Thursday, October 24, 2013

On Socialism.

Built by union workers and socialism.

Socialism has been getting a bad rap in some circles lately, and yet Denmark was just voted the world’s happiest country. This is due in some small part to its prosperity—a prosperity both unencumbered and even enabled by socialism.

There’s no doubt that Canada is a highly-socialized country, for surely the definition fits. I would even go further and say that the long-term effect of social networks such as Facebook and other sites will be to increase socialization globally.

The sheer number of sources of information, and points of view, is astounding. Assuming an iPhone and local wireless service, something that will be coming to much of the world in the next twenty-five years or so, I can now friend the chief of some New Guinea hill tribe on Facebook.

He can upload pictures of his village, his hut, his wives and kids, and maybe even his dinner. He can take pictures of his warriors all painted up and brandishing spears. I could show him pictures of my car, or the bridge, or a sandwich I just bought at 7-11. And that’s good, because in some small way we will come to know each other a little better, and over time, this mutual understanding between peoples and cultures will have a wonderfully socializing effect on the entire human race.

I grew up under Canadian socialism, which, like many a good thing, must be taken in moderation.

The schooling was free, but the teachers got paid, quite well in fact, and then they went and bought homes from private enterprise.

The books at the library were free, and yet the librarians got paid, and they went home with a bag of groceries and fed their children. They paid their rent and some of their pay-cheques back in the form of taxation.

And when I fell from a scaffold, socialism even failed me. It has failed a time or two, every so often it happens, but it works the great majority of the time for most people. People get jobs and pay into the unemployment fund, and when they get laid off they get up to a year or so on unemployment benefits. They pay into a fund, and when they retire they get a monthly cheque. What if they don’t get laid off? Then they are fortunate indeed, for when the benefits run out they end up on welfare. Not much fun for all concerned, especially if you have any assets to begin with, and plenty of working people have at least some assets—private property, ladies and gentlemen. Plenty of working people have families, although some do not, but the point is that socialism smooths out some of the harsher bumps in an otherwise precarious existence.

(One of the benefits of effort and persistence under social-capitalism is reward, ladies and gentlemen, including private property.)

Under the provincial hospital plan, medical care is free, although some things aren’t covered. And if you’re a skilled worker, and looking for a job, you might want to find an employer with a private dental and medical plan. You might prefer some private enterprise somewhere to provide this to a valued employee.

This represents a kind of freedom of choice, based on skills and merit.

Even then, some things might not be covered, and of course they expect regular monthly contributions, over and above the provincial hospital plan—but the private plan covers things the official plan doesn’t. Obviously in a world of free enterprise, someone is paying the bills. In the world of socialism, the same msut also be true.

All social programs rest on some sort of revenue stream and they are as inclusive as they can be.

Otherwise it’s just fascism.

The big problem arises when the power to tax is somehow more difficult to use than the power to borrow—and the government has the power to do either one if it so chooses. Borrowing is deferred taxation, nothing more.

We are five years into a global recession that is showing all the signs of a soft recovery, one that really doesn’t put everyone that used to have a job back to work, certainly not at their old rate and position.

Too much time has passed, and some of the places they used to work are just gone. Some of those old skills aren’t even that relevant anymore.

In my home town, there were, once upon a time, companies that made brass plumbing and other fixtures. 

There was a company, a foundry, that made engine blocks for automobiles, and another firm that made electric alternators, starters, windshield wiper motors, all for the auto industry. I worked at a manufacturing plant where we bagged up fiberglass, and made it into big rolls, and pipe insulation, and cut custom fab jobs, small orders for refrigerators and freezers and ovens.

All of those places are gone now. Some of those plants were unionized, but the newest plant in town, the UBE wheel plant out on the highway, has closed down again. That plant was non-union, and the closure was due to falling demand for production—back then a Mazda sportscar was marked at $13,000 OFF due to the recession. Five years ago, as I recall.

With better health services, and the aging of the population, the rise of social media and social marketing, the rise of social politics, the next twenty-five years will see socialism face big challenges, not just ideological but also very practical.

There are also many opportunities ahead and they must not be overlooked.

In a world of diminishing employment opportunities, and consequent demands on governments at all levels, how can the commitment to social policy be maintained, i.e. paid for?

That, is a very good question, when multi-national corporations with possibly less of a commitment to good social policy can just pull up stakes and move their operations to less progressive states, where government priorities are geared towards development at any cost, (with their own political stability at stake) and oversight is somehow less ‘repressive.’

The funny thing is, none of those peoples enjoy the same benefits as we do as Canadians, they do not have the same standards of living, or political freedom, or education, or health care…half of the people in those countries would immigrate to Canada in a heartbeat, if only they were given a chance.

That’s what socialism has done for us—everybody and his brother wants to be a Canadian.

They have their reasons, ladies and gentlemen, and I suspect they are very, very good ones at that.

Socialism is all of us, working together for the common benefit.

Here's something on social democracy: 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment on the blog posts, art or editing.