Socialism and science

Dear Editor:

Two recent letters in the opinion pages beg for a response, as both hinge on fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of socialism. Since the letters are pretty much all of a piece, let us look more closely at the more recent one.

In it the writer attempts to hornswoggle the reader with the hoary old straw man fallacy. The “socialism” he writes about is a tired trope of extremist media mills, with scant basis in actual fact. This is why teachers insist that their students cite sources as an antidote. In any discussion of socialism, the teacher’s first question might well be “Have you read any actual Marx? Or, if too challenging, how about Engels?” In short, they make the quite reasonable demand that we read the actual sources and do not simply parrot right-wing piffle.

Again, in his most recent flight of fancy the writer claims to have diligently sought in vain an example of a country working on a “true socialist principle” that has succeeded in making that premise work. Has he never visited Sweden, or indeed any of the Scandinavian democracies? They seem to have made a pretty good job of it.

And Dr. Fauci? Any critique of scientific methodology should manifest a familiarity with how science is actually carried on. This does not mean that what we thought was true before is necessarily state-of-the-art medical thinking today. Science by its very nature evolves. If Dr. Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a more sophisticated understanding of how COVID and its omicron mutation work than they did last week or last month, it merely shows that scientists learn and science doesn’t stand still.

As for warmed-over cybergarbage about “Massachusetts socialism,” we would be wiser to abandon the notion that Social Security is some sort of ride-for-free Ponzi scheme concocted for the exclusive benefit of greedy individuals or corporations. Hence we do not expect our schoolchildren to contribute in their youth to a robust economy and the social insurance that is a part of it. We hope they will someday join the workforce, to be sure, but we spend money now on educating them in the hope that they will indeed eventually be productive members of society.

That such a philosophy as our Puritan founders envisioned has flourished into a liberal democracy is itself the result of an evolutionary process; in my view, those who would dismiss out of hand the idea of a compassionate sharing of our society’s bounty are merely waging a doomed rear-guard action against the evolving standards of decency embraced by the rest of us.

Nick Humez

Trenton and Painesville, Ohio

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