Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I continue to advocate for the past

So a while back, Ezra Klein was accused, as an acting exercise, of being a "socialist" for backing state-provided health care. His response:
"We should stop running from that moniker," I chuckled. "If we're going to call what Canada, France, Germany, England, Japan, and essentially every -- actually, not essentially, just every -- other industrialized nation offers socialized health care, but they cover all of their citizens with better outcomes and lower costs than we do, then I'm happy to associate myself with that."
A perfectly rational response, but too, well, commie-pinko for some. Some, in this case, being Kevin Drum:
the basic answer to "Is national healthcare socialist?" should always be no, not yes. We are not in favor of command economies, ownership of the means of production, or state control of doctors, and that's what most people think of when you say "socialist."

And that's Kevin's media training for the day.
The final (thus far) repartee in this debate comes, perhaps unintentionally, from Ezra Klein, who links to this article at Democracy with the following superlative review: "Well sign me up." What, pray tell, does Ezra want to be signed up for? ESOPs, or employee-owned corporations.

...wait a second! It turns out Ezra Klein is in favour of workers owning the means of production! Crap! What next!

Actually, the article that Ezra links to is even worse, from Kevin Drum's point of view - it advocates state intervention, and state-owned companies, in the private market at the municipal, state, and federal level, worker ownership of business, as well as government-guaranteed giveaways of several tens of thousands of dollars. In short, if you wanted to give Newt Gingrich a coronary, this would be it.

Now we have a paradox: If you're at all serious about alleviating poverty and inequality in capitalist society, then the measures proposed in the article are a beginning, not the end. But they are, self-evidently, socialism. Worse yet, many of the policies go even further than that hotbed of Bolshevism, Sweden. Nevertheless, I happen to believe they would build a more efficient, stronger economy while addressing social ills. So how do we do it without freaking the norms?


Anonymous said...

There's a world of difference between some workers owning some of the means of production in a context which offers alternatives and in which worker-owned companies have to compete, and workers seizing the means of production and creating a state-run economy.

Anonymous said...

Another response to "Is national healthcare socialist?" is to ask "Is public education socialist?" -- seriously, it's hard for me to see how you could coherently make a case for public education but against public healthcare.