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Our Politics Are Anything But “Social”

March 24, 2010

It is near impossible to pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch news on television without hearing someone stoke the coal-embers of fear that “socialism” will destroy the United States.  While some may truly believe it, the real goal is simply to frighten middle-class Americans back into the conservative fold.  They leverage a lack of understanding as to just what socialism is and is not.  Ironically, they use the same fear weapon that dictators use to gain control of a population, regardless if that dictator is socialist, communist, fascist, or just a plain brutal son of a bitch.

That lack of understanding is the primary reason fear exists.  In the United States, communism and socialism are thought of as being the same.  They are not.  When pundits use the term socialism, they imply communism.  Simply put, communism is a form of government where the state owns all property.  In theory, it is a democracy where every person participates in government equally.  In reality, communist governments devolve into authoritarian dictatorships or oligarchy (a small group or mob).  In both the Soviet Union and Communist China, power concentrated in the hands of a few at the cost of the population at large.  The only thing a communist government has in common with socialism is communists often include “socialist” in their name.  There never has been and never will be the utopian form of communism leftist speak of with such passion.

Socialism, on the other hand, is a group of economics theories that center on public or direct worker ownership of businesses but not necessarily property.  A good example of a socialist based economy is the United Kingdom after World War-II.  Industries like transportation and coal mining came under state control and the National Health Service was formed (the British healthcare system we hear so much about today).  While its economic policies were socialist, the United Kingdom retained both, its parliamentary system and constitutional monarchy.  In other words, its economic policy did not change its form of government.  The social experiment in the U.K. ended with the election of Margaret Thatcher but even so, the nation retains many of the social institutions and policies, such as the National Health Service formed during this time.

What is needed is an apples to apples comparison.  Socialism and capitalism are economic systems of commerce, not types of governments.  Republics and communist states are forms of government.  Adopting a socialist policy will not change the form of government.  The United States has many examples of socialist policies in effect now.  Our national highway system is a prime example and it works well.  Without it imagine the tolls we would have to pay just to go visit Grandma in the next state.  In fact, all government services are socialist in nature.  Who could imagine a private police force patrolling the streets of our cities?  We have enough problems dealing with abusive law enforcement now and its abuses on the whole are limited, imagine the outcome if profit was the motive of law enforcement.

Here is a quote by a famous American regarding the state of healthcare, see if you think it sounds socialist:

“Beyond the question of the prices of health care, our present system of health care insurance suffers from two major flaws :

First, even though more Americans carry health insurance than ever before, the [million of] Americans who remain uninsured often need it the most and are most unlikely to obtain it.  They include many who work in seasonal or transient occupations, high-risk cases, and those who are ineligible for Medicaid despite low incomes.

Second, those Americans who do carry health insurance often lack coverage which is balanced, comprehensive and fully protective:

–Forty percent of those who are insured are not covered for visits to physicians on an out-patient basis, a gap that creates powerful incentives toward high cost care in hospitals;

–Few people have the option of selecting care through prepaid arrangements offered by Health Maintenance Organizations so the system at large does not benefit from the free choice and creative competition this would offer;

–Very few private policies cover preventive services;

–Most health plans do not contain built-in incentives to reduce waste and inefficiency.  The extra costs of wasteful practices are passed on, of course, to consumers; and

–Fewer than half of our citizens under 65–and almost none over 65–have major medical coverage which pays for the cost of catastrophic illness.

These gaps in health protection can have tragic consequences.  They can cause people to delay seeking medical attention until it is too late.  Then a medical crisis ensues, followed by huge medical bills–or worse.  Delays in treatment can end in death or lifelong disability.”

This quote is taken from a Special Message to the United States Congress by President Richard M. Nixon dated February 6, 1974  (Note: 24 million was changed to [million of] in the quoted text to not give it away as being from the 70s).  Here we are, thirty-six years later, arguing about the same thing.  The only difference today, President Nixon would be labeled a “socialist commie” by Glenn Beck and the like.  It is amazing our society has change so much that Nixon’s policies are considered liberal by today’s standard.

In the end, President Obama and Congress do not have the power to change our form of government.  There are only two ways to do that, a constitutional amendment for one, and overthrowing the government for the other, and I think the U.S. Military would have something to say about the latter taking place, as well as all the gun-toting, myself included, citizens out there.

As far as constitutional amendments go, those take two-thirds of both houses of congress or two-thirds of states to propose an amendment but then it must be ratified by three-fourths of the various state’s legislators, or thirty-eight states.  It is doubtful, even if they wanted to, that any group could change our constitutional-republic form of government.

Providing reasonable healthcare will not destroy our country.  Truth is, not providing it is the real danger.  We will have to adjust our spending in other areas but that is long overdue anyway.  Healthcare needs to be part of our economic security.  Having a healthy population is just as important as having a healthy military.

So next time you hear a fear-mongering idiot bemoaning the death of America’s liberty and freedom, just shake your head and feel sorry for them.  They are no more relevant than the moron standing on the corner with a sign reading “THE END IS NEAR!”

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2 comments

  1. This is an excellent post, and a powerful reminder that these labels actually have meaning. I happened to post something at the exact same minute on a similar topic. See here: http://thecentersquare.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/healthcare-and-wealth-redistribution/.

    In today’s political climate, when people use the terms “socialism” or “communism” (or, inexplicably and even more wildly inaccurately, “fascism”), they do not invoke their literal historical meaning. Rather, they mean anything that points in the direction of redistribution of wealth from the better off to the less well off, when accomplished through the power of government.

    While not etymologically accurate, there is a valid policy question being raised by these critics. This healthcare bill DOES, after all, redistribute wealth by imposing new taxes on the wealthy and conferring new entitlements on lower income Americans. That is not socialism, but it is something.

    Personally, I think it is the right thing to do nonetheless. Wealth redistribution — in the opposite direction — happens naturally over time. The income and wealth of the top percentiles has grown several-fold over the past 30 years; at the middle percentiles they have nudged upward about 15%; and at the lowest percentiles, they haven’t budged at all. Therefore, the occasional act of government to correct the attrition over time makes sense.

    It’s like highway driving. If your car pulls slightly to the right, you need to steer left every once in a while to avoid running off the road.


    • Thank you for the well though out response. I whole-heartily support debate on this issue. I’m just frustrated by the rhetoric that seeks to paint things in the worst of colors. Moreover, the very pundits that scream the loudest are the same cowards that shirked their civic duty when is was their time to serve. Now that they are old and useless, they find a patriotic backbone. Go figure.



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