Just the utterance of the word “socialism” drives people like Donald Trump into a rage.
Capitalism is good. America will never be a socialist country. Socialism breeds laziness. Americans are all about the dignity of hard work. Blah. Blah. Blah.
I live in Canada. Not once have I been offended when an American referred to Canada as a bastion of socialism even though it isn’t. It’s a liberal democracy.
“I don’t think Donald Trump would call us socialist, but probably he thinks we’re dangerously close to that and that may be one of the reasons he doesn’t like Canada very much,” stated Laura MacDonald, a Carleton University professor and an expert in the subject of political economy.
The reality is that the U.S. already is a socialist state in some respects. To demonize socialism is to demonize great initiatives by previous presidents such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s introduction of The New Deal in 1933.
As HBO’s Bill Maher recently stated on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, “socialism needs to rebranded as ‘Capitalism Plus.’” He was making a joke about politicians getting apoplectic about the idea of socialism without really understanding what it’s all about.
And the truth is Americans needn’t fear socialism. Here are seven reasons why.
Bill Maher had an interesting observation about socialist-leaning countries in his show’s discussion about Capitalism Plus.
“If socialism is such a one-way ticket to becoming the nightmare of Venezuela, then why do all the happiest countries in the world embrace it?”
The Happiness Research Institute’s 2019 World Happiness Report revealed that the top ten countries in terms of happiness between 2016-2018 included Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden in first, second, third and seventh place, respectively. The U.S.? A miserable 19th place. Even Canada, that horrible country the president dislikes, came in ninth place.
Here you have five examples of socialist-leaning countries whose people are considered to be happier than the rest of the world — including the U.S. Heck, if Americans want to call Canadians socialists, I’ll take it if it means we’re a happier bunch.
If Donald Trump is making America great again, it’s not showing up in terms of happiness.
Donald Trump believes that crime would disappear in America if a wall is built and the so-called caravans of illegal immigrants are kept out of the country. It’s a nice theory, but it’s flat out wrong.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 81% of the inmates in facilities across the country were born in the U.S. Furthermore, of the 19% born elsewhere, a significant number of the inmates are in prison for immigration-related offenses, not for actual crimes such as assault, murder, robbery, etc.
“[The] prevalence of undocumented and other immigrants is largely the result of immigration enforcement priorities, not necessarily increased rates of overall criminality among immigrants,” the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Cristobal Ramon pointed out in March 2018 blog post.
What’s this got to do with socialism?
Well, those five socialist-leaning countries I mentioned in the happiness section were far safer places to live than the U.S.
According to the Global Finance Safety Index, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Canada were ranked third, ninth, sixth, 13th, and 11th respective. The U.S.? 65th behind Panama and ahead of Malawi.
In America, Canada too, employees are worked to death.
A recent article in the Washington Post highlighted (Editor’s Note: Paywall) the prevalence of burnout amongst people in all kinds of jobs. Social media and smartphones have made us available 24/7 and corporate America’s been more than willing to leverage that for maximum profits.
I don’t subscribe to the Post. However, I was able to read the article as it was my last free view.
The comments after the story paint an awful picture. Americans must be encouraged to take all the vacation time they have coming to them without management reprisal.
Americans, on average, get ten paid days of vacation annually. By contrast, the UK get 37 days of vacation minimum including public holidays. I guess that’s why they’re in such a mess over Brexit. Too much holiday.
Over in Scandinavia, lots of paid vacation is the norm.
“Everyone gets five weeks of paid vacation, a chance to travel or just unplug. Parents have ample paid time off from work during their children’s most formative time and when kids get sick, that time is separate from our vacation time,” said Audrey Camp, an American expat writer, who moved to Norway eight years ago.
Oh, and don’t forget the work week is much shorter, too.
Capitalism in Its Purest Form Has Failed
As someone that writes about companies all day, this particular reason to not fear socialism is the most disappointing from a personal perspective.
It’s hard to write about businesses every day where a privileged few are benefiting from the hard work of the rank and file. CEO pay is excessive and getting worse by the day. Very few S&P 500 CEOs earn their keep, yet Americans keep defending capitalism because they want to believe that will be them some day. Only it won’t.
I recently read an article about the second bankruptcy of Gymboree. Dubbed “Chapter 22” because it’s gone through Chapter 11 on two occasions, author David Dayen does an excellent job describing the cronyism present at the company as it readied itself for a second stint in bankruptcy.
“The situation at Gymboree echoes other recent retail bankruptcies in which executives got a king’s ransom while everyone else got a firm handshake,” Dayen wrote March 25. “Toys “R” Us and Sears were approved for millions in executive bonuses, a fact that has enraged advocates for line-level workers.”
I want to say Gymboree is a unique situation. Sadly, this kind of favoritism goes on in companies large or small across America. It’s the norm rather than the exception. Regulation from the government would help protect lower-level employees in situations like this and keep all the money from going to those at the top — who often caused the problems to begin with.
Read Dayen’s article. If that doesn’t make you think about socialism, nothing will.
Millennials Love It
On the subject of socialism and millennials, most of the media mock the ideal. Recent headlines in mainstream papers include these two zingers: Millennials May Love Socialism, But Socialism Won’t Love Them Back (Investor’s Business Daily) and Millennials Like Socialism — Until They Get Jobs (Washington Post — paywall).
The reality is that millennials want a system that gives them a fair shake. That doesn’t put them behind the eight-ball before they’ve even gotten out of college. A system that provides a future without crushing student debt.
Is that too much to ask?
According to a new Harris poll, millennials and Gen Zs are embracing socialism.
The poll, which was conducted over five days in February, surveyed 2,035 adults. It found that 73.2% believe the government should provide universal health care; 67.1% felt the government should provide tuition-free college, and 49.6% would prefer living in a socialist country.
The millennials and Gen Zs will make up almost 40% of the vote in 2020. If, and it’s a big if, they get out en masse to vote, Trump’s days as president will surely be over.
That’s because socialism makes a lot more sense to them than the no-regulations, rich-rule-the-roost brand of capitalism.
Social Security and Unemployment Insurance
The New Deal not only created social security and unemployment insurance, but it also established a minimum wage and a 40-hour workweek.
FDR’s initiatives came as a result of the Great Depression, which saw 25% of the workforce without jobs, an incredible number when you consider today’s unemployment rate is 3.8% or one-seventh the rate in the early 1930s.
I came across a well-produced Al-Jazeera YouTube video from 2015 that does a good job explaining why Americans shouldn’t fear socialism. Citing five reasons America is already socialist, activist, journalist and standup comedian Francesca Fiorentini eliminates the scariness surrounding the political mantra.
Fiorentini quoted FDR from a 1937 speech:
“The Test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
The comedian finished this segment of her four-minute video by suggesting you can call social security and unemployment insurance “big-government socialism …or just looking out for one another.”
Amen to that.
The video also points out “corporate welfare” in the form of bailing out the big banks during the Great Recession and mentions that big businesses often rely on socialism in the form of encouraging their employees to apply for food stamps and welfare.
It’s unlikely that America would ever become a truly-socialist country.
However, since the Civil War, the United States has struggled with the idea of equality. Blacks, although free, to this day are harassed by police to an extent white people like Donald Trump cannot imagine. Women are paid significantly less than men. The list of inequalities goes on and on.
Catherine Rampell recently called Trump lazy for the use of “socialism” in his attacks on the Democratic Party. She argued that his use of the word could help the Dems win back the presidency in 2020. That’s because he’s alienating a good segment of the younger population, a cohort you would think he’s trying to attract.
“Despite what you may have heard from Team Trump — and despite the many TV interviewers asking Democratic politicians whether they’re ‘capitalist’ or ‘socialist,’ as if that’s a meaningful binary — all modern countries have elements of capitalism and socialism,” Rampell wrote March 25.
What resonates with younger people isn’t necessarily socialism, but a system that values greater equality.
In October 2018, Gallup asked Americans about their thoughts on socialism. They’ve conducted this survey since 1949. In 2018, equality was the number one answer to the question: What is your understanding of the term “socialism?” In 1949, only 12% answered equality.
The traditional definition of socialism includes government control of the means of production. In 2018, just 17% mentioned this answer. In 1949, it was double that at 34%.
When asked if the U.S. has socialism today, 38% said yes in 2018; 43% said yes in 1949, just a five-percentage-point difference
Call it what you will. Americans want greater equality.
At the time of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.