Perhaps the most important impact of Socialism and Capitalism is its effect on quality of life. Americans are seen by the outside world as, well … Epicurean. Our latest generation is hardly our Greatest, with diminished work ethic and the expectation of prosperity as a birth-right. Did the Socialist aspects of our society (social programs) bring us to this, or has the bourgeois attitude trickled down to the common man? The answer is yes, and yes.
Whereas there is a question of social mobility being more than a dream, it is the benefits and not pitfalls of Capitalism that have — for the most part — come home to roost. Never before has it been possible for so many people to NOT have work dictate their whole lives. Employees value vacation time and flex hours over more pay because we are just that well off … or perhaps no longer have to worry about some things thanks to Social Security, Disability, Health Insurance, and the like. I myself haven’t worked a consistent 40-hour week in over 10 years and pay my bills with a few scant vices and luxuries to spare. They said the age of machines would unburden the masses, and were wrong, but now the market has evolved to where a service-oriented economy CAN do that. The poor are RICH by comparison to their counterparts 100 years ago, or most economies across the world even today.
The confusion is where Capitalism is equated with obsessive maximization of profit and greed, neither of which is an accurate or meaningful statement in the real world. Insisted by some as obvious, these definitions were set by opponents of the abuses of capitalism from a very different time and place, namely 19th Century Europe. These myths conclude that free market polarizes wealth, and yet here we are with GENERATIONS of people, most neither “rich” nor “poor”, actually ABLE to choose their own balance of time versus lifestyle. This ain’t the industrial world of Carnegie and Rockefeller anymore — we’ve finally arrived and now risk losing it all by misinterpreting imperfections of a human system (Capitalism, Free Market) as a systemic failure.
But is this American dream within everyone’s reach? Even if not, the assumption that every one of us somehow deserves it is heightened by the fact that MOST people actually HAVE IT. And that is where Socialism hits our state of mind from the other side. What the free market doesn’t provide for us, we expect the government to make up for. Some of us would rather skip the whole process and pretend it isn’t the productive taxpayer who is required to “distribute” wealth in the first place.
Some of us really believe that no one should be better off than anyone else, regardless of effort, choices, or talents — and rationalize into a conspiracy against the poor all the evils of Capitalism, for no other reason than to cry foul when they lose in the game of meritocracy. In other words, those unable to compete simply refuse to play, and the government is expected to referee a judgment in their favor. I’m not sure if it worse when it works that way, or when it doesn’t.