Once in hand, they’re prone to download game apps like Aquapark, Minecraft, etc. Music and/or social media apps are probably the extent of any overlap they have with their old man. Instead, mine is filled with news and reference apps, including the Declaration of Independence (DoI) and the U.S. Constitution.
The exceptional guideline embodied in our founding documents comes to mind when reading particular defenses of socialism, like those put forth by writer David Cay Johnston, and more locally by Peggy Rodriguez-Stover.
They invariably point to public libraries, fire departments, social security, etc. as “socialist-based programs Americans have benefitted from” for years. Yet, there’s always one glaring inaccuracy; many of them are local in nature. Our Founding Fathers knew that whatever could be handled at the state and/or local level, should be. Hence, the 10th amendment.
Regardless, it’s disputable whether or not any of these functions are socialist in the first place.
Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “government ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” At best, these ubiquitous examples are simply provisions of public goods. At worst, they represent inefficient, inferior government alternatives to private sector offerings.
Even though folks like Mr. Johnston brand the police as socialist, law enforcement is one such public good: it’s available for all to use, but usage by one does not mean another can’t also use it. This accessibility makes it nearly impossible for a private company to supply the consequential demand.
“While serving as the senior advisor of all police activities in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, I witnessed a complete lack of law and order, and police who were extremely corrupt,” Col. Jason B. Blevins told me upon his retirement in June.
This separates us from such countries. Add in the court system, and the groundwork is laid for prosperity via property rights and contract enforcement.
National defense is another public good, and at least here Ms. Stover is on solid jurisdictional ground.
Nevertheless, “it’s not socialist,” Blevins added, “but a service that provides for the ‘common defense,’” one of the primary obligations of any national government, and accordingly one of the very first duties cited in our constitution.
Assisting those who have been wounded serving in that capacity, and/or acclimating them back into the society they defended, essentially makes the Veterans Administration an extension of that commitment.
Nearly every other program she mentions, and some currently being proposed, is either part of the welfare state, or falls within the purview of states and/or municipalities. Nonetheless, the quality of all of them would be improved by the injection of (more) free market discipline.
The unwillingness of congress to make logical reforms to update social security is merely the rotten icing on top of a crumbling cake that is regularly, clearly outperformed by the stock market. In this age of readily accessible index funds, there’s little reason we should not be able to recoup some or all of our earnings that have been taken away, so that we can bolster and secure a more comfortable retirement.
Even though education merits public support in the name of equality of opportunity, that’s not justification for government to run the whole show.
Not only would redirecting the financial responsibility and selection process to parents be the proper thing to do, the subsequent competition to serve this demand would most likely result in higher quality and lower costs.
Higher up that ladder, we’ve seen in recent years the fallout from federal government overreach into students’ “receiving an education at a public university”: collective debt levels nearing $2 trillion, encouraging individual students to go hundreds of thousands of dollars into the red, to earn degrees of questionable marketability.
If community college systems want to flirt with skewing incentives, that’s their prerogative. It’s doubtful th
ough, that this is what citizens from South Carolina, to Illinois, to Utah have in mind when it comes to the “pooling of resources.”
Unmentioned by Ms. Rodriguez-Stover is the one constitutional function that arguably comes closest to socialism: the U.S. Postal Service. Considering it has performed so poorly over the years as to attract private competition, perhaps the omission is not surprising.
Holding these examples up as selling points is not only questionable, but their lackluster results provide little comfort for more of the same, irrespective of what you want to call it.
Fortunately, my daughters can pull the constitution and DoI apps down from the cloud and do their part to remedy the generally sorry grasp we have of our brilliant federalist system. Maybe then we can take Ben Franklin up on his oft-cited challenge when asked what kind of government we have: “a republic, if you can keep it.”