Thursday, September 19, 2019

Erratic WSJ Screed Against Socialism Merely Indicts The Author (Roger Kimball) And His Irrelevant Arguments

There's no avoiding the fact the debased Neoliberal media goes to extreme lengths to try to deform public perceptions of both socialism and capitalism.  Hence, for the latter they try to tie in "freedom" and "wealth" for all whereas the truth is more how Chris Hedges has described it.  I myself  had little conception of  corporatist capitalism  until writing  'The Elements of the Corporatocracy' - later converted into a book.  My motivation was to expose the many lies that attempted to instill in citizens a false consciousness that twisted socialism into a terrifying caricature while extolling capitalism.

One of the hallmarks of a religion is that its dogmas and tenets are accepted without question, or challenge. These arrive from 'on high' so are presumed beyond experimental test, or testing via personal experience in the real world.  On account of the absence of reality testing even its myths are thereby integrated into a person's belief matrix and become unquestioned tropes.  In this sense, Bill Maher's  June 2, 2016 comparison of capitalism to religion in the final segment of his Real Time was spot on.  

For those seeking an in depth exposure of capitalism's multitude of defects there is Chris Hedges' book, 'The Empire of Illusion'.  Hedges pulls no punches in showing how  - when it comes to being "incurious"  - the corporate media gets medals, i.e. in demeaning democratic socialism while blindly elevating capitalism to preposterous heights. 

 Enter now a recent(Sept. 3rd) WSJ essay by Roger Kimball, entitled 'Socialism is for the Incurious' (p. A17).  The piece trots out assorted quotes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Joseph Stalin, and Sir Roger Scruton - to end up with this nonsense:

"Human reality is drained of dignity and becomes material to be shaped and formed according to the scheme of utopian power."

But socialism is hardly utopian!  It is the practical means by which capitalism is inhibited from becoming a metastatic malignancy to the detriment of public welfare.   A sober essay  perspective is offered by Robert Freeman:

"Anybody here ever used the Internet? That was created by a government agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The technology itself was invented during the Nixon administration. Nixon was a Republican president. It was turned on by the same agency in 1983, under Ronald Reagan, another Republican president. That is socialism.

Anybody here ever been made safer by the military, or felt safer knowing that police or fire or first-responder services were there? That’s people coming together to solve problems that none of us could solve on our own. Socialism.

Anybody here ever fly on an airplane? Guess what, your safety was guaranteed by thousands of standards set by the FAA, and by air traffic control, run by the same agency. Socialism. Anybody here ever used prescription drugs, or drunk water or breathed air or eaten food that was made cleaner or safer by government rules and standards? Guess what? That’s socialism.

You get the idea. The truth is that without some elements of socialism, capitalism doesn’t work. It literally collapses of its own predatory greed. Don’t take my word for it.

That’s what happened in the 1930s. Capitalism, left to its own devices, destroyed itself. That’s what we call the Great Depression. It was the greatest economic event of the past century. And you know how it was solved? It was solved by socialism.  Roosevelt created Social Security (notice the word “social” in the name), unemployment insurance, regulations so that bank deposits would be safe, public service employment programs, and more. All socialist to the core."

For the take of a Danish woman, which echoes the above points, in answer to a fearful question on socialism by Oprah,  see e.g.

By contrast, with so many citations of different actors from different epochs, it's no wonder that Kimball - at the end of his erratic screed- ends up with a miasma of disjointed,  incoherent rants.  For example:

"The cruel and suffocating intrusiveness of those dystopian experiments against reality are not so seamlessly or thoroughly implemented in American society as elsewhere."

What "cruel experiments"?  Kimball doesn't specify but because he earlier refers to "revolutionaries trading only in masses not individuals" we can infer he means any 'experiment' that attempted to right inequality - economic or other. So include Jacobo Arbenz'  nationalization of  Guatemala's resources in 1954 - which caused the CIA to overthrow him.  Or Premier Mohammed Mossadegh's efforts to nationalize Iran's oil fields in 1953 - which got him assassinated and paved the way for theocracy.   "Dystopian" experiments?  That's hardly the way Arbenz or Mossadegh saw it. They rather saw their mission as providing a more equitable distribution of resources for their own people - as opposed to fodder for capitalist profits.

But by mounting this warped jeremiad against "socialism" - or indeed any national effort ("experiment") to strive for civil betterment- it's no surprise Kimball also can write at the end of his previous remark:

"But anyone who looks around at the vast, unaccountable, self-engorging bureaucracy of the so-called administrative  state ... cannot help but mark the parallels with the remorseless incuriosity that stood behind the totalitarian juggernaut as it systematically discounted truth for the sake of the accumulation of power."

Seriously?   After reading this fulsome codswallop one wonders if Kimball was on an MJ  high maybe mixed with Oxy.  Maybe he vaped both, who knows?  Let's clarify by first asking what he's railing against when he cites the "so-called administrative state".

Far from being "so-called" this is the system of taxes, regulations and agency oversight the current structure of government supports. In other words, all those elements of the federal "bureaucracy" that ensure your milk is free of fecal matter, your burgers not infected with  E Coli., your drinking water not fouled by cow manure, perchlorates or lead.  Oh and your canned tuna free of botulism. Also that medical devices are properly manufactured and sterilized to acceptable standards (FDA regs), i.e. so when you get your colonoscopy the colonoscope didn't just come directly from insertion into another patient.

Taken literally, Kimball is conflating this protective bureaucracy-  recall that as economist George Lakoff has pointed out, e.g.

Regulations are protections.

With some kind of ersatz Stalinism or some skewed, warped view of socialism  Worse, he's renouncing the Preamble of the Constitution wherein the central clause (general welfare) is an effective working government that has the general welfare as a primary role.  

So one can rightly say on this basis that any "remorseless incuriosity" - and even palpable ignorance-   is wholly on Kimball's side.  In effect, what started as a scattershot attack on statism and socialism ends up a hollow screed that is self-indicting and I'd add, self -refuting. 

Charles Reich poignantly notes in his book, Opposing the System, Crown Books, p. 103:

"When society itself comes to be modeled on economic and organizational principles, all of the forces that bind people together are torn apart in the struggle for survival. Community is destroyed because we are no longer 'in this together' because everyone is a threat to everyone else. "

This is the de facto model Kmiball would have us embrace, assuming we took his gibberish seriously..

See also:

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