One More Time, With Feeling; or, Who’s Afraid of Democratic Socialism?

I’ve recently heard some conversation trying to sully or tarnish the idea of openness by associating it with socialism. (Of course, if there’s anything you don’t like in the US today the standard response is to label it “socialist,” despite the fact that many labelers can neither define nor spell the term properly.) However, from my perspective some of the most important forms of openness are simply about obeying one of the standard laws of capitalism: if I pay for a good or service, I am entitled to the good or service. Could the market (or society) survive if we didn’t obey this rule?

David WielyThe Twice-Paid Paradox

Mr. Wiley is one of the good guys whose ideas we can only hope prevail. But I have to say this recent post drove me a little batty. After the election of Obama last year, you would think that we would all be rushing to create a new, more challenging rhetoric that would push the ideals of democracy forward rather than simply reacting to the wing-nut tea beggars whose masters only wish to create a false sense of outrage behind which they can hide obstructionist policies. The longer they wait, they think, the most tarnished the liberal majority in Congress and the more successfully they can promote their reactionary policies.

Mr. Wiley’s argument is an old one with a certain veracity. This looks like radicalism, but if you look closely, it’s not. Open culture and software is simply capitalism repeated, with a difference. I don’t think that argument has ever worked with anyone other than true believers (and some of the believers are probably being cynical). I think he should just keep working on articulating the positive effects, economically, socially, and politically, of not allowing private property to dominate technological development. It took a generation to make capitalism a good word again. It’ll take another to clean up democratic socialism.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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