Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 Response to Gov. Ron DeSantis Mandate (not the “don’t say gay” one)

 Recently, Governor Ron DeSantis (R. Fla.) issued a mandate which requires all public schools to teach students about communism. I wholeheartedly support the idea that every student should know about the evils of communism, and I thank the governor for his service in the United States military (He was deployed to Iraq in 2007) However, I would suggest that he issue another mandate requiring students to be taught about the societal decay resulting from ultra-radical free-market capitalism, which is the philosophy that is embraced by the far right of the Republican party, such as the so-called freedom caucus in the House of Representatives.

 If you want to know what societal damage complete, untrammeled capitalism can do, you should read Charles Dickens, who perfectly described the degradation of the nineteenth-century English working class. He best describes this in Oliver Twist and Hard Times (my favorite). Not to be outdone by the Brits, we had our own lopsided version of capitalism at the same time. (See Mark Twain’s masterful work about the excesses of great wealth in The Gilded Age. During the great depression in the 1930s, President Franklyn Roosevelt and congress instituted a range of social programs called the New Deal, to lessen the blow to the suffering population (25% of who were unemployed). The most important of these was the Social Security Act, which lifted roughly 37% of the elderly population out of poverty.  

 Unfortunately, conservatives have been trying to dismantle it for nearly a century. Thank God they haven’t succeeded

 Don’t be alarmed by my suggestion. I am not a provocateur and I realize that comparing communism to capitalism is a faulty analogy. In communist countries speech is severely curtailed and dissidents are put in forced labor camps or killed. In the United States, ordinary citizens are given the blessing of free speech. However, their voices will pale in comparison to those of huge corporations, who can buy elections, since Chief Justice John Roberts, “in his wisdom,” declared money as speech (Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission). Social justice in the United States is best described by the nineteenth-century French journalist, Anatole France, who said: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

 Do I favor a socialist government for the U.S.? absolutely not. But I would like to see us adopt a system of capitalism that has a heart, like the Scandinavian countries. There is a popular myth that Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are socialist countries. They are not. Each of these countries has a market economy but with a much stronger safety net for those who fall through the holes in capitalism.

 Let students hear about the evils of communism, the abuses of some forms of capitalism, and as many relevant topics that can be taught.

 Teachers should be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights, too.