May 31, 2010

Socialism: Protecting America From Fires since 1898

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Socialism has serious branding issues here in the USA.

It's totally reviled and hated, despite it being as American as Apple Pie.

The first Government-Run Fire department was started in 1898. It was a socialist model that replaced the private fire company model, in which fire companies would compete with one another to be the ones to respond to a fire in order to get payment from fire insurance companies.

These private fire companies were extremely corrupt, and would actively prevent other fire companies from responding to a fire to make sure that they would be first, through activities like sending a person ahead of their pump wagon with a barrel. This "Barrel Sitter" would place his barrel over the fire hydrant, and sit on the barrel to prevent other fire companies from gaining access to it, and thus becoming the first to respond.

While these schmucks fought over profits, fire destroyed homes and took the lives of those trapped by the flames and smoke.

To make matters worse, private fire companies refused to put out fires that affected homes that were too poor to afford fire insurance plaques, despite there being a definite risk to the public safety that had no regard for the income of residents, rich or poor.

The socialist model changed all that, and is the model seen almost everywhere in the United States today.

That's right! Whether they know it or not, your local fire department is filled with Socialists!

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  1. there is definetely a branding issue with socialism, what most people don't realize is what true capitalism or true socialism is. no one really wants unhinged capitalism and those that say they do don't have the slightest idea what problems that would cause. i personally wouldn't advocate for an economic system that would reflect absolute socialism or absolute capitalism. god forbid we would allow ourselves to live in a balanced world.

  2. I agree. Capitalism is great for producing high-quality consumer goods, and really terrible at filling social needs.

    Socialism is great for filling social needs, but terrible at producing high-quality consumer goods.

    A mixed market is a good market.

  3. Before the quibbles, must say it's a good T shirt.

    However what we call a mixed market is NOT a mixture of capitalism and socialism, what "mixed market" or "mixed system" means, if you look at examples like Europe, what it really means is a capitalist system with a bit more regulation and with social programs on the side. It is better than what we have in the US? Generally, yes. Can people call it mixed? Sure, but it's still capitalism with no socialism at all. Actual socialism would be worker-owned and democratically run (by workers and with community control over some factors like pollution which affect more than the workers).

    You can be for this or against this, but that's the most "minimalist" definition you can give of socialism. That or "democratic control over economic decisions" more broadly than just the workplace; decisions like production, distribution, etc)

    Again, it's a separate discussion to discuss the merits of having partial or complete socialism in the above, historically accurate sense. However when we call something " a mixture of capitalism and socialism" when it is really "Capitalism with more regulation and with social programs" in reality, we can't have a full honest discussion of the options..

    Final note: actual socialist ideas are as American as apple pie too, to quote from "Factory girls" (the term these young women used to refer to themselves) in the 1840s [sic] who owned and ran their own newspapers and were more intelligent and wise and articulate than many college educated people of the early 21st century, they wrote:

    "When you sell your product, you retain your person. But when you sell your labour, you sell yourself, losing the rights of free men and becoming vassals of mammoth establishments of a monied aristocracy that threatens annihilation to anyone who questions their right to enslave and oppress.

    "Those who work in the mills ought to own them, not have the status of machines ruled by private despots who are entrenching monarchic principles on democratic soil as they drive downwards freedom and rights, civilization, health, morals and intellectuality in the new commercial feudalism."

    A commercial/corporate feudalism we call "capitalist" or the "free" market without falling out of our chair laughing as this other abuse of terms...

  4. Another angle: ever notice how when government projects make a mistake it "proves government is bad, inefficient, etc" while if the same thing or 100 times worse is done by the corporate sector (the so called private sector, which is dominated power-wise by corporations, never mind the talk about small biz) then it's "some bad apples" or a "bad company" at most. Imagine if the US government owned and ran the rig and operated the rig behind the oil disaster, can you imagine what the Republicans and right wing radio would say about government? "privatize EVERYTHING, and do it NOW!" they'd scream. How government can't do anything right, etc. Now how many today are saying "nationalize and bring under democratic public control all energy exploration"? How many today are saying "See? corporations always are unsafe, put profit first, abolish corporations?"

    Maybe the solution is a middle-grown and blame individuals in both cases? No, I think the correct response is not to blame "government can't work" but yes to blame "corporations can't put the public interest and safety first" and it sounds like I'm also not being consistent but saying it backwards, but there's a very simple straightforward reason this is the correct conclusion: government can be corrupt or bad or inefficient but at least in principle it can be safe, put the public interest first, sharp contrast, corporation by their very nature, by their very corporate charter, by their very operation, will always have a conflict between profit maximization for the shareholders and the public interest, they are not just in practice but in principle and by Law required to put private shareholders interests above (not equal with, and certainly not below) the public interest.