Posts Tagged ‘competition

18
Aug
10

A Communist Look at Immigration

For people to be against illegal immigration is understandable- not necessarily commendable, but certainly understandable. Illegal immigrants may enjoy certain benefits from a nation while avoiding the responsibilities of citizenship (taxes, jury duty, the unlikely event of a draft, and so on). Being in a country illegally means that “illegals” (‘Unregistered’, as they prefer to be called) are not protected by labor laws and may be hired by companies and individuals to work long hours in dangerous conditions with little pay and no medical benefits- resulting in immigrants being hired for unskilled/manual labor and citizens being laid off. Now ignoring the fact that most immigrants leave their families and homelands behind, travel hundreds of miles in often dangerous conditions, sneak across the border, and allow themselves to be exploited and abused just to send money home- it’s easy to see why some people would be upset at illegal immigration.

But what we are currently seeing in both the US and in Europe isn’t mere, misguided anger at illegal immigration but at immigrants- legal or otherwise. The explosion of paranoia concerning ‘anchor-babies’- a derogatory term for the practice of gaining citizenship through having a child born in the US, as ensured by the 14th amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens of the United States…”). Now this isn’t illegal immigration- this is legitimate, protected not by law by the foundation of US government- yet there’s still an outcry against it, some even advocating the repeal of the 14th amendment.

Why? A number of reasons are given. Michelle Malkin, a commentator primarily for Fox News, argues that granted citizenship to those born in the US is detrimental to the “…integrity of citizenship-not to mention national security.”

Exactly how granting citizenship to those born in the US undermines the integrity of citizenship is a little confusing- citizenship is automatically granted to the children born in the US (to American parents), why is this less [supposedly] harmful? As for the issue of national security, immigrants are flooding into this country to take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities offered here- to suppose that immigrants would, en masse, attempt to overthrow or harm the nation they’re trying to be a part of is- to be blunt- idiocy.

Others, such as Glenn Beck, have claimed that the 14th amendment was intended only to protect the rights of former slaves freed after the civil war, and the amendment should not be applied to immigrants, going so far as to state “Slavery is a long time ago.”. Now with immigrants working for well below the minimum wage in often dangerous conditions (to say nothing of the number of genuine slaves in the country) one could easily retort that the need to protect the rights of slaves (wage-slaves and actual slaves) is needed now more than ever! Just because slavery has moved to the fruit orchards of California from the cotton fields of South Carolina doesn’t mean that’s gone. Not for Sale, an abolitionist organization estimates that there are 30 million slaves around the world.

The simple fact is that what we’re witnessing isn’t anti-illegal immigrant sentiment, but anti-immigrant feelings- something with far more disturbing implications.

Anti-immigrant sentiment stems from a number of factors, the foremost (in the US, anyways) is that immigrants rob citizens of their jobs. But what is forgotten too often is that we are all immigrants, that at some point all of our ancestors struggled for a new life- competition can to rear its ugly head anywhere- if you have an issue with it, take it up with Capitalism, not immigrants stuck in the same position as your grandparents once found themselves.

The fear of change is another- changes in culture, changes in demographics, changes in language and religions and so on. This fear is perhaps best exemplified in Britain, where anti-immigrant fear is has resulted in the creation of such groups as the English Defense League (EDL) and the British Nationalist Party (BNP). According to the official website of the BNP “All these facts point inexorably to the overwhelming and extinguishing of Britain and British identity under a tsunami of immigration.”

The idea that somehow culture is meant to remain stagnant is, of course, ridiculous. Cultures are in a constant state of flux, old traditions are abolished, new customs arise, and the mix of various cultures is an integral part of that. Has immigration into the US destroyed culture? On the contrary, immigration has increased the variety of foods we eat, beverages we drink, holidays we celebrate, and the ways we look at the world around us.

But nevertheless the bias remains in spite of these truths. Why?

Racism.

It’s ugly, it’s difficult to accept, but it’s there. Whether we’re walking basing our political campaigns on the promise to “Offer generous grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently.” (As the BNP does) or considering repealing the 14th amendment (as some in the US have suggested) or subconsciously conjuring up the image of a minority stereotype when we hear of a crime that’s been committed, we are basing our actions on the idea that some people are worse than others because of the color of their skin, the size of their noses, the width between their eyes and so on. It’s not all our fault- crime, drugs, illiteracy, and ignorance are highest among the poor and working class- the vast majority of whom are immigrants and/or minorities. It’s easy to fall into the habit of associating crime/drugs/etc. not with poverty but with those who are unfortunate enough to be poor, and from this stems racism.

It’s not all our fault- but a lot of it still is. We know that brown and blue eyes squint at the same sun. We know that curly and straight hair will eventually turn gray. We know that beneath black and white and brown skin there’s the same bones and organs. In short, we know better.

So fight fear and racism and put yourself in the shoes of immigrants, legal and illegal alike. If roles were reversed, you’d have as much motivation to travel wherever you wanted in the world to make a better life for yourself. You’d have as much of a rights.

Offer generous grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently
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07
Jul
10

Norman Rockwell’s America (is Dead)

If you’re familiar at all with contemporary art, then you’ll no doubt have heard of Norman Rockwell. Indeed, chances are if you’ve lived anywhere in the West you’ll have come across one of his iconic paintings (as an original or as a recreation). For the few of you who might not be aware of his work, Norman Rockwell created paintings depicting (most often) bourgeoisie life in idyllic Middle-America*. There’s the family farms and small, private businesses that politicians love to talk about (see Sarah Palin’s “Real America” speech) and Capitalism tries to market to you (see ‘Aunt Jemimah’, ‘Uncle Ben’, ‘Quaker Oats’, ‘State Farm‘, ‘Pepperidge Farm‘ etc.). For many it’s the very face of Capitalism- just look at this 1948 “instructional” video of (exclusively white) high-school teens discussing Capitalism.

Coronet Instructional Films “What Is Capitalism?”, 1948

This is a prime example of the twisted understanding of Capitalism many have, but even in this video we can see the roots of the disparity between the Rockwellian portrayal of Capitalism and the harsh reality. Throughout the film, one word stands out: Competition. The young woman to Jimmy’s right describes how the shop-owner, Mr. Brown, agrees to lend out his truck to ensure she and Jimmy buy from him, rather than the competition. She asserts that Mr. Brown’s interests aren’t in providing service but in making a profit, and it is here we have the crux of the matter. Mr. Brown wants to make profit- the sole existence of his business is to make profit, and so Mr. Brown does whatever he can to ensure his merchandise is sold, rather than the merchandise of his competitors. In short, Mr. Brown is trying to run the other shops in the community out of business to maximize his profits. I’m not arguing that Mr. Brown is morally corrupt (though let’s not rule out of the possibility), we have to understand that in a Capitalist system, the rules of competition apply to everyone. Mr. Brown has to run his competition out or his competition will run him out. Eat or be eaten. At the same time, if Mr. Brown is indeed concerned not with his own livelihood but with his profits, if he does succeed in running his competition out of business he will have a monopoly and Jimmy and his friends will be forced to buy “weenies” at whatever price Mr. Brown sets.

Melodramatic? Consider this:

Starbucks was a small, privately owned coffee shop that has burst into a world-wide empire that has obliterated competition. Walmart also started as a small shopping center before expanding to the point where it has replaced nearly all beloved mom-and-pop stores you see in Rockwell’s art. McDonalds didn’t start out was a global food-chain but just as a privately owned restaurant. Coca-Cola started out as a tonic.

Now of course, there’s the temptation to side with corporations on this issue. One might argue ‘Hey, the fact is that Starbucks, Walmart, and other stores became economic empires by being better than the competition- they deserve the power they have!’. This argument forgets, however, that most corporations don’t get to where they are by simply having better products. The Mr. Brown of the video might run his competition out of business by offering lower prices by (1) temporarily lowering his prices so that his competition will be destroyed and he will make more money in the long run, (2) lowering the quality of his goods, (3) smearing competitors (and if you don’t think this happens, look up a Mac vs PC commercial), (4) lowering the wages of his workers, (5) sabotaging his competitors (corporate espionage), (6) convincing the public that his products are better (actually making them better would decrease profit), or even (7) collaborating with other businesses to harm competition (just look up the tactics of J.D. Rockefeller). Now out of these seven options, do you think that Mr. Brown is going to go with the one that lowers his immediate income? And what happens when Mr. Brown gets a monopoly? Is he going to lose his customers to cheaper options in other towns? Of course not- the astute Mr. Brown is going to open a shop there, and use his profits to undersell his competitors into working for him.

It’s a sad but simple fact. No matter how much we swear by the good, ol’ family farm or shop, small businesses inevitably become big businesses, which become global corporations with a reputation for low prices and even lower wages, product safety standards, and environmental consciousness. To answer the question of the video, what is Capitalism? This is Capitalism: pointless competition, exploitation, monopolization, and the general degradation of all the values we see in Norman Rockwell’s paintings.

*Admittedly, he did do a few pictures of working class Americans and even school children in Soviet Russia- but overwhelmingly his paintings were of the bourgeoisie.

26
Jun
09

[R]education

The philosopher Plato once stated that “there shall be compulsory education, as the saying is, of all and sundry, as far this is possible; and the pupils shall be regarded as belonging to the state rather than to their parents…”. Plato makes in interesting point and the underlying principle (good education for everyone) is commendable, Plato makes a serious yet common error when he claims that the student belongs to the state.

Communism demands the reverse.

Granted, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and contemporary North Korea have all followed Plato’s ideal of the student (and to varying degrees, the individual) as property of the state. However, as has been repeatedly stated throughout this blog, those countries have merely disguised themselves as Communist states, while in reality functioning as semi-Socialist dictatorships. Communism requires the opposite. The public does not belong to the state- the state belongs to the public. The same goes for the education of students.

Now this might seem like a slightly abstract concept, after all, “public schools” are schools that belong to, and are funded by, the state. What then is the difference between Marxism’s “public education” and our contemporary “public school system”? The answer is simple: the presence of private schools. In the US, we have private property, state property, and public property. The mere presence of public property does not mean that we live in a Marxist system where all property belongs to the public. The same is true for education. Do we have public education? Yes. Does that mean everyone has access to public education? Yes. Do we have private education? Yes. Does everyone have access to private education? Absolutely not.

“So what’s the issue?”, one might wonder, “Everyone has access to a basic level of education no matter what they’re social standing is!”. That’s true, however, one must remember the emphasis on the word basic. Like most things in life, the cheaper something is, the less quality it has. A decent private school can charge and exorbitant fee in exchange for offering an excellent level of education. More money, more profit, more supplies, more (and better) teachers, and so on. Public schools are, quite simply, low quality, and in a world where education determines one’s career, quality is everything. Take the examples of Mr. Hammer and Miss Sickle.

Mr. Hammer is born into a moderately wealthy family. As a child he has the best education private schools have to offer- well funded and well trained athletic teams, a school library excellently stocked, motivated, intelligent teachers, and so on. Coming from such a brilliant school and having high grades (and still wealthy parents), getting into a prestigious (and very expensive) college is easy. After completing college, Mr. Hammer is able to get an exciting and high-paying job (which will eventually make him wealthy and allow him to send his children to a good private school, starting the cycle all over again).

Miss Sickle, however, is born to the lower classes. Her family cannot afford to send her to anything other than public school. She studies hard and does decently and even manages to get herself a few scholarships however she never able to reach her full potential (Miss Sickle being interested in chemistry and the best her school has to offer in that field is a poster of the periodic table and a few vials of ammonium). As a result, Miss Sickle is unable to gain access to any decent college and having never attained a university degree, spends the rest of her life working as waitress in a roach-infested diner.

Did Miss Sickle commit some kind of crime to deserve a life of carrying plates from one side of a room to the other? Was she somehow not as hard of a worker as Mr. Hammer was? Is she somehow to blame for the way her life turned out? Of course not. Miss Sickle was born poor and didn’t happen to be enough of a genius to get into a decent college free. And what about Mr. Hammer? Did he, as a six year old, toil long hours to pay his way through the first grade? Was he somehow a “better” person and more deserving of a higher education? Again, no. Mr. Hammer was born to the wealthy and because of that, managed to get ahead in life. He didn’t work harder than Miss Sickle- if anything, he probably had it easier. Where’s the justice in any of this? Two people work with the same amount of effort and have the same levels of intelligence and yet one becomes a millionaire and the other lives off of tips and minimum wage. Imagine if we applied this system- our education system- to the Olympic games. In a race, all the athletes are lined up side-by-side. The gold goes to the contestant who is- in all simplicity the fastest runner. Now imagine if we had the Olympic games in the same way we have our education system. Some runners would be, at the beginning of the race, hundreds of feet in front of the regular starting line and others would have to start hundreds of feet behind. Those behind are forced to run almost three times as fast as the runners up ahead. Yes, they can run that far- but keep in mind, there are only so many medals. Would that be an event people would watch? Would it be called a fair game? No, people would call it a travesty! Why then do we accept an education system where people don’t lose gold, but the very quality of their lives?

An advocate of Capitalism might argue that life just isn’t fair- that the world’s a jungle where the only fittest survive to pass their genes (or wealth) on. If that’s true, then why would the same people prosecute a thief for stealing someone‚Äôs wallet? Surely the thief was more “fit” than the person who lost his wallet- isn’t the thief simply being a good Capitalist by gaining money with little or no cost to himself in time, effort, and resources? This would be as ridiculous as an Olympic race where one contestant wins by shooting his competitors in the knees.

“So what’s the solution?” a person might ask, “Are we to penalize the children of the wealthy by lowering their quality of education until it’s on the same level as the poorest person in the country?”. Of course not. What Marxism calls for is a single system of education where anyone can get the education of his choice, not the choice of his parent’s bank account. Does this mean every school would teach the same things out of the same textbooks? Not at all. If anything, diversity would be encouraged. If one school wishes to take a certain perspective on life and a different school wishes to teach a different view, then they should be allowed it. The student gets to choose which he prefers and, provided he pulls his own weight in society, may study for as long as he chooses. Imagine every individual given an opportunity to have the highest quality education free of charge! Imagine what society would be like if everyone had the option to attain an extra four years of college without having to worry about affording it! Imagine a world where the education system belongs to the students, instead of the students belonging to the education system!

Perhaps Ali Ibn Abu-Talib said it best; “There is no wealth like knowledge; no poverty like ignorance…”