It’s time to stop being afraid of socialism

afraid-of-socialismQuiet little Seattle made national news last week when a (very) longtime city councilman was defeated by an upstart and previously unknown candidate. The shocking part, though? She was a (gasp!) socialist!

Economics professor Kshama Sawant seemed to be far behind on election night, but in the days following the election vote-counts shifted strongly her way, eventually putting her win well outside the margin that would trigger an automatic recount. By last Friday councilor Richard Conlin conceded, ending 16 years on the city council.

Media outlets on the right and left immediately overreacted to the news.

Why is Seattle Socialist Kshama Sawant Allowed to Teach Economics?” whined a writer from Forbes after the election. Um, what??

Seattle’s election of Kshama Sawant shows socialism can play in America,” said the Guardian. Let’s not get carried away, Guardian!

The reason Sawant won, in case any of you outside of Seattle are wondering, is that she actually ran a tight, organized and well-messaged campaign. In contrast, her opponent, a very friendly (Democratic establishment-type), non-offensive guy (I’ve chatted with him several times) never viewed her campaign as a serious threat even as she was drawing crowds to her get out the vote rallies.

I’ll stay away from drawing too many broad conclusions about the meaning behind her victory. But there is one unarguable takeaway that I think is important: At the very least, the “socialist” label wasn’t something scary that would keep people from voting for her.

And I think that’s a good thing, because the hysterical fear of “socialism” is something that’s causing Americans a great deal of unnecessary misery and struggle.

Unfortunately for our country, the education system has been gutted to such a degree that I’d bet a majority of voters couldn’t give a proper definition of socialism. Because people aren’t generally educated in various economic systems, they are easy to manipulate with overwrought smears.

But when you label everything as socialism, suddenly socialism isn’t that scary anymore. One can almost imagine a voter thinking “Well, if Obamacare is socialism, then I must be a socialist.” (For the record, it’s not. I guess technically you’d have to say the Affordable Care Act, which requires buying a product from a private corporation, is part of our Corporatocracy — corporate interests running the government. Or I guess you could argue it’s Fascism, but let’s not get into that.)

It’s important that people begin to stop being afraid of socialism because socialistic programs are the strongest protections we have ensuring we enjoy a stable, safe place to live and they are some of your most important tools for leaving work at an early age.

Doesn’t this make us a bunch of freeloaders?

Pretired Baby struggling to survive under the ills of socialism at Ercolini Park

Pretired Baby struggling to survive under the ills of socialism at Ercolini Park

Let’s dispense with the trolls right away, shall we? The classic pushback against any form of socialist endeavor is that we’ll all become weak and reliant upon the expensive nanny state government. We will no longer strive to do better and we’ll have a country of deadbeats. Worse, since we’re talking about socialism in the context of pretirement, it’s easy to imagine the complaint that the government is forking over piles of money to a bunch of lazy people.

But even people in true socialist countries have no trouble working hard to make their lives better. They don’t, however, seem to have the same fear of the financial abyss as we do in America.

And it’s silly to accuse the pretired of not paying their fair share. Most of us worked very hard for several decades. Just because we would prefer to opt-out of the final few decades of pain doesn’t mean we didn’t make our full contribution.

But socialists are weirdos

We don’t need to join the Socialist Party, stop bathing and stand on the corner handing out manifestos to recognize the value in pragmatic social support systems. We’re stronger when we join together and help each other.

The two most recognizable socialist entities in America are Medicare (“free” health care for all citizens aged 65 and up) and Social Security (basically an “insurance” program providing a small pension for older citizens). Not coincidentally, these are among the two most popular government activities every time it’s polled.

But other examples of what are technically “socialism” are all around us although often the lack of socialistic programs are often more apparent.

Obvious examples include the electricity grid you’re using to read this right now (even though our lack of investment means the American power grid is in sorry shape), the roads you drive each day (falling apart under our tires), the public education system (also starved and under assault), mass transit systems (adorably out of date), police and fire departments and, of course, our military. Those public institutions are usually well-loved, even when they frustrate us. Interestingly, though, our most hated institutions are private: our outsourced renegade army (Blackwater), private health insurance companies and Wall Street, for example.

Why are we so afraid?

So why are Americans so afraid of socialism? My opinion is that it’s the aforementioned poor education combined with an easily exploited fear of authoritarianism. Mark my words: If we ever end up with a real dictator in the U.S., it’ll happen because we were falling all over ourselves out of a fear of a hypothetical dictator.

Authoritarianism is the belief among some that they are imbued with special powers and they are therefore superior to all others and we should all submit to their crazy will. Authoritarianism actually is quite dangerous and completely possible here. Note also that authoritarians are also the first to acquiesce to power. They either need to be in charge or subservient to a strong leader. (Check out Conservatives Without Conscience for more on this. Fascinating read!)

Many of the dictatorships that live most vividly in American memories arose from left-leaning perspectives (usually locations of U.S. military intervention, see histories of Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea, etc. for example). I think the images of those regimes become conflated with the perspective they originated from, when in fact the economic or governmental theory is irrelevant to how much your life sucks under a dictatorship. No matter what the political theory is behind these guys, it always ends up being a tiny group of insiders bossing everyone else around and stealing all the money. Concentrated power is the real enemy, not some theory on the role of government. A Communist dictator is equally as bad as a Fascist one. Big Government, Big Business, Big Religion — I hate them all equally. And when they work in collusion, I hate them all even more.

As usual, it’s about your freedom

But this isn’t meant to be another Pretired Nick political rant, fun as that may be. We’re talking about maximizing the enjoyment of your life here. We want to get out of the rat race as soon as possible and spend our time with fulfilling activities.

We reach pretirement when our passive income is higher than our living expenses. Which is why a true socialist government could complicate matters for a pretired person living off investments. From a strictly income perspective, making your pretirement numbers work is easier under a system designed to benefit the wealthy. High taxes on investment income could negatively affect many who live off their investments. Indeed, the pretired are basically structuring their lives like the super rich — on a much smaller scale. However, the cost side can be much higher without a good dose of socialism.

Either way, I don’t see much chance of investment income becoming a target for high taxes anytime soon. Our system is essentially geared from the ground up for raw capitalism. We have a long way to go in simply excising corporate cash out of the government, let alone shifting the entire system to a worker-based economy.

Hopefully people will begin to see social programs as a way to support our fellow citizens and not as equivalent to dictatorship. We have a lot of needs in this country and it’s a shame we’re ignoring so many of them. But beyond government policy, those seeking pretirement would be wise to consider how social institutions can help them reach their goals. A community that has invested in itself is a better and cheaper place to live.

Living where there is an adequate mass transit system, for example, could save you thousands of dollars each year. A community that has invested in smart development, professional police force, good lighting and has a healthy economy, is safer. You won’t need to seek out an expensive “safe neighborhood” or gated community to keep your family safe. You won’t need a ridiculous alarm system. You may not need the house with the big yard if you have great parks nearby. You can spend less on books and movies if you have a good library.

You may even wish to consider moving to another city (or country?) that has better support systems than where you are today. Seattle, for example, has great libraries, but a crappy transit system. But it is very safe. If you’re saving for college, public university in Canada costs a fraction of what it does in America — plus sweet, sweet socialized health care!

Hopefully the U.S. is maturing out of its adolescence and is ready to put away the inflammatory language whenever government spending is discussed. Strong social supports don’t limit our freedom, they expand it.

What do you think? Is it time to start being afraid of socialism and push for pragmatic changes that can make our lives better? Would you move to take advantage of a better social support system? 

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36 Thoughts on “It’s time to stop being afraid of socialism

  1. Has the 2016 Pretired Nick for President campaign done a search for a running mate yet? Sign me up!

    I start my journey toward toward accepting socialism for what it is from the polar opposite political view from you. Yet reach roughly the same conclusion. I have this Ayn Randian view of what things should look like ideally, then I start noticing little problems that exist in society.

    How can we address those? Social spending. Education, roads, regulation, nice things for our community. Safety nets for the least advantaged. Public fixes to monopolies/oligopolies or failing free markets.

    Or simply a government solution to tragedy of the commons problems. Or government forcing parties to consider externalities in their rational economic decisions.

    I call it practical libertarianism, some might call it socialism. The important thing is to acknowledge there is a legitimate debate at to what our system of governance and society should look like. Engage in it, discuss it. Don’t chew up a big wad of GOP or Dem party platform and spit splinters at me and tell me you’re passionate about the future of our country! You won’t get my vote.

    Thanks, Nick, for a well thought out justification of why Socialism isn’t a dirty evil word (even if you don’t agree with all of socialism).
    Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…Snapshot of Root of Good’s Diversification and Asset AllocationMy Profile

    • Pretired Nick on November 22, 2013 at 11:19 am said:

      Thanks for understanding my point perfectly! It’s all about balance. I don’t really care what people call it or who they vote for as long as they do it intelligently and stop fear-mongering. It’d be a little scary if the Socialist Party really did take over and implement many of their kooky ideas (same goes for the Libertarian party). But that doesn’t mean we can draw good ideas from both perspectives.

    • OMG, guys, you really have no clue what you are talking about.

      Yes, you have to fear socialism and fight it on every step.

      Apparently you haven’t experienced socialism in its nature – both of you Nick and you Justin.

      I was born in socialism, raised in socialism and thanks to my parents we emigrated from it. And I do not want that the USA falls for it. As it is already a few steps into socialism!

      I am shocked, that young people with no experience of what they wish for can do that. Well, looks like you wish for it, you need to learn the hard way. Hopefully before it happens and the US will be definitely screwed up I will be already retired and move to a country where I will not be touched by socialism (which will be very hard to find).

      If you want I can tell you stories you won’t even believe could ever happen and you wish for them…
      Martin recently posted…New trade & adjustment – AGNC, PSEC & VNR long stock – building my ROTHMy Profile

      • Pretired Nick on November 25, 2013 at 9:08 pm said:

        Again, you are confusing authoratarianism with socialism, which is my whole point. If you’re so scared of social security, a working power grid and public education, I think it’s you that is confused. I think your experience is very limited and drenched in emotion. Surprising how Scandinavians are the happiest people on Earth given how terrible their social programs are according to you.

      • Thanks for the concern, Martin. I understand where you are coming from. I do fear a totalitarian statist control here in the US. I don’t think it is likely given our innate love of freedom and predilection toward giving the man the finger when possible (figuratively and literally).

        I do have some experience with Communism. My wife (at the time in utero) and her family (barely) escaped a despotic Communist state while literally being shot at while on the run through the jungles. Trust me, I wouldn’t trade the USA for that f’ed up situation back then for anything. Most of her extended family were executed.

        That’s a far cry from socialism as practiced in, well, every other economically developed nation. Nations that have relatively vibrant and growing economies, educated citizenry, a dynamic labor market, and generally good quality of life for most people.

        Martin, I think your argument would hold more weight if the US weren’t already providing socialist programs today. K-12 education, subsidies for higher education, huge health care subsidies (and I’m not referring to Obamacare subsidies which start in 2014 – I’m looking at you medicaid, medicare, CHIP, tax exemption for employer provided HI), roads, airports, housing subsidies (section 8 is tiny compared to mortgage interest deduction tax cost).

        I think it makes way more sense to be ever vigilant and aware of how our government spends our money. Maybe all those social programs I mentioned in the preceding paragraph are evil socialist programs and we should immediately defund them all. We would probably be fine for a year or two. But not longer. I can’t imagine our economy operating well without at least some of that social spending I mentioned.

        But to simply clamp your ears shut, point at the word “Socialism” and scream obscenities does zero to advance the interests of our nation. How about having a constructive discussion about what social programs (if any) are worthwhile public expenditures? Your stance can still be “zero social programs should be offered by our government – I don’t want five year olds mooching off the government and getting all educated”. If you can explain your position, I’ll respect it. Maybe not agree with it. But I can respect a well explained position.

        I can’t respect blanket generalizations like “all socialism is bad”. That’s the kind of rhetoric (unfortunately) best left to stumping at political primaries where you are preaching to 100% like minded people who don’t care to think outside their little box.
        Justin @ RootofGood recently posted…Carnival of Money Turkey Day EditionMy Profile

        • Pretired Nick on November 26, 2013 at 7:35 am said:

          And the crowd goes wild!!

        • Justin, yes socialism is bad in any amount. It is bad because it creates inefficiency, envy, low moral, bad habits, dependency, corruption and loss of competition. In socialism it’s the government who decides, who manages your life, controls your life and money. The only difference between socialism before 1989 and after is that today nobody will shoot you, or put you in prison for the rest of your life and you can own private businesses without being persecuted. The rest is the same. I call the socialism in Europe a capitalist socialism. It is not you, the citizen who has the control. I’ve been there. I returned back and lived there from 1998 – 2005. It is not what you want here in the US.
          The Obamacare is a brilliant example of what socialism is in principle. It destroys competition and it will lead to expensive , inefficient and low quality health care. Apply the principles from Obama are to any aspect of your life and you are doomed.
          Don’t get me wrong. I am for a social programs which help those who are in need. But it shouldn’t be a government who is running them. No government in the entire world is a good manager or investor. Their only role should be to take care of roads, schools, military, police, and basic social programs applied in emergencies, and regulation in sensitive industries. That’s it.

          • Pretired Nick on November 26, 2013 at 11:57 am said:

            Ah yes, so socialism is always bad — except for the parts you agree with. Got it. I don’t think you’re convincing anyone with your unsubstantiated opinions, Martin. But you can feel free to write a point-by-point take-down of my post over at your place and I’ll come defend myself. That said, I’m shutting down this thread before the FoxNews boneheads start coming out of the woodwork.

  2. My argument has always been that we need socialism to compete as a world power in a capitalistic way. Especially when it comes to healthcare. Socialist institutions such as single-payer health care, mass transit, etc all help contribute to a company’s bottom line. UK companies are not paying their worker’s basic health insurance (they can offer private insurance), so they have more resources to make more money. Having a good pool of workers (which mass transit helps with) is important to having a strong business. Educated workers are important for most businesses. These are all socialist institutions, but would greatly benefit the US (or any country) when competing against other countries for similar resources and wealth.
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    • Pretired Nick on November 22, 2013 at 11:22 am said:

      Awesome comment, Mom! I’ve been saying the same thing for years. Our businesses really do operate at a massive disadvantage from that perspective. More frustrating to me, though, is that small mom and pop businesses have a tough time competing against the big guys when they have the same costs per employee. It may not bother Home Depot one bit to cover health costs for their staff (although I’m sure they’d rather not), but the little hardware store down the street doesn’t have a prayer. Single-payer is the only way to go. Frustrating that we can’t seem to get there in this country.

    • another one… I give you an advice. Go to Europe to some eastern European country and enjoy socialism, especially healthcare.

      Stay there ten years. Then come back and share your experience.

      Do you even know what socialism is?

      You were born in the US, got freedom, take it for granted, and dream about greener grass in socialism!?! You know what, move to a country where they already have it and do not try to implement it in the US. You will do a lot of good to other people who believe otherwise.
      Martin recently posted…New trade & adjustment – AGNC, PSEC & VNR long stock – building my ROTHMy Profile

  3. Amen, PT Nick! I never understood why people think social programs are pulling us down. You give great examples and an education that many of us missed in public schools. And, if you really want to see the light, I know many private schools who will really pull the old wool over your eyes.

    For my grad program a couple of years ago, we had to read Blaming the Victim. It’s a gem and highly worth the read. It was written quite a few years ago, but heck – I’m old and I still make sense (sometimes!).

    Happy Friday, and thank you!

  4. Nick…not afraid to tackle controversial issues…I love it! Here in NYC, they just elected a mayor who many accuse of being a socialist as he supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and honeymooned in Cuba. I’m no politics or economics expert, but I see capitalism and socialism on a spectrum. Neither one at its extremes are systems which I think will be successful. There has to be a balance.
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    • Pretired Nick on November 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm said:

      Yep, nice and easy right down the broad middle, avoid the kooky extremes. I think U.S. politics are mostly at the extremes right now, which is pretty annoying.

  5. When I was in school, I learned about the 4 main types of political parties: Libertarian, Republican, Democrat and Socialism. This is what I learned the differences were: Libertarians believe in freedom in both social and financial aspects. Republicans believe in freedom in financial aspects but not social. Democrats believe in freedom in social aspects in social aspects but not financial. Socialists believe in no freedom in either social or financial aspects. After 20+ years of having learned those differences, I believe they still hold true. Democrats are for gay marriage and pro choice (social issues), Republicans are for less taxes and less business regulations (financial issues), Libertarians don’t believe it is the government’s choice who they marry or how they run their business, and Socialists think the government should tell you both who you can marry and that you cannot sell drinks over 16 oz. If you truly believe that the government should run all aspects of our lives, I don’t think I can read your blog anymore.

    • Pretired Nick on November 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm said:

      I think there is some truth to those broad definitions, but that’s a gross oversimplification. An honest appraisal of the parties would show you that the Democrats and Republicans are nearly identical in being corporatists, but Democrats also being for more personal freedom. You are completely wrong, however, that Republicans are for financial freedom. They have been steering dollars to private corporations for years now. That isn’t freedom, it’s corruption.
      Also, one shouldn’t mix political party names with economic philosophies. The labels are pretty meaningless at this point, anyway. It’s not socialistic to ban large drinks (and that was a Republican that did that, FYI), it’d be socialistic for the government to take over the distribution of drinks.
      To imply that I believe the government should run all aspects of our lives is just more of the nonsense hyperbole that this post is about. Let go of your fear.

    • Dillon, I agree with you. As I posted above I experienced socialism with my own skin, first hand.

      I believed that a person, who is taking care of his own finance and taking care of his own future cannot admire socialism. I am deeply shocked and disappointed and I am also leaving this blog.
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  6. Perhaps you’d run seminars in Houston for people like the neighbors that have had a “no socialism” sign in their front yard since just before the 2012 presidential election.

    We have far greater concerns here than fighting the tyrannical socialists that are so obviously taking over the US. You know, like Hispanics, a woman’s (perceived) right to decide what happens in her uterus and homosexuals.

    Well done in handling Dillon’s comment, too.

  7. I hate the knee jerk reactions that automatically label something entirely bad. Nothing is ever that simple. You can take a look at any system of governance and on paper, it seems like it would be a good system. The human factor is what normally screws it up. That’s why I think we just need to look at what good a system can provide and then find a way to balance it out with the human factor so it doesn’t become bad. In the case of socialism, finding a way to provide the help and assistance without encouraging laziness.
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  8. I think one of the problems North Americans have is that they equate socialism with old style communist states.
    The USA especially could take a lot of positives from the more progressive western European forms of socialism.
    For example – its a joke that the worlds richest nation can’t provide free universal healthcare for its citizens, though it can afford endless wars and conflicts.
    I often think the balance between socialism and capitalism has swung too far in one direction on your side of the pond.
    Gordon Gecko springs to mind – greed is good
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    • Pretired Nick on November 24, 2013 at 8:40 am said:

      Totally. We always seem to be able to find money for war but when it comes to anything to help our own people, then whoops! there’s no money!
      Nearly all of our politics revolve around things we’re afraid of. Fear drives everything here.
      Great comment, thanks!

  9. Nick, I am sorry. I am leaving your blog. Read the post and comments from people admiring socialism and even thinking that the one in Europe is fain and great like getrichwithme comment. Well it is not.

    I do not belong among people who believe in socialism.
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    • Pretired Nick on November 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm said:

      Sorry to see you go. You’ve added a lot to our various discussions. It’s unfortunate you’re so threatened by people who hold a different perspective than your own. But I will say, you clearly didn’t understand this post. Might be worth another read after you calm down….

  10. Nick,

    Interesting post. I gotta give you credit for tackling something as controversial as this.

    I’m wondering what your thoughts are on how progressive socialism would affect people as keenly interested in FI as us?

    I can certainly see the benefits of socialism, and people who live in countries that lean heavily to socialistic tendencies typically rate their quality of life very high (Norway, Canada, Denmark, Sweden). However, true socialist governments (at least identifying themselves as such) tend to be oppressive (China, Cuba). I guess as with everything in life there needs to be balance.

    Getting back to my point, though. I’m wondering if the U.S. employed a much higher tax rate with a much larger social net with greater benefits like “free” healthcare, more vacation time and a national pension system would early retirement still be a viable alternative? And by that I mean would it be viable for those in the middle class – making, say, $60k or less a year.

    I guess I look at some countries – like many in the Scandinavian region – as having citizens that are “coerced” into being driven less by material goods and money and more by achieving a common good. However, you have to have some buy-in. Those countries have completely different demographics with much smaller populations. I don’t necessarily think those systems could be completely replicated here in the U.S., however I can see some potential benefits in stretching and perhaps changing our version of a Democratic Republic driven by capitalism. Certainly defining a person’s importance by output and a country by GDP growth is probably not what our forefathers had in mind. As such, we’ve gone from being defined as citizens to consumers here in the U.S.

    Perhaps my version of early retirement/FI would not be possible in an idyllic socialistic country, but maybe it wouldn’t be as necessary either? With huge social safety nets and more time off along with less drive towards consumerism maybe it’s just an easier life to live? I don’t really know. It’s an interesting concept. I guess less stress and a higher quality of life would automatically snub out some of the drive to “escape”.

    Although, it is quite interesting how many of these countries have extremely high costs of living. I guess that’s the price you pay for being in a system where it’s just about impossible to fail. Perhaps your quality of life is automatically improved when your upside and downside is capped, and where failure is almost impossible.

    It’s all very interesting, however I would argue that FI for someone not earning a lot of money relative to their costs is much easier in the U.S. simply because your options are just about unlimited and the tax rate is quite attractive for people in the middle class – especially as you move away from being a laborer and towards an owner.

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

    Best wishes!
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    • Pretired Nick on November 27, 2013 at 10:54 am said:

      I always thought you were smart, DM, but now I know it for sure. Excellent, well-thought-out comment! Funny how I say we should stop being afraid of a word and people think I’m being “controversial”. (:
      This could almost be a post in itself, there is so much to react to here. This sentence in particular is striking in its clarity: “Perhaps my version of early retirement/FI would not be possible in an idyllic socialistic country, but maybe it wouldn’t be as necessary either?”
      Having met and worked closely with many people from all over the world, I think there is a lot of truth in that. There is a fear driving so many Americans to work each day — “I’m just lucky to have a job.” This was even worse than today in the pre-Obamacare era, which people are quick to forget. This fear of falling over the abyss is the opposite of freedom, even though it’s nearly always framed as the reverse in the U.S. And to me, that restriction on my personal freedom is what originally focused me on seeking financial independence. That only got worse during the early and middle days of my career as I continued to swallow shit from idiots just so I could keep the money flowing. No one was going to own me and I was going to buy my freedom just as soon as I could.
      I really don’t see that same desperation in my friends from other countries, although I’m not saying many of them aren’t as focused on it as I am. It just seems to come from a different, more hopeful place.
      People I’ve talked to from Norway, a place I visited many years ago and typically listed as the wealthiest country on the planet, don’t really complain about taxes the way we do, even though they are much higher. I think it’s because they actually get something for their money. (As a quick aside, business owners and managers get very frustrated with how much power employees wield in some of these countries. I couldn’t agree more that some of these rules are ridiculous. It’s pretty easy to go too far with some of this stuff.)
      You’re so right that those seeking financial freedom benefit from our extremely low tax rate — but we also pay a price for it as well. It’s probably a topic for another full post, but basically what we have in the U.S. is a generational theft issue. We’re squandering tomorrow’s money on wars and corporate handouts. So in terms of cost of living, it may be “lower” here, but for how long? Personally I’d prefer we put our military on a diet and pump some money into our economy by repairing our crumbling infrastructure and use that leverage to pay off our debts. It maybe Keynesian, but it’s not really all that socialist. I just want people to quit labeling everything as socialism they disagree with so we can have an intelligent debate about our priorities.

  11. Nick,
    Love the controversy. The problem with good intentions is that it always has unintended consequences. I believe Obamacare will be immensely popular in 10 years as it is a goodie from the government. Everyone likes free stuff if someone else pays. The problem is politicians decide what type of health care is good for you where you like it or not.

    In Europe rigid labor laws to protect workers have resulted in 50%+ unemployment among young adults. An entire generation work skills are lost.

    High taxation to pay for social programs has stifled innovation and caused one of the highest unemployment ever in Europe. You can only name a handful of European companies that still dominate in the world stage.

    In America poverty has risen despite spending trillions on socialist programs to improve lives. All it did was provide incentives for the break up of the nucleus family as you can earn more being a single household.

    Socialism isn’t bad if you truly want to enslave millions of people so that they can rely on the government. Throughout history socialism, fascism, totalitarianism has been tried that has only benefitted a few and kept the masses poor. Capitalism is the first system that has lifted billions out of poverty in the shortest time frame, yet we often take it for granted.
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    • Pretired Nick on November 27, 2013 at 11:23 am said:

      Heh, I’m not sure what people think is so “controversial”!
      I’m just saying we should stop wetting our pants whenever someone uses the word socialism to describe a social program. Apparently some people think that means I’m a “Socialist” and want a Socialist government. I’m actually a greedy capitalist.
      Some European labor laws are ridiculous and have quite a few negative effects on the economy (not sure to what extent I’d call that socialism, but I won’t quibble with you). But Europe’s high economy is NOT being caused by those labor laws. It’s a direct result of idiotic austerity policy, which stopped their economies in their tracks.
      You’re arguing that taxes in Europe “stifled innovation”, which I don’t think can be argued without some objective measures. I think that’s mostly a talking point. I don’t believe there’s a 1:1 relationship between taxes and innovation. Certainly low corporate taxes like we have in the U.S. can aid a company’s growth and that gets you into some tricky policy areas. (For example, this thinking could drive corporate taxes to zero via competition quite quickly, which would cause a huge cost on society.) Another way to look at low taxes is as cheap calories vs. nutritious calories. This creates boom and bust cycles and a lot of dangerous instability.
      On the other hand you’re saying our relatively small spending on socialist programs in America hasn’t solved poverty. Does that mean it didn’t do anything? Are we not spending enough? Are we not spending on the right things? It’s a logical fallacy to say A happened and B happened therefore A caused B. To say government assistance caused the breakup of families is beyond silly. That’s not even a point worth debating.
      Again, saying socialism “enslaves” people is more hysteria. This kind of fear-mongering is what needs to end. Is someone more “enslaved” when they have no choice but to go to a job they hate each day to avoid homelessness or by paying slightly higher taxes so they can get sick without worry? We can have interesting policy arguments about how much and what kind of programs and help should be offered, but the pearl-clutching must stop and will be loudly mocked.

      • Here is a great report that discusses all the money spend on welfare ($1 trillion a year) that benefits only the government agencies that administer it. http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/PA694.pdf Despite all the money spent the poverty rate is pretty static from the 60s. Prior to that it was falling at a fast rate.
        The financial incentive that welfare created has hurt poor black families the most. The rise of the single parent children out of wedlock household coincided with “The War On Poverty” spending by Johnson from the 60s.
        http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1672
        if you’re struggling financially as a family it is better to be unmarried because you qualify for all these programs. Married, you’re SOL.
        I wrote a post on how a single welfare mother can earn $60,000+ pre tax dollars a year in Hawaii while working only 15 hours a week. http://gettingarichlife.com/?p=477
        She can only qualify if she’s unmarried, why marry and really struggle when you can just have your significant other live off the books?
        I believe in a hand up and not create an environment of dependency. I grew up poor in government housing so I understand the need. However when a system is in place that rewards complacency and ensures you’re better off by taking these government programs is it not “enslaving” people.
        http://gettingarichlife.com/?p=492
        Yes people should go to work every day to a job they hate to avoid homelessness, that’s what personal responsibility is. If I had to work 3 jobs so that my family wouldn’t starve I would.
        I’m taking you off my Christmas Card list Nick. Happy Thanksgiving man I still love your blog.
        Charles@gettingarichlife recently posted…What I Learned From Growing Up In Government HousingMy Profile

        • Pretired Nick on November 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm said:

          LOL! I guess I have to give you points for going out and finding some links to explain your perspective, but you’ll have to better than right-wing kook sites if you want to convince anyone. (Cato! LOL!)
          Again, because A happened and B happened, that does not mean A caused B. I shouldn’t have to be explaining that. You can’t think of ANY other cultural phenomena that may have been occurring at the same time during the Johnson administration? Heh!
          You’re equating marriage with family, which is beyond misleading. You could be married and not be in a healthy family and you could be unmarried and in a healthy family. The legal designation is meaningless. “Hey honey, I wasn’t going to cheat on you and go live in a shitty apartment by myself, but hey we can get a government handout if I bang this skank. Good thing I don’t love my kids!” It’s ridiculous on its face.
          The idea that giving people a little help is rewarding complacency if they’re poor, but if we don’t “reward success” by giving rich people more tax breaks, they’ll refuse to create any more jobs!
          The most amazing part about any of that way of thinking is that anyone still buys into it. I’m not saying people don’t milk it, but I’m not here defending every welfare program, either. I’m just telling people to grow up and stop being manipulated.
          That’s probably enough batting practice for me on a holiday week. Try not to be the crazy right-wing uncle at your T-day dinner! Have a great holiday!

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