MERIDIAN — Antidisestablishmentarianism.
Yes, it really is a word. Back in the day we thought we were something because we could spell what we thought to be the longest word in the dictionary. Didn’t really know what it meant, but we had the spelling down.
It’s one of the many “isms” of little popularity today in contrast to those that never fade but persist. Racism, for example, is our persistent shadow in Mississippi.
Then there are those isms that ebb and flow. Back in popularity today are capitalism and socialism. Ebbing somewhat are their cousins, fascism, communism and totalitarianism.
My favorite word architect, conservative columnist George Will, wrote recently about Republicans and socialism.
He said that Senate Republicans voting to revive the not-dead-after-all Export Import Bank is an example of socialism. In so doing, he defined the essence of socialism as “government allocation of capital.”
He claimed the bank “exists to allocate credit by political criteria rather than the market’s efficiency criterion.” He lamented that only 16 GOP senators “mean what they say when praising free markets and limited government.”
Thirty-seven Republicans, now apparently neo-socialists, voted for reviving the bank.
This starts to expose the hypocrisy in today’s conservative consternation about socialism.
Will says Senate Republicans’ Export Import Bank vote “is a redundant reminder that the rhetorical discord between the parties exaggerates their actual differences.”
Republicans tend to rant against socialism with regard to programs that benefit the poor and elderly — for example, welfare and Medicaid — but stay quiet about it with regard to programs that benefit corporations and businesses — for example, the Export Import Bank. Democrats tend to do the opposite.
Will calls this “politicizing the allocation of resources.”
We see this at play in Mississippi. For example, our Republican leaders thwart expanding Medicaid to benefit the working poor, then jump all over providing financial benefits to corporations such as Continental Tire.
This business example is widespread in Mississippi. It forms the foundation of our economic development programs. Capital is allocated to companies through tax rebates, tax credits, tax breaks, the federally funded Community Development Block Grant program, and the state-funded Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority bond program and Small Municipal and Limited Population Counties grant program. All are among the 53 such programs listed on the MississippiWorks.org website.
We don’t see conservative Republicans in Mississippi rail against socialism when a new, subsidized economic development project gets announced in their hometowns.
This headline on Will’s column tells the story: “On this policy, Republicans are socialists. They just don’t want you to know.”
The reality is a complex democratic republic like ours needs a mix of capitalism and socialism to function. Whether it is the allocation of capital to areas of human needs or to areas of employment needs, both have a role. The extent and cost of those needs should be the discussion, not to go all in on unrestrained capitalism or socialism.
The ism that describes this is pragmatism. That great socialist Ronald Reagan practiced this in his advocacy for expanding the earned income tax credit to aid the working poor.
The ism that describes conservatives’ current disingenuous position on socialism (see the 193 isms listed at ismbook.com/ism-list) is “perspectivism.” It holds that “judgments of truth and value depend on an individual’s context or viewpoint.”
In other words, “it’s not socialism unless we say it is.”
• Bill Crawford is a Republican former state lawmaker from Meridian.