On Socialist Values And The General Welfare

Socialism is a collective effort to provide for the common good and general welfare of all people within any given society. The scope of the application of socialist principles can range from a collective as small as the family to that of an entire nation state. In fact, the general welfare clause appears two different places in the US Constitution; including Article 1 Section 8 where Congress is commissioned with the responsibility to provide for the common defense and the general welfare. That the term “general” was by no means intended to be an all inclusive term is evident in that even as those words were being penned, the slavery of human beings was an instrumental practice in the early development of the US economy. Clearly, the framers of the Constitution envisioned a select application as to who exactly should provide for the welfare of whom. A scenario that has only changed so far as concerns institutional logistics over the course of the last 230 years.

For from the founding of the US, the laboring class has always provided for the welfare of the capitalist class. The relationship between each class has consistently been that of the exploitation of the former for the primary benefit of the latter. And there is little doubt that this arrangement is by design and strategically managed to that end. The fact of the matter is that capitalism is an amoral system whose primary purpose is to exploit labor for the welfare of wealthy oligarchs. Now this is not to imply that all capitalists are amoral people; however as the basic purpose of capitalism is to maximize profits and accumulate capital, there is simply no code of humanist ethics incorporated into the system itself. And so when the controlling class accumulates wealth, claims personal possession of, and assumes control over the surplus which is produced by the working class, they are acting in accord with the fundamental principles of an amoral economic system. Hence the primary objective of capitalism is to provide for a concentrated, rather than the general welfare. Capitalism ultimately then is the systematic process of a well orchestrated oligarchy.

Socialism on the other hand is a collective effort for the common good and the general welfare of any given society. In essence socialist values are based upon the concept that any society is a family. And just as in a family the ultimate objective is to provide for the general welfare and for the good of every one in the family, so likewise socialist values are based upon a natural incentive for exercising collective efforts for the benefit of everyone within any given community. Furthermore, just as any family which operated by the exploitation of the weaker by the more powerful would clearly be regarded as dysfunctional, similarly any collective which so operates merits the same assessment.

In conclusion, although the US was never intended to actually operate so as to provide for the general welfare; nonetheless the farmers of the constitution laid the groundwork for a society which functions in accord with socialist values by twice referencing the general welfare as an intended objective of our sovereign nation state. Ultimately the interpretation of and the application of the general welfare clause is rather telling as to our social values. The issue then becomes whether our collective values are such that we as a people would prefer to continue to provide for the concentrated welfare of wealthy oligarchs, or whether we would exercise our collective efforts for the common good and the general welfare.

4 thoughts on “On Socialist Values And The General Welfare

  1. Well said. I was wondering if you could share how your views expressed here mesh with a post you wrote, maybe a year ago about purporting libertarian values. We had a brief discussion about it if I recall. I liked what you had to say, but felt you were perhaps being a bit Utopian and we agreed that education was the answer. 🙂 Personally I think education is always the answer. lol I guess when I think of effective libertarianism, or a libertarian society which actually works, the freedom of choice we give people, must be one in which we choose general welfare, or in essence socialism as the best way of preserving individual freedoms for the things we care about most, or perhaps rather as a way of avoiding a life of drudgery for most people, and increasing the level of human flourishing.

    I agree with what you say about capitalism, but I do think that even capitalism could be effective if we also choose to value the general welfare. There is nothing that actually stops a wealthy head of a corporate entity from living the life of philosopher Will McAskill who has decided to use any money he makes above 40 thousand pounds a year to benefit the rest of society. Is the thing that stops him being raised in privilege? Is it his own plastic mind that over time becomes corrupted by the money he makes in a capitalist system that doesn’t really reward generosity? It seems to me though that a happier workforce would be more protective of both their company and their boss. The company would more easily maintain experienced workers who are loyal. I don’t know. I personally believe that an element of capitalism in a society can be healthy as one of the downsides of pure socialism is that risk taking is unnecessary. I think risk taking is healthy and is one of the reasons humans have flourished. It seems to me part of progress. That progress though has to be for the general welfare and so a risk that leads to a gain in wealth should result in the rest of the society benefiting as well, because it is the social safety net in the society that allowed the person to take the risk in the first place. It’s a complex issue to be sure. I definitely agree that the reason I lean towards socialism is that because it has humanist values embedded in it. Capitalism doesn’t as you point out here and that is an inherent problem with that as an economic system.

    • Thank you for your read and pensive comments and queries. I struggle with my libertarian views as such relate to a world of well established nation states. Inasmuch as I am a libertarian, I don’t see how the current geopolitical structure could ever actually transform to a global libertarian society. Thus I readily acknowledge that my libertarian perspective is a utopian vision with little hope of ever becoming an effective reality. And that is a shame, for as a start up society, I can imagine none more preferable than my idealistic vision of a libertarian socialism.

      Now although I am an Atheist, I would refer you to the latter verses of Acts 2:44-46 as a literary vision of my ideal society. A global commitment of that nature to libertarian socialist values is the only way I could ever foresee my societal vision becoming an actual reality. And in the context of the contemporary global geopolitical realities, I can certainly by no means envision such a worldwide transformation ever becoming an actual reality. When the realities of the ever worsening climate catastrophe is factored into the equation of my perspective, I readily admit that humanity lacks the time needed for such a transformation to be effected as an actual reality.

      To compound my pessimistic view of my own idealistic perspective ever transcending the drawing board so to speak, the threat of nuclear warfare simply muddies the waters even further.

      I figure that social democracy is the best that humanity will ever achieve in the context of current geopolitical realities and the impending doom of a climate catastrophe which is already a living reality.

      In conclusion, I fear that capitalism has already doomed us to a bitter end.

      And so my perspective is that of a pessimistic idealists.

      Frankly, I fear for my grandson’s generation.

      • Thank you for your thoughtful response. I really don’t have much to add or debate here as I’ve pretty much reached a similar conclusion. I am a fairly optimistic person, but it just doesn’t seem like we are going to build enough momentum to deal with something like anthropogenic climate change. Barring some unforeseen technological solution that transforms society, I just don’t see how transformations will come about in time. I mean it’s possible that AI doesn’t destroy us and figures out how to actually save us. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but that’s not a basket you can throw all your eggs into by any means. lol

        I’m an atheist too, andthe Bible has some good stuff. I just don’t treat it as Gospel. 🙂

  2. Currently I feel that any purist political ideology is bound to fail for being impractical. When we went through the Great Recession (2008-) I noticed that Canada had far, far fewer problems than the U.S. Canada is “capitalist” but not in the way of the U.S. (no cowboys involved). Their banks are better regulated. They have decent labor unions and union membership, etc. They “do” capitalism better than the U.S. does. They have elements of several ideologies in a blend that works for them, as does Sweden, as does … well, a lot of countries.

    What is needed is the pursuit of a pragmatic working system that serves the needs of society. These needs have to be clarified and principles adopted to guide those who govern. This has not happened in the U.S. which is acting as a laboratory of “how not to do democracy.”

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