“Socialism Leads to Death”

Prelude for Americans
The word socialism, since the post McCarthy era, has been used by the American educative system as the equivalent of communism. The Merriam-Webster dictionary explains the different variations in the Socialism vs. Social Democracy: Usage Guide. My use of the ‘S’ word in the title is quoting the person that begins the story, a “self-made businessman” who inherited his business. When the astute refer to socialism as practiced in Denmark, Sweden or even the United Kingdom, they know that these are social democracies. The American solution to some business problems is to allow monopolies, as they did in the early days of telephone service. Ultimately, though, things like infrastructure, such as bridges and roads are generally financed and run by the government, be it state or federal. Ironically, in France, many toll freeways are privately funded, maintained and run. The intelligent reader needs to understand that the word is now meaningless, especially if it carries a weight that you were shackled to early in life in school. In the full quote, the man refers to“the socialist world”:

the socialist world — leads to extreme poverty and eventually death.”

We begin the story there, but focus on personal anecdotes, not theory to explain that all systems “lead to death”, simply because death is inevitable for all. These experiences don’t call out for arguments for capitalism, claiming it’s a “freedom issue”. People in Sweden and France are at least as free as those in the USA. Personally, I see socialism as a philosophy and believe that the number of socialist countries in the world is currently about 5. “Socialist country is defined as those who have the word socialism in their constitution, such as Cuba.

A real estate salesman, after seeing Che t-shirts on an Arizona college campus, became verbally outraged with today’s “liberal youth”. He was quoted on Splinter:

“As long as these kids get something for free and they get taken care of, they’re happy. What they don’t know is that the world that works that way — the socialist world — leads to extreme poverty and eventually death.”

Splinter goes on to say the man took over the business his father built. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, other than the hypocrisy of complaining that “these kids don’t know what it is to build something”. I think it’s obvious to anyone who can read that every political system “leads to death” in the sense that life itself eventually does. That silliness aside, this war of words does nothing to fix whatever problem it tries to evoke with so little aplomb.

This is not going to be a long, thoughtful editorial about the merits of one system or the other, but a subjective, anecdotal short story. If we take the age when I began a profession that made money to live, I worked in post-Vietnam war, capitalist America for about 15 years. I was self-employed as a musician. When the music work dried up in Los Angeles in the mid-1970’s, I joined an entertainment company. That company eventually sent me on a three-month mission to France. A few years after my return to L.A., I moved to Paris. This was about 38 years ago. I wrote a few articles for an American tech review. I was hired by a small French company, and when it was swallowed by a large one, I went to work for them. Several years later, I got my “dream job” at an American company whose French office was located near Paris. Throughout the jobs in three companies, I met people from all over, some European, others, Lebanese, Egyptian, Tunisian and Iranians. Some, like me, went on to form their own companies or become independents. I suppose the fact we were working in technology, most CAD/CAM at that time, created a bond. During those times, the effective health care provided and paid for by salary deductions and employer contributions kept us all well. There are and always have been people living on the streets in Europe, but I’ve seen the same in California. I think in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, the number of working people living in their cars is surprisingly high.

I’m not evoking Tu quoque (you do the same) here, just showing that unfortunately, there are many people who live hand-to-mouth in the west.

Back to capitalism, in 1989, I had a look at what my company was charging their customers for my time in the field. It was clear that I could make far more if I was selling my own time, so I became an independent worker. Because it was based on consulting, I didn’t need an office or high monthly expenses. The socialist government has rules about working from home, paying your own medical and retirement, etc. There are a lot of small business people in this (socialist) country, and today, a lot of startups.

My first order was for data entry. I sat for a week, typing figures into tables all day, although my past employers called me an ingénieur on my pay stubs, albeit with no degree of any kind. I did what had to be done. After a short time, my wife and I founded a company that ran from 1989 to 2016. We worked hard and were reasonably well-compensated for that work. We (the company) contributed to health care, supplementary health insurance, retirement and paid other taxes that fund stipends for people with disability and unskilled youth worker programs. Throughout this time, we met people in most of the social conditions that exist, from the extremely wealthy to people who spent three hours in mass transit to work and three back to their modest apartments.

The ‘S’ word, possibly thanks to Senator Sanders, has become yet another victim of the wedge being driven into America. For those who don’t spend any time thinking after they graduate high school, socialism is evil, as taught by an educational system that was forged by the cold war. Social solidarity is a beautiful thing, but if you don’t feel it, fine. Having lived in both systems, I find this one to be better in every way. People are sick less, because they can seek medical help before it’s too late. Most doctors here don’t work solely for status or money, and are invested in the health of their patients. Most medicine costs far less. An appointment with a GP (we still have them) will cost about $28.

I’ll finish with another anecdote. A friend was visiting Paris with her family. Her daughter had stitches before they left the US, and these needed to be removed by a doctor. We took her to a clinic, where the stitches were removed. There were no formalities as they’re not in the system, therefore not insured here. Our friend went to the window to pay the bill. It was about $8. That same year, in California, she went to see a doctor who made them wait while talking to a friend on the phone about their Aspen vacation. When he finally came in the the examination area, he began by sharing a story about his honeymoon in Paris, doing nothing else. When he finally examined her, he said it wasn’t serious and prescribed no treatment. When she came out to pay, it was $100. Well, not exactly. In fact, they couldn’t say how much would be changed to her debit card until the end of the month. It ended up being $100, and that was at least 15 years ago.

Socialism isn’t scary, it’s an attempt at allowing everyone to live and work with peace of mind, knowing they won’t go bankrupt from unforeseen disease or accident. Vested interests will paint it as something horrible, but for those of us who experience it, we’re happy it’s available to us. American capitalism itself doesn’t scare me, but what we’ve done with it, our implementation of it does.

Yes, we’ll eventually die, as will the real estate salesman, the college students and every other living thing on this planet. The idea is to make the most of it while we can.

Postscript: see the comment and reply, about socialism vs. capitalism and innovation. He asked a good question and a quick search revealed a report I hadn’t seen from Bloomberg.

Post Postscript: When I say socialist, I mean the philosophy, not the government system. France is a democracy. There is a Socialist and even a Communist Party. Only the former has elected presidents. The Parti Socialiste did sometimes privatise certain industries, but this was never a truly socialist country. General Charles de Gaulle, not a socialist, nationalised certain industries after World War II, in relation to collaboration with the Nazis. Long story short, the countries we call socialist or that practice socialised medicine and welfare in Europe are all capitalist with tax-funded health care and poverty relief.

Retired recording, touring musician, lousy coder, 1990 Internet agency founder, podcaster since 2006, learning saxophone in 2018.

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