Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Socialism Anyone?

Socialism anyone?

Everyone knows that his opponents have tried to denigrate Pres. Obama by calling him a “socialist”. Not so many people know that this labeling  misfired. There are a lot of Americans in all walks of life, but particularly in the generation under 30, who think that socialism may well not be such a bad thing.

According to a recent Pew survey only 52% of Americans “react positively” to the idea of capitalism; 37% “react positively” to the idea of socialism. Support for socialism is higher among the young. These results replicate the results of an earlier Rasmussen poll.

This is not surprising once you think about it: capitalism is in crisis. Unemployment is unacceptably high all around the globe. In the US it is especially high among the young and among Black and Hispanic Americans. At the same time, global corporations like BP show themselves utterly irresponsible, willing to risk major disasters for the sake of their bottom line. The big banks and investment houses are making money again while their victims are still struggling. Millions of American families will loose their homes to foreclosures this year.
We have every reason to believe that the pursuit of private profit may be good for the rich but it is hardly good for the rest of us. Think of the fast food industry and the obesity epidemic. Think of the ever rising prices of health care and education, on one hand, while the gap between the rich and the poor is growing daily. The blessings of capitalism are withheld from larger percentages of the population every day. More people are poor; more children go hungry. More people cannot afford to see a doctor, or to send their children to college.

So a lot of Americans are unsure about the best economic system for us. They are not convinced that capitalism will be good for us in the long run.

Now consider this startling fact: more than a third of Americans have serious doubts about capitalism but public discussions nowhere  reflect the doubts that many Americans have about our economic system. When is the last time that Congress debated serious reform of the capitalist system (not limp fixes like the current financial overhaul bill)? Have you heard the President or his advisors consider the possibility that capitalism may be failing us? Have you heard any discussions on Public Radio about Socialism as an alternative to capitalism? The commentators in the newspapers, the “opinion makers” on television, the pundits on the Internet all take capitalism for granted.

The results of these two polls shows that discussions in the media do not reflect the thinking of many Americans but instead construct a phony consensus. But that only reminds us that the media are, after all, parts of the economic system. They are privately owned and for- profit businesses. They are capitalist enterprises and can no more be expected to reflect our doubts about capitalism than BP can be expected to care about the environment.

The capitalist media are a propaganda machine. Contrary to what they tell us, they are not “objective” but try to persuade us that we are all worshipers in the church of the Free Market. The one-sideness of the media suggests another reason for distrusting capitalism. Privately owned, for profit media  cater to advertisers above all and do not serve the public.

But these surveys also show that the propaganda machine of capitalism is not as effective as they would like it to be. Even with all the onslaught of media everywhere, a lot of Americans still think for themselves. Capitalists are right to worry.