Can DSA Go the Distance?


Dissent magazine has the article Can DSA Go the Distance?

In a matter of years, DSA has turned from a musty debate club for retired social democrats into an electoral powerhouse of young, ecumenical radicals. What’s next?

I didn’t have the stamina to read all of this article, but I think DSA is the wrong organization to hang your hat on. I call myself a “what worksist”, so I do not marry myself to a single “ism” like socialism. I also have the same caution about capitalism. These two “isms” and others have some parts of society where they work well, and other parts where they do not work so well. I care more about what works, than what label you give it. When you get too tied to a single “ism” or a single program, people tend to be blind to the problems of the “ism” or program they favor. For the “isms” they don’t favor, all they can see is its problems, but they cannot admit that it has any parts that would work well to solve certain kinds of problems. No matter which side of the dichotomy you fall on, you tend to lose sight of the fundamental question “Does it work?” In other words, “does it work to make the lives of most people better?” Since the world changes, I don’t believe there is a static collection of programs that will always be the best in all changing situations. Choosing the balance of solutions must be a dynamic process that adjusts to the conditions that exist at the time.

Whatever you think about what is going on in China (or what you have been told is going on in China), I think they come close to my idea of being a “what worksist”. They are willing to have some capitalism and some socialism in their society’s mix. They recognize that there are problems, but they aren’t tied to fixed ideas on how to solve the problems. They try various things, and measure whether or not these things are leading to the goal that they envision. They are also willing to admit that what is good for today’s China is not necessarily good for other countries facing different circumstances.

Staying true to “what worksism”, I am not suggesting that the USA should do exactly what China does. However, it would be good for us to look at what China does to see if there is anything we can learn from their successes and failures. They have certainly invested time in this analysis of what the USA does and what other societies around the world and throughout time have done under the changing circumstances those other societies have lived through.

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