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As Long as We Remember...

February 27, 2019

Socialism, the Word of the Day

Patricia A. Kelly

Socialism is defined as an economic and political system of social organization wherein the means of production, distribution and exchange are owned by the community.


Socialism in action – theoretically – includes concern for the welfare of the population over profit, progressive taxation, wealth distribution, price controls, nationalization, and centralization of ownership.


Capitalism, on the other hand, is defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.


Socialism in theory could work if chosen by the people. It does work on a small, voluntary scale, an example being Liberty Village in Libertytown, a small, local co-housing community. There’s a big difference, however, between community ownership of a cooperative and government nationalization.


Historically, countrywide socialism has always been imposed by a government. The suggestion is, if you give up a little of your freedom, you will receive greater security. It has never worked.


That’s because human nature, all nature really, works for a reward. Do you think a cheetah would risk attacking a wildebeest, if the reward weren’t worth the risk? Would the cheetah be happier living in a zoo and receiving a big previously frozen steak every day, or would it rather run wild, catch its food and mate whenever it felt like it?


The United States, a capitalist country, is now a mixture of socialism and capitalism. You might even call it democratic socialism.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to the economic collapse following the stock market crash of 1929 with the New Deal, the injection of socialism into American government. His administration and Congress created Social Security, step one for us, to guarantee retirement benefits for people who didn’t receive pensions from their workplaces.


Medicare, instituted by President Lyndon B. Johnson, in response to private medical insurers’ reluctance to offer services to the elderly, is another notable example, along with welfare, aid to dependent children, progressive taxation, and government controls of essential services such as electricity.


Our social programs are paid for by the forced deduction of money from American paychecks. They’re also rife with problems, such as mandated low reimbursement to physicians, which has changed medical practice.


Government by its nature being unwieldy, these programs are filled with confusing regulations and restrictions, ever subject to the whims of bureaucrats and elected officials, making it ever more complicated to provide or receive benefits.


That doesn’t mean that social programs and benefits are all bad.


We, due to our freedom and our capitalism, are a wealthy and humane society. Providing a safety net for the helpless can be a good thing.


We must draw the line, though. Free medical care for all means government mandated services and, for most, mediocrity in medical care.


Free college, far from a necessity for the helpless, will vastly reduce initiative.


Just imagine what a basic income for all would do. Studies of attempts to provide it have shown little benefit so far.


There is a line, if crossed, which would take us from a successful, capitalist society to socialist lethargy. Visit Russia and see the crumbling infrastructure created under socialism, crumbling because people watered down the concrete so they could sell some to make money.


Visit the Czech Republic and hear the stories of produce counters containing only wilted carrots, potatoes and onions. Everyone could get carrots. No one could get spinach. That’s real-world socialism in a nutshell.


Socialism sounds so good and caring. Our school children and young adults have learned all about it in school, that dream of help for everyone. They equate it, as Spike Lee so recently mentioned in his Oscar speech, with love.


In the real world of socialism, though, there’s always a decision maker and a benefit giver. That person has never been the “people.”


Several successful countries falsely described as socialist, such as Denmark and Sweden, are capitalist, but with big social services programs, paid for with capitalist success.


We can decide in the U.S. how much seems appropriate to give to those in need.


We much always be watchful, though. As my grandmother cautioned me when I wanted to help a hatching chick out of his shell. “No. Don’t do that. If he doesn’t get out of the shell himself, he’ll be weak, and he’ll die.”


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