Monday, August 22, 2011

The Dynamic Tension between Capitalism and Socialism

I am equally as suspicious of socialism as I am of capitalism. But, I see no solid evidence that socialism is any less destructive then capitalism or more beneficial. The states that have the most success with socialist type experimentation seem to be democratic style governments that exist in a state of dynamic tension between capitalist interests and socialism. Proponents of either economic theory (theories, really) accuse the opposite camps of relying on outdated and discredited ideas. It seems to me that both Socialists and Capitalists are guilty of such behavior.


Buy success I should clarify that I am speaking of Western Europe, where the populations are smaller and more stable then they are throughout the rest of the world. China is the last great bastion of Marxism of any great significance and they have taken to experimenting with free enterprise, the most basic tool of capitalism. Ideologically they are seeking to beat the western world at its own game, but the reality is that pure socialism simply does not provide the necessary economic stability needed to ensure a nation’s long term viability. Sadly, China seems to have not learned much from the west’s failures with capitalism. They understand capitalism’s advantages, but they are seeking to prevent the wrong failures. Countries such as Cuba are basically failed states.

I currently believe that the answers we seek to stabilizing our economic future is to be found in exploring the dynamic tension between capitalism and socialism rather than in the fierce polemical debate that seeks to eliminate one over the other. Conservatives in America in their ignorance and unwillingness challenge those on the left by stating “socialism hasn’t worked anywhere.” American socialists point to countries such as Norway (that is enviable in both economics and lifestyle, although Oslo made Forbes list as the 2nd most expensive city to live in throughout the world) without seeing some of the challenges it faces as well.

Such a blanket statement is hardly true. I would agree that pure socialism doesn’t appear to have worked, at least as far as my current knowledge to date indicates. But, that doesn’t mean it is completely unviable as a working theory. Secondly, American conservatives seem to be confused as to a definition of what socialism really is. They point to Germany (of all countries) and rant about socialized medicine. Germany doesn’t have socialized medicine. It’s a complex hybrid of for profit insurance and single payer. Canada also doesn’t have socialized medicine. It is largely single payer. Neither system is perfect. Both systems have issues of sustainability and affordability. But, then so does the United States, which is 100% free market, for profit.

Fear of socialism in America has been rampant since FDR unveiled the New Deal Programs. It seems that post modern conservatives are still stuck in the cold war where our ideologies clashed with the Soviet Union. They are still operating on such old definitions. They have not seen that the West won the cold war. The epitome of Marxism collapsed in the late 1980’s and in the years that followed Western Europe has curtailed socialist policies in favor of mixing them with capitalism to ensure a more vibrant economic life. Yes, some places that has worked better than others.

Capitalism and Socialism do not need to be mutually exclusive except in the erudite world of academics and the polemicists who defend their favored horse. I for one love free enterprise. But, I also respect the idea of single payer health insurance. The problem is the terms we use. We need a new working theory. A theory that takes the best of both and seeks to eliminate the failures and find a way of compromising on those aspects which would clash and prevent any new theory from working properly, after all you can’t have a football game when both teams are playing by separate sets of rules. That would be chaos.

We need to stop thinking in terms of capitalism and socialism. How this will look I am not yet certain. But, if we don’t start moving toward the center our extreme polarization will prevent us from affecting the change we need. If we continue on our present course we will fail to reach consensus or even define the problems adequately before it is too late.

5 comments:

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