What is Socialism? (p.1003)
Socialism has been described as many things, but in essence it is a strive for brother/sisterhood, fostering unfettered equality through a planned economy. In the 20th century, one of the most significant agents of inequality was private commerce. It still is, because the more money you have, the more resources you can obtain, giving your more social worth and flexibility.
Socialism scoffs at a private economy. First, it sees individual-based prosperity as a surrogate game because as commerce ebbs and flows with fickle market, people's approaches and habits much change. Second, it sees it as heathenistic because it encourages one to make the fickle market the compass of inner value, because that is the best way to get more people "playing." To get more people chasing the dollar. This is why Capitalism is harshly criticized as being anti-moral; if one is to succeed they must flex to this market variability.
Socialism is not the solution though, as history has proven. Not only does the ideal of brother/sisterhood have little to no objective or practical feasibility, it unabashedly operates from a utopic vantage point. The Socialist utopia is simple: humans, given freedom from the restrictive forces of economic corruption, will indefinitely move toward peace and harmony. This is majorly problematic because as was seen in Native Americans, just because they achieved a balanced tribal infrastructure (which was as close to practical communism as we will ever see) did not mean they never went to war with other tribes. So this ideal of peaceful brother/sisterhood has little to do with actual peace and harmony.
Is this pessimism? I do not think so, considering part of Socialism is forecasting a world where the inhabitants "get along" well. I understand this desire, however that is not a feasible political or economic doctrine. Brother/sisterhood is also an effect. Creating a political or economic system that makes effects seem like primary causes seems to be inherently flawed.
This does not mean that Socialism's nemesis--Capitalism--is the answer. Socialism does an excellent job at illuminating Capitalism's flaws: materialism, economic caste system, and social justice determined by financial worth and viability. I just see using such a subjective qualifier (brother/sisterhood) as a slippery slope because it does not provide a working strategy for modern economics. It is cotton-candy thinking.
If brother/sisterhood are suspect, then equality ought to be reevaluated as well. Equality always slips under the radar as if it is a given virtue. As if any investigation allowing the possibility of it being otherwise is worthless. Why not look at equality with fresh eyes though? Western ideals of social justice all rest on this untouchable ideal of equality. What if we started from a different point, one that states we are not all equal, and therefore should not be treated equally? Where would that put us? Fascism? Naziism? Not necessarily, because those doctrines--although indeed assert lack of equality--prescribe a natural hierarchy. Not giving equality a free pass and looking at it with the same critical gaze we approach other things may provide a more realistic, practical alternative to both Capitalism and Socialism, so long as we do not posit a natural hierarchy from the outset.
The initial criticism to this argument will undoubtedly be, "Equality means being given equal rights, which means equal opportunities." You need to finish that sentence though: "...equal opportunities to participate within the bounds of the body in power." Equal opportunity is another way of saying you can do whatever you want, as long as it's ____. This is not advocating anarchism, yet simply pointing out that when we give equality a free pass citing equal opportunity, we are still filtering them through some kind of restriction. We cannot do whatever we want to do; our freedom of choice only exists if it falls within the limits of acceptable social laws.
Hence, my critique is based on the words we constantly leave out of our social and political discussions. In Socialism, rarely do we talk openly and plainly about utopia. In Capitalism, we rarely talk about the validity of those who do not want to be competitive in commerce, and in equality (and opportunity) we rarely talk about the ambient filters our choices are filtered through.
The Intellectual Revolt (p.999)
Early 20th century economic and political turbulence created a wave of intellectual skepticism for the future of effective government. Individual-based production and commerce had revealed how corrupt the individual quest for power, property and production at the cost of "lesser" subjects could be, and planned governments like the varying flavors of Socialism and Communism revealed how centralization of production was no less corrupt than an individual-driven system.
To boil this down, a solution was needed, which is still a hotly debated topic to this day: How to balance power (which entails justice, order, and laws) with the proportionally-variant compulsions of conformity and individualism existent within the populous. Governments institute power differently based on their beliefs and premises regarding this triad (power, conformity, individualism). Whether they formally acknowledge it or not, the effectiveness of modern government is determined by how well they toe the line between the general populous' willingness to conform and their compulsion to act individually. It is a contingent of incentives, but it is also a contingent of abstract human nature. Economists study incentives, but they do not specialize in the latter. (Politicians merely specialize in marketing law.)
It serves to note that some individuals will never conform--the philosophers, whose nature it is to be autonomous--and as such, are the individuals who see society the clearest because they are unaffected by its power mechanisms. The opposite side of this coin is that they are hunted and dismissed by modern society because they can see the linkage and innards (read : weaknesses) of these modern power mechanisms. Think I am making this up? When is the last time you saw a philosopher on the cover of a magazine, or asked to give interviews, or kids wanting to be a philosopher one day? Not a public intellect, or a brilliant-but-approachable scientist, but a creative, intellectually innovative, unpredictable genius with a penchant for objective truth rather than subjective, social platitudes.
Philosophers specialize in understanding human nature. Thus, there is probably a connection between our perennial ignorance to effective modern economics and politics with the lack of philosophers. Economics and politics are abstract concepts, and philosophers are natural masters of abstract concepts, clearing existent categories and creating new ones, if necessary. I find it strange that you can track philosophers throughout history as having created useful things like math, astronomy, theories of time, types of knowledge, physics, philosophical disciplines which order the reality we take for granted, yet in modern day we do not acknowledge their value. I am not saying we need to like them, yet that we are at a point of marginalizing the very men and women who have historically bucked the throat-clearing power-machine for the sake of humankind's progress, not for the sake of anarchism. Thus, the current prejudice that philosophers are impractical is a bad omen for our future.
I am left with making one simple premise: If we change our minds as to who and what we respect--to now include philosophers--we may find that these marginalized geniuses will come out of hiding and explain the modern mysteries that perennially stupefy us. Philosophers are naturally creative and innovative. Let us allow them to create without demanding them conform to the mutated, short-sighted, impractical mechanisms and institutions of power.
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