Mixing Economies

I am a Capitalist.  I am a Socialist and — hold on to your hats — I also believe in some circumstances Communism works great!  I know this would be impossible for the “either/or” talking heads at Fox Noise to understand but let me explain.

I am a small business person myself.  Part of my income is from family rental property.  Hardly a more capitalist venture exists and occasionally I make some money writing and selling my “product” to others.

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest I have benefited from the lowest cost energy rates in the United States thanks to “Socialistic” public utility districts.  Owned by the public; i.e., the government, and administered by an elected board of directors.  If that ain’t “Socialism”, I don’t know what is!

But…”Communism?”  First you have to understand the Soviet Union was not Communism but rather State Capitalism as is  China today.  My Dad was a pipe-fitter at Everett (Washington) Plywood and Door.  He was also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors.  The workers ran the mill.  Everett Plywood was a workers-co-op.  My Dad, like the other workers, owned “a share” and each share was a vote when it came to hiring, firing and working conditions.  The mill was true Communism and actually what Marx intended in his theory.  Not the totalitarian top-down ugly evil system we see in China currently.

No matter where you look these days in the media – both left and right – you will hear the same refrain “the economy and government is broken”.  The reasons are varied.  High unemployment seems to be the new normal. The stabilizing foundation of our country for two centuries – the middle class – is getting smaller and being edged out of civic life.  Government is bought and sold like any common commodity.  Our bribery system (so-called political contributions) is just more sophisticated and not as blatant as other two-bit political systems.  And at the base of this crumbing foundation stand the global monopoly capitalists who make no physical product — just money trading paper.

These traders, vulture capitalists, banksters, hedge fund managers don’t know anything about the businesses they buy. They take profitable companies, strip them of all resources, fire workers, sell the company off or close them down.  Is that the kind of capitalism you want?  Not me!

That is why I am a Capitalist, a Socialist and a Communist.  I believe in a mixed economy – why not use the best of all three?

Small capitalism (i.e. the merchant class) has his/her business in town or close by.  He is your neighbor and  involved in the same community you are.  Unfortunately too many of these small businesses have been conned by global monopoly capitalism into thinking they have something in common.  Too often they support the very political agenda set out by their alleged “allies” that comes back and puts them out of business.  If you have any doubt, just open your eyes as you drive around your town. Small Capitalism thrives on fair competition and monopoly Capital seeks to destroy it. Wal-mart opens up and local businesses shut down.

Socialism?  There are so many forms of Socialist economy it would take (and has) many books to discuss but this much I know.  There are few, if any, of my fellow Washingtonians who would trade their Socialistic public utility districts for a “Free-Market” energy company.  We enjoy the lowest power rates in the country and have great service to boot.  “Socialism?” Hell, Yes!!!

And there are examples of  states involved in Socialistic activities all over the country.  Conservative  North Dakota has its very successful state bank.  Alaska forces the oil companies to pay citizens an allowance every year for the resources they extract.  I can’t think of a state that doesn’t regulate businesses in one way or another.

A recent poll showed as many Americans have a positive view of Communism as they do Capitalism.  My Dad bought a share at Everett Plywood and Door in 1955.  It was not an “investment” because he had to work the share. It was a job.  Dad was a skilled Pipe-fitter and plywood mills operate with lots of machinery requiring the constant attention of a pipe-fitter.  But Dad was also intelligent, responsible, and a peer group leader who his fellow workers listened too. He was soon elected Vice-President of the Board of Directors and served in that position for years.

The “Shareholders” elected the board – who hired the management (and fired) – they set wages and working conditions.  In other words, the “workers owned the means of production.”  Hmmm…now what is that called?  Communism I believe!

Everett Plywood and Door provided my parents with the income they raised six kids on in a wonderful stable working class home.  The jobs were never going to be outsourced or sent overseas.  The workers owned the mill and were totally committed out of self interest to the community and its success!

So the answer to U.S. economic problems is three fold:  We need competitive small local Capitalism teamed with Socialistic public utility districts controlling the basic key industries (of power, transportation and health) and thousands of worker owned and operated co-ops in every business and industry – a type of “Communism” that already controls 12% of the American economy.

This is what we need now to return to an economic democracy working for the American people, our communities and our country.

Bill Johnston, a retired Union Organizer (UFCW) and a USAF Vietnam Vet, is a graduate of Western Washington University (MA Political Science) and former NPR commentator. Read other articles by Bill.