Problems With Social Democracy and Progressive Taxation Under Capitalism

Commenter tulio notes, in favor of social democracy:

I’ll take capitalism any day, warts and all. I just think we need some elements of socialist safeguards and need progressive taxation to try and stop the rich from getting too rich.

The problem is that under capitalism it is very difficult to put in the socialist safeguards you discuss. The capitalists fight tooth and nail like insane wildcats every step of the way trying every trick in the book. Often they just say fuck it and sabotage the economy, throw a military coup or start a contra armed guerrilla movement. Then once the socialist safeguards are put in the capitalists fight to get rid of them like madmen year in and year out until they can dismantle them.

They try every trick in the book, deliberately bankrupting the state (like here in the US), capital flight, you name it. If your country owes debt to the IMF or World Bank, World Capitalism will force you to dismantle your entire socialist safeguard system, plus tons of other stuff, as a condition on getting more loans.

Furthermore, in most of the 3rd World, capitalists have so captured the state that it’s impossible to put in any socialist safeguards. Any new person who gets in and tries to do that gets threatened by the IMF and World Bank and the international investors. The lenders threaten to cut off new loans and the investors threaten to pull out all their money. So each new person who gets elected can’t put in any socialist safeguards, and they can’t do much of anything but neoliberal shit, as the international bankers and investors are calling the shots.

There are similar problems with progressive taxation or taxing business and corporations much at all. The nature of capitalism makes it very difficult to put this in, and once again, as soon as you do, the capitalists start fighting it and never quit until they get rid of progressive taxation, reduce or eliminate taxes on business and corporations and and consequently defund the state. By defunding the state, they end up wiping out all of the programs we discussed above.

This project is continuous under capitalism. So once you put in social democracy and reasonable taxation, you will have to fight the capitalists like mad every single year forever in order to keep it in. The capitalists will use every devious trick in the book to try to get rid of progressive taxation too. Further, once you wipe out sensible taxation, the only way to put it back is to “raise taxes,” which, at least here in the US, is a political death sentence.

As if all of this was not enough, consider another thing. Under capitalism, the capitalists capture almost the entire media. It’s not uncommon for reactionary pro-capitalist factions to control up to 99% of the nation’s media. In the US, they control 100% of the nation’s large media. In order to put in social democracy or progressive taxation, first you will have to fight the entirety of this media behemoth, with all of its weight and brainwashing power.

These capitalist media machines are brilliant at “creating culture” and brainwashing workers, consumers, low income and middle income people into opposing their own interests and supporting the interests of their capitalist enemies. Sure, in some cases, you have a population savvy enough to figure out they’re being lied to with megaphones 24-7, everywhere they go, but it’s not easy to do.

Consider also that at the same time, capitalists everywhere on Earth attack state education. In the 3rd World, the idea is to keep the people stupid. An educated people is harder to brainwash. So in order to get a savvy population, first you need to educate them, but the capitalists will keep you from doing that. Now where do you start?

In addition to running the media, under capitalism, the capitalists actually create the culture. Marx noted this. In capitalist society, the culture of the nation is that of the ruling class. And in general it is. Your average poor or low income worker under capitalism has the mindset of a ruling class millionaire! Those are his values, political and otherwise. He’s living in a hovel, but he thinks like a corporate magnate. It’s magical brainwashing.

Gramsci called this cultural hegemony. The capitalists create a cultural hegemony in capitalist states. The only way to get anything progressive done is to create a progressive counter-hegemonic discourse and try to institute that to do battle with the cultural discourse of the ruling class.

Cultural hegemony is a serious problem. Look how many American workers, low income people, middle class folks and consumers oppose their own interests and talk like corporate boardroom types. Their minds have basically been colonized and taken over like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Many of these fools have invested decades in such foolish thinking and are not about to give it up anytime soon. It becomes an important part of their identity and even of entire communities and harder to get out than the worst weeds.

On top of that, in most capitalist countries, the ruling classes who oppose socialist safeguards and reasonable taxation just out and out buy the elections.

In much of the world, the same folks control the military. Even on the outside chance that someone decent gets in who can put in socialist safeguards and democratic taxation, typically there is quickly a military coup and the capitalists seize power again, undo all of the progressive changes, then to drive the point home, run death squads around the country for some time slaughtering people to set an example, as in, “Don’t try this again!”

In the future, people realize that if they elect a progressive person, there may be a coup afterward, which will be bad enough, but after that, death squads will run amok for years, and they may just get arrested, beaten, tortured or killed. It’s a warning to stay away from progressive politics for the rest of your life.

So, while I support social democracy and democratic taxation in theory, I’m well aware of the minefields that the capitalists have laid in the paths of doing these sensible and decent things.

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