Three reasons to stop freaking out about socialism
"Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism. To me, our opponent’s plan sounds more like big government, which is the problem. Bigger government is not the solution. Whatever you call his tax plan and that redistribution of wealth, it will destroy jobs. It will hurt our economy.”
Sarah Palin and John McCain are pulling out all the stops to prevent their Straighttalk Express from driving directly off a cliff. Among the recent allegations of treacherous wrong-doing by the Obama campaign is Obama's apparent desire to "spread the wealth around". Hyperbole meets hypocrisy in a rather desperate attempt to paint their opponent as an extreme leftist (please, let's be honest, there IS no extreme left in the United States), especially since John McCain supported the recent Treasury bailout bill that was intended to... spread the wealth around.
Yes, the old socialist tiger is being dusted off and trotted out again. Socialism - what a terrifying term! Let's look in the dictionary to see what monsters lurk beneath this horrible, horrible word:
–noun 1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. 2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory. 3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.
We're already socialist, kinda
The truth is, the United States government already spreads the wealth around. Most governments do. That's why we pay income taxes, and in return, enjoy government infrastructure such as paved freeways, postal service, Social Security (Medicaid/Medicare, if you qualify), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (sigh), and unemployment benefits. It's why we have a national forest service.
Hell, as Ron Way points out, public golf courses are technically socialist.
I'm not suggesting that these services are perfect, that our roads aren't in need of repair, or that the government operates with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. And I do believe that it's fair to question whether government is always the best method for handling certain problems. I don't believe, like some do, that libertarianism is dead, because as long as Ayn Rand's books are still in print, there will be people who believe in putting the individual first. I do sincerely hope that we will reconsider deregulation in the future, especially since it seems that American financiers can never be trusted to earn an honest buck.
While the United States is technically a capitalist country, you'd struggle to find an example of a public service that is not funded, in some way or another, by tax dollars.*
We've had times in which our country was much MORE socialist. Take the New Deal, engineered and implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a time when our country was facing some very dire straights. You can argue, as many have, that FDR introduced socialism to the United States in a way that was palatable, as well as desperately needed. In fact, that's where Fannie Mae came from (as well as the FDIC, SEC, FHA, etc.).
If you don't think that socialism is a fairly weak force in the US, just look at labor unions. The very basis of many socialist economies, unions have never been so undermined and maligned in America as they are today.
John McCain's as big a commie as anyone else
I do believe, as John McCain apparently does, that there is a time and a place for a government to step in and fix things.
I don't necessarily know if this particular time in history is going to prove to be one of those appropriate moments for government intervention - like many Americans, I wasn't pleased with the $800 billion bailout bill that was handed to Henry Paulson, not to mention the political shenanigans that went into creating the bacon-laden bill to begin with.
Giving the banks a truckload of no-strings-attached Treasury money may or may not actually show us any returns in terms of normalized consumer lending anytime soon. All indications point to the banks holding the money to prevent their own implosion. In fact, John McCain may have a very good point when he responded to Mike Wallace in a now rather infamous interview:
WALLACE: But, Senator, you voted for the $700 billion bailout that's being used partially to nationalize American banks. Isn't that socialism?
MCCAIN: That is reacting to a crisis that's due to greed and excess in Washington. And what this administration is doing wrong, and what Paulson is doing wrong, is not going out and buying up home loan mortgages, home mortgages, and giving people new mortgages at the new value of their home so they can stay in their home. They're bailing out the banks. They're bailing out these institutions.
What McCain is talking about is nationalizing mortgages, which would be another socialist move. I actually don't disagree with the idea entirely, but then, I don't dislike socialism that much.
Palin, it is worth noting, is the governor of a state that pays people to populate it. Talk about spreading the wealth.
Many of our allies are MUCH more socialist than we are
Say what you will about the evils of Canada (and I will go on record saying that Canadians are pure, Molson-and-Tim-Horton's-filled evil), they seem to manage pulling of a mixture of socialism and capitalism with significantly less guilt than we Americans do. France and England, like Canada, have socialized medical systems, and say what you will about those French surrender monkeys, they have more pro-family government programs in place than the United States has ever enjoyed.
Sweden, often offered up as an example of the most egregious socialist state in the Western world, doesn't seem to be any worse for the wear. They're not experiencing USSR-style drabness of dress. Despite traditional McCarthyist claims, socialism is not actually related to totalitarianism, even though communist governments have historically trended in that direction.
What this means is that allowing the government to partially own certain industries or markets doesn't automatically strip you of your right to vote for your elected officials (we've got voter purges taking care of that right here in the US!).
Were our government not facing a monumental debt, two wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and a looming trade deficit, I might be a stronger advocate of the federal goverment pouring non-existant dollars into failing industries; technically, I'm still on the fence about what direction I think the government should head in in order to stave off a much large crisis and recesssion. This crisis might settle down in the coming months with little intervention.
But if our economy does crash and burn, and we are facing another Depression - wouldn't that be exactly the time to start experiementing (again) with socialism?
*Removed a section from the article after a very astute reader pointed out that it was merely a rant against pork, and not pertinent to the argument that the US practices socialism of sorts through government sponsorship of social programs.