On Monday morning, NPR broadcast a story about how the U.S. Economy is drifting toward European styled socialism. NPR interviewed a German couple, the wife/mom from New York had married a German man and the couple now live in Germany. The couple have a five month old child for whom the family receives from the German government two-thirds of the mom’s salary for one year after the child’s birth. Like the U.S., Germany has an aging population, and thus they are interested in incentifizing the birth of babies. The tax rate reflects the generous German program – the couple pay about half of their income in taxes. I had an email friend who lived in Germany who worked for a community college that offered all types of education absolutely free. This program sounded like a for real “free university”.
Revealing my potential biases, I work in, and have for several years, a health care field that is heavily subsidized by the U.S. Government. Even though he had some distracters ( See: Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man), I believe that FDR was able to leverage the power of the U.S. Government to reverse a crushing economic depression in the 1930’s. I think there were academic and artistic advances in the 1930’s that would have been impossible without the New Deal.
Regarding the points that he U.S. Economy may be moving toward European socialism, a bigger safety net sounds good to me. So does greater regulation that protects the public from the reckless capitalism that hurt people who did not contribute to the problem, nor had any way of benefiting from the risks. But as we have seen from the very end of the Bush administration, these same marginalized people had much to lose from the reckless speculating of the wealthy.
Having said all of the above, it does appear that Europe is moving toward more market-based approaches as the U.S. is drifting toward state-involved models. I am a dedicated liberal, and have no shame in acknowledging that weakness/strength. I am, at times, chagrined to see us moving away from market based approaches. The latter have been good for some things. I bought a new computer on-line recently that cost a little over $300. Not too many years ago, a similar computer would have cost well over $1,000. Competition in this particular way is good for me, and I suspect many others.
It is my sense that many Americans are afraid of socialism because of the power assumed by the government. In an ideal America, the power of the government resides exclusively with the common man, not some faceless bureacrat hiding behind a curtain pulling levers; nor some wealthy interest group buying government support.
In the end, I would have to point out that the American experience (and that of many European countries) have been blends of capitalism and socialism. Socialism saved capitalism in America in the 1930’s. I am hoping that we will find the optimum blend of these two forces for our present times.
I have invited a friend, and a man I greatly respect, who may have different views than me, to respond to this post.