II Timothy 1:6-10:

Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Point by Point

  1. Scot Wolf submitted a comment, a book report, really, on the present dangers of state socialism
  2. I fret (seriously) about how to respond
  3. I arrive at a method of response; find three things I agree with and then make a wish…
  4. My first agreement with Scot: State Socialism does not work well over time
  5. My second agreement: the need for social and especially economic planning fails eventually
  6. My third agreement –more of an amendment: socialism twists government and business out of shape, with disastrous results
  7. My conclusion: State socialism has failed as an economic system
  8. My Wish: we would not set up bogey men which cause fear and make thinking difficult
  9. That rather we would look at what actually helps, what is actually wrong and what actually works, because we have been given sound, spirit-led, disciplined minds if we will use them

Details, Details!

Scot’s Comment, in its entirety:

Socialism has seldom if ever brought good results to humanity.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism

Product Description

Stalin’s gulag, impoverished North Korea, collapsing Cuba…it’s hard to name a dogma that has failed as spectacularly as socialism. And yet leaders around the world continue to subject millions of people to this dysfunctional, violence-prone ideology.

In The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to Socialism, Kevin Williamson reveals the fatal flaw of socialism—that efficient, complex economies simply can’t be centrally planned. But even in America, that hasn’t stopped politicians and bureaucrats from planning, to various extents, the most vital sectors of our economy: public education, energy, and the most arrogant central–planning effort of them all, Obama’s healthcare plan.

In this provocative book, Williamson unfolds the grim history of socialism, showing how the ideology has spawned crushing poverty, devastating famines, and horrific wars. Lumbering from one crisis to the next, leaving a trail of economic devastation and environmental catastrophe, socialism has wreaked more havoc, caused more deaths, and impoverished more people than any other ideology in history—especially when you include the victims of fascism, which Williamson notes is simply a variant of socialism.

Williamson further demonstrates:
Why, contrary to popular belief, socialism in theory is no better than socialism in practice

Why socialism can’t exist without capitalism

How the energy powerhouse of Venezuela, under socialism, has become an economic basket case subject to rationing and blackouts

How socialism, not British colonialism, plunged the bountiful economy of India into stagnation and dysfunction—and how capitalism is rescuing it

Why socialism is inextricably linked to communism

If you thought socialism went into the dustbin of history with the collapse of the Soviet Union, think again. Socialism is alive and kicking, and it’s already spread further than you know.

My Response, in its entirety:

So, Scot! The scary, bogey man of our day is socialism?

O dear. Well. Well now, how to approach this?

I know! How about with an old dialog/communication methodology which I learned from a colleague nearly four decades back? Yes! I will give Scot’s thoughts three things I genuinely like about them and then I will make a wish. Will this help move the dialogue off “stuck?” Perhaps…

Thing I like, #1: Scot points out in what amounts to a book report,[1] that socialism does not work well at all in large-scale applications.[2]  Bravo. I made the same point last summer in a footnote in a post, about both unregulated capitalism and socialism. Socialism fails for some of the very reasons capitalism is relatively successful and vice-versa.

Thing I like, #2: Socialism’s failure is often in its need for very large-scale planning and the utter failure of all such mega-enterprises to truly stay ahead of anything as complex and far-reaching as an economy. Well said and totally accurate, Scot. Interestingly, capitalism, written large and unregulated, fails for the opposite reason. Its lack of coordinated planning and oversight leads, over time, to the depletion of air, land, water and other resource qualities and to the loss of human equity, all of which are necessary to life in a civil society. The people of Israel did not keep the fallow year law; instead they took the Moabite attitude of “This is my Chemosh-Molech land and I can do whatever I Chemosh-Molech want to do with it!” And so God took the people who had thought and lived like that out of the land for 70 years so the land could enjoy all its missed rests at once.

Thing I like, #3: In a misguided attempt to promote justice, state socialism violates what I will call a separation of government and business by trying to do one of the things government is poorly equipped to do, namely business. Scot, this is so true! Again, ironically on the other side, it is when capitalist business invites government into bed that truly awful injustices occur[3]. The Gulf Oil Spill is a perfect example of the undue influence of business on government, resulting in lax regulation and huge, still unknowable damage to fragile systems of life as well as great financial hardship to the people of the U.S. Gulf Coast, perhaps for many years to come.

So, to sum up what I like about the points Scot makes: state socialism does not work as a long-term system for any society because it is an attempt on the part of one sphere of society to take almost full responsibility for the tasks which have been assigned to another societal sphere within the order of creation. Government is simply not equipped to do all the tasks of business. The result of such an impossible takeover of one area of life by another is usually (and one could say, proportionally to how socialist a socialist society really is) poverty and loss of initiative, vitality and hope for all concerned. State socialism is a bust, now and throughout its short but sorry history. Good points all, Scot!

And now a Wish: I wish for a spirit of sound, Holy-Spirit driven mind when we Christians discuss such matters. I hear behind Scot’s report on the author’s remarks a spirit of fear. I heard the same spirit in Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party response to the President’s State of the Union message Tuesday night. Like the old John Birch Society saber-rattling of my youth, all about how “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” I hear timid fear. I feel timid fear. So I really wish that as Christians we could be a bit more centered in our certainty within God’s care and love and Torah, a bit more pragmatic, and therefore look with discernment at what has worked in the past, at what leads to good results and then with confidence not in ourselves but in the God who loves his good creation, seek to implement strategies, structures and systems which serve to take care of those in dire need and which serve to stimulate innovation and creativity as well as community.

If we would do this, we would find that a part of the strength of this nation, including its storied upward mobility, is founded in our decision to develop and maintain over many years, a mixed economy; essentially capitalist, but regulated capitalism, with important playing-field leveling collectivist mechanisms, like socialist libraries, socialist public schools, socialist courts, fire, police, water works and inspection departments and a non-mercenary, i.e., socialist and national military, run by government paid civilians.

These are not things to fear. These are all service “industries” which deal directly with the public welfare, which we used to all understand, back when the high schools taught civics, should not be muddied with the profit motive. That is, no one should make a profit on whether my house is protected from fire. As a society we decided these things long ago because we saw that when we have to keep up our payments for fire protection, served by people who have an incentive – namely, more profit – to not put out the fire when our house burns, then our house could burn down with no help from a capitalist fire company because we were a week late with our most recent payment and so they canceled our protection. Sucks to be us, huh? No, actually not, because we the people, the citizens of the U.S., decided long ago against that kind of unjust, services-for-profit social system. We decided to be a “we society”, not a “me society.”

Moreover, we learned years ago that for people to get ahead in life, children need access to books they often cannot afford to buy. We realized how hugely stratified – socially & economically – we become when good schools are only for those who can afford them. We saw how badly justice is perverted when only the wealthy can have access to police services and to the courts and so we all pay for those services together. We saw what happens – it has happened in the past few months in sad, broken Haiti – when only the elite can afford the filters necessary to assure themselves of clean water – the outcome has names: Cholera, Typhus, Typhoid, Dysentery– but do we understand what those names mean and how close we in the U.S. are to meeting those same characters face to face (or gut to gut) if we allow our “commons” to further erode? What is one failed water treatment plant, due to an inadequate maintenance budget, worth? We already have six martyrs to low taxes and government on the cheap right here in Minnesota. The I-35W bridge collapse? Remember? Anyone?

If we have that spirit of fear then we do not see the real dangers to our quality of life! No, we scream about how the socialists are trying to take over every time the “we society” we long ago decided to be, reaches out to help another group of those who cannot help themselves. But are the socialists coming? No, they are not. Or if they are, their numbers are so few in 2011 as to be infinitesimal. Does anyone actually know a member of the Communist or the Socialist Worker’s Party? I don’t think I do.

I think a part of the problem that motivates the unthinking fear which I sense is the push and pull which naturally happens in a vibrant, vigorous political debate. But in a spirit of fear do we misinterpret President Obama’s auto company bailout as an “attempt to takeover the auto industry?” Yes, if in fear, some of us assume any Democrat, if we do not stop him, will run the nation all the way to communism! Do people really believe that? If so, they need to meet and get to know some Democrats. On the other hand, do we see the Wall Street Bailout, initiated by President Bush, as an attempt to take over Wall Street? No, we don’t because he is a Republican and said he was for free trade!(?)

The reality, if we will discern, not through the eyes of fear, is that neither the last president nor the present one wants to fundamentally change the fabric of this nation’s systems and structures. Although, I have heard plenty of charges from the left that what Bush really wanted to do with “No Child Left Behind” was to dismantle the public school system and replace it with nothing but private and parochial schools. The progressives can also see their opponents through a spirit of fear, at least I hope that is all it was…

For all its faults and failings, the U. S. system, a mixed economy, has served us pretty well most of the time over the decades. When Social Security was enacted in the mid-thirties, there was a crisis in the nation. Millions upon millions of senior citizens were in danger of dying of malnutrition or of freezing in the dark because they lacked the funds they needed to pay for food and heat and light.  Month by month, many just had to choose two of the three. Social Security changed all that, for the better. But was Social Security the first slippery step toward grinding, jack-boot state socialism? No, just a tweak of the capitalist system because capitalism, left to itself, is naturally selfish and single-mindedly pursues profit, heedless of the collateral damage it does, not caring about those in its wake unless it is forced to do so. It was for this very reason the Lord God put some checks and balances into the Law to make sure everyone was cared for and the society all flourished together, not just a few wealthy people and many, many poor, as it was in virtually every other nation in the world.

At present, to be sure, we again have a massive and growing crisis in this country: health care. The number of persons in our so-called developed nation who have severe and life-threatening health problems but who, because of mushrooming health care costs, coupled with chronically stagnant wages, have not seen a doctor in decades. Their numbers have been rising exponentially. The crisis has become so acute that in the last several years, an international group, Remote Area Medical Clinics, has diverted much of its limited resources from third-world, hard to access venues, to U.S. cities and rural areas! Wherever RAM sets up shop in the U.S., hundreds of local health care volunteers are routinely overwhelmed by the thousands of working, as well as unemployed, U.S. citizens who had been unable to afford the medical and dental help they have long and desperately needed.[4]

When citizens of other countries, such as the European nations from which so many of our ancestors came, read about third-world medical clinics here in the U,S., they are amazed because their nations solved the universal health care problem decades ago. So how did the one-time, “Land of Opportunity” fall so far behind the rest of the developed world in access to health care?

Largely because of this looming crisis, a debate is going on in the nation over whether health services are not one of those “industries” whose services are better delivered in a system where tax moneys are collected from all of us to pay for the health-care of all of us. In some such national systems the health care providers are themselves, as in England, employees of the government – that is socialist – or they are organized in various non-profit corporations, as in Switzerland – that is regulated, non-profit capitalism. In pretty much all single-payer structures of either type, the overhead – the cents on the dollar which do not go directly to patient care – is 10 cents or less. In the U.S. which has Tri-care (military/socialist), Medicare/Medicaid (government payout to private doctors) and the V.A. (part socialist and part capitalist) the overhead is about 3.5 cents on the dollar. Only in the private U.S. system where medical insurance companies take a cut do we see overhead of 25 to 45 cents per dollar! I will repeat that. 25 to 45 cents of each and every U.S. health care dollar right now goes to CEO salaries, stockholder profits, company jets and other corporate “necessities!” How is it possible that so much of the U.S. health care dollar fails to serve the patient? Well, the U.S. is the only nation in the world where it is still legal to make a profit on someone’s ill health. It is illegal to profit from someone else’ medical misfortune in every developed country except the U. S.

Given our crisis, the growing argument from progressives is that as with police, fire and court services, where we all pay in and we all hope only other people will need to draw on what we all pay in, perhaps health-care services should be viewed as a right of U,S. citizenship or even residence and not a privilege of those who can afford it. And perhaps health-care providers should be viewed as civil servants rather than as profit-making business people.[5] That is what the fuss is about. Are we going to squeeze 21.5 to 41.5 cents of waste out of the health care dollar and use it to provide actual health-care or not? So far we have not decided to do so, even in what we call Obamacare, because Obamacare is still all about paying insurance companies who add no value to take their cut before they pay the docs, clinics and hospitals. Stupid!

So, we are on the verge of finally recognizing here in the U.S. what the nations from which most of our ancestors came realized thirty to fifty years ago! So is that where all the, “The Socialists are coming! The socialists are coming!” fear talk is coming from? I think so but I do not know for sure. Maybe fear of change, even of good change is like swamp gas; always out there just waiting for an ill wind to whip it up.

So, I wish and pray for civil, not frightened discussions in our nation, because the socialists are not coming and fear of what is really nothing can only cause us to hurt ourselves and each other. A great man, the last one to save U.S. capitalism from itself when it had ground to a halt after fifty or more years in its cancerous, rapacious phase, said of just such issues as those which we face today:

This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from his First Inaugural Address

Prayer

Lord, you know there are Fortune 500 “wealthiest” people in our day who compete rigorously with stamina and ruthless ingenuity, to claw their way ever higher to the next smaller number on that all-important list. There are people who now “doldrum” in the mere 250s who are searching the companies they own for plants to close, jobs to cut, whole processes to move to India or China, if only those decisions will push them into the 230s or even higher in the great game. We know, Lord, there are those who in the sickness of their souls, have come to love their profits above all else. Because we know you would see business enterprise, your good economic servant, freed from bondage and because we know our battle is against spirits and not against flesh and blood, we pray for those who desperately need you at the very center of their lives as lord and liberator and healer and friend. We also pray for the collateral damage: the earth, the air, the water and the dear people who are so often caught in the Devil’s bargain, the great financial game: king of the international corporate hill. There are those, Lord, who live by the axiom, “Those who die with the most toys win!” Please forgive them Lord and give them insight into the careless havoc they leave in their wake. And forgive us, Lord, because apart from your liberation, we would be just like them.

And Lord, we also pray for the end of our timidity and fear, and for a great confidence in you as we walk fearlessly toward those liberating works which you have called us each to do, day by day. Help us, lord, not only to be people who help but also people who fearlessly imagine, conceive, devise and implement systems and structures which, like ancient cities of refuge, stand to help those who are in need, not just today, but for day after day, long after we have passed from the scene. Help us, dear God, to leave a world which truly draws closer to your kingdom come and coming than it was before we got here.

We pray in the name of our liberator and ultimate owner and manager, Jesus our great king!
Amen!

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1 Back to Post  A disclaimer: I have not read and, based on what I have learned from Scot in his report, I have no plan to read the book he touts here.
2 Back to Post Socialism is an economic/political system in which the government owns the means for generating most of the economy and pays most of the workers directly.
3 Back to Post Search engine: Interior Department scandal and see what comes up. If I were to pick a bone with one near total clinker in what Scot claims the author writes, it would be that Fascism is a variant of Socialism. In fact, Fascism is a mirror opposite of a kind of Socialism. Fascism is what goes wrong when business dictates to government rather than government taking over businesses. In Italy Mussolini abolished parliament and established an Assembly of Corporations to rule the nation with him. It was made up of the owners and top managers of Italy’s 22 largest industrial and professional corporations. This was rule by and for business, pure and simple. It’s arch-enemies were the Socialists and Communists. The author could not be more wrong than to claim Fascism as a form of Socialism, unless he means they are both a melding of business with government but with the opposite structure ruling.
4 Back to Post  Search engine: ram clinics and watch the long list of names of U.S. cities come up. RAM is supposed to be helping people in the Ganges, the Amazon and the Congo, not California, Oregon and Tennessee!
5 Back to Post  Those who have read these posts for a while know I am no enemy of business nor of profit. I am the enemy of anything which is rapaciously out-of-place in creation. Business should make a profit but not at the expense of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the displaced person, the creation itself or its many cattle. Those are things which The Holy One of Israel, the Lord God of Hosts swears he hates. Such things will not abide for long on the earth.

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