George B. Reed Jr.

George B. Reed Jr.

Right-wing ideologues love to call government- run programs such as Social Security, Medicare and sometimes even public education "creeping socialism." And they often go unchallenged because few people bother to find out what socialism actually is. Socialism is government ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Socialism has been tried in numerous countries at various times and has been found wanting each time. The most memorable example was the Russian experiment after the Marxist Revolution at the end of World War I. This finally ended with the collapse of the Soviet empire in the early 1990s.

In dealing with the threat of a communist takeover after World War II every administration, Democrat or Republican, simply followed Russian specialist George F. Kennon’s proposed 1946 strategy of containment as opposed to open confrontation. As Kennon accurately predicted, the flawed Soviet socialist system eventually self-destructed of its own defects and dysfunctions. These weaknesses were clear to most serious economists from the very start. While certain features of socialism might sound attractive, its basic precepts are foreign to human nature and it often winds up exacerbating the very economic and social evils it professes to remedy. Sir Winston Churchill proposed that capitalism is shared wealth (albeit unequal); socialism is shared misery.

The USSR’s collapse in 1991 was quickly followed by the failure of the other satellite governments. Other than Cuba and North Korea, both economic disaster cases today, only Chinese socialism persists today. But China’s is a hybrid system with serious capitalist overtones; the best of both worlds, they might say. And we must also remember that "USSR" denoted the Union of Soviet "Socialist," not "Communist," Republics. The Soviets saw themselves engaged in state socialism, a midpoint on the road to full communism. Karl Marx defined communism as a dictatorship of the proletariat (the workers). Thank God they never got there!

If Trump succeeds in repealing Obamacare we could again be the only developed nation without national health care. The outrageously costly profit-driven fee-for-service medical system we have today is by far the world’s most expensive and absurdly complex. Obamacare is flawed, yes; but it was a start when we had nothing and could be readily revised and improved without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. All other developed-world countries not only have national health care, they have generous retirement, affordable child care for working parents and free university tuition for those who qualify. Foreign students’ opportunities are limited only by their individual abilities and motivation, not by the size of their parents’ bank accounts or their willingness to mortgage their futures. But how do all these other free-market capitalist democratic republics pay for these goodies? The only way they can (contrary to popular opinion in both American parties, borrowing has its limits) is through higher taxes. Most European taxes are almost double what we pay, and they are competing quite nicely in the free-world economy, thank you. We have been sold a bill of goods about higher taxes stifling economic growth. The period following George W. Bush’s lopsided tax cuts for the wealthy experienced the slowest economic growth in decades. Economic growth is spurred by low- and middle-income consumers having money in their pockets to spend, not by a tiny wealthy minority having lower taxes.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at