Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Monday, April 4, 2016

A War of Ideas: On Democratic Socialism, the United States as a Mixed Economy and Left-Libertarianism

So for about the past month or so Youtube has inundated me with conservative YouTube videos. The bots believe me to be a neocon. I'm long past the point where in the name of objectivity I'm going to claim to be on the fence about the GOP. It has a rotting core of sexism, jingoism, homophobia and racism currently embodied by it's leading candidate Donald Trump that makes it increasingly difficult for me to admit that yes I do engage with some aspects of Republican ideology.

I am a capitalist.

Even if my pockets are currently empty the concept of profit motivates me greatly.

And yet I also consider myself a socialist.

I've spent a lot of hours recently listening to neocon propaganda that views the two as incomparable yet I do not.

Economic Systems vs Political Systems
For me communism, socialism, capitalism and even mercantilism are economic systems determining what goods and services are produced and how wealth is distributed. In my mind I can divorce these concepts from political systems such as representative democracy and autocracy that determine how collective decisions are agreed upon.

But a lot of pundit's and bloggers don't and that's frustrating to me. I see nothing inherently undemocratic about socialism. That's not to say that I believe the Stalinist Soviet Union or Maoist China were paragons of functionality, but I chalk that up a lot more to their undemocratic political systems rather than their economic systems.

Let's Talk A Mixed Economy
As I define each of the economic systems I named the United States has and has had for a long time elements of each of them, so rather as diametrical opposed opposites I view each of the systems more as competing schools of thought on the role of The State in economic planning. Capitalism is the view that prices signaling supply and demand equilibrium determine whether or not a good economically feasible to produce by forcing producers to confront whether or not there is a wide enough profit margin to justify it. Socialism is the view that whether or not a service or good is profitable should not alone determine whether or not it is produced and distributed but rather the State. Mercantalism is a system whereby The State uses economic policies to protect its interests. And communism is a system whereby The State not only determines what will be produced but also owns the means of that production itself.

The United States for various goods and services utilizes all of the schools of thought.

It protects its national interests by controlling the import and export of goods via tariffs and embargoes. Also President Obama has many times attempted to use aid packages as a foreign diplomatic tool. Also one can view currency itself as a tradable good no differently from any other and monetary policy is all about the State's interest in maintaining low inflation, a relatively slow decrease in the value of currency to preserve its role as a medium of exchange.

Various institutions that provide public services are owned by and operated by the government such as schools, the military and police. Moreover I also view a road not only as an object but an institution that provides and facilitates transportation services that are also government owned. If it were not government owned it would most likely be constructed, maintained, operated as a toll road

Via taxes, social programs, contracts and regulations The State affects supply and demand price signals as well as other aspects of production without necessarily owning the means of that production.

Regardless of state interference what motivates most people to participate in trade and industry within this country is the idea of extracting more personal value out of whatever it is that you have traded for than what you have traded away whether it be a service provided such as wage labor, a good, or currency as a means of exchange. Currency however has an added value compared to most goods because it can easily be used as a medium of exchange. That lends itself to more quantifiable and standardized estimates of value across the board that allow for discussions such as profit and the value added across a supply chain.

A State
For my purposes a state is the entity within a population responsible for determining how that population comes to collective decisions often though not always embodied by law. A political system describes the rules by which that entity is chosen and operates which in an economic system effected by the push and pull of State policy is of great importance.

I could be here all day arguing what the role of the state should be but I've always found I like Mr. Lincoln. The State should be for the interests of it's populace and as such should whenever possible have decisions be made by it's populace and on occasions when that is not practical or possible use representatives of those people chosen by them to make decisions in the their interest.

This is the foundation of representative democracy which I will argue for some other time. My point is that the State if truly representative of all of its constituents must be able to set policy that they have agreed upon.


Rights and Guarantees against Coercion and Compulsion
However a representative democracy must be representative. In order for the state to act in the interest of the populace, individuals within that populace must be free to express and act in their interests without fear of coercion or compulsion by either the state, or individuals with competing interests, Therefore democratic states have often sought to guarantee the protection of individual rights seen as essential to that goal.

On Egalitarianism and Power
Despite the protection of these rights one factor still remains. Power. In a democratic society political equality is necessary, no individual interest can dominate all others lest the representative State becomes unrepresentative. Lest the state acts only in the interests of a minority of its population.

Law has always involved state compulsion, a sort of political violence. What makes that political violence tolerable is participation within the social contract. That this is the law the people, made up of all available individual persons to which it apply have chosen.

An individual right that is often protected is that of property. Other individuals nor the state can not unduly obtain nor harm an individuals property.

However one can view an unfair trade as coercion again a type of violence that prevents people from acting in and expressing their own interests.  So it is in the interest of the state to promote more egalitarian trade where each agent is free to choose the terms of the trade without fear for their life, freedom or loss of some other form property that essential for the other two.

A consequence of continual unfair trade includes a disparity of wealth which translates into a political power differential where those with capital have the resources invoke their political will upon the populace and enact law-compulsion, and political violence upon them.

On Truth and the Marketplace of Ideas
The reason for this power differential may be because the wealthy may have more access to the marketplace of ideas. They have the resources to better communicate and be communicated with. More access to media and education. If egalitarianism is within the state interest to promote individuate freedom so too is promoting access to a free marketplace of ideas where individuals within the populace can express, and debate ideas eventually to be acted upon by their collective will, The State.

It is within the State's interest to promote such a marketplace to allow individuals expressing their interests, yet again I fear coercion. While I have conflated the state with the collective will of the individual that make it up I am also aware that as an institution The State is much more powerful than any one individual and as such may be more powerful than any one individual idea.

Which is why the marketplace of ideas must be protected from The State, that individuals participating within in it must be guaranteed  basic individual rights to prevent The State controlling the marketplace that it promoted. To prevent the state from committing political violence against individuals birthing and spreading ideas and truths that offend.

That is a fine line to walk as even state approval may act as a thumb upon the marketplace of idea's scale yet I still believe it is the interest of the state to promote diverse and easily accessible communication and education amongst it's citizenry so that they may make informed choices and not be deceived by those who would coerce them, by those who would use political violence against them for their own interests in trade and politics.

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