It is vital that we learn enough about these "isms" to be able to "know" what the results are, but also to be able to spot the effects that are along the spectrum, part way from capitalism over to socialism. Surely, there are trade-offs and we need to determine the right balance.
IN SEARCH OF THE "FREE LUNCH"
"The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." Margaret Thatcher
"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Karl Marx (However, the able either left, if they were allowed to, or felt little need to do much. And the others did even less, since they had no need to do more. And the pie continued to shrink, while each person fought for their slice, which got smaller and smaller - but many didn't see it, as it was so gradual and so they kept up the hope of the promise, failing to see that it was undeliverable.)
No incentives = no success...
Where would you put this country? Where would you put the Presidential candidates on this scale, drawing an arrow toward which direction they are taking the country?
WHERE ARE WE, AND THEY, ON THE SPECTRUM?
All failed Success
Greater inequality! Larger middle class
Redistribute Earn from efforts
Gov. control Free market
Equality Opportunity, self-determined
Fairness Equal playing field
Social justice Self-responsibility
Wealth is evilized Success is honored
China U.S., England
The more socialist the country, the greater the problems are and the greater the entitlements are. The classic result is Greece. And the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) are all finding themselves in debt to where they are teetering on the brink or getting close to it - where they have to face the music, to pay for the spending they thought could go on forever. There is a point at which countries have to realize they are getting too close to high debt, eventually high costs of servicing the debt, and then high taxes and slow economic growth. America is at the crossroads right now. See Actual US Debt.
THE ALLURE, THE PROMISE, AND THE ACTUAL RESULT
Of course, we are drawn to the ideal of fairness, equality, and getting something for nothing. The utopia's promised by all socialism/communism governments are enticing, indeed, but the results are that they didn't work. "It promises things that it cannot possibly deliver."
Eventually, all the governments had to impose stronger and stronger controls to assure equality - and inevitably, in every case, the citizens' standard of living suffered, as productivity plummeted and/or failed to be adequate.
It is not unnatural to want the government to provide more and more. Lower interest loans, more benefits, rescues.... But the question is where to stop.
I would love to see us be where Denmark is, though I suspect that the exit of higher wealth and higher income from our country would be enormous. So, one of the questions is "Given the particular culture and situation of the country, what is the right mix of government support and of economic freedom (lower taxes, etc.)?"
The Headline That Says It All
The Controlling Elite Love Socialism for the People-Control Properties of the System, But for the Average Citizen the Results Have Always Been Disastrous.
Socialism does not work in a free market society. As a consequence, the economy invariably deteriorates but the elite hold onto power, exerting more and more control. The result has, though people refuse to acknowledge this, been lots of citizen deaths; Germany (nazis), USSR, Italy (before moved to capitalism more), eastern block countries, North Korea, China, etc.
Once the leaders realize they cannot deliver the results, they exert more control, plus they develop scapegoats to blame. Nazi Germany, the Jews. In almost all the socialist countries, the rich become the reasons for the poor not being better off. When a country starts to blame the rich, they are headed in the direction of socialism and toward "redistributing" the wealth.
Of course, those heading toward socialism will not acknowledge it and will praise capitalism and freedom, etc., but one has to look at their actions, not what they say to ameliorate the threat of socialism.
The words that indicate heading toward socialism, used by the high socialism countries, have been (use your judgment to see if this is true or not):
The well-off are the enemy, exploiting the masses
Greed is evil or "not nice", etc.
Redistribution of wealth; it is unfair, the wealthy/elite are not carrying their fair share
Companies are unfair, they are making too much in profits
Entitlement (you are entitled to live well, regardless of your own productivity)
The government will take care of you, assure the playing field is level
Of course, everything comes in a matter of degrees of how far over something is, so we've got to discriminate where they are on the scale and on how much the effect will be. I'm not suggesting some kind of extreme conspiracy, but I am suggesting that we need to "look" and decide where we want to be on the spectrum. I don't mind some compromise and I'm perfectly willing to give more, to some extent.
Labels develop: The 1%, the rich, fat cats, greedy Wall Street, greedy oil companies, the party of the rich, budget would push granny over the cliff, those people want dirty air, dirty water, autistic people to be uncared for... (note that if they were breaking the law, then of course they should be dealt with appropriately).
Notice how this aligns with the Alynsky Methods, from his Rules For Radicals, and then make your own decision about how far along someone is on the scale. Notice if anyone is using these methods, as they do work as long as people are not aware of what is going on.
THE BASIC TENETS OF SOCIALISM ARE
1. Seduce the populace into accepting the government as the arbitrator of all problems; government
2. Begin delivering on those services to make the citizens dependent (more unpaid for benefits!)
3. Take away the citizens' guns. (Hard to do in America, so unlikely.)
4. Increase taxes on all services while destroying any free market alternative services.
5. Blame the chosen scapegoat for the inability to meet demand for services (or inequality).
6. Have the centralized national police force round up any dissidents. (Hard to do in America, so unlikely.)
THE ECONOMIC REALITIES
Though we may hope for absolute altruism, human nature has not reached that point. That is not "bad", it is just what is. We have evolved only so far at this time. We still need incentives which appeal to our desires, which some call "greed", but it is just natural wanting.
"Such self-realization becomes possible in a cooperative, non-competitive social context" is the proclamation of what is possible. And, I ask you, where have you ever seen such a thing occur, much less maintain itself among a general population even when it does occur in our better moments as humans?
"Socialism cannot work because the cost of services must be collected in the form of taxes, and this is not a sustainable possibility. The reason is that since government pays for all services, neither the producer nor the consumer cares about the cost, and hence there is an uncontrolled spiral of inflation (today's medical costs are a case in point and healthcare is not yet totally socialized). Furthermore, the government has no funds or assets. It only has the funds it confiscated from its citizens. The total inefficiency of a centralized bureaucracy does not help either.
Once citizens are weaned on this cradle-to-grave concept and are no longer self-reliant, they become wards of the state and will not accept any reduction of services. The government subsequently has no option but to reduce services, and as popular resistance develops State repression begins. This is the socialist cycle. It has been found to occur in every socialist state in existence to date."
GRADUALISM, "INEQUALITY" LEADING TO EQUALITY
Minor seeming little moves will not be noticed. Although I am in sympathy, let me use an example.
If a particular person is less healthy or has a need for more medical services, a free market would simply price that in to the cost of the health insurance. A socialistic system would have all of the health insurance costs be equal, which is essentially having other people pay for the person with the higher needs. This would decrease any incentive to be healthier, since there is no consequence financially. This would also "take away" something from someone else in order to pay for higher medical services for the person who has no control over how he/she is. Of course, we Americans want these people to be responsible and we don't want them to take our money from us, for we'll have less to spend and/or have to work harder. But if the costs are too extreme and will ruin someone's lives, we are willing to help be their "insurance" in a sense.
It is important to notice when the line is being crossed too much. Should we pay for someone else's procedure when it can be paid by that person? Should we make all health insurance such that it requires us to pay for a social good, regardless of whether it can be afforded by the person using the service? Shouldn't we, instead, have a support program for those who are unable to afford a vital service? The latter may be a bit "socialistic", or at least "caring", but the first one is a form of indiscriminate socialism, that is also illogical - why pay for something a responsible person can afford anyway? If we do, what will it do to self-responsibility? I know this is a small example, but it illustrates the gradual and inevitable effect of "to each according to his needs" taken from those who can afford it ("according to their abilities").
A social net, yes, but not entitlements where they are not absolutely necessary.
WHY DO SO MANY SMART INTELLECTUALS ADVOCATE THIS?
Being "smart" in an area requires one to learn the area. If an intellectual or a teacher sees only that they get a paycheck from some source that seems to be reliable, they are likely to see that the world works that way. Unfortunately, unless they have studied basic economics and capitalism, they may fail to see what the source of the money is.
Failing to see the reality of life, they are caught up in the social injustices. We are all concerned about the poor and the unable and we want to help them. But the distinction here is that the intellectuals get involved in "wrong-cause" thinking, essentially a fact-logic fallacy. They make up things that do not align with factual realities. They buy into the "wizard behind the curtain" belief, that there is some way companies or some powerful stealth figure is controlling the oil prices (not understanding economics and competition and the impossibility of such control). They buy into "it is the greed of the rich that is causing the poor to be poor and/or the middle class to shrink", rather than seeing the economic causes - and they fail to see the free market effect and how "all boats rise in a rising tide" (they often use an economic concept that is not really an economic reality, that of "trickle down economics", a phrase invented by Will Rogers, the humorist).
They fail to see and understand that it is self-responsibility that produces productivity and thus abundance, essentially a bigger pie where we don't spend our time trying to get a bigger piece, as if it were a "zero-sum game." [A zero-sum game is where nothing can be added, so if someone gets more then they had to take it away from someone else, who ends up with less. But a good leader will know that compromise and working with those who have a different set of interests and/or values can actually add to the size of the pie, though no one gets all that they want. Poor leaders will blame the "other side", evilize them, make them into scapegoats, instead of using what are called "win-win" negotiations - since they can't get all they want, they just fight the other side, hoping somehow to get a bigger slice. Be sure you understand this, so you can spot it and engage in it. Click on the red link. ]
BUT WHAT ABOUT SWEDEN, DENMARK, POLAND???
Of course, these are capitalist countries, but they tend to have a greater socialistic blend. These happen to work (but Poland didn't work when it was under communism!) reasonably well for their citizens.
Will they work in the U.S., where the values are different? Would shifting even more in the U.S. kill the golden goose or at least cripple it?
No one really knows the answer to that question. But we can see the effects of excess regulations, excess spending which will lead to excess taxes and hurt growth dramatically. You be the judge on this.
But, to quote a person who might seem alarmist: "Be afraid, be very afraid!" In other words, don't get lulled into not paying attention and/or not noticing what is occurring. Remember the result for the "gradually boiling frog". [If you put a frog into boiling water, it'll jump out very, very quickly. If you put a frog into comfortable, tepid water and then gradually bring it to boiliing, you'll have boiled, dead frog.]