Capitalism? Socialism? Something Else?

Our Choice of a Socio-Economic System Determines About Everything


Something New for Agents of Reason – A Four Part Series

Well, We Do Pick Easy, Simple Topics Here, Don’t We?

 It’s summertime, so I thought, “What the heck! Let’s pick something easy to deal with. How about choosing a socio-economic system for the US going forward? That shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.”

 Kidding aside, this is a conversation going on in fits and starts around the country, and its one we need to have. We are likely to make decisions about this outside such conversations, through a myriad of policies and choices made by millions of individuals and families.

Still, the conversation counts. Times change, the world changes, systems change. If we fail to step back and take stock every so often, we tend to be surprised or disappointed in ways we might have avoided. So, at the very simplest, top-down level sort of view, this blog will make a stab at defining what we might wish to discuss and value.

I wish us luck.

 What are the Issues?

At the most fundamental level, our choices should resolve around deciding what system(s) give us the outcomes we most desire at the most reasonable costs. Which approaches are most sustainable and most capable of periodic corrections.

The matter of systems corrections is vital. All human systems (governments, economies, religions – all of them) are prone to error and corruption; let’s pay attention to which ones offer the best corrective prospects).

So, in an early summary, we are looking for best results and manageability. Does not seem too much to ask, eh?

Definitions Count – So Do Generations

 One of the challenges to such dialogue is how we define our terms. This tends to pivot around our personal experience and our preferences. Biases are killers in dealing with such issues.

Here is a good example.

If you are a senior citizen, most of your exposure to socialism has been watching it try to work under communist systems. Clearly a failed economic and social framework by any reasonable measure. When you hear “socialism,” this is the image that comes to mind for most of this generation.

If you are Generation X or Millennial, your life experience has been failed capitalism in the Great Recession, a technology bust, a housing bust, and crushing student debt. When you hear capitalism, you think selfishness and abuse of power. When you hear socialism, you might think of Scandinavia (spoiler alert – they are not actually socialist states), as you had no real experience in the Soviet era.

These are oversimplified examples, of course. I have friends in their 90s who believe strongly in socialism and friends in their 30s who are passionate capitalists. But you see the point. We tend to base wider assessments based solely on our own, narrow experiences. I hope this series might help us do a bit better than that. Because a lot depends on where we go as a nation.

Let’s Talk for The Next Couple of Weeks

We will take a couple of weeks of postings to have this conversation, along the following pattern:

Part I – Capitalism
Part II – Socialism
Part III – Social Democracy
Part IV – What Do we Want, America? And Why Do We Want “It?”

 The planning as of now is to do this over the next two weeks. Events may interrupt and spread it out a bit more, but I promise, no more than four sessions total starting with Part I.

Yes, we all just LOVE discussing economics 🙄, but we can only stand so much fun at one time.

First, a Helpful Image Analogy

 I find analogies and imagery to be powerful tools in helping us deal with complex subjects. You may have seen good examples of this in the general area of astronomy and astrophysics. The entirety of the life of the universe is compressed into one year.

We can all understand one year, whereas 15 billion years is a bit tough to contemplate. On this one-year scale, the earth has only been around a very short while and humanity only a few microseconds. Now we sort of understand the scale and relationships.

Let’s try something similar in reviewing our socio-economic choices.

Think of this as buying a vehicle. What assets are important? We certainly need a power source to provide movement. But we also need steering and brakes. How about safety features? Reliability? How would this vehicle handle a crash?

Is the system flexible and adaptable is it to our needs? How fuel efficient is it? Is the maintenance crew that will service it up to the task? We are largely talking about a “used vehicle,” here, so what’s its history of use/abuse?

We will try this model as we work through our options in the coming days. Should be fun. I really look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions, too.

          Bill Clontz

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