Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Myth of Socialism

I've been hearing a lot of cries of "socialism" in our current election. The word is used with a lot of misunderstanding and often as a scare tactic.

The American political system is a mixture of democracy, capitalism, and social programs. Social programs are not necessarily the same thing as socialism. Here is the webster definition of socialism: "Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods."

To advocate social programs is not the same as advocating socialism. But when the social program refers to "universal healthcare" or tax breaks for the middle class or government programs that benefit the middle class, the label "socialist" is often applied.

We have many "social" or government run programs. Examples - our highway and transportation system, our agricultural subsidies, welfare, social security, education, higher education in state universities, medicare, fire, police and national security.

Why do we have these? Because we've chosen to take a portion of our incomes and collectively pool them towards enterprises that are necessary for the functioning of our society as a whole. Businesses rely on these enterprises as much as we do. No one calls our military "socialist", or are education system, or our police, fire department, or legal system. The fact is that free enterprise is not structured to fulfill these type of infrastructure needs. Individual corporations are only responsible to their shareholders and to produce the greatest profits. But free enterprise is dependent on all the services that we collectively provide through our elected government and taxes.

There's a common political philosophy that free enterprise left alone will take care of everything. How can that be possible if each individual corporation is only responsible for itself and its shareholders?

The truth is that some kind of collective investment in the infrastructure required for a stable and healthy society is necessary. Once you have this investment, it will need to be administered towards the required infrastructure. Those who invest(we the people) will want oversight and decision making power as to how this investment is administered.

There has to be some structure to administer the collective investment in infrastructure. This is commonly called "government". Government governs the common investment. We vote on "representatives" who represent our interests in how this common investment should be administered. In a well working system of government, we decide what we require in this infrastructure, what the priorities are, and how the money will be spent on different parts of the infrastructure.

We have temporarily lost control of this process. More often than not corporations are deciding how this money should be spent and which parts of the infrastructure are important. Nowadays much of our infrastructure has been turned over to private enterprises. This is not inherently bad, as long as our representatives ensure that the corporate entities best fulfill our interests in implementing specific pieces of our infrastructure. But currently there is an incestuous relationship between corporations and our representatives, for several reasons. One, a lot of our law makers are extremely wealthy. Two, it requires a lot of money to get elected. Most of this money is donated by corporate entities who want the business that government provides or want the advantages in business that government can pave for them.

Nowadays, government's job has been to help facilitate corporations - to pave the way for their unlimited growth. We are more closely approaching the real definition of socialism as government and business become more and more tightly coupled. Recall: "state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods". Our government - through deregulation - just allowed our banking system to freeze up and almost collapse, and in order to prevent that collapse, they just bought up major sections of our financial and banking system. What is more "socialist" than that?

Is a government run health care system socialist? Or is government turning health care legally over to corporate entities and paving their way for financial success socialist?

Certain parts of our infrastructure, I believe, should not be in the hands of corporations. Health care is one of them. A business that operates on profit should not be making life or death decisions. On the flip-side, certain parts of our economy should not be in the hands of government.

As a society we need to rework the following:
1. What are the necessary parts of our infrastructure for a healthy society?
2. Which parts can be run by private enterprise and which parts can not?

We have to break the incestuous bond between private enterprise and government so that "we the people" are truly making this decision.

Also we need to eliminate the myth of socialism because it doesn't help in making these decisions and is often used as a tool against us. It blurs our clear vision.

Most of all, we need to be educated. Only through education will we learn the discrimination necessary to administer our own government. Remember - this is our government. We truly can have control over how our government runs, but only if we, as citizens, are educated enough to understand the concept of government and the principles this country was founded on.

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