Bailout: “socialism for the rich” or something else?

The impending bailout of the financial sector has commentators on the right and left launching similar criticisms.  According to the LA Times, Republican Jim Bunning said “It is a financial socialism, and it’s un-American.”  William Greider, writing in the Nation calls it “Goldman Sachs Socialism.”  Back on September 9, the NYU economist Nuriel Rubini wrote of the impending takeover of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac,  “The ideologue ‘regulators’ who literally held a chain saw at a public event to smash ‘unnecessary regulations’ are now communists nationalizing private firms and socializing their losses.”  And Robert Reich (Secretary of Labor under Clinton) last week called the coming bailout “Another major step toward socialized capitalism,” and back in August he noted that the secretive and antidemocratic practices of the Federal Reserve put him in the mind of “authoritarian capitalism.”

Who else is wondering about socialism?  GoogeTrends shows that searches for “socialism” from within the US have spiked recently to historically high levels (not to mention the explosion in searches for “bailout”). And here’s the Google Trends of searches for capitalism and socialism in the US.  All of this is to suggest, whatever Americans think of current events, they are definitely focused on the economy.  Also, Google Trends is fun.

Anyway,  it occurs to me that there is another term for a political system in which the wealthiest individuals and corporations ally with antidemocratic elements in the bureaucracy to stifle democratic input, and channel popular rage against perceived external and internal enemies.  Check Google Trends.  Searches for fascism are also up.

Now I’m not calling anyone a fascist, or comparing Hank Paulson to Mussolini or some other European historic figure.  After all, the trains don’t run on time here.  I’m just fascinated with the emergence of an economic metaphor.  Perhaps the Cold War has come back to haunt the Cold Warriors?

Geeky Update: Google Trends is so yesterday.  I’m on to Google Insight, which allows more refined searches.  So look at the combined socialism+bailout search, within the US, last 30 days.  I’m not really sure what the methodology is here, but it is fun to play with.

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3 Responses to Bailout: “socialism for the rich” or something else?

  1. Tim Lacy says:

    Toby: You’re adding to my knowledge-gained quotient today. I also learned about another “word cloud” text analysis site called Many Eyes. Good stuff. Maybe I’ll try a Google Insight/Trends search for Mortimer Adler or the Great Books. Off I go. – TL

  2. Toby Higbie says:

    Thanks Tim. Many Eyes looks really cool.

    Also, I added an RSS feed in my sidebar for the tag “bailout” on Delicious. It’s an interesting way to monitor public (at least online public) reaction.

  3. Toby Higbie says:

    One more thing: I noticed an interesting geographic trend on Google Insight, which offers color-coded maps of the search index. Basically, when I wrote this post on Monday, heavy searching for “socialism + bailout” was confined mostly to what we might call “Blue States” (i.e., Democratic leaning states with large urban populations: the coasts and the upper Midwest). I searched again today and the index is up, and has spread evenly more or less across every state, except for West Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas.

    There is a way to search on specific date ranges, so this will likely be a good tool for those researching the spread of specific terms through the online public sphere.

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