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In a comment I was asked to address the following blog entry: Socialism has died
Let me just start by laying out where I stand on the issue of socialism and communism. Communism is easiest. First we need to seperate ourselves from the propaghanda on communism spouted by the US, and the West, during the last few decades. The fact that during the “Cold War” Russia happened to use communism as it’s economic system is irrelevant (to the Cold War). It was a dictatorship. It wanted to expand control throughout the world. Many capitalist countries have done the same thing, and are still doing it, so we can ignore this “correlation.” My only point here is that during the Cold War the enemy of the US was Russia, whereas the US spun this as a global “war on communism.” (sound familiar?) Russia was expanding it’s influence by spreading it’s governmental and economic systems to other countries, through which it could extert more control. (Again, does this not sound familiar to the spread of “democracy and capitalism?” This is a topic for another time, though.)
Do I think communism is a workable economic system? I don’t really know. No one on the planet has truly tried communism, so no one can comment definitively on how effective it is. Russia was only pseudo-communist. They still had a rich class and a poor class, which is a pretty fundamental blow to the system. They spent incredible sums on their military, eclipsed only by the US, which takes money away from much more useful purposes. Cuba seems to be doing OK, considering they’re under the heaviest embargo/sanctions of our time. Their GDP has been growing at about 1-2% per year, which pales in comparison to the US, but at least it’s growing. I’ve been there personally and seen how it works, so I hope no one starts spouting unconfirmed data here. Now, there’s also the fact that they have a dictator, which again I propose is a seperate issue. No one has ever proven to me that communism and dictatorships are required to coexist. Actually, if you know the history of Cuba, Castros government did not initially want a communist economic system. It evolved in that direction over time, partially in response to outside factors.
Now, is Cuba a model for the rest of the world? No. It is, however, an interesting data point and perhaps could evolve into something better. I also don’t think the current ideal hoped for by most capitalist idealogues, where everyone fends for themselves, is the right solution either.
Socialism is a bit more of a complex subject. Having grown up in Canada I am used to a capitalist economy and a government with slightly socialist tendencies (I’d say about halfway between the US and parts of Europe.) From my own personal experiences, since I now live in the US, I really have to say that I now much prefer the Canadian system to that here. I think all Canadians should have to live in the US for a year – then everyone would stop bitching about their own system. Especially health care. I fully agree that if you’re rich you’ll get better health care here in the US. However, I have a good paying job and my impression of health care here is completely negative. I have had almost no good experiences so far. Someone will probably say “maybe your benefits suck” and that may be true but I’m very confident they are better than the AVERAGE American, therefore I would conclude that the AVERAGE Canadian has better health care.
For the time being I think that capitalist economies coupled with socialist-leaning governments are the best solution. They provide the incentives that humans seem to currently seem to require, plus being a more fair than all-out free-for-all capitalism. It comes down to selfishness but I just don’t understand why some people are so against ensuring that everyone has an equal share of some of the basics of humanity. We live in the 21st century and the richest country in the world has the policy of “The rich get good health care and the poor get none.” It obviously works out well for the rich people. I just can’t fundamentally understand why people are so selfish. It’s just not a part of my being. And the ones who are of this ideology and also Christians are even stranger. The Bible says “Love thy neighbour …” not “Love thy neighbour in your gated community but not the people on the other side of town. Ensure your immediate family has good health care and education but work to ensure your money doesn’t benefit others.” Christianity seems to have lots of good ideas, it’s just that no ones actually follows them.
Now specifically I’d like to comment on the contents of the target blog entry. In summary, I’d suggest whoever the writer was take a class in elementary logic plus something on factual research. Let’s take a look at some of the points:
- “Every place that adopted capitalism as its economic model at the end of WW2 has done rather well. Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea to name just a few.” Hmmm. Japan has drastically lower (0.2%) economic growth than the 3 countries he cites below as being on the verge of economic collapse. Guess he should have checked that.
- He cites some figures for declining household income in Cuba. I’m inclined not to believe it since he doesn’t mention where it comes from, from what time period, and I can find plenty of data showing their economy is growing.
- Talking about France, Germany, and Sweden: “What is happening in those countries? All are on the verge of a continuous negative economic slide.” Hmmm. Both Sweden and France have above average economic growth for the top 30 industrialized countries. Unless he’s psychic, I wonder how he knows they’re on the verge of “economic collapse.”
- “So communism is dead and socialism is dying. What does this mean for America? It means the left in America as we know it is dying. The first glimpse of that was in the 2002 national election. The first post 9/11 national election. The Democrats lost ground.” This guy should have taken a logic class. This is a perfect example of the Post Hoc (coincidental correlation) logical fallacy. We’re supposed to follow that because the democrats lost ground in one election that the “left” in America is dying, furthermore because socialism in general is dying? Those are two big leaps that don’t stand up to any kind of logical analysis. When Bush loses the election in a few days I’m going to post a story called “Capitalism and conservatism in America are dead” and forward it to this guy.
- “Baring some major catastrophe between now and 2004, I expect a Republican landslide.” He’s sure wrong here (it ain’t going to be a landslide either way) but I can’t fault him for hoping.
- “This is a HUGE shift in politics. It is plainly visible to any one who wishes to take notice but will not become obvious until after the next election.” I’ve lost all confidence in what he thinks is “obvious” but we’ll wait and see.
Not withstanding that this guy doesn’t know how to produce a valid argument, I personally do tend to hope for the same outcome that he’s looking for in the sense that I’d like to see 3 parties in the US. I think there should be a liberal one, a fiscally conservative – more libertarian leaning – one, and a very conservative religious party. The problem for the left right now is that the Republicans appeal to 2 very big segments, the religious and the conservatives. Those are often not the same thing. I’d say that much more than 50% of the population has “liberal” tendencies on most issues, but they’ll vote on just one issue, which the Republicans have a 2 out of 3 chance of hitting. Having said that, though, I do feel good knowing the democrats still get 50% of the vote. This makes me think that at least 50% of the population thinks (intelligently) before they vote (meaning not just on one issue.)
The “religious right” has taken over the Republican party for now, though, so I still think it’s funny that people who claim to be “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” still vote for them. If they actually looked at what the Republicans are doing it’s the exact opposite. We already hear lots of rumours about the fracturing of the Republican party, so maybe it’ll come true within the next decade.
Now onto the topic of the economic situations of a lot of “socialist-leaning” governments around the world. It is definitely true that most have higher taxes than the US. Almost every country is facing a crisis of it’s “Social Security”-type programs, which a lot of people claim will be the “downfall of socialism.” You know what? Social Security is only one part of typical socialist ideals. Will most of the countries face budget crunches as the average age increases? Of course, and they’ll adjust. Their countries will probably have less social benefits than they have in the past, and I would imagine that over the next 10, 50, and 100 years they will adjust as necessary. But the US is going to need to adjust as well. If a candidate got elected that promised to slash social spending and gut government programs, things might seem fine for a while. Then enough people would realize they got screwed and their kids aren’t getting educated well enough and another period of adjustment would occur. This is how systems of government and economics evolve and grow over time. They don’t just die overnight like the writer of that article seems to think.