I confess that I have not managed to read the Bible cover to cover, so I might have missed something, but from what I’ve heard, Jesus was a socialist. What I think he said was: If you want to be perfect, sell what you own, give the money to the poor and follow me. He may as well have said “spread the wealth around”. But that was thousands of years ago. I don’t think that nowadays many people have set their sights on being perfect- at least, not so as you’d notice- so Jesus’ words are perhaps not pertinent today. I’m pretty sure Jesus never said – but I wasn’t there, mind you, and I don’t know first hand, so don’t quote me – “invest your money in mortgage-backed securities or credit default swaps, then spend your profits on business investment targeted at job creation and let the minty-fresh monetary goodness trickle down to the poor.” I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it. Mostly because I’m vaguely aware of him saying that ‘the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.’ Instead he said to just give it all away. Like Santa. Heh.
Would that either of them were around today. They’d be shocked and dismayed, let me tell you. One by the greed and the other by the avarice that are in ample evidence all over the news. Pliny the Younger may have put his finger on the source of all the senseless covetousness which we’ve seen lately in and around Wall Street, when he said an object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit. Perhaps Bernie Madoff could have benefited from that little piece of wisdom. Or Goldmine Sachs, which is paying 4.3 bln pounds to its City workers in bonuses. Or Marc Drier, the Manhattan lawyer arrested in Canada for trying to sell non-existent bonds worth $380m. Greed. It is a necessary foundation for laissez-faire capitalism, while socialism sees greed as a sin to be mitigated through state regulation. So maybe technically Jesus wasn’t a socialist since he had nothing to say about state regulation. He just said “follow me”, but still. Socialism advocates collective ownership of the means of production (lets buy GM!!!) as well as the equitable distribution of resources (cap the pay of the CEOs!!!). Capitalism in its most conservative – American – form looks to socialists a lot like a Ponzi Scheme, concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few.
A friend of mine asserted that most of Europe is Socialist, and he said it very much like it was a bad thing. I was surprised. I think of Venezuela as Socialist, while Finland, Sweden and France with their enormous taxes and generous health, education and unemployment benefits are primarily capitalist, only with social welfare programs. The thing that struck me was that my friend clearly thought that socialism was bad; very, very bad. Taboo, in fact. He’d never want that for America. Just like what yer typical Russkie, Cuban or Venezuealan might think about Imperialist American Commercial Fascism, had you had a chance to ask them over a glass of the local ju-ju-juice. They speak the word capitalism just as my friend spoke the word socialism.
But if socialism is un-American, so were the Pilgrims. So lets just get beyond the name-calling. What’s needed now is for the people of the US to consider where on the spectrum of capitalist/socialist ideology they want to be. Do they think its fair that a tiny percentage of its population is disgustingly, uselessly wealthy while the rest don’t have access to sufficient health care? If not, are they willing to do something about it, or are they still too busy reciting free-market mantras? There’s no use griping about ‘big government” at this point, because with each bailout the government’s getting bigger.
Why can’t we just get along? No one wants little children dying of hunger or diarrhea here in the US, which they are. If we weren’t so greedy for money or for our particular view of how to solve the problem, we might be able to talk. Lets talk.