Capitalism, Socialism and Soup Kitchens

As I was talking to my good friend Tim today, he brought up a point which reminded me that I had written this blog post but never published it, so I finally got around to cleaning it up a bit. The main thing that Tim mentioned was about climate change and how that is currently playing second fiddle to more central issues such as healthcare and the wars. While that really might be the case (Tim is rarely wrong), there is still a commonality for us to uncover. The climate change is a socialism issue at heart, just like healthcare. Both issues say that we must make a commitment (and that may have economic and non-economic aspects) to make things better for everyone. In one case (health care), the proponents say that the government should support a health plan that covers people who are not covered by other private plans, even if that incurs some cost. In the case of climate change, the proponents say that we (all nations, all peoples) should try to stop the climate change, even if that incurs some cost (like making free plastic bags illegal). This underlying common thread may just be one reason that there is political alignment between climate change control proponents and government sponsored health plan proponents.

Now of course, no one in America, not even a democrat, wants to be called a socialist. This is just a taboo word, kinda the euphemism for a commie. And even with McCarthy gone from the political landscape, it is a disaster for an American politician to admit anything contrary to US being 100% extra virgin pure capitalist. This debate of course is not a real economic debate, in terms of GDP, capitalism index or other economic concepts, rather it is just labeling game. Go beyond the labels, and no one can argue that the spirit of helping out other people and the belief that everyone (even the weak, the disabled, the differently abled) has certain rights that cannot be taken away. In fact, US is the most disabled friendly country in the world, what with all restaurants and establishments of any non-trivial size subject to the most stringent anti-disability discrimination laws (and that all is a good thing!) And I wasn’t even going to mention the countless soup kitchens and the free flowing cash to the charities.

So, if we go beyond the labels, the question isn’t really whether we are capitalist or whether we are socialist. The question really becomes – how socialist (or how capitalist) are we? Why is it OK for the government to enforce anti disability law, but not to offer a health plan to people (who may be disabled in a slightly different way) who won’t be covered by private health care companies? Who chose to draw that line, and where?