11
Jun
09

Government Motors?

There’s been a lot of talk recently on the government takeover of GM. Some, such as members of the Obama administration, believe that this will save jobs and- eventually- revitalize the company. Others, such as Fox News’s Glen Beck, claim that this is an abomination and an “attack on Capitalism”.

So what is it really? Good? Bad? Apocalyptic? An attack on Capitalism or the US constitution?

From a Communist point of view, it’s hard to say.

We can determine that a government takeover, with the consent of the owners of the company (as is the case with GM, is not a breach of the Constitution. Those who would claim otherwise could technically claim that this is an infringement on the right to free enterprise, but considering that GM was handed over willingly, this would be a hard position to argue from. Apocalyptic? Hardly. Nowhere in any world religion is government ownership of car companies listed as a sign of the end of the world.

That leaves good or bad, and as I’ve said, it’s not easy to tell which is right.

From a Communist perspective, the government takeover has saved thousands of jobs for autoworkers- a good thing. At the same time, this decision was made more or less without the consensus of the public- a bad thing. All in all, we now have a government-owned car company, something that could be either good or bad- predicting which is going to be hard.

On one hand, state-ownership of transport hasn’t proven detrimental for many countries. On the contrary, state-ownership has often been beneficial for countries, providing an inexpensive form of transport for the general public. At the same time, we must keep in mind that this isn’t about taxis, busses, and trains- this is about cars. How will the government (or at least, a company heavily influenced by the government) make private cars? Again, it’s hard to say. Some postulate that a new generation of fuel-efficient “green” cars will be created, others claim that a car created by committees and bureaucrats will be costly and inefficient. All in all, the Communist perspective is more or less neutral, since this is neither an attack on Capitalism or a movement towards Communism.

It does, however, raise an important point in the difference between Communism and Socialism: the difference between public and state property.

Now one must remember that originally, Socialism referred to the socio-political aspect of Marxism (Communism referring to the economic-political aspect). However, like many words, the definition of “Socialism” has changed dramatically. Currently, Socialism is used to refer to a “middle-ground” between Capitalism and Communism. Essentially, Socialism is an economic system where large portions of the economy are owned or controlled by the state. Too often, this is confused with Communism- largely due to the USSR and other pseudo-Communist states replacing private property with state property, rather than public property. Simplified, the differences can best be explained by an example using land. In the US, there are three types of land-ownership, private, state, and public. Private property (in regards to land) is land owned purely by a single person for that person’s own use. State property is property which belongs solely to the state and whatever sub-department the land is run by. Public property is property that belongs to everyone, for whatever (legal) use chosen (streets and roads, for example, are public property). With GM, the US moves towards Socialism not Communism (though since the US government tends to regulate, rather than own, the US remains primarily Capitalist). There are even some who blame the fall of the Soviet Union not on corruption and dictatorship but on the fact the private property was turned into state property, rather than public property, as demanded in Marx’s works.

In short, even if the US is moving towards Socialism (and it still has a long, long way to go before that happens), it is important to keep in mind that this does not mean the US is moving towards Communism.

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