The following consists of my answers to a few questions presented to me about genuine socialism by a fellow commenter on Salon.com who posts under the nickname of adnoto. The unedited version of this letter was posted in the letters section of Glenn Greenwald's article, "Harold Ford's Warped Understanding of 'Capitalism' on January 14, 2010. Adnoto's questions are in bold face.

GREAT post cmysticism. Truly. I actually want to have a conversation with you.

Thank you very much. I am happy to respond to your polite request for a conversation with me.

[T]he one thing you need to be able to do is allay the fear that true out-and-out socialism would degrade society significantly from the standpoint of, for instance, progress in the fields of science and technology. How do you address the problem of incentive?

I do not believe that the only possible way to insure incentive for people to put their brainpower into scientific and technological advances, is to enable them to "make a living." Under a genuine socialist system (and not that awful Leninist state capitalism masquarading as it in the "socialist/communist" nations in the world) people would be offered the full fruit of their labor in return for doing a modest share of the useful work. Since everyone would be guaranteed a meaningful job that was in harmony with their personal interests and talents, this would result in people receiving far more enjoyment out of their professional life than the great majority of people do under capitalism today. And since every able-bodied person would be working, every worker in any given field of endeavor would be required to work many less hours per week than they do today, which would mean considerably more leisure time for people under a socialist system than for most employees in the current capitalist economy.

Note how people under the current system often hate their jobs, and are forced to take "anything they can get" in exchange for a pittance. Please also note how many people under capitalism have to work very long hours to receive that pittance, no matter how unsuited to that particular job they may be. Is it any wonder that so many people act lazy and only do what they have to do, if that? I don't think capitalism offers much incentive for workers to do a good job at all, nor to take any type of pride in the work that they do.

Now keep in mind how much work people even under the current system routinely put into their hobbies in exchange for no remuneration at all. And it's well known that most hobbies can be turned into a talent. Now imagine a system that didn't expect people to "take anything they can get" but instead offered them vocations that were in harmony with their personal interests and talents for a modest number of hours per week and per year.

I will admit that I go back and forth on this issue. Sometimes I think scientists and the like would do their work simply because it is there to do. Things are there to be discovered and accomplished therefore they would be by interested parties. Actually I am positive that would be the case. Just not at perhaps a level or a speed we would like.

It's understandable that people go back and forth on this issue because it's hard for anyone who grew up in a capitalist society to imagine work being done under other conditions, or for humanity to work for the betterment of all society rather than just towards enriching themselves. But you are certainly closer to overcoming that type of thinking than the average worker in our society, and that is really cool.

But, how do you counter the idea that socialism would lead to less ambition and a static, depressed society?

Incentive to advance society would thrive in a socialist society because everyone would be dedicated to working at their chosen vocations to improve production and thus further increasing the variety of products and services that were available for everyone, to further decrease the amount of work that everyone had to do in order to create these goods and services, and to increase the level of comfort which everyone was living under. "Ambition" would no longer be defined as a desire to climb the corporate ladder and improve the health of our individual bank accounts only.

Again, I go back and forth on this issue. I detest the argument that health care systems cannot and should not be socialized because no one would want to be doctors. I say to hell with all of those who want to be doctors for the money of it anyway. I would personally prefer someone caring for me who is doing it because they a) are enthralled by the idea of being a doctor and b) because they actually care. I fully concur with this, and this attitude is actually the essence of socialist thinking. "You understand what I am getting at?"

Yes, very well said. I understand that all progressives (don't worry about that term, I use it to apply to myself quite often) are asking these same questions and are thus not yet ready to give up their attempts to "fix" the current system rather than move on to a new and more socially and materially progressive one. As such, for the immediate present I align myself with their attempts to make the current system easier for the working class to live under and to make it live up to America's lofty democratic freedoms as much as is possible today, until the great majority of them finally choose to embrace the idea of a newer system with entirely different priorities for production.

What I am asking you to address (if you are so inclined) [...]?

I am more than so inclined to answer such good questions, and I thank you for asking them and your willingness to listen.

Further what is your response to the idea that there would also be 'crony socialism' at some point? Because, to my mind, in some ways it doesn't really matter what the economic system is. If the people in a representative republic aren't willing to be ever vigilant then there will be rampant corruption and the associated problems.

An economic system that has no competing socio-economic classes, no private control of the industries by the few, and thus no money or medium of exchange (which would not be needed in a system where it was technologically possible to create an abundance for all and which scarcity in a real sense no longer existed), and was based on cooperation rather than competition, would make it utterly pointless for anyone to attempt to seek economic power over others.

Thank you again for your response to my post, adnoto.