Ron Way’s “Democratic socialism: The devil you know” (Feb. 10) reminds us that we need and have tools for solving broad-based state and local problems. He focused on solutions that come from the public sector; hence, democratic socialism. But solutions can also come from organized private-sector action. Call these “community socialism.” Minnesota has a rich history of both. What’s troubling is that there is no state or national leader with the prominence (and following) of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders advocating for community socialism. As a result of this void, debate gravitates to more government or no government. No wonder problems like the achievement gap, cost-effective health care and affordable housing persist.
Bill Blazar, Minneapolis
The writer retired last year from his role as vice president for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
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Great thanks to Way for his fine article on socialism vs. capitalism. A mix of both seems to be best. An extreme of either can lead to catastrophic results. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that any economic/political system becomes unsupportable and unjust in an environment of corruption, disregard for the rule of law and disregard for the needs of others.
Burke Hilden, Maplewood
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Way defines socialism as “an economic system where the community (through government) owns and controls the means of production for the social good.” He then gives many examples of things that he says are socialism. The basic idea is that there are lots of successful socialist programs in the U.S., so we shouldn’t hesitate to add more.
A lot of the things he calls socialism are not socialism. Cooperatives are not socialism. They are owned by the members of the cooperative, not by the government. He also calls highways and bridges examples of socialism. They are not socialistic, because the government doesn’t build them. It uses tax money to pay private contractors to build them.
Social Security, welfare programs, Medicare, and Medicaid are not socialist programs. They are redistributionist programs. The government does not own and control the means of production. The government collects taxes and delivers payments to eligible citizens. No goods or services are produced.
Way wants us to think that if we like cooperative grocery stores, highways, bridges and municipal golf courses, then we should agree that socialism is good and be open to more of it.
The real issue is not whether we like highways, bridges and municipal golf courses. The real issue is redistribution of income. That is the real agenda of the democratic socialists. They don’t think the distribution of wealth and income is “equitable” and want to make it more “equitable” with expensive programs like single-payer health insurance and free college.
James Brandt, New Brighton
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Socialism is a parasitic system that feeds off a healthy capitalist economy like a tapeworm feeds off a healthy human body. Once it is introduced into a body politic, it consumes all of the resources it can wrap itself around, and is notoriously difficult to control.
Fortunate countries, such as Denmark, have managed to pare back socialist programs and return to their capitalist roots. Less fortunate countries, such as Venezuela, have been destroyed by socialism’s fatal flaw — the illusion of something for nothing.
Gregg J. Cavanagh, Maple Grove
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The most instructive thing about Way’s commentary, which claims to educate readers about “socialism,” is the total absence of the working class; “workers” manages to appear only once. The socialist project, beginning in the 1840s in continental Europe, was the working-class response to the misery it increasingly faced in the midst of unprecedented wealth for the few in the new economic system, capitalism. The modern communist movement formally announced itself to the world with the publication of its Manifesto in 1848.
Owing to particular historical circumstances — especially the issue of race — working-class consciousness in the U.S. lagged behind other advanced capitalist countries. But ever since the Great Recession of 2008, if not before, the American working class in all its skin colors and other identities is being taught daily what it means to be a worker with all the insecurity and grinding toll on working class bodies — and despite the so-called “recovery.” The opioid crisis is just one measure of the carnage. To not make the connections with that history and present reality as Way’s piece fails to do is inexcusable, if not suspect. It suggests that Way thinks the social welfare state or an enlightened, well-meaning middle-class can come to the rescue. Only the working class can liberate itself was the incessant message of Karl Marx and his partner Frederick Engels.
Last year was the first significant upturn in decades in strikes in the U.S., led largely by teachers. That’s the way forward for any meaningful discussion about “socialism” in the U.S.
August H. Nimtz, Minneapolis
The writer is a professor of political science and African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota.
We interrupt your wine tasting to bring you this message …
I was bemused to see my hometown, Lodi, Calif., featured in the Star Tribune Travel section as the next wine tasting mecca (“In Lodi, the uncrowded California wine country pours on charm,” Feb. 10). The article failed to mention, however, the looming effect of climate change on Lodi’s wine industry. When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the grape harvest was in September. It now starts in July. A Lodi sommelier told me that soon the area will be too hot to grow grapes due to temperatures that now regularly soar over 100 degrees. And to think we all grew up without air conditioning.
And then there is the water issue. The wells of many farmers, in addition to our own, went dry recently after the four-year drought. The aquifers were collapsing as farmers and urban dwellers competed for limited water.
And if you go in the summer or fall, don’t forget your face mask. During the Paradise Fire (Redding fire/Santa Rosa fire/Yosemite fire), the sky went dark. People were advised not to go outside, and our air filters turned black.
So, by all means, visit Lodi Wine Country — but don’t wait too long.
Katherine Rogers, Minnetonka
WINTER AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
Cornered in Minneapolis
It is time to admit that Minneapolis is not a friendly climate for walking in winter. How many people would be able to cross at the intersection in the accompanying photo?
Jeanne Long, Minneapolis