WASHINGTON, September 25, 2014 — Conservatives claim that liberal “socialist” policies are the greatest threat to the American way of life. From the perspective of liberals, strict capitalist policies backed by conservatives are the greatest threat to the American way of life.
In reality, the capitalism versus socialism debate is a distraction that clouds the true threat to democracy and prevents American voters from electing political leaders willing to take on that threat.
Karl Marx provides some insight into why American capitalism was more successful than Russian communism. Marx viewed war and social unrest as an inherit conflict between economic classes. Specifically, the conflict is between the workers — the proletariat — and the capitalists, who exploit workers.
Marx’s supporters view all conflict as essentially economic in nature; Communists believed they could eliminate conflict by eliminating the capitalists, i.e., the wealthy elite. Unfortunately, they failed to realize they were only creating a more permanent, more powerful privileged class that could more readily abuse power. They created an oppressive government class that operated as a political monopoly.
Americans understood that capitalists do not just exploit workers; they can increase economic efficiency by organizing the distribution of resources and coordinating economic activities. It is when capitalists take more than they contribute to society that they become a disposable burden; laws should exist to jail or strip the wealth from those who use their wealth to hurt the U.S. economy.
Thanks to an underlying philosophy of self-sufficiency and self-determination, Americans are expected to act as both proletariats and capitalists by offering their labor for a negotiated sum of capital. In other words, Americans are expected to demand reasonable compensation and ensure their own interests are met, which is the democratic way.
Americans did not seek to eliminate the upper classes as they did in Russia. Instead, Americans sought to disperse power across a broad range of individuals in a variety of fields. Long before the issue of Communism arose, the American People aspired to build a nation based on equal opportunity. Hence the United States has long promoted multiple elite classes that anyone can join. This is why Americans believe every American should have the opportunity to work his, or her, way up to the status of the elite.
When small groups of individuals control the elite classes of the different power arenas in society, and when the lower classes lose their ability to achieve a higher socioeconomic status, the powerful few have the ability to short-circuit democratic processes. In tandem, the interests of many can only be addressed when those in power have a perceived interest in addressing our interests.
Because minority groups, including the wealthy, are naturally inclined to seek power, and the powerful are driven to solidify and legitimize their power, a smaller elite class, which is based more on inheritance rather than true merit, will seek to undermine the interests of the majority when its interests conflict with the interests of the powerful.
When the rulers of a nation have consolidated, legitimized, and solidified their power, they will have no incentive to respect democracy or address the interests of the majority. The greatest threat to the American way of life is therefore a consolidation of the elite classes and the inability of individuals to improve their socioeconomic status. For America to work, everyone must have the opportunity to pursue their interests.