Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's wrong with Socialism?

If you listen to the current political rhetoric in the US of A (and it is impossible not to, with elections between two people with almost identical stands on everything so close at hand), you would get the feeling that the ideals of compassion towards the poor are dead wrong - and that poor people should not get a helping hand.

And if the government were to help the poor financially, it would be the worst thing in the world since it would be depriving an angry fat man a jacuzzi in his kitchen (or something equally excessive and ridiculous).

Defenders of capitalism seem to overlook one very fundamental flaw. All people are not born equal. Some are born rich and some are born poor. A person born rich (or at least into a well educated family) is more likely to be more successful in life. Where is the level playing field if a significant proportion of the population can just be born unlucky? Let me get this straight: capitalism as is, is certainly not a meritocracy.

Every principle of Austrian economics, every idea that Raegan's and Thacher's (or Ron Paul, for that matter) people ever had, every "free market" notion that has every come out of the university of Chicago is all brilliantly correct - except for one major, major (some would say existential) flaw. Capitalism is not a meritocracy. All are not equal in a capitalist society. This holds true when one talks about the most prosperous country in the world; the US - and even more so, when one talks about the planet as a whole. Where are the opporunities for 95% of Indians; 80% of Chinese people? I was lucky. I was born into a rich, well educated Indian family. More than a billion other Indians were not so lucky.

Alas, trying to "simulate" a genuine level playing will involve something as utterly ludicrous as the state conficiating every child and teaching them all the same way. That's never going to happen, that never should happen - and that never will happen if one is in a democracy (phew!).

So, what are the options left to equitise capitalism? How does one keep the inherent advantages of capitalism intact? Of course one has to spread the wealth around. Because the poor are poor for a reason - they were unlucky - it is not as if they are lazy. Hell, they work as hard (if not harder) as anyone else.

So, the next time some loudmouth (like Joe the Plumber, say) likes to complain about his taxes, I would like him to stare into the eyes of an impoverished 7 year old from the ghetto and say "It's your bloody fault that your parents can't feed you. I'm not going to pay my taxes. I don't care if your home is cold at night; I don't care if you don't have enough to wear. ".

Perhaps one reason why there are people like Joe the Plumber (who make a big deal out of paying their taxes) is that there's so few genuinely poor people in the US. Living in such a rich land, perhaps, has de-sensetised the average American from poverty. Stands that the average American takes over taxes might seem cruel in any other part of the world - but just rational in America.

And that's why ALL political parties in India are essentially socialist. If they were not, it would be a travesty of democracy. Non-socialistic tendencies (such as Naidu's AP and BJP's "India Shining") are usually rejected outright in India.

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