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While walking to class today, I saw man standing next to a table, handing out flyers and promoting his political ideas. I scanned the table for a moment and read the word "socialism." A good sign, or so I thought.

"I'm a socialist," I said proudly.

"A lot of people say they are socialists, but not everyone knows what that word means," came the reply.

He was using dictionary definitions to try to define the terms of the conversation and it hadn't actually started yet - not a good sign.

"I'm a socialist in the way Bernie Sanders is a socialist," I offered.

"Ah," he said with a smile that seemed to convey he was pleased I had given him the wrong answer. "Bernie Saunders isn't a socialist. Bernie Saunders supports the capitalist system."

I was handed a flyer illustrating that inequality in the US had steadily become worse since the 1960s. He explained to me that this was the "natural result of capitalism" and that no tinkering could possibly fix the underlying problem.

Of course the flyer itself was very clever, showing the increase in inequality over the past 50 years. If it had gone back 100 years, it would have shown inequality sharply decreasing during the New Deal, proof that capitalism doesn't automatically lead to continuously increasingly inequality.

Nevertheless, I wanted to hear out the argument. Too often, I feel like the radical left has lost its imagination. We constantly hear about the ideas of the radical right. But when was the last time any truly leftist idea made it into the public discourse - heck, even the Daily Kos discourse?

In fact we at Daily Kos often take pride in the fact that the mainstream left agenda is fairly popular with the general public. Sure, sometimes we do hear some great ideas, but compare that to the number of dairies that just make fun of Republicans. I'd like to see the occasional far-left idea being discussed widely, if only to help push the Overton Window to the left.

So as much as I knew I'd disagree with this man, I heard him out. He called himself a Marxist. He parroted the old line that if only Stalin hadn't strangled the revolution, the USSR could have been a socialist paradise. He said only radical change would save the world.

What radical change did he offer?

He used the phrase "equality of opportunity" to describe the society he wanted to create. He held up a poster that said "Everyone has a right to a job." He told me that money would still exist in the New World Order, and so would private ownership of possessions and personal property.

"Equality of opportunity" may sound nice, but as it has been employed over the past few decades, it is a buzzword for centrist/conservative Democrats and some Republicans used to place themselves to the right of any solution that offers, you know, actual equality. Equality of opportunity implies that everyone should get a fair shot, and after that, if there's still inequality, well that's on you. You deserve to be poor because obviously, you didn't try hard enough.

His comrade in arms as it were took issue with Obama, saying that he'd been our worst President. When I told him I worked on the Obama campaign, he asked me if I felt disappointed in the President.

"I am in some ways, yet he's also the best President in my lifetime," I replied.

"Obama is the first President assert that the US can just assassinate people," he explained.

"The CIA has been doing that for decades," I replied.

"Yeah, but Obama is the first one to actually come out and say its okay, publicly," he said. Wait, I though - the problem with Obama isn't that he kills people, it's that he does so and talks about it in public? How is that worse than killing people in secret? And what's so much worse about this policy than invading Iraq? Didn't that kill people?

I came away from this whole encounter shaking my head. It reminded me of reading a Lyndon LaRouche publication recently. I looked up the organization after reading that one of their acolytes could potentially win a Texas nomination for Senate. Of course, LaRouche is in favor of impeaching Obama. And then doing what? Re-regulating Wall Street and infrastructure investment. As in, get rid of Obama and then implement Obama's agenda. Sheesh.

The left has no imagination anymore. Even the radical left seems content to propose what is effectively the mainstream Democratic agenda and call it radical because of bogus critiques on Democratic politicians.

Since the radical left has abdicated its role in advocating truly radically left wing ideas, I will take up the mantle myself. Here is my vision for a profoundly left wing nation:

1. No more "equality of opportunity" for the rat-race of working. Everyone ought to have a basic standard of living, guaranteed by the government, regardless of how hard they tried or what kind of output they provide to society as measured by corporate greed. Being able to eat food, drink water, and sleep off the streets should not be contingent on finding a corporation willing to provide you will wage slavery.

2. Instead of everyone having "a right to a job," many jobs should be obsolete. With a guaranteed standard of living, nobody will be forced to work in soul-crushing, low paid jobs that they don't enjoy. Nobody should have to spend most of their life/energy working jobs they hate just to survive and provide for their family. If this creates problems (ie, nobody wants to be a janitor or a maid anymore) we should re-think our priorities in terms of how we clean and pick up after ourselves. Isn't it wrong to force other people to perform a lifetime of menial labor just to survive, just so we don't have to do any cleaning? These jobs should be well paid or not exist.

3. Instead of working, people should be free to pursue leisure activities and embrace their creativity. America's strength is our innovation. Let's get back to that. We'll never compete for low paid manufacturing jobs with China and Mexico, no matter how many unions we allow the Republicans to break. Why not just embrace American society as a society of innovators, inventors, storytellers, and artists?

4. Ending the culture of materialism: Americans are often driven buy bigger houses and more toys to compete with each other. Earning more money and having more income to waste on frivolities has become an end in and of itself in parts of our culture. In Star Trek, the future economics are described by saying that "the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We strive to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity." Make this our mantra.

5. Don't "make college more affordable." Don't make college free. Pay us to go to college! Pay our living expenses, our tuition, and give us a stipend. Reward schools who churn out the most creative students, not the ones who get the best test scores.

How to pay for all this? Glad you asked.

1. Public ownership of intellectual property developed with public resources: higher and higher taxes are a strong progressive idea but and even stronger one is promoting a public stake in ideas the public helped fund. If the public invested in a college research department that was later used to develop a drug that's worth billions, the public should get a stake of the profits of that drug since it was developed with public support. The same goes for other ideas developed with public money. Make America a utopia for creativity and research - but if you strike it big, America deserves a share of the profit so that we can fund the next generation of creative people.

2. End the drug war. Decriminalize all drugs. Legalize and regulate all drugs that are as safe or safer than alcohol. Release all non violent drug offenders from prison.

3. End the military industrial complex. Completely. Announce to the world that the US will maintain a self defense force and 1 nuclear weapon, that's it. End the NSA and the department of homeland security. Close all foreign bases.

4. Pass immigration reform, a huge boon to the economy and the budget. Allow unlimited immigration to American for anyone from anywhere that has a college degree. Release all those in prison for immigration offenses. For good measure, release all those in prison for being in debt -that's needlessly expensive and un-American.

5. Levy a tax against undeveloped land to encourage those who own such land to either sell it off or develop it, creating more jobs and raising more revenue.

6. Abolish all laws prohibiting or limiting tall residential building complexes in urban areas for zoning reasons. Allow "the free market" to build as many housing units as it likes to reduce rent (this will help the government since the government will be buying these for citizens).

7. Make corporations pay a carbon tax.

8. Make individuals pay a carbon tax, if they are above a certain income threshold.

9. End homelessness by putting them in apartments (moral and cost saving!)

10. Gradually phase out Obamacare and replace it with Medicare for All, which is more efficient for patients and taxpayers.

You don't have to find these ideas feasible or even agree with them all in principle. I just wanted to share with you what real left wing ideas look like, since I'm guessing you haven't seen them a while.

I'm not committed to these proposals as a platform or as a doctrine. I'm happy to discuss them with you all and potentially change my thinking (here, yet again, is a hallmark of left-wing thought, open-mindedness.)

Please let me know what you think.  

UPDATE: Replies based on discussion

For the land tax, I'm a fan of wide open spaces, too. And I don't think developments just have to be buildings, parks are fine. What I'm opposed to is big, empty dirt lots in major urban areas, which are owned just to speculate on the future development of the land. Often they are sold to other developers who also would prefer to wait before building on them.

For the phrase "equality of outcome," what I meant is that everyone ought to have a level out outcome which is equal, provided by the state, just for being a citizen. On top of that, people can also get jobs if they want, but nobody ought to be saddled with a job they don't want. It's not completely equal, I recognize that, because citizens could earn more if they wished.. But the point is that nobody should be expected to "play the game" if they'd prefer to spend their lives doing other things. I've changed the text to reflect this.

One good question is how can creativity be measured quantitatively. I don't know. It would have to be using a flawed, subjective criterion. However, I do know that the focus would at least be better. Right now the focus is getting kids to "test well" (or cheat well) and that is also flawed and subjective. But imagine an education system where teachers put as much energy into art projects, music, drama, and engineering projects as we currently put into tests and sports.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That's not "equality of outcome." (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, nextstep
    No more "equality of opportunity." Equality of outcome. Everyone ought to have a basic standard of living, guaranteed by the government, regardless of how hard they tried or what kind of output they provide to society as measured by corporate greed. Being able to eat food, drink water, and sleep off the streets should not be contingent on finding a corporation willing to provide you will wage slavery.
    What you describe there isn't "equality of outcome." "Equality of outcome" would mean that everyone would enjoy exactly the same conditions of income, wealth, housing, food, etc.—not just those at the bottom, but those at the top.

    In other words, "equality of outcome" would truly be the fantasy that the right wing likes to project on liberals, social democrats, socialists, etc.—that we'd take away all personal assets or income that exceeded 50% of the mean, and redistribute them among those whose personal assets and income are less than 50% of the mean. In "equality of outcome," if you currently make $90,000 per year now, your pay will be reduced to the mean per capita national income of $42,693. The blade of grass that grows too high will be cut to the same length as the rest.

    I don't want that, and the sentences that follow make it pretty clear that you don't want that either; what you seem to want is, as you write in your second sentence, "a basic standard of living" for everyone. I am 100% on board with a basic standard of living for everyone, but I'm not on board with calling it "equality of outcome," because it is most assuredly not that.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:31:25 PM PST

  •  Very few people support equality of outcome (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misslegalbeagle

    I sure don't. I support equality of opportunity, and equality of baseline. Everyone deserves a basic standard of living with basic economic rights.

    I'm a little pressed for time right now, so please just go to youtube and type in "economic bill of rights". It'll be an FDR speech. Watch it and you'll find my position on economics.

    TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D)

    by Le Champignon on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:44:29 PM PST

  •  I think pay for it 3 is probably unreachable (0+ / 0-)

    until there's a serious evolution in human thought, and I disagree entirely with 5.  Promoting exploitation of the environment is something I'm 100% against.  I'd far rather we worked on improving the ways in which we recycle instead, rather than constantly growing landfills after we disrupt the environment even further for the purposes of 'developing it' to 'create jobs'.  Especially if you're planning to guarantee an income, there simply is no point in creating jobs simply for the point of creating jobs.  Work on creating jobs to actually achieve goals for the race, not simply to give people busywork.

  •  If he was a marxist (0+ / 0-)

    then he would have known that the New Deal is a type of socialism. Marx called it "bourgeois socialism", as in socialism without any revolutionary aspects and no threat to the status quo.

     Actually there are lots of ideas from the left. I've posted a bunch of them.
      For instance here and here.
    I don't know if your conversation with him lasted long enough to get to them, or if he was enough of a marxist to actually know the details of what he was talking about.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 01:56:00 PM PST

  •  did you just fall off the turnip truck? (0+ / 0-)

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:06:55 PM PST

  •  I'm with you except for #5. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    misslegalbeagle, CFAmick
    5. Levy a tax against undeveloped land to encourage those who own such land to either sell it off or develop it, creating more jobs and raising more revenue.
    I'm a huge fan of wide open spaces.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd buy Detroit.

    by ZenTrainer on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:25:29 PM PST

  •  University of California was free (Berkeley, etc) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon

    My dad remembers the protests when they started having fees.

    We have gotten so far to the right that we don't even know what left is.   Our socialist council woman's most radical idea is to unionize Amazon.   Not nationalize it!

  •  A good starting point. (0+ / 0-)

    And a very thought provoking posting.
    From a quick read, there is much to agree with, I'm sure when I get more time to read I will find disagreements, but this is what we all should be talking about.
    As anyone aware of the changing world we live in now realize, that capitalism as it is now can not continue, it and we have to change, we are fast running out resources, and we humans cannot continue to live like it was 1900.
    I call myself Socialist, but do have Marxist beliefs too, for one, Like Marx, I believe capitalism will eat its self, eventually, and we need to have another system to replace it, so discussions like this are very important.
    One of my favorite Star Trek quotes too.

    "the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We strive to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity."  

    Severely Socialist 47283

    by ichibon on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 02:38:30 PM PST

  •  Oh, also: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaNang65, nextstep, BMScott
    Reward schools who churn out the most creative students, not the ones who get the best test scores.
    And how exactly do you propose we measure "the most creative students"? Since you'd like to tie a quantitative function to that measurement—the amount of money that a school gets—you're going to have to come up with some objective way of measuring a given student's creativity.

    Additionally, I don't think that creativity should be the only benchmark by which schools are evaluated. In certain fields—such as engineering or medicine—there's a pretty serious limit to the amount of "creativity" that is a benefit, and very good reasons for wanting our schools to turn out students who are well-versed and experienced in the established and time-tested ways of doing things.

    I don't want engineers who use "creative" equations to figure out if the bridge they're designing is going to collapse; I want engineers who are extremely adept at using the equations that engineers have always used, equations that are based on the laws of physics and the known properties of various materials.

    I don't want a surgeon who uses "creative" techniques giving me open-heart surgery; I want my surgery done by a surgeon who is extraordinarily skilled and practiced in the techniques that have been established as best practices in the field of medicine.

    If we want our schools to turn out good engineers and doctors—and I don't think I could conceive of a credible argument that we don't want our schools to turn out good engineers and doctors—then we need some criterion aside from pure "creativity" by which we will evaluate such programs.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 03:05:03 PM PST

  •  "America deserves a share of the profit" (0+ / 0-)

    I think you mean "America deserves the entire profit" if you support public ownership of all intellectual property.  

    Which strikes me as a horrifying idea.  EVERYTHING is intellectual property.  If I dream up a cute story to tell the kids in my neighborhood or a better leash for my dog, am I obligated to turn my idea over to the government?  Even if I have no plans to ever sell it?

    •  I didn't read it that way (0+ / 0-)

      I think the intellectual property the state has a claim on in this discussion was described as having been generated with govt funds.

      Maybe everyone read that and thought it meant "I write a book and they come take the dough" while I read it and thought "cool, no more drug companies using federally funded research and then claiming it as their own, WE pay for research and THEY get to file a patent on it, that crap has to stop regardless of the political-economic system we employ.

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 06:47:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Re: Land Tax (0+ / 0-)

    Are you familiar with Henry George?

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 05:38:43 PM PST

  •  Just one nuke? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Jester
    Announce to the world that the US will maintain a self defense force and 1 nuclear weapon, that's it.
    Having one is worse than having none. You need hundreds just to make sure that a dozen survive a first strike.

    A million Arcosantis.

    by Villabolo on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:15:18 PM PST

  •  I have some pertinent criticisms of this post. In (0+ / 0-)

    general I agree with the diarist, but he has many things off. (I apologize ahead of time for not being able to single out properly the passages that I find problematic. I welcome advice on using the forum, esp. the blockquote feature.)

    "Yeah, but Obama is the first one to actually come out and say its okay, publicly," he said. Wait, I though - the problem with Obama isn't that he kills people, it's that he does so and talks about it in public? How is that worse than killing people in secret? And what's so much worse about this policy than invading Iraq? Didn't that kill people?

    Obama’s argument justifies murder and therefore places the issue in the public consciousness, not making it worse than the action itself, but exacerbating the situation since it seeks justification. To compare Obama to Bush (which he is doing with the question “what’s so much worse about this policy than invading Iraq” is not only patently absurd but is totally irrelevant to the issue.

    wage slavery

    And you criticize the phrase “equality of opportunity”?

    Why not just embrace American society as a society of innovators, inventors, storytellers, and artists?

    Are you for real? Surely you recognize the ridiculousness of everyone having the talent, energy, and fortitude of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell or Ben Franklin.

    4. Ending the culture of materialism: Americans are often driven buy bigger houses and more toys to compete with each other. Earning more money and having more income to waste on frivolities has become an end in and of itself in parts of our culture. In Star Trek, the future economics are described by saying that "the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We strive to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity." Make this our mantra.

    I agree, a socialist revolution would need to be a personal revolution with a radical change in priorities and goals, not simply a readjustment of existing societal distribution.

    5. Don't "make college more affordable." Don't make college free. Pay us to go to college! Pay our living expenses, our tuition, and give us a stipend. Reward schools who churn out the most creative students, not the ones who get the best test scores.

    This is as unrealistic as the current reliance in our education system on standardized testing since the diarist is attempting to impose a one-size-fits-all idea. The fact is that not everyone wants to be in school, for various reasons of which this is not the proper forum to discuss.

    4. Pass immigration reform, a huge boon to the economy and the budget. Allow unlimited immigration to American for anyone from anywhere that has a college degree. Release all those in prison for immigration offenses. For good measure, release all those in prison for being in debt -that's needlessly expensive and un-American.

    I agree with the diarist’s solutions for the most part. However, this one in particular confuses me and indicates that he has not thought it through clearly. Specifically the phrase “Allow unlimited immigration to American [sic] for anyone from anywhere that has a college degree” seems hopelessly naïve in that he previously calls on Americans to not be forced to work at jobs such as janitors and maids.

    Having leveled these criticisms I welcome Mikesco’s responses as the beginning of a dialogue. However, I do not appreciate his criticism of the tablers who braved the elements to hand out flyers.

  •  A most fascinating diary, Mikesco, thanks! (0+ / 0-)

    I do have to hand it to you, you unquestionably have an ability to think out of the box!  I won't address any of your proposals in particular, but i will say the following: some i totally agree with and others i think are totally wrong; some are absolutely brilliant and others are so absurd as to have flown out of a goose's rear end; and lastly, i love them all because it shows the kind of imaginative thinking and holistic conceptualization that i agree with you does indeed seem to be rather lacking in most American political and economic discourse.  If we can't envision and articulate every ideal alternative, as unreachable as they might seem, we have no hope at all of realizing those goals that might be more readily achieved.  Well done, Mikesco!  :)

    Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will. - - Antonio Gramsci

    by lehman scott on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 07:41:18 PM PST

  •  blah. there is alot of imagination on the left (0+ / 0-)

    you just took a tired old sloganeering example.  the smart people on the left like Gar Alperovitz are rethinking what it is that we really want.  its neither free market capitalism nor state run socialism.  it is instead a democratization of the work place through employee owned business.  give him a read.  the left has evolved.  you just don't hear much from it in the mainstream media.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Mar 03, 2014 at 08:09:15 PM PST

  •  Communist. ;) (0+ / 0-)

    I'm all for it, being a disciple of Roddenberry.

    However, I have a feeling it will take blood being spilled to achieve the goal of breaking the iron grip of corporate oligarchy over the US.

    But at least the "who's blood?" is well understood. ;)

    1789

  •  No change is possible. . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . .until unchecked population growth is addressed. At 7 billion inhabitants on the earth and still rising, the economic forces behind this exponential growth over shadows anything else we can do at all. Simply put, if overpopulation is not addressed, it doesn't matter if we are capitalist, corporatists, socialists or communists. . .we are doomed.

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