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Sewer Socialist

There are several proposals about socialism or socialist.

Wikipedia excerpts are provided for some down below for the curious, and for the comparison.

This topic is not a pitch for a specific strain of Socialism but here is my perspective on the importance of the concept of socialism in political solutions. For example, other topics in this Business Topic Group mention which social groups own the means of production in that form of socialism.

I live in Wisconsin which has a significant heritage in the American socialist movement.

From Wikipedia :

Sewer Socialism was a term for the American socialist movement that centered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from around 1892 to 1960. The term was coined by Morris Hillquit at the 1932 Milwaukee convention of the Socialist Party of America, as a commentary on the Milwaukee socialists and their perpetual boasting about the excellent public sewer system in the city.

In the 1800's government services were still limited. The socialist movement was part of the attempt to correct that.

In a very limited government context, like a libertarian one, the citizens and communities have to obtain providers for their basic services. Now, this is called a free market economy where there is competition for everything. That approach is feasible only when everyone has about the same non-zero income; otherwise the poor will be unable to obtain what they need for a minimal quality of life.

President Reagan had famous quotes about limited government but I believe he meant limiting the large federal government .


Government is not the solution, but rather the cause of our problems.


I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.

Unfortunately for most Americans, politicians will take these quotes literally and try to cut everything done by the government, including issues affecting the quality of life, like basic services. Ronald Reagan is venerated by many fiscal conservatives but he was not always correct in his opinions. Whenever
a government is too large to be accountable for its actions it needs limits.

Note the 'city of Milwaukee' is responsible for improving the quality of life in several references below (sometimes county not city), not individuals nor private companies (in the free market).

As society advanced during the 20th Century, more services became publicly available from the city.

During the first half of the 20th century, Milwaukee was the hub of the socialist movement in the United States. Milwaukeeans elected three Socialist mayors during this time: Emil Seidel (1910–1912), Daniel Hoan (1916–1940), and Frank Zeidler (1948–1960), and remains the only major city in the country to have done so.

Often referred to as "Sewer Socialists," these Milwaukee Socialists were characterized by their practical approach to government and labor. These practices emphasized cleaning up neighborhoods and factories with new sanitation systems, city owned water and power systems, and improved education systems. During this period, socialist mayor Daniel Hoan implemented the country's first public housing project, known as Garden Homes. The socialists' influence began to dwindle in the late 1950s amidst the "red scare".

from MMSD :

The City of Milwaukee recognized the adverse affect of polluted rivers and brought in experts to fashion a solution. The Sewerage Commission of the City of Milwaukee was established in 1913, and the arduous job of designing and building a sewage disposal system began.
A sewage plant was completed by the city in 1925.
The new plant used the waste activated sludge process. It was the largest facility in the nation to harness nature in order to clean wastewater, by having microorganisms feed on pollutants.

Water was provided by the city in the 1870's.

The Milwaukee Water Works was organized on April 18, 1871 and began operations September 14, 1874. We are proud to serve as the longest continuously operating water utility in Wisconsin. The utility is owned by the City of Milwaukee.

Early Milwaukee firehouses were built in 1866 and 1876 (when was the first is not certain to me, with no definite reference).

A public school system was provided by the city in 1946.

Politicians also sought other ways to improve the quality of life. A county park system was developed.

It began with the creation of The Milwaukee County Park Commission on August 20, 1907.  Early commissioners conceived of a park system that would form a "green belt" or series of scenic drives and parks encircling the county. 

There's no doubt the parks system here in Milwaukee is a jewel of the Midwest.

This brief history demonstrates it can be efficient for a local government to provide basic services, probably better than from private industry.

The alternative was tried in Bolivia with outside pressure. The multinational Bechtel would provide water at a market price. This failed, causing widespread rebellion.
From here :

In every election cycle there seem to be claims government services should be replaced by private industry. While that approach might be appealing to those of wealth having no concern for paying for private industry services, but this approach is probably bad for the community as a whole, depending on how the monopoly is managed (needing defined means of accountability) for a diverse market.

The city of Milwaukee government is not both huge and unaccountable to its citizens, but both certainly apply to the federal government. City governments are small and so they are more responsive to their voters. This distinction (accountability) is rarely/never heard in campaign speeches. I suspect that is because a politician never wants to be held accountable for his actions or promises, when he/she is trying to replace someone in the current government and he/she is promising to somehow improve that government entity in some way, with no assurance he/she will be successful.

With a possible economic collapse of the American global financial and military empire, probably leading to austerity measures to keep the ruling class intact, it might be difficult to continue basic services from the different levels of government (local, county, state, federal) subject to these cuts in their funding.

The UN generated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),  a milestone document in the history (1948) of human rights.

From here

I consider the following as a rough mission statement for a government, though different levels have different impacts.
A excerpt from that UDHR document:

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

There are other alternatives within the broad class of socialism to sewer socialism, popular in Milwaukee in the early 20th Century; it was described above because its history shows success in its initial implementation.

From Wikipedia:

The socialist political movement includes a set of political philosophies that originated in the revolutionary movements of the mid-to-late 18th century and of concern for the social problems that were associated with capitalism. In addition to the debate over markets and planning, the varieties of socialism differ in their form of social ownership, how management is to be organised within productive institutions and the role of the state in constructing socialism. Core dichotomies include reformism versus revolutionary socialism and state socialism versus libertarian socialism. Socialist politics has been both centralist and decentralized; internationalist and nationalist in orientation; organized through political parties and opposed to party politics; at times overlapping with trade unions and at other times independent of, and critical of, unions; and present in both industrialized and developing countries. While all tendencies of socialism consider themselves democratic, the term "democratic socialism" is often used to highlight its advocates' high value for democratic processes in the economy and democratic political systems, usually to draw contrast to tendencies they may be perceived to be undemocratic in their approach. Democratic socialism is frequently used to draw contrast to the political system of the Soviet Union, which critics argue operated in an authoritarian fashion.

also from Wikipedia:

Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market socialist, participatory or decentralized planned economy.

also from Wikipedia:

Libertarian socialism emphasizes workers' self-management of the workplace and decentralized structures of political organization. It asserts that a society based on freedom and justice can be achieved through abolishing authoritarian institutions that control certain means of production and subordinate the majority to an owning class or political and economic elite. Libertarian socialists advocate for decentralized structures based on direct democracy and federal or confederal associations such as libertarian municipal ism, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, and workers' councils.

created - Aug 2018
last change - 08/13/2018
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