In America, we live in a false dream where capitalism is perfect. At a young age, we’re taught that a free enterprise system facilitates freedom. Freedom is equated with free markets. Not only is this line of thinking dangerous, it’s unequivocally and emphatically wrong.
I’m the person your parents warned you about before you decided to enter a college campus. I’m not a bearded-Marxist who sits in the library all day reading “Das Kapital” and “The Communist Manifesto,” but I am a socialist. More specifically, I am what I denote a pragmatic socialist.
Socialism has been claimed by many people and many nations, sometimes for good and for bad. I look to the good. I look to democratic socialists and social reformers like Eugene Debbs, Norman Thomas, Bertrand Russell, George Orwell and Robert LaFollette. I look for what was at the core of these men’s beliefs.
At the heart of socialism thought is the belief that every person has the means to live a fulfilling life. Political scientists would call this positive liberty. The means to achieve this has always been argued among socialists.
From libertarian socialists who would like to abolish authoritative institutions like the state to democratic socialists who would like use the democratic process to take over the state, the core belief has never changed.
Pragmatic socialism takes that core belief and looks at which actual policies will achieve positive liberty. Theoretically, it could take any form, from free markets to state-owned industries.
It could never take the form of capitalism, or so called free markets. You can just take a look at neoclassical economic models and prove them wrong with their own tools. Free market fundamentalists preach the dogma of perfect competition and profit motives leading to efficient markets. This simply isn’t true by looking at their own models.
Once you ask questions about imperfect information and competition, the models crumble. Instead of perfect competition, the real world is dominated by the oligopolies of transnational corporations like GM and Exxon. Instead of prices that respond quickly and accurately to reflect true price values, we find sticky prices and economic bubbles.
The truth of the free market is this: it never existed. It was only a myth. Don’t worry though; it has just been busted.
There’s a much larger problem than just the flaws in neoclassical economic models. There are problems with capitalism itself.
How could an economic system based on pure self-interest ever work? How could a system based on this view create a good society? It goes against the views of all major religions, including the teachings of Jesus Christ. It rewards a corrupt CEO but punishes a hard-working university student with back-breaking loans.
It’s an economic system that allows two-thirds of American corporations to not pay taxes, to not pay their employees a living wage, to lobby millions of their treasury dollars for favorable legislation against the interests of social justice, the environment and consumers.
In just a quick illustration, we see what capitalism is. Lebron James signed an endorsement deal with Nike in 2003 worth approximately $90 million. No problem with that.
Here’s my problem. Nike has workers in Indonesia making only $2.50 a day to make the products that Lebron James will be paid to simply wear on national TV. This is simply and utterly unjust.
Government can help. Government is the realization of civil society. It represents everyone and can promote the common good. The main reason it fails at times is because former corporate CEOs run federal agencies and business lobbyists water down legislation that would help the American public. These specific failures are a byproduct of capitalism.
The best way to achieve positive liberty is for the state, through the democratic process, to make decisions that will help the American people. What policies would help the American people?
A single-payer health care system (Medicare-for-all) would cover all Americans. This would fix our current inefficient health care system that leaves 50 million people uninsured, 50 million people underinsured and leads to the death of 45,000 Americans per year because they cannot afford health insurance.
Closing corporate tax loopholes and taxing financial derivatives could fund a multitude of things the American people desperately need. These funds could be spent on providing tuition-free university education to all Americans. The funds could also be spent on investing in our infrastructure and providing millions of living wage jobs to our citizens.
Capitalism will not provide positive liberty for people; its philosophy is intrinsically opposed to it.
We can either have socialism or capitalism.
As Ralph Nader’s father once said, “Socialism is the government ownership of the means of production, while capitalism is the business ownership of the means of government.” I would rather have socialism.