Social Question

Demosthenes's avatar

Is the left "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" (read more)?

Asked by Demosthenes (12567points) 3 months ago
27 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

I’m hearing more and more from my left-wing friends: abolish this, abolish that, i.e. prisons, police, capitalism…these things don’t work so they need to be thrown out. More moderate liberals or even conservatives may admit that these things are deeply flawed but that they can be reformed. For example, it’s no secret that black Americans are disproportionately poor, but some within the community (many are more conservative but not all) will say that black people need to take greater advantage of the capitalist system, as opposed to deciding that the system is racist and hopeless.

So what do you think? Can prisons, police, and capitalism be reformed or should they simply be thrown out and replaced with something entirely different?

Observing members: 0
Composing members: 0

Answers

product's avatar

@Demosthenes: “Can prisons, police, and capitalism be reformed or should they simply be thrown out and replaced with something entirely different?”

Thrown out completely. If the institutions are by definition bad and are designed to cause death and suffering, advocating for “reforms” is advocating for unnecessary death and suffering. The only “reforms” that would make any real difference would look an awful lot like doing away with these things.

We can advocate for short-term reforms while acknowledging that the long-term goal should be to replace these institutions with something else altogether.

Zaku's avatar

I think that’s hugely reductive and inaccurate, so no, “the left” is not doing that.

I think you’re hearing expressions of frustration with the intractable brokenness of various established systems, rather than serious proposals to completely abolish certain things. Or if they are serious, it’s because those people are so angry about how messed up something is, that they’d like to start over.

Your comments about “black people” are not something I’m up for wasting my time trying to address, except to say they strike me as quite racist.

But in no case is it something “the left” is actually seeking to do, or able to do. Or if and when some of those things are revolutionized, it would be done in a constructive way, at some point in the future when there were a strong vision for such.

Though some aspects of the current system might well be abolished, in my opinion, such as:
* for-profit prisons
* Citizens United
* health insurance could be replaced with a single-payer plan or Medicare for All.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Zaku Your comments about “black people” are not something I’m up for wasting my time trying to address, except to say they strike me as quite racist. That’s nice. Don’t address them then.

And see @product‘s response for an indication that some on the left do indeed think these things need to be entirely abolished. @product may be in the minority, but people with those views are becoming more mainstream and I am encountering it more and more. It isn’t simply an expression of frustration. It’s a genuine belief that police and prisons are not worth reforming and the people who believe this to be the case would be adamant about that.

product's avatar

^ Capitalism is an easy one. There is just no defending it. I don’t know many capitalists. This is more universal. But prison and police abolition are more new, less clear, and far less popular.

Demosthenes's avatar

@product We can advocate for short-term reforms while acknowledging that the long-term goal should be to replace these institutions with something else altogether. That’s fair. I certainly think that is the more pragmatic option for those who do want to see them entirely abolished. Personally I’m more in line with @Zaku in that I would like to see for-profit prisons abolished and some kind of single-payer health care. I’m entirely on board with throwing out “the baby” just yet.

As for police, I’m willing to admit I don’t know enough about the topic to say what I want. I’d like to see what police alternatives there are and the extent to which they work before I start supporting them, I guess.

product's avatar

^ Right. This was why leftists actually voted for a Democrat in 2016 and 2020 primaries (Sanders). They finally saw an opportunity for valuable reforms that are just not on offer by the Democratic party. Single-payer is a short-term reform that can really help. But it’s not the end goal, and is certainly still unacceptable.

And I’m glad you’re opposed to for-profit prisons. But when you see how integral even “not-for-profit” prisons are to labor, and how it perpetuates racial inequality, you would likely take the next logical step. Anyway, it’s not about currently imagining living in a country where we don’t incarcerate more of its citizens than any other country. There should be reasonable discussions about what it would mean to move away from the incarceration model altogether. Reformists and abolitionists both play a role here.

I’m concerned, however, that your “baby with the bathwater” expression might have some inherent problems that are causing your hesitancy. Maybe it would help if you were to identify what “the baby” is. It might turn out that what you believe is “the baby” is really a corpse. Or worse.

gorillapaws's avatar

@product What do you propose a society does with people who commit serious crimes if not incarcerate them in some way?

product's avatar

^ I’m not an abolitionist. But hold onto that reflex to defend US incarceration. Figure out why that was your response.

gorillapaws's avatar

@product It’s a point of practicality. I’m against the death penalty, private prisons, and would like to see radical reform to our system to dramatically reduce the number of people incarcerated, and those that are would be held in facilities modeled after the Scandinavian system. That said, even in the most utopian society, you’re still going to have serial killers, child molesters, rapists, murderers, people who defraud of people of their life savings, etc. If we’re not going to execute them on the spot (because that’s crazy), we’re going to have to do something with them. I’m just trying to understand how you see that being addressed.

Your responses sounded to me like you wanted no form of incarceration and I was trying to get clarity on your position.

product's avatar

^ Read up on the abolitionists. I’m not going to defend them because I’m not there yet. However, they add a valuable voice to the discussion.

I look at our current model of imprisoning people as unacceptable, along with the connected economic system. There is a reason why the US has the highest incarceration rate on the planet. Capitalism can’t exist without a robust prison system to deal with the fallout of stripping people of wealth, hope, and purpose. I’m fairly confident that we can come up with a model that can handle rare, dangerous people. But talking about these cases as though this is what US incarceration is about is really side-stepping the entire problem.

If we are to ask serious questions, I think it would be reasonable to ask how we can be against “the death penalty, private prisons” and would like to see a radical reduction in incarceration without addressing the economic and racial conditions that lead to incarceration.

zenvelo's avatar

The economy needs a complete rethinking. This is the problem with the current Republican paradigm:

A cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy

- He does not buy the car & does not take car loan

- Does not buy car insurance

- Does not buy Fuel

- Does not send his car for servicing & repairs

- Does not use paid Parking

- Does not become Obese

- Yes,.....and well, damn it !! Healthy people are not needed for economy. They do not buy drugs. They do not go to Hospitals & Doctors.

They add nothing to country’s GDP.

On the contrary, every new McDonald outlet creates at least 30 jobs – 10 Cardiologists, 10 Dentists, 10 weight loss experts apart from people working in McDonald outlet.

Choose wisely:
A Cyclist or a McDonald ?

KNOWITALL's avatar

I’m not one to generally defend any political agenda, but in this case I do feel the left is simply as frustrated with the broken systems as we all are, Libertarian to Conservative and just about everyone I know in between. That the left is more aggressive and vocal is not a bad thing, I actually love the forward-thinking and yes, idealism.

“Can prisons, police, and capitalism be reformed or should they simply be thrown out and replaced with something entirely different?”
Yes, they can, but we all have to be on the same page and pushing for these changes. All of us, one voice, across party lines. Whether that is possible is really up to each individual.

Zaku's avatar

@DemosthenesAnd see @product‘s response for an indication that some on the left do indeed think these things need to be entirely abolished. @product may be in the minority, but people with those views are becoming more mainstream and I am encountering it more and more. It isn’t simply an expression of frustration. It’s a genuine belief that police and prisons are not worth reforming and the people who believe this to be the case would be adamant about that.

I see what @product is saying as being fed up with the existing systems as they are, and not just wanting bandaid reforms. See how @gorillapaws addressed him, and how @product ‘s response isn’t actually saying to abolish prisons or the police. He just thinks ultimately the whole system down to the economic system is a problem that’s going to keep generating serious crime, so he wants more widespread and complete solutions. He thinks the way most or all of it is fundamentally broken, but he’s not suggesting to leave everything the same but just close the prisons and police. He’s proposing a ground-up redesign of the whole system, and so is fed up with discussions about smaller adjustments to the system.

It seems to me that these are two different types of conversation, and revolutionizing the whole system is so far from mainstream politics that it doesn’t communicate well.

Just because left-wing people may have utopian ideas and may feel that the whole system ultimately needs to be replaced, doesn’t mean they don’t realize that poorly-considered overnight major changes would in many cases cause huge problems. Or maybe some or many of them don’t realize that, or don’t particularly care, but they’re nowhere near getting their way on those points. After all, Biden and most Democrats in Congress are closer to what used to be called Conservative not all that long ago.

kritiper's avatar

They’re radicals of some sort, not any that I could or would blame on just the “left.”

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
seawulf575's avatar

@product “If the institutions are by definition bad and are designed to cause death and suffering,” What sort of silly crap is that? Police are DESIGNED to cause death and suffering? Capitalism is? Prisons even? I suspect that anyone that advocates that these things cause death and suffering doesn’t have a clue. Here’s a thought for you. Do away with them all. Today. No police, no prisons, no money. So what are you left with? Basically…nothing. Government run slavery, at the best. You’ve just done away with all meaning to laws. Pass a law! Who cares? No police to enforce it….they are designed to cause death and suffering so we did away with it. Someone breaks into your home and rapes your wife? Call 911! Oh wait…darn it…no cops. Maybe they’ll send a social worker. Don’t worry about going to work…it’s a job and jobs are a key to capitalism. Can’t have THAT….it is designed to cause death and suffering. What a yutz.

cagjr354's avatar

These statements are from two conservatives. Both are absolutely wrong and they indicate what is wrong with our politics. They may as well have said, “To hell with the constitution and the republic.” (Paul), and, “To hell with the will of the people who sent me here to represent them.” (Hill)

“The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for,” Paul said. “The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when a majority ignores the rights of others.”

Hill in March rationalized his opposition to the Medicaid expansion in remarkable terms.
“Even though my constituents voted for this lie, I’m going to protect them,” he said. “I am proud to stand against the will of the people.”

I don’t know how much of what you hear and credit to left-wing friends is left-wing thought or propaganda from other sources.

”... black people need to take greater advantage of the capitalist system, as opposed to deciding that the system is racist and hopeless.”

The economic and social state of Black people is the very product of capitalism. It began in slavery and it continues today. And I will throw in poor White people along with any brown-skinned person and Native Americans. Wages are not based on any system of value but are the artificial levels capitalism and industry are willing to pay.

The police, the prisons, and capitalism can be reformed, but it requires the action of Congress. There is a near-constant cry for reform, but the conservative servants of capitalism refuse any attempts at reforming anything, whether it is minimum wages or gun control. Clean water for Detroit or running water for West Virginia.

”... one nation, indivisible…”
Until we can get back to that, there will be little improvement in anything.
An across-the-board poll shows that the majority of Americans, no exceptions for party or religion, want those reforms that ensure domestic tranquility.

stanleybmanly's avatar

This interpretation by the right is once again the consequence of intellectual shortfall. This is readily understood with the simple insertion of the word “racist” before “capitalist system”. In view of the rather vivid history of the country, to deny that it was indeed a RACIST capitalist system is pointless. And given this system the role of both the police and the prisons regarding black Americans MUST by definition be punitive, severe and unwarranted in comparison to treatment of the population at large. The fact that rates of incarceration and episodes of police brutality and misconduct coincide EXACTLY with the requirements of a racist capitalist society fortifies the position of the left in its analysis.

seawulf575's avatar

@cagjr354 “Wages are not based on any system of value but are the artificial levels capitalism and industry are willing to pay.” I would argue the exact opposite on this one. Wages ARE based on a system of value. It is the value put on the work being done to earn the wage. A person flipping burgers isn’t skilled, doesn’t really bring a great deal to a business and is, therefore, paid low. If he quits, there are dozens more standing in line to take that job. An architect, on the other hand, is a very skilled person. They match engineering understanding with artistic creation. Not just anyone can do this job. The wages are higher for a person like this because of that. The wages are based on value and not an artificial thing.
On the flip side, those that want to push higher wages for all jobs are doing so based on an artificial basis. They do so with the idea that “the wealthy can pay for it”, or “the business can just do with less profit”. They are putting a person’s need before ability when it comes to getting paid. And determining a person’s need is a completely artificial goal.

zenvelo's avatar

@seawulf575 ”...If he quits, there are dozens more standing in line to take that job”

One interesting development in the last year and a half is that people will no longer work for undervalued jobs. And small businesses are unable to find enough workers for jobs like “flipping burgers”.

seawulf575's avatar

@zenvelo My dad lost his job because he couldn’t focus on things. Mental issues. He, too, felt that many jobs were beneath him. At one point he was living in a tent at the state park. He eventually spiraled down to the point where driving a cab kept a roof over his head.
The point is that many people look down their noses at the jobs that are out there because they believe they should be making 6 figures without actually having any skills. They invariably end up being supported by people that DO work in one way, shape or form.
And be perfectly honest…there seem to be an inordinate number of people that want a paycheck but really don’t want to produce a thing. They avoid work and they avoid responsibility, but feel it is unfair they aren’t making as much as a CEO….or even a skill laborer.

cagjr354's avatar

@seawulf575 Comparing an architect to a fast-food worker? Never mind.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I have friend in town that runs a restaurant, it was seven days a week beginning of last year. He has gone to Tuesday through Sunday, because he can’t staff it 7 days.

seawulf575's avatar

@cagjr354 Yeah, when you are making about point about why skilled workers should get paid more than unskilled workers, it works. It points out that your statement about how wages are based on artificial levels and not value is completely goofy. Because what you ARE stating with your statement is that value or skills should have no bearing on what a person is paid.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@seawulf575 What did you say ? ? ^^^^^^^^^^^

stanleybmanly's avatar

Reforms are rapidly being forced on our system. The problem is that said reforms cannot possibly be implemented to match the pace of the spreading cracks. Late stage capitalism. When you pull back and view our society overall, you quickly realize that the truth of this permeates every aspect of living here. Take for example, our system of justice—what it is purported to be against what it boils down to. While conservatives will tell you (and all of us are taught) that our jails are there to punish criminals, anyone examining those incarcerated must legitimately conclude that the great unwritten crimes are in reality to be black, poor or mentally ill. If a guy flipping burgers can get an $80 parking ticket that guarantees down the line that he will lose his car through the accumulating fines he cannot possibly pay, what’s his defense regarding against capitalism? And without the car
to commute from the sticks where he might afford the rent, how can he flip burgers for a living in a town where a studio apartment rents for 4 grand a month? Why not disappear into the underground economy and sell dope? Covid has served to spotlight these truly horrific inconsistencies and the real downside to predatory capitalism. Thanks to our disjointed and ramshackle nightmare of a healthcare system, all those low wage sweat jobs gluing this society together—those jobs where you interface with the public and face the greatest risk for contagion—those jobs go unfilled here, whereas in Europe, it doesn’t matter where you work or IF you work—you’re covered. When you are flipping burgers while exposing yourself to covid for wages so low, you qualify for food stamps, why work?

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

Mobile | Desktop


Send Feedback   

`