Socialism

There seems to be a lot of talk about socialism since the election of Barack Obama. Before there can be an intelligent debate about that, it’s important to know what socialism is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, socialism is [1]:

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

In the context of contemporary discussion, I think it’s safe to infer that “good” means “goods and services”.  So first, we should ask if there are any elements of socialism in our governmental policies that predate the Obama Administration.

Law enforcement is controlled by the government.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  People could hire private guards – and some do.  Communities could pool their money and hire a private security firm.  Fire departments in most urban areas are controlled by the government.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  In many rural areas, the fire department is a volunteer force, although typically the equipment is funded by the government.

Our military services are controlled by the government.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  The Bush Administration used private firms – most notably Blackwater – to handle some of the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Based on that experience, I think there is a consensus that a socialized military is the best military.

On the other hand, the banking industry in this country is a free market enterprise. There are considerable banking regulations, but private industry is free to compete and profit within those regulatory confines.  There was some talk of the nationalization of the banking industry as a response to the financial crisis that gripped the country during the end of the Bush Administration.  If the Obama Administration was serious about marching toward socialism in America, that would have been an ideal time to do so.   Instead, the Obama Administration let stand the TARP process that was enacted during the Bush Administration.  On June 17, 2009, ten financial firms, including heavyweights J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group, repaid their TARP money [2].  It appears that under the Obama Administration, capitalism is still alive.

Also as a result of the financial crisis that occurred at the end of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration infused capital into General Motors to avoid their imminent collapse into bankruptcy.  Does that action rise to the definition of socialism? Although us taxpayers own a 60% stake in GM, President Obama stated that the government would not be running the failed corporation [3].  If socialism is defined as governmental ownership and administration, this is clearly not socialism.  Personally, I think if my tax dollars are used to buy 60% of a corporation, I would like for the government to assert themselves on behalf of us shareholders, but that’s not happening.  It appears that under the Obama Administration, capitalism is still alive.

The issue of health care reform is the political topic of the day.  The plan being advocated by the Obama Administration is that the government acts as an insurer of health care.  It would be available as an option to private health insurance.  Those in the medical profession – doctors, hospitals, nurses, etc. – would remain employees of private industry.  The government would not be in the business of ownership and administration of the production of heath care services.  Whether or not you agree that it is good policy, it is not socialized medicine.  It appears that under the Obama Administration, capitalism is still alive.

In fact, there is no policy enacted or discussed by the Obama Administration that rises to the definition of socialism.  Dictionaries are readily available.   Those who use the term “socialism” to describe these policies are willfully and shamelessly ignorant.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Socialism

[2] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124524619467123215.html

[3] http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/02/business/fi-gm-reax2

[4] http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/health_care/

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One Response to “Socialism”

  1. Thor Says:

    What a load of codswallop amigo. Your comparing services/goods (Gov regulated) used by me to manage myself to managing me (Gov run)against the goods/services. Big difference boyo.

    I’ve experienced both and prefer the former. You would too.

    I’m thirsty.

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