And with the Senate’s top Socialist announcing that he once again was going to run in the Democratic primary for President, it’s useful to talk about why socialism is so popular among liberal Democrats these days.
It was a Frenchman who first coined the term “socialism”. Count Henri Saint-Simon thought capitalism was a messy, wasteful and inherently inefficient way to make economic progress and he believed that a government that scientifically managed the resources of a society could be much more successful.
The brutal efficiency of Germany’s Nazi regime proved that socialism could successfully transform an economy into a powerhouse, a cautionary tale for any who inherently trust any government to always make the right choices.
Socialism does better in periods of rapid technological change. That was especially the case during the Industrial revolution, in the aftermath of the First World War, during the Great Depression, and now, years after the Financial crisis.
It was Churchill who said that capitalism was unequal sharing of blessings while socialism is the equal sharing of misery. But he lost to a socialist in his bid for re-election after the Second World War.
Sometimes, people just want other people to share their misery.
Capitalism is not a flawless ideology. In fact, it’s not an ideology at all, which makes it inherently superior to socialism and yet vulnerable to its easy explanations and theories.
Capitalism is the natural order of people pursuing their interests and their talents in ways unencumbered by government fiat. It was the way that post-tribal multi-cultural societies developed in the pre-modern world.
The problem with capitalism comes with people. Not everybody has a marketable talent, a thirst for material gain or a desire to work hard every day. Indeed, as we have found in our own society, there are plenty of people who are content sitting on their collective couches, binge watching their favorite Netflix series.
There are two failures with modern capitalism.
First, it has too successfully created enough material comforts to make it possible for a large segment of society to actually not have to work to survive.
Second, it hasn’t adequately come up with a mechanism to equitably share those comforts with those who don’t have the talent, the desire or the ability to get them on their own, while not unduly punishing those who create wealth in our complicated economy.
Modern day socialists have a pretty powerful weapon in their arsenal when it comes to redistribution: Tax the rich!
Capitalists (and by that, I mean Republicans) shouldn’t reflexively be against that proposition for three reasons.
First, it’s really good politics.
Second, the rich should pay more in taxes, maybe not 70 percent but perhaps 38 or 40 percent (Mitt Romney paid 15 percent the year he ran for President).
And third, most of the really wealthy are Democrats.
It might be time to do another tax reform bill that closes loopholes so that rich pay their fair share while families with children get huge tax relief (it’s expensive to raise a family) while millennials get help paying their student loans.
Capitalists shouldn’t be content to allow socialists to define the debates on a variety of issues. The market economy is a better way to protect the environment. The market economy is a better way to fight poverty. The market economy is a better way to improve education. The market economy is a better to way to get people to eat healthier.
But capitalists (and by that, I mean Republicans) have to be willing to engage in those debates and acknowledge that there are problems in our world today (climate change, inequality, racism, obesity, stupidity, etc) that need to be addressed.
The false promise of socialism is that it alone can fix these problems. But the reality is that our market-based democracy is the best way to cure what ails is us as a society.
Capitalists and capitalism are better off finding solutions to problems using the power of the marketplace rather than allowing socialists to define the problems and then make them worse with socialist policies.
John Feehery is President of Communications and Director of Government Affairs for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Washington, D.C.’s top public affairs firm. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a columnist for The Hill. His writing appears regularly on Political Storm.