I guess, taken on a scale of everything, nothing – leave alone socialism, would work. The catch lies in finding the balance. Basic necessities should not be part of the equation.
People should not have to compete to get food, healthcare, shelter and the likes. The big inequality of it all lies in the government going out of their way, to save corporations while individuals are being pushed into absolute poverty – on to the roads just because they had to go to the emergency room once. The healthcare plan reform is surprisingly a tougher bill to sell than an 800 Billion â€™save the financial sectorâ€™ bill or trillions of dollars worth of spending on wars.
In short, the key lies in finding a balance and assuring that certain basic human necessities arenâ€™t left to chance just for the sake of capitalism.
Putting this in perspective of the classroom, everyone in the class has more or less equal access to text books, study material and classroom facilities. Now failing the whole class to teach them a lesson, that sounds more like bad dictatorship!!
A government safety net is hardly socialism; as long as the government is not the sole owner and distributor of any good or service, socialism is the last thing that comes to mind. Of course the wars (which are big mistakes and atrocities in the first place and are therefore inexcusable), and the bailouts (which were a stopgap for presumably avoiding a systemic collapse and a subsequent depression) have nothing to do with anti-socialism or smart policy either. But there are two problems with bigger social service network – one, the cost of implementing such an undertaking and two, the problem of free riding. Even California, which spends over sixty billion dollars on public health, still makes healthcare a prominent issue every election, and every year what is the cost of maintaining the same level of services – cutting back from more important spending on education.
In that respect, I think India sets a somewhat perfect example for the rest of the world – the government would hardly spend on healthcare, food would be always scarce and unemployment benefits is an unheard-of concept, but it did build several thousand new colleges, which are churning out world-class citizens that can stand on their own. On the other hand, the ration system in India is one of the most poorly managed systems in the world with rampant corruption and incredible waste; I say that not because its a bad idea, but because implementing such a large social system for so many millions of people is anything but herculean. Which brings me to the second point that social systems work well in the Denmarks, Swedens and Canadas that have less than a fifth of the populace of the United States and sliver of India’s population. There is something to be said about public programs, that they are a nightmare to manage for large number of constituents. Think just healthcare, if there is a cheaper public option tomorrow, then simply the insurers will defer the unhealthy to the public system. Over time, employers will shift to the public system, which will lead to bankruptcies of the public insurers, and the end of the day the real problem of inflated healthcare costs (which is very achievable through tort reform) will never see light.
At the end of the day, there is much to be debated about public programs, and I most religiously agree to the need to cease the rampant wastage on the wars and focus on welfare of citizens, but there are limitations to public programs and there are misconceptions of what socialism means. What I intend to imply is that public programs inculcate tremendous wastage and a degree of dependence, just from the fact that government is poorly run simply because of substandard incentives. More importantly, there is a desperate need to develop incentive-based systems instead of charity-based systems, because as long as there are freebies, people will rest on their asses. And that includes me.