Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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The Socialist Spectrum

Years ago I was spending a lot of time with a woman I really liked but for some reason nothing seemed to happen beyond friendship. One night I asked directly asked her what she was thinking about our friendship and she informed me that she was a lesbian and in a small town like ours, she felt she needed to use me for cover.


It brought to mind that old line from a song "if everyone's a little gay, why can't you be a little bit straight?"

Oddly, that brings me around to socialism. There's been a lot of talk about Obama's "socialist" policies. People are outright calling him a socialist and were I living in the US, I'd like to meet some of those people and ask them a simple question: "how do you define socialism?" I'd also ask them if they can give any examples of socialism in the US they object to and examples they support.

As you have probably noticed, many socialist countries (including China -- they're not communist) have strong elements of capitalism in their societies and these elements are growing. However, I'm hard-pressed to think of a single "capitalist" country on the planet which doesn't have socialist elements. We have plenty of socialism in the US, but you'll note that most of our socialism is limited to what are called "public goods" (a good thing, in my opinion). For example, the construction and maintenance of the US Interstate Highway system was and remains a socialist endeavor and it's clearly what economists would call a public good.

Even though most socialists are a little bit capitalist (North Korea is the only exception I can think of), it seems that all capitalist societies are a little bit socialist. So why do Americans like to pretend this isn't true our the good 'ol US of A? Why do Americans get all paranoid and scared about something that permeates their life?

To a large extent, the "socialist" label is mostly applied to Obama for his call for universal health care, even though this doesn't have to be socialist. You can simply mandate that employers provide medical insurance. Don't have a job? You could pay privately or, at that point, take advantage of government subsidies for the insurance (which would be a tiny bit of socialism). This is more or less the German model and it helps to promote competition and keep health care costs down (it's great when you can see a doctor rather than being forced into expensive emergency rooms).

I still hear people argue that they don't want the government making their medical decisions (except for abortion. Or medical marijuana. Or death with dignity. Or ...), but why should they feel better off letting corporations make their decisions? If the current financial crisis demonstrates anything, it's that corporations value profits more than people. I can't say the US government is much better, but at least we have a say in it.

And for those who argue that universal health care would raise our medical costs, why would that be? There are approximately 193 countries in the world (the number depends on who's counting) and out of 193 countries, the US has, by far, the most expensive health care system in the world and it's a far cry from the best. Given that the US is the only industrialized nation not offering universal health care (I highly recommend reading that link), why is it that all of the others have managed to keep their costs down? Further, most of them offer excellent health care. Universal health care is quite possible, quite practical, and should be viewed as a right, not as a privilege.

Universal health care might be instituted as a form of socialism, but so what? We have plenty of that and I don't see people complaining about the Interstate Highway System or fire departments. I don't hear many (non-libertarians) calling for the abolishment of Medicare or Medicaid. The US has plenty of successful socialist enterprises. I'm not a socialist, but it's a stupid label applied by ignorant people. Next time someone uses that word, call 'em on the carpet!

As an interesting aside: I note that those who generally object the most to universal health care are those who've never faced the terror of a medical crisis without insurance.
Tags: economics, politics
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