The Myth of Socialism vs. Capitalism

The notion of  “Socialism” vs. “Capitalism” is a manufactured polemical dichotomy. Framing economic issues in terms of false dichotomous categories effectively conceals the actual dynamics of the economy. The purpose of this article is to examine how to step outside the predefined conceptual box and think an issue through critically and independently. Herein I will:

  • Show how to think past conventional pieties, by exposing the notion of “capitalism” to critical thinking skills.
  • Show how to develop critical thinking skills in any area.
  • Show the applicability to Marketing and Customer Service.

Exposing the Myth of Capitalism vs. Socialism

Capitalist Defined: First, let’s define “capitalist.”  A capitalist, strictly speaking. is one who invests in the financial instruments that support a business entity. Realistically speaking, in today’s America, the capitalists are overwhelmingly wealthy interests that hold majority stakes in the large corporations that dominate the economic – and political landscape.

Labor Defined: While the capitalists in our society may hold positions and titles, and some may even dirty their hands in the actual work of a business, they don’t actually need to because they rely primarily on interest and equity instruments for their income.

Why We Identify Ourselves as a “Capitalist” When We Really Aren’t: If you are a small investor or a small business owner, you are not actually a capitalist; you are labor because you don’t just invest for a living, but you actually still need to work for a living. Notwithstanding, you have been taught to think of yourself as a capitalist and to worship the notion of capitalism.

Capitalism as State Religion

A measure of the effectiveness of our inculcation into the worship capitalism is illustrated by the fact that ieven President Barach Obama, a mainstream political instrument of capitalist Wall Street, can be labeled a socialist, and a good percentage of the population will actually believe it.

What is actually happening here? We are continually being socialized into the cult of capitalism. Recall that the function of a cult is to generate a sense of group identity. The cult of capitalism has its roots in Social Identity theory.

Social Identity Theory

According to the social identity theory developed by social psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner, one’s self image is defined in part by the social group or groups one considers oneself part of. Tajfel’s experiments found that placing people into one or another group by such meaningless criteria as a coin toss was enough to make group members increasingly loyal to their own group and cause them to discriminate against the members of the other group.

The Social Myth of Ideological Alternatives

This is used in political economic sphere to get people to vote against their own interests even though elections are essentially a ratification of plutocrat-selected representatives to begin with. In politics, this is known as “Identity Politics,” and it hinges on the strategy of creating two ideological groups who can be distracted from any substantive economic issues by feelings personal enmity toward a perceived enemy. Two ideological alternatives are presented, while the two parties purporting to represent these views actually represent the same underlying interests.

The Social Myth of Upward Mobility

Statistics clearly show that you are much more statistically likely to become poor than wealthy, or even to remain comfortably “middle class.” However, by stoking the myth of upward mobility – holding out the carrot of rags to riches – you can be made to support the interests of the top 1% instead of your own interests as a member of the labor class.

The Political Myth of Populism

The political phenomenon of Sarah Palin is an interesting study in political populism. She may act like trailer trash, but make no mistake about it: she is a plutocrat. Somehow, she lucked into wealth and has parlayed her fame into a platform for amassing more wealth and adoration. She used her public profile to launch a book Going Rogue that sold more than two million copies, provide political commentary for the abymally yellow journalistic Fox News, and hosted a television show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska for TLC whose first episode lured in a record five million viewers.

She was chosen because she is seen as a voice for the the most naive, gullible and least educated Americans who comprise the tea party. Because she feels like one of us, she can get us to vote against our own interests for the plutocratic class to which she is actually beholden.

Americans would rather vote for a plutocratic tool of limited intelligence like George W. Bush than an intelligent wonk like Al Gore because “he seems like somebody I could have a beer with.”  The price of beer: the greatest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, soaring deficits, continued loss of employment, increased economic disparity, burgeoning poverty, and diminishing economic prospects of the middle class.

The Ideological Myth of “Government Overreach”

It has increasingly become clear that the issue of government overreach is nothing more than a Republican Party ploy to portray the economic overlords as saviors, and override any attempts to hold them to a sense of social responsibly. They can point to the fact that, while the Democrats advocate regulation to prevent economic exploitation, those regulations are themselves problematic.  This is because the political process is itself corrupted. Jack Abramhoff pointed out that well-intentioned regulations purporting to curtail lobbyists from bribing politicians are so riddled with holes that they make little to no difference.

The fact is that corporate, not government, overreach is the real economic reality. While corruption pervades all three branches of government, as well as the Fourth Estate, bear in mind who/what the corrupting influence in fact is. I wrote here about the agenda of corporate/judicial activism at every jurisdiction that has led to today’s economic debacle.

How A Judicial Activist Agenda Created the Myth of Government Overreach

Although both 1972 Nixon-appointed Supreme Court justices Powell and William Rehnquist were conservatives, the principled Rehnquist resisted Powell’s radical corporatist views. From Alter Net a brief background of the under-the-radar agenda that got us where we are today:

Despite the Rehnquist dissents, Powell’s vision of an unregulated corporate political “marketplace,” where corporations are freed by activist courts from the policy judgment of the majority of people, won out. Powell, of course, could not have…moved a majority of the Court to create corporate rights if no one had listened to his advice to organize corporate political power to demand corporate rights. Listen they did — with the help of just the sort of massive corporate funding that Powell proposed.

Corporations and corporate executives funded a wave of new “legal foundations” in the 1970s. These legal foundations were intended to drive into every court and public body in the land the same radical message, repeated over and over again, until the bizarre began to sound normal: corporations are persons with constitutional rights against which the laws of the people must fall.

Huge corporations, including Powell’s Philip Morris, invested millions of dollars in the Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center and other legal foundations to bring litigation demanding new corporate rights. In rapid succession, corporations and supporters funded the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Mid-Atlantic Legal Foundation, the Mid-America Legal Foundation, the Great Plains Legal Foundation (Landmark Legal Foundation), the Washington Legal Foundation, the Northeastern Legal Foundation, the New England Legal Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Capital Legal Center, the National Legal Center for the Public Interest, and many others.

These foundations began filing brief after brief challenging state and federal laws across the country, pounding away at the themes of corporations as “persons,” “speakers” and holders of constitutional rights. Reading their briefs, one might think that the most powerful, richest corporations in the history of the world were some beleaguered minority fighting to overcome oppression. The foundations and the corporate lawyers argued that “corporations are persons” with the “liberty secured to all persons.” They used new phrases like “corporate speech,” the “rights of corporate speakers,” and “the corporate character of the speaker.” They demanded, as if to end an unjust silence, “the right of corporations to be heard” and “the rights of corporations to speak out.”

How Can We See Past Conceptual Frameworks?

The answer lies in where our education system has failed us – critical thinking skills.

Politically speaking, as someone who has made a disciplined habit of being non partisan and seeing beyond the dichotomous conceptual frameworks of left/right, capitalist/socialist, etc. I understand that elections remain a matter of voting for the lesser of two evils with no realistic expectation that the our political mascots represent us.  Republicans represent the fast track to the plutocratic power grab, while Democrats can’t be trusted to stand up to these same lobbying interests either.

Ideologically speaking, it is important to become aware of the effects of ideological conditioning and overcome it to develop a truly independent analysis.

Practically speaking, it is important to become a critical thinker to become a more proficient analyst and decision maker. Let’s discuss how to cultivate critical thinking skills.

How to Become a Critical Thinker

The conceptual rigidity of the popular culture means that most opinions revolve around confirmation bias, and will only change to the extent that they fit that bias.   I believe that the ability to change one’s opinion depends on the individual’s conceptual rigidity. Most opinions seem to revolve around confirmation bias, and will only change to the extent the new viewpoint fits the existing bias. In future articles, I will examine some of the studies and research literature on critical thinking. Herein, I would like to speak from personal experience. Becoming a critical thinker, rather than a merely coopted polemicist means that you should aim not for fixed positions, but dynamic judgements.

I use a 3-pronged approach to arrive at dynamic judgements rather than fixed positions:

1- Research:

First, research a topic in depth, familiarizing yourself with the facts and the circumstances around them, as well as the analyses of people with differing perspectives. Get your nose out of dumbed-down, dishonest, tainted partisan sources like Fox News, since research that has been duplicated over several studies shows that Fox News viewers are the least informed of all news viewers.

2- See past the dichotomy and agendas:

Debates are typically frameworks that frame the issue narrowly in terms of a pro/con black and white bifurcated structure. I look past the framework to the underlying facts, to better understand the spin on both sides, as well as the real grays of the issues. I often find that the issue is framed in a certain way to serve particular interests and agendas. Furthermore, I find that it is not necessary to frame the issue in this way, and that a more meaningful understanding is found in “thinking outside the box.”

3- Fluidity:

To remain open to new information, when formulating my own analysis, I remain cognizant of the temptation to hold to a strict pro/con stance, and make a point of leaving an opening on all sides of the issue. Even if you disapprove of a certain perspective, you still need to do the legwork to at least understand it on its own terms.

For instance, in determining that Medicare Part D is a special-interest driven agenda that increases the costs of prescription drugs, I can still acknowledge that it does provide some basic coverage and is in that sense better than nothing. In this way, the possibility of improving the current structure remains open.

Likewise, if I conclude that a program is mostly positive (such as I judge the ACA to be) I nonetheless remain clear of its shortcomings and improvement opportunities. Either way, if a better solution comes to light, I am prepared and equipped to analyze it on its merits rather than adhere to a fixed position.

During the process of this dynamic analytic approach, if you don’t form a preconceived position in advance, your analysis can accommodate contradictory information. The “judgement” isn’t a destination or final product, but a journey of discovery. The result is more serviceable as it provides opportunities for learning, logic and perspectives that can point to new and possibly original possibilities, solutions and approaches.

How To Become A Critical Customer-Centric Brand Advocates

As Marketers and customer-facing brand ambassadors, we need to remain open to all perspectives on issues. When we “drink the kool aide” of our own product and rhetoric, we often neglect to understand that, as gung ho as we may be about our product or service, what really counts is the consumer’s needs, values and perceptions. This doesn’t mean that we should become shifty and try to be all things to all people. Effective marketing targets the most likely users of our products, the ones whose needs we can best be in a position to address. The problem is, we don’t always engage enough in the ethnographic research to understand and empathize with our consumer segments. The case study below sheds some light on this.

Customer Service Case Study: Cigna Stonewalls My Wife’s Chemo Treatment

Recently, I ran into a brick wall in dealing with Cigna Insurance when the claims representatives stonewalled my wife’s chemo prescription.

The Situation:

Since the last treatment stopped working and there was progression, a new chemo treatment was prescribed. Cigna kicked it to a medical reviewer without allowing either the oncologist or me to speak with even the representative’s manager.

The Response:

With a sense of urgency, given the time element in the progression of the disease, I spoke with 2 representatives who both became argumentative and arrogant. Young, male Customer Rep “TJ” complained to me during my call that the oncologist didn’t provide him the information he requested and had hung up on him in frustration. He also said that the call had “become adversarial, much as this one has.” I immediately corrected him – “No, I am not being adversarial. I am advocating for ny wife and asking for your help.” One wonders what arrogance on his part caused our oncologist such frustration that he hung up on him.

Adding insult to injury, the Rep stated that “if the doctor hadn’t been adversarial, we’d probably already have already approved the treatment” – which was a misrepresentation that was in direct contradiction to his earlier statement that he was not authorized to make a decision and that it had been mandatory for him to refer it to a medical director.

The Result:

I was informed that there would be a 24 hour turnaround time and our only option would be to wait. The doctor’s office was subsequently informed that it was a 72 hour turnaround. A week later, there was still no response. Eventually, the oncologist caved, prescribing an alternate treatment. This is the second time Cigna has done this to us, and we never did get any response the last time this happened. As a consequence, when the opportunity presents itself for me to switch carriers, I will do so, depriving Cigna of a customer. Furthermore, consistent with research showing that dissatisfied clients spread the news widely on social media, bad publicity could exact and even greater toll on their business, as it did with Progressive.

What could Cigna have done better?

They could have a better understanding that all customer-facing and even non customer-facing employees are brand ambassadors. The brand promise must be delivered at every touch point. To do so, they need to develop a process to be:

  • Responsive,
  • Transparent,
  • Consistent, and
  • Responsible.

The customer service representatives could have done a better job by:

  • Responsive: Listening carefully with empathy to understand the circumstances presented to them for consideration
  • Transparent: Honestly advising that the drug prescribed, while effective, is not yet FDA approved for this type of cancer
  • Consistent: Providing a consistent consumer experience
  • Responsible: Taking the initiative to follow up when 24-hour, 72-hour and subsequent promised deadlines expired.