Understanding Socialism in America
Pandemic Diary Entry #56
August 17, 2020
A few weeks ago I began an article by discussing socialism. I did not say that I purported that the US become a socialist country, I simply stated that there are programs created under the rubric of socialism that are already in place in this country. I then received a message asking if I would expound on my introduction. I will try.
It is important to get one thing clear before I begin.
Socialism is not a political concept it is an economic system.
There are many countries that live with a socialist and capitalistic system side by side. America is one of them.
Socialism considers that factors of production are valued in their relationship to their usefulness to people, therefore it is necessary to take into account both individual needs and the greater good.
Our founding fathers understood this and placed the promotion of the general welfare of citizens into the Constitution to balance what they knew would be problems with pure capitalism.
The men that drafted the Constitution believed that “essential” services should be provided by the government to the public at little or no cost. The costs of these services would be shared by the whole. They understood that essential services should not be purchased on the open market, where some would be unable to pay what privatization might consider fair market value.
Section 8 of Article I, for example, empowers Congress “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” That same Section also authorizes Congress “To raise and support Armies,” and even “To provide and maintain a Navy.”
Article one of the Constitution also regulates commerce. At the time our waterways were the largest source of transportation, the founding fathers made sure these were never privatized.
The intent of this was to help all citizens of this growing country start out on a level playing field. They did not throw out capitalism with these socialist concepts.
When speaking to many people in this country, the word socialism sends them into paroxysms. I must assume because the only socialism that these people can conjure up is that of Karl Marx, but America’s socialist component was never about Marx.
Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden are countries with strong socialist systems. The state collects a larger percentage of taxes from its citizens than in the United States. They then turn around and use these funds in educating the populous, providing pension plans, life insurance, maternity leave, and six weeks of paid vacation per year. These benefits spur workers to work more, which is shown in a considerably lower unemployment rate (in normal times) than in the United States. Despite the higher tax rate, take-home pay in these countries is equivalent to after-tax paychecks of Americans. These are Capitalistic countries where free enterprise is alive and well with scores above 75 on the Economic Freedom Scale.
Our government is far from what we consider perfect, but it was founded on the obligation to serve its citizens and protect their rights and freedoms. This is why taxes are collected.
The US is witnessing a chasm of wealth disparity, it could be worse. Imagine if all the things you consider necessary to function in this country were owned by private corporations. I do not believe that a private corporation would place the best interest of the masses over profit. So while no one likes paying taxes, you do it for the greater good. This is a form of socialism, within a capitalistic system.
In my brief discussion on socialism, I mentioned things that are socialists programs already well entrenched in America. Let me expand on that.
I will begin with our US Military. This is the largest socialist program in the entire world, simply because our military budget is one of the largest line items in our economy. Our US military is funded by tax dollars and protects not just America, but weaker countries that need our help. Even if you do not pay one dime in taxes, you are protected by the military, hence it is a socialist program. Staying within this same frame of reference I will add the CIA, and the FBI, both tax-funded institutions.
Whenever you get into your car, you drive on roads and over bridges that were designed, built, and maintained by your tax dollars. These are for everyone, not just taxpayers. Our highway system is a direct result of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican President. Eisenhower so admired the national road system he witnessed in Europe during WWII, once elected he enacted the Interstate Highway System.
Your police and fire departments are the results of a socialist system. If they were privatized you would pay directly to an organization that took care of your safety. Imagine if your house was on fire, and you were told you had not paid your dues to the private fire department. No one would come as you watched your home burn to the ground.
I wrote a while ago about my love of books, and that began by going to the library as a small child. I was six, so I obviously did not pay taxes, and yet I got to read these books for free. You can add many of our fine museums into this same category.
The United States Postal System is another example of your tax dollars being used for the greater good. Having mail placed through the slot on your front door, or that fact that you can send a letter to anywhere in the country, is not paid for with a mere 55 cent stamp, it runs on tax dollars.
The last obvious ones I will add is garbage collection and the landfills where that trash is taken, along with sewage treatment plants and water filtration. By now you should have a good understanding of the things that we take for granted that are a direct result of the socialism that underlies our capitalistic system.
With all hopes and prayers on finding a vaccine for Covid, keep in mind, when you get that shot, the development of that life-saving drug was the result of billions of tax dollars spent looking for some way to give all of us back our freedom from masks and social distancing. The same can be said for the Polio Vaccine. Jonas Salk could have kept the vaccine to himself and died a very rich man, instead, he gave it to the federal government to administer to the public and save many from a life in an iron lung.
While we are on the subject of health, Medicare is a socialist program that is loved by a majority of US citizens. At the cost of health care today most senior citizens would not be able to afford private health care, so thanks to tax dollars, we have provided a way for senior citizens to receive medical care no matter their financial situation.
This list could go on for pages, but the point is made. None of this means we are a socialist country, or that capitalism is dead, it means that we have some socialist programs that benefit every one of us.
It is time to stop fearing a word, understand the meaning behind it, and admit you have benefitted in some small way from the system no matter its label.
My Horoscope for today: A partner or backer may have misunderstood what you wanted. Don’t move ahead until you’ve clarified matters first.
San Francisco weather: Extremely strange. 71 degrees and chance of rain and thunderstorms
NYSE DOW opened at: 27970
NYSE DOW one year ago: 26020
Foreign word of the day: performance
OED word of the day: angustation — The condition of being narrowed, constricted, limited, or confined
Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 158
Reading: It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: