Saturday, February 9, 2019

The "S" Word

Yesterday was Natalia's day off so we went out for lunch and dinner.  We decided to try the Hacienda de Cortez for lunch and it was delightful.

The Hacienda was built in the early 1500's, and we sat in the dining room where a centuries-old tree had wrapped its roots around a concrete column.  The hacienda is now an Inn and Spa and is known for its elaborate weddings surrounded by beautiful gardens.  

At the Hacienda de Cortez

Palace of Cortez in Cuernavaca

    I am always struck by the history that is
    infused in ancient structures when I come to

    Hernando Cortez built his summer palace
    which is in the center of Cuernavaca, and he
    would come here from Mexico City to
    escape the heat.

Taos Pueblo

I looked up to find "what is the oldest building in the USA" and discovered there is a pueblo village in Taos, New Mexico that dates back to c. 1000AD - and it's still in use!!  More recently, there is the Santa Fe Mission in New Mexico dating to 1610.  

The Fairbanks House - Dedham, MA

     The Fairbanks House in Dedham, 
     Massachusettes is the oldest surviving timber-
     frame house in the U.S., which was built 
     sometime between 1637-1641.   It is beautiful,  
     but nothing so grand as what we see here in 
     Cuernavaca.  Perhaps if the Revolutionary 
     War had turned out differently, and King 
     George had won, the Embarcadero in San 
     Francisco might just be a fortress of some 

Okay- now on to another discussion that I will broach, but it needs much more time and input and I'm sure, over the weeks to come, it will come up again.  The only American news we can get here in Mexico, believe it or not, is Fox News which we listen to in the morning over coffee before breakfast to make sure the USA is still there.  Yesterday there was this very attractive woman (Fox News always has "very attractive women")  who was ranting and raving.  Apoplectic would be an apt adjective.  "The Democrats don't know what they're talking about;  they have their heads in dark places.  SOCIALISM is the most destructive, evil system of government that would destroy everything good in this country.  Look at Venezuela- it is a failed Socialist State- Venezuela is where the Democrats want to take the  United States.  We cannot let them do that.  It will be the end of all we've worked for."  I'm sure I am not quoting her directly, but the tone is accurate.

This prompted me to try to find out more about socialism.  Recent studies investigating the "happiness quotient" of a country conclude that most of the Scandinavian countries win out with Denmark at the top.  I think of these countries as socialistic.  They have very high taxes, but education and health care are free and life seems pretty good.

So what is Socialism?  I think many people think of socialism as a system that re-distributes the wealth resulting in equality between classes.  In my mind, this is Communism - where the government takes everything into their hands and there is but one social class.  Doctors and ditch diggers get paid the same.  Socialism, I thought, was a re-distribution of wealth whereby no member of the society was destitute.  

Mahatma Ghandi said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”  

In my perfect world, the weakest members of American society have food, shelter, and health care.  

That is not going to happen unless the government intercedes with programs.  I don't want to eradicate

the wealthy classes - they have a perfect right to exist and to continue to accrue wealth, but why can't 

some of that excess wealth be shared in order to help those on the bottom.

Well, to set me straight, Fred sent me a very interesting opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal called, Who's Afraid of Socialism.  The article starts out by giving us a Merriam Webster definition of socialism:  Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Well I don't believe that anyone in this country is advocating that the government take ownership of the production and distribution of goods.  Don't we all want free-enterprise and a well run capitalistic economy?  

The term Socialism even made its way into Trump's State of the Union address, and  when I went to look at how it was referenced,  I came across a very interesting article written by Paul Krugman (Link to the full article is below) who points out how the word socialism means something different to almost everyone of us.  In the article, he says, "Some progressive U.S. politicians now describe themselves as socialists, and a significant number of voters, including a majority of voters under 30, say they approve of socialism.  But neither the politicians nor the voters are clamoring for government seizure of the means of production. Instead, they’ve taken on board conservative rhetoric that describes anything that tempers the excesses of a market economy as socialism, and in effect said, “Well, in that case, I’m a socialist.” 

Krugman goes on to say, "What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela."

While researching this topic I was directed to an official White House Page entitled, The Opportunity costs of Socialism.  I found it so interesting that on the first page of this report they are quoting Margaret Thatcher, the thenprime minister of the United Kingdom, as arguing, “Socialist governments . . . always run out of other people's money,” and thus the way to prosperity is for the state to give “the people more choice to spend their own money in their own way.”  The link to this White House study is also found below.

The Wall Street Journal Article highlights five areas that the author calls the Democratic Agenda which he claims is a pure socialistic agenda.  These five areas are:  Medicare for All, The Green New Deal, Guaranteed Government job for all, New System for Corporate Control, and Vastly Higher Taxes.  In reading that article, I was struck by how each agenda item is failing in its present form:  our health care system is a mess, Global Warming is a huge threat, Technology taking the place of labor is looming, Corporations are replacing small farms and bookstores, and the Federal deficit has reached a trillion dollars.  It's a good thing our politicians are looking into these areas- we need reform.

Krugman ends his article by saying, "...we should never discount the power of dishonesty. Right-wing media will portray whomever the Democrats nominate for president as the second coming of Leon Trotsky, and millions of people will believe them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the media report the clean little secret of American socialism, which is that it isn’t radical at all.  

Socialism is a subject of which we will be hearing more and more about as the 2020 elections near.  It is a loaded and slippery term, charged with a great deal of emotion.  I think it behooves all of us to become more informed as we try to navigate our way through this complex maze.   I think that's enough for now- my head is spinning.  If you have the time to read the articles below and have any thoughts to share, I'd be most interested in your comments.  This is just the beginning...

To read the full article from the Wall Street Journal, click HERE.

To read the full Paul Krugman NYTimes article click HERE.

To read the Official White House report on Socialism click HERE.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m fascinated by all the subjects you bring up in this blog (be sure to keep us posted on the new men’s underwear design!) but I think what interests me most at the moment is the subject of socialism. Krugman’s point about no one in America really understanding the term and almost everyone defining it differently is crucial and one of the reasons I wish it had never been used to define the Democratic Party. I worry that because of the inflammatory words that will be used in the 2020 presidential campaign to discredit ideas like Medicare for all, income safety nets, free college education for qualified low income kids, etc., words like “socialism,” “communism,” “Venezuela,” etc., ther will never be a considered conversation about the real benefit of any of these ideas. What you are doing in Cuernavaca with your reasoned, calm and informative discourse needs to happen across the country. But it won’t. People are too entrenched in their specific tribes and seem completely unwilling to even talk about a different way, except to vilify it. Perhaps there will be a glimmer of hope in what may happen in El Paso tonight. The president is holding a rally there but both the Republican mayor and Beto O’Rourke will be there as well to show how Americans and Mexicans go back and forth across the border to the enrichment of both. I’m sending this anonymously because I don’t have a Google account, but I’m Carol, and very proud to be Nancy’s sister!