Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Socialism: America's Dirty Little Secret

By David Haynes - - Common Sense America

Two terms, capitalism and socialism, are being bandied about so much these days, I though it might be informative to briefly examine the two theories in order to find a context for the U.S. within the discussion.

Capitalism is "a free market is an economy that is free of government intervention and regulation, besides the minimal function of maintaining the legal system and protecting property rights. Price is the effect of buying and selling decisions en masse as described by the law of supply and demand."

On the other hand, "socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equal opportunities for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation."

It probably doesn't take much analysis to quickly realize that the U.S. represents a combination of both. Obviously, we are all aware of the free market (capitalism) influence in our economy; I can't think of any better modern example than ebay. Of course, Saturday morning garage sales work as well. Furthermore, free market principles are at the very core of our entire economic system. Our government does not control the means of production and/or distribution. The private sector is charged with producing and providing us with cell phones, cars, chicken fingers, candy bars, underwear, etc.  But, many years ago we, as a nation, decided that there were some aspects of our daily lives that were important enough to all of us that they could and should be socialized so that the nation as a whole would benefit from their existence. Examples of these are, schools, roads, bridges, libraries, police protection, fire departments, etc. So, we Americans voted for representatives that would enact laws allowing the government to utilize some of our tax dollars to provide for these commonly beneficial, and commonly used, services and infrastructure.

We came to believe as a nation that there were certain essential needs that simply should not be left to the ebb and flow of the free market, supply and demand system. You can watch Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" to get an historically accurate depiction of the competing, private fire brigades in Civil War era Manhattan wherein the fireman pillaged the burning structures for compensation.

While our economy is undoubtedly driven by the free market and holds that theory at its core, we have also mutually agreed that some socialization, which we have voted for, is essential. Some of the less obvious benefits that this socialization has produced include: minimum wages, clean water and electricity in our homes, Social Security, a 40-hour work week, sanitation (garbage and sewer), public transportation, our national highway system, FDIC, a military for national defense, the Department of Public Safety, Sesame Street (yes, PBS is Federally-funded), Federal emergency assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters, unemployment insurance, etc.

As the debate over reform rages in D.C. and the term "socialism" is used as a derisive weapon, just remember, every time you get in your car and head down to the grocery store you are driving on a socialist road patrolled by socialist police officers. Whenever you deposit your paycheck in the bank, your hard-earned savings are guaranteed by the socialist FDIC and your wages are in some way a result of the socialist minimum wage law. As you shower, know that you are washing yourself in clean, socialist water. And, that dirty water going down the drain will be processed at your local socialist water-treatment plant.

Don't let the word socialism scare you. Don't let it cloud the issue. It's been a tightly-woven strand of our national fabric since our country's very inception.  So, the question is not whether we will become socialist--we already socialize all sorts of things that we enjoy everyday and take for granted. No, the question is, and always will be, what do we all mutually agree to chip in and pay for.

David Haynes is a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, California.

No comments:

Post a Comment