The American left and the right have their key fear words that they trot out to scare voters. For the right, one word is “socialism.” McCain, having backed away a bit from trying to paint Obama as friend of terrorists, has started hinting that Obama will bring the dread spectre of socialism to haunt America.
Socialism is supposed to be bad and scary because it is alleged to be the mortal enemy of all that America stands for, such as individualism, free enterprise and living without a safety net. However, to say that Obama is going to bring socialism to America is like saying Obama is going to bring alligators to Florida, Moose to Alaska and Lobster to Maine. Such things are all obviously already well established.
America, as a brief reflection will indicate, is already a deeply socialist nation. We have welfare (money for the poor) and wealthfare (lots of money for the rich), farm subsidies, social security, and so on. Also, the federal government is bailing out and buying out failed businesses. As some witty pundits and economicists have pointed out, we have privatized profit and publicized loss. While that can be seen as a clever bit of capitalism in which the rich use the state to drain even more wealth from the middle class and poor, it could also be seen as a form of socialism. As such, trying to scare people with a hint of socialism would seem a bit ridiculous.
But, the ridiculous often works. I know from experience that many conservatives see red when they hear the word “socialism” (as many leftists see red when they hear the word “gun” or “pro-life”). Such people can be swept up into the rhetoric without realising that we already live in a partially socialist state.
This, of course, does not show that socialism is nothing to fear. After all, it could be very bad indeed and our socialist aspects could be doing us serious harm. Handing out public money to major corporations, for example, seems like a horrible thing for most of us. But, for McCain to try to raise the ghost of socialism against Obama is a silly thing. After all, the country is already haunted with an army of those ghosts.
As usual, I think we should examine proposals in a rational manner and see if they serve the general good. If so, we should employ them-even if they might have that taint of socialism. If a proposal does not serve the general good (like a scary proportion of what the government does) then it should be stopped.