The Boogeyman: Socialism in America
The American dream makes me laugh and not in solidarity, or in joy of the thought of what it means, but rather it’s a jeer. I scoff at the idea of what that phrase even means. The land of opportunity, as America so affectionately calls herself, couldn’t be farther from the truth for so many citizens today.
It’s easy to believe that America is a land of equality and opportunity for all. America is a melting pot of different cultures from all around the world. This country is home to some of the wealthiest individuals in the world, and I mean, who doesn’t want to be filthy rich? Luxurious cars, homes, etc. All the material goods(and general financial safety) that comes with wealth is enticing to any average American.
What does Capitalism mean (to the U.S)?
Capitalism, according to a quote from Ronald Wright, makes the working class feel like embarrassed millionaires. You are only working that job until you get your big “break,” or through a mixture of hard work and luck. All the while, those same business owners are getting richer and richer on the hard labor of the working class while exploiting the workers in the process. Stopping workers from unionizing and underpaying workers are just two of the many methods that are commonplace in capitalist workplaces.
Trusting the free market and the private sector to drive the economy and society as a whole is key in capitalism. The flow of supply and demand is determined by these private businesses, with some to no regulation by the government at all. In the United States, we do have some regulation on business. Companies can’t have monopolies(although companies find ways to dominate certain industries). Point is, there are restrictions placed on certain industries, whether that’s to protect that industry from abuses by companies or perhaps to preserve things such as the environment(in the case of the energy and oil industries).
Trusting prosperity in the hands of the private sector is key in capitalism. A Washington Post article in 2019 describes capitalism, stating that it “creates prosperity. By channeling energies into production and innovation, it has enabled billions of ordinary people to live better than the royalty of old.”
The welfare of the citizens are also left to the private sector in this country. The pharmaceutical industry in the United States is a billion dollar industry. Yet, these companies do not believe in the welfare of the citizens. Their interest is just like any company in this economy: profit. It is profit motives that make a medicine like insulin, which is just around $30 per vial for all Canadians, $300 for Americans.
The cover around the eyes of many Americans to the foils of capitalism is not to be blamed on the citizens. How can you not be fooled into thinking capitalism is for you, when you have access to the latest technology and consumer goods.
It took a virus and social awakening for the thinly veiled cover to be ripped off, exposing ugly truths that have to be answered.
The gifts are bestowed upon U.S...
A pandemic is a catastrophic event that is extremely hard to prepare for. Actually, you could go as far as to say it is impossible. You don’t get a warning on when it will happen, and even if there have been other pandemics in the past, each virus has different characteristics that make it harder to follow a precedent. With that being said however, there have been countries that have handled the virus relatively well.
Then there is the United States. Oh yes. With our chests out and head held high, we are the country with the most COVID-19 cases and the most COVID-19 related deaths in the WORLD.
The economic downfall from this pandemic will be felt by many countries. This cannot be overlooked. When you essentially shut down a country for months, you cannot expect to open up and have everything go back to the level of normalcy you once had. It may take years for small businesses and the economy at large to recover. In fact, experts at Morgan Stanley, an investment firm, predict that the U.S.GDP may not reach pre pandemic levels until the end of 2021.
Countries around the world understand that. Spain, one of the first countries to be severely ravaged by the novel Coronavirus, pledged billions to protecting workers and other vulnerable groups in the country, and also implanting over 600 million euros into social services for their citizens. Nations took steps to ensure the safety of their citizens, while also allocating money to help boost the economy when the time came to reopen.
While these countries are not outright socialist, welfare programs for citizens are aligned with Socialist ideology.
A counterclaim to what I am saying is, “Well...The United States had a stimulus package too! Also, we have the most testing in the world and the stock market is doing great! Unemployed people are getting paid more than some essential service workers, for crying out loud!”
The one time payment stimulus package? You mean that one? I did not know $1,200+ was supposed to hold a family over for more than two months. Payroll tax is being done away with for the time being, which can have severe consequences for Medicare and Social security, two programs that receive a good portion of funding from that tax. In fact, the chief actuary of the Social Security administration stated that the fund would be empty by 2023 if this administration were to go through with that promise. The government, specifically the federal reserve, is pumping money into the stock markets like crazy just to keep them afloat(although, they have been doing well in recent weeks). Remember, while markets are a good indication to whether an economy is strong or not, the stock market can be inflated to try to reverse an impending recession. Just look back to the 2008 financial crisis for reference. The disparity of income between those on unemployment and some workers who are considered essential is absurd, but that is because the unemployment system in this country has been struggling long before the pandemic.
Socialism v Capitalism
Socialism is seen as a direct contrast to Capitalism. At opposite sides of the spectrum, socialism has been given a negative connotation in this country.
Yes, there have been countries that consider themselves “communist” or “socialist” that have definitely violated human rights and other abuses. Socialist/communist countries have had trouble gaining economic success as well. One failure that comes to mind is The Great Leap Forward, which was Mao Zedong’s plan to reinvigorate China’s agrarian economy into a communist one.
Socialism’s track record isn’t the greatest, yet do not be fooled into thinking that capitalism isn’t on a higher moral ground morally. Capitalism exploits wage workers, stifles freedoms and is genuinely more inefficient than people are keen to realize.
Stanford’s encyclopedia of Philosophy explains socialism and how it differs from capitalism.
Some features of capitalism include:
The bulk of the means of production is privately owned and controlled.
People legally own their labor power. (Here capitalism differs from slavery and feudalism, under which systems some individuals are entitled to control, whether completely or partially, the labor power of others).
Markets are the main mechanism allocating inputs and outputs of production and determining how societies’ productive surplus is used, including whether and how it is consumed or invested.
With socialism, the bulk of the means of production is under social, democratic control. The people, the working class, control it, not the private sector. Socialists believe that workers should control their labor power, but many “do not affirm the kind of absolute, libertarian property rights in labor power that would, e.g., prevent taxation or other forms of mandatory contribution to cater for the basic needs of others (G.A. Cohen 1995).”
Concerning the markets, there are two main schools of thought within socialism:
Participatory planning- The means of production are socially owned. Production would take place in firms owned by the workers themselves. Job “complexes” are encouraged to give the worker freedom to engage in intellectual and manual labor. Payment for workers would not be based on relative power and output, but rather on effort, sacrifice and special needs. Economic coordination is based on “comprehensive participatory planning.” This would include a system of consumer councils, workers councils and a facilitation board, with multiple rounds of deliberation moderated by the board.
Market socialism- This is seen as a compromise between a market economy and socialism. Enterprises are public, while production is based on the markets. There are different models of market socialism, such as the Carensian model, which takes a lot from capitalism, barring from government intervention in certain instances(public healthcare system for example) and a similar tax rate to everyone working full time.
In terms of social effects, a socialist society seeks to address and heal the cries of injustice and inequality that capitalism inevitably brings, through a sort of radical unity of the working class, or the proletariat class.
The social unrest our country is seeing at this moment is unparalleled to anything ever experienced. Police brutality against black and brown communities are being magnified to levels never seen before, really shedding a light on the racial tensions that have existed in this country since its existence. Over 15 million Americans are out of work as this is being written. Even more Americans do not have healthcare in the midst of a pandemic, and the administration in charge is just adding on to decades of damage already done.
Will Socialism immediately fix every single ail that plagues this country? I do not think so.
There are some criticisms of socialism that are valid, such as potential decrease of innovation and the potential for transition to an authoritarian regime. It is important to know that not all systems are perfect and there may be flaws within the system that need to be addressed.
Despite that, late stage capitalism also has the potential to evolve into another system: fascism. Late stage capitalism, which is what the United States is in, is nearing an inevitable implosion. The majority of wealth being concentrated to a very select few, imperialism, and exploitation of workers are always present in capitalist societies.
A system that will look to liberate all of the working class and ensure a sense of equality and financial safety to all is not a system that should be shamed and sneered at.