On one of his forums, a Pakistani friend quoted a socialist screed as a strawman. I took a whack at it.
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American capitalism, at least, is a melange of public-private compacts and mixed individual incentive and social programs. Our military is a socialist program — if you’re in, you get medical and dental services, base exchange pricing, base housing, housing allowance, etc. for the term of service, butyou may be stuck where Uncle Sam’s machinery places you — defending massive public works, Federal campuses, bridges, roads, dams, forests, wilderness, parks, and so on, that provide employment in big numbers that then serve other development, business, and community (and human) needs. The American tax system supports Medicare and Social Security, services to military veterans in retirement; also public education, college and university research (not to mention student loans). The entire “Capitalist Evil” (!) is a complex of basic public services, public investment spread throughout the constituency, public infrastructure programs supporting private development, and then plenty — PLENTY — of “degrees of freedom” for people to enjoy their lives and — blessed, gifted, or lucky — do great things.
The system supports many ways of life, but it does not manage either the lives of all the humans within it, nor does it secure them. For too many unemployed, under-employed, deeply exploited in their employment, or just marginal as persons, we have our human flood. Nonetheless, in light of public and private resources, between government departments and private charities, everyone gets some attention, and I think it actually takes effort to avoid “food banks”, “clothing banks”, “shelters”, “rehab” programs, “jobs programs”, and all the rest.
It’s true a few of our bankers and boardroom people could have been — and could be — better behaved (“The problem with capitalism is the capitalists”) but our capitalism is anything but pure capitalism, and, for the record, in response to the “socialist” critic, the democracy IS 24/7/365 (not “once in four years”) and the public will toward both self-enrichment and altruistic community-wide improvement is constant.
Political dogma, especially in the U.S. this election season but in general and worldwide too, may be more dangerous than nuts-and-bolts everyday politics because it is so easily, incautiously, and thoughtlessly, swallowed. Bottom line: by way of taxes, the American republic, overall, invests heavily in its human capital more than it does any other form of national resource, and out of that comes the greater freedom of the people to set their own courses and manage their own lives with a real minimum of “official guidance”.
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