Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Professors Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich, and Woodrow Wilson

This week Newton Gingrich has become the Republican Party Presidential primary candidate best positioned to beat front-runner Mitt Romney. Before he was a politician Newt was a History Professor. President Obama was a Law Professor before he became a politician. When you look at the history of American Presidents, college professor is not a very common occupation. The other exception was Woodrow Wilson, who was a professor of Political Economy at Princeton.

While Newt has not been, and may not be President, he did hold what I believe should be a more important office, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (from 1995 to 1999).

There is a saying that if you can't do, teach, but teaching is an important human activity. College professors also usually do some research and writing. How good is that as preparation to be President of the United States of America?

Woodrow Wilson served as President of the United States from 1913 until the beginning of 1921. Before that he served as governor of New Jersey from 1911. He is typically portrayed as a progressive President who also showed his spine by siding with the British Empire and the French Empire against Germany in World War I.

While Wilson did support some needed reforms like women's right to vote, on the whole he was a romantic reactionary. Most notably, he was a racist. When he ran for President in 1912, as a Democrat he could depend on the "Solid" racist, south, where Negroes (a respectful term then) were not allowed to vote. He made campaign promises to Negro voters in northern states, gaining many of their votes. Then he presided over segregation of the federal government, even instructing Post Offices to set up racially segregated windows to serve customers. He also fired most black federal employees and appointed white southerners in the places.

In other words, although Wilson was able to break with the past on some issues, his mind was not unusually far ranging. He lectured the nation and Congress, but all too often his lectures had no basis in human experience. I would argue that Wilson was a disaster, and that disaster echoed through the 20th century, adversely affecting not just Americans, but people around the globe.

For instance Woodrow Wilson thought no one should drink alcohol. Is that progressive or conservative? He refused to serve it at the White House, and on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified, making "intoxicating liquors" illegal throughout the United States. Certainly consumption of alcohol has some bad effects. But Prohibition did not stop the flow of alcohol. Instead it created black markets and attendant crime and political corruption. Just like Barack Obama's attacks on medical marijuana clinics are doing today.

Imperialism was a big issue in the 1912 elections. The United States had become an imperialist system in the late 1800's. Both Democratic Party farmers (the nation was not yet mainly urban) and reformers were against imperialism, and candidate Wilson said anti-imperialistic things, just as Barack Obama would hint he was an anti-war, anti-defense spending candidate in 2008. But Wilson invaded more nations that any other President, not even counting World War I. He invaded Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Mexico. For good measure he bought the Virgin Islands. In the super-hypocrisy department he signed the Jones Act in 1916, which promised independence to the Philippines. The Philippines did not get independence until the Japanese granted it to them during World War II.

For Wilson the idea was more important than the deed. Because he thought the South should have won the Civil War, he supported the idea of what we would now call national autonomy. Back then it was called national self-determination. But, after World War I, when the Japanese asked that Asia be de-colonized, Wilson vetoed that idea. Self-determination, he made clear, was for white people, not subhumans, which is how he regarded non-white ethnic groups. This insult to the Japanese and the people of Asia would result in the disintegration of China, a number of colonial wars, World War II, and then more colonial wars, ending only when the British Empire, a bastion of autocratic governance unparalleled in history, ceded Hong Kong back to the nation of China.

Barack Obama, too, is better at speaking than at getting things done. That is probably a good thing, considering the blow back the U.S. is getting from his attempts to boss around Islamic people. If Barack does not get a second term, at least his acts are unlikely to cause as much damage in the 21st century as President Wilson did in the 20th.

Which brings us to Newt Gingrich. If you compare Newt to Wilson or Obama, he is clearly the more competent guy. Even though I disagree with his policies, his strategy and tactics in the 1990's were brilliant.

The problem with Newt is not that he does not know history. I grant him a knowledge of history. His problem is that his mind filters out all the facts that do not match his pre-determined conclusions about how America and the world should be governed.

He has not even learned the lesson of the Great Depression, and a whole string of forgotten depressions earlier in U.S. and world history: capitalism destroys itself, left unchecked. Another lesson: too much concentration of wealth leads to poorly performing national economies. Another lesson: empires that spend too much on their militaries suffer economic collapse.

I am forced to conclude that electing former professors to be President is not, in general, a good idea. There could be exceptions, of course, but neither Mr. Gingrich nor President Obama is one of them.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deliberately Forgetting History

In his Memoirs former U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote:

"Japan violently and fraudulently misrepresented the idea of the Monroe Doctrine, deliberately forgetting that that doctrine did not give us the right to conquer and occupy or dominate sections of the Western Hemisphere or close them off to the trade of other nations. And she ignored the basic concept of the Monroe Doctrine, which was to preserve the security and independence of the nations in the Western Hemisphere. Also, the Monroe Doctrine was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests in this Hemisphere, whereas the Far East was being threatened by no foreign nation whatever." [page 282]

As an example of corporate security state thinking, this is perfect. Cordell was writing about the situation in 1933 and afterwards [the Memoirs were published in 1948]. This same type of thinking infects America today and applies to such perceived enemy states as Iran, Pakistan, Palestine and Somalia, or any others that may arise.

Without in any way excusing Japanese militarism, lack of democracy, war crimes or crimes against humanity from that period, I want to focus on the American side of the war and peace equation.

In case you need a refresher, James Monroe was President when he issued his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, part of which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. It basically said we would not interfere in European affairs, and expected the Europeans to keep their noses out of North and South America. At the time, however, many nations in the Americas, including Canada, were still European colonies.

Hull's interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine is questionable, but then the Doctrine may be seen to have evolved over time. He says the doctrine "was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests." However, it does not seem to have been designed to prevent the United States of America from making conquests. Between 1823 and 1833 the U.S.A. conquered: a variety of Native American Indian nations; northern Mexico (now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California); Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. In addition we invaded various North and South American nations on a regular basis, and did our best to set up puppet governments in those that were nominally independent.

So really what Hull could have said, had be been franker, was that a Japanese Monroe Doctrine in East Asia was feared to be exactly like the actual practice of the U.S. under the Monroe Doctrine. Elsewhere in his Memoirs, Hull claimed to be a keen scholar of American history. He served (but did not fight) in the Spanish American war. So it was Hull that was deliberately forgetting.

Adding color, consider the source of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt family fortune [Roosevelt was President while Hull was Secretary of State. His uncle Theodore was the genocidal maniac who presided over the Philippines genocide]. On the Delano side it came from illegally running opium into China [See Warren Delano]. When China tried to stop the opium trade the result was the Opium Wars. Did the U.S. side with China against Britain in those wars? No. Britain grabbed Hong Kong and both the U.S. and Britain rewarded themselves with the de facto commercial overlordship of China. The U.S. even invaded China during the Boxer Uprising. U.S. gunboats ran up and down Chinese rivers bossing Chinamen around during the early 20th century, and were still there in 1933.

Hull was doing the classic "do as I say, not as I do" dance. He did not object to American, British, Dutch, or French colonies in East Asia. They already existed, and the horrendous treatment of the native peoples by those powers were of no concern to Hull.

It seems long ago now, but in 1933 two incidents in particular were fresh in Japanese memory. One was the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. Not the cowardly surrender of the Spanish garrison during the Spanish-American war, but the genocidal war against Philippine independence. The lesson some Japanese took from the Philippines was that Americans would kill hundreds of thousands of Asians to prevent democracy and self-determination of nations.

The other lesson was in treaty breaking. Hull says the Japanese don't honor their treaties. Putting aside the stretch of broken treaties made with Native Americans, there was the annexation of Hawaii. The U.S., France, Great Britain, and Japan had all signed a treaty saying that none of them would grab Hawaii, so that it would remain an independent nation. The U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898. At the time the Japanese were the largest ethnic group living in the islands.

So it was the United States government that taught Japan that treaties are a convenience, to be scrapped when inconvenient.

Getting back to the Monroe Doctrine, a close look shows that the U.S. promises not to meddle in the affairs of nations outside of the Western hemisphere. It says we will recognize de facto governments. That means we won't try to overthrow governments, even if we don't like them.

Deliberately forgetting that policy, lately we have interfered in Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Americans like to think that ours is an exceptional nation. If that means excepting ourselves from the ordinary rules of ethics and international law, we are correct.

Note that today's news that the U.S. attacked a Pakistan border outpost shows that my analysis in U.S. Close to War with Pakistan [April 23, 2011] was and is, sadly, correct.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gang Rape of Somalia

Somalia is being gang-raped. The attempts by the people of Somalia to establish their own independent government, culture and society have been repeatedly thwarted in this last decade (actually, since about 1500) by foreign invasions. In the current round the invaders are from Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Burundi. Other nations are thinking of jumping in. The United States of America is supplying funding and military training for the rapists, as well as attacking Somalis with armed drones. There are substantial rumors that the United States has, at least occasionally, put its own gunmen and spies on the ground. France too, has joined in, firing artillery from warships and providing "air support" to the invading troops.

The American propaganda campaign is running full tilt, with even National Public Radio (NPR) and the New York Times running extremely biased, anti-Somali "news." They do not even allow the Somali side of the story to be told. The new enemy, the de facto government of the people of Somalia, is simply described as an Al Qaeda affiliate. In other words, dreaded terrorists.

A bit of analysis reveals the cracks and crevices in the lying picture promulgated by the CIA and the U.S. government. Our puppet provisional government in Somalia admittedly, until recently, controlled only a few blocks of Mogadishu (the capital city) out of the entire nation, and that with the "help" of invading armies from Uganda and Burundi. Recently the de facto (real) government, usually referred to as Al Shabaab (but in fact a broad coalition of anti-U.S. Somali nationalists), pulled back its troops from Mogadishu. They were simply not strong enough to expel the U.S. financed government and the gunmen from the African Union, so they decided to cool the war and consolidate in the vast areas of Somalia controlled by the Somali people themselves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. (and probably France and maybe other traditional imperialist powers) paid Kenya and Ethiopia to invade. Kenya thought its professional, western-style army, complete with tanks and fighter-bombers, would quickly defeat the Somalis. Their army seems to be bogged down and probably would be wiped out if deprived of air support. To further enrage Somalis, who are mainly Islamic in religion and culture, mainly-Christian Kenya made a pact with Israel for weapons and training.

All of the invaders are largely Christian nations. This has become a religious war of the worst kind, and again Islam is the victim. How is it that Christians and Jews portray Islam as an aggressor religion when their has been no Islamic aggression (in the sense of nation invading) since the 1800's? When Jews have invaded Palestine, France and Britain invaded the old Turkish Islamic sultanate, while the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and is threatening Yemen, Pakistan, and Iran?

And who is the gang rapist in chief? That would be none other than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, head of the Democratic Party. Americans are worried about their economy and have a simplistic nationalist outlook that makes them very gullible in matters like Somalia. They can't get accurate information, and even when they do are so trained in hypocrisy they don't apply ordinary rules of decent behavior to their own government.

Then there is the United Nations, which gives international weight to the imperialist slaughter of the innocents. The U.N. was created as an instrument for big power (notably U.S.-British) domination of the world. In its history it has never protected a small nation from invasion by the great powers. It is not a democracy with each nation of the world represented in proportion to its population. In its essence it is a dictatorship by the majority (Britain, France, and the U.S.) of the permanent members of the security council.

The only way to end the tragedy in Somalia is for all foreign powers to withdraw. But there is no force that can make them withdraw. The Somalis are not going to like foreign, Christian thugs running their country. So be prepared for a tragic, long, long war of national resistance.

Somalia and east Africa

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Political Offices

"Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes."

When Herman Cain can put his hands upon
Any skirt that he should chance upon
Heaven knows,
Anything goes.

I chanced upon yet another ancient surprise this weekend, the Child Labor Amendment, proposed in 1924. Mostly child labor has since become illegal or highly regulated, but in 1924 children were still working under appalling conditions in a variety of industries. Not only was there not a federal law prohibiting child labor, but the Supreme Court had struck down, over the years, a number of state laws prohibiting or regulating child labor (just as they had struck down other labor laws.). For instance, in 1923 the Supreme Court ruled that even in the federal district of Washington, D.C., a minimum wage law for women and children was unconstitutional, in Adkins v. Children's Hospital.

The Amendment was opposed not just by the crueler members of the business community, but by the Catholic Bishops. In their wisdom they felt the amendment would lead, eventually, to government control of child rearing. In Catholic Countries they took a different attitude. There the Church used the Government to force Catholicism upon all children. That would be a central dogma of fascism in the next two decades, and in Spain until the death of General Franco.

Text of this amendment, worth considering (for style, not content) by those who are moving to amend the U.S. Constitution:

Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age. Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.

28 states passed the amendment before the drive petered out.

At least they needed laborers in the 1920s. The U.S. people had made out like bandits in World War I. In fact, the U.S. people acted exactly like bandits in World War I. We sold our excess products to the warring parties and loaned Britain and France vast sums of money. Then we entered the war at the last minute and helped Britain and France to loot Germany. Holding most of the world's money at the end of the war, and reaping interest and principal on the loans, enough trickled down from the big New York banks to allow the entire nation to have a party that included a real estate boom and a stock market anyone could get rich playing.

Then things fell apart. Capitalism fell apart without any help from government regulations. Don't forget that.

Occupy Wall Street and its spawn continues to evolve and exchange DNA with labor unions and political ideas and trends of all kinds. Can Occupy, or some related organization-like substance, do what the Tea Party did in 2010? Which is to say, convert ideas into practice.
That would take something the Left is very bad at: winning political offices. Winning here meaning elected our own people, and ones with backbone, rather than allowing career politicians to slightly change their election rhetoric and appear to be aligned with us.

We have a big disadvantage compared to the Tea Party: a lack of billionaires willing to fund our campaigns in the way necessary to actually win political elections. But we also have some serious cultural issues of our own holding us back. First, like the Tea Party, we mostly don't really like government. But, like the Tea Party, we should not let that stop us. We should capture the government that is there now and make it smaller. We should cut Pentagon spending and eliminate an entire branch of the armed services, the Marine Corps. We should minimize the DEA. We should abolish the system of farm subsidies. We should kill federal transportation dollars and allow the states to take care of their own highways.

We should also close all tax loopholes used by the rich. All capital gains in liquid assets (stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments) should be taxed at the regular income tax rates, with capital gains taxed the year they accrue (not waiting until an instrument is sold, as is currently the practice). The oil and gas industry should lose its subsidies and tax breaks. Once we start paying down the deficit run up by the Pentagon and oil companies, we can adjust tax rates to optimize happiness for the rest of us.

But to do all that, we need our own people in office. We need the kind of backbone in the state legislatures and Congress that the Tea Party has now. And that means pissing off the Democratic Party establishment. Pissing on them until they go away and we can occupy their old offices. Face up to reality: in the short run we can't occupy many offices held by Republicans. But we could occupy a significant number of offices held by establishment Democrats.

That means taking risks, just like the Tea Party took risks in trying to win offices from the Republican Party. The mainstream and Wall Street Republicans told the Tea Party that if they ran their own candidates in primaries, even if they won the primaries they would just lose the general elections and put more Democrats in office.

For decades I have heard the same argument from establishment Democrats: run your own candidates in the primaries, and even if they win, they would just lose the general elections and put more Republicans into office. We wouldn't want that, would we?

People are mad at incumbents, but they need some outside agitation to make offices actually change hands. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Now is the time to start organizing campaigns for 2012. It is not easy. The banks have robbed us, and the law allows them to give themselves bonuses. We are not allowed to rob banks to finance our campaigns; that would be against the gruel of law. But ways and means must be found, or America will become increasingly like a capitalist gulag for the vast majority of American citizens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Federal Education, Cordell Hull, and States Rights

I am reading Cordell Hull's Memoirs. This is the last major work I plan to take notes on before starting on the final draft of The U.S. War Against Asia. I knew little about Cordell Hull except that he was Secretary of State under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which meant he played a major part in the events leading up to the Battle of Pearl Harbor. This just illustrates how even history buffs like myself tend to think in terms of Presidents, when actually Congress is the body that is entrusted to govern our nation. Problem is, there is a lot of history, so it is a lot easier to remember the names and actions of a few Presidents, rather than the tens of thousands of citizens who have been elected to Congress since 1776.

Cordell Hull was from a Confederate family in the hills of eastern Tennessee, and he took an interest in politics from an early age. He reports:

"It was at that age, and at Celina, that I saw my first daily newspaper. This was the Nashville American. In that year, 1886, a Senator from New Hampshire, Henry W. Blair, introduced a bill for Federal aid to State education. That was the major issue in the 1886 campaign. I read about it avidly in the newspaper, and we discussed it among ourselves. The bill was considered to be an attempt to infringe on State rights and to give the Federal Government power to go down into the States and interfere with their education systems. The amount of Federal aid the Senator proposed was only nominal at the time, but the incident is illustrative of how serious such issues could be in those days." [Memoirs of Cordell Hull, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1948, p. 17-19]

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about education. It is a fair argument that for a very long time education was a matter reserved to states and localities. On the other hand, the Constitution says nothing about education. It does not explicitly say that Congress can't spend money on education.

I don't know the full history of federal funding of education. Aside from research grants to universities, I believe Head Start and the School Lunch program were among the earliest large scale programs. Head Start was authorized in 1964. But the School Lunch program was initiated much earlier, in 1946. Federal money for school lunches for children from poor families would not, in itself, have any effect on how local schools were run, like the curriculum or teaching methods. It was not even used as a wedge to desegregate (black and white) schools.

I was on a local school board for 7 years, and I can only describe federal funding of public schools as a mixed blessing. The amount of "paperwork" involved, mostly computer work now, was staggering. The federal money was not just targeted, in the sense that it could only be spent on one type of thing (hence the paperwork to prove that). It often brought rules with it that were really unrelated to the cause for which the money was given. This included the school lunch program. Do this, don't do that, or we will take the school lunch money away.

I'm not sure how effective the federal rules are, including No Child Left Behind. Intentions, I think, were good. It just is not possible to legislate good behavior of students, parents, or teachers (or school boards, for that matter). I used to joke that my School Board should just pass a resolution that "All children in the district shall behave all the time." Like that would put an end to our discipline problems. Behave, Suzy, or we'll send you to detention at the White House Oval Office. Fail to read at grade level, and the First Lady will read with you at night when you would rather be playing video games.

I believe that, on the whole, schools would be better off if they were governed by local school boards using local (including statewide) funds. Sure, some districts would be poorly governed, but most would not, and none of them would be stuck with federal paperwork and misguided guidelines. The main problem with the all-state and local solution is that not all states and localities have healthy economies that can easily support good schools. You can see how a collapsing rust belt city, or a poor rural area, would be unable to provide good schools with local funding. Worse, anti-tax states and localities might refuse to raise taxes needed to fund good schools, even though their economies were strong enough to support the additional taxation.
Leaving this educator, on the whole, feeling that we need a more pragmatic approach to funding.

Those who believe in the wisdom of a national education system should work for an amendment to the Constitution that would give Congress the power to run or at least oversee the public schools of the entire nation, using a federal tax base. Those who want a states-only education system should try to pass an amendment to forbid the federal government from interfering with state education systems.

The rest of us should aim for excellence and hope to muddle through. Send federal money, not a complex set of rules and regulations that take up too much teacher and administration time. Increase the local tax base for public education. Focus, district by district and school by school, on what (and who) works. Some things may work in every district in America, but a lot of actions need to be district specific, school specific, even child specific. Large bureaucracies can have their beneficial moments, but they are notoriously bad at dealing with rapidly changing specific situations.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fred Koch, Stalin, and Social Security

The Koch brothers, or the two of them that own Koch Industries, Charles and David, are now well known financiers of the Tea Party and, more generally, the movement to dismantle all social welfare programs at the international, federal, state and local levels. They are the main backers of Herman Cain [See Ready for a Caining?] and for that matter directly or indirectly fund a number of current candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Charles and David Koch run a lot of industries. They are smart, competent guys. How did they end up with their current political ideology? Can the rest of us, who are inclined to like Social Security and Medicare, learn anything from the brothers Koch? I think we can learn a lot from examining the history of their father, Fred C. Koch, and his relationship with Joseph Stalin, who was the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) from the late 1920's until his death in 1953.

Fred Koch's father had immigrated to the United States after learning the printing trade in Europe. He owned a small town newspaper, the Tribune-Chief in Quanah, Texas. That means he was one of the chief citizens of Quanah, but in the American scheme of things was a hard-working member of the middle class. Fred's older brother, Anton, stayed with the family business, and thus remained in the middle class. Fred Koch was sent to college, graduating from MIT in 1922 as a chemical engineer. At some point he aspired to being more than middle-class. He became an petrochemical engineer and in 1927 invented a process that improved the efficiency of turning raw oil into gasoline. I count that as a good thing: if you are going to make gasoline, you might as well make it efficiently.

Koch then saw the mean side of monopoly capitalism. He licensed his methods to a number of (relatively) small, independent oil companies. The larger oil companies buried him in litigation, forcing him out of business in the United States. He had more success overseas, where the new Soviet Union became one of his large clients. Joseph Stalin had been Communist Party boss there since 1922 and was effectively dictator by 1928. Stalin decided to collectivize agriculture and at the same time push to industrialize the Soviet Union. While this forced industrialization was no more brutal in total than the capitalist industrialization process had been in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States, it certainly was no less brutal, and served anti-communists with many propaganda points. More significant was Stalin's penchant for imprisoning and executing people (probably 800,000 in total, many of them Communist Party members, not counting those who died of hunger and disease), which was done on a scale that made rough forms of capitalist politics seem minimally violent.

Therein lies a contradiction: the Koch family fortunes are largely based on Communist money. Fred Koch, however, did not like Stalin's methods any more than he liked the monopoly tactics of the Rockefeller family. He became one of the founding members of the John Birch Society in 1958.

It has been a while since I studied John Birch Society doctrine, but my understanding is that, much like George Orwell (who was an anti-Stalin socialist), Birchers believed there was a conspiracy by some of the richest members of the ruling class to use the working class and impoverished non-workers as a weapon to take wealth and political power from the middle class, in particular from small private business owners. Thus to the Birchers communists like Stalin and monopolists like the Rockefellers were at least playing the same game against the middle class, and probably actually cooperating with each other. Recall that by the time the Birch society was founded in 1958 the Rockefeller family had turned liberal, at least by Republican standards. Liberal Republicans of that era favored civil rights, a progressive income tax, and social security. In that era too the conservative wing of the Democratic Party (mostly, but not exclusively, southern Democrats) was against civil rights for African Americans, but had come to accept social security and the income tax.

Fred Koch made his money honestly and made so much that later in life he was, by wealth if not by ideology, a certifiable member of the ruling class. His sons are made of different stuff, inherited money. Thus while Fred's political beliefs were pragmatic (if, as I will show, somewhat mistaken), Charles and David's are ideological, free of any meaningful real-world testing. This does not mean they are stupid or mean-spirited, but they were not able to get a clear view of political, economic and social realities because they were wrapped in a fog of great wealth since birth. They have become, in effect, the very type of capitalists who tried to destroy their father's early engineering business.

I have actually met a number of people who thought highly of Stalinism. Mostly they were either aging CPUSA (communist party U.S.A.) members who refused to believe in reports of Stalin's purges, or young organizers who were angry enough to rationalize killing (in a non-war, non-civil war situation) as a legitimate political tool. In the 1980's in the U.S. you could still find a few thousand such people in the U.S. Today, as best I can tell, they number in the hundreds at best.

It is not right to equate Stalinism with socialism. Before the Russian Revolution most socialists, including most Marxists, were Democrat Socialists. They believed the preferred method for reaching a socialist society was through organizing the working class to vote for socialist parties in free elections. The Bolshevik Revolution was actually a catastrophe for the global socialist movement. The Bolsheviks attacked and eventually destroyed the larger socialist groups (anarchists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and others) when they consolidated power. According to anarchist thinking the Bolsheviks did not represent the working class achieving power, but the establishment of a new capitalist class that in effect made the state into one big oppressive industrial monopoly.

Outside the Soviet Union, communists worked as hard to destroy other socialist groups as they worked to actually overthrow capitalism.

Socialism does not require a dictatorship. Socialist parties have come to power many times in democracies, and when the voters tired of the government, left power peacefully to become the opposition party. Judging all socialism to lead to Stalinism is like saying all capitalist rulers are just steps in the path to the type of regime General Franco ran in Spain. I may not like Bill Clinton, but I'll take him any day over General Franco.

Socialism can mean government ownership of industry, but how much government ownership of industry is there in the U.S. today? Very little. The Post Office and the TVA are the only significant examples [See Our Socialist Constitution Framers]. Social security is not an industry, it is a national pension system, and there are good reasons the government runs it. Only an ideologist would want to move America back to the days before social security. If you want to get rid of social security, why not get rid of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, and that newfangled Christian religion that vilifies the old fashioned religions of our ancestors?

The Constitution gives Congress the power to promote the general welfare. The most common abuse of that power is when a member of Congress uses that power as a cover to promote the interests of political donors, who are typically already very wealthy.

The idea that social security is a step on the road to socialism is disputed by the Marxists themselves. Most Marxists see the socialist revolution as most likely when the working class, and those unable to find work, are most miserable. Thus food stamps, welfare, Social Security and Medicare are seen as attempts to shore up capitalism. They are the modern equivalent of bread and circuses (we now let private industry take care of the entertainment fix), designed to keep the Democratic Party and its basically capitalistic, imperialistic, corrupt political machine in power.

I think most Americans should agree that freedom has many dimensions. Before the Civil War the slavery of many was the freedom of the few. We reject individual freedom when it is the freedom to take away the freedoms of the rest of us. We don't want the government running Wal Mart or the local bar, but we don't want private industry tearing pieces of flesh out of us like it would if it ran social security. Bad enough the banks are private. We are mostly tired of the medical insurance industry, and medical capitalists and even doctors, tearing more out of us than their services are fairly worth.

My basic conclusion is that it is a very bad idea to let people who are born rich run the government. It is as stupid as having whatever idiot a king has for a son become the next king. Not everyone who is born rich gets as out of touch with reality as the Koch brothers, but there are plenty of smart, hard working thinkers from the middle class who will take better care of our governance. That is as close to the Birch society as I am willing to get.

To the extent I believe in Americanism and the original Constitution, I oppose the existence of a titled nobility. We don't have a system of Sirs and Lords, but we have allowed the economic equivalent to take root. I would like to give the modern interpretation to this phrase of the Constitution [Article I, Section 10]: "No state shall ... grant any title of nobility." A reasonable interpretation of that is that, since great wealth is effectively nobility, no person should be able to accumulate great wealth in their lifetime, and no person should be allowed to inherit great wealth. As to how much wealth constitutes great wealth, I am willing to leave that open to debate for now.