We’ve all heard the line by President Obama, the whole of the media, and the Democrat Party, that the last 7 years have been a great success, how Obama’s policies have pulled us from the economic cliff caused by deregulatory conservative policy, that we simply need to add to it, and that we dare not turn back now. The soundest rebuke to that nonsense is this years presidential primary. If it were really true that things were going well in this country, and we just need to stay on the course Barack Obama has set us on, we wouldn’t be seeing the rise and embrace of an open socialist in the Democratic Party, proposing vast changes to the “economic establishment” of both political parties, and conversely (or not so conversely depending on how you look at it), the rise of a populist demagogue the likes of Donald Trump. People are pissed off, on both sides, precisely because things are not going well in this country right now.
The reason some people are feeling the Bern is precisely because they are feeling burned. Sadly, the appeal of people to candidates like Bernie and The Donald are in fact the result of a failing country. No other way to put it. Things are not going well in this country right now on any front. People today are asking why its harder and harder to get by no matter what they do. Why’s there such a lack of opportunity for people today relative to the past? People are stuck, the economy, stagnant. Why are the ballooning and unsustainable debts this country is incurring happening? How did we ever get to this stage? Whose fault is it?
To state the obvious, we have traditionally described ourselves as a free market capitalist system. Because of that, a large segment of the population are naturally asking if capitalism, as structured, has failed, and have come to be convinced and believe that all our woes are the result of “unfettered capitalism”. That seems to be the platform Bernie Sanders is pushing, namely, that we need the government to have a much bigger role in regulating services and companies and the economy. The economy is horrible. It’s stagnant. Wages are stagnant. Opportunity seems to be dwindling. What the Democrats have been saying for years and years, that the deck is stacked, and the system rigged, is actually becoming true more and more every day, though not for the reasons they give.
To address Bernie’s point, and the concern of those feeling the Bern, the short answer of the proud free market capitalist writing this essay to Bernie’s question about whether capitalism, as structured, has failed this country is, YES, it has failed, as structured (note the key phrase “as structured”).
And what does the other side of the political aisle have to offer to counter this message of greedy capitalist failure…a message that is not theoretical, but which people feel and see every day? Sadly, not much. To the extent conservatives do have an opposing message, it hasn’t reached pople like it needs to. Bernie offers something new. What are conservatives offering? Are they offering anything new? No, not really. They are offering a promise to make our economy and country great again by returning to how they were done in the past, without much more elaboration.
Because it would seem to me that both sides would have to agree that America was in fact an economic powerhouse in the past, and that the middle class at one time in the not so recent past was fairing better than they are today, the question than becomes, which side, the left or the right, can best lay claim to being the adherent and the rightful successors of a once great America, when it was a country of much more opportunity for all people? After all, the party that can do that, is the one that has the prescription for getting us back there. Bernie has tried to lay claim to this mantle with his message that the top tax rates were at one point much higher than they are today, as if to insinuate that raising taxes on the uber-rich is really going to somehow economically resuscitate this country.
What conservatives need to point out in order to win this battle, where they really need to start, is to point out the preface of the whole argument is incorrect. No, we really don’t have a free market capitalist society today, for those who want to blame unfettered capitalism for all our problems, and lack of regulation. See, even though we don’t call ourselves a socialist country, and rather call ourselves a capitalist country…that doesn’t make it so. Cuba after all calls itself the Republic of Cuba. Ya, its not a republic. North Korea calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Hmm. Pretty sure it isn’t a republic. People can call themselves whatever they want! It doesn’t make it entirely true to say the least. Quite often, its not true, its just advertising, and its how people see themselves. Just because we call ourselves a capitalist society, doesn’t necessarily mean its true that we are a purely capitalistic country.
Its my belief that this country has in fact slowly strayed from free market capitalism over the years. Despite that fact, we still call ourselves a capitalist system. And so, when it starts to fail, capitalism is naturally blamed, greedy corporations and Wall Street. Undoing the assumption that we are some purely uber capitalistic society that needs more government intervention to make things more fair is the very first misconception that needs to be first unraveled if conservatives are ever to make any progress in instituting real and more effective and prosperity-causing capitalism for this country moving forward.
To illustrate this point, many people on the left, in their push for socialism and socialistic policies, have actually in a round-about way stated my exact point about our society not being one of pure capitalism, though for a different reason of course. So its not just me saying we don’t have a purely capitalist society.
We’ve all heard voices from the left publicly proclaim that this country is not really purely capitalistic. They’ve done this by saying we have many “socialistic” programs like public roads, public schools, a military, and social security. Never mind that those things have nothing to do with socialism strictly speaking as an economic model, which of course means the control of the economy, of which having schools and a military has little to do with. Never mind that inconvenient fact. The point is many people on the left, in their eyes, have gladly pointed out, in their attempt to show why socialism in their mind is nothing to fear, that we have a quasi capitalist/socialist system in place already. Well, that’s what they may think of it, and how they view socialism. I disagree with them. But the broader point I’m making is there are in fact shades of grey as far as defining what sort of system we have in place today economically, and that various people disagree as to what it should be termed, and I’m not alone in thinking that.
Point in fact, we do have a somewhat socialistic society today here in America…not in the way the left think, but in effect. No, I’m not saying our having schools or a military or a few social safety nets is socialism, as they claim, in their attempt to soften and redefine socialism. The reason we in effect have some socialism in this country is because socialism after all is the state controlling the economy, excuse me, state control of the “means of production”. What people need to understand is the state can control the economy not simply or only through its holding the deeds to industry/the economy, and publicly proclaiming itself to be in total control. The state can control an economy via regulation and bureaucracy and taxes, without having the deed so to speak of a company or business, which is exactly what our system is turning into, though we are not fully transitioned yet, all without calling itself a socialist country, and all while blaming capitalism for the failures that are in large part due to socialist-style policies.
Because of that, socialist ideology does in fact bear much of the blame for what has been transpiring in this country of late, as business gets in bed with big government and results in crony capitalism and corporate welfare that rigs the game against he small businesses and business people of America. No, we don’t have socialism as strictly defined in the grade school definition. But the net effects of socialism are in fact to blame for much of the mess we find ourselves in today, which is to say state influence and corruption over the economy. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. When the government controls a business, or an economy, via a tax-code that redistributes wealth, and regulatory agencies and bureaucracies that increasingly wield more and more power to by fiat tell businesses what they can and can’t do, the net effect of that and socialism and one in the same, namely, state control of an economy. Call it what you will. Its not unfettered capitalism though.
What conservatives need to do is to not only show people how our society is not one of free market capitalism today, and it’s not, that we live in an age of crony-capitalism, fueled by big government favoritism, and its not working, but secondly, conservatives need to show the American people what socialism really is, how its a failure everywhere its been tried, and how, no, the Western European countries they so admire are not socialist countries, or even democratically socialist countries.
People on both sides vote their own self-interest. This much should be obvious. And it isn’t selfish either. If someone is convinced that capitalism is that which is going to give them the most freedom and prosperity, they’re going to endorse and support capitalism. If they think socialism is that which is going to give them the most freedom and prosperity, they’re going to endorse socialism. Conservatives need to show why free markets and limited government control work, and why the mess we’re in now is not the result of unfettered capitalism. This is not being done.
This should be the singular aim of the Republican Party this coming November, given the rise in popularity of “democratic socialism”, namely explaining the net effects of socialism and big government cronyism, how the two are in bed with each other, how they aren’t in peoples best interest at all, and how they are really what have been destroying this country, as opposed to he imaginary unfettered capitalism about which Bernie Sanders preaches.
In the past, the word “socialist” may have sufficiently held a negative connotation such so that successfully labeling someone as one of was the victory. Today, people need to first be reminded what the hell a real socialist even is, what Bernie really believes, and what kind of a country we really have become today. Because they haven’t been told any of these things, we are reaping the results of that, and his name is Bernie Sanders. We also need an articulate spokesman for all of the above. If we don’t get one, and can’t explain what socialism is, and why we don’t have capitalism right now, the gig is up. And by the “gig”, I mean this country as founded.