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February 28, 2008

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Great Post,

As a Socialist myself, I'd like to just comment on the basic ideas which have influenced my views. First, and Foremost, as much as some people disagree with me, I think the primary motivations for people are selfish. This is required for species survival, but it also means that as long as people have a choice between taking advantage of someone else for material gain, or not... they will often choose to.

I'm not saying that all people would kill their neighbor for his house, but when you take greed and mix it with the very impersonal feeling of corporations, a lot of people, worldwide, get used.

With this, I see the government's responsibility to protect us from each other. Think of the example that was given here with regards to the New Deal and medicines that the Government developed which were virtually free. As was pointed out, a company would have never done that, as it would be unprofitable.

The Scandinavian model is quite interesting, from many aspects, including their continuation of Democracy (obviously not in line with the Soviet Communist Model), which I believe is also inherently important in this subject.

Like many in the far-left wing of Politics, I see the left as the inevitable goal of world Politics. As the world becomes more crowded, not to mention more polluted, the strain on resources will force some kind of integrated system to avoid a continued tragedy of the commons.

It is distressing to me to look at recent politics in this country, and to think that such words as "Socialism" are heaped together with "Fascism" as if they are both fanatical and murderous. Fascism is, but Socialism, when examined, is quite obviously different. Hopefully a more open dialog is now being created!

I am not sure that I understand what you meant when you wrote

the idea of government-administered health care is to remove as much of this surplus value as possible; that is, to make the price you pay for health care as close as possible to the value of the doctors' work, without the added cost introduced by insurance providers to generate their profit.
There is more to the cost of health care than simply the cost of labor by the providers. There are overhead expenses such as building, tools, medications and equipment, and there are administrative expenses such as recording the tests performed, their results and the services performed. Then there is the cost of collecting the funds to pay for it all, whether from fees, taxes, or other sources.

However, in our insurance system there is also the additional set of costs incurred by each insurance company. Since each gets funds from limited sources, they have to spend money to make sure they don't pay for health care that they won't be reimbursed for. Aetna does not want to pay out for services to someone covered by Blue Cross, the government, or no one. There are also the related costs of making sure they don't pay out for pre-existing conditions. In addition, each insurance trying to manage its own pools of patients develops its proprietary administrative system. Physicians and other health care providers have to hire and train additional people to deal with each additional system. A single universal pool managed by one insurer will have a single administrative system, lowering total costs to the physicians. Also, the universal rules simplify the number of arguments for reimbursement that the physicians have to conduct. I understand that for every hour of providing patient care, physicians spend another hour arguing with insurance companies, so what should be a 35 to 40 hour a week job becomes 70 to 8o hours a week.

The expenses incurred by private insurers to manage who they cover in each risk pool and who they do not, as well as varieties of coverage, run up 20% to 25% of what is paid out each year. They are directly related to trying to manage health care as a bunch of small pools of patients who enter and leave different pools of insured individuals. Those expenses are totally eliminated if everyone becomes a member of the pool of insured individuals upon birth and remain in that pool until after all post death expenses are covered.

There is another set of costs that are eliminated by managing patients in a single universal pool. Sales expenses. The costs of a sales force (administrative, salaries, and bonuses) can be stopped. That is another 105 or more of what is paid out by insurance companies each year.

If a private insurer manages everyone in a single risk pool, that is called a monopoly and there is no competitive pressure to reduce costs, although what is paid out is determined bureaucratically. So the only organization that can manage a single universal risk pool is the government. Costs are managed by bureaucratic methods overseen by political pressures. That's what makes it socialism.

So essentially there are three possible ways to manage a health care system. (1) Private enterprise managing patient flow through a series of risk pools in a system that has no effective price controls and which is guaranteed to leave out the most expensive cases (the current system.)
(2) A single monopolistic private company that manages everyone in a single risk pool (again, no cost controls, and no assurance of quality care.)
(3) A government (thus socialist)system that applies the same bureaucratic methods as are needed in the other two systems, but in which cost and quality of care are controlled politically. In Canada, the UK, and Germany, the effectiveness and efficiency of the health care system are of great interest to the media, and politicians respond promptly, but overall costs are not simply uncontrolled as they are here.

The socialist system also has the advantage that the administrators who operate it are civil servants and thus are not paid ridiculous CEO-type paychecks. That's appropriate, since the CEO's in any of the systems have no effective way of making the system operate more efficiently. The only justification for high CEO salaries and bonuses is if they are competing with others in similar situations and do things like productive mergers or financing deals. Such activities are impossible in both the socialist and the monopoly system.

By the way, this discussion is entirely about financing health care. The actually provision of health care remains in the private business arena and normally physicians are not civil servants. Competition is an effective control in that area.

I'm not sure this directly addresses your question regarding what socialism is, since I am discussing removing unnecessary costs from the system rather than discussing surplus value. But I think it is pretty close. This issue as I see it is whether a problem is most effectively dealt with by private enterprise or by government action. The intent is to apply the best organizing principal for providing quality services to the end user at the most reasonable cost. We all recognize that military defense, police and the courts are best operated by government because of the free rider problem (the actual end user cannot usually pay the full costs, and the benefits flow to all of society - that requires tax support), while toothpaste is best provided by private businesses (the product is best sold in a direct economic exchange.)

I see the issue as revolving around the most effective way of delivering needed services to those who will get them.

I also think that government determines the nature of all markets, either by (1) setting and enforcing business rules, (2) by enforcing rules set in privately negotiated contracts, or (3) by benign neglect. There is a fourth option - (4) government can criminalize certain markets like illegal drug sales. Since government also manages the money supply, every market is effectively determined by what the government determines. Socialism, in my opinion, is those markets operated in the first manner. The USSR was primarily made up of methods (1) and (4). The American system uses (1), (2) and (4) mostly. That's the function of the UCC (state-level Uniform Commercial Codes), and federal business laws like those governing the SEC and such. The absence of the UCC's has made the shift to private business very difficult for the USSR and for China.

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts on the subject. If you haven't guessed by now, I consider the entire issue of socialism vs private enterprise to be a 19th century set of concepts that is much too simple to have any real application to the modern age.

Cutting to the chase with regard to todays issue: Socialism -- or specifically what we are attempting to look at as socialized medicine -- basically cuts out the middleman who adds little to no value in the product or the delivery of the product (medicine as practiced directly to patients). Economically within the framework of medicine, this makes sense. Economically within the framework of temporary macroeconomics, this will be a HARD transition for everyone working within the health insurance industry. It may not be possible to shift those workers into another industry without suffering a blowback of sustained unemployment for these specific individuals. How many would that be? For how long? Can we shift these individuals into the single payer process so as to minimize the blowback effect?

I am not saying we should not change because of this. I am saying that we should do everything we can to protect the working class that relies on the health insurance industry for a paycheck as we make the important, reasonable, switch that we must make to compete in the first world and to provide health care for all of our citizens.

(The CEO's, executives and everyone else with a golden parachute can go to hell.)

There is quite a bit of socialsim in the New Testament as well.

An amusing thought that we must protect the incomes of all the pork in the medical system: they are the ones making health care unattainable for lower income folks. The purpose of the system is to serve the population that needs medical care.
The term socialism is antiquated...the intentions are still germaine. Call it what you will the provision of heath care to all is a necessary achievement unless you are willing to allow pain and suffering as diseases are left unchecked to infect the whole society. Prevention efforts are a part of every MDs strategy...same in public health food water and waste have to be handled properly. call me old fashined call me over the hill.

I think you've missed one important thing here -- the right-wing "socialism" attacks are not and never have been based on any definition of socialism, modern or otherwise. They are purely based on the venerable right-wing canard that socialism and communism are the same thing, and you wouldn't want to be a communist, of course, so you must be against anything that's dubbed "socialism," right?

A classic of the genre is a George Will column from maybe fifteen years ago, where he worked off of some statement from a Labor politician repudiating the Communist Party in Britain, I think, and from there talked about how countries all around the world were rejecting communism. And then went on to claim that this "proves" that we shouldn't have "socialist" single-payer healthcare -- despite the fact that nearly all the countries he'd just talked about either had national health or were moving toward it, not away from it.

I would think that this ludicrous argument would be losing its potency with the shrinking portion of the population that were adults during the Cold War, but that remains to be seen.

I think Redshirt comes closest to the important point. The meaning of "Socialism" in the modern US vocabulary = "Something bad, something to be feared and stayed away from." If you can make the label stick on a candidate, it will usually cost him or her the election.

Probably the most socialistic setting in the US today is the US military. Soldiers (marines, sailors, air(wo)men) give up many of their personal rights presumably for the benefit of the whole. Housing is provided, health care is provided, people wear uniforms that minimize differences (though do clearly distinguish rank). Pay is, for most ranks, minimal. People need permission to change jobs, travel, etc. Many in the military spend their whole careers in this sort of setting, but few realize they are living in a socialistic organization. And I suspect most would get upset they were labeled socialists.

I think that in many ways our society mixes free market and socialist ideals. Health care through work. Workers comp. Subsidies to various industries. Condo associations. Car pools. Dividing the check evenly though not all had drinks and dessert.

We have a basic tension between having as much free choice as possible and getting the benefits of collective actions and efficiencies.

Capitalism and socialism are economic systems, not political, though you can't completely separate the effects of an economic system on a political system and vice versa. Either could be democratic or dictatorial or somewhere in between. Israeli kibbutzim are essentially small communist living arrangements, but very democratic. Singapore and Hong Kong are economically free market in some ways, socialistic in other ways, but relatively undemocratic politically.

The real task in the US (and elsewhere) is liberation from language that stops us from thinking, from words we get locked into and then use to categorize people and things as good or bad, with us or against us.

I think Redshirt comes closest to the important point. The meaning of "Socialism" in the modern US vocabulary = "Something bad, something to be feared and stayed away from." If you can make the label stick on a candidate, it will usually cost him or her the election.

Probably the most socialistic setting in the US today is the US military. Soldiers (marines, sailors, air(wo)men) give up many of their personal rights presumably for the benefit of the whole. Housing is provided, health care is provided, people wear uniforms that minimize differences (though do clearly distinguish rank). Pay is, for most ranks, minimal. People need permission to change jobs, travel, etc. Many in the military spend their whole careers in this sort of setting, but few realize they are living in a socialistic organization. And I suspect most would get upset they were labeled socialists.

I think that in many ways our society mixes free market and socialist ideals. Health care through work. Workers comp. Subsidies to various industries. Condo associations. Car pools. Dividing the check evenly though not all had drinks and dessert.

We have a basic tension between having as much free choice as possible and getting the benefits of collective actions and efficiencies.

Capitalism and socialism are economic systems, not political, though you can't completely separate the effects of an economic system on a political system and vice versa. Either could be democratic or dictatorial or somewhere in between. Israeli kibbutzim are essentially small communist living arrangements, but very democratic. Singapore and Hong Kong are economically free market in some ways, socialistic in other ways, but relatively undemocratic politically.

The real task in the US (and elsewhere) is liberation from language that stops us from thinking, from words we get locked into and then use to categorize people and things as good or bad, with us or against us.

Sorry for the double post, it was disconnecting and sent me back into preview. And it appears to be posting the sender's local time (posting from Thailand).

socialism= government of the people
for the people
by the people?

incidentally,in reference to corporate influence.
the recent hoohah concerning lichtenstein and tax dodging,does bring to the fore the reality that while it is corporations that attract our ire, it is individuals and their machinations that are using the corporate body as a personal shield for their global activities.
individuals who have no respect for "the people".

I think it all can be much more simple than all the rethoric. Let's try Common Sense and Streamlinin. A simple fact that many companies even started to employ to get their production moving faster. Let's look at the bottom line, let's look at how we can make change and help everyone along the way. Let's take care of our elderly and our sick and our poor. Let's see what it takes to cover the most disadvantaged and make sure there is something for everyone. I know there has been many abuses over the years but what you have to plan into any proceedure is a 'check and balance'. If there are abuses there should be some trigger that will notify the appropiate peoples and that is cut off right away, and steps be made to see if there is any entitlement or criminal action. I don't like the failed idea of socialism in the countries that have already tried it but I do believe the a strong country takes care of its people from the bottom up. Take for example all the jobs that are farmed out of the USA to other countries just so big business makes a profit. Who looses in the long end, the poor and the middle class, and if there is no long the base of poor and middle class ...guess what the bottom falls out for the rich percentage at the top of the pyramid. So in a few more years when all of this really comes to a head...let's see how those industries will profit from no one being able to purchase anything. There is going to be a period where even the foreign market will be so flooded that they will not buy either. So to bring this back around we need to make this country strong again, and by alientating the poor and the weak that is not going to help anyone in the long run. Education and Health are our strongest ally and we should not look a gift horse in the mouth but actually feed it. Just think if we put more money into education not just for the young but even those who need to be re-educated due to loss of jobs, or health care for everyone so everyone is healthy and not passing around diseases that will eventually even hit the rich (thinks of the Black Plague...no one was spared rich or poor). I think we will be a better off country...but that's just make take on it, and who am I but just another soc sec number for the IRS...LOL.

Socialism. Communism.
Founded in similar tomes.

Socialism and communism came to head in Russia.

White Russians.

Ya gotta review Russian Revolution history, and the players.

N then, review the White Russian followers here in USA.

Eugene Debs is a popular name, there are others MUCH more relevant to the history of socialism and communism here in the USA.

And why do I think this is important to review?

Because upon the intermix of the White Russians, Trotskyist's and their influence on the USA, is born the Neo-Cons and THEIR legacy. And their strangle hold over the USA for almost a century, behind the scenes, and IN the scenes.

Leo Strauss. That's the start. Course, HIS influences are the precursors and the folks whom fought over socialism and communism, and died in that struggle.

Goes back to Russia. And their revolution.

Sure Marx let it out earlier.
Sure Engels let it out.
But Lenin ended it all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Revolution_of_1917

Cheap attribution, but, Bolsheviks are an important part in this saga of the socialists and commie's that gave birth to our Neo-Con's.

And that's a HUGE start to it all.

But the next evolution, HUGE evolution, is the Russian Revolution, the deals, sell outs, and slaughter of the ideologue's, one and all.

Justin Raimono has written EXTENSIVELY and with great attribution, about the rise of the NeoCons, and they are indeed tied to the birth of socialism, as much as communism.

Who'd a thunk that . . *G* Left is right, right is left.

Bottom line, he who has the gold, rules.

And the masses, are always at the mercy of the rulers. And damned for it.

Now THAT'S socialism.

My pop was a union man in the early 30's. Fought WW2.
Climbed the Ivory Tower and quit it fast.
And learnt, they all will sell you out, it don't matter WHAT the ideology is, they will all sell ya out, for the gold.

Cuz the gold rules.

Great thread and thanks for lettin this Larue comment . . . . namaste!

...bottom line you got it right...like Liza sang.."$$$ money makes the world go 'round...the world go 'round"

Caberet

maybe it just gets down to the ethics,intelligence,
morality and polital nous of the public service.
in Norway the pension fund is administered (very well indeed) by a public servant who has refused all offers for his administrative abilities.his salary,while very good and more than adequate for a comfortable life,is a pittance compared to what is offered by private and corporate capital.
he said thanks but no thanks.
he likes his job and the responsiblity.

ideology has a nasty habit of obscuring situations.instead of recognising and dealing with facts,the ideologist of any stripe falls back onto dogma or the party line or cooked books or spin,special pleading or outright propaganda,lies and demonisation.

socialist parties of all decription every where seemed to use the word a hook for a grab bag of hope.some,on gaining political power raised the living standards and reined in capital leeching on the people.
some were literally hellish in effect.

socialism in a cursory overview does look to stand for universal health care and equitable education opportunities.

sorry,meant to add.

while the system counts for heaps,
the people running it count for more.

It is confusing to me whether Socialism means a locally-controlled system run by workers and consumers (isn't that everyone?), or, as Sanders says, a centralized government system that provides healthcare and education. The two seem diametrically opposed to me -- again, I am naive here -- and it is baffling to try to bring them together.

You might want to read the Two Souls of Socialism by Hal Draper, an American socialist and theorist, which explains this difference. You are right that these are pretty fundamental differences and in fact what Sanders admires in Scandinavia is not so much socialism as social democracy, where the state takes over these sectors of the economy in which competition is non-existent or harmfull, but the rest of the economy is capitalist. Obvious choices here are health care, energy distribution and such.

Most proper socialists however think this does not go far enough; some think the state should take control of all economic activity and created a planned economy (ala the USSR), while others believe that the workers themselves should take direct control of, well, everything. In both cases competition would be banned, waste avoided and cooperation encouraged to provide "for each according to their needs, from each according to their abilities".

Lee Habeeb, formerly produced of War Whore Igraham's show and now director of agit-prop for Salem Radio, thinks Obama is a Marxist

Lee Habeeb, formerly produced of War Whore Igraham's show and now director of agit-prop for Salem Radio, thinks Obama is a Marxist

FYI - A blast from the past:

1) That contemporary Liberalism is in agreement with Communism on the most essential point -- the necessity and desirability of socialism; 2) that it regards all inherited value -- theological, philosophical, political -- as without intrinsic virtue or authority; 3) that, therefore, no irreconcilable differences exist between it and Communism -- only differences as to method and means; and 4) that, in view of these characteristics of their ideology, the Liberals are unfit for the Leadership of a free society, and intrinsically incapable of offering serious opposition to the Communist offensive.

Frank S. Meyer, "The Meaning of McCarthyism," National Review 5
(June 14, 1958), p. 566.

If there were no Iraq occupation or a McCain candidacy, my preferred candidate would be from the Social Equality Party. Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton are conservative moderates, who want to 'rebuild' the military.

The confusion is the result of the baggage that neoconservatism carries around with it. The original neoconservatives were originally ultra-leftists, Hegelians, and generally people who would have viewed Lenin as being a nice fellow, but a bit of a centrist. These folks used to hang out on the very fringe of the Democratic Party, and for one glorious moment between roughly 1950 and 1965, they controlled the foreign policy philosophy of folks like Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson. After the rest of the Democratic party realized to its horror what an abomination and complete clusterfuck Vietnam was, and how completely wrong the U.S. had been about Ho Chi Minh's loyalties (which were completely nationalistic and only vaguely communist), the party ejected this Hegelian intelligentsia, but unfortunately for everyone concerned, the Republican dog lapped up the shit containing the tapeworm, and it has, for the past 30 years, been victimized by an ultra-leftist foreign policy of U.S. military dominance in which American "values" combine with some sort of evangelical fervor to create American jihad in the Middle East. To make a long story short, the reason why the Republican party uses such bizarre, incendiary language when referring to Democrats is because the Republican party's message is no longer nationally controlled by normal people that you might find down at a Rotary Club luncheon, and is instead saturated with the kind of European agitprop that would be far more fitting in a battle between communists and fascists, which is where it originated back in those dim days when people like William Kristol's dad was a communist.

sp: Frederick Engels -> Friedrich Engels

Cracking blog post!

@laure

"Bottom line, he who has the gold, rules.

And the masses, are always at the mercy of the rulers. And damned for it.

Now THAT'S socialism"

Even though China is secretly capatilist this a great decription of their Country as it is Now!

You SHOULDN'T respond to stupid charges like this. Instead, you should talk truthfully about the issues:

1. The Republican administration has led us into an economic meltdown, will millions fearing losing their jobs and their homes. Their solution: more tax cuts for the wealthy. The don't give a f%ck about you.

2. The Republicans lied us into a war; they don't care about the death of our soldiers and they are unwilling to help those who return. They car about their money and their oil. They don't give a f%ck about you.

3. The Republicans often wear flag pins, but are the worst anti-Americans imaginable; they systematically violate our unalienable rights - including setting up an unregulated domestic spying system which eliminates the 4th amendment. They violate laws (using signing statements as an excuse) and institute secret prisons and torture as policy.

John McCain wants to continue and expand on this evil behavior. If we love America (and I certainly do), we must defeat him and restore our democracy and our unalienable rights.

And f%ck people who try to distract us from real problems - like lack of healthcare for millions of Americans - by using stupid, inane excuses for continuing evil...as if the word "socialism" means anything to a person who's dying because he can't get a doctor to see him.

http://www.obamarocks08.com check it out and tell me what you think?

Social is about people, needs common to all (health,fire,police,etc)
Capitol is about money, allows wants common to many (private business)
Commune is about community, basic security (military)
There are no nations that use only one meathod, just won't work, all have a place in a polysystem

If someone demonizes socialism/communism give them the mathews/james treatment, few repubs have a clue what they are talking about (just decades of capitolist propaganda)

Be prepared to point out that dictatorship is always bad (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Cheney)

Good government requires primarily, good noble unselfish people, a comodity too rare

We have swallowed the immoral drugs of conservatives to our everlasting shame and chagrin from whence we allowed health care to become a commodity. Enough already!

Thank you for your excellent post. --- Removing the middle-man (aka health care providers) makes it easy to understand and harder for conservatives to argue against. (--- And it's far better than causing a conundrum as I have, spouting for the last ten years that health care has been monopolized by the AMA and doctors should be set free...)

Health care --- like public education should be the rights of free citizens instead of the privilege that it has become. Indeed, when our children are unhealthy or dying because we lack access to affordable health care, liberty does not exist.

"Socialism" is the precursor of "liberalism," used as an epithet by right-wingers trying to demonize any effort by the government to provide broad-based assistance to the public.

It is a word which has been bastardized and misrepresented for a great many years, not least by Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Workers Party (which was done as a propagandist appeal to the German public - despite the rather obvious self-contradiction of the Party's ideological agenda). And that perversion is currently used by right-wingers here and now, to support their grossly false and malicious allegations that liberals are fascist.

Dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of historical fact are totally irrelevant to right-wingers who simply use a disparaging tone of voice when they use the word to convey extremely negative - and baseless - connotations.

It's of a piece with how right-wingers have always used Orwell's 1984 as an instruction manual rather than a warning.

Asking an American audience about Socialism is like asking an Eskimo to comment on what types of shoes are best worn when dancing an Argentine tango.

There are no more than a dozen Americans that would know the difference between a "CPer", "Trot", "Socialist", "Maoist" or "Social Democrat" if they had a 10 hour discussion with them.

On a Global scale an American "Progressive" is just barely to the left of Genghis Khan.

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