Why I’m Not A Socialist (Although I’m Totally Down With the 99 Percent)

IF YOU WATCH ENOUGH Fox News you’ll learn the world generally is made up of two kinds of people: God-loving Americans and Communists.

For those who don’t know the demographics, “God-loving Americans” consists of the 300 million or so citizens of the United States of America.

Minus the 11 million undocumented immigrants.

 

And Democrats.

 

democrats hate america

 

This means, of course, that the everyone else in the world is a communist.

Communists don’t love God.

Americans love God.

If you’re a God-loving American, by definition that means you’re a capitalist.

Bet you didn’t know God is a capitalist, too.

Indeed He is.

 

god bless capitalism

 

This means God is an American.

If He wasn’t, God’s only-begotten son JESUS CHRIST wouldn’t look like this:

 

jesus loves american... flags

WHEN JESUS COMES BACK HE WILL DEFEAT SATAN – AND DEMOCRATS

 

As much as Americans love God, God loves America.

That’s why America is the greatest country that ever was.

Communists can’t love America.

And just to prove how much God loves Americans, he rewards those who love him most (i.e. Americans) with boundless prosperity. That’s why American money looks like this:

in god we trust

 

Americans tend to be funny people.

The greatest comedians are all American.

That’s because God must have a heck of a sense of humor.

Even though Americans love him so, not all Americans have been blessed with prosperity and abundance. Some Americans don’t have a lot of money.

Some are positively broke.

Some joke, huh?

Still, even if you don’t have money, there’s no reason to lose faith.
Why else would we say we’re “One nation under God”?

pledge-allegiance

We know that the Almighty loves each and every American as much as he loves the private accumulation of capital, but you’re probably asking how can a God that loves Americans so much allow for any of the people that He loves to go without his blessings of prosperity?

How can God allow capitalism if capitalism is the root of so much poverty, homelessness, class tension, exploitation, and war around the world?

At least that’s what some people say it does.

First, I assume if you’re questioning God’s love of capitalism that you’re either a communist, a college student or a Democrat.

Either way, you’re probably wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt right now.

 

Che-Guevara-parody

 

Well, communist, that’s because most people don’t appreciate capitalism because they have no idea what capitalism is.

Most folks think that capitalism is all about making money.

 

capitalism-duck

 
Sure, it’s about that, but there’s more to capitalism than that.

Capitalism isn’t just about money, it’s about morality. Capitalism is a moral theory.
Capitalism isn’t meant to only enrich individuals, but to benefit society as a whole.

Although capitalism’s roots are in the feudal system, it was the 18th century Scottish moral philosopher, Adam Smith’s (1723-1790), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), that is considered the “Bible of Capitalism”.

Smith believed that people are motivated by self-love and that the primary motivation for capitalism is self-interest, private property, and to be compensated in the market.

Smith writes

 

Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command … it is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of society, which he has in view.

 

According to Smith, we enter into exchanges with other people because we are working to our own benefit.

enjoy capitalism

 

Now, at first glance, this seems all rather selfish. A society that encourages people to only fulfill their own needs won’t endure for long.
That perception is absolutely correct.

But for Smith, there’s an ultimate benefit to pursuing one’s own self-interest – being kind of selfish is actually beneficial to society as a whole.

giphy

 

Smith maintains that while we pursue our own interests, by extension we also ensure the well being of others.

Some of this has to do with the nature of the market itself.

We should keep in mind that Adam Smith was a moral philosopher. The goal of our ethics is to do what is good – in particular – to act in a way that is ethically best for society.

People, according to Smith, not only vote at the ballot, they also vote with their wallets. This is how the free market works. A business owner who has a reputation for treating his employees and/or customers poorly or produces a substandard product/service is subject to the will of the market. He may find that people don’t want to do business with a bad businessman. The businessman must realize that he bears some degree of responsibility to the pubic (his business practices must be consistent with the common good) if he wants to make money.

A good businessman must keep in mind that he is bound to operate his business subject to public demand.

Smith also maintains that capitalism encourages innovation. Innovation is based on competition and competition is the catalyst of improvement. In competing with other businesses, entrepreneurs (motivated by self-interest) create new, unique, and better products.
Individuals, like businesses, are motivated by self-interest and that we also possess the want to improve ourselves.

you

 

Milton Friedman maintains that liberty not only guarantees wealth, but that freedom is protected by capitalism. That’s because government, by nature, is coercive and hinders personal freedom. Capitalists (and capitalism) can counteract the actions of government because the free market reflects the true will of the people.

 

*The drive to improve ourselves is materially-oriented. When you add natural liberty to the drive for self-improvement you get capitalism. The outcomes are reason-based. Smith keeps in line with Enlightenment philosophers like Immanuel Kant who maintained that we are driven by reason. Our decisions are rational. This is why Smith discourages monopolies. Monopolies eliminate competition. It’s not rational for one business to dominate the market.

Because Smith believes people make rational decisions, he believes that government regulation should be minimal. The market will function as if guided by an “invisible hand”.

i see the invisible hand

 

Smith says about the Invisible Hand

By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it.

That is, Smith believes when we make money for ourselves, our interactions in the marketplace (as consumers, producers, and investors) benefits other people and society as a whole.

Just in case you didn’t know, the invisible hand is a moral concept.

Adam Smith also wrote

… improvement of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to society? The answer seems at first sight abundantly plain. Servants, laborers, and workers make up the far greater part of every aspect of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances for the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.

 

So far, capitalism sounds like a great gig, right?

billy

 

There’s a big problem with capitalism, tho.

There’s a pretty good chance that not everyone will profit equally. Not everyone will make money, Smith says. Despite the opportunity for individuals to make a F-ton of money, there will still be poor people.

f ton of money

THIS IS WHAT AN F TON OF MONEY LOOKS LIKE

 

Despite all the material fun stuff that capitalism promises, not everyone is on the capitalism bandwagon.

scaled_full_0f13a1aabb491eb3dbf2

 

Call them Socialists, Marxists, Communists, Godless America haters or folks who feel the Bern.

Some people would rather be Red than dead.

You know what that is, right?

bernie-sanders-socialism-scare-gif

 

The most famous treatise on socialism, The Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), maintains that capitalism determines people’s way of life (how people produce, distribute, and use goods). Life in a capitalist society alienates people, oppresses and dehumanizes people, and destroys social bonds. Workers and slaves to machines and slaves to the capitalist and the state that supports him.

This happens because everything is about making money.

According to Marx, even the rich are dehumanized by capitalism.

piece of paper

 

Fans of the theories of 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883) tend to believe:

  • Poverty and exploitation are products of capitalism (private property in particular).
    Private property leads to class division and economic inequality.
    Justice requires and end to private property.
    To abolish private ownership of capital and replace it with social (public) ownership.
    Collective ownership by the workers/public.
    Workers should choose how corporations are to be managed.
    Capital is not productive, labor is productive.
    Capitalism breeds unhealthy rivalry.
    Capitalism oppresses women.
    Markets are inherently unstable.
    Capitalism fails to provide social services.
    In a capitalist system, profits trump everything.
    Marx advocated fair wages and public education.

Now, socialism doesn’t seem so scary, does it?

Marx (and Engels) wrote:

 

…that kid of property which exploits wage labour, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labour for fresh exploitation. … when, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses all its class character.

 

truncated theory

 

Marx states that the class struggle resulting from the capitalist system will eventually lead to the proletariat abolishing the capitalist system and replacing it with collective (worker-owned) means of production – Communism.

Under communism, Marx explains, the workers will have a workers paradise.

 

workers_paradise_1920s_big

 

It’s understandable that people aren’t fans of capitalism and why they’d feel that socialism is the answer.* As an American, and a lover of dollars in my wallet, I can respect the right for others to hold different political views than I do.

As wrong as those people may be.

I’ll admit, capitalism can be pretty messed up to some people.

laughs in socialist
But, before we jump on the to-each-according-to-his-need-and-ability horse-drawn cart, we might consider how or why capitalism is so messed up.

There’s a real possibility that we’ve been doing capitalism wrong.

 

capitalism wrong

Yes, it’s possible for Americans to do something wrong.

joke

 

Here’s the thing: Americans are capitalists at heart, but our current brand of capitalism may not be the same kind of capitalism that Adam Smith wrote about.

And that might have a little something to do with this woman right here.

 

Ayn_Rand12

MODERN-DAY AMERICAN CAPITALISM HAS MORE TO DO WITH THE WRITER/PHILOSOPHER/HATER OF MOOCHERS, AYN RAND, THAN IT HAS TO DO WITH ADAM SMITH

 

The Russian born, American philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982), is not only known for her novels/philosophical treatises The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem, she also almost single-handedly influenced modern American capitalism.
If anyone you know declares that they are “going Galt”, blame it on Ayn Rand.

gone galt

 

Rand is most famous for her philosophy of Objectivism, grounded in the moral principle of the “Virtue of Selfishness”. According to Rand, selfishness was acting according to one’s rational self interest. Rand states that altruism (emphasized in deontological ethical theories such as Kantian and Christian ethics) is harmful to individuals and society, and leads to immorality, injustice, and double standards.

 

Rand writes

The purpose of morality is to define man’s proper values and interests, that concern with his own interests is the essence of moral existence, and that man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions… the Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his actions and that man must act for his own rational self-interest.

According to Rand, if you earn it, it’s yours. You are under NO moral obligation to share with or do for others.

That’s because acting with the interests in mind forces us to ignore our own…

 

rational-self-interest

 
Like Adam Smith, Rand’s moral philosophy is also applicable to economics.

645280137_1719643

 

However, Randian economics holds that any attempt to regulate the economy or to influence what we do with what is ours is an infringement on an individual’s liberty and rational self-interest. If you do not do well financially, that is your problem.

No safety net. No invisible hand.

You shouldn’t expect that others will bear the responsibility of maintaining your well being.

No help for you, moocher.

 

invisible hand

NOPE.

 

Rand’s influence on American politics and economics is far-reaching.

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, was a student of Ayn Rand.

 

greenspan and rand

PICTURED: ALAN GREENSPAN, AYN RAND, AND PRESIDENT GERALD FORD

It’s said that Presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were fans of Rand’s philosophy.

As are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who forces, whoops, recommends that his staffers watch the film adaptation of The Fountainhead.

Former Congressman Bob Barr is a fan of Ayn Rand.

Other members of Congress who follow Rand’s objectivist philosophy include Representative Steve King (R-IA), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and Paul’s father, former Representative Rand Paul of Texas.

 

a joke

 

Former 2012 Vice-Presidential candidate and current Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI), stated that he handed out copies of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to his congressional staffers as Christmas presents.

 

Paul Ryan said of Rand

You know, it doesn’t surprise me that sales of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged have surged lately with the Obama Administration coming in, because it’s that kind of thinking, that kind of writing, that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people would observe that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel right now, metaphorically speaking… The attack on democratic capitalism, on individualism, and freedom America is an attack on the moral foundation of America, and Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this, to me, is what matters most, it’s not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big, or the health care plan doesn’t work for this or that policy reason. It is the moral [aspect] of what’s occurring right now and how it offends the morality of individuals working [by] their own free will to produce, to achieve, to succeed, that is under attack. And it’s that which Ayn Rand would be commenting on, and we need that kind of comment more and more than ever.

… Although to be fair, Ryan later said that he rejected Rand’s atheism.

 

ryan-rand-hey-girl

 

To be honest, Randian capitalism-influenced economic policies work.

People make money.

And when pursuing one’s own interests, one is usually happy.

Because they have money.

3btee

 

However…

catch

 

Rand’s rational self-interest rejects Smith’s (capitalist) ethic that when we do for ourselves, we are actually acting in the interests of the common good.

And as 9 out of 10 philosophers will tell you, when we don’t act in the interests of the common good, society doesn’t fair too well.

The tenth philosopher is Ayn Rand.

She thinks giving the finger to society is ok.

 

greed
Ok, the Capitalist-Socialist divide has been going on for quite some time. Despite the fact that both theories have had the chance to prove which one is correct, all we’ve really done is proved that – well, that nobody has really gotten either theory right.
After all, both theories are over a century old. It’s a little difficult to ring up Adam Smith and ask him how capitalism is really supposed to work.

 

confused-business-man-scratching-his-head-while-reading-a-book-Stock-Photo

NOW, HOW DOES THIS CAPITALISM THING WORK AGAIN?

 

Besides, I have a feeling that Adam Smith spend all of his time on the phone taking selfies.

 

selfie

I HAVE A HORRIBLE FEELING THAT A LOT OF ADAM SMITH’S SELFIES WOULD LOOK LIKE THIS

 

The way things are, we’ve been made to think that there are only two economic theories to choose from. However, Capitalism is not without flaws.

But neither is Socialism.

‘Cause as much as I want universal health care, having a bunch of cash really isn’t that bad of an idea.

 

 

 

 

*I realize that throughout this post I have been using the terms Socialism, Communism, and Marxism interchangeably. And yes, I am aware of the differences between the three ideologies.
SOURCES:
Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements of Man and His Institutions By the Great Thinkers In Western History. 1977. Eds. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. NY: R.R. Bowker Company. p. 803.

Adam Smith. “Benefits of the Profit Motive”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 747.

Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. 1988 [1848]. NY: Signet Classic p. 67, 70.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardsalsman/2012/08/21/mitt-romney-paul-ryan-and-ayn-rand-now-thats-the-ticket/#59c883357810

http://www.e-reading.club/bookreader.php/137212/Rand_-_The_Virtue_of_Selfishness.pdf

Fishers of Supermen

I’ve been doing this philosophy thing for a while, now. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I’m much better at philosophizing than I am at playing basketball or Scrabble.

I think better than I dance.

I’m better at talking about Hume than I am at gourmet cooking.

I’m pretty good at doing something with minimal money-making potential.

Hurray!

That doesn’t bother me, though. You see, philosophers don’t get into philosophy for it’s money making prospects – they do it because they love it.

We are indeed lovers of wisdom.

That kind of bugs me.

 
I used to get frustrated in my philosophy classes. I read Plato and Aristotle. I read Descartes. I read Hume and Kant.

And Rousseau.

And Russell.

De Beauvoir. Marx. Locke. Mill.

They’re all dead now.

I would sit and think how distant philosophy seemed from anything contemporary. Nothing related to how the world is now. It seemed that right now didn’t matter as much as back then. How so many philosophers seemed to hold anything popular with a fair amount of contempt.

Ancient philosophers are the only ones who know how to think.

That never worked for me.

I promised myself that when I graduated, I would write the book that I always wanted to read. I thought if there was anyone out there who thought like me, we’d find each other across the internet. We’d prove that philosophical thought didn’t stop with Socrates.

We would become a movement.

We would become a new Vienna Circle.

So I wrote a book.

I started a blog and a Facebook page.

I was to be a fisher of supermen.

It’s been a few years since then. Things are pretty much the same as they were when I started. I’m not the Oprah Winfrey of philosophy.

If I’m to believe one of my former professors, it has to do with the fact that I lack proper philosophical street cred. That is to say, philosophers think that the only people qualified to speak (or at least write) about philosophy have a PhD.

Philosophers can be kind of stingy with their wisdom.

A philosophical velvet rope.

Apparently, breaking into professional philosophy is harder than getting into Studio 54.

Alvin Plantinga is the new Steve Rubell.

The thing is, there are plenty of non-professionals writing and speaking about all sorts of topics in books, on TV, and all over the internet. Some are pretty successful.

Could it be that no one is interested in philosophy?

No. that can’t be it. I refuse to believe that it’s that no one is interested in philosophy. There are still philosophy departments on college campuses and plenty of philosophy blogs out there.

Not as many blogs as the number devoted to celebrity gossip, but they’re out there.

My blog is one of them.

There’s a problem, though.

There’s no new Vienna Circle.

All I’ve accomplished is Vienna solipsism.

One thing I have noticed is that everybody else’s stuff seems to have what my stuff lacks – an opinion.
Their stuff has a point of view.
When I write, I try to be topical. I try to humorous and down-to-earth, but it’s not connecting to my an (any) audience.

I barely have 100 likes on my Facebook page.

There are pages devoted to characters from the movie Jaws that have more likes than my page.

So it can’t be that difficult to get a like or two.

See, I think my problem is that I’ve been playing things too safe. I’m stuck on that old habit of writing that one becomes accustomed to when in college.

That damned impartial writing. My writing is passive when it should be active. I write “One” instead of “I”. I say “One may conclude” instead of “I think that”.

I try to write about philosophy but I’ve been trying to do it impartially. That ultimately is impossible to do.

My writing doesn’t have a voice.

It makes for boring philosophy. A boring blog.

A boring Facebook page.

 

I know philosophy is grounded in reason and analytical but that shouldn’t exclude taking a position on anything. Kant definitely thought deontological ethics was the way to go. And there was no convincing Ayn Rand that objectivism might not work even while she collected social security.

Bertrand Russell had an ontology, but he also wrote what he thought about damn-near everything else. Russell wrote his opinions on other philosophers and other philosophical schools of thought. He wrote on topics ranging from politics, religion, international affairs, to marriage and sex.

Here I am. Trying to be analytical.

Trying to be impartial.

Trying not to offend anyone.

Because no philosopher ever did that.

Socrates never had to drink hemlock.

Contemplation, Philosopher Style

Aristotle wrote that the contemplative life is the best life so I thought I would do a little philosophy today.

That means I have to think. About something.

The problem is I think I’ve run out of things to think about. I needed some help/ so I asked a couple of people what philosophers think about. I didn’t ask too many people. I got discouraged.

They told me that philosophers think about nothing important. I was told that philosophers think about this:

belly button without the cat

And this:

 

big toe

 

Well…. I guess I’ll start there. With the navel gazing and the big toe. I guess once I get started some things to think about will pop up. Besides, I haven’t seriously contemplated my big toe in awhile.

Now that I’ve started thinking about my body parts, I wonder what deep, philosophical thing John Lennon was trying to think of when he made a nine minute film contemplating his own penis?

Must have been something really deep.

Perhaps it was Sartre’s bad faith? Or Gödel’s Incompleteness? Or even Marx’s materialist dialectic?

I guess we’ll never know.

No, I’m not posting that film.

But I will post this: