MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., Sept. 18, 2015 – The term “socialism” is one of the least popular in the U.S. It is ingrained in all Americans that socialism is tantamount to religious persecution, the abolishment of private property and totalitarian government. Looking for a definition on the web seems to corroborate this assessment. A casual Google of “socialism” shows first the following definition: “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”
Americans would rather vote for atheists than for socialists.
The term was first defined by Karl Marx as an intermediate step between capitalism and communism. Since then, it has been associated with many causes, including the infamous National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Germany of the 1930s and ’40s. The Nazi party was in fact a right-wing nationalistic party that used as its mantra the supremacy of Germany, the extermination of non-Aryans and the destruction of the Communist Party, and not a socialist organization at all.
Since then many political parties have taken the term “socialism” as part of their identity. This is usually qualified with another term like “Christian” or “democratic.” Most of the countries of Northern and Central Europe have been controlled at one time or another by one of these qualified socialist parties, including France and Germany. None of these countries has abolished private property, engaged in religious persecution, committed genocide or set up totalitarian governments in the recent past. Results of socialist governments are benefits like extensive free higher education, universal health insurance and workers’ benefits like mandatory maternity and paternity leave and leisure time.
These benefits are paid with higher taxes, but this hasn’t affected the economy of the countries significantly.
Capitalism is also not a pure philosophy. While capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”
There are many gray areas in which the government controls elements of trade or industry. Examples abound, mostly in the area of services like the military, utilities, health care, first responders, entertainment, leisure, the penal system, retirement and others. We have evolved into believing that certain services do not require private ownership/control and are in fact better controlled by governmental entities. The for-profit incentive does not play well in areas where the basic needs of people are involved.
Current-day socialism, like the one championed by Bernie Sanders, a self-styled Democratic socialist, does not strive to nationalize industries or commerce. Pragmatists have prevailed in showing us that in many endeavors the incentive of capitalism serves us better. What it tries to do is incorporate philosophies that have worked in other countries, such as free higher education and health care. It also believes that inherited wealth should not be left untaxed and that the rich should pay their part of the taxes, including corporations.
Bernie Sander’s platform from his site berniesanders.com/issues reveals the following:
Creating Decent Paying Jobs
Of special interest to those who want to go to college is his stance on higher education. His opinion on this subject has been known for some time. He believes that anyone who is bright enough and has the motivation to learn should be able to go to college without incurring lifelong debts.
He would also strive for a living wage for all Americans to be paid by taxing the rich and creating jobs by spending on our infrastructure.
The clamor from the right will continue. Purposely or accidentally, their support for even more benefits for the rich and less for the middle class and poor will portray a Sanders presidency as the apocalyptic end to free enterprise and freedom in the U.S.
The question is whether the American public is willing to critically analyze the path that we have followed in the last four decades and vote based on that.
The demise of the middle class and effectively of the real wealth of our country (the citizens as a whole), started with the attack on organized labor, the destruction of benefit retirement systems, the steep decline of taxes on wealth and the geometric increase in our higher education costs.
So when you are at the voting booth, vote with your intellect and not with your emotions.
Mario Salazar, the 21th Century Pacifist, lived through the best times in our country, when the middle class prevailed. He is on Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook (Mario Salazar).