US Presidential Election 2012: The Time Has Come for America to Choose Between Socialism and Capitalism

ByLawrence Sampson

In the modern parlance of our times, one is either a capitalist or a socialist. So says common wisdom, not to mention the media. While some may indeed occupy fully one side or the other of that strata, the fact is that most people are a little of both. Just as most people have ideas they are both conservative and alternately liberal about, I believe the majority of people believe in capitalism to some degree, but recognize the need for some form of state involvement in various small bastions of our life. Perhaps there are likewise those who believe in socialism with the smallest slivers of capitalism thrown in for flavor’s sake. I just don’t believe either system is in and of itself an answer to our country’s needs. Capitalism and socialism very much represent the yin and yang of our country’s success both at home and abroad.

The two ideologies, and that is exactly what the belief in different economic systems has become in this country, do not have to be mutually exclusive, although the extremists on both the right and left may think it so. Capitalism may well be the greatest engine on Earth for innovation and mankind’s technological advancement. Socialism might well be the best method for insuring the rights of society members. Many in America love to document the failings of socialism even where it prospers, but what of the failings of capitalism? Must we remain blind to those?

In a purely capitalistic society, profit is the only things that matters. Cue up images of American corporations which have one mission and one mission only -- to create profit. If it is profitable to break the law, said corporation will do so. If it is profitable to poison or otherwise harm and even kill people, it will do so. Having been given all the rights of an individual without the responsibilities we human beings are held to, corporations have found a haven in America to literally rule all aspects of our lives. It is next to impossible to hold a corporation responsible for what it does. The idea that free markets are the answer to every problem facing America is a dangerous one that seems to cling to life no matter how many times we are shown its failings.

An idea occurred to me years ago that has refused to evacuate my mind ever since. Whatever system you believe in, whatever slant or motivations you have towards one governmental system or another, where do your loyalties ultimately lie? It seems to me that if you are a free marketer with an unyielding commitment to unfettered markets, and making every enterprise known to man a for profit exercise, then your loyalties are to the dollar bill. Some might call that an extreme sentiment, but what other conclusion can one come to?

Mitt Romney is a candidate for president. According to most polls he trails our current president by ten or fewer percentage points. The White House is certainly a possibility for him. But where do his loyalties lie? He is, or at least claims to be an advocate of free markets. As governor he allowed corporations to ship jobs overseas and vetoed legislation to stop it. As a venture capitalist he invested in and actually promoted the loss of jobs to China and elsewhere. He helped Bain Capital make a huge profit saddling Kaybee Toys with so much debt they never recovered and liquidated through bankruptcy, killing thousands of jobs. He now claims these experiences qualify him to be a good candidate for president. Are we to believe shipping jobs overseas is the way to prepare for the White House? Pending legislation would force American corporations to open call centers stateside if they open one overseas, and give their customers a choice of which one to be routed to. Word on the street is that Mitt Romney opposes this idea. 

We are embroiled in a vicious health care debate across this country. Some like myself have come to the conclusion that universal health care is the only way forward, that the profit motive in people being sick or dying is not worthy of our claims to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Others continue the vein of free markets and believe a for-profit health care system is the only way to go. Without profit they reason, where will innovation come from? Despite being the architect of a statewide universal care system, Mitt Romney opposes the Affordable Care Act and says he’ll repeal it if elected.

In my middle age I have come to the conclusion that neither a capitalist nor socialist system of modern governance has all the answers. There must be a perfect mix of free markets and systems with state oversight in some areas. How to do that properly and cleverly is the real question of our times. But in regard to how we get to that answer, one question must be answered first. Is profit always in the best interests of our country’s citizens? Following the progression of logic, clearly in some cases one has to choose. Are you loyal to the dollar, or are you loyal to your country? Which comes first to you, profit or America?  

I don’t think the founding fathers ever imagined we would have to choose, but times have changed. Sometimes, I believe either one path or the other must be followed. Which view is most needed on Pennsylvania avenue? I suppose we’ll decide to some degree in November. I hope we make the right decision.