I’ll be honest, I have no idea who you think of when you hear the word “socialist”. These days, that word can evoke the image of characters on a wide spectrum. If you’re views are more right leaning, perhaps you picture Stalin, Castro or Kim Jong-Il.
If you’re more towards the left, perhaps Che Guevara or Bernie Sanders pop into your head. Come to think of it, those two might come to mind no matter who you are. But more often than not, it’s someone who is seen as a larger-than-life character, whether justified or not.
And that’s where a major problem lies.
It seems to me that in our highly polarized atmosphere we have collectively characterized those with whom we disagree, especially within the principles of politics, faith, social issues and economics. And, yes, we all hold economic viewpoints, even though we may not hold advanced degrees in the subject or, let’s say, be accountants. After all, not everyone who holds religious values is part of the clergy. Not everyone who has a political opinion is an elected official. Not everyone who has a thought or two on societal issues is a member of a social organization. So the same goes for economics. You may not think you possess an economic philosophy, but you do. And for most people I know, it’s capitalism-or-bust. But is it?
Now, before I get started, let me just say that I am not an economist in the textbook sense of the word. Let me repeat, I am not an economist. I hold an economic opinion, but I am no expert on the subject. If you want a highly learned viewpoint from this field, I would strongly suggest you read anything by folks like Robert Reich or Paul Krugman, to name just two respected voices. (Full discloser, I am a big fan of each, even though I may not agree with them on everything.)
But getting back to the matter at hand, if you think something can’t be one thing because of what you think something else is or is allowed to be, you might want to think again.
Here’s just a sampling of what a socialist or a person that holds certain socialistic ideals can be, believe in and enjoy – some of which I’ll expound upon in other posts.
You can be a socialist and:
• Believe in a free and open press
• Believe in free and open elections
• Believe in the right to assemble peacefully
• Believe in the right to dissent
• Be a proud supporter of our men and women in the armed services
• Love a good steak dinner (you know, be a meat-and-taters kind of a person)
• Love a good beer
• Be a fashionista
• Enjoy rock (I love classic rock, and I find folk music exceptionally boring)
• Love country music (I’m not a fan of the genre, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be)
• Love action movies (I can’t get enough of the Die Hard movie franchise, and I can pretty much assume that Bruce Willis, a well-known Republican supporter, would not agree with me on much, if anything)
• Love the latest in pop culture
• Love anything pop culture
• Love and/or play sports
• Watch ESPN (I’m a devoted Pardon The Interruption follower)
• Be an avid fan of the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL
• Love NASCAR and the PGA
• Participate in the office March Madness pool
• Love the beach
• Love Las Vegas
• Hit the nightclubs on the weekends
• Go hunting and fishing on the weekends
• Be a gun owner (I’m not)
• Believe in God (I’m agnostic)
• Be a devout Christian
• Be devout in any religion
But most importantly, you can be a socialist or believe in certain socialistic ideals, policies and principles, and still believe in capitalism. Yes, I know, it sounds strange and counterintuitive. However, there is a very small economic philosophy that exists and to which I subscribe known as “social capitalism.”
Again, we’ll get into this deeper in another post, but the basic premise of social capitalism is that, contrary to popular belief, socialism and capitalism are not competing economic philosophies but rather are complementary economic philosophies. It combines the fairness, equality and security of socialism with the choice, innovation and competition of capitalism. Instead of pitting one against the other, it combines the strengths of each, making them, not the worst of enemies, but the best of friends.
Just some food for thought that might help you realize that the face that appears in your head when you hear the word “socialist” just might be the one you see in the mirror.