Sunday, August 16, 2009

am not! are too!

If I started wandering around your place and calling you names, let's say atheist, then my implication is that you don't believe in God. If I declared myself as patriotic while sitting around at a dinner party then by default my ideal is that you're not. When I say that my only concern is about my children when considering policy positions then I'm implying that you don't care about your children or why else would you be bickering with me? This is what it's come to over the last year or so when we try to define others not by using the more obvious method of name calling but by the less obvious path of deduction from language. (This is a very close relative of the excuse that "I didn't suggest anyone kill someone else when I used incendiary language! It's not my fault!" defense). One of the prime examples, and what's been rolling around in my head lately is the use of socialist / socialized / socialism. What it's use intones is that if one throws those words across the town hall meeting bow then it means the target doesn't believe or support capitalism. What's funny about this smack on the nose insult is that it misrepresents what capitalism actually is, by definition: the private ownership of the means (capital) of production. (Feel free to go find a broader or more detailed definition but we'll end up agreeing on the end point.) Capitalism is being easily transposed with the idea of free enterprise and even the term freedom - and there's the rub. Let me give you the types of capitalism that I've thought of over the last week, rudimentary as they may seem. Let's say you own a small company that employs six people. As the owner, and capitalist, you pay yourself $80,000 a year in salary after paying your bills, taxes, health care, and each employee $40,000 in salary. After three or four years the company has grown enough that the it's pulling in an additional $300K per year. There are two extreme position you could take on the spectrum; the first is that you keep your six employees and give yourself a raise to $380K per year. The second, you expand the business, give yourself a raise to $100K a year and hire another six or seven workers. The truth may well lie somewhere in the middle but that doesn't change the basic question in my head: is either option more capitalistic than the other? I say no even as I accept that people might make a different choice than I if they own the company. What we seem to confuse is the basic premise that both owners - even at the extreme ends of the spectrum - are equally capitalistic. What hovers about our economic and social debates these days is the whispering in our ear that if we aren't maximizing our take home pay, not company profits, then we aren't truly capitalists and if we aren't capitalists then we must be something else; and that something else always seems to be socialist - and that is such a disingenuous position to force into the discussion. What those who support his meme really want to say is that I am a communist or a Nazi but they don't have the backbone to say it aloud, so they imply. Once the door has been nudged open then all it takes to make the idea stick is to start piling it on top of every other discussion and calling it a day. I mean, really, if you aren't for maximizing the money in your wallet then you must be some sort of closet communist.

The health care debate is clearly the latest in a long line of pancakes draped in the socialist topping. Conservatives, who by definition, avoid the future like a plague - and often say that trying to predict the future is folly - are doing nothing but predicting the future while propping it up with scare tactics. I'm not positive how the final bill will look once everything is melded together and we see the final package. There are parts that I'll disagree with but what we don't know, nor can we assume, is that a public option, run by the government and entered by choice, isn't anything akin to socialized anything. Disagreeing with that position is perfectly acceptable based upon details and facts. Disagreeing with it based on recess logic is not only weak-minded but embarrassing.

That's what have to say this weekend.

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