I’m going to tip my hand ahead of time and reveal I’m holding a wild card. What that means, for those who don’t play my particular brand of poker, is that I doubt “What is Socialism?” has a solid answer, given the ephemeral, in the sense of gaseous, nature of political discourse.

I’m thinking the Euro-minded need to keep updating their meanings in the light of new developments, so this story is in the tradition of keeping vibrant debates going. How else to adjust? We need such public discourse to keep on top of what’s happening.

I grew up around military bases. I didn’t live on one, but we vacationed in officers’ quarters in Baguio and enjoyed lower cost scuba diving equipment from the PX at Clark. These were bases in the Philippines, where the USA had been a presence since contesting with Spain to become the next big imperial kid on the block, ditto an ongoing presence in Cuba and Puerto Rico.

I like how Marines say “my” like “get off my obstacle” when shouting, drill sergeant fashion, at some trainee trying to short cut some obstacle; the man in charge wants to highlight the disgraceful nature of this attempt. He sets the standard.

A personal possessive is used. This is “my” fighter bomber. Right there, I’m thinking “this is socialism” because as a matter of fact, the individual Marine or Air Force pilot is not the multi-billionaire owner of all this equipment he or she gets to train and fight with. The assets belong to the people in some way, at least on paper.

When I look at the Pentagon, I think of a vast Rome, a kind of theme park, not democratically run, because the chain of command is outside the democratic process as defined by political organs such as the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Officers are not always using the secret ballot to determine a next move. We’re supposed to learn that technique in the civilian sector.

How individuals gain their elected office and maintain their legitimacy in the interim is where the surface democracy interfaces with the military socialism deep inside the District, and in neighboring Arlington (in terms of headquarters). People refer to the Beltway to give a more inclusive sense of the enclosing perimeter.

When people worry about the integrity of the voting process, and whether their rights as voters are being neglected, they’re focusing on the legitimacy of the elected office infrastructure whereby civilians are construed to have some leverage over the military socialists running the Pentagon.

The ranchers and farmers, many who served in the military at some point, form the free and capitalist electorate. These are the employers and stakeholders in private enterprise.

The United States prides itself on being capitalist because it is able to produce a surplus large enough to sustain a global military socialist network of bases and ocean-borne vessels, orbiting satellites and so on.

This socialist empire in the meantime is capitalism’s primary invisible client, the ultimate vortex or black box, into which much of capitalism’s outward productivity disappears. Apollo was about putting “our man” on the Moon. A salute to Buzz Aldrin.

District TV stations showed a “SOTU” address last night, wherein the POTUS boasted the USA (“USA… USA…” the crowd chanted) would never be socialist. The camera I was looking through switched to Bernie Sanders, who appeared to glower.

The POTUS was asserting the thin layer of private controller-ships (picture a fleet of luxury yachts), a business class, would always hold the reins, such that the military socialism contained within would provide a continual source of controlled (beneficial) labor. The ego, with the help of a superego, would keep the id constructively engaged in supporting the ego’s business.

The Roman oligarchs would keep their military under control and subservient, as long as they pledged their allegiance to the Emperor. Rome would grow and prosper, as it plundered the world and continued to enslave the defiant.

The suits would rule over the uniformed. Lawyer capitalism forever. People came to their feet, recognizing familiar themes.

In that sense, I understand the promise of the Constitution: an oligarchy would contain and control a socialist juggernaut and share power in an egalitarian fashion (Quakers influential) through an API that might pass for democratic but would be expensive to operate effectively.

Power would continue to percolate to those who had the most “juice” such that civilian socialism, an ideal in many countries, would not challenge the agendas of those harnessing the military socialism nurtured within the District, as its labor base and global enforcer.

As long as the military did its job, the solution to the Civil War, exporting slavery, stood a reasonable chance of lasting from one year to the next.

The rest of the world could deal with the side effects.

Alfred North Whitehead defined civilization’s progress as the vector away from slavery.

The contradiction in this picture, a fly in the ointment, is that the military socialist enterprise exists on paper to protect the democratic API and to provide for the secure operation of democratic institutions. This stated purpose is part of the social contract (is that “social” as in “socialist” or “sociable”?).

Protecting a constitutional democracy is a tough road to hoe and takes vigilance. The District says the military should stay out of it as the homeland remains police business. There’s a thin line between uniformed and uniformed, with a lot of cross-pollination.

The proliferation of social media makes it hard to overlook the violations associated with “trickle up” economics. As the rich grow relatively richer, the military feels itself pinched to do its defending work. The social consensus would break apart were the people’s military to disintegrate into private armies belonging to warlords. Private contractors do get to work in the mercenary (private army) space, as well as in the space of schools and prisons. They’re part of the capitalist cast that rules the District and deals with dissidents.

These days, the work of protecting government legitimacy is more psychological than brute force physical. The Beltway Bandits (oligarchs) are using social media (newspapers, TV…) themselves, to remind us of why we pay all these taxes. The war, as always, is for hearts and minds. Stay tuned.

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