I had a wonderful conversation today with two intelligent, thoughtful women. One is a college student. Incredibly bright, well read, an engineer in training, and a gifted singer. The other is her grandmother, born and raised in the Netherlands, but an American for many decades.
We were chatting about life at a family party, and the topic of motherhood came up. The young woman has her doubts about wanting to raise a child. As I teased her and prodded her about the joys of parenting, she said something that brought my words to a halt.
“I don’t know where this country will be in five or ten years. I don’t know that I want to bring a child into a place like this.”
That lead us to a discussion of national politics, and to the scary and bewildering place in which we find ourselves.
We talked about the current horde or Democratic candidates, and realized that all three of us are firmly behind the progressives who are running. We all shared our excitement about the fact that there seems to be a competition to shake out which one of them is the most liberal.
How refreshing, I said to them both, I’ve been calling myself a Socialist since the 1970s!
That’s when my new friend, the woman raised in the Netherlands, began to share her thoughts.
“I don’t understand this strange reaction to the word Socialist! It doesn’t mean that you don’t want any kind of capitalism! It means that capitalism must have a conscience!”
We talked about the fact that a healthy and thriving country is one that takes care of the very basic needs of it’s people. About the fact that our friends from Europe are unable to understand when we tell them that our daughter will only have six weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth to a child.
We talked about the fact that if a country is able to produce a healthy, well educated, financially secure next generation, it is likely to have a stronger economy than a country whose people live in poverty.
“It’s so simple!” said my friend. “Socialism means that the government takes care of the social needs of the people. Why don’t Americans look at the lives of Europeans and see what it could be like here? Why don’t they look at life in the Scandinavian countries? Or in the rest of Western Europe?”
I had no answer for her, obviously. But I agreed with her assessment.
It is so simple.
Taxes should be paid to the government so that the government can provide the basic needs that individuals can’t grant to themselves. Education, paved roads, healthcare, national defense, a secure retirement, a healthy environment.
“It is so simple.”
Yes. It really is.
I wonder if the United States can ever get itself to see that fact.
7 thoughts on “It Is So Simple”
It is very important that people describe what they mean by socialism because it encompasses a wide variety of systems. It is not necessarily clear what the social needs of people are to be taken care of by the government. Just think about it. Who decides what the social needs are? Everyone uses utilities. Everyone needs access to news. I really like national parks and wilderness areas. Then there is a question of what level of government we want to control different aspects of our lives. Police and fire protection in most instances need to be local, but there is certainly a need for a national response component with natural disasters. I do not want education to be handled at the national level although there is a role for some regulation. I sure would like some government control of drug prices, but I don’t want Washington trying to dictate research and development. We need some form of national medical care coverage. No one should have to forgo medical treatment because it is too expensive or end up bankrupt because of it. The Affordable Care Act converted a lot of people to healthcare as a right, but after listening to the knee jerk reactions of more than a few Americans to the word “socialism,” I think we have to be very careful how we define it.
Russia comes closest to us in population with about half our population; Germany is about a quarter our size. We can certainly learn from European countries, but then we have to scale our decisions to us and our needs.
I agree on all counts! I think we kind of need to rethink the role of government. “Of the people, by the people and FOR the people” means, to me, that the government’s job is to keep the people safe and secure. That means shelter, access to food, access to medical care, to education, to clean water and safe communities. Other than that?……We seem to have evolved to a place where the role of government is to keep the business world happy. Socialist Capitalism is what we need….
“Capitalism with a conscience” – I really like that. Something to aspire to. And it shouldn’t scare the die-hard capitalists who quiver at the mention of “socialism.” Thanks for sharing these thoughts.
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I liked that phrase, too, but told my friend that I had my doubts it would work. “That is why government must have laws and regulations,” she said. H’mmmmm
Yes. We had it before even if the conscience had to be forced on most reluctant converts. I don’t know why social programs are viewed with such disdain. In the long run, they do nothing but help the economy. Happy healthy, productive people can hardly hurt it.
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I have just spent four weeks in your country. I was amazed at the level of disdain for what i consider basic human rights: access to free medical care and free public school education.
I raged at the commercials that decried universal healthcare so much I had to stop watching some of your television channels. I was like what in the world is wrong with these people?????
I wish we knew what’s wrong with us….I think that the problem is government by the capitalists….Where are you from?
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