Socialism is an idea that offers a lot of promise. The political ideology here is simple: that a ‘dog eat dog’ Darwinian economy is not the most desirable solution, and that we should instead aim make it a priority to look after one another. Thus taxes are increased to fund social benefits, levelling out the distribution of finances so that there aren’t the same extremes. In essence Robin Hood was a socialist – robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Left wing political parties offer the same thing but to a lesser extent.
The US is a capitalist country. While Democrats are currently in power, the country as a whole still remains right wing. This is not as true in Europe, where socialism is much more popular – and even ‘winning’ in some countries. The question is then, is this a good thing? Or does it threaten to destroy Europe?
Why Socialism Works
When socialism works, it can be a great tool for change, and that’s what the French are hoping for having put the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in charge last year. Of course there are many benefits to socialism – with reduced poverty and homelessness being chief among them. The free healthcare enjoyed across most of Europe is an example of a socialist idea that many in the US approve of and if ever you’ve been unable to afford surgery you’ll probably understand the appeal. The NHS in the UK and other European countries is one of the best socialism examples that advocates can point to.
When socialism works it can also help to take away insecurity and provide a ‘security blanket’ for things that might potentially go wrong. Without having to worry about being left unable to afford healthcare or to raise your own children, socialism allows people to enjoy a more relaxed way of life.
Socialism can be a good thing for the economy too, and in fact one of the best positive socialism examples is the way that Francois Hollande has managed to help steer France through the recent economic difficulties in Europe. In fact you could even point to the EU as an example of socialism – though whether that’s an example of socialism being successful or not is a question that’s open to debate.
Why Socialism Sucks
It’s a great theory indeed, but not one that is without its problems. In order to work for instance, socialism usually requires some form of totalitarianism in place in order to manage the process. In other words, without somewhere there to enforce the richer to give to the poorer, few of them likely would – which immediately makes socialism less compatible with democracy. This also then unfortunately makes socialism more open to despots and tyrants who can take advantage of this absolute power.
This is where communism comes in – a more extreme form of socialism that’s even further to the left. In Europe, Russia was famously communist under Stalin and Lenin, and remains highly socialist. While Russia doesn’t label itself as communist anymore, it nevertheless still is in many respects and there have been accusations of election rigging and other non-democratic acts on Putin’s behalf – the imprisonment of the Pussy Riot gang being another example. It’s these kinds of things that ensure that Russia is unlikely to receive an invite into Europe any time soon.
Socialism examples that don’t work then, are pretty much any communist state as well as other countries that lean too far to the left (to be fair, European countries that lean too far to the right don’t tend to fair too well either *cough* Nazism *cough*).
Even when socialism doesn’t go so far as to be classed as extremist however, there are still those who believe it to be interfering by its very nature. Many accuse socialist countries of being ‘Nanny states’ with governments that get too involved with the affairs of their citizens. Shouldn’t it be up to you to decide which health insurance you want to use? And whether or not you wish to smoke?
Likewise, socialism sucks in some people’s opinion because it prevents anyone from rising too high too fast. The American dream is by definition a capitalist dream – of fulfilling your ambition and becoming rich and famous so that you can retire to a big mansion. In a truly socialist state you would have to give any of that money you earned to others in the form of taxes and wouldn’t be able to pump so much into your private business/your career in Hollywood.
Not only does this take away people’s ambition and dreams, but it can also be bad for the economy. Large businesses are actually good for the economy because they bring in revenue from abroad, because they encourage spending and because they pay more tax in the long run. Better to let those companies grow enough to begin with to be able to contribute to the economy, rather than to squeeze them dry of all profits as soon as they start generating any.
So is Socialism Ruining Europe?
So is socialism ruining Europe? The answer to that question would have to be no – which is simply because socialism isn’t rife enough to have such a severe impact on the continent. The fact is that most European countries these days are capitalist. Even if Europe leans a little further to the left than the US, it is still largely in the middle. And as with most things, that’s generally for the best.