The typical American view of socialism is that it’s a handout, it’s prohibitively expensive, and it limits freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a quick look at what actually draws people to socialism and why it’s not such a bad idea when used as a foundation for a robust capitalist economy and American democracy.
It’s not a handout, it’s giving the Working Class their due
While it’s understandable for people to think that proponents of socialism are looking for a handout, the truth is actually far different. There is a lot of evidence that Upper Class wealth is built from the exploitation of the Working Class. In fact, the productivity-pay gap has become wider and wider since the 1960s (when the U.S. started to lower tax rates for the rich). This means that even though people are working harder than ever, they’re seeing less money for it. Instead, the extra money they’re earning is being given to executives. Proponents of socialism believe that the best way to correct for this theft of wages is for the redistribution of wealth by taxing the rich and investing in the Working Class through programs such as universal healthcare.
Socialist programs are cheaper than our current system
It may sound counter-intuitive, but by and large, socialist countries spend less per capita on things like healthcare and education than we do. This makes sense when you think about it though. A system that provides blanket coverage requires far less management and overhead than systems that require extensive vetting of individuals, claims, qualifications, etc. With universal programs, more money can get to where it’s supposed to go and less is wasted. Additionally, investing in people’s healthcare and education means a healthier and better educated populace, which further drives costs down.
Socialist countries tend to be freer than the U.S.
The U.S. is less free than socialist countries, even by conservative think tank data and rankings. Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index – which measures personal, civil, and economic freedom – lists the U.S. at #15. It is beat by the U.K. (#14), Netherlands (#11), Canada (#4), New Zealand (#1) and other socialist countries. Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom similarly rates the U.S. at #17 in free markets, purchasing power, and business building. Again, countries like Canada (#9), Denmark (#8), the U.K. (#7), and New Zealand (#3) are far ahead. When it comes to democratic health, the U.S. lags behind too. Freedom House rates the U.S. 86/100 on their Freedom in the World Report, while countries like the U.K. (94), Canada (98), New Zealand (97), Denmark (97), and Norway (100) have much stronger democracies.
It seems contradictory. But once you think about the ways that programs like universal healthcare and universal education lift people out of poverty, safeguard the rights of the Working Class, and encourage business-building, it makes a lot of sense.
Socialism is tried and true – even in America
Socialist programs like universal healthcare have been around since the early 1900s. Nowadays, the U.S. is essentially the only developed country without universal healthcare. Even in the U.S., we were arguably at our most powerful and prosperous when the rich were being taxed upward of 60%. Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, public education, law enforcement, public works, and our military are all essentially socialist in nature and help millions upon millions every year.
Even though some of these aren’t perfect, socialist programs have been around for a long time and proven their effectiveness. The idea that socialist programs or high taxation of the rich will restrict our freedoms or ruin our economy isn’t born out in reality here or abroad. In fact, evidence seems to indicate the opposite is true.
A better system?
In short: There is a system out there that can save us money, increase our freedom, expand our opportunities, and make us more prosperous. We know this is the case because we have seen it both in our own history and in the day-to-day reality of our contemporaries.
Capitalism works best when its gears are oiled with socialist policies. It can lift people out of poverty, increase competition, and keep our populace and democracy healthy and strong. It protects the essential rights of the Working Class while letting the rich remain rich (who also benefit from a better workforce and the ability to focus on their business instead of things like healthcare).
It’s a win-win-win for everyone. Why wouldn’t we choose it? It’s time to reinvest in the Working Class and build a stronger America.