Friday, November 06, 2009

is socialism bad?

In a facebook conversation yesterday, my hope for a bill to pass to provide affordable health care for everyone, including the "public option" was met with a good reply which included a desire to avoid socialism. I don't think the person was telling me that I was for out and out socialism, but that what I support is socialism.

Socialism is defined as "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary). What is considered socialism's alternative, capitalism, is defined as "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market" (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary).

What drives me as much as anything in trying to answer the question of the post is my view of humanity theologically, based on Scripture. Original sin, the simple belief that in some way from the time of "Adam", the entire human race is infected with sin, so that we are all sinners, plays a major part in how I view the world, and what will work in the world. There cannot be a utopia until Jesus returns and the kingdom of God in him takes over all things.

This makes me wary of any system that is thought to be the answer in and of itself, unless that system incorporates checks against inevitable abuse by sinful humans.

At this point I know I need to study and think more. But I would go for something of both elements to be worked out in society. We must remember too that what might work well in one society or culture, may not in another. There at least will be some differences. What makes America stand out, and in many ways for good I think, is its entrepreneurship. Many think that capitalism and free enterprise played out in entrepreneurship would result in the greatest good for everyone by the "trickle-down economic" effect. Or they may think that capitalism affords the most opportunity for others to take responsibility and provide for themselves and their families, being responsible and contributing members of society. Entrepreneurs end up providing jobs for others, and much more money is gathered by their work than in some collective society.

I'm running out of time and space, but I want with others to think through more on this. I don't think the Bible teaches economic theory as in one being better than another. I tend to think that while there will be some things in common across the board in all cultures, still there will be differences according to the cultures and peoples and their gifts and manner of living. Freedom to live and work in a responsible, creative way should be one overriding factor. And another ought to be "loving one's neighbor as one's self."

So is socialism bad? In its connotations earned through Marxism, it indeed can be bad, a cover-up for evil. But capitalism can be as well, as we've seen from the recent crime and recklessness in the American private sector.

What thoughts would you like to share from this sketch?


Dave J. said...

Didn't the early church live a communal, if not socialist, life? And those who cheated were struck dead?

Yet it is interesting that early capitalism was described by Thomas Paine ( I believe) as the 'big hand theory'. Who's hand? So even if capitalism is seen to be individualistic, it still is communal, too.

A lot of what we have in America is a blend, but it is a shame that people don't see the finer choice of mixing things.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Dave J.,
Thanks. Helpful words, and you know things firsthand that I most certainly don't in regard to this.