Understanding the Political World through Words and Terms

Over the years, as I have attempted to make sense of our crazy world, as it applies to politics. In order to make sense of them for my own understanding, I have almost needed to rewrite the various definitions. Even though you may end up not agreeing with the terms and definitions that I apply to them, you will at least see where I’m coming from and the thoughts used to come to my understanding. I wasn’t hard to recognize the need just listening and reading the various disagreements over the various political and economic terms being used by people who appeared to have a pretty good understanding of the realities, theories, and ideologies involving government and law.

What I found out is, that many people throughout history have offered up a host of terms and definitions and that they don’t necessarily agree with one another or even make sense to us common folks who aren’t in that specific genre of academia. 

During the founding of our great nation, people like Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “political economy” as the label for those who studied this area of knowledge. Even though it is not used today I think it is a very fitting phrase.  I like to use the term socio-economics to describe the area of study for the following reason but before I start, what I think is interesting, is we have historically relied on a host of individuals some of whom were not the greatest or most honest of people such as Karl Marx to give us insight into this most important area of knowledge.  An interesting video on Marx.

It is my opinion that we should not “necessarily” rest on historical definitions, however great or smart we were told these people were. We also know from recent history, that certain political movements change the definitions in their messages to meet their goals and some are downright misleading. As an example, a classical liberal, during the mid-1800s is now called a libertarian. What we call progressives today, were called socialists in the early 1900s and are also called liberals and progressives today by many folks.

There is also a difference between the terms used in law and those used by we the people as laymen. This obviously creates confusion for those just learning or who don’t have a solid political or economic foundation of knowledge to rely on.  Please also remember that I’m not trying to necessarily rewrite the definitions, but I am just trying to understand them or better stated attempting to teach what I perceive the various words, terms, and phrases mean and perhaps get rid of some of your misconceptions, or perhaps mine.   

Socio-economics; the study of the effects of society from the laws and economic realities it embraces as legislation and market conditions.  I started looking at this as two separate and distinct areas.  1. Socio, who makes the decision and 2. How those laws affect society and the economy. 

Politics as my father once told me should be defined as “the art of getting elected” which I think that is somewhat fitting.  You will find that “some” common political terms tend to fall under one of these two categories.  For instance, a Military Junta really defines more “who” is making the decision, much more than what economic system is instituted. The term Democracy is also more about who is making the decision and how they are being made, as are the terms like dictatorship and monarchy. 

Also one should note that a word is more of its common usage and terms often deal with its legal definition and that they are sometimes very different in meaning. Get a Black’s Law and a Webster’s dictionary to check this out. 

Let’s stay on democracy as bit and make a couple of notations.  If you look up the word in Wikipedia, you’ll see that there is “no” universally accepted definition.  Yet our politicians spew out the term as if it is this clear cut thing we all know and love. Actually, all democracies have failed over time. They actually don’t work very well and some of our founding fathers knew this. We have a number of quotes from them acknowledging this as well, yet almost everyone believes that a democracy is the best form of government. It is interesting that so many people perceive something to be the best that doesn’t work and that this is so emphatically taught in our education system. Think about this; it’s the best but it doesn’t work very well. 1. It does not provide what is in the best interest of the majority, instead of redistributing the majorities wealth to those with the most political and economic power in the society. They basically tax the majority and redistribute it to their special interest, while lying to us that it is in our best interests.

Our founding fathers, therefore gave us a democratic Republic, meaning that the Citizens vote for who their representatives are and that these folks make the laws on their behalf.  Our Republic unlike any other in prior history, added a Bill of Rights, at the Citizen’s demand, I might add.  The reasons why democracies fail, by the way, are quite interesting and you can read about that in numerous essays on the web and in the late Harry Brown’s book, Why Government Doesn’t Work. I’ve concluded from my studies that by adding a layer of politically elected representatives, a democratic Republic, this does not aid in making democracies work any better and that they all fail for the same reasons as democracies do.  I need to clarify that obviously there are a bunch of democratic republics and a few democracies working around the world right now. The issue is that they do not work for their intended primary purposes as noted before, of providing for what is in the best interest of the majority and lasting for a prolonged period of time. A democracy is supposed to benefit the majority but it ends up benefiting mostly the wealthy One Percenters.

Democracies are generally considered those political systems that allow several of the basic individual rights such as voting directly or through representatives, freedom of the press and freedom of speech and that’s about as far as it goes in many countries.  Issues such as the levels of property rights protections or the lack thereof muddy the distinction.

Two words that I think should be eliminated from usage in politics are liberal and conservative as they do not provide adequate or specific information. Both are adjectives that have been turned into nouns and if you have ever spoken to someone who calls themselves either of these terms, you will get a wide range of philosophies from all walks of life dealing in religion, economics, and the law. At best they are very generalized terms that can be replaced easily with much better words.

Liberals are generally either socialists or communists and conservatives are either libertarians or fascists. Now I consider these four words to be economic terms as they do not really define who is making the decision nor the processes for making decisions, obviously both very important.

Communism is easy. Think of it, as when everyone works for the government and the government owns everything except like peoples personal property. All for one, and one for all. Sounds good, but talk about something that doesn’t work. Historically, communist societies die even faster than democracies with massive levels of physical conflict and even murder as the various parties try to institute their controls. With graft and corruption rampant, harsh controls and punishments are put in place. They put people to death if they are caught because it is so rampant they want to set examples but it still doesn’t work because everyone is still working the system to get the most out of it. The system ends up being based on political clout vs. the ability to produce something people want. That’s why China has started going more with incentives to those who produce the most.   

Libertarianism is pretty easy also as they believe in less government and generally the lesser the better.  They believe that the free market if it is not manipulated by government mandates, will do a better job at providing at what is in the best interest of the majority.  Their basic premise is that no one knows what is in your best interest as an adult better than you do, and therefore you should be able to do with whatever money you earn, as you see fit.  

Now we have socialism and fascism and in my opinion, these are the words that are the most misunderstood. People tend to base their definitions on the intentions or results of the system rather than the economic system itself. For instance, socialized medicine can incorporate government employees being the administrators of the system. Anytime government administers a project or business, it can be said that this is the socialized sector or sometimes called the public sector. The military, police, the courthouse, etc. are all part of the public sector, that which is being operated and administered by the government.  In a communist society, the land, buildings and business/projects are all owned by the government, with socialism, that is not always the case. The building can be owned by private individuals and leased to the government, such as a hospital or family and children services that lease their buildings.  Both socialism and communism come from the same word origin, society, and community, but Marx suggested that communism is government ownership. Fidel Castro, a communist of Spanish descent in most peoples opinion, however, called himself a socialista, so how much of the land and business is owned by the government is somewhat subjective as it applies to the definitions.  It appears to me in general, that socialism is the administration of a project or service by government and communism is ownership of the land and business/project as well as the administration by the government.  

As you will later conclude, the end results are a lot more similar when you look at them in these contexts.  Fascism is the use of taxation and regulation by the government over projects or businesses but is most often associated with dictatorships. However, I think a dictatorship is a misunderstanding of a reality that exists when it is perceived that one man or women is in total control of a government. This can’t happen, since every known so-called dictator, has a group of people behind him watching his back such as, Raul Castro, Fidels brother who is now the number one guy in charge in Cuba.  Hitler had his cronies, as did Mussolini, Stalin etc. behind him as do all so-called dictators, they must. Someone has to carry out the orders of the oligarchy, however small or large it may be.  Oligarchies by the way are the control of government by a small group and this occurs a lot more often throughout the world than we wish to conclude.  The well known seven families of Mexico, who have been running that country for over a century now, comes to mind.  As we even know in this country, there appears to be people behind the scenes that have a lot more power over government action than the actual politicians and bureaucrats. Most countries fit the definition of fascism, under my definition as taxation and regulation are the prominent means of redistributing the wealth for the alleged benefits of the majority. 

In my opinion, these, communism, socialism and fascism are the only needed terms to evaluate what kind of government a country has and each defines a methodology of who and what is occurring within the system.  Ownership, administration, taxation and regulatory oversight determine what kind of government we have.  Add in the “who makes the decision” such as the direct democracy now being used in Switzerland, the democratic Republics such as the U.S., Japan, England and most of the world and we can pretty well define each and every nations political system.  For instance, the U.S. is really a fascist democratic republic, as are most countries around the world today. 

Fascism is generally a term that is considered derogatory in nature and it actually is as you will come to understand.  It’s all about the money especially as tax rates and regulatory oversight increase over time.  The United States, in my opinion, is a very good example of a fascist society and why I believe it is facing many of the social problems it is currently experiencing.  The United States for instance didn’t really have a Federal Income Tax for the majority until WWII when the Victory Tax was implemented. Overall tax rates were below 10% for the average person for the first 150 years of our great nation and were actually much less than that for the first 100 years or so. Overall Tax rates have increased in our country over time to where they are today. We have approximately 110 different types of taxes and regulatory fees today and we only had a handful when our nation was created. The entire Federal Government was run on a luxury import tax, so only luxury items were taxed and only those items that were manufactured abroad and transported in.

Over the last decade, over 4,200 factories have shut down in the U.S. Could it have anything to do with an overall tax rate of over 50% for many individuals today.  Start adding them up; property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, license plates, driver licenses, business licenses, etc. etc. etc.  

Now here is what communism, socialism, and fascism all have in common.  They all take the profits out of a project or business and gives them to the government for redistribution.  They just do it in different methods.  With all of these systems, the end result can be the same. The incentive for profit and reinvestment is greatly removed from the production equation, depending on the level of taxation or revenue to the government. It’s pretty simple when you get through all the extraneous details.

It should be noted that all three methods appear from historical records to contribute to the demise of a society.  We were all taught as kids the reason that communism fails because the incentives to work hard are removed from the equation. If one can make the same amount of money by working less, it then becomes a matter of forcing someone else to do the work.  That’s the element of fascists, socialist, and communists societies that end up creating a tyrannical situation as government tries to extract more and more money out of people. The more force used the more tyrannical the system. As governments gets larger, they need more money and they end up having to print it, because you can only get so much blood out of a turnip, as the old saying goes.  95% of the worlds countries have been living off of printed fiat currencies over the last 50 years and some, as we are now seeing, have reached insolvency.  Printing more money just debases the existing money supply and that eventually leads to price inflation. 

If you read the essay “The Fallacy of Democracy” at the below link, you will continue to understand some of the complexities and more important, why I believe we are experiencing some of the results of what I call the greatest social experiment in history.  The democratic Republic of the United States.   

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