Last Round in the Contest for an American Socio-Economic System

Time to Make a Choice! And the Winner Is….

Part Four of a Four-Part Series on Choosing a Socio-Economic System for America

A Short Review of What We Have Noted Across the Various Options

In doing a very large-scale, low-resolution examination of the three primary socio-economic systems on offer, we noted the following:

  • Terminology counts. We must be clear about terms if our decisions are to have meaning.
  • Every system has its strengths and weaknesses; none are anywhere close to perfect.
  • Every system will fail at some point, or least go way off course. It’s human nature.
  • A key consideration is how adaptable, correctable a system may be.
  • The keys are how are the economics, how are the social elements, and how do the politics play out.
So, What is Our Best Solution?

I probably tipped my choices already in the dialogue, but for the record, it seems to me that some variation of Social Democracy is far and away our best choice. Socialism per se is a failed concept, and certainly would not do well here in America in any case. Capitalism has proven itself a powerful system, but the way in which we practice it now is doomed. The imbalances we see everywhere are signs of a slow wreck. The last time we had profiles like this was in the 1920’s and we saw how that ended. Plus, the current patterns are undercutting our social and political frameworks.

The Biden administration is already taking some important steps in the right direction. As we noted earlier, national discussions are not our strong suit, but we need to find ways to build some level of national consensus on elements of a workable social democratic foundation. In 21st century America, it should be unacceptable that large numbers of people are hungry, lack medical care, have a joke for minimum wages, and cannot access an education that could lift them out of poverty. What we have always done will not solve these moral and economic shortfalls. Time to take a different path, without throwing out what does work.

How to Proceed?

Making such transformations happen likely require two things. One, a campaign strategy much like a political campaign. Winning slogans, charismatic leaders, consistent and helpful messaging. This is already happening in a piecemeal fashion but needs more to be done. It will be interesting if this gets done and it turns out to have started under the watch of Joe Biden, as traditional a guy who ever occupied the White House (but a man who seems to be transformed by what the nation needs from him now).

The second thing such a venture might need is a new name. Social Democracy likely sounds too much like Socialism for a lot of people, keeping them from being open minded. Capitalism with a Heart sounds like a bad joke to those convinced Capitalism is inherently evil and cannot be saved. Any ideas out there for a new name? Any slogans to rival The New Deal or The Square Deal? How about something like The American Way?

 Bottom Line

We need to use the economic power and political freedom inherent in capitalism, to reward initiative and risk taking, while acknowledging that we all share a common nation and that means from those who have much, much is expected. The wealthy and corporations need to do their share. That is not communism, it is common sense. We need a widely, if not universally, shared national compact on what we expect of each other and our economy. We have great power and resources. What shall we do with them, and why make the choices we do as a nation?

A number of business leaders have already come to the same conclusions, and more are thinking out loud. They are noting that shareholder returns alone are not enough of a benchmark, cursing the short-sightedness of quarterly earnings statements, and looking to include the value contributed to society beyond profits as part of their portfolio.

We also need to better educate our citizens about the power of private enterprise, why the word “profit” is not a curse word, and why Socialism may sound good, but it has yet to prove itself a winner, anywhere.

Can We Pull This Off?

I frankly don’t know if we can, but I do know we need a more comprehensive and competent effort to make it happen. It is absolutely clear that if we stick with the old ways, or lurch into something more radical, our days as a superpower, even as a functioning society, are numbered.

Good luck to us all.

          Bill Clontz

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