Socialism vs. Captalism?

One of the worst results of political and ideological partisanship is that just about every issue and every topic becomes a source of contention which obscures their significance. This is no way for a democracy that values truth to survive.

With the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders encouraging members of the far left, the topic of democratic socialism has gained public attention. Almost immediately, this has been perceived as a threat to our present economic system, which is predominantly based on capitalism. This is what partisanship does. There was no openness to a civilized exchange of information in order for people to weigh the facts. The word socialism was used to instantly conjure fears of communism and Marxism, and totalitarian regimes that used them in the past.

As time goes on, I envision political battle lines being drawn that will portray democratic socialism on one side versus capitalism on the other, each characterizing the other as a vital threat to our entire way of life.

One side will point to a dwindling middle-class caused by economic disparity, the disastrous consequences of the last recession caused by banks too big to fail, and the corruption of our political system due to the influence of big money.

The other side will point out the many benefits of capitalism, which have enhanced and continue to enhance the material affluence and steady progress of our way of life. They go so far as to equate capitalism with freedom itself.

Once the battle begins in full sway, neither side listens to the other, and voters become limited in their choices to two partial truths that should not necessarily be in contention. Socialism and capitalism are merely words that represent two ideas. If we could scrap them entirely, it would be so much easier to formulate a successful and more humane society where everyone benefits. In fact, the very best parts of our present economy already reflect both ideals.

What liberals need to understand is that liberalism itself, and the enhancements of democratic socialism in particular, depend on the success of a thriving economy that only capitalism gives us.

What conservatives need to understand is that the aim of modern society is the good of the people as a whole, and not just those who make a lot of money, no matter what the cost to others.

There is more to freedom than each of these sides seems willing to admit.

Innovative and successful businesses deserve to be rewarded. This is how the engine of our economy works. It is also true that the economic security of all people is what makes a society humane. The underlying purpose of our society, the purpose of freedom itself, is the happiness of its citizens. While some people translate happiness as the acquisition of wealth, surely it is more than that. The size of one's bank account presents no barometer to that contentment of one's soul.

Where would we be without the so-called socialistic programs of Social Security and Medicare? We would probably return to a Gilded Age society where over half of our population lived in poverty, and our elderly and disabled were left in abject misery. During World War II, half of the men who tried to enlist in the service were rejected due to poverty related health issues. The good old days were not as good as we like to think.

The truth is, the best form of capitalism includes aspects of socialism. Socialism needs aspects of a free economy in order to thrive. Economic systems like Communism failed because they lacked any sense of balance. This is why reform movements in communist countries include access to the free market.

On the surface, capitalism seems better equipped to handle the momentum of modern society. Unfortunately, and history bears this out, the disparity it creates sometimes leads to revolt by the lower classes. While such a revolt seems unlikely in the United States, the popularity of Bernie Sanders is no accident, but the result of growing unrest. It would be nice if both extremes could sit down and discuss reasonable possibilities without flying into hostile resistance.

With all this in mind, I believe that programs like Social Security are vitally important to the well-being of this nation. So is a free market economy that does not allow itself to be entirely regulated by greed. Accommodations for both need to be sustained while carefully avoiding their excesses






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