Many conservatives, particularly of the libertarian type, argue that “limited government” allows people to be free, and for the United States to be the land of liberty that it was meant to be by the Founding Fathers. Their concept of freedom is unregulated business, fiscal austerity, and personal liberty, as well as a fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution, opposed to the theory that the Constitution is a living document. But what is freedom? Something I found particularly striking is the Merriam-Webster definition of freedom, which states that freedom is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”
Freedom is not just a Constitutional Right, or what we enjoy just by being human, it is what makes us human. Our ability to pursue our lives in the way that we choose. Freedom is not just something that can be taken away by the Government, it is something that can be taken away by a variety of other entities, such as a business, an organization, or even a person.
What conservatives fail to recognize is that in their ideal paradise, the “tyranny” of government will be replaced by the tyranny of business, and the “oppressive” laws that govern our country, such as gun laws, business regulations, and others, will instead be replaced by blatant sheeplike consumerism, and economic hardship.
In 1941, FDR set out goals that were the responsibilities of all governments to accomplish. This ended up being the Four Freedoms, which are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. If the government was completely incapacitated, and the US became a corporatocracy, we would not become completely “free,” the rich would become richer, and the vast majority of the population would instead be chained down by poverty, a decline in social and economic mobility, and pollution. Our freedoms would be permanently degraded in search of all-consuming profit. Is this a future that I look forward to, that I aspire to be a part of? Absolutely not.
This notion that deregulating the market will create personal freedoms is not only irrational, it is delusional. One would just be replacing a government of elected officials with the tyranny of profit, consumerism, and monopoly.
I would be remiss if I just discussed problems without offering solutions. I do not have the luxury of being the President. First would be the immediate and unapologetic breakup of the corporate monopoly. Many companies that offer products that we know and enjoy are owned by other corporations, and as a result a select handful of businesses have control of most of the private sector in the Western World. I would suggest an immediate strengthening of all US anti-monopoly laws, as well as the immediate breakup of many major corporations, including Berkshire Hathaway, Kraft, Alphabet, Nestle, and many others. Preventing monopoly and enabling competition should be a primary focus of the US Government, in order to aid in producing better products at lower prices. In addition, I would strengthen the US tax codes, as well as increase penalties and prison sentences for tax fraud and avoidance.
In conclusion, the United States Government must take a firmer stance on the private sector, in addition to ensuring that the people of the United States remain free, prosperous, and bound by the Constitution. The private sector has no interest in the welfare of the people, only their money, and so the US Government must stand up.
Jeremy Bentham once said, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.” This brings to mind the question of how we should help people as a society. Should we, as some argue, only help ourselves, because if everyone helps themselves then we don’t have to worry about anyone else. Or, if we have the ability to help others and we do not, this is morally repugnant, and it is our duty to ensure that everyone helps each other, creating a sustaining community of equals. This is a problem that has plagued the human race since our inception. Some societies, such as the Vikings or the Mongols, consider self and family above others. Other societies, such as the Ottomans or the Chinese, believe that the will of the self should be put below the benefit of the society as a whole. But as Americans, our perspective is more varied, as it should be. We have had programs such as Harding’s Rugged Individualism, which encouraged Social Darwinism and Laissez-Faire Capitalism, and we have had programs such as LBJ’s Great Society or the New Deal, which obviously take the opposite approach.
I would argue that a middling approach must be taken. We must not create a complacent welfare state where work is viewed as unnecessary when you have the funds coming from welfare. We must also not create a state where individuals suffer because they can’t receive assistance because of the greed of others. We must create programs which first and foremost must provide a general service to the taxpayers. It must also encourage work, and not just blind checks. Third, this program must be exclusively be run by the government, not by contractors or private companies. The government has been tainted by the profit-hungry corporate machine, and this will only distort the intentions of this program. Corporations and profit are not bad, however they have no place in governmental endeavors. Government exists to serve the people, and enable them to succeed for themselves, not to make money. I would offer the WPA as an ideal example, something that I have already written about at length. The people of America do not need a welfare check, they need a job and skills.
I would argue that it is morally repugnant that one would watch millions of people suffer, and not do something about it at any level. If private corporations will not help the people in the way that they need it, then it is time for the government to fulfill its responsibilities to the population. The Republican line that these programs encourage complacency is false, they only say this because they are bought and paid for by corporations.
The day that humanity halts questioning, we cease to exist. Inquiry is an innate quality that makes humans the way that we are. Civilization would not have progressed if it wasn’t for the audacious nature of individuals, and our desire to know.
The Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, which I personally consider one of the most significant ages in our history, was the century that defined our country and our people. In a single century, great men such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau reshaped our understanding of the human experience. Established institutions such as the monarchy and the church began to crumble, and out of the ashes of conflict rose the freest societies humanity has ever known.
This progress is not universal. There are those in our society who wish to see the rights of man disappear, degraded, and denied. It is a fact of life that there are always those who wish to exert undue amounts of power over their fellow man, this is human nature and is not something that can be ignored or easily defeated. The ultimate goal of these vile men is the denial of knowledge, of understanding, to the people. The most effective way to combat this is the effective and timely distribution of knowledge to everyone, and to not hinder the flow of information to the people. The phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” comes to mind, and this is certainly true. We do not remember the personality of Thomas Jefferson or Jeremy Bentham, we remember their words, because ideas are the only immortal beings.
Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It can be used simultaneously to repress and to liberate. However, it is better that we be exposed to every idea rather than the ideas chosen by a select few, because this allows people to make their own choices, good or bad.
Humanity will progress when the whole of society is exposed to the collective knowledge of the human race. Limiting knowledge, shutting down research centers, cutting funding, these things are not just detrimental, they are catastrophic. The monetary cost of progress is high, but it is not just a necessary cost, it is a long term gain for all of us. It is up to the United States Government to fund research institutions, as it is clear that the private sector seeks to distort science in order to make profit. While profit is a good thing, the government is the only institution capable of consistently releasing unbiased and clear results.
This repression of the academic community that we are experiencing in the Trump era is harmful, and damaging to our reputation abroad, as well as our ability to conduct ourselves as the leader of the world. The United States succeeds when we enable the brightest among us to, and slashing funds or relying on the private sector is not the correct path.
A classic tenet of Marxist thought is that history moves in stages, from feudalism to capitalism to socialism to communism. It is a widely held belief in most communist parties that class revolution and communism is inevitable with the advancement of mechanization and industrialization, however the argument can be made that this may not be so.
Human society is mechanizing at a rapid rate, and within the next hundred years robots will be able to perform the vast majority of jobs that humans currently occupy. The question that arises is what will humans do when we are faced with an expanding population but a dearth of jobs?
Karl Marx would argue that humans could finally enjoy leisure, and be able to form complex human relationships now that the means of production are no longer humanized. Capitalist theory would argue that innovation and technologization would lead to new fields of work, and that humans will always have areas in which they can work, because new technology leads to new industries. A classic example of this would be how the rise of the internet led to a boom in software jobs.
Human society has many paths ahead of us. We could, like what Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump wishes, embrace xenophobia and nationalism, or we could embrace the corporate state and become slaves to consumerism. Or, we could remain true to our ideals, and work to ensure that freedom is a guaranteed right for all people. Freedom is antithetical to Communism, that is the way of the centralized state economy. However, freedom is at the very least discouraged under laissez-faire economics, which promotes profit over individual rights.
The short answer to the question of whether or not communism is inevitable is no, it is not. History has moved in stages, however it is my belief that we will continue to operate under capitalism until we move to a post-industrial robotic state. The 40 hour workweek will soon be a thing of the past, because robots will be able to achieve massive levels of productivity. Karl Marx was correct on many things, but on human nature he was deeply misguided.
Regardless of how the future goes, we must always look back towards the past for wisdom. The ideals of the Enlightenment sparked Western Civilization as we know it, and we must always look back towards these basic tenets of individual liberty and property rights to guide our thinking. The inherent rights of man must not be infringed upon, by any person, government, or corporation.
The United States is the land of opportunity. For hundreds of years we have provided a new frontier for those who need it the most, and allowed immigrants from all nations to come and make the United States a better place. However, the United States is not always bursting with innovation and know-how and opportunity. For far too long, we have been held down by the unemployed, the least productive in our society. This is not a specific demographic, nor any particular group of people, but my point is, this is not a permanent problem! Unemployment is a byproduct of capitalism, but it is not permanent, nor should it be.
In the depths of the Great Depression, about 1/3rd of the US workforce was unemployed. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the greatest American Presidents, solved this with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Millions of Americans were put to work building and repairing infrastructure, as well as beautifying America’s towns, and providing bridges and roads to communities that had never had them before. They were paid well, and their hard work allowed America to experience the greatest prosperity that we have ever experienced before.
The people of the United States do not need a handout. It is not the responsibility of the taxpayer to subsidize the activities of the unemployed. What is needed are opportunities for these unemployed people to work, and make money, and provide for their families.
That is why I am proposing that the WPA be revived, and funded with 6% of the National GDP. The long-term benefits will outweigh the steep cost by raising overall tax revenue, improving America’s infrastructure, and generally improving the quality of life for all.
If any refuse this work opportunity, and demand a handout, they should be barred from receiving government aid until they are gainfully employed. Any person who does not want to work should not expect the aid of the US Government.
There should be a variety of paths available. For those who are educated but do not have employment, they should be given upper-level management positions, architects, foreman's, etc. For those who are not as educated, they will be given a more construction and manual labor-oriented job, and should be given opportunities for vocational training and self-improvement. This should not be a temporary program, like how the original WPA was only active for 8 years, from 1935 to 1943. This should be a permanent program, because there are always things that need to be built and improved. When the worker reaches the age of 65, or if he or she is physically disabled, they should be given a pension and all of the usual Social Security/Medicare benefits.
There is absolutely no excuse for extended periods of unemployment or educating yourself if you are not a senior citizen, and a new WPA would reap benefits for all, including increased education, better infrastructure, and a better society. We all benefit from an educated, confident workplace, and the WPA capitalizes on the hard work of everyday Americans.
This new WPA can also be used for college students and intellectuals. The new WPA would fund research and laboratory experiments for students, and improve the quality of all colleges across the United States, and enable millions of students to participate in a work-study program which also decreases college debt and decreases unnecessary expenditure by colleges.
In conclusion, the United States has the potential to improve itself, and have a better workforce, and a new government-run WPA would have a lasting positive impact on our overall society and our people.
Capitalism is an extremely controversial subject. Some in the counterculture movement reject it entirely, others ask for modified versions of Capitalism, whether that be Keynesian or Friedman-based, or any other version. However, most agree that Modern Capitalism stems from a consequential work by Adam Smith known as The Wealth of Nations.
The first sentence of the text is, “The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour.” While the sentence by itself sounds rather inauspicious, the consequences of this idea has roots all the way back to the creation of man itself, as well as conflicting with various other ideologies. For example, Marx argues that the division of labor is morally repugnant, as it reduces man to a mere automaton. Alternatively, Smith argues that his tenet of labor division is one of the most fundamental in Capitalism, where if each person works in one area, the factory as a whole is productive and efficient.
Free-Market Capitalism is undoubtedly the most efficient system, however one must take into consideration that efficiency does not guarantee prosperity. Income Inequality is endemic to capitalism, there will always be those who have and those who have not, this is human nature, however the problem arises in that capitalism allows the more prosperous to stifle the less prosperous, by creating monopolies and ending competitive market forces. A prime example of this is how Standard Oil had such monopoly in the industry that they were able to raise and lower prices with impunity. In addition, the boom and busts in capitalism create instability and volatility, which spoils consumer confidence and the wages of ordinary people.
What is the solution to this, if there is one? One must maximize efficiency, while enabling competition, and ensuring that those on the bottom are able to succeed. The truth is that there is no perfect system. There are problems with every economic theory, Communism leads to bureaucracy and inefficiency, as well as cronyism and autocracy, while a purely free-market capitalist system leads to a corporate state, and the destruction of morality in the name of profit. Combining the socialist model with the capitalist model is clearly superior. Out of all of the economists, John Maynard Keynes came the closest. Keynesian Economic Theory led to the prosperity of the 1950’s and 1960’s, however reactionary elements spoiled this prosperity, and allowed the United States to enter a quagmire of depression, monopoly, and anti-democracy. This Keynesian Model could be improved upon by defunding the military-industrial complex, and rejecting the influence of money in politics. This will give the United States hundreds of billions in revenue, which can be used to empower ordinary Americans.
In conclusion, capitalism is the most efficient economic theory, however the moral and environmental side effects hurt sustainability in the long term. The best model would be a combination of socialism and capitalism, the closest of which could be the Nordic Model, or the Slovenian Model.
The United States has been, since the Second World War, the world’s leading power. Our influence and our strength is beyond comparison in modern history. However, we have a $15 trillion debt, and this is clearly a major problem. Donald Trump and other conservatives will attempt to fix this by cutting programs deemed as unnecessary. In Trump’s new budget, the EPA loses 31% of its funding, and at least ten other departments receive cuts of over 10%. He also proposes cutting the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the National Institute for Peace, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education Program, as well as large amounts of monetary aid to FEMA, the UN, the World Bank, and the Department of Education, as well as cutting Meals on Wheels.
These programs are not just part of who we are as a country, they are part of the beating heart of the global order that the United States has constructed over the past 60 years. These programs not only link us with the Global Community, but they allow the United States to extend influence in vital areas, and have a good reputation in the rest of the world.
While these programs are not necessary to the existence of the United States, the benefits of the program outweigh the negatives. Fiscal responsibility is extremely important to the survival of a nation, however what nation would one live in without investments in art, culture, and education? When the Soviet Union won the first battle of the space race by launching Sputnik in 1957, President Eisenhower called for the students of the United States to dedicate themselves to math and science in order for the United States to beat the Soviet Union in space. Eisenhower invested in education, and considered it to be an utmost priority. Within 11 years, the US landed on the Moon.
Investing in the arts and sciences have made America the power that it is today, and cutting that funding is not only harmful, it is illogical. The United States spends billions of dollars on useless things like the PRISM program, the F-35 Program, and a multitude of other useless “defense” projects, and blame America’s fiscal problems on small aid programs like the School Lunch Program and Meals on Wheels that were implemented in LBJ’s Great Society.
It is absolutely shameful that the US Government would disregard the basic welfare of ordinary Americans while feeding the monstrous military industrial complex. The United States already has the largest and best-equipped military on Earth, and any increases in expenditures would be wasteful.
The United States will succeed when we have an educated and debt-free populace, something that the Republican Party leadership fails to understand. Trump’s budget does very little to address the real problems that America faces today, and we will suffer because of it for the next 4 years unless something changes in a radical way.
H.R.608, referred to as the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” is a bill that has received little attention outside of political circles, however the implications of it could affect American policy in the Middle East for a lifetime. Introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), it prohibits Congressional Funding of groups such as ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and Al-Shabaab, along with any other groups that have been assisting these organizations.
This bill is vitally important, and a piece of common sense legislation. The United States has extended itself too much in the Middle East, and we have a long history of funding groups with an extremist ideology. A classic example could be the funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, who were at the time fighting the Soviet Union, but later fought the United States after we invaded Afghanistan. An isolationist foreign policy hurts us all, however we require an enforced Moral Diplomacy that prohibits covert financial aid to military groups of any kind. The United States must not be seen as a foreign aggressor in the eyes of the Muslim World like we are now, or we lose credibility in the long run in the region.
I believe that Republicans and Democrats can unite behind the idea that ISIS is an evil organization, as well as other Islamic Extremist groups in the Middle East, which is why it is a logical idea that we stop mindlessly pumping money into a volatile and corrupt region.
A consequence of the Cold War was that the US Department of State and Defense began to view the world in black and white, where you either are a Communist or you are not. The United States funded some of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world simply because they fought against the Soviet Union.
The United States must have some kind of fiscal responsibility when financing foreign groups, whether that be in Latin America or the Middle East. There is a fine line between battling our enemies abroad by funding ideologically dubious groups or withdrawing completely, and we must toe that line in order to maintain a positive reputation abroad.
I am not advocating for cutting foreign aid, or for America to become an isolationist state, however there is a danger in overinvolvement abroad, and we must carefully study who exactly we are giving money to.
Many people consider the start of Capitalism to be the Industrial Revolution, or even the publication of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. However, the origins of Capitalism could be traced back to the formation of the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company) in 1602.
At the time, world exploration was in its infancy, and it was customary to finance a single expedition to explore Indonesia, Africa, Sri Lanka, etc. However, the Netherlands created a single company, known as the Dutch East India Company, which had the able to declare war and govern itself through a 17 member board. The people of the Netherlands were able to invest in the Dutch East India Company, so Dutch East India Company was the first publicly traded company in the history of humanity. It created a monopoly on the Spice Trade in the Indian Ocean, which was an extremely profitable enterprise, and by 1648 the Netherlands was wealthier than every other European Nation. The Dutch East India Company had no rivals in the Netherlands, and was state-sponsored, they could rely upon the Netherlands for funding. Basically, the Dutch East India Company was a state-sponsored company that could declare war, and was a sovereign entity in itself, and was the first public corporation in history.
The Dutch East India Company eventually bankrupted in 1799, but there are some important things that can be gleaned from its existence. First, it shows the dangers of giving a corporation the powers of a sovereign nation. The duties of the state at the most basic level is to defend and empower its population, while the sole duty of a corporation is to profit. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however this means that what the corporation chooses to focus on is not what a government would.
Second, it shows the need for responsible management of corporations by the government, and reasonable amounts of regulation. Because the Dutch East India Company was so closely tied to the Netherlands, they felt immune from financial and legal penalty, and as a result they massacred and enslaved thousands of people in Indonesia in the search for profit and for natural resources.
Finally, the Dutch East India Company shows that a corporation must survive without government assistance. If a corporation can only survive through government revenue, this corporation is not fit to exist, since it brings no value to the taxpayer. The Dutch East India Company received millions of Guilders in financial aid from the Dutch Legislature, and this state-sponsored attitude for the private sector only stifles competition and raises prices.
Even though the Dutch East India Company went bankrupt in 1799, it is an important reminder of the dangers of mixing the public and private sectors, and gives us a poignant reminder of why corporations are not states.
Albert Einstein described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The American attitude towards Capitalism could be described as such. Throughout our history, the United States has been marked by periods of great economic turmoil, like the Panic of 1837, the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1907, the Great Depression, the 1973-75 recession, and the Great Recession of 2008. These periods are economically tumultuous, and were generally created by the mistakes of the banks and the bourgeois class. In addition, all of these economic troubles hurt the poor mostly, and the banks were bailed out by the government, most recently by TARP.
There are inherent deficiencies in the economic system of the United States, and the booms and busts that we experience will continue to exist until drastic action is taken. These cycles have not hurt the rich because the rich continue to exert influence in the United States Government. For example, the Central Pacific Railroad spent $200,000 in Washington to get 9 million acres of free land, and $24 million in subsidies from the government. This was for the transcontinental railroad. The bribes and subsidies have only grown larger, the United States paid $426 billion to Wall Street Institutions in order to “solve” the Great Recession.
The United States Government has been too friendly towards Wall Street due to the amount of money that they can invest in our government. This incentivizes Congress to ensure that the highest in our society can continue to exploit the middle-class and the poor, and continue to profit off of taxpayer money.
What is required is a return to the Keynesian System of the 1950’s and 1960’s, a period of unrivaled prosperity in the United States. This is not a “socialist” concept, rather it seeks to extend public services and benefit everyday Americans.
The United States will prosper when the middle-class expands, and the greed and excess of the upper class is curbed. For far too long we have favored the interests of the economically powerful over the interests of the many, and this is inherently anti-democratic and un-American.
It is incredibly clear that capitalism is by far the most efficient and effective economic system, however it only works when it works for everyone, not just the 1%. Capitalism has allowed the United States to become the power that it is today, however this path was paved by the struggles of ordinary Americans who toiled and fought so that one day we can have a better future.
The United States damages itself when it allows corporations and the rich to subvert the will of the people, and this is seen by rising income inequality, and the increased power of the rich over the government and those in power.