As long as there is a huge concentration of wealth at the top of the society, as we have now in the US, we cannot assume that centralized government initiatives will have positive consequences. Government at all levels has become the tool of powerful corporations. This makes the historic socialist identification with strong government highly problematical.
In the US today, policies that are egalitarian in intent often become the opposite in implementation because large corporations make themselves the prime beneficiaries. I think we have to pursue egalitarian policies at the local level, through democratic means, while also respecting people’s hunger for greater freedom and control over their lives.
The irony is that some people who respond positively to the idea of “socialism” have a libertarian side as well: They oppose repressive drug laws, stop-and-frisk, restrictions on personal liberty in areas ranging from gun laws to religion, and resent surveillance control and authoritarian rule every aspect of their lives, from the work place, to their neighborhood, to the schools their children attend.
You cannot have freedom in a society where large corporations have this much power and bend the government to their will. You have to smash the power of the large corporations and at the same time give people greater freedom in their schools neighborhoods, and workplaces. We need much more equality and much more freedom. Developing the policies that do this positively will be the challenge of the next 30 years.
In the meantime, we fight to get the boot of the large corporations and the state off our necks when they work in tandem to simultaneously suppress personal liberty and funnel greater wealth to the very top. The Common Core standards are a prime example of this. They have simultaneously stripped away local control of public schools while funneling huge amounts of public money to corporations who develop tests and curricular materials. They are promoted in the name of public good, but result in restrictions on teachers, and pressures on students and families, which wealthy elites are exempt from because their children do not attend public schools
That is the negative side. On the positive side, we need much stronger unions, we need much stronger community organizations, we need to fight for greater freedom from surveillance and control, and we need to develop policies which encourage small businesses and cooperative enterprises.
Also, we need to be vigilant about policies which attack government power only to enhance corporate power. Beware of those who attack trade unions in the name of enhancing personal freedom. Trade unions are the ordinary citizen’s most powerful protection against the excesses of great wealth. Weakening them, as we have done for the last 30 years, has contributed greatly to the plutocratic society we live in now.
With a Brooklyn Accent