A poor, Trump-voting Florida town opened a government grocery store to end its food desert, but it's "not socialism"

Far left libertarian here, meaning that I support market socialism and many of its attendant policies.

Quick point of correction: this grocery store isn’t socialism, not in the sense that Marx defined it! (Nor are this town’s water utility, power utility, etc.) These are all simply public goods: commodities and services that are provided without profit to all members of the community.

The heart of socialism is a belief that the labor force should control the economic means of production, i.e. the capital. In Marx’s industrial age, this meant that workers should own factories, tools, distribution networks. In our time, “capital” is more fuzzily defined; many people use that word to mean “money,” but money isn’t a means of production by itself.

In the information age, most property is intellectual and socialism is best exemplified by worker-owned businesses, profit-sharing businesses, and a few degenerate hard-capital cases such as good old factories, electricians who own their own tools, and other self-employed people.

So, by all means, let’s celebrate the creation of more public goods and teach our benighted right-wing peers why they’re wrong about government-sponsored businesses – but let’s not confuse public goods with socialism, else we risk losing sight of the actual value of socialism and simultaneously making public goods harder for the right to swallow.

13 Likes

Nope; see my mini-rant below. The political right has successfully redefined the word “socialism” and now they and their political enemies on the left use that word to describe things that are actually public goods.

Something like the CIA or the CoE are arguably not even public goods; they’re just administrative bureaus having nothing to do with the production or consumption of goods and services.

4 Likes

I found this interesting:

About 12 years ago, local officials who were desperate for a supermarket agreed to build a store on a vacant lot the town owned so that they would have an easier time attracting grocers. That solution worked until 2018, when the IGA shut down.

It was their store from the beginning. It’s a small scale version of things like the Wisconsin-Foxconn saga. Except that here, Wisconsin decides to just go ahead and manufacture TVs themselves.

Also worth noting:

When the store first opened, online commentators quickly pointed out all the sweetened soft drinks on the shelves. There’s no shortage of sugary cereals, processed meats and beer. Lynch says that the town “didn’t want to start off at a loss dictating what we could sell and what we couldn’t,” since people intent on buying chips and soda would just go elsewhere, and buy the rest of their groceries in the same trip.

My good friends, sausage and beer, approve.

5 Likes

I spend a lot of time around Trump voters. Whenever someone brings up the term “politically correct” pejoratively, I’ve taken to point out that it’s just another way to say “follow the Golden Rule”. It has worked well to shock people into shutting up about so-called ‘PC culture’.

12 Likes

No it won’t; the most active voters are those that see their inevitable personal doom coming into view in their headlights. That they are also the most conservative and self centered makes them the cause of income inequality. Their desperate grasping at their religion to soften and deny their oncoming demise, relatively poor education and fear/hatred of anyone not obviously of their tribe makes them easy suckers for the Repubs.

2 Likes

Want to drive old religious types crazy? Point out that their definition of “Heaven” is socialist. Everyone happy, free food, free homes, free love, no sicknesses and no need going unfulfilled for lack of money. No status too, everyone is equal - the rich and the pauper.

18 Likes

Purchasing power parity is the metric to look for.

2 Likes

Not if we keep following right wing policies. We can avoid anyone making it that long if we poison the air and drown the coastal cities.

2 Likes

CIA has been, continues to be and is implicated if not also an active driver in formerly U.S. corporations’ dominance (nowadays these are all pretty much multinational) abroad in the name of “protecting American interests” WTFTA. Insert American blood for oil arguments here.

In the early 20th century, the United Fruit Company, a multinational American corporation, was instrumental to the creation of the banana republic phenomenon.[7][8] Together with other American corporations, such as the Cuyamel Fruit Company, and with occasional support from the United States government, the corporations created the political, economic, and social circumstances that established banana republics in Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.[9]

Pro-Shah mobs also carried out attacks on Mosaddegh opponents, and there may have been some CIA coordination.

3 Likes

Of course, the uncomfortable alliance between government and commerce doesn’t stop with the CIA; point taken. However, since it was mentioned explicitly in someone else’s comment as potentially socialist (a reduction-to-absurdity argument) I thought I’d mention that it was neither a capital ownership structure nor a public good.

I take it you’ll agree that the CIA isn’t a public good. :wink:

2 Likes
3 Likes

This is one of my more minor complaints (there are obviously major complaints, but not relevant here) about the introduction of universal benefits. It has watered down the political meaning of “universal”.

1 Like

With the foot traffic this “not a socialist” store is seeing, the ability to cross sell other “definitely not socialist” services should not be too hard.

1 Like

“It’s not socialism when we do it” is the new “liberals are the real fascists.”

5 Likes

Except they don’t need special treatment, because they can make fun of the Others without getting “triggered”.

They realize that there’s absolutely nothing you can say to an upper middle class white Christian Republican cishet male that will put them in their place. They will shrug everything off because they can. then they’ll turn around and say “hey look, I shrugged off [this childish insult based on nothing], so the very least you can do is shrug off [this completely different and much worse thing based on 450 years of oppression], it’s all the same, both sides do it, stop being so sensitive, etc etc etc…”

11 Likes

As someone who leans right I wouldn’t call this socialism. People are still paying for the food. Everyone is just subsidizing the option of having a close grocery store. Now if your price was inversely proportional to your income, then we would be talking more about socialism.

I feel the same way about generic drugs. Why not left the federal government run a drug company to produce commonly or off patent drugs. I’m not saying give them out for free, but a non profit approach would be appropriate.

So, you agree with Medicare for all?

3 Likes

I agree with the idea of providing a basic level of care and coverage for everyone. Something that I haven’t heard from any of the Medicare For All plans is how to address the insurance industry. Assuming the vast majority of Americans are using M4A then is there really a use in the insurance industry being part of M4A? I still think there is a place for private insurance, but at the same time you need to reduce the insurance industry to probably a third of what it is today. If you aren’t going to do that and simply offer M4A as another insurance vehicle that the current insurance companies can sell then I hardly see the point. Part of your pricing issue is too many fingers in the pot with too much speculation. So how exactly do you drastically trim a trillion dollar industry?

Implementing public medical systems was a struggle in every country that has done it. It’s not just insurers but also health care providers who will end up getting paid less negotiating their rates with the government. All public programs displace private ones. Municipal garbage collection is a pretty popular service, but before it existed there were people who wanted their garbage picked up and people who were willing to do so for money (I don’t have historical proof but I feel extremely confident saying that).

I feel like a lot of the American healthcare debate is basically focused around a group of people saying that America should never try to do anything hard again because Americans just aren’t up to it, and much of the American public nodding along. I’m with Warren with her: “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for”. Implementing public healthcare is a tough task and Warren and Sanders both know that, they just aren’t afraid of doing hard things.

9 Likes

Some cities still do operate this way. Funnily enough, the parts that can’t be leveraged for profit as easily (like the actual landfill/disposal sites) tend to be municipally managed.

There is no evidence that the for-profit is more efficient than municipal, however.

5 Likes