I just finished reading an opinion piece that appeared last Sunday (Voices, May 26). The title of the piece was “Envy? Always at the Bottom of the Socialist’s Argument” and it was written by Steve King of Carpinteria.
The piece is a rambling and rather prosaic description of Mr. King’s early life, a life that sounds like a Jack Armstrong version of the ideal American boy and his travails. Without using the “S” word, he implies that contemporary benefits bestowed on the needy and on a number of other folks in this society are somehow askew of his vision of what is right.
I don’t know how old Mr. King may be. I doubt that he is among the phalanx of young people or even within millennials.
His history, as written, sounds like life before the Industrial Revolution. Families were large, they mostly lived on farms, and depended on each other and their fields for sustenance. The community was tightly knit, and everyone had a function in the family/community unit. Life may have been difficult, but it was embraced with pride and energy. In fact, the same was true in European cultures.
Cities had not evolved into the immense entities of today. The young had no incentive to go to the city. The farm and the family was enough to support survival.
Unfortunately, these folks were ill prepared for the loss of their young to the cities, where gradually higher-paying jobs, at least in contrast to no pay, became attractive. Communities began to disintegrate, and families were left with the aged who could not perform the necessary and typical labor that their young relatives provided. Illness and lower life expectancy disenfranchised these aged and aging folks from jobs in the cities and in the new industries that called for youth, its resiliency and its muscularity.
This earning differentiation between young and old continued and worsened for over 100 years.
States gradually took steps to give some security to a large group of their people ? the old people who never will earn again. Arizona passed the first old-age pension act in 1914. After the First World War, one state after another rapidly followed suit. By the end of 1930, 14 others had put such laws on their statute books, and in the next three years, 10 more were added.
This movement to generate security for the aged and ill became an important legislative step beginning in 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. Other presidents began to follow suit, and the present safety net for the aged took form.
Many fibers of the net, beyond Social Security and Medicare, have continued to evolve as our society produced fewer young people and more of the elderly.
So let’s now return to Mr. King’s “elephant in the room,” his distaste for socialism. Once again, we have someone who has had an admirable beginning, now looking askance at the safety net and naming it socialism. Given that socialism has about 30 different forms and sometimes is market and other times non-market, one cannot help but wonder to what he alludes.
This is another fine example of a well-intentioned fellow using a buzzword without a clue what it means. More importantly, he seems to resent those who get the benefit of the safety net and those who need it most.
Socialism has ruined a host of social entities, and it would have that effect on our social structure. I do not and cannot advocate for it.
So, Mr. King, congratulations on your exemplary youth. On this planet and in this time, it will be the stuff of history and fiction.
The author is a regular contributor to Voices. He lives in Solvang.