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Talk to Me (Us All) About: The S Word

I just heard a quote on the radio from the now-famous Joe the Plumber who said he’ll be voting in the U.S. election for the candidate he thinks will preserve democracy and not institute a socialist state.

I thought I’d throw open a thread here so we can talk about this, mostly because I live in Canada and am therefore surrounded by peers whose daily life is spent in a democratic country whose culture is based on fairly ingrained values of taking care of each other, and we have a hard time understanding why the word “socialism” is spit out in the U.S. as if it’s a curse. (When I lived in the U.S., I also couldn’t understand this.)

I’ll note off the bat, though, that Joe has erroneously implied that a form of governance (democracy) is incompatible with an economic framework (socialism). Most of the democracies in the industrialized world enjoy some degree of social programs, such as health care*, child care, and education.

So, what do you think socialism means? Do you see Barack Obama’s policies as extreme? What are your assumptions about how people live in countries that do have socialized programs? When someone utters the s word do you cringe?

(Like last time, please be respectful. I’ll moderate comments if necessary, but since you’re all so rad, I’m sure I won’t have to.)

* I couldn’t understand John McCain’s comment during the debate last night when he seemed to imply that if Obama won, Americans would be miserable just like people in Canada and England (a quick search didn’t turn up a clip, but I did watch the first few seconds of this video, which shows a clip of McCain making the same point on a news show). Now, I wouldn’t say that any country has a citizenry that is totally pleased with their government all the time, but I’ll make the sweeping generalization that Canadians and the English are just fine, and happy. And that even those who think their health care system could use some improvement would loathe the idea of adopting the current American system. But anyway, my question about socialism isn’t just about health care.

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bz

here's the best part. Joe the Plumber isnt registered to vote.

Elin

neither is Sarah Palin's son-in-law to be.

marikka

I've always tried to figure out the anti-socialism stance that many here take and I can only come up with a few of reasons:

1) People think socialism is a gateway drug to communism or confuse it with communism.
2) People think socialism means that some meanie is going to walk around taking all of their hard-earned cash and give it to people who sit on stoops all day and drink 40s.*
3) People think that a national health care system will lead to no longer being able to get the right treatment.

*But I'll confess that there are aspects of welfare systems that trouble me, and oddly enough, I know more about the Danish system than I do the American one, but then I have relatives who live off of the Danish system. And although I would love for the government to pay for me to flit from one college to another for the rest of my life without getting a job (I didn't make that up, she's 31 and still has never received a degree or held a job), I can't imagine that a nation can support that behavior from everyone. And if I lived in Denmark, I'd probably be furious that my hard work is allowing someone to continually not contribute to anything. I'm all for taking care of each other, but there is a limit. Although, with that in mind, is it a surprise that the happiest people live in Denmark? Then again, if you're a Greenlander, you probably have a different perspective.

Ueyn

I thought the readers here might like this very thoughtful post regarding progressive taxation and the S word:

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2

Prophecy

I was wondering if anyone believes in destiny?
http://www.GodYesOrNo.com

Ueyn

Oooh… and even better argument for “progressive” taxation from Andrew Sullivan, a fiscal conservative:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily

Nutshell: It is needed in order to maintain political balance in a free-market capitalist system. I.e., it goes hand-in-hand with capitalism and is definitely NOT socialism.

kpwerker

That's a great link, Ueyn. He makes a great case for pragmatism and
moderation. Which, you know, are pretty much always a good idea (except when
they're not). Obama is extreme only in his commitment to serving the people;
his actual policies might be worth disagreeing with, but they sure aren't
anything to fear.

Ueyn

Oooh… and even better argument for “progressive” taxation from Andrew Sullivan, a fiscal conservative:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily

Nutshell: It is needed in order to maintain political balance in a free-market capitalist system. I.e., it goes hand-in-hand with capitalism and is definitely NOT socialism.

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