a massive scale
- Student loans with tougher rules on the borrower than on borrowing for any other reason
- Deregulation of all sorts corruptly bought and paid for by the formerly regulated
- Corporate capture of the agencies intended to regulate them
- Money in politics and corruption of elections
- Supreme Court that gives imaginary rights to the rich and the powerful while they deny real rights to the rest
- Patent and copyright protection way beyond what was intended in our Constitution
- No worker protection for undocumented worker, for workers in “right to work” states, undermining the purpose of the NLRB.
- Elimination of enforcement of anti-trust laws
- The press and the media controlled by a small number of large corporations and the wealthy
For the next category we have to look outside our country for most of the examples. Some of these are examples of what people in the USA have been taught to think of when they hear the word socialism in any context. Dictatorial Socialism is generally characterized as having all important decisions made by a very small number of people over which the large majority of the population have no control.
- Dictatorial Socialism
- Military draft – were it to be reinstated in the USA
- Unions with too much power – already eliminated in the USA
- Government ownership of all industries and companies with no competition allowed
- Government run labor “unions”
- Government controlled press
- Imprisonment at government whim
- Confiscation of property without compensation
- No checks and balances on government power
- Police impunity to do whatever they want
- Government control of religion