Town Square


Original post made by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Dec 10, 2009

PERSONALLY, I thought our war against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had already been [Web Link won fair and square].

Yet it seems the battle rages on. On the national stage, for example, Obama's (or just anybody's) attempts at much-needed health care reform are [Web Link disparaged daily] as "socialist."

The slur is so common these days that its use has leaked into Mountain View's conversations as well. Last week, for example, a certain "Concerned Citizen" of the Shoreline West neighborhood [Web Link wrote the following] on the ==I Voice's== Town Square:

"Let me get this straight, I pay my rent and also somebody else's rent? Isn't that socialism?"

In this case, Concerned was concerned about the City Council's recent enthusiasm for an affordable housing project on Evelyn Avenue. (Funding for this project has already been collected over the years from developers working on other projects.)

But my favorite part of this post by Concerned — and the reason I'm reprinting it here — was his invocation of the very spirit of capitalism, which is synonymous with the history of Silicon Valley:

==I Socialism did not create the light bulb, the transistor, television or anything else, capitalism did that. In 1956, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, at 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View, was the first company to work on silicon semiconductor devices in what came to be known as Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley was not a product of Socialism.==
==I Low income housing is a "nice" word for a tenement or slum.==
==I So if I dropped out of high school because I was lazy, then the people who worked hard owe me a living? That is not the values that my parents taught me. If I wanted something, I had to earn it, have always done that and always will. Lazy people and low achievers can move to some third world socialist country if they want a free ride off of people who have to work for a living.==

I couldn't agree more, Concerned. The truth is I see socialism (and lazy people, for that matter) everywhere I go.

I see it every time I drive on one of these socialist roads, built by taxpayer money. The whole state's filthy with them.

Or when the socialist firefighters douse the flames consuming my neighbor's house — what is this, Russia?

Or just by hanging around Shoreline Park, a [Web Link socialist enterprise] built atop a former landfill. Nice park, comrades!

As for the lazy people, they're easily found at Shoreline Park, lolling around with the geese. Some are on the roads, too, neglecting to use their turn signals.

And a few are leaving comments on Town Square. You know them when you see them.


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Posted by Old Ben
a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:01 am

Bravo, Don! Nicely put.

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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2009 at 12:24 am

Yes, the partisan rhetoric gets silly, but I am disappointed when an intelligent professional such as yourself, a newspaper editor, focuses in on the hyperbole rather than seeking out and giving consideration to the more well-spoken criticism of the current health care reform plan that is available. Here's a good starting point: Web Link

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Posted by Don Frances
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Dec 14, 2009 at 11:07 am

Don Frances is a registered user.

Thanks guys for your comments. Mike: I appreciate that link, as Matt Welch, editor of Reason, is an old friend of mine. I bet he'd be amused that you're sending me his way.

For the record, I think it's important to address the hyperbole and silly partisan rhetoric, in that it's damaging and needs to be rebuffed (also, it often makes for good comedic fodder).

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Posted by Mike Laursen
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Matt Welch, the guy who singlehandedly brought down John McCain's Presidential bid. Oh, wait that was Sarah Palin.

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Posted by What?
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Mr. Frances, this is truly a puzzling piece of rhetoric you have put together here. Surely it has not escaped your attention that socialism is alive and "well" in this world. The USSR is hardly the sole instance of socialism in the world, China and Cuba come to mind.

If health care reform is truly "much needed" as you state, then shouldn't we strive to replace the current system with something that works better? Is that what the current bill going through the Senate does? Certainly congress doesn't see it this simply, or the matter would be settled. Shouldn't this grant me a liscense to be skeptical myself? It seems fairly obvious to me that the "reforms" being presented in Congress are socialist by nature. That is not meant as a slur, but rather an honest assesment by a concerned voter. Socialism is a political theory, not inherently good or bad, and the connotations that accompany the word are derived from the horrible poverty and suffering this political system has traditionally inflicted.

If you believe that subsidizing affordable housing is necessarily a good idea, or even a moral imperative, I would suggest you study up on what rent control has done to the city of East Palo Alto. Stagnating real estate markets in this way removes common incentives for exchange, which makes supply scarce and drives prices higher. In turn, a higher entry point for home ownership is created, leading to fewer homeowners and more landlords. Hopefully, reasonable people can agree that a higher percentage of owner occupied homes is highly desirable in any community.

It seems to me that equating road construction and fire protection with the "Concerned" comments is a far stretch at best. Disagreeing with the socialist model in no way implies a no government, or anarchist view, as seems to be the purpose of your disjointed closing statements.

On a personal note, I doubt that anyone is particulary impressed that you are old friends with Matt Welch. Name dropping is fairly transparent and sophmoric. If you are interested in reducing the "hyperbole and silly partisan rhetoric" as you state in your follow up comment, not indulging yourself in its creation might be a good place to start. A year ago dissent was patriotic, now it seems to be something that needs to be strangled in its infancy. Funny how perspective changes people.

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Posted by Don Frances
Mountain View Voice Editor
on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

Hi "What",

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad the column is drawing a bit of analysis. Let me clarify some of what I meant.

"The USSR is hardly the sole instance of socialism in the world." Right you are. In fact it's used every day, quite happily, by democratic capitalists right here in the USA. Whenever we drive on roads, for instance, or use the mail, or sit in a park, we are enjoying "socialist" services -- socialism being nothing more than the pooling of our resources for the betterment of all citizens.

So my point wasn't that health care reform isn't socialist -- it *should* be socialist, in my opinion. My point (easy to miss, as the column was very short) was that "socialism" should not be the slur it is being used as, and that the word is misapplied constantly, probably because people associate it with failed despotic states like the USSR.

So when you say that "Socialism is a political theory, not inherently good or bad, and the connotations that accompany the word are derived from the horrible poverty and suffering this political system has traditionally inflicted," I agree wholeheartedly. I'd go even farther and say that it's a political practice, a quite common one (even here), and a sometimes necessary one.

I don't know if it's necessary in the case of affordable housing. I guess it probably isn't. But I do think some form of it is necessary in the health care reform currently being debated in Congress.

Mostly I just want people to define their terms and be specific and clear, rather than fast and loose, with words like "socialism." That goes for affordable housing, health care and all other issues.

As for skepticism and dissent, I never said anyone should drop it, in fact as a journalist I believe we can't do without it.

As for your problem with my name-dropping, too bad. I'm only getting warmed up!

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm

USA is a registered user.

Let's not be silly. Of course there are a number of areas where the national, state, or local governments should or must be in control where individual control does not make sense. Mustering armed forces, building roads, staffing police and fire departments, and building city parks are some of those areas. No one has an issue with that (though we do like to argue the implementation details.)

The problem comes when the government goes beyond what is necessary. Our nation and our culture were founded on the principles of individual liberties where government is limited in spirit and by the constitution to those areas where it needs to be involved.

Over the last few decades, the national and state government has grown along with a corresponding reduction in personal responsibilities and liberties. The health care "solution" proposed by the big government proponents is just one more step in the wrong direction that takes us farther away from our core principles. This is what has people upset.

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Posted by What the heck
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Are people who don't believe in public investment doing posting on something called 'Town Square'? You are intellectually inconsistent for even yapping on this thing, which is clearly run by socialists who are trying to influence government with their private dollars, all in an effort to fund things like parks and town squares. Parks are communist!

And that comes from a guy who lives in CUESTA PARK!