Why have we ignored Santayana’s warning that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. To covet truth is a very distinguished passion.” We have seen repeatedly the effect of not learning from the past, ignoring obvious lesions. There is a book I would recommend for all its “Thinking in Time – the uses of history for decision makers.” Using history as business schools use case studies this book tries to show decision makers the how and why of past decisions and their consequences.
These historic studies are relevant and necessary to keep us from falling into known traps, but even with this knowledge we have failed to avoid them. Keeping to recent problems that could have been avoided we will discuss only two, one specific and one broad based.
The affordable care act, known as Obama care is a case in point. While accepting that there is a need to help those who cannot afford reliable healthcare there are much better ways to do it. One of the best ways was to incentivize the private insurance industry through tax breaks. Instead the government decided to simply tax the people that could least afford it and set up a system that did nothing more then look like they were doing something, and in fact set up a system that most who needed it could not afford. The biggest problem that should have been seen is the individual mandate and the assumption that young healthy people will be paying into the system, thereby funding the system for those that are older and sicker. Had the government looked back at the assumptions made in the ‘30s, during the Roosevelt administration, when they started social security. While the concept of Social Security was admirable, a safety net and secondary pension, the reality has shown that it is unstainable. In the beginning there were enough workers paying into the system to cover the costs of the fewer who had retired and were drawing. The system paid out to those collecting, with the tax collected from those working. Today the problem is that we are seeing more demands on the system then can be covered by those paying into it. This in effect is what will happen to Obamacare in the future, especially when the economy is better, as it is now, and less and less people need Obamacare as their employer supplied insurance is better and cheaper. The caveat to this is if it becomes a standard then the employer supplied insurance will go away, as have company paid retirement and pension plans. This we see with the concept of Medicare-for-all. Just as Social Security eventually replaced employer funded pension funds and retirement programs Medicare-for-all is designed to replace private insurance. Just as Social Security has reduced the ability for millions to retire in some comfort, Medicare-for-all will bring down health care for most. How do I know this, history tells us so.
Now for the broader look at history forgotten, socialism. The recent rise of calls for socialist government or turning more toward socialist style programs is, paradoxically, the result of socialisms failure. Let’s define what we mean by socialism, Communism, Nazi, Fascist or whatever the name is socialism. It is the government taking control of all or most of society, personal and economic control of the individual. All means of production is in the hands of the government. It is an economic theory that cannot be applied to government or society as a whole.
Despite the failure of socialist governments such as the Soviet Union, North Korea, Venezuela and others, we lack understanding of why the older ones failed and what is happening to those that still try to exist. Following the Second World War the west was exposed to realities of socialism because of our new-found eyes, television, and the steady stream of information leaking out of the USSR and the eastern block, and the new threat of the North Korean and the Chinese. What happened to all that knowledge? Without a steady stream of information and first hand accounts the truth went to sleep and then the academics took over.
People will usually go for the answer that sounds the best. Socialism sounds great but has always failed to deliver on its promise. Pointing to the wests failures the socialists will say that in a socialist society all people are equal, all have jobs/guarantied income, free housing, free medical and free education. In the west they claim the rich control everything and the rest of society is poor and barely hanging on. Racism is rampant and minorities are held down by a lack of education and a violent police state that denies justice to the poor. To be fair some of these claims have a kernel of truth but rehash historic moments that are not relevant to the current situation. While many of the problems still exist, they are not large or impactful as the socialist tend to shout about. The problem with income inequality shows up as the discrepancy between the wealth of the richest to the wealth of the poorest. The implication is that the rich sit in their mansions and eat all the food available while the rest of the 99% of the country lives in cardboard boxes and eats scraps that are left over from the millionaire’s parties. While poverty exists in the US it effects around 13% of the population, which means 87% of us are above the poverty line. People will struggle and many live paycheck to paycheck but the standard of living is not what the socialist make it out to be.
To listen to the left all black Americans live in poverty and are discriminated against on a daily basis. Does racism and bigotry exist in our country, of course it does. It exists within every country and society in the world, the question is, does it control us as a people and the answer is no. As for poverty 20% of the black population of America lives in poverty as compared to 8% of the white population. This of course is much too high, but it also means 80% of the black population does not live in poverty. According to recent studies while about 52% of whites in America qualify as middle class so do 45% of blacks and 48% of Hispanics. By the way there are non-white millionaires in the US. This of course goes against the current narrative and must be ignored if socialism is to win.
We can go on and on about the facts versus the narrative, but we will stop here. What we do know at this point is that the US has advanced from what it had been, and must continue to move forward. We also accept the fact that there are still problems that must be addressed and dealt with. Socialism does not however hold any answers to solving most of the remaining problems and in fact socialism exasperates these problems.
In the old Soviet Union, there was a large economic disparity, without a middle class. In order to show equality all but the political elites were poor. Crime was cured by lack of a justice system in which accusation equaled conviction. Everyone did however have a job and a place to live regardless of personnel choose. As we move forward in time, we find the same conditions in almost all of the socialist systems to some degree, with the exception of China which adapted a modified capitalist system.
With past and current examples of the abject failure of socialism how are we looking more and more at political leader who want to move us closer to that system and the continued bashing of the capitalist system that has brought the US and other countries so much. Simple by refusing to not learn from the past or to teach the past, as well as having so many distort the past as well as outright lie about the present. Ignoring the pasts failures, we are told to look at present successes such as Sweden. The problem is that Sweden is not a socialist nation but a free market capitalist state. Its experiment into socialism failed and they reversed course. Sweden does have a higher tax rate and many social programs but not like we think of socialism. The government does not control any of the businesses in the country and while they have an excellent education system, they also allow for school vouchers which means private schools. What has helped Sweden and other countries is an open, competitive free market society
Let us stop the ridiculous fantasy of the left and constantly question everyone of their claims and force the truth to shine through. While we are at it lets do something about our schools and make them teach history.