America, What Are We, Really?
Are We Capitalists, Socialists, or Communists?
Before we can figure out what we are and where we are going, as a society, we must first see where we came from. In the beginning, the United States was more of a capitalist society, with a Christian under pinning. People had a lot more freedom in their daily lives, society was more tolerant, as far as groups imposing their beliefs on others outside their community. Our laws were basically the ten commandments, along with some financial laws governing commerce, contracts and the such. The Government was small and had very little effect on the day to day lives of the people. People were also different, they wanted to be left alone, to be self sufficient, had a strong belief in family and community, and felt that what others did was not their concern as long as it did not negatively impact their lives. We were a community of small towns, with a majority of people living outside of towns. Individuals were more or less self supporting, with neighbors, churches, and their local communities, there to help if and when a disaster happened. Minor mishaps, and problems the individuals dealt with on their own, with assistance from neighbors and churches if needed.
The Industrial Age, Started the Change.
With the beginning of the Industrial revolution in the late 1800's into the early 1900's. America began to change, the population centers began to shift from the farms to the cities. With this shift, and the crowding of people together in cities, we began the change. The first signs of socialism began to spring up. These initial changes were viewed as a natural progression, changes being made that would limit freedoms for the safety and security of the society. The government began increasing in size, State, County and City governments, also began growing in size and increasing their roles into individuals lives. This increase of government into the lives of individuals began the loss of some freedoms, tolerance of others became less, as did the individuals responsibility for himself. These changes aren't in themselves good or bad, but show a natural human desire for safety and justice. Laws were enacted to protect individuals from other people, and from large companies, people began their reliance on government and government officials. Police, for protection of citizens and to bring law breakers to justice. Fire Departments, to protect individuals and companies from fire related losses. Economic laws to protect the people from crooks and big business. Again, as more and more people live in a confined area their actions must be controlled for an orderly society, freedoms and rights are given up, or at least infringed upon for the betterment of the society, and the protection of the individual in his person and possessions.
These changes also impacted the individuals responsibility for themselves. After all, if the government took on responsibilities for the individuals, over time the individuals would continue to allow the government to take on more and more of the individuals responsibilities. Which resulted in loss and infringement on more of the individuals rights and freedoms.
These small changes, and seeming harmless to the population as a whole lead us into the mid 1920's to the 1940's. The politicians felt obligated to see to it that everyone should be equal in everything. After all who can say let the homeless freeze, let the poor starve, let the sick die, no one. The question is who is responsible for the homeless and the poor. As governments grew larger and more powerful, they expanded their role into the lives of individuals under the guise of charity and caring for the unfortunate few that were unable to enjoying the national prosperity. This began the thinking of the haves and have nots, individual responsibility was being further eroded, due to society's failure and the unfair burdens placed on those in the lower end of the economic food chain.
The sudden expansion of government into every aspect of individuals lives, and the resulting loss in rights and freedoms, woke the people up. This awaking lead to limiting of what the government wanted to do, which was the government taking over all individual responsibility, and all rights and freedoms. Which the government viewed would have a fair and equal society, where everyone was the same in all aspects of life, and that the need of the whole was paramount. This era was the greatest leap the United States had ever made to a truely Socialist society. However, it ended making us an odd mixture of Capitalism and Socialism.
Over the next 65 years we see the government slowly expanding its role into the lives of individuals, thereby limiting and eroding our rights and freedoms. Some of these changes were good and long overdue, such as civil rights for minorities and women. Some were the movement to pure socialism, such as the increases in social security, medicare, medicaid, and the progressive tax.
Social security became the forced retirement plan for all, with some exceptions, and expanded to include individuals that had never paid into it and for those that became disabled or unable to work. Medicare and medicaid, also expanded from those that had retired, to children and anyone that could not afford health-care.
The progressive tax, how far from our country's original belief in fairness did we stray. This is the one area where Socialism and Communism throw away the equal argument, and begin punishment on those that have, or into days phrase redistribution of wealth. Fair and equal would mean that everyone pays the same amount of taxes based on a set percentage. If 10% was the tax everyone paid. Make $1,000.00, pay $100.00, make $100,000.00 pay $10,000.00. You pay the same percentage and those that make more pay more. To day we have gotten to the point where we believe in only half of the equal equation, make more and pay more.
Where are we Today, What are We?
The true verdict is, we are closer to a Socialist society than a Capitalist society. I am not going into the current debates, as these have already been discussed in great detail. What about the individuals? How have we changed as individuals, have we shifted our responsibilities to someone else, the government? Are we more intolerant of others, do we feel the right to make everyone conform to our beliefs? Do we want someone to take care of us and provide everything for us? The answer would appear to be yes, or at least a large number of us do. I have talked with a lot of younger people, 30 and under. I have listened to the news, political speeches, commentary, seen the latest poll for this and that. All that taken together, in an unscientific way, leads me to believe that about 15% of Americans believe that the government should take care of them from cradle to grave, 25% believe that the government should make sure that the poor, homeless and sick, are taken care of and that the government should take money from the wealthy to pay for it, as they have too much and are no more deserving of it than anyone else. Total about 45% believe in Socialism, with the remaining 55% split on the emotional issue to help those in need, while retaining some form of capitalism along with our rights and freedoms. We as a nation are at that point in time, where soon, a majority will believe that Socialism is the answer. That government is the only one that can make decisions for society, and make everything equal. As was once said, once a majority realizes it can vote itself money from the coffers, we are lost.
In college in the early 1970's, I wrote a paper concerning this very issue. I noted a shift of the then USSR, moving from a pure Socialist government to a capitalist government, and the United States shifting from a Capitalist government to a socialist government. While this shift occurred, for a time, both would be a mixture of capitalist/socialist governments. I did not believe that a one world government would ever come about, as we and the USSR would never give up our sovereignty and allow any government body to rule over us willingly. I may have been wrong, we will see. Oh, I got a C on that paper, the professor disagreed with my theory.
A last thought, what is true capitalism? What are the boundaries of individual rights and freedoms? I believe that individuals and companies, that build a good product at a good price, should succeed and grow, while bad ones should fail and go away. That as individuals we are responsible to ourselves, families, friends, and our local community. If we disagree with our local community, move and live where we are comfortable. I believe that diverse communities would grow and become strong and that segregated communities would wither and die out.
Individual freedoms is a tougher battle. Anytime individuals live in a close proximity to each other, and depending on how knit picky you want to be, individuals actions may or may not effect you. The more others action are seen to impact others, the more control, or loss of freedoms will be seen. In other words, the more I (or the government) gives my money to others the more I or the government has a say in their actions. In a free and responsible society the use of drugs, alcohol, marijuana, prostitution, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, driving too fast, and any other dangerous or unhealthy activity, or refusing to work, the individual involved in these activities would pay the price, not society as a whole. The question is how tolerant or intolerant are you? Are you tolerant enough to let individuals make mistakes and be responsible for themselves, or do you believe that everyone should share all your values, and everyone be responsible for everyone else?
No matter which way you believe, think it through, you maybe living with your choices for a long time.