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What do you REALLY know about Socialism?
Good Ol’ Bernie
I keep seeing Bernie Sanders coming up in the news, as a possible candidate for President of the United States. He is what some have called a “democratic socialist.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, a democratic socialist favors political democracy (okay so far), with social ownership of the means of production and distribution, and a large social safety net paid for by the citizens of the society.
For people in my “age” range, calling someone a “socialist” was an insult. Today, I’ve heard many “person on the street” interviews, where younger people seem to be embracing the idea. So I decided I should give it another look.
Socialism vs. Communism
To be clear, socialism is NOT communism. Communism advocates the equal distribution of resources to all citizens, regardless of their efforts. For example, if there is a bicycle parked in front of my apartment building, and I need to use it to get to work, I do so without regard to “ownership.” There are some exceptions for individual ownership of things like clothing, books, food, and the like. Basically your consumer goods are individually owned. These items are considered to be “personal” property, in that they are an extension of an individual person. They have no productive capacity. They have already been “produced.”
Communism Doesn’t Work
There is well documented evidence that communism doesn’t work in the long run, due to an inevitable lack of incentive to produce. Why should I knock myself out and put in extra hours at work, when all that “extra” production is just going to go into the “pot” for redistribution, based on perceived need. Communism is incompatible with capitalism and the profit motive, concepts upon which the United States was formed. But what about socialism. Is it really so bad?
Socialism and Equity
Socialism promotes cooperation and a sharing of responsibility. It is a way of organizing society so that major industries are owned and controlled by the government, as opposed to individual people or corporations. Socialism advocates the “equitable” distribution of wealth and income. I will admit freely that the concept of helping the “little guy,” and preventing the “excesses” of capitalism does have a certain appeal.
What I don’t agree with, is the concept that I should be controlled and directed by the government in how much and what I produce. My desire for freedom and autonomy kicks in, and frankly, I am not impressed with how politicians are running the country now, even without control over the means of production.
Yes, socialism “sounds” good on paper. No exploitation, where everyone is “equal.” History has taught us, however, that there will still be a hierarchy of politicians and their cronies, leading to mismanagement and the very disparities that socialism is supposed to avoid.
But What About the Nordic Counties?
First of all, what do you REALLY know about the Nordic Countries? Can you name them without looking at a map? Do you have an substantive reasons to think that they are better off than the United States, or have you just “heard” that they are shining examples of the success of socialism?
For the record, the Nordic Countries would include Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Faroe Islands, and Sweden. Taking a broad brush and lumping them together as being economically the same is extremely misguided. It would be like saying any state in the United States is just about the same as any other (yeah, right, we all know how similar New York and Wyoming are).
Also, the “Nordic system” isn’t really socialism at all, but a hybrid of capitalist economics and a large social safety net. Yes, it seems to be working for them. The problem is that the United States is NOT a Scandinavian country, with a strong labor movement. Also, the United States has a large, continuous influx of immigrants in comparison to Nordic Countries. Add to that our history (rugged individualism), and a few other cultural dynamics, and you will quickly realize the large number of factors that would need to be addressed before socialism could begin to work here.
Capitalism in the United States
American Capitalism is by no means a perfect system. But rather than throw it out in favor of socialism, I would rather take the approach of having government deal with market distortion and create impediments so that businesses can’t manipulate the system as much as they seem to at the present moment (what some have called Crony Capitalism).
In the United States, there are already a number of “social” interventions in place, designed to protect the individual, such as a minimum wage, social security, and certain minimum safety standards. It is not a “pure” capitalist economy as it stands now. And yet, it is still capable of producing the greatest prosperity of any economic model.
Taking Care of People in Need
My personal approach to helping those in need, is to form charitable foundations that help the needy, that receive tax breaks from the government to carry on their works. I would not put the government in charge of this activity. The free market is much better suited for this.
That’s an Overview
I have barely scratched the surface of the whole socialism vs. capitalism debate. There are hundreds of books written on the subject, and hundreds more people who would be willing to debate the topic. My purpose here has been to challenge your thinking. Hopefully, you will do your own research before blindly accepting someone else’s opinion. That includes mine.
And one last thing. Please vote in the upcoming election. I am not advocating any particular candidate. I only ask that you please make it an informed vote. The best way to protect this great nation of ours is to have an engaged citizenry. We have been asleep at the switch for too many years, in my humble opinion.