I was told by a friend, who’s a Republican and attends meetings of the local Republican Party, that my name came up once and someone said, “He’s the biggest socialist in the Cedar Valley!” My reaction was to laugh because that is an affirmation of everything I’ve been writing in this blog regarding the misunderstanding of economic and political theories that primarily exists on that side of the aisle.
“Socialist” is, of course, that dirty word that is being used to warn good Americans that we are on a slippery slope toward government tyranny nothing short of complete oppression, i.e., “communism.” When I attempt to explain that communism and socialism require definitions to explain differences, I don’t seem to get very far. To be clear, however: I do not believe in “socialism” in terms of its extreme political-economic theory, but rather “social awareness and responsibility” and the “community” aspects inherent to our Republic.
It is not difficult to understand where the confusion lies but there is a difference. “Communism” is a classless political system in which all property and wealth is owned by all the members of that society. It fails on several levels; it denies the human motivation of competition and it is vulnerable to an oppressive and tyrannical government that is created from that absence. It is the realization of “Marxist socialism” but the defining and crucial difference is that communism requires a “classless political system.”
Socialism is a system of social organization that does not demand the absence of different class constructs (and profits), but advocates the vesting of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution (capital, land, etc.) to be in the community interest. That does not even mean equal, or non-competitive distribution, it simply means that the distribution is influenced by what is best for the community.
The function of government in a representative democracy (or republic), such as what we have, is to maintain a fair distribution of our resources to promote the common good; it has roots in a social concept.
We have a form of democracy where voters choose in free elections representatives to act in their interests, but not as their proxies, i.e., not necessarily as directed by the majority, but with enough authority to exercise initiatives in the face of inevitably changing circumstances. That was the directive of our Founding Fathers to provide for the “general welfare” of the people.
The argument here is that “socialism” by itself is not a dirty word when it’s understood, and that understanding is essential in establishing better government.
A related misunderstanding is in the type of financial structure we have in the United States. I often hear that “government regulations” hamper the “Free Market” where prices are determined by supply and demand and from which our capitalist economic system, favoring private ownership, is derived. It needs to be explained that nowhere in the history of economic theory is it said that capitalism is a perfect system.
The concept of a free market is predicated on the market receiving “perfect information” and that no company can be so large that it has enough power to set the market price; but that is an erroneous concept in real world, unregulated competition. The Great Depression proves that capitalism is not a flawless system and that, in fact, it has a cyclical vulnerability that can be catastrophic. That is why we have a “Mixed Market/Capitalist” economic system where there are regulations to control the drastic and potentially devastating swings.
“Mixed Market” is defined as an economy where there is some government intervention to manage those swings and to eliminate malfeasance and market manipulation. An example is the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission and while we can argue its effectiveness until the Day of Rapture comes, its failures are primarily a result of turning a blind eye to infractions (especially when under administrations promoting de-regulation). The SEC was established during the Great Depression to regulate the stock market and to prevent the corporate abuses that contributed to the collapse.
Let’s put the socialism rhetoric to rest. We are a Republic, founded on the principles of representative government that provides for the common welfare of its people; and in doing so offers the best realization of personal freedoms, while not infringing upon the rights of others, that a civilized society can provide.
Our prosperity is secured when the same principles apply to our financial system; a modified free market where judicial fairness is mandated and enforced by that representative power.