I have frequently been mistaken for a socialist because of my preferences for socialized healthcare, Medicare, Social Security, social justice, and the government helping our poor and underserved citizens. This perception of me is uniquely American (U.S.). For those living in other developed countries such as Europe where socialized healthcare is the norm I would not be mistaken as a socialist based upon other things I have said.
In fact I agree with many who argue that economic socialism deters new creative commercial products and ventures compared to capitalism. In the old days of the cold war, communist bloc countries sometimes excelled at technology such as the early days of the space race and were on par with us in developing military weapons. But those individuals engaged in the development of these technologies were often an elite and privileged class within communist society so in a sense communism sometimes had to employ capitalistic principles to motivate these elite scientist and engineers with extra benefits to work harder to produce advanced technologies. This was sometimes mixed with the fears of reprisals or the emphasis upon patriotism for added incentive to work extra hard. The same was true under Nazism and other forms of non-capitalistic government.
On the other hand I don’t agree with all the practices of industrial capitalism. Their motives are purely profit driven which can lead to devastating consequences in terms of worker abuses, health and safety issues, toxic dumping and environmental pollution, and other cost cutting abuses if left on their own as now exists in many 2nd and 3rd world countries and as existed early in the last century here in the U.S. That is why capitalism must be tempered with regulations just as driving a car must be regulated by traffic laws to avoid confusion and abuses as well as ensure safety and order. But as a whole capitalism naturally motivates people towards greater degrees of productive creativity and resourcefulness than most other forms of economic –isms due to the rewards of economic wealth, fame, and power.
But money, wealth, and power are not always the only motivating factors. There are those who are creative or aspire to become creative because it is in their nature and for these individuals the opportunity to create is all that is really important regardless of money. These people can exist in any economic -ism system as long as they are provided the opportunities and resources to do what they love best. So aspiring and exceptionally creative and productive people can be found in even socialist, communist, and other -ism nations. But these people are in the minority under any -ism.
I am not a purist so far as which economic –ism works best. Each has its weaknesses and strengths whether it is capitalism, communism, socialism, Nazism, imperialism, feudalism, or some other ism. Creativity is not the hallmark by which everyone lives. There are other thing that many if not most people value more such as financial and safety security. Each system offers advantages to some people and values and not to others. Each -ism has shown some degree of economic and social success at some time in history though it might have been short-lived. In fact no nation operates under only one pure –ism. There are always other –isms that are mixed into their system of government just as we have Medicare and Social Security in our capitalistic economy.
It also depends upon the context in which it is applies. For example in China, where a special form of capitalized Communism is being practiced with a strong central government in control, they have in the last 30 years established the second strongest economy in the world from virtually nothing. They have the most advanced high speed rail systems globally and are the leading country in producing a renewable energy industry in the world. They produce and assemble the largest percentage of products sold in the U.S. and most of the worldwide. But if their leadership does something very wrong it can go royally wrong and mess up their country’s and the world’s economy for decades. This is an instance where one –ism (communism) has employed another –ism (capitalism) which in combination has produces a very positive outcome. The point here is that a strong central government has controlled capitalistic development which has been very beneficial to their country. Had pure capitalism been allowed to develop the self interest of individual companies and industries would have produced more chaotic benefits and drawbacks. Abuses in working conditions still exist compared to U.S. standards as was revealed by substandard working conditions in Apple assembly plants. But lessons are being learned and improvements are constantly being made.
I sometimes wonder if a stronger central government like China’s would be better for us since our Congress seems incapable of functioning and our nation seems to have no direction regarding anything politically, economically, socially, educationally, or infrastructure wise. But on further thought this might lead to a dictatorship and in the long run this never ends up with anything good. This is a problem China will eventually face since absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We must stop bashing all ideologies except our own and look at the merits of all -isms. We must stop limiting ourselves to only a narrow list of ideologies and start using what works best without violating constitutional laws. There is nothing in our Constitution that prohibits socialism from being implemented just as there is nothing in the Constitution that promotes capitalism. Each has its place in our economic and social fabric. The more economic and social tools we have available to use the better we can promote a social and economic system that works best for this nation.
We live in an imperfect world in which almost nothing works for everyone all the time. The best we can hope from any economic and social system is that it work for the vast majority of people most of the time. To claim that there is absolutely no system that is better than pure capitalism and free enterprise is simply an allusion. Perhaps it is true for a few people but most certainly not for the vast majority of people. Our government should promote laws and regulations that benefit the majority of people, not just the elite and very rich 1% or 5% who have the least real needs. Ask how workers in the sweatshops of Bangladesh feel about unregulated capitalistic free enterprise cutting salary and safety corners to maximize profits. That is capitalism in its purist.
Everyone fortunate enough not to reside in the usa are deemed ‘socialists’ mainly because its inhabitants haven’t the foggiest Idea what one is. All the major religions repeat the ancient mantra that the strongest, [or richest], should give succour to the less fortunate. Obama and indeed the Democrats are less hostile to the ‘have nots’ . Humanitarians – maybe. Socialists – NO!
We from the colonies are not all ignorant and void of compassion. But there are enough that keep me worried 🙂