Fri, Feb. 28

Letter: Social programs and socialism are not one and the same


In the latest round of our debate on socialism, my opponent cited several examples of successful socialist states. However, he also averred that socialism and capitalism can co-exist, ergo socialist capitalism.

Yes, that is an actual phrase in the lexicon of our language. It also is an oxymoron, echoing the observation of former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for implicit in that phrase is socialism’s dependency on other people’s money.

But we need to take a step back and look at the dictionary definition of socialism. Merriam-Webster states:

“1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

“2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property

“b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

“3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.”

For too many people, it seems, social programs equal socialism. Yet those words are not synonymous. All of the examples mentioned in Mr. Stack’s letter itemize a variety of social programs, but social programs do not socialism make. There’s a huge and important difference.

The United States of America has a plethora of social programs. But does that make us a socialist capitalist society or, for another oxymoron, a democratic socialist state? Not at all. In fact, of the examples Mr. Stack cited, not a single one is evidence of successful socialism. Social programs? Yes. But socialism per the above definition? Nope.

Social programs and capitalism indeed can co-exist. In fact, without capitalism, there could be no social programs, because again you eventually run out of other people’s money. The list of countries that tried to practice pure socialism and then failed is a long one, the most recent entry being Venezuela.

Those that have survived have had to embrace the tenets of capitalism in order to be able to fund their social programs. And let me once more emphasize that “social programs” is not synonymous with “socialism.”

The rhetoric coming from Bernie Sanders et al. calls for free college education, free housing, free health care, guaranteed monthly income, and more. It’s as if he and his cohorts think money is like peaches.

We only need to commandeer the orchard and then pluck the fruit to our heart’s content. Well, news flash, Bernie. It ain’t that simple or easy. Peach trees need to be watered and fed, and they need to be guarded against infestation, birds, and other potential assaults to their fruit and, for that matter, their existence.

Socialism focuses only on the peaches. Capitalism focuses on the trees and the water and the care and the maintenance to assure a good crop. Socialism – and I mean socialism as espoused by Marx, Engels, and others – plucks the peach trees bare, while capitalism makes sure there are peaches to be plucked not only this year but in years to come.

Modern-day nations that have succeeded with quasi-socialistic policies have one thing in common: capitalism. It’s capitalism that provides the capital to fund their social programs...and let me repeat again, “social programs” is not the same as “socialism.” Throughout history, the more Marxist socialist a country has become, the more said nation has collapsed.

Don’t take my word for it. You can look it up.

The overriding point here is that pure socialism just plain doesn’t work. It can’t, and it never can. Social programs? That’s something else, and yes, I have said many times that it is the duty and responsibility of a capitalist society to help the have-nots.

But that help should come more from the private sector than from governmental mandates and concomitant governmental control...and that help should carry the caveat of requiring the recipients to be workforce productive, not just sit around and collect governmental largess while they watch Oprah and down Oreos, Doritos, and Bud Lite.

But I diverge.

Can capitalism and socialism co-exist? No, they can’t. That is, no, socialism (and please re-read the actual definition) cannot function without the financial support of capitalism. Socialism needs other people’s money, and that money can only come from capitalism. Capitalism = productivity and innovation; socialism = homogeneity regardless of individual effort.

So yet again, let us be clear that “social programs” is not synonymous with “socialism.”

In closing, then, I’d like to pose a scenario for Mr. Stack:

You work a 9-to-5 Mon.-Fri., you gross $1,000/wk., and likewise for your neighbor and co-worker Mr. Jones. You bust your butt to do the best job you can, while Mr. Jones is a sluggard.

Along comes the time for your annual review and that of Mr. Jones.

In a capitalist society, you’re a candidate for a bump in pay, a promotion, a bonus, and/or other rewards. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, is put on probation, demoted, or maybe even fired.

In a socialist economy, though, you and Mr. Jones get the same treatment. If you get a raise, he does, too.

That you worked hard and he didn’t is immaterial. All pigs are equal, eh?

Which world do you want for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren?

Michael Westlund


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