Opinion

A touch of socialism might be good | OPINION

Seeds of Socialism are being sowed in every pre-school and kindergarten in Snohomish County. You find them reflected in children’s progress reports as, “Has learned to share toys.” Kids who carry that attitude through life might even fall for radical ideas like sharing a medical system. Lucky for conservatives that not every child goes to kindergarten.

Not to worry though. Tons of kids who did have Early Childhood Education failed to learn to share, and led by Tim Eyman they never will. Proof lies in letters to editors where cranks rant about paying taxes. They get steamed about the roles government might play in their lives. The mere mention of Socialism gets their blood boiling and no wonder. Socialism is painted as the top of a slippery slope that, if not done away with, will dump us out at the bottom as Communists!

So what exactly is Socialism? When taken to an extreme, it puts businesses and factories in the hands of government. Not to worry. Aside from a few 20th Century Communist nations, that never happened, even in nations that label themselves Socialist. You may find state-run railroads, banks and power plants here and there but, by and large, production stays in private hands.

The lines that once separated political-isms have become so blurred that it’s hard to tell who’s what anymore. Communist Chinese have become Capitalists. Communist Cuba encourages private enterprise. To find a hard-core ism today you’d have to look to radical Islam or the Christian Right, both so polarized that they see the rest of the world as infidel or heretic.

To find out if Socialism is really a hotbed of scary bugaboos you’d have to compare so-called Socialist nations with the United States. Differences like how government and citizens work out problems that individuals might have trouble handling on their own. Individuals aren’t likely to hire police or build colleges. We agree to cooperate on that sort of thing but we don’t call it Socialism.

Homeowners have found it impractical to buy personal fire engines. We share libraries. We pool money to build and maintain roads and most of us think it’s a good idea to share water and sewer systems and a postal system. Taxes support socialistic operations like the Port of Everett and air traffic control. Like it or not, we are enjoying a mild case of Socialism.

It turns out that fear of Socialism isn’t so much a fear of government taking over industry than fear of intervention in personal lives. If we still lived according to the Code of the West when land was free and neighbors’ lives didn’t overlap, there wouldn’t be much need for government. It so happens, though, that need for government grows with growth in population as lives overlap more and more. People find themselves sharing space and facilities. Rugged individualism was a nice notion but it worked only when space and opportunity were unlimited, as in the Old West.

I’m being socialized every day. In the midst of a rabidly capitalistic democracy everyone is being socialized. I’ve been socialized to believe in equal opportunity. It takes socialistic-type taxes to fund necessary infrastructures. We need Big Programs to deal with Big Issues like how to keep a society healthy enough to work and ensuring that people can get from Point A to Point B. Or maintaining police forces to catch thieves of all sizes, from pick-pockets to white collar thieves using high positions to swindle widows and retirees into poverty. How can we fund protection from them if not through taxes?

Even critics of Socialism expect government to protect them from toxic foods, fraudulent banking practices, rapacious pharmaceutical companies, a price-gouging oil industry and unsafe coal mines. But disinformation campaigns funded by those same interests coach citizens to vote against their best interests. Propaganda campaigns contradict the Bible’s instructions to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, visit prisoners and the sick and welcome strangers. Jesus was too socialistic, they say.

Individuals can’t build roads to the grocery store on their own. Or ski resorts. I’d have to pony up most of a billion dollars to construct enough roads and bridges to access the slopes at Stevens Pass. So we share burdens when necessary. And therein lies the rub. How much burden-sharing is necessary?

I don’t need, nor do I want, any help doing things I can do myself. I can work for a wage, try to stay healthy and maintain a home. But it helps me to sleep nights, knowing that government has some bases covered.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Being healthy, somewhat secure and free of birth-defects or crippling illness or injury, I’m pretty independent. Yet seeing how one adverse stroke of fate ruins a neighbor’s family’s hopes convinces me that a little Socialism might not be a bad idea.

Comments may be addressed to robertgraef@comcast.net.

 

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