Hamilton: The Socialist impulse: Could it work here?
We hear a lot about Socialism these days. Apparently, Socialism is taking over the Left wing of the Democratic Party with Vermont’s U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and New York congressional wannabe, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as the party’s leading Socialist spokespersons.
But what is Socialism? The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Socialism as follows:
“Socialism is a closely intertwined set of liberating ideas and social movements that emerged in the aftermath of the French Revolution. No single definition encompasses the many socialist variants that took root in Europe and America, but socialism enfolds certain key ideas. As products of the Enlightenment, socialists believe in the power of rational thought, in the malleability of economic institutions and social mores, and in a humanistic solidarity that transcends the nation-state. In such a socialist world, the major instruments of production, distribution, and exchange are owned and administered for the welfare of all. Socialism entails the common ownership of the means of production, either through the state or some other mechanism of collective rule, and it seeks a broad and equitable distribution of the wealth generated by capital, especially in so far as early-nineteenth-century industrialism demonstrated a capacity to generate both great wealth and extreme social inequality.”
But Sir Winston Churchill, arguably the greatest statesman of the 20th Century, compared Capitalism and Socialism as follows: “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
Has Socialism ever been tried in America? Yes, a handful of Socialist communes appeared in the 19th Century. In some, “free love” was the main attraction. But, in most of them, freedom of artistic expression was the major motivation. But, as economic models, all of them failed. Just as Socialism has failed in all the countries of the third-world. Almost always giving way to fascist dictators, presiding over a desperately poor population. Venezuela being a recent example.
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That unfortunate history in Africa, Asia, and South America aside, there are places where this author has seen first-hand examples of Socialism working fairly well. In the early 1960s, military assignments put me in the Netherlands and Denmark on many occasions. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I was spending time in Norway and Sweden.
Apparently, where you find populations that are racially, ethnically similar, e.g. largely blond and blue-eyed, and possessed by a work ethic borne of centuries of the struggle to survive in very cold climates, the Socialist impulse can take root and achieve a society in which every need, from womb-to-tomb, is provided by the state.
But that social cocoon comes at an enormous cost in the form of taxation rates that approach almost 100 percent of individual and corporate earnings. In 1971, there was a special deal for U.S. forces serving with NATO. I went to Oslo to pick up a duty-free, brand-new VW Superbug for only $1,972.00 U.S. Dollars. My Norwegian host told me the same VW would cost him almost $10,000. Almost 90 percent of that in taxes.
Could a Socialist welfare state work in America? Or, would those seeking a “free” ride at the expense of others sabotage the dream of a Socialist Utopia? We report. You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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