The great lamentation from the political right following its jaw-dropping shock at the re-election of President Barack Obama has included despairing predictions of America’s imminent demise. With all the unfounded certainty of true believers the right warns that America’s constitutional freedoms and its free-market economy will soon be suffocated under the heavy blanket of federally imposed socialism being pulled over the nation by Obama, supported by a growing rabble of entitlement free-loaders.
“Just you wait,” say frustrated conservatives. But, before they liquidate their portfolios to gold, stock up on ammo and head off to Galt’s Gulch, they might consider the counsel of one Bugs Bunny, “unlax Doc.”
Yes, calm down. Let the intoxicant of ideology that obstructs objectivity drain from your mind, and then survey the situation while sober.
Define socialism. Is it the public school system? Is it our communities’ libraries, police and fire departments? Is it taxpayer-funded highways, bridges and tunnels? Is it national parks? Is it Social Security and Medicare? Both of which, by the way, uber free-marketeer and outspoken anti-collectivist Ayn Rand availed herself of. Atlas must have shrugged his left shoulder.
Define free-market capitalism. Is it the right to engage in economic activity without constraint of government interference? Is it the virtually unregulated free-market chronicled by Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair in which industrialists could pollute the common environment at will and harshly exploit workers with gruelingly long work days, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and near slave wages? Was this ethical because in a free-market workers always have the choice to refuse any job?
Socialism is not inherently, absolutely evil any more than free-market capitalism is inherently, absolutely good. Either can become excessive and jeopardize the common welfare.
So, when did America become excessively socialist? Was it public education? Was it Social Security? Or was it Obamacare? Is national health care where the scale dips too far left?
And, concerning constitutional freedoms, they have been eroded by liberals and conservatives alike. Where were the Constitution-loving patriots who rail against Obamacare as an assault on personal freedom when the federal government rescinded freedom of choice in drug use, travel and privacy? If these patriots get rid of government interference in health care, will they also get rid of all government interference in our private lives?
Just as labor laws and environmental laws protect the nation from the excesses of capitalism, national health care is arguably a prudent program that protects the nation from the very real and lethal shortcomings of for-profit health care.
The Cassandras on the political right like to point to the failing socialist models in Greece and Spain while ignoring the very successful socialist models in Germany, Scandinavia and Australia.
Somewhere between free-market capitalism and socialism there is something that works best for the common welfare. Finding that place requires objective thinking unimpaired by rigid ideology. Keeping that place is a constant steering process requiring unobstructed vision and appropriate, reasonable reactions to changing conditions.
Sweden, Great Britain, Germany and New Zealand judiciously adjusted their extensive social welfare systems when those began to become counter productive and threatened national economic health. Politically, steering the ship of state is a constant balancing act among competing demands and ideas. Drifting too far to the left or to the right risks running the ship onto the rocks.
People who think ideologically rather than logically not only cannot find that balance, they are handicapped in finding practical solutions to most any problem that arises. These are not the folks who can best steer the ship of state. Unfortunately for America, we have a bunch of ideological inebriates in the wheelhouse of Congress who might run the ship aground.
If you want reasonable government and workable solutions to common problems like national debt, stop electing ideological wing-nuts to office. These people have frozen minds and contracts of allegiance with priests of ideology that preclude objective thought and reasonable compromise.
As we approach the so-called fiscal cliff, the Republicans from their ideological bar stools are still boisterously preaching trickle-down economics. But, if tax breaks for the rich, the alleged job creators, really worked to ignite the economy why has the nation suffered its second-worst economic downturn after President George W. Bush lowered taxes on the wealthy?
Much of the huge increase in national debt incurred since President Bill Clinton left office is the result of those Bush-era tax cuts and that president’s two misguided Mideast wars. Social welfare spending is not the only factor to be examined in curbing national debt. But the Republican politicians insist on following a failed economic ideology, not necessarily because they believe in it, but because they think that enough citizens have been convinced to believe it. These politicians simply want to keep taxes low on the wealthy, including virtually all of them, and they are counting on an ideologically intoxicated public to support that effort.