The “S”-word


For some people, socialism is known as the never-uttered and much-dreaded “s”-word.

Socialism is not an evil or scary idea in my mind. It is a way to regulate markets and industry and help people so that a society may develop as much potential as it can. It is by no means perfect and it certainly has flaws.

If you follow American politics, then you know that the word “socialist” is close to a death sentence, especially if coming from an ultra-conservative candidate like Newt Gingrich. American politicians enjoy deriding both European and Canadian politics. Yet America could do with a good dose of socialism.

The United States is a nation that often ranks well behind most industrialized nations in the care for the aged, the poor, and children. The American education system is woefully inadequate and most people know that it is leaving everyday Americans at a disadvantage and hurting their earning potentials. The healthcare provisions are minimal and without access to good private insurance, Americans are left to their own devices – which is how Americans love to be. A nation of individualists and self-proclaimed DIYers, an American is only an American if he or she is able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Big government equals bad government in American political jargon, and for some bizarre reason even the poor think this way!

To a sensible person, ideas such as that are nearly incomprehensible. The state is there to support you. Yes, at times it can be a royal pain and of course it can be corrupt. Yet, look at American politics – a slow moving mammoth of self-indulgence where each representative is looking to save his comfy chair in Washington and is willing to do whatever it takes to get re-elected. So, without even a hint of socialism, American politics retains everything that sucks about democracy. Obama is no saviour, not even an angel, but he has decent ideas, especially considering his Democrats are also more on the right-hand side of the spectrum than on the left. Imagine the improvement in the quality of life if social programs were introduced in the States, or more fully in Canada.

However, we all know how these generous welfare states are funded – through taxes. North Americans (and yes, Canadians are definitely included here) are loath to pay the tax rates that would support the many programs for the aged, families, children, and the unemployed. I am not saying that Europe is a shining example for the world, but America is not either by any stretch of the imagination. Scandinavian countries are some of the best places in the world to live for a very good reason.

It takes money to pay for these benefits though and value-added taxes (similar to the GST) of 20 per cent or upwards are common. I would gladly pay it, though, if that money helped me care for an aged family member and gave them dignified final years.

Sebastian Prost

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