This is my point, you balked at the idea of a state appointed job and apartment until you needed it. Same with Maslow’s hierarchy, we need each other. My father loved to teach me from Tolstoy at a very young age. He was into the story “What Men Live By”…and the answer is by love, not for our own needs, but for others. I think the greater point of the story is that we need each other. This extreme individualism of American identity is unusual in the great scheme of history. Until very recently, humans were group bonded, out of necessity. It was the rare person who could self-actualize to the highest degree possible. Today, we expect everyone to do it.
Why is socialism such a bad word? Societies are, by definition, social. We used to be aware that we had made a social contract, to avoid the chaos of a state of nature. Those ideas go back to Locke, but even before that Hobbes, who stated that life, without some form of government, was ‘nasty, brutish and short.’ His idea was monarchy. One guy with a big stick to keep the peace.
Locke, coming a little later thought better of humanity, but as you noted, his ideas are outdated and susceptible to many fatal charges.
Rawls now, is much newer, and he was writing policy ideas for today’s world. He just died in 2002. His writings offer a lot more applicable details about how legislation might actually implement our ideals. It would be a mistake to blow off Rawls, Locke and even Hobbes in one sentence. They represent different perspectives on humanity, different takes on the problem, and paradigmatic frames that are centuries apart.
A mixed economy is not impossible at all. The best economies in the world are mixed. The northern Euorpean countries that always rank highest on happiness and well-being: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, are all mixed economies. They have a market, chained to the common good. The other things these countries have are low levels of corruption, low levels of wealth inequality, and high levels of transparency in their governments. People are the problem, as you say, but solutions exist all around us.
We must be united enough to stand up to the government and take control of it again. This must be done. As I stated in another comment, we cannot “argue about what social goods go in the cart, if the horses have run off.” We need to catch those horses first.
The United States doesn’t like itself very much. As a ‘people’ we lack a national identity. We are a multicultural “salad” with some seriously clashing flavors. Our ‘bootstrappy’ attitude and disdain for the poor people strikes me as uniquely American. We are culturally taught to blame the poor, and look down on them. Years ago I watched an excellent documentary that touched on this problem called Status Anxiety, based on the book by Alain de Botton. I highly recommend it. In a country where we are told “everyone can make it,” those who do not, are given no dignified repose.
This quote from Vonnegut illustrates it too: Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
I see our challenge as 1. getting control of our government 2. building a cohesive national identity — one based on a respect for basic human needs and primary social goods.
I’m just trying to feel a way into the future that aims for both of these things. Many days I feel hopeless, but I keep trying.