Spot the Socialist

Posted by on Nov 10, 2008 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments


Meant to post on this over the last week or so, but didn't find the right moment. Reads particularly insightful now with a whole week's hindsight…

Like most non-American observers I have been struck by the repeated Repulican accusations that the Junior Senator form Illinois was a rabid (boo-hiss) socialist…spreading wealth around etc…

As this typically urbane New Yorker piece points out, the actual difference in fiscal policy was minor (4.6% of total tax burden) and affects only those earning whopping big amounts (as Barack himself pointed out repeatedly). And it's primarily created by letting the bush tax-cuts for the super rich lapse…

But it's not the inability to interrogate the policy details and 'do the math' that is surprising to  european eyes; no, it's the fact that a group of folk so keen on community and mutuality should see sharing resources and wealth around such a bad thing. Guess it's not about the thing after all…

I find this clash between the individualist and social traits in US culture repeatedly surprising – between self-determination, independence and collectivist conformist ideas. Socialism's just one pressure point.

While you ponder this, here's a new game: spot the American Socialist

"…we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively
Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the
development of these resources occurs"

"wealthy people can afford more…[]because
they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t
pay nearly as much as you think they do.”

"Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more"

PS none of these is a Democrat


  1. Jay
    November 10, 2008


    Socialism as a political doctrine is about forcing behaviours (for the sake of argument I'll accept that it's done with the best intentions) something which for me is the very antithesis of the self organising herds which are usually highlighted here.

    It is neither impossible nor unreasonable to be extremely wary of applied socialism and fully behind self organised groups looking to improve the world in which we live for themselves and for others.

  2. Mark
    November 10, 2008

    Thanks, Jay, for your comment

    I'd guess from your hmmmmmm that you're uncomfortable with this idea

    Fact is quite a lot of folk around the world, happen to believe that socialism (with a small 's') is best understood as a self-organising phenomenon (like liberal democracy), where 'we' decide how we're going to pool our resources and to what end…of course, there are many different colours and shades of this, some of which are more enforcement-based than others.

    Frankly, however, from the Palin-McCain quotes in the post, I found it hard to find something that most europeans would disagree with. How would it be where you are?

    But I think you make my point about the US vs non-US split quite well for me: for many people, in many different situations, in many parts of the world, in many different cultures, the 's'-word is not the boogey man it can seem to be in the US.

    Thanks for stopping by

  3. Matt Moore
    November 10, 2008

    Francis Fukuyama and others have described Americans as "rugged conformists". As a culture they love the imagery of individualism but are less enthusiastic about the reality.

    So lots of socialist stuff actually goes on in the US (wealth distribution to both rich and poor) but you can't talk about it. There's also a tendency to conflate any form of "socialism" with totalitarian "state communism".

    Socialism in the US is like sex in nursing homes – no one talks about it but it's all over the place.