October 24, 2009

Reform Socialism

“There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of meat and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then the rats, bread and meat would go into the hoppers together”.

From “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair (1906)

We've come a long way from the conditions that Upton Sinclair described in "The Jungle" in 1906, to pork luncheon meat with imbedded smiley faces. Obviously, things were not always this "good". You can't come away from Sinclair's book, or Orwell's "Road to Wigan Pier" without some sympathy for the socialist causes of the last century. Or can you?

"The Jungle" is still in print and widely read, although I'd guess that the sales are skewed by school reading lists. Sinclair's jungle was ruthless capitalism, where power metastasizes in the dark. His book led to the Pure Food and Drug Act with the help of Teddy Roosevelt. Sinclair went on to other causes, even one about corruption in journalism (The Brass Check) and "Oil" which was twisted into the recent film "There Will Be Blood". An energetic socialist all his life, by the end of it he was a Cold Warrior and supporter of the Vietnam War.

The charging, reformist spirit is usually more complicated than the ideologies that spring from it - but people like Sinclair have been incorporated into the liberal/progressive myth that the great ideas and movements of the 19th and 20th-centuries were driven by people like themselves.

Progressives not only analyze and "deconstruct" the problems of the present, they can predict the future under their management and predict the past, too, because people like themselves were there, and accomplished great things! In their minds, conservatives are descended from the meatpacker capitalists, when there's no rational way to calibrate the moral properties of minds long dead. But who said progressivism is "rational"?

Through the first half of the 20th-century, Sinclair's socialism came and went in hard and soft versions. But it failed to harden in America because Americans recognized that big arbitrary power (big business, etc.) isn't effectively replaced by another big arbitrary power called The State. Controlled, yes, regulated, yes, but hard socialism isn't necessary for "reform". The danger with radical big-state reform is its proximity to big and little tyrannies - the ones it abhors and the ones it tolerates - in its effort to eliminate the first it establishes the second.

Collectivism is NOT the answer to any question I know. If an individual is encouraged to work out his/her destiny apart from mankind's, it's the best preventative for the "consolidated government" that the Anti-Federalists feared in 1787. The paradox of trusting the jungle of gargantuan government to correct the wrongs of big business, leads to correcting the "wrongs" of Big Fox News, or Big Talk Radio, or Big Liberty or Big You.

Socialism needs to be reformed. It infiltrated the minds of the old reformers - and continues in the minds of their ridiculous duplicates today - because economic liberty produced injustices and evils that any modern society, under any regime, would have simply outlawed - but the total state seemed to be the only solution. Maybe it made sense at one time. But it's Old Socialism; reactionary and obsolete, and poison to a modern society.


Doom said...

Very well put. I know few who started as other than socialists and idealists. I would guess anyone who progresses through our current education system, perhaps as far back as 50 years, have no options. And, too, the weakening of the Christian model and watering down of that whole notion does not help.

The ones who grow beyond and begin to compare costs, to review history, and and acquaint themselves with the real meaning of personal liberty and responsibility are the ones who I seek and trust now. Unfortunately, that is a path few ever venture to travel. One must leave herd mentality and travel into unknown, sometimes forbidden, territory.

If the left has nothing else, it has highly adapted selective memory. It alone could account for the successes of their ilk. Though they certainly have a host of other skills as well. You cover all of this so eloquently, reading it is like sipping my favorite refreshment.

Rhod said...

Doom, that's high praise from you. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I know you use the term loosely, Rhod, but I don't think you can "reform" that which was based on a fatal flaw to begin with. I would probably argue that socialist need a personal reformation -- and the Christian ones, too.

Socialism starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. Capitalism, on the other hand (and we can stipulate that there have been and remain abuses, etc.) starts with a proper understanding of human nature.

This is why one works better than the other.

Rhod said...

We already have socialism, DC, in ways that make the social contract work. I think they should all be reviewed, by the way, which might be to reform it.

I agree, though. Socialism doesn't make everyone generous, it makes everyone greedy.

They Say/We Say said...
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Opus #6 said...

They say, we say, YOU TOO, hon! You are an excellent writer and passionate patriot.

Rhod, the dung/rat/meat thing has me retching. Ick! But it is a good visual for socialism. Mix dung with ice cream and it is still inedible.

As for me, I will be stalking this site to see what Nickie posts about our adventures today. He got quite a few pics of me. I want to see what he does with it....

Opus #6 said...

One more thing.

Special message to Nickie. And the rest of you.

Liberals may go so far as to HATE you for running this site. Let me tell you. This is a BEAUTIFUL site. Full of sweet people with BIG HEARTS. Libs think they have a monopoly on compassion because they like to give people handouts (of other people's money). Conservatives are the truly compassionate.

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Conservatives want to empower people to get private sector jobs and WORK for a living. They thereby receive the opportunity to improve their lives doing honest work, which brings self respect and improves the generations. This is what America was founded on.

Don't EVER let any liberal, no matter WHO they are, tell you that you stand on the wrong side of the fence. They are deluded. Naive. Immature. They, like Obama, never grew up enough to stop wanting mommy, daddy, or the Nanny State to take care of them.

Goomba News Network can stand tall and proud for what it stands for, for the words written here, and the ideas of a freedom and liberty.

I love all of the people here, posters and commenters. And sometimes it is good to say it.

Anonymous said...

Thank to you, Rhod, Goomba News Network has it's own Edmund Burke. And, thanks to DC, we have our own Johnny Cochran.

Anonymous said...

"He got quite a few pics of me. I want to see what he does with it...."

Opie, you know better than to give these guys a line like this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pep talk, Ope. It makes me want to go out, find some liberal, and pop a cap in his ass.

Or ignore him and keep doing what I enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I am honored to be your Johnny Cochran, Nick.

Pictures ... oh, my. Opie, you should know better than that. Give him a fib and he'll post a mile. Give him an ounce of truth, and well ...

They Say/We Say said...
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Rhod said...

With me, GNN got Howard K. Smith doped up on Valium.

Opie is Lady Liberty.

TSWS, there's nothing "so-called" about DC. He's for real.

Hoping the Blind Will See said...

Great post Opus #6! Very well stated!! God Bless You All!