June 1, 2011

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

Somebody at Metafilter is reminded of that Steinbeck quote after reading an AdAge white paper saying that "mass affluence" is over.

71 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Steinbeck had some silly socialist ideas. But mostly the reason socialism never caught on has to do with the fact that the "poor" in America do pretty well compared to the poor and even the middle class in most of the world.

That is especially true today.

Fred4Pres said...

I liked Cannery Row and East of Eden.

Shouting Thomas said...

Ok, time for a cat fight. Meow!

$100k to $200k is a hell of a lot of money in most places, and plenty of money in just about every place. If you can't live on $100k to $200k, you need to get your priorities in order.

Steinbeck was an asshole and a writer, which often go together. He made up most of "Travels With Charlie" and the rest of his work was limousine liberalism.

Socialism never took root in America because it is a stupid Old World idea that has no compelling reason to exist in the great New World of cowboys and cowgirls.

Steinbeck was one of those jerks who wanted us to become Europeans. Who in the hell in their right mind wants to be a European? Where's their Chuck Berry?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Just saw The Grapes of Wrath for the first time in thirty years. I hadn't realized it was directed by John Ford. It was as masterful a piece of cinematic art as can be found. I had fun explaining to my teens that that is what socialist propaganda looks like. Naive, trusting, generous Americans with no knowledge of Stalinist purges or Great Leaps Forward.

Fred4Pres said...

Steinbeck could afford to be a socialist and a bum because he was never really poor. He was an asshole, but most writers are.

I like that he thought Vietnam a noble cause and pissed off all his old leftist pals.

Fred4Pres said...

The movie GOW leaves out the ending of the young mother (who just lost her child) nursing the starving man who wanders into the camp. Hamfisted symbolism and terrible melodrama, I am sure Ford thought that part of the book pathetic.

jimbino said...

Plutocracy never took root in America because the rich see themselves not as privileged aristocracy but as temporarily flush homeless people.

traditionalguy said...

I love John Steinbeck. He was a wonderful observer of human life and a superior writer of words. The country Steinbeck lived in had cheap land and personal liberty possible where a responsible morale could be trusted to be free. Obama the Kenyan/Indonesian is a deadly collectivist who has put in fixed regulations favoring a few winners that we call Crony Capitalists. In Obama's perfectly ruled collective, middle class clingers are called "targets" that will have to be interned in FEMA Camps when the crash in food and energy prices destroys the money of everyone's but the Obama Gang capos issued World Electronic credits.

Carol_Herman said...

Oh, it took hold.

Worse, there was a great loss of faith in Wall Street. And, it's b-a-a-c-k!

Meanwhile, there have always been bubbles. But they burst.

Durdge has up a good top headline on the economy. And, how fearful money managers are. Because we've run out of technology to sell. Even better, it doesn't pay to sell the stocks you have, (which is what Bears do), because their yeilds are better than other bets.)

No answers.

But the democraps are right where Hoover was ... when Hoover messed up BIG TIME.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think that it was because they saw themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires, but that was part of it. What Europe didn't and still really doesn't have is the American Dream. If you want to make it, you just have to work hard enough.

Another related part is that this ties into Puritan morality, where failure to advance can be attributed to sloth, etc., and Calvinistic morality, where wealth is a reward for a goodly life. Plus, we didn't have an aristocratic elite running this country (now, we arguably do).

tim maguire said...

I recall an anecdote about Stalin promoting "The Grapes of Wrath" in the Soviet Union to show the people the suffering in capitalist America.

He had to pull it after viewers, far from being appalled at the suffering of America's poor, were actually astounded that in the United States even the poorest of the poor had cars.

During even the darkest times of the Great Depression, our poor lived quite well by their standards.

traditionalguy said...

Shouting Thomas...You are ignorantly shouting nonsense about Steinbeck. He was never a Socialist nor a European lover. You are repeating some grade c hatreds from bad right wing paranoid propagandists that never read a word Steinbeck wrote.

rhhardin said...

Old PJ O'Rourke essay, as a kid his family never knew they were poor. They just thought they were broke.

Kirby Olson said...

Most Americans prefer to do something other than sit around and wait for a check from the government. It's more fun, and keeps things moving, and if you have an ounce of gumption, you do better, and the country does better. Socialism just means the government runs businesses, and who do you complain to when you get a raw deal? If you're smart, you don't complain, because if you do you'll end up in Siberia. You need a separation of the economy and the government for either one to do its job.

mariner said...

Things have changed.

Socialism HAS taken root in America, and it's branching out prodigiously.

Big Mike said...

If you can own a color TV, a home, and a couple working cars and still be classed as being below the poverty line, then "the poor," really aren't.

Or, as one woman put it nicely, she wanted to come to the United States where even poor people are fat.

Henry said...

marketing directly to the super-rich is the future of advertising.

About time. The past of pandering to 15-year-olds is not a high point of our civilization. Maybe pandering to the rich will mean better movies, music, and theater. Let's build an opera house!

It will also mean more golf programming, but I can live with that.

traditionalguy said...

Henry...it has started. A dozen golf balls cost 39.99 for the latest super invention in balls that will impress your friends. A mid priced ball is as good. It will always be how you hit it that counts.

J said...

--Some socialist ideas did take root, regardless of one Steinbeck bon mot: safe workplace laws, health & labor laws, public education, right to collective bargaining, social security, medicare, etc. The Gumphousers simply don't know real US History from their favorite IHOP

Joanna said...

Most Americans prefer to do something other than sit around and wait for a check from the government.

Yeah, they like to sit around their state Capitol. And demand free money from the govt.

The Crack Emcee said...

I realized the difference, between being poor and being "poor," when I was in the Navy - nobody in South Central was hurting nearly as much as the folks I met in the Philippines.

I learned the difference, between Capitalism and Socialism, when I lived in France - we were going through the dot com boom, with new millionaires being minted daily, and they were crying while looking on with envy. (This, more than anything else, is why they rebelled against us once the war started, I think.)

That a black guy from South Central could make a name and career for himself, only to brought low by NewAge socialists - and then still look forward to rising again - is something no one in Europe can imagine. They're stuck wherever they are - collecting a check, sure, but still stuck - while I can rise, again, as high as my efforts can take me, and as long as I don't lay down. And I know it.

A "temporarily embarrassed millionaire"?

Yes, I can accept that. Yes.

That sounds just about right from here.

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

Gumphousers don't like the public sector, eh?

Maybe then....you no longer get your pension from the US Navy--as socialist as the soviet navy--, or your paycheck for teaching in a public school.

There was no "new age" to the New Deal, crackclown. The New agers are .... the republican religious people who think they can make a economy run by magic--with no regulations, and no tax revenues coming in

Henry said...

J -- What you're describing is the welfare state, not socialism. They're not the same thing.

What was that you were saying about history?

The Crack Emcee said...

J,

As usual, I have no idea what you're talking about, and the parts I do understand are wrong.

You are, as they say, a "classic piece of work."

[shaking head, spitting, walking away,...]

J said...

It's a mixed economy, with both public and private sectors--which is to say, some socialist elements--and had you read any US history you'd have discovered that businessmen and capitalists and their puppet-politicians fought against those labor and union laws, for years--. Still do (ie Scott Walker's latest hack attack)

History? Yeah, something you don't know fock about, Henry.

edutcher said...

Have to agree with Carol to the extent it took hold, but it's dying the same death here it did in the Warsaw Bloc and now the EU.

tim maguire said...

I recall an anecdote about Stalin promoting "The Grapes of Wrath" in the Soviet Union to show the people the suffering in capitalist America.

He had to pull it after viewers, far from being appalled at the suffering of America's poor, were actually astounded that in the United States even the poorest of the poor had cars.


My Mom told a similar story about people in Russia, having been shown newsreel footage of the race riots in Harlem during WWII, and rioting in the theaters because, in America, even black people had shoes.

J said...

--Some socialist ideas did take root, regardless of one Steinbeck bon mot: safe workplace laws, health & labor laws, public education, right to collective bargaining, social security, medicare, etc. The Gumphousers simply don't know real US History from their favorite IHOP

Someone tell J his history is as bad as his grammar.

Public education and public health laws goes back before the American Revolution and the first labor laws in this country helped protect the practice of bonded indenture.

Like most Lefties, J's idea of history begins with Karl Marx.

PS Collective bargaining isn't a right. You want your rights, you go to the Constitution.

J said...

As usual, you didn't read close enough. Ill give you a hint. The US Military's one of the most massive statist-socialist rackets on the earth. Crack, the statist-collectivist.

F*ck even Ayn Rand got that one, like when she pissed on NixonKissinger, the DoD budget, and the hawks who favored Nam.

J said...

Wrong again, edu-byatch. The labor -health laws go back to the turn of the century, stupid byatch. The collective bargaining, 20-30s. Got that stupid byatch? and public-ed...as in public sector. So...still technically more statist than capitalist. So yr wrong again, Edu the stupid byatch. Marxists? No, byatch, but IM sure you don't know sh*t about Marx's errors either, Edu-trash

Conserve Liberty said...

The linked MetaFilter article just adds another proof to my theorem - our situation won't be resolved until everyone's bit of cheese has been moved.

Bob said...

"Most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor." —J. Dickinson

edutcher said...

J said...

Wrong again, edu-byatch. The labor -health laws go back to the turn of the century, stupid byatch. The collective bargaining, 20-30s. Got that stupid byatch? and public-ed...as in public sector. So...still technically more statist than capitalist. So yr wrong again, Edu the stupid byatch. Marxists? No, byatch, but IM sure you don't know sh*t about Marx's errors either, Edu-trash

You just know he thinks if he says it often enough, it will make a man of him.

enicar333 said...

Socialism - I love and hate the word. Medicine needs to be SOCIALIZED. What I mean, single collector, single payer, NON-PROFIT. Not everyhing to everybody, but at least provide BASIC services.

Everyone needs a job, something productive to do, something to help out, what they can. Motivation must come from within. There must be safeguards to penalize non- motivation.

What we have in America, currently, is a collapsing economy. Heavily dependent upon FORCED taxation, unproductive/failing puiblic employees and unrealistic public employee compensation schemes.

The problem ISN'T SOCIALISM - IT IS OUR LEADERS.

Shanna said...

There must be safeguards to penalize non- motivation.

Like getting fired?

Pogo said...

The left changes its message regarding socialism over and over.

"Obama's not a socialist."
"We're all socialists now."
"Crying 'socialism' is just McCarthyite tactics."
"Socialist healthcare works!"

But we've been pushed toward socialism repeatedly, by Wilson and FDR, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Bush, and now Obama.

Socialism has never worked, anywhere, not for very long. It is a uniformly fatal disease.

But its proponents are always willing to give it one more try.

And socialism certainly did take root in America. You can see its usual results all around you, in the ghettos, the school system, the public employees unions, Medicare, Social Security, the Fed, Fannie Mae, PBS, NPR, the mortgage crisis, and on and on.

The socialists won, and are now in the process of destroying our future.

LilyBart said...

Medicine needs to be SOCIALIZED.

Why?

LilyBart said...

Socialism has never worked, anywhere, not for very long...But its proponents are always willing to give it one more try.

Yes, and they always give the same reason/answer: We just need better LEADERSHIP to make it work.

LilyBart said...

There must be safeguards to penalize non- motivation.

"Barack Obama will require you to work." Michelle Obama

Pogo said...

Socialism means never having to say you're sorry.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, government subsidies for everything from student loans to solar energy, unemployment insurance, public housing, public roads, public schools, public ownership of car companies, insurance companies (AIG), mortgage companies (Fannie Mae Freddy Mac).

Yeah, we dodged a bullet. If socialism had ever taken root here, our government might soon run out of other people's money to spend and create a financial crisis and a no growth economy.

Steven said...

Socialism never took off in America because we never had true classes (with the exception of the black slave), we just had degrees of wealth among members of the yeomanry.

Wealth is not class. A duke in financial trouble was still a duke; a commoner who got wealthy was still a commoner. The link between privilege and power was that the privileged could use their position to get wealth, not, for the most part, the other way around. (Consider, how many wealthy Jews became titled nobles?)

The delusion that wealth results in privilege, instead of the other way around, is a necessary core of socialist thought. Without it, there is no class struggle between the virtuous and the parasites, just an argument about how much redistribution to engage in. In most of the world, it's an easy delusion to fall into because wealth is concrete and privilege is abstract; since children will understand the local elite has better things before they understand it has power, they will assume the correlate they understood first is the cause of the correlate they understood second.

The US is where that delusion was least able to take root. This was because the usual tendency of a society to form classes was frustrated by a law that refused (formally, at least) to recognize them. A man who lost his money fell into the mass of commoners, instead of getting a government-granted pension or monopoly, or being able to launch a pogrom of his creditors. He might survive in comfort as a charity case of wealthy relatives, but did not retain rank or station. And while the old money might try to shun new money, the fact is nobody had an aristocratic lineage and the people en masse didn't recognize it anyway. Thus Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller weren't disadvantaged by their lack of "good blood", and didn't have to buy minor titles and still scrape to dukes.

It was this lack of persistent correlation between privilege and wealth that allowed Americans to avoid falling into the cognitive trap of reversing the causation of the correlation.

Note that socialism was stronger, but still weak, in Australia, Canada, and the like, where there were legacies of the aristocratic system stronger than that in America but weaker than Britain. But socialism was and is a powerful movement in Spanish America, where the Spanish established a true class system based on blood.

And note the actual result of every attempt to establish socialism; the aristocrats who are materially well-off because of their political privileges are replaced by . . . a nomenklatura that's materially well-off because of its political privileges.

The only way to stop the concentration of wealth in the hands of the powerful is to liberate wealth from politics—that is, laissez-faire capitalism. Then the people who wind up wealthy are those that devote themselves to business, and you have an actual separation of the powers of money and laws.

Seeing Red said...

Some socialist ideas did take root, regardless of one Steinbeck bon mot: safe workplace laws, health & labor laws, public education, right to collective bargaining, social security, medicare, etc. The Gumphousers simply don't know real US History from their favorite IHOP

And we're living thru their failures.

virgil xenophon said...

Even Eugene V. Debs, perhaps the greatest American orator of all time, who ran for President four times on the socialist ticket and garnered millions of votes, couldn't turn America socialist. It was said during his time that the reason that America did not favor socialism was "the low price and ready availability of beefsteak"

Obama is rapidly trying to change the equation and reverse the process by raising the price of foodstuffs and causing shortages by taking corn off the market for the ethanol program. Checked out the price of beef lately?

Phil 3:14 said...

Maybe this is why those folks making $100,000 to $200,000 are unhappy.

(H/T Verinoque De Rugy and this article on taxes)

Palladian said...

"Socialism means never having to say you're sorry."

Socialism means forcing other people to say that they're sorry.

And then stealing their wallet.

traditionalguy said...

Steven @ 10:27 just said in nine paragraphs what that great observer of people, John Steinbeck, said in one sentence. Steinbeck did not favor socialism. He feared it since he observed and described its seductive demands to use the down and out refugees from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.Steinbeck was ALL about individuals living life there own way...which is the opposite of collectivist false hopes offered by Union organizers.

William said...

My father, during occasional bouts of sobriety, would make an effort to join the working class, but nothing lasting ever came of it. As a result I grew up among the lumpenproleteriat and with all the cynicism and distrust of that class. I thought that the economy was structured in such a way that people like me would work hard and die broke.....My meteoric rise to the lower middle class took me completely by surprise. Life, as it turns out, is nowhere near as grim as one would expect from reading proleterian novels of the thirties.....Mickey Mantle said that if he knew he was going to live so long, he would have taken better care of himself. If I had known that I would finish up with this much money, I would have taken longer vacations and eaten better meals......It's good that the proles think that there's a better tomorrow. For one thing it's always better to live in a state of hope. For another, an enormous number of expectations are self fulfilling.

Scott M said...

J,

As usual, I have no idea what you're talking about, and the parts I do understand are wrong.

You are, as they say, a "classic piece of work."


Don't mess with him, Crack. He can bench 400 pounds. He said so himself.

Pogo said...

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by GE and GM
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Obama
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by Nancy Pelosi, Bill Ayers and FDR to eat
arugula confiscated from Martha's Vineyard
The revolution will not be televised.

Glee, Survivor, and Dancing with the Stars
will no longer be so damned relevant, and
no one will care if Hillary finally gets down with
Huma on America's Next Top Model because
free people will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

bagoh20 said...

Many of us actually do go from rags to riches through simple hard work. It's more common here and now than anywhere, anytime, ever. He made a good observation, and completely missed the point it proved. This is the difference between intelligence and wisdom. He was an intelligent man.

Bender said...

Come on, socialism never took root here??

The pot's boiling and the frog is long-past dead.

Seven Machos said...

Once J learns that socialism means government ownership of the means of production (and not certain regulations that some socialists may have supported by the by), maybe he can tell us about that awesome plan John Edwards had to end poverty.

Man, I wish we didn't have poor people. Had we only elected John Edwards, they'd all be eliminated.

Freder Frederson said...

Many of us actually do go from rags to riches through simple hard work. It's more common here and now than anywhere, anytime, ever.

I love how belief in something that is demonstrably untrue can define ones entire political philosophy.

In fact improving one's social class is more difficult in the U.S.--and certainly more difficult in the U.S. now than it was a generation--than in many other countries, including several despised socialist Western European ones (e.g., the Scandinavian countries)

You are simply delusional if you believe your statement is true.

Seven Machos said...

You are simply delusional if you believe your statement is true.

I qualified for reduced lunches and lived in, among other places, a trailer and a tiny roach-infested apartment.

I now live very comfortably, right next to Oprah.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

The problem with capitalism, are capitalists.

The problem with socialism, is socialism.

wv - pubsters

Gabriel Hanna said...

I've read a lot of Steinbeck and I don't recall him saying anything like that. Could be I missed it. But there are too many fake quotes from famous people on the internet, and so unless the source is given I don't believe them.

A lot of people are quoting this. Not one of them appears to be sourcing it. I say it's bogus.

Class factotum said...

Medicine needs to be SOCIALIZED. What I mean, single collector, single payer, NON-PROFIT. Not everyhing to everybody, but at least provide BASIC services.

Because nothing says efficient, rationally priced, good consumer products and services like monopoly and government control.

deborah said...

Meta metafilter:

"But there weren't burial pyramids for working class in Egypt."

Yeah, there were, actually. They were just generally tiny and mummy free. But "working class" meant a lot more then than it does now.

Hoosier Daddy said...

I see Freder is filling in for Cook today. Yeah Freder its so hard to improve social class in America we have to beg immigrants to come here.

Tibore said...

"Freder Frederson said...
Many of us actually do go from rags to riches through simple hard work. It's more common here and now than anywhere, anytime, ever.

I love how belief in something that is demonstrably untrue can define ones entire political philosophy.

In fact improving one's social class is more difficult in the U.S.--and certainly more difficult in the U.S. now than it was a generation--than in many other countries, including several despised socialist Western European ones (e.g., the Scandinavian countries)"


Evidence?

Fred4Pres said...

Steinbeck fiddled with Communism and Socialism (as in going to party meetings and paying dues), that he rejected it later in life is testiment that the man had a brain and could think. But he was definitely a socialist and arguably a communist at some points of his life.

He was a decent writer. Some of his work is excellent.

Salamandyr said...

As has been said, we do have socialism in America; perhaps not as much as some countries, but considerably more than early socialists dared dream they would ever get.

roesch-voltaire said...

Socialism did take hold, in terms of sharing and distributing resources so that more folks could benefit, in local situations. Milwaukee's park system and sewer system are one result, as are the many utopian farming communities that were started in the late 1800's. The focus on individual dreams over-looks the structural repression of any organized labour that may have had socialistic ideas, and was another important factor in eliminating socialism. Also the beginning of the First World war brought about an enforced sense of nationalism crimping the German socialist in Milwaukee, and turning Carl Sandburg away from his socialist roots, he wrote speeches for Milwaukee's socialist mayor, to becoming the poet of Chicago and Lincoln biographer. I like Steinbeck's Cannery Row, but he is a myth maker that sometimes over-looks the grain of history.

Mitch H. said...

Tibore, the Freders of the world are willing to forge all the evidence necessary to bludgeon you to death with their sociology textbooks. But they've been getting less clever in recent decades in hiding the provenance of their work. Practitioners of "pal review", every one of 'em.

Freder, my grandfather and his siblings never finished junior high. My dad never went to university - he made a great success out of a two-year tech school engineering degree. I have a bachelors degree, and I think I've been the least successful of the three generations, mostly because I lacked drive and self-confidence. Meanwhile, my sister's got a post-grad degree & living in a seven-figure mansion in a tony Boston suburb, married to a cardiologist. (First-generation immigrant, btw.)

So fuck you and your bullshit sociology about how the American Dream never existed. Agitprop lies don't cease to be lies just because somebody's footnoted them to within an inch of their lives and larded them with academic bafflegab.

E.M. Davis said...

Milwaukee's park system and sewer system are one result

Not sure either of these falls under the pretense of pure "socialism."

Neither one has much to do with "means of production."

Peter said...

The high tide of socialism in America was the 1930s. Not only was capitalism not doing so well, but, the failures of socialism were still largely invisible. Considering the times and the readily-available knowledge, I can understand how some would think that socialism would be an improvement.

But the same can hardly be said today. Capitalism still stinks, but, the alternaties to it have been shown to stink a lot worse.

It's not as though socialism hasn't been tried. It's been tried and tried and tried, and it always fails. It fails because it stifles the creation of new wealth, and so it fails when it can no longer mine the wealth that was created before the establishment of socialism.

Of course, the idealists don't care- it's always that "true socialism" hasn't been tried. And (they say), THIS TIME will be different...

traditionalguy said...

Roeschy...What is the "grain of history"? Cannery Row was spot on. It tells its comic story from the real life of Steinbeck's best friend, The community life around a working cannery industry is also spot on. A Cannery works its labor hard 24/7 in 12 hour shifts, but it is a wonderful place to work producing valuable food for good pay.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

"Mass affluence" is over. Everybody knows that! They read it on their iPads. Or saw it on their satellite TVs. Or heard it in a podcast on their MP3 players.

People should listen to Crack more:

I realized the difference, between being poor and being "poor," when I was in the Navy - nobody in South Central was hurting nearly as much as the folks I met in the Philippines.

Good grief! Crack Emcee, who has frequently beaten us up because we have no idea how bad things can be in South Central, is telling us South Central has no idea how bad "bad" can get. And twits still have the gall to say mass affluence is over.

Zvi said...

The quote is bogus. Try to source it and you hit a dead end - it's one of the many quotes which should be accurate bit isn't.

justlikeyou22 said...

Socialism is stupid.

Statistics show that most people from poor families remain poor.
I wonder why that is...

Also, the rich in this country are getting richer while the poor get poorer...hmm, wonder why?

By the way, the French are pretty happy taking multiple month vacations, free healthcare for every citizen, and a great education system...they're not quite jealous of us...

Many of you here have been, from the day you were born, told a story of evil socialism and John-Wayne-badass-Capitalism, good guy economics of Adam Smith...

The truth is, those days are long gone. The morality within corporations went away in the 60s...now it's all about profit over everything else.

YOU ALL DON'T WANT GOVERMENT CONTROL, BUT YOU DON'T REALIZE IS THAT CORPORATE CONTROL OF AMERICA HAS TAKEN HOLD AND IT'S MUCH MORE POWERFUL THAN THE GOVERNMENT COULD EVER BE AND IT'S ROOTS ARE A LOT MORE EVIL.

kathy said...

Socialism never took root in America because the poor had assholes like Steinbeck, who thought they had a voice speaking for them.