Friday, July 9, 2010

Is it scary?

How do we get into dialogue with people like the following, named "Sky Blue," who made the following comment on a Jesus Creed thread about the topic of closing down public libraries:

Unfortunately, public education, as much as we love it and as much as it benefits our society, is socialism and so should have no place in our structure.

(Read more:

I would love to understand where he/she is coming from.

My feeling is, if public libraries and publicly funded education represent "socialism," sign me up for (Christian) socialism. I have trouble envisioning living in a society with no public sector and wonder what people are thinking. I really do. Can anyone help me understand this? Should I be as frightened of this mindset as I am?

I'm thinking much lately about how to structure a discourse in a way such that institutions can be publicly funded and yet not labeled "socialist." Is it possible to frame a positive conversation about public sector?


Jeremy Mott said...

My father was a Quaker and an investment banker. Not filthy rich by any means, since this was in the 1940's and 1950's, and people remembered the Great Depression well, and how it had been caused, in large part, by reckless investment banking. So investment bankers---he was a portfolio manager---were well paid, but not extravagantly well.
And he said, and he believed,
that some things were best done
in a socialist way. And some things were best done in a capitalist way. This was, and is,
called a mixed economy. Public
schools, public libraries, fire
and police departments, and the
military, are all examples of
socialism in a mixed economy. Does
anyone at all serious want it to
be otherwise? Yes, some people do, but they really haven't thought it through. If libraries
were all privatized, probably most people couldn't afford them. If
the military is privatized more than it already is, it will increasingly be under the control
of big oil companies, not taxpayers.
So don't be afraid socialized institutions. Sometimes they're
the right way to go. Often not.
Jeremy Mott

Hystery said...

Jeremy, your response calls to mind my grandfather who owned a small paint manufacturing company in a small town. One story our family remembers is his response to someone complaining of sales taxes. "Got to pay Rockefeller (then NY's governor) his due!" the man said angrily. My grandfather, in his quiet gentle way, replied that we needed public works. His business depended on his customer's ability to get to his store on the public roads and streets and in a New York winter, to have those roads safely plowed. Grandpa needed running water, sanitation, and street lights for his small business and his large family to stay healthy. Roads, bridges, schools, libraries, mail, and community services for those in need keep us together. Grandpa taught us not to resent our responsibility or forget our debt to the concept of the public good.

Diane said...

Jeremy and Hystery,

You two should run for office. Seriously.

I too believe in paying taxes to have a society that works. I know a few people will take advantage--but that's the price we pay for a civil society.

Anonymous said...

I read something from a woman with a similar political perspective to Sky Blue. She said, "We shouldn't be trying to turn the government into Christ." It didn't make any sense to me. Why shouldn't we decide to do things cooperatively, as a nation? How is that idolatry?