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The Concept of a 'Free Society'
Under so-called 'free market' ideology dominant for several decades now, society is being torn apart with racial and class divisions. It has to stop. We want a free society served by a managed economy
By Ed Knudson
Editor's Note: I wrote the article below as an introduction to the Society section of this website. I place it again here so web visitors may be able to have more chance to see the perspective of those of us who work on this website.
The idea of a "free society" can be understood as a breakthrough political concept. The two words are familiar enough, of course, but we want to here develop a particular meaning for the concept of a free society. But we don't mean it simply in an abstract or academic way. We mean it as an active "political" concept.
And as a political concept it constitutes a "breakthrough" in how political language is put together these days. Imagine yourself as a politician in a community debate with your opponent. Your opponent says, "I believe in a free market." And you, taking a different approach can say, "I believe in a free society."
That is a huge difference. To put the free market first means that economic institutions should be free to do whatever they want even if what they do hurts people. To put the goal of a free society first means that the economy needs to be evaluated on the degree to which it helps create the conditions for a free society. Your opponent will say he/she wants a very limited government which promotes a free market. You can say you want a smart government that well manages the economy so that it benefits everyone not just those at the top, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in a free society.
You can also say that the evidence is in now about the so-called free market. Whatever the free market ideology, the fact is that government based on such ideology actually results in rising inequality and social breakdown. When jobs don't produce enough income for workers then they can't feed and house and clothe their families and the society breaks down, people become wage slaves, have to work two or three jobs, and have no more free time to engage in the social activities of their choice. A free society is one in which people have time to live their lives as they choose.
If someone asks you, "So, you believe in socialism," you can say, "No, not at all. Socialism is when government owns all the means of production. I believe in capitalism, the strengths of the creative entrepeneur, and especially small business, those are important features of our economy. I think a well managed capitalism can support and encourage those positive features. But the idea of a 'free market' today is a piece of ideology to justify the power of very large corporations over society. People aren't free when a few large corporations run everything which is what is happening today. Very few companies now control the entire food system, for example. That's not freedom, that's complete dependence of society on a few companies. I believe a free society is more important than a free market, but that's not socialism, it means well managed capitalism for the freedom of all."
On social questions, of course, then your opponent would say that government should manage and/or, maybe even control, society. Conservatives like the idea of social order, more police, more military. They want government to control people's private lives according to rather narrow religious morality. You can say you believe in moral values yourself, but that you don't believe government should control society, but goverment should make possible a free society where people actually have the time to enjoy a healthy social and cultural life.
One of the key elements of a "free society" is its freedom and capacity to engage in the creative cultural arts. Contemporary American culture is dominated completely by calculating commercial interests determined to manipulate the minds and hearts of the people to the profit of the corporation. Economics today has become largely culture production, from sports teams to tennis shoes to media celebrity, creating a coarseness in the public atmosphere. The culture must be taken away from the power of the corporation and placed where it belongs, in society, neither under the law of government nor under the profit motive of the economy.
This means that new institutional configurations need to be invented for the major media in the country. The domination of the modern corporation over the information requirements of Americans is simply over-whelming. It must be changed. It is ridiculous that political campaigns are largely efforts to raise money to pay corporate media for access to the personal consciousness of Americans. Society cannot be free when corporations have such complete control of the media and thus the public consciousness. If you have knowledge of specific proposals or interest to change the organizational framework of communication in this country please let us know.
We need a free society, where individuals have real choices. We need a well-managed economy that results in a free society. That is what happens in those Nordic countries which have adopted what is called "Social Democracy." At this website we will be proposing political parties and policies which can help the American people enjoy social democracy.
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