In Chapter 24 of A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn writes:
In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.
This would be very insightful if Zinn wasn’t so hell bent on pushing a version of morality where the only moral society is one that shares everything in common. There are very few real socialists and communists around because the failures of this philosophy are so great. Few people are really looking for a worker’s paradise anymore. Very few people think that human nature is compatible with such philosophies. Unfortunately, even though people know people are motivated by self-interest, the ideas of socialism and communism are still looked to as an ideal of what is actually fair. Since we humans are so self-interested, it is up to our moral superiors, who understand that we must all share for justice to occur, to use the hammer of the state to beat us all into compliance.
They, the people I have called our moral superiors, don’t share Zinn’s vision. Zinn sees the establishment and the elite using the central government to keep people from realizing a better way of life. He sees starting at the local level as the solution.
The great problem would be to work out a way of accomplishing this without a centralized bureaucracy, using not the incentives of prison and punishment, but those incentives of cooperation which spring from natural human desires, which in the past have been used by the state in times of war, but also by social movements that gave hints of how people might behave in different conditions. Decisions would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods-a network of cooperatives, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name “socialist.”
The current progressive/liberal thinking is that change must be top down, and that we need laws at the federal level to make sure people are treated fairly. I like Zinn a whole lot better than these people, even if I don’t agree with his socialist vision. These top down people, these big government people, they are the guards of the crony capitalist system that lefties and libertarians decry as unjust, even as we disagree as to why we believe the system is unjust.