Republicans sneer at the very notion of helping the poor and denounce any talk of economic equality as communism. But it’s generally not communism people are actually talking about – communists did not invent the notion of social or economic equality. Economic equality and helping the less fortunate in some form is the basis of every great moral code or government philosophy, from marx:
“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” (Acts: 2:44)
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)
to abraham lincoln (a republican if you didn’t know):
“It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just the same thing – fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have.”
The basic idea of fairness and equality isn’t bad (if it was that would make jesus a moron), what is sometimes bad is how it is applied.
“The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.”
– Karl Marx
The government owns everything and divides everybody’s wealth and possessions according to individual merit on a case by case basis – two main problems emerge with this system 1) the bureaucracy itself, having control of all the power and money, quickly becomes corrupt and ceases to serve the purpose for which it was founded, and 2) It removes many of the incentives for success, competition etc, many of the psychological driving forces that contribute to a strong economy. As shallow and idiotic as it is, keeping up with the joneses actually does help the economy by keeping demand for products and services high. In a society where everyone has the same clothes, drives the same car etc, while in principle this could produce a less shallow culture, it spells disaster economically – this sort of economic system won’t happen successfully any time soon, except maybe on a small scale with smaller communities where less power and money makes them less susceptible to wide-scale corruption. A village can function under communist principles more easily than a super-power can.
Fierce competition ensures quality products and services at low prices and people thrive or fail based on the quality of their efforts which produces a similar effect to what marx described – at least in principle. The problem with this though is that a) failure and poverty are built into the system, for someone to succeed someone else has to lose everything because by the very nature of competition not every business will thrive. Another problem is that the free market promotes anything that gives a company an edge and increases profits regardless of whether it’s moral, fair, or good for society at large, including corrupt business practices, pollution, monopolies, abuse of workers and even outright slavery.
The American System.
Our system embraces the philosophy behind marxism, christianity and other worldviews, the idea of social equality – but without getting rid of competition and hard work. And it has made us the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world. The way we blend the idea behind communism with the functionality of capitalism is by having the government enforce not equality of wealth where no one is rich or poor, but equality of opportunity, where everyone, no matter what their level of income, who their parents were, their place of birth, their race, creed or color – everyone can work hard and succeed. EVERYONE gets to go to school, not just rich kids. EVERYONE can run for office, not just the aristocracy or the children of royalty. EVERYONE can bust their ass and get a scholarship or a student loan to go to college and pursue higher education, not just the wealthy. EVERYONE by law has to be paid a livable wage. And when people fail as by definition must happen in a capitalist system, everyone has a floor underneath them so they can pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again instead of just brutally dying penniless in the street – I don’t think marx, jesus or the founding fathers would have intended the american economy to be a gigantic human meat grinder.
The president has only ever promoted equality of opportunity so that the poor and rich both have a chance at success. The supposedly communist “wealth redistribution” quote that is being presented as a smoking gun against him this week is this:
“I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot. How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.”
So I leave it up to you, was he suggesting we abolish private property and have the entire country run by a centralized bureaucracy that robs everyone of all their wealth, or was he talking about equal opportunity within a capitalist system?
“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” ― James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, 1931
It’s a sad, sad day when quoting the president of the united states casually agreeing with the basic idea of the american dream passes for a “gotcha”.