Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Socialism Improved America

Few conservatives acknowledge that both the right and the left are necessary in American politics.
 
The following programs and services are all possible only through government: Military and Defense; Highways / Roads and Bridges; Public Libraries; Police and Fire Departments; Postal Service; Student Loans and Grants; Trash Collection and Public Landfills; Farm Subsidies; the FBI and the CIA; the Environmental Protection Agency; Social Security; Public Schools; Jail and Prison System; Corporate / Business Subsidies; Public Parks and Recreation; Food Stamps and Medicaid; Court System; Internal Revenue Service; Medicare; Food and Drug Administration; Disability Insurance; Town and State Run Beaches; Corporate Bailouts; Unemployment Insurance; City / Metro Buses; Public Broadcasting Service; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Welfare; Public Street Lighting; FEMA; Public Defenders; CHIP; Amtrak; National Public Radio; Department of Homeland Security; Occupational Safety and Health Administration; Department of Agriculture; Government Scholarships; Department of Health and Human Services; Census Bureau; Department of Energy; Customs Agency and Border Protection; Department of Education; Secret Service; Peace Corps...
 
Again, few conservatives acknowledge that both the right and the left are necessary in American politics. Government regulation is as necessary to a prosperous society as is free enterprise! Ronald Reagan's espousal of the free market in 1980 was extreme. When told about the possibility of Chrysler going bankrupt, he asked in response: "What's wrong with bankruptcy?" Chrysler went from near bankruptcy to success during the 1980s, prompting Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca to write his autobiography. Someone on the political left commented that Chrysler's comeback was due to the government stepping in, and that Lee Iacocca's autobiography was not as much an ode to capitalism as it was to government intervention in the marketplace. 
 
Progressive political pundit Thom Hartmann eloquently writes about the programs and services we take for granted (see above) that are a result of the public sphere. A balance is needed between the two extremes of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism vs Marxism (which was discredited with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc).
 
Again, government regulation is as necessary to a prosperous society as is free enterprise. Without the Clean Air Act, we would be breathing dirty air emissions from power plants; we would be drinking impure water. Without government regulation, medicines with fatal side effects could not be pulled off shelves and toys with lead poison would still be on the market. Government regulation affects our housing safety, our food quality, our driving safety (through speed limit and safety belt laws). As we live in a civilized society, government serves as a mediator and enforcer as no individual can do.
 
Gun control advocates argue along these lines: the freedom of owning a gun has nothing to do with gun regulation. Anyone can own a car, but they still need to register their vehicle and be licensed to drive. Everyone is free to own a home, but they still have to observe zoning regulation and fire safety requirements. Sensible gun laws govern manufacturing standards, product safety, and access by minors and criminals. Sensible gun laws govern the safety of our streets, our schools, and our homes. In 2004, guns were used to kill: 5 people in New Zealand, 37 in Sweden, 56 in Australia, 73 in England and Wales, 184 in Canada, and 11,344 in the United States. God bless America.
 
An editorial in the school newspaper at San Diego State University in the late 1980s commented that the American Left has always looked to Sweden as an economic model. Back then, I personally would have preferred New Zealand (an ecologically stable, nuclear-free zone, which protected unborn children). But I doubt if either country (or even Canada, with its multicultural and multilingual policies, which went metric and passed universal health care decades ago) is an applicable model for a nation as vast and populous as the United States…
 
…The American Empire is how Washington DC investigative journalist William Blum describes the United States in Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Remaining Superpower (Common Courage Press, 2000).
 
And considering the fact that in this country the burden of taxes falls squarely on the middle class, I think it’s reasonable to demand the wealthy, corporations, etc. pay their fair share! Bernie Sanders notes the sad irony of "the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, having a crumbling infrastructure with roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, rail, levees and dams falling apart..."
 
Apart from laissez-faire capitalism allowing corporations to go bankrupt and resulting in mass unemployment, the laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th century is espoused today by libertarians. There is a certain philosophical consistency in being laissez-faire on both social as well as economic issues, but I personally find the libertarian position distasteful because it would abolish programs and services many of us take for granted (see above).
 
My dear friend Rose Evans (1928 - 2015), editor and publisher of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a peace and justice periodical on the religious left, once cited the example of libertarians wanting to abolish public education as an example of how extremist a political philosophy it really is!
 
So let's have a serious discussion about socialism in America.

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