As a Bernie supporter, people often try to paint me as a full fledged socialist. People disingenuously or inaccurately point to Venezuela as an example of why socialism programs like universal health care or free public tuition to college would be a bad idea for America.
I’d like to go on the record about this. I am not a socialist. Pure socialism is terrible. Pure socialism has a track record of failure. Pure socialism leads to what we’re seeing in Venezuela. It’s probably the worst economic system that has ever existed, despite its good intentions.
I’ve never once advocated for pure socialism, neither does Bernie Sanders, and neither do most Bernie supporters. I love capitalism. It’s the backbone of what makes America and Western civilizations great. My family runs businesses, my brother runs one, I want to run my own businesses some day, and I’ve worked for private businesses my entire career. They’ve given me so much of what I have, including this laptop to write this blog entry. Heck, Bernie has even run his own businesses and has made money selling books. So much of our country’s enjoyment, entertainment, quality of life and greatness comes from capitalism.
However, the critical difference is that I think is that neither pure capitalism or pure socialism can do the job on their own. For as long as America’s been successful, we’ve had socialism benefits woven into the fabric of our country. You’ve heard the list before: Public water, public school systems, our military, our police, they’re all paid for via taxes and distributed to the general population for all of us. So much of what we take for granted in our country and what distinguishes us from third world countries are provided by our socialism policies with the catalyst and stimulant being capitalism.
We’re all capitalists who like some socialism in our world. What guys like Bernie and his supporters like me want is to tweak the balance a little, expanding several of our existing policies to better serve our population. That is not making us socialists. It’s not limiting and certainly not removing capitalism, it’s supplementing it.
One hundred and twenty years ago, public schooling for anyone who wasn’t wealthy and white was unheard of. After expanding it to everyone via taxes (a socialism policy!), our workforce became more educated and stronger. It was in all of our best interests. We’ve done that for many things that we enjoy daily that we do not even register in our minds as socialism. We need to do the same now by expanding to free tuition to public universities, paid family maternity leave, and universal healthcare. Those things compliment capitalism, they do not replace it. If the amazing, perfect capitalism could provide them on their own, we would have no kid unable to go to college because of a lack of money, mothers could afford to stay home with their newborns for months and everyone would be able to see a doctor. Capitalism is wonderful, but alone it is imperfect.
We have lost all nuance in political and social dialogue. We are all either 100% for or 100% against something, either passionate side to the extreme. But, that’s just not the reality of our lives. There’s so much nuance to our world. People don’t want to actually stop and accept that. Neither Bernie nor I have ever advocated to be like Venezuela. What we’ve advocated to learn from is places like Denmark, Sweden, etc. I’m not saying be exactly like them, since they have problems too – we can just learn from them in some areas. They are a capitalistic society just like us, with several more socialism policies woven into them than what we have now. It’s the nuance and combination that is required for the most success and happiness.
Before we’re able to progress, we need to stop and honestly analyze the truth of our situation. Nearly all of us are capitalists who benefit from and love some socialism policies. Once we’re able to stop and call it what it is, maybe we can have an honest discussion at what comes next, and where that perfect balance is.
(Spoiler alert, it’s universal health care.)
James is resident of Auburn, a member of the Auburn Democrats, the Maine Young Dems, Maine People’s Alliance, and the Chair of the Androscoggin County Young Dems