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The New Socialism

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I have always been annoyed when Republicans called President Obama or either of the two Clintons socialists. It showed how ignorant Repub...

I have always been annoyed when Republicans called President Obama or either of the two Clintons socialists. It showed how ignorant Republicans were and was a lie about people who I look up to. A socialist, as I learned in college, is a person who believes in government ownership of capital or businesses. President Obama does not believe in that, the Clintons do not, and I do not. Yet as it turns out, I may have been wrong and the Republican baiters may have been right. I call them baiters because I think that is what they were doing; that they were right is simply an accident.

The definition of socialism that I had learned was wrong. Socialism is much more. Socialism is not just about ownership of capital. Socialism is a belief that the mechanisms of society--government, laws, regulations, ownership, businesses, etc.--should not only promote personal freedoms, but also social and economic equality. This belief is tied to the understanding that individual well-being is not a matter of will-power, the desire to prosper, thriftiness, being smart or any other personal quality. It is about luck and where you were born, when you were born, and to whom you were born. Everyone in a society should prosper. When some prosper and whole groups of others do not, that is a symptom of some sickness of the society.

I guess I am a socialist, and so are President Obama and the Clintons. Now it turns out they and I believe in capitalism and economic incentives. I believe it is important that people have strong incentives to act and to be productive. But as a government might give a business seed money to get going or tax breaks to help it alone, so too must we help individuals who are struggling. I believe in capitalism, I also believe in the welfare state and income redistribution.

We need to make changes to corporate laws to make corporations more conscious of the need of their workers and societies and not only the short-term interest of stock owners. Perhaps a tax penalty for selling stock too soon after buying it. We need to develop a new understanding of what ownership is. No one owns the Earth or its resources, but we give some people the right to use those resources. Those who discover the resources or put them to good and productive use deserve to be rewarded, they deserve to be given certain rights, but the resource ultimately belongs to everyone. Business and the rich should not complain about paying taxes because everything they have was made possible by the society they live in.

Utopia is still a long way off. But with a slightly different point of view, we can start making life better for everyone. And we can do that right now.

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Consider this:
The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Jawaharlal Nehru

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The Evolving Monkey : The New Socialism
The New Socialism
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