I am an unabashed socialist. Here is what I mean by a socialist, and why I think everyone should support the political philosophy of socialism, not out of any feelings of social justice you may or may not have, but out of pure self interest. If we do not adopt socialist policies in today's quickly changing technological environment, countries that do adopt such policies will outpace us.
In modern times, we see entire new industries rise and fall in a lifetime. The man who dedicated his life working in a buggy-whip factory was simply out of luck when the auto industry made his job obsolete, unless he got lucky, or he had some other means of support. An old man with outdated skills could just die in a gutter back then.
But in the time since then, American progressives have been working hard to enact socialist policies that give someone like that another chance. A nation's most important resource is it's people. A wasted life is a wasted chance to create more wealth for all of us. Other nations, the social democracies of Europe, for instance, have worked harder perhaps than we have, to ensure that their own people have an opportunity to contribute to society.
This is the goal of socialism: to give everyone an opportunity to help, to be useful; and to help even those who can't contribute, for whatever reason. Most people are good. They want to contribute, to feel the sense of self worth that comes from being a useful and productive member of society. You do not need to use fear of deprivation, starvation, and death to motivate people to contribute to society. Most people, you just need to give them the opportunity and they will take it gladly, even when the other option is being a lazy leach on the dole.
As a nation, we prosper when we take big risks that pay off. But not all risks pay off. One reason for society to exist is to adjudicate risk and reward. In societies where the risk, for a new small business person, of going bankrupt is minimized by a robust social safety net, more people will feel safe to take the risk involved in starting a new and innovative business.
People are self interested, as well as being motivated by a desire to contribute. When they can't contribute, they will fight for what they need. Look at the riots in London, so many people with no better option than looting and burning. People do not generally go quietly into that good night, desperate people lash out, and hurt everyone around them, the guilty and the innocent.
How can we, as a society, quickly create entire new industries if we are afraid of change, afraid of losing our jobs even when something newer and better comes along? We must be able to adapt to a fast pace of technological change. A society living in fear for their lives can not adapt.
Ensuring that no one need fear for their life is one major goal of socialism. That means we make a pact to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met, no matter what. It needn't be too pleasant, but it shouldn't be degrading. Basic shelter. Clothes. Nutritious food. Clean water, sanitation, health care, and community based police and fire. A robust and corruption free justice system. Access to education, freely available to everyone throughout life. Access to well regulated free markets. These are the basic things that a highly adaptive society must provide to all it's citizens.
This ensures that no one can use economic coercion against another. Reducing the ability of the powerful to use economic coercion against the weak, besides being a worthy goal for any rational self interested person in and of itself, also serves the goal of maintaining well regulated free markets. When people are empowered to stand up to economic manipulation by having their basic needs met, the powerful lose a major lever of power.
Well regulated free markets are crucial for a nation's long term success. They are a good way of adjudicating risk and reward. In a well regulated free market, excellence almost always triumphs over shoddiness and dirty pool. But only well regulated markets can remain free. Nobody wants to trade in a market that is thick with thieves. Nobody but the very powerful want to do business in a market where justice is a salable commodity. Nobody wants to set up shop or invest in markets where fairness is scarce. It isn't safe.
In the long run, socialist democracies will outpace pure capitalist economies because the later will always end up with un-free, thief infested markets run by robber barons and banksters. The smarter investors of the world will not continue to put their money in the hands of bandits.
Socialist democracies will outpace pure capitalist economies because socialist economies can be more flexible and adaptable. New businesses, supported by cooperative (meaning, owned by the customers and or staff, and run democratically) banks, cooperative staffing agencies, cooperative business planning services, ad agencies, and so on, will be more numerous, more innovative, and more successful than businesses in a cut-throat society of crony capitalists.
If you care about social justice, I know I don't have to win you over to socialism. But even if you are only in it for yourself, I have to ask you, do you want "our team," America, to keep on winning, or are you okay being on the losing team for the foreseeable future? Because the socialist democracies of Europe, if they can remain as such, are going to be eating our lunch for the next century unless we, too, adopt more socialist policies.