When I look at the political landscape today I can’t help but be depressed. Both Right and Left are confused and the commentators have lost control of the language to the point the public now relies on the internet where everything goes and you can choose to be indoctrinated by whatever you want and never hear opposing views. Even the owners of the internet platforms have lost control – the beast has been let loose and stopping it will be impossible in any “free society”. The most misused word in the political world today is “socialism”. Good to some, evil to others. “Capitalism” comes a good second and the reality is that BOTH in their extreme forms do not work.
The best way to understand the idea of socialism is to look at how Insurance works. Insurance is actually pure socialism in that all the clients pay in money and only the ones that need it take money out. Add capitalism into the mix and the deal becomes everyone pays in and only the ones that need take out AND the money paid in exceeds the expected pay out so the Insurance company pockets the difference as profit. Capitalism is based on the market – ie the “people” deciding what they want and are willing to pay and the market supplies those wants.
The problem is that we have learned that all people are not equal nor are they all moral so the temptation to exaggerate the benefits of a product or service so as to gain more clients can easily overshadow ones desire to be honest. Also the weak can loose to the strong so Capitalism left free of encumbrance soon turns to monopolism which by definition means the market no longer drives supply and demand so it is no longer capitalism. To correct this weakness in capitalism regulation has been used. Truth in advertising, truth in labeling, anti trust laws, building codes, safety laws etc etc have entered the equation to prevent capitalism from destroying itself.
The right – left argument has come to focus on how much regulation is needed or desired. Prevent greed from getting out of hand while still maintaining personal incentive. Socialism in the extreme becomes Communism which is based on the idea that no one owns anything specifically but everything generally. In small terms the kubutz is the best example. Problem is this extreme idea never solved the idea of personal incentive so it failed. However, socialism is not a fixed concept any more than capitalism is. It goes from light gray to black – black is communism which is NOT the current meaning of socialism as much as Sean Hannity wants to describe it. So the best societies have combined elements of socialism and capitalism to meet somewhere in the middle and the left/right argument becomes as simple as how much is left to the individual and how much the government should be responsible for.
Sean Hannity argued on Fox the other day that socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried but then listed only communist countries. Communism and Socialism are NOT automatically the same thing. Actually, the most successful societies such as Norway, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Singapore. Australia, New Zeeland etc are more on the left (ie more socialist) than societies more in the right like the USA. The USA also has socialist elements such as Social Security and quite a few laws and programs that would fit a socialist political model. The flies in the ointment in all political formulas are racism, nationalism and religion – or simply tribalism. These flies have perverted both left and right.
The Republicans were originally small government, more individualistic, low debt, separation of church and state and generally “smart” realistic views of the world. Immigration was not originally part of the thinking. Religion is now a big player in the party, the debt issue has been forgotten and things like global warming and other “smart” thinking is shunned. Immigration (racism) has become part of the party platform. Meanwhile the Democrats have not escaped stupid ideas either. The Black Lives Matter movement identified a social injustice then pushed the idea to the brink of stupidity with ideas like “defund the police”. Anti-racism comes across as wanting no restrictions to immigration. National Health care comes across as anti capitalistic.
The truth is that the end result is that the average person is not sure exactly what the Democrats stand for. That makes it easy for the right wing to label them negatively. Trump does this every day tweet after tweet, speech after speech which both right and left leaning media broadcast. The truth is, tell a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as true. Of course there is another word misused: “liberal”. Very strange in a country like the USA which is defined as a “liberal democracy”. The Constitution is liberal. The Bill of Rights is liberal. Yet listening to places like Fox one would think “liberal” is something bad. In the end I come down to this. The left right argument will go back and forth and both have good and bad points so we will probably never all agree on what is best.
Personally I don’t see health care as a good area for capitalism to operate and government would be a better place – not perfect by any means but still more cost effective and better over all for the most people. Europe and many other countries make that plain to see. Meanwhile the biggest problem is the widening gap between the general public – two tribes talking past each other and no longer one people as one hoped the US would become. The internet/ media is a culprit and a big part of why this is happening. But it is also the leadership who can manipulate the media either purposely or inadvertently. I don’t know if Trump is actually an autocrat but what is obvious is that he has added to the problem by fanning the flames that were already there.
We can deal with a small fire, but he has made it a big one and for that reason alone Trump is a danger to the very idea of the United States. His fans choose to not want to recognize this. In the end they will come to realize the danger and what it leads to. The fear is that it will be too late.