Saturday, April 11, 2009
Socialism: Not So Bad, Say Americans.
While "Atlas Shrugged"'s rise in the bestseller lists has been duly hyped as a sign of the times, it also seems that surprisingly few Americans are opposed to socialism. In the latest Rasmussen poll, only 53% of Americans favoured capitalism over socialism. This seems to be the result of a mix of factors, the state of the economy for one, and the understandable distrust of the financial elites who have consistently portrayed themselves as the apogee of capitalism. However, just as the "Atlas Shrugged" hype seems to have been strongly driven by the media (with endless plugs by Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh to name a few) a good deal of this softening attitude may be simply be a media phenomenon too - an unintended consequence of Republican PR tactics that have, since the fall of the Berlin wall, started portraying Western Europe (eg France, Germany, Sweden, Britain etc) as "socialist", and recently Barack Obama too. Trouble is, Western Europe is hardly the former Soviet Union, and Obama is hardly Stalin. In fact, they're both actually kinda...popular, whether to visit or to vote for. We might speculate that "socialism" isn't now associated in American's minds with the total government ownership of the means of production - for example, in another poll only 15% of Americans think a wholly government-managed economy is best - but instead with a set of popular programmes also regularly denounced as "socialist" by Republicans such as Social Security, Medicare, and the regulation of big business which despite being interventionist, still leave the vast majority of the economy in private hands. In other words, in their enthusiasm Republicans may have accidentally made "socialism" more or less equivalent to a mixed economy controlled by a representative democracy. Not so bad at all.