Socialism is hotly debated in current political battles, and that’s likely to continue in the months ahead. Perhaps one reason the issue is so contentious in the United States is because people don’t agree on just exactly what socialism means.
In a simplified form, it can be argued that there are two kinds of socialism among today’s nations: modified and pure. Modified socialism is an economic system in which government either owns or controls the production and distribution of a nation’s goods and services. Pure socialism eliminates “controls.” Ownership is outright.
Cuba probably is as close to “pure” as any nation today. Venezuela has moved from capitalism to almost pure socialism in the past 20 years. In 1978 China, once pure, began a move toward a modified version … a movement that continues today.
The consequences for nations that opt for socialism over capitalism are clear. Cuba is a basket case, both in terms of its economy and human rights. Venezuela’s economy, once prosperous, is in total disarray and its citizens are ruled by the military. China has adopted many capitalistic structures … and as a result is experiencing a growing economy and an emerging middle class.
These days most Western nations, such as the United States, are capitalistic. This includes Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden — nations that have extensive governmental programs offering wide benefits, but with economic structures that embrace capitalism, not socialism.
From these and other examples, the lesson should be obvious. The more socialism is favored over capitalism, the less prosperity and freedom. So it shouldn’t be surprising when people wonder how anyone can favor socialism for the United States.
Perhaps socialism’s appeal stems from the fact that too many Americans just haven’t taken the time to carefully study conditions that exist elsewhere in the world and the pernicious effects of socialism through the decades. Like people everywhere, we focus most on our own lives and today’s immediate concerns. The farther we get from our own communities, the less we pay attention to what is going on elsewhere.
Despite our nation’s successes, we have plenty of unresolved problems. Addressing them, we would be better served if the colossal failures of socialism were more understood. Credible and effective solutions for today’s problems must be sought, but unrealistic and divisive debates about socialism won’t lead to them.
Socialism, like Utopia, is an empty promise.