Friday, July 18, 2008

Le Socialisme Americain

When I picked up my newspaper yesterday, I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turns out socialism is alive and well in America.
-- Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky) at the Senate Banking Committee

Heavens, no! Not socialism! Not a yearly month-long vacation for everyone, a 35-hour work week and freedom from worry about affording health care or old age. Can't have that!

Bunning's remark on Wednesday concerning the possible bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was, ostensibly, hyperbole. Yet it reflects the tenacious grip on a refusal among many Americans to be rational about any idea that might be even timidly left of center.

Many people, including a correspondent of mine, assume that the minute one criticizes the richly flawed system of capitalism, one is advocating the Gulag Soviet prison system with Joe Stalin on top. The ghost of Joe McCarthy seemingly inhabits a good share of the American psyche: anything even suggestively pinko, lefty, Commie is totalitarian trash and utterly unthinkable.

Yet not just France has dabbled quite nicely in socialism, without Gulag, without bread lines. Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Sweden have all had substantively socialist governments that have put in place a system of womb-to-tomb state-supported social and economic insurance.

Even capitalist Canada has socialized medicine; I've tried it and it's good.

Only the United States insists on the archaic avoirdupoids system of weights and measures to go along with its antiquated dog-eat-dog economics.

Yet, if you're wealthy or a corporation, there's U.S. socialism for you in the form of gargantuan subsidies. Why not capitalism for them, Mr. Bunning? Or, indeed, why not socialism for wage earners and those unlucky enough not to earn wages at all?
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