Sounds like the answer to a question on Jeopardy, right?
What is America?
I’ll take “A Hellified Mess” for $500, Alex…
One of our O Society people states:
“The United States is firmly a capitalist economy and Bernie Sanders’ proposed policies are truly socialist.”
by O Society Feb 22, 2020
First, let’s remind ourselves of the nefarious ubiquitous false dichotomy tar baby which rules social media and our mainstream media.
Second, this means our view isn’t necessarily wrong or right so much as it highlights the importance to clarify exactly WTF is going on. We have what’s called a semantic debate going on here. Semantic debates are about the meanings of words. This is not trivial no matter what our preconceived ideas about “it’s just a semantic argument.”
For the sake of our argument, these semantic arguments typically take the form:
What is the definition of X?
Here we are specifically talking about X is what’s the definition of socialism (and related concepts, capitalism, communism, social democracy, democratic socialism, and so on).
However, the false dichotomy model forces us to “choose sides and prove our loyalty.” This false dichotomy model is bullshit guaranteed to get clicks, views and comments, which is precisely why the media rely on it as the go-to format of everything.
Third, we can demonstrate and understand why the dichotomy is often a bullshit result of a manufactured drama by studying the more-sophisticated tetralemma model:
Typically the dichotomy is produced as the input/ output of what’s called Boolean logic or predicate logic. This works great in an artificial system like a computer where everything is binary by design. This sucks big giant yarbles in the real world because the real world is not an artificially produced binary system of T/F or 0 and 1.
No, the real world is not really the Matrix because the Matrix is a Hollywood product. No, choosing a red/ blue pill doesn’t do anything and Keanu Reeves doesn’t really know kung fu, you morons: The infantilization of Western culture
To use an idiom we can all relate to, the real world is not black and white but rather shades of grey. To be blunt, choices such as My way or the highway are an authoritarian boulevard to broken dreams. You are either with us or against us is a lowest common denominator lie lined with Labradoodle crapola and poo-flinging monkeys.
Fourth, when we observe closely, we realize semantic debates make up the vast majority of arguments on the internet. The average ‘Merican political discussion can be boiled down to “what is the definition of words such as liberal and conservative and hypocrite?”
My definitions don’t match yours, so off we go on a never-ending story…
Fifth, we have what’s called a mixed economy in America. This is what economists call it. So I’m repeating what the economics professor says. It’s not socialism or capitalism really; it’s both and neither at the same time: Mixed Economic System
I am not an economist by training. I’m a scientist. Economics is not a science. They use a lot of math in economics, but all they count is money. Not atoms or molecules.
My favorite economist is Michael Hudson. He puts things in context so I can understand why otherwise random-seeming concepts are important: Neoliberalism and its Discontents
My take is in 2020, American economics is mixed up with religion and politics to such an overwhelming muddy mess, no one agrees on much of anything. This is no doubt on purpose, intentionally caused by the acolytes of the Neoliberal cult of Mammon.
So this is what I call the American Dream/ ideology/ cultural hegemony/ religion/ economy/ political thing. Economists call it Neoliberalism and the Bible calls it Mammon.
To use another example, Americans typically believe we live in a democracy or a perhaps a republic. Just as there is no pure capitalism or pure socialism, there is no pure democracy or republic either: Aristotle, Democracy, and Oligarchy
Rather, these are mythological political terms. Like rainbow unicorns, we make up terms and act as if these concepts are real in the way horses are real. Utopia doesn’t exist except as a concept. Neither does democracy, socialism, democratic socialism, or social democracy. Instead, these concepts are what an anthropologist might call “social constructs.” These would not exist without the human mind the way a horse would exist without human beings.
Sixth, When it comes to the term “socialism,” Karl Marx means one thing and Bernie Sanders’ take is different when he uses this same term.
Bernie Sanders is not a socialist in the Karl Marx sense. He calls himself one though.
The one thing Bernie Sanders should not and cannot do is to shy away from the S- word. No matter how much he protests, both Republicans and Democrats are going to call him (and AOC) a Marxist, a Communist Jew, a socialist, and worse. So there’s no point in protesting.
“Yes,“ he could say, “I am a socialist. A democratic socialist. A democratic socialist is a person who cares more about you as an ordinary American than about greedy billionaires and corporations who pollute your water and lay you off at the drop of a hat.”
Nothing neutralizes an attack more effectively than to cop to it.
If nothing else, even if he loses, Bernie can rehabilitate socialism as an acceptable economic alternative. In the long run, this would be a greater accomplishment than any policy Sanders could accomplish in eight years as president.
If I were running for POTUS, I certainly would want to find a good way to distinguish myself from the last 40 years of neoliberal New Democrats such as Joe Biden, HillBillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. Wouldn’t you?
Seventh, here are Bernie Sanders’ official positions, policies, and political philosophies: Bernie Sanders on the Issues
Decide for yourself whether you consider these policies to be “Socialist” or not. My take is these are all New Deal Democrat/ Green Party policies consistent with what FDR called his Economic Bill of Rights.
Again, in our language-degenerate American society, we need to remind ourselves constantly words don’t really mean anything specific or static to Americans anyway. All of these terms, be it “liberal” or “socialist” or “fascist” or “Russian bot” degenerate into slurs over time, which at the end of the day, actually just mean “people I don’t like” and nothing more sophisticated than this to the average American mind.
George Orwell observed this phenomenon of propaganda some 80 years ago and we certainly haven’t gotten better about it in the interim: What is Fascism?
We cannot point to a horse and say “this is what it is” to settle the Marx/ Sanders argument because there is no socialism in the way there are horses. Instead, it depends. Are you an economist, a politician, an average citizen, none of the above?
As Chuang Tzu states in BC times (and Friedrich Nietzsche millenia later), the meaning of words is not fixed, rather it is indeterminate, which is exactly why we have so many semantic arguments about terms and their definitions in the first place: School of Forms and Names
Words have meaning; this meaning necessarily changes over time because language is a convention. A convention is something people agree upon. If we don’t agree on the meaning, then the convention isn’t really a convention but rather a dispute: Chaos and Chuang Tzu’s Linguistics
As Wittgenstein says, the meaning of a given word is different in different contexts in different language games depending on its function and the rules of the game. How’s it used in the 2020 political game? How’s it used in the Marx/ Engles game? How’s it used in the patriotism war propaganda game?
Next thing you know, we’re worshiping money/ social status symbols or a golden calf or Donald Trump, which are all really the same thing in different forms.
Back to our original Jeopardy answer: What is America?
Is America A, or B, or both A and B, or neither A nor B, or none of the above?
It really depends on whose perspective we take:
To a Chinese Daoist living in BC times, America doesn’t exist yet.
To an alien or astronaut experiencing the Overview Effect, he/she can’t see America as a separate thing.
To a fish caught in a fishtrap, it doesn’t matter. Fish don’t speak English. Dinner is dinner whether you’re sushi or a 99 cent filet of fish sandwich on the value menu at Micky D’s.
To an economist, America is a mixed economic system.
To a politician or televangelist or global capitalist, America is a cash cow.