Americans have been thriving on small doses of socialism for a long time
November 3, 2008
To the Editor:
While I usually enjoy a rousing and energetic political conversation, the late arrival of the “s” word on the political scene has fatigued my normal good humor. The word I am addressing, is of course, socialism.
As an educator who has taught history ” and in particular a course addressing revolutions throughout history ” I must pause to ask if the average person truly understands what socialism means. Apparently, (from all the hype in the media recently) it is commonly perceived to be intimately tied to communism, the loss of personal freedom and the destruction of the American way.
True, some perceive and ” could even argue ” that socialism is one more step toward communism, toward becoming more (dare I say?) European. I find this viewpoint a bit alarmist and extreme. America is in no danger of becoming a communist state. Our country thrives on capitalism and I imagine it will continue to do so for some time.
I find it interesting that most opinions tend toward one extreme or the other. We must be either entirely capitalist or we are in “danger” of becoming a communist state. Yet it is possible to have “socialist” policies while still maintaining a thriving capitalistic society. Many countries in Europe are proving this possible. Indeed, America herself is proving that a blend of “socialist” policies and capitalistic/economic interests can co-exist.
Before the readers start spitting nails at such a statement, I would remind everyone how much we already benefit from this wonderful blend. Our public school system arises out of the taxation of our wages and income. I don’t believe there is a parent out there that would like to see this “socialist” institution removed. Our public libraries ” full of wonderful resources of which our community regularly takes advantage ” is likewise provided out of the common “sharing of wealth.” The amazing service coming from our men and women in uniform also functions as a type of socialism.
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(The military provides for the education, retirement, and health care of those in uniform: thank goodness!) Everyone who pays their taxes contributes to these institutions for the good of all.
Additionally, we all seek jobs that provide medical and dental, life insurance, training/education and retirement. We consider ourselves fortunate when we find jobs that provide for our well being. In a sense we seek employers that practice a type of “socialism.” Everyday we ask someone else in our society ” whether federal, state or local governments or our employers ” to help support, care for, and educate our families.
Ironically, those of us that despise the concept of socialism are reaping its benefits daily. But that’s the beauty of America: You can experience the benefits of society and government while at the same time raging against it.
The word socialism has at its heart the word “social” ” meaning that as a people, we are striving to think beyond our own individualism; attempting to expand our awareness beyond our own personal needs to consider the needs of the community.
In essence, socialist policies like those I’ve described above simply attempt to implement the highest good for all concerned. (The argument therefore shifts toward determining the highest good for all concerned: something not easily identified.)
I know we all enjoy the image/ideal of the “rugged individualist” ” particularly so in areas like Colorado where outdoor sports and hardy lifestyles abound. However, the truth is whether we want to admit it or not, we already have “socialist” practices in our country ” services that support and sustain us. Services, for which I am most grateful.
Really, what is so evil about wanting my neighbor to be well housed, well nourished and sustained? Many of the ethical/moral/religious tenets upon which so many in our society base their decisions, lifestyles, and opinions advocate care of the other.
I wonder why, then, socialism ” the idea of providing for everyone ” is such a dirty word?