Capitalism isn't a Dirty Word

Capitalism isn't a Dirty Word


 Capitalism isn’t a dirty word.

It just doesn’t work…For everyone, I mean. Not in its pure unadulterated form that is. Okay it works for some, really well. But it doesn’t work for everyone in an economy. And until it does, we will have to say it is a failure, for some that is…

For some unfortunate people, “pure capitalism” in all its raw power of free market lawlessness is the bane of their existence. For these folks, capitalism is the reason they cannot access proper medical care, decent housing, clean water, healthy food, and job opportunity. The “freedom of the marketplace” that locks up capital in the hands of the mighty few is precisely the thing that keeps victims of capitalism turned upside down in society.

Still, capitalism isn’t a dirty word. For American entrepreneurs, it is our mantra. It means freedom to innovate and pursue our dreams without government intervention. Ahh! That is a lot of freedom. The only hope is we are worthy of that great responsibility.

Socialism is the new dirty word. The word is bandied around the networks and blogosphere with contempt, fear, and ignorance. Perish the thought that we as Americans, great freedom loving people, should give up our call of “every man for himself” and replace it with something truly foreign like, “every man woman, and child for each other.”

Socialists are “evil” people who care more about others than they do about themselves.

Maybe it is just not the American way.

When I was a kid, my father was a powerful man in our community. A big fish in a relatively small pond. A judge, trial attorney, and military man in the Air Force Reserve through three wars and forty years. He was also what is commonly known as a “right wing conservative.” And conservative he was. We had deeply passionate discussions between my progressive view of the world and his old school sense of things. I remember with a smile how he used to call everyone he didn’t agree with “communists.” A holdover I suppose from his days in military intelligence fighting “real” communists in the Soviet Union, North Korea, and North Vietnam.

Gradually through my teen years, he gave up the word “communist” and replaced it, like his colleagues, with the seemingly innocuous word “liberal.” Over time, in American culture “liberal” became a weirdly contemptuous label for those who shared another view.  Even though our nation descended from radical revolutionaries, suddenly “liberals” were believed, by some, to be un-American and unpatriotic, plotting to undermine family values and socialize capitalism.

One thing I understood unequivocally about my father was that he was a deeply moral man.  In his litigator days, he fought tirelessly to protect the civil rights of those who could not defend themselves. He took on case after case without compensation to fight for equal rights for women and against discrimination of any kind. Protecting these basic freedoms were his passions as much as safeguarding American justice and peace. He could have been a richer man and spent more time as his partners did on serving the privileged few. But, he truly believed it was his duty to help those who could not help themselves.

The new dirty word “socialism” has ratcheted up to heightened levels of contempt by pundits and market makers. In the past couple of weeks, web, and cable news has equated “socialism” and “liberal” with humanitarian issues on health care.

It seems that equal access to quality medical care has been labeled contemptuously as “socialism.” Still, I am fairly sure that moral conservatives would not want to take away socialized medicine from the elderly. Why then indeed would anyone want to deny the same care to millions of middle class and working Americans?

Just for the record. Socialism doesn’t work very well either, at least not in freedom loving America. Not in its pure form anyway.

It seems to me that citizens with a conscience, no matter if they are “liberal or conservative,” would want, like my father, to help those who could not help themselves. The public health-care option is not a hand-out, it is a hand up. A helping hand to those in need.

Anyway, that is what my conservative Dad taught me. To do the right thing by others and treat them the way you wished to be treated too. It goes way beyond simplistic labels like liberal, socialist or conservative. It encompasses our individual and collective humanity.

The issue at hand on health care is not simply about what we each want for ourselves. It is about our deep-seated belief in decency and goodness. Americans are compassionate people. We care about the world; we care about each other. Don’t we? At least, that is what I always thought.

I cannot say to you, that it is okay for me to get adequate health care, but not you –simply because I can pay for it. I would not say that. Medical care is not a luxury, nor should it be in America. Those are not the values I was taught by a conservative man who gave forty years of service to his community and country. I was taught to care about America and everyone in it. I was taught to lend a hand when someone needed it. I was taught that my life is no more valuable than yours.

Isn’t that really what it is means to be an American?

So let’s get beyond the dirty words and silly labels. It isn’t about right or left, socialist or capitalist. It is about a social capitalism that says you are free in this land to pursue your dreams any way you choose; but as honorable people of compassion and conscience, we don’t only want that for ourselves, we want it for each other too.