Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Market Forces for Change

Or as Lenin is supposed to have said, “When we hang the capitalists, they will have sold us the rope.”

One of the things the right and Libertarians like to push is the free market system, which they don’t really like. They like it as long as they can control the rules making it into a game of Monopoly: where they win.

On the other hand, they run scared when their market share is threatened.

The real problem is that there isn’t really a “free market system” out there.  Governmental decisions can act as market forces even if they aren’t set forth as being economically based. For example, building highways rather than public transportation has effected US society in ways which have been detrimental to its interests (or “Detroit: the city that committed suicide by favouring one industry with a very limited lifespan”).

The reason I tossed gun control in here is if the trend for fewer people to want to own guns keeps up, we will have de facto gun control.  The NRA can loosen up laws all it wants, but that may end up backfiring for it as people begin to realise that there was a reason the NRA blocked the research showing gun ownership was detrimental.

The right can continue to try to use emotion to sway people to vote against their interests, but that cannot go on for very long once people realise they have been had. Once that happens not only will people’s economic decisions change, but so will their voting decisions.

Conservative Socialism.

BismarckThis is Otto von Bismarck. Hardly a screaming liberal, yet he was responsible for social programs implemented between 1884 to 1889 as remedial measures to appease the working class and detract support for socialism and the Social Democratic Party of Germany which were known as State Socialism.  These Social Welfare programmes made Germany the first “welfare state”.

The first programmes introduced by Von Bismarck were:

  • Health Insurance Bill of 1883
  • Accident Insurance Bill of 1884
  • Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889
None of these existed at the time Bismarck proposed adopting them.
Bismarck’s idea was to implement the minimum aspects of these programmes that were acceptable to the German government without any of the overtly socialistic aspects.  Bismarck opened debate on the subject on 17 November 1881 in the Imperial Message to the Reichstag, using the term “practical Christianity” to describe these programmes: aligning them with the Christian Socialist tradition.
“the actual complaint of the worker is the insecurity of his existence; he is unsure if he will always have work, he is unsure if he will always be healthy and he can predict that he will reach old age and be unable to work. If he falls into poverty, and be that only through prolonged illness, he will find himself totally helpless being on his own, and society currently does not accept any responsibility towards him beyond the usual provisions for the poor, even if he has been working all the time ever so diligently and faithfully. The ordinary provisions for the poor, however, leaves a lot to be desired […].“
— Otto von Bismarck, 20.03.1884

Bismarck’s social legislation sought to preserve the existing economic order and state in Germany. This was in stark contrast to socialists, who sought to subvert the power of the existing state and eventually replace the capitalist order with a socialist economy.

Von Bismarck may not have been a socialist, but he was a practical man who had united Germany.  He saw these social safety net as something which would allow Germany to remain stable.  Von Bismarck’s primary motivation for social legislation was the government’s desire to erode support for socialism among workers and to establish the superiority of the Prussian state over the churches.

The second phase of the German social welfare system spanned the period from 1890, the year of Bismarck’s resignation, to 1918. During this period, improvements were made in the initial programs.The National Insurance Code of 1911 integrated the three separate insurance programs into a unified social security system, and compulsory coverage and benefits were extended to white-collar workers. Survivors’ pensions for widows were also introduced in 1911. (The many amendments to the National Insurance Code of 1911 were later integrated into the Social Insurance Code of 1988.) In 1916 survivors’ benefits were increased, and the retirement age for workers was reduced from seventy to sixty-five. Because its cooperation was needed to maintain production during World War I, the working class acquired more political influence and won greater social protection and representation during this period. Efforts were also made to develop mechanisms for settling labor disputes and organizing voluntary employee committees, issues taken up by new labor legislation and decrees.

The Social Welfare system which is denounced as being “Socialist” has highly pragmatic roots.  The forces of reaction on the right dislike them, but they should be careful in trying to dismantle the social welfare safety nets within their countries for the reason they were initially introduced:

To prevent rebellion and the formation of a system which is much worse.

National myth v. Historic Reality

Or socialism is the American way!

The usual image of the Early American citizen is a rugged individualist, not oppressed by society, but how realistic is that image?

Jerry Bowyer writes that:

It’s wrong to say that American was founded by capitalists. In fact, America was founded by socialists who had the humility to learn from their initial mistakes and embrace freedom.

One of the earliest and arguably most historically significant North American colonies was Plymouth Colony, founded in 1620 in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. As I’ve outlined in greater detail here before (Lessons From a Capitalist Thanksgiving), the original colony had written into its charter a system of communal property and labor.

Bowyer points out that the type of people who would go on to become known as the Levellers and the Diggers were the type of people whose world views would cause them move from England.  Of course, most of this thought comes from what is now called Christian Socialism, as were most of the other Socialist and Collectivist movements in the US.  This is now also being called Social Justice which is a society that  is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, understands and values human rights, and recognizes the dignity of every human being.

One can get into how radical the Independence Movement actually was at the time of the War for American Independence, but there was a strong economic incentive for independence in the hope of freedom from British Colonial masters.  The Boston Tea Party was not about taxes, but preferential treatment of the British East India Company’s monoploy.  William Hogeland is a very good source for information on how this hope was misdirected in that the oppressors came from both sides of the Atlantic and describes the founding period of the US as:

  • predatory lending in a real-estate bubble about to pop
  • feverish speculation by upscale investors in dubious debt instruments
  • foreclosure crises sending ordinary families into poverty and dependence
  • popular uprisings against government complicity in wealth concentration
  • militarized crackdowns on democratic approaches to finance

In short, “the founding war between some Americans and other Americans, a war over money, debt, and government’s role in public and private finance. A war we refuse to believe formed us, a war we’ve never stopped fighting.”  Hogeland’s work is very interesting in that it shows there were (at least) two streams in the American Independence movement, but there was hardly a totally unified force in WHY people wanted independence, but that is an aside.  Hogeland says that “The Constitutional Convention’s proposing a national government in 1787 came in direct opposition to progress made by the radical democrats who promoted ordinary, working Americans over the high-finance investing class.”  This is sort of a digression on the topic I am trying to make–I suggest that anyone interested in this line of thought read Hogeland’s works.  The ultimate point is that there was also a more “democratic” (read Socially Just) strain to the founding of The United States.  To quote Hogeland:

The Tea Party thus edits out an alternative view of government that prevailed among the ordinary 18th-century Americans who were all-important to achieving independence. Those Americans opposed elites epitomized by the Boston merchant class, which the Tea Party, perhaps appropriately enough, so strongly identifies with. The internal struggle for American equality was as important to the founding as the high-Whig resistance to England, but the Tea Party can’t deal with the populist leaders and militia rank-and-file who wrote the socially radical 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, or the Shaysites of Massachusetts who marched on the state armory, or the so-called whiskey rebels who inspired federal occupation of western Pennsylvania. American Revolutionary patriots all, those democratic-finance leaders had ideas about government’s role in ensuring economic equality that prefigured programs of the 19th-century Populists and the 20th-century New Dealers, the very programs the Tea Party wants to dismantle. Tea Party history therefore has to expunge the welfare state’s roots in America’s founding.

Of course, we are putting in a lot of different concepts of what is Social Justice, Socialism, and Collectivism.  Most of the movements mentioned in Charles Nordhoff’s Communistic Societies of the United States came from Christian ideals.  The fact that one could come to the new world and try a collectivist society.  Robert Owen would try his experiments in a Socialist Society in New Lanark (Scotland) and New Harmony, Indiana and was one of many who would try such experiments in the United States.

We also have the labour movement which resulted in such events as the Molly Maguires, Mother Jones’s March, the Battle of Blair Mountain and many other actions which seem to be neglected.

The US is an asperational society in that there is also the myth of the American Dream–that hard work will result in proper rewards.  Many unrealistic ideas have been pushed which cause people to believe that wealth will “trickle down” and more money in the hands of the rich will result in job creation.  The problem is that these myths also run contrary to the class warfare which has existed in the United States since its beginning.  John Brennan, one of the founding leaders of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society in 1974 said that “Our history has been lost, stolen and strayed from the truth by many, and it is up to us to preserve it”.  The people who fought for decent working conditions, fair pay, paid vacations. and so on, are demonised.  The net result is the Walmarting of the US workforce.

My blogposts aren’t scholarly articles, but they are observations which I hope someone will use as a springboard for further investigation.  The right has hijacked US history and is using it to the detriment of that country.  Any “tyranny” which is arising comes not from government action, but more from ignorance and apathy allowing private enterprise to give a revised version of history which works against any popular movement that has existed in the US.
see also:

General thoughts

I found it interesting that former Australian Rupert Murdoch was being grilled on ANZAC day by the Leveson Committee.  Even more interesting was his comment along the lines that “Citizens should take an interest in their media”  First off, the comment comes from someone who has done a wonderful job of subverting the media in most of the markets which he is a player.

That said, we come to the US media which hasn’t caught on, or isn’t allowing its citizens to watch the actual Nordic Noir programmes such as the Killing, or the latest–the Bridge.  I seriously doubt that the Bridge will make it to the US airwaves due to its controversial topics and “class war” plot.  A body is found on the Bridge which goes between Denmark and Sweden leading to a five point manifesto by the  perp.  The first two points being that there is inequality before the law between the rich and poor, the next point has to deal with the homeless.

Can’t have ideas like those running loose in the land of opportunity, especially since the advent of the occupy movement.  Not to mention, the occupy movement sounds as if it will be coming out from hibernation on Mayday, the worker’s day in the rest of the world.

The reason that the right wants to destroy public media and come up with ridiculous reporting is because it wants to control the public.  The problem is that control leads to revolt and disillusion when people find out they have been told lies.  In the case of the US,  people will become disillusioned that opportunity has been snatched from them.

To go back to the Australian thing,  Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan wrote an essay where he said he feared Australia’s “proud egalitarian tradition” was in danger from the huge economic changes of the Asian Century. Australia has had the belief that everyone deserves a “fair go” and the opportunity to do well.  Unfortunately, that tradition is being threatened by the super rich who are doing what the super rich are doing in the US and elsewhere–dismantling the societal institutions which allow for people to get ahead in the world.

Mr Swan said he was against “the combination of deep pockets, conservative political support and the ranting of the shock jocks” which had promoted the interests of very narrow section of the economy. “So the debate over the future of our country is at risk of being distorted and decided not by the strength of ideas, but the strength of influence,” Mr Swan told the National Press Club.

It’s not socialism or anything else to allow people a fair go, if anything it would be considered the “Christian thing to do”, but the right has taken aim at any religion which mentions social justice.  But, isn’t the real question whether a society which talks about equality should be working on destroyin the mechanisms which allow for people to be equal?

Call the Midwife!

Is the Title of a BBC drama about a woman who is a midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s and based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.

I was curious if it would make it to the US airwaves given it deals with two no-nos in US politics–woment’s health and nationalised health care.  According to this website, it sounds unlikely.  And given that the repubnlicans are waging a war on women’s reproductive rights, that is yet another no-no.

One can’t have a show on TV praising “socialised medicine” and talking about women’s reproductive issues.

Even though US’s Public Broadcasting pretends to be a true Public Broadcasting service, it is still beholdent to the commercial interests which can stifle information and debate. The problem is that while there may be no governmental intereference in the markertplace of ideas, there certainly is private censorship,

Still, this is a series which should be seen by people in the US for precisely the above reasons. Why are these topics taboo in a society which is allegedly free?

People in the US can probably find this online for download if they know the right places to look. I am a strong believer in the region free DVD player jsut for the ability to break down the international barriers to information.

I can add that the book and audiobook are available for sale in the US.

The Gospel according to Conservative Christians

For Barb:

See also:
Pastor David Platt on the Gospel of Wealth
Christianity, The Golden Rule, and Social Justice

Christianity, The Golden Rule, and Social Justice

I have had these thoughts simmering in my head for a while after having received something from a Jewish Social Justice site talking about the golden rule: Love your neighbor as yourself.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

The Golden Rule is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights, in which each individual has a right to just treatment, and a reciprocal responsibility to ensure justice for others. The main point of the Golden Rule is that a person attempting to live by this rule treats all people with the same consideration as he would expect to receive, not just members of his or her in-group. The “golden rule” is exemplified in many Christian stories, in particular the Parable of the Good Samaritan. One point that gets missed is that the Samaritans is that the Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along, yet the Samaritan was the only person who helped the traveller.

It seems that the question being asked today is “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) with the answer being “NO”.

But does the Bible make a responsibility to watch out for and care for one another? When one turns to the New Testament, it becomes clear that the answer is in the affirmative. In fact, there are many passages which emphasize that people do have responsibilities to others, and not just our immediate families: hence the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10: 29-37

These were two groups that normally did not get along, yet the Samaritan showed the Jew compassion. Southern Beale had an interesting quote from Ezekiel 16:48-50 about Sodom and Gomorrah where God compares Jerusalem to Sodom:

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Daisy Deadhead pointed out that Christ was no fan of the rich, and that is the Gospel. Daisy points out the passage:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:21-22

That is not the only place where riches and materialism are pointed as being contrary to proper spiritual growth. For example:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

Oddly enough, we have those who would say that the Gospel of Social Justice is a perversion of Jesus’s message, yet that statement is wrong. There are more than enough examples of where there is the commandment to “be your brother’s keeper” in most of the World’s religions. I have only scratched the surface of where the Bible commands that should one maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor. The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both.

Ultimately. there is nothing wrong with a prosperity gospel, as long as it makes clear that EVERYONE deserves to share in the prosperity, not just the few. But, that’s prosperity and not GREED that I am talking about. Social justice is about treating others as you would have them treat you. Indeed, it is being your brother’s keeper in that you watch out for his welfare as you would your own.

See also:
Isaiah 58
Versions of the Golden Rule in 21 world religions
Am I My Brother’s Keeper? | Daily Devotion from Genesis 4:9-16 | RayStedman.org
The Bible on the Poor or, Why God is a liberal
God Calls Us To Show Mercy and Compassion to Our Fellow Man
How Greed Destroys America