Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Socialist Storm is Coming

Over the last few weeks I've been reading articles and watching video clips which have me convinced that the US is slowly and inevitably edging closer to socialism. And I, for one, will welcome its arrival with zeal.

First, there was an article from The New York Times which discussed Norway's continued economic prosperity in the face of the global monetary downturn. Thanks to the idea that government should exist to benefit its citizenry, Norway saved/invested hundreds of billions of dollars as a sort of rainy day fund. As a result, the nation was able to continue serving the needs of the people without any major disruptions. In fact, their economy has actually grown slightly during the downturn. I seem to recall that the US had a similar budget surplus at the end of the Clinton administration. Of course that was before the "wisdom" of George W. Bush took care of that when he chose to give the money "back to the people" to spend as they saw fit.

Then, there were the plethora of articles I read over at World Changing which show that, again and again, it is Europe which is leading the way in the movement to combat global climate change. As before, the European ethic of working together toward the societal greater good pushes them to innovate in the fields of energy production, conservation, and sustainable land use management.

But what do these topics have to do with the US? Well, I think that, thanks to the Internet, more Americans are becoming aware of the fact that the so-called socialist nations of Europe have already come up with effective solutions to the problems which plague our society, but with few, if any, of the negative consequences which US conservatives have attempted to use to vilify those solutions.

Take, for instance, this article from Wired about the socialist nature of the open-source movement. Literally millions of people take advantage of, and participate in, the open-source movement in one form or another. All are encouraged to share their information and resources freely with the rest of the world. People voluntarily pool their talents to create free software solutions (such as Gimp and Open Office) which rival the best, most expensive, software on the market. There are even open-source architectural solutions being devised to solve global housing deficiencies. All of this contributes to the greater good of the larger society. Add to that the benefits of flexibility and diversity of resources inherent in an open-source mindset, explained in some detail in this talk from TED, and you can see that the lumbering corporate mindset endemic to capitalistic business organizations could, one day soon, be a thing of the past.

Of course, in a way, capitalism is already forcing us to live as socialists. The consolidation of companies, thanks to deregulation, has forced most people to now do the work of two or three people and to work 60 or more hours a week even though their salary only compensates them for 40 hours! It isn't much different than being an open-sourcer, when you think about it. You're voluntarily doing more work for no extra compensation because you think its for the greater good. Although, capitalism convinces you that the "greater good" is you keeping your job rather than your job actually being beneficial to those around you. There are some companies which have made efforts to take care of their employees first, such as Malden Mills (makers of Polartec fleece) which continued to pay its staff while their factory was being rebuilt after an explosion. Unfortunately, those stories are too few and too far between to be considered a trend just yet.

I'm looking forward to the changes which our society will undergo over the next decade or two. Eventually we may learn that doing what is right for our fellow man can ultimately become the most American thing we can do.

Have fun and keep living life... and start working for the greater good.

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