I don’t know about you but these times, for me, seem to turn my thoughts to the issues of economies and governments. Is an economy and a government enough to make a society, or are there other necessary components?Does Capitalism only work when it is unfettered by regulations? Does a laissez-faire approach to Capitalism offer the best economic returns? What happens to the economy when the government deliberately tries to create a free market climate or a tax structure that subsidizes private enterprise?
Are societies mostly about economics? Can societies that distribute wealth somewhat equally survive? How much social support should be part of a government, of a society? Does having a class of very poor people unsupported by any kind of social safety net tend to weigh a culture down, or does this have little effect?
Is Democratic Socialism a way to a more equitable distribution of wealth? Are there successful socialistic countriesaround the globe? How much socialism do we already have in our government? Would it be useful (help delay the demise of our democracy) to alter the democratic socialism/capitalism ratio in our culture?
When economies get too unequal what happens? Will the distribution eventually right itself? Will a nation surrender to authoritarianism to hold onto wealth at the top? Will there be a revolution? Do you agree that Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds right now about what is of key importance to American success?
It seems that Republicans want to sideline the Federal government and let the states take the lead (this has been a refrain on the right for almost the entire life of our democracy/republic). It also seems that Republicans feel that economics is the essential factor in a culture. They want the government to back away from economic rules and regulations and controls over what are intended to be private enterprises.
Republicans do not want social safety net supports to be handled by our Federal government. The Constitution gives the Federal government powers over the military and foreign relations. All other rights, Republicans say are reserved to the states and we have strayed from that separation of powers. If Social Security and Medicare money were not taken from American paychecks those programs would already be gone. They may soon be gone anyway, or privatized.
Republicans have a Constitutional point, but we need to also ask if we are to refer only to our original documents or also to the body of law and tradition which subsequent generations have added? Are these laws and rules part of our documents now or should they all be stripped away until we get back to a kind of minimalism. Does minimalism apply when the population of our nation has exploded since the days of our founders?
Our American economy has always been a sort of amalgamation of capitalism, socialism and even libertarianism, but with capitalism in the lead. Do we want to revise this and have socialism lead, or libertarianism? Is the socialism we are talking about only about how much social support to give to American citizens as workers and dependents, or are we talking about government ownership of industry (beyond health care, senior support, disability support, help to the poor, help to farmers, supports for workers)?
Should our government own utilities? Should they continue to have a say in energy decisions, and decisions about clean water? What are the repercussions if the government gives up all control over these matters? Which brings us to environmental pollution and climate change. What happens to the environment in a laissez-faire system where businesses can dispose of their waste streams as they please, use any kind of energy they please, discharge as much smoke as they wish without mitigating chemicals harmful to humans; where businesses can force government to allow them to take over land that is set aside as public land?
Will this kind of freedom make a better America? Will it make a better world? Will it make America tons of money? Who will pocket that money? Haven’t we already been here? It seems that we would be better served by thinking these issues through together as opposed to retreating to ideological camps. The past is over; it is the future that is at stake.
Then we have the issue of who the workers will be. If everyone is equal where do you get an underclass to do menial jobs.? We used to have waves of immigrants who would do whatever works was necessary to survive. They were happy to have work and the freedom to climb the economic and then the social ladder. But when our newest immigrant groups tended to be nonwhite, as in the case of many South Americans and almost all Africans, and when they tended to be from religious traditions that were neither Christian nor Jewish, some Americans objected to having them here at all. They did not want to lift them up by opening our social safety net to immigrants, both to those here through proper channels and those here without permission. How much of this can be blamed on fewer dollars for the 99%?
Now we have to consider who will do the jobs that require physical labor? Who will serve the wealthy? Are people being encouraged to forego an education to make sure there is an underclass to serve richer Americans? If we only want highly educated and/or trained individuals from European nations to immigrate to America how does that help us fill jobs that pay less. Even though some people do not agree with paying unskilled workers more, without influxes of new workers will hourly wages eventually have to rise? Will robots be ready to fill the gaps? How does a robot clean a public restroom? I guess it could happen.
How much does it hurt our nation to treat migrants and refugees badly? Is it another trap that can weigh down a nation? How much does it affect the way we are viewed around the world? Does it make us appear strong or just inhumane and fearful? Right now it puts us in the company of other authoritarian nations.
Do we really want to be a nation that puts anyone who comes to our shores asking for asylum in jail (detention)? Will putting children in jail (detention) even with their parents turn out to be a positive approach? It is easy to believe that with a some cooperative brainstorming by people in the field we could produce a better plan than the one we are seeing now. Do we really want to continue to believe that skin color has any relevance whatsoever in terms of talents or intelligence or value as a human being?
One more consideration – are humans so flawed that they cannot create a balanced society (government and economy) that is difficult for people with bad impulses to destroy? Is it wrong to make laws to curb our worst behaviors, our exploitative behaviors? Will lassez-faire capitalism always be easily skewed by human tendencies towards selfishness, entitlement, and greed?
So much of our current political divide swings between the ways people answer these questions. We are called upon in this election and the ones in the near future to make these choices. I believe it is clear what you get if you vote for Republicans and what you get if you vote for Democrats. I only wish we could have informative conversations about these matters that did not send us back to our separate corners. Even if we can’t solve these weighty issues by November we need to vote.
Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Profulus, Understanding Society, Fortune, UPI.com, BBC, Digital Synosis