Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two Streets, Same Solution

The left should be saying yes to socialism for Wall Street. Why?  Because the global market needs global regulation.

Nothing has come so close since the 1917 Russian Revolution to demonstrating the need for control on a global scale.  But only if finances and resources are held or regulated by national governments, can there be effective international regulation.

The financial structure that keeps the world turning is crumbling. Not because many countries fund solid social support systems, but because of the way humans will instinctively take advantage of a market free for all.

This should give us pause: for the first time ever, progressives have an opportunity to make a case for a social democratic organization of the global polis: it is naive to believe that the financial sector can remain stable without regulation, and it is cynical to dismiss crises whose real victims are the poor.  Wall Street fears the nationalization of oil and health care, but both of these would improve things for Main Street.

We've know for a long time that individual countries cannot meet global challenges such as bird flu, climate change, dwindling resources, water shortages, nuclear weapons, energy. What prevented this evidence from leading to the conclusion that we need world government has been the belief that an unregulated global-financial structure is the indispensable guarantor of all activity.

In the United States, uniquely, this myth has been compounded by the remnants of McCarthyism, whose strength is renewed with each Republican administration. Currently, after a period in which socialism as bogeyman was replaced by Islamo-fascism, we are hearing vociferous accusations that Barack Obama is a socialist because he wants to tax the rich to give to the poor - as did Robin Hood.

Pundits proclaim the need for change, but their unique points of reference are the founding principles of this country. It is time for public voices to point out that these principles, when carried into the twenty-first century, on a planet with more than six billion (as compared to less than a billion in 1776), must be enlarged to include the social democratic principle that no human should go hungry.

A powerful campaign has been waged for decades in the United States to convince people that if they value freedom, they must be totally self-reliant. But as John Donne, the seventeenth century poet and preacher famously said: "No man is an island."  And we now know that humans survived and prospered through cooperation, not competition.

In a world of six billion, effective cooperation runs through government, and the form of government that has best implemented cooperation is social democracy. The myth of government ineptitude must be debunked: where government as safety net is respected, government workers are just as effective as those in the private sector. I experienced that living in strictly socialist countries behind the Iron Curtain, as well as in France, which can be described as a wavering social democracy.

Although the next "Jeopardy" will feature questions about the U.N. (perhaps not coincidentally), precious little is given for us to know about life in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark or Holland, which are arguably the most successful countries in terms of freedom, equity and standard of living.

More on that in another blog.

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