Big, bad boogeyman of socialism
November 13, 2018
"The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities," Abraham Lincoln, 1854.
Socialism: government ownership and distribution of goods and services to consumers.
Capitalism: private ownership and distribution of goods and services to consumers, for profit.
During the recent election, Republicans ran ads warning of the horrors of socialism. They predicted grimly that if Democrats won, we would become Venezuela, sinking into poverty and anarchy, with open borders and government-run health care. Now that Democrats have won the House of Representatives and most of the top offices in Nevada, what can we expect? Will these predictions come true?
For 16 of the last almost 26 years, we had Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Under Clinton, we achieved a balanced budget with a budget surplus. Obama deported undocumented immigrants at a faster rate than any other president, including Donald Trump. Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, providing health insurance for tens of millions of people. Under Democratic leaders, crime rates dropped and the economy prospered. That's good.
So what evils of socialism are Republicans so afraid Democrats will impose? Here are some examples of socialism in America, meaning government providing services for people in a better way than they can provide for themselves, as Lincoln said.
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Our military is the largest socialist organization in our country. The military is run by the government, which provides taxpayer-paid income, housing, healthcare, education and more for its members. The Veterans' Administration continues these socialist programs.
Other examples of socialism in our daily lives include Social Security; Medicare; unemployment insurance; city, county, state and national parks; public libraries; public schools; law enforcement; road departments; health protection services and much more. What would our lives be like without these programs and services?
A recent newsletter from the city of Fallon demonstrates this perfectly: "The city of Fallon is unique in that it is one of the few communities in the country where the citizens of the city collectively own the systems that provide them with electricity, water and sewer services. The advantages of such a system are wide-ranging and are worth highlighting."
The newsletter reports that because our utility systems are community-owned, revenues stay here to help us. There are no private owners or shareholders taking our money. Plus, we have more control over how our utilities are managed. I think that's great.
When I go into a grocery store or hardware store or restaurant, I know the business is owned privately and my patronage goes to support the owners. They make a profit off of me and that's fine. When I go into a governmental agency, I know that entity is owned by me and everyone else who lives here. The agency isn't there to make a profit off of me; it's there to serve my needs. Capitalism and socialism working together.
One reason people get scared by socialism is they are mixing up an economic system with a governmental system. There are basically two types of governments – democracies and dictatorships – with many variations of each. Most countries today, even dictatorships, practice a mixture of capitalism and socialism. The balance varies, but few countries are totally one or the other.
Soviet-style communism, as practiced in North Korea, is dictatorship combined with socialism. Fascism, such as Mussolini and Hitler practiced, is dictatorship combined with capitalism. Socialism and capitalism can be good or bad, depending on the governmental structure within which they are used.
In 1989, the 18th Congress of the Socialist International adopted a new Declaration of Principles, saying:
"Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice, and solidarity. Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents, and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society."
Aren't these principles we should all embrace?
The scare tactics against socialism are almost cartoonish. They employ dark pictures and scary music, totally ignoring all of the countries which are socialist democracies, free and prosperous. Fear may be an effective campaign tactic, but it's no way to run a state or country.
Before you panic at the thought of creeping socialism, try checking out the facts. The truth will set you free.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.