During the Cold War, we Americans who were unfortunate enough to grow up in those times were impressed with brave, intense rhetoric about how much better we have it here in the Free USA than those poor Russians, and Chinese.
I grew up in the last throes of the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell the same year I turned 20.
I remember reading a textbook on China in high school. One of the sections was titled "Thought Control In China." Almost as if there existed a technology that allowed Chinese authorities to control the thoughts of their helpless populace. The reality was a little more mundane, but the idea was meant to terrify us. We were free Americans. We could think what we liked. It was, in fact, a badge of pride.
A little thing about freedom that we didn't know then was that if you don't exercise it, it is almost like a muscle. It starts getting weak if you just lay around and watch TV. While the Soviet Union was booga-booga a big threat (but in retrospect, not nearly as scary as we were lead to believe) it was easy to feel like we were exercising our freedom. Say anything about freedom, and it's patriotic! It's American! It's the best!
But now, well, the conversation has changed. Instead of talking about how our mouths, minds, and bodies are free, the great gift of Americanness seems to be how our "markets" are free.
We're "free" to do whatever we want, as long as "the market" approves. Of course, if "the market" wants below-subsistence workers toiling off the clock in locked warehouses, that's "freedom" and how dare we challenge it?
If "the market" wants useless trust fund babies to come along, buy the companies we've invested our lives in, rack up millions in debt, loot the pension fund to pay it, screw the investors and creditors and run off with a giant billowing golden parachute, god-damn you freedom-haters, that's what the market shall have!!!
Coincident to this newfound reverence for "the market" is an utter disdain, a disrespect for, a complete rejection of, the intellectual products of freedom and free thought. It is doubleplusungood to imagine that the unfettered "free market" could possibly produce anything but spun goddamn gold. Hell, it's unthinkable to criticize the wealthy, the hyper-religious, or in fact anyone whose fee-fee's could be hurt by the truth.
This is the truth: the free market in addition to not really being "free," is also not always the best solution to a problem. I find this very ironic, because harking back to my schooldays, my understanding of the problem with the Soviet way was that people were not allowed to think for themselves. But, if you think for yourself, you can easily see how many of the "free market" shibboleths we've all gotten used to hearing are simply not true.
Free markets don't do public services very well, or even at all. There is no free market that is going to voluntarily build a multi-billion dollar highway system. The public had to pay for that.
There is no free market that is going to voluntarily provide police protection equally to everyone under the law. A private police force is in fact the definition of "hired thugs and goons." The free market cannot solve that problem. It is impossible.
There is no free market solution to the problem of educating the populace, either. As several tiresome years of experience with so-called "charter schools" has now convincingly proven, the free market is actually worse at educating than the government.
And really, we come down to it, there is no free market solution for healthcare either. We certainly do not have the "best" healthcare in America. Anyone saying that is not mistaken, not confused, but a fucking liar. We have some of the worst healthcare statistics in the developed world, and in my opinion we don't deserve to call ourselves a developed country until that is fixed. It is a basic feature of civilization that people are healthy. It is a basic feature of uncivilized life that people are toothless, crippled, blind, and weakened by a society that only looks out for the elite.
Why This is Ironic is that in a nation that truly valued freedom and the eager exploration of what works the best, we would have figured this out decades ago. Now, I know the far right likes to shriek "Sochulism" whenever something is proposed that doesn't involve fellating the hyper-wealthy, but it's a fact, this healthcare system we have, though it is improving by degrees, has almost nothing to recommend it. Prior to Obamacare, you could be charged 20% more every year for your premiums, while the coverage you had the year before would be slashed to ribbons.
I don't know how the "Free market" that sells you an inferior product for an increased price is anything to brag about . . . kind of sounds like Soviet-style thinking. Remember the delusional reasoning Orwell introduced us to, the double-think. We're told "best healthecare system in the world." Twice as expensive, half as effective. But it's the "best."
I'm not really an adherent of an economic ideology. I am for what works. If it works out best that the state owns every hospital and pays the salary of every doctor, great. Let's do it. By any measurable quantity, healthcare outcomes in the US are noticeably worse than other developed nations. Our life expectancy is not as great, our live births per 1000 are fewer, and more importantly we are all hostages to the next medical crisis coming over the hill. In the US, unlike all other civilized nations, health problems are a humanitarian catastrophe that leaves victims reeling, unable to pay bills, unable to get care, eventually dying of neglect.
But I find it peculiar that you can't have this conversation with 47% of America (Mitt Romney's base, natch) because SOCHULISM!!! The conversation immediately stops being about what works, or what is best, and becomes an ideological hissyfit. The kind of thing you'd expect . . . from a brain-washed devotee to a corrupt system. Kind of like the Soviets once were.
No conservative really knows the definition of socialism, or communism anymore. In fact, they've bragged about it right here on the Vine as I recall. I've certainly had my share of incredibly irritating conversations with conservatives who apparently think me=socialist=communist=facist=anti-christ. There is no actual thinking going on in the conservative brain regarding what any of these things mean, or their relative value. In fact, the whole discussion of relative value or worth or effectiveness is completely ignored in the conservatives' dogmatic views. All that matters is, is it capitalism and if so therefore end of discussion because obviously America is freedom and freedom is capitalism and that's all you need to know.
There's a really, fucking stupid bumper sticker out there I saw years ago. It read like this
God Did It
The Bible Says It
That Settles it!
I don't think anything encapsulates the crushing fuck-head stupid of the right wing mindset than that little Idiot Haiku. And that is basically the same line of reasoning that the right has used with respect to economic policy.
Reagan Did It
The Constitution Says It (though, it actually doesn't)
That Settles it!
No discussion is had. No measure of the effectiveness, worth, fairness, reasonableness of any policy can be had. It's just SOCHULISM AHAHHHHHH1!
Goose-stepping cultists, basically.
I say all this because I saw on a thread a few minutes ago someone saying, very correctly, that if Corporate America would stand up as one and demand a single-payer healthcare system, they would all immediately become much more competitive on the world market. And eventually, that is what's going to happen. In the long run, dogmatic blind adherence to a moribund ideology fails, because enough people see that dogmatic rigidity doesn't work. It never has.
The Soviets and the Nazis, during the great intellectual struggles of the early 20th century, both established politically-controlled schools of thought for almost every intellectual endeavor. In the Nazi regime, science was bastardized to become Deutsche Physik, which of course became a scientific dead-end since all the actual scientists who knew what they were doing left Germany.
In the Soviet regime at least the field of biology became bastardized to Lysenkoism, a State-Approved scientific framework that since it was based on bullshit, failed to advance Soviet learning one bit.
And in the US, we've for thirty years had our economic "science" bastardized into Reaganism. The salient feature of Reaganism like every failed ideology-driven science before it has been that it is a failure. A complete, utter, total failure.
I think the science of Reaganism can be summed up into just a few catastrophically wrong points. One thing about science: whenever someone promises to boil all intellectual discipline into a few key tautological bullet points, you're probably in the hands of an ignorant lunatic who knows nothing. But Reaganism seems to follow these key principles:
1. Taxes are bad
2. Regulations are bad
3. Government is bad
4. Socialism is the Devil
5. Everything not conforming to points 1-3 is Marxism, which is Socialism
I think that about sums up the depth of Reaganist thought on economics. Now, Reaganism has failed spectacularly to improve the quality of American life. Wages for Americans who actually work have been basically flat for 30 years. Wealthy Americans (i.e., Americans who don't actually work at shit) have captured the majority of every increase in GDP that's occurred in every economic expansion of the last 30 years. In other words, we gerbils ran harder and faster, and our employers said "thanks!" and took a bigger bite.
Our rigid adherence to a wealth-fellating "free-market" economy has caused long-term damage to the US. It is about time we told the cultists to shut up, and join Lysenkoists and Deutche Physickists-ists in the dustbin of the human intellect. Reaganism is an idea whose time has gone, and is now over.
So ironic that we adopted this drooling, stupid mind-control cult while throatily declaring our freedom.