In the US, Communism, despite its length, is very much a “four-letter word.” Communism is evil. We even called it the “evil empire.” 25 years ago, in the USSR, capitalism was no different. Communism took away the freedom of its people. Capitalism never provided an adequate chance for some to succeed. Capitalism gave everyone a chance to reach their potential. Communism rendered unemployment nonexistent. Capitalism gave opportunity to all. Communism gave a safety net to all. When are we going to move past the Cold War mentality? When are we going to realize that none of this is true?
Moving away from this style of thinking is very important. It is the only way we move forward as a country. It is important to realize that Communism and Capitalism are both unrealistic styles of economics. They exist as the extremes on a spectrum. Somewhere in the middle is the answer. Where that answer lies is the debate we should all be having. There is historical evidence that neither of these systems works. Soviet Communism fell in the early 1990’s. Chinese Communism has introduced free market ideals. True Capitalism is no better. Lack of government regulation in a capitalist system has brought the global economy to its knees twice in the past century. Once it caused the Great Depression in 1929, and then in 2008 it led to what is now being called the Great Recession. In both cases, we stood teetering on the edge of complete economic collapse. Obviously, we need a new discussion. Actually, we need any discussion at all.
The biggest obstacle in that discussion is civility. At town halls during the healthcare debate, we saw that people were doing all they can to prevent civil discussion. The Tea Party provided a more divided result. Some of them wanted a real protest with real ideas. Others were just out to demonize liberals. Lately we have seen fewer examples from the left, but just a few years ago they were not hard to find. We need to move past demonizing those who disagree with us. The fringe groups can be ignored. Those who believe that Pres. Obama is a Muslim, or was not born in this country are obviously unwilling to confront the truth. Those who believe Pres. Bush was intent on conquering the world are misguided. Those who don’t like a President’s policies should make their arguments and support them. Those who support those policies should listen and respond. The same idea can be applied to many arguments our country is facing. Do we desire safety or freedom? Most actions that make us more safe restrict our freedoms. The Patriot Act or warrantless wiretapping begun under President Bush may have made us more safe, but they definitely made us less free. Look at the debate on taxes. A flat tax is equal to all in numbers. A 20% tax on all treats everyone equally. However, 20% of the income of someone who makes minimum wage makes it much more difficult for that person to survive than 20% of a person who makes $350,000 a year. A progressive tax is unfair in one way to those who make more because they pay more of their income but they can survive more easily with that tax than a poor person. Things become more difficult when you ask, “How many people who are poor are not working hard enough and how many are unable to break free no matter how hard they work?” Or try this, “How many of the wealthy did nothing to earn their place atop the economic totem pole.? These questions are not simple and we should not treat them as if they are.
Capitalism, and Communism do not work. So where do we go from here? We have to look at ourselves and other countries and ask, “What do we want for this country?” Let’s look at it this way. Communism works. At a certain level. The American family is a Communist society. At least most of them are. All members of the family contribute for the benefit of all. One or both parents, and perhaps other relatives work jobs to bring in an income. Children go to school to obtain an education. At home, they all contribute to the cooking of meals and the upkeep of the home. In this way everyone is given what they need to survive by contributing what they can. However, there are often strands of capitalism in the American home. Children may be given an allowance. Parents may have disposable income. With that money they may buy personal possessions that offer no contribution to the family as a whole. If one child works does more chores than another they may receive more allowance. One child will not be thrown out on the street though. The family always provides the necessities of life. This is because the basis of family is a love for each other. At some point a family member may go beyond the strength of that love. Acts can be committed that will cause a family to turns its back on one of its members. Perhaps they consistently take advantage of family members to the detriment of the family. Perhaps they refuse to commit to changing their habits that hurt the family. Things can occur that go beyond the bounds of love. This is where one of the tenets of capitalism lives. The idea that we cannot help everyone. Sometimes we must do what is right for ourselves. If you apply the concepts of capitalism and communism to your family it will change your views. This makes it personal. Take those feelings and extend them to your neighborhood, your school, your city, state and country. We must realize that Capitalism is the concept that everyone has the chance to achieve anything they want. It is the idea that this blog could become a worldwide read publication that makes this writer a lot of money. Communism is the concept that we should always provide for the least fortunate of us. The idea that even those who try and fail deserve a safety net to allow them to survive. Government should provide us with our most basic needs. It is the idea that if this blog never makes this writer anything I would still have shelter and food.
The entire point of this article is that extremes are unrealistic. Completely deregulated capitalism will destroy us. The unfortunate nature of human beings leads to greed and individualism. Communism doesn’t work either. If we de-incentivize the idea of success, we will never progress. People need freedom to progress. People also need a safety net to provide for the greater population. Somewhere in between is the answer for the American people, or any other people. With a civil discussion we can find the right balance between government support and individual success. We can find the balance between safety and security. We have honest disagreements, and we need honest discussions. Civil discussions will lead to the progress the American people yearn for.