rn- Why I’m not a ‘socialist’…


Richard Moore

From: "Wyles, Margaret" <•••@••.•••>
To: "'•••@••.•••'" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Jeff Gates' Book
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999 12:24:11 -0700


I reread with interest the intellectual sparring match you had with Mr.
Gates.  I haven't read his book, nor would I.  Just the list of people
praising the work convinced me there would be nothing there of interest.
CEO's, government officials, former heads of the IMF.  One would have to
assume that his work is a pandering to the rich, alleviating any anxiety on
their part that they might have to actually, god forbid, give some of their
wealth away, or change the system that made them wealthy in the first place.
If only we had all invested in Microsoft early on, we'd all be rich.

I enjoyed your thoughtful response.  However, why are you not a socialist?
What other real alternative is there to capitalism?  You further make the
argument that socialism has only "failed" due to incredible financial and
military pressures on socialist countries on the part Western countries, in
a sense, arguing for the success of socialism, at least in its potential
form.  Isn't it time that we railed behind a comprehensive political system
rather than further disempower the movement with divisive, rhetorical
arguments that lead nowhere? <snip>

I do appreciate your mailings, especially the recent one from a woman in
Bulgaria.  Very touching and to the point.




Dear Margaret,

I think there is much useful to be learned from socialist ideas and
experiences, but there are many reasons why I wouldn't call myself a

If I understand how the term is used, it typically refers to a
centrally-planned economy, one that usually follows an agenda of
industrialization and growth, as does capitalism.  The idea, basically, is
to use the methods of capitalism, but under public control rather than the
control of private entrepreneurs and financiers.  One is reminded of Marx's
observation that factories create the community of workers which can
provide the consituency for revolution... the wheels of industry would keep
on turning but, he hoped, under public ownership.  Socialism, more or less,
follows from that vision.

Reason #1 for not flying the socialist flag: the industrialization/growth
agenda has outlived its sell-by date.  At risk of over-simplifying: the
USSR was just as destructive of the environment as is the USA.

Reason #2: Centralized planning, I believe, is antithetical to democracy.
Democracy needs to start at the bottom, at the grass roots, in the
community... and that's where basic policy priorities need to be set.
Over-centralization works counter to this principle.  Those who live in a
region have a better sense of how that bio-region should operate than do
some distant bureaucrat spreadsheet artists.

Perhaps you might say that socialism doesn't need to involve central
planning, and doesn't need to follow a growth agenda.  If so, then I'd ask,
what's the difference between socialism and democracy?  If socialism only
means that the economy is run by and for the people, then I'd prefer to use
a political label for that than an economic label.

I believe that in a democratic, sensible world there would be a wide range
of economic models in operation.  In parts of the Third World some peoples
might want to pursue collective, near-subsistance agriculture... in the US
you'd have something else, (actually many somethings).  Why start limiting
our options by picking a particular economic label already... before people
have even had a chance to think about it?

The whole world system that began with the Enlightenment is now being torn
apart and rebuilt.   Fundamental power relationships have shifted, the
nation state is being dismantled, and we cannot look to old ideologies to
provide whole-cloth solutions to today's problems.

Our primary problem is a political one, not an economic one.  Global
policies are being set by technocrat representatives of faceless boards of
directors of giant corporations.  That needs to be changed before anything
else can be fixed.



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