Monday, March 31, 2008

American Socialism is Alive and Well

I recently visited an American community of more than thirty thousand people where socialism is flourishing. In this gated community there are no homeless people. While some of the housing is basic, all of it is clean, spacious, and comfortable. Everyone has free full dental and health coverage. Higher education is available for free and equally important you are guaranteed employment in your field once you get your degree. No one is unemployed. All neighborhoods are well kept and safe. There are state of the art libraries, pools, and recreation centers available to everyone in the community. In addition, they have a wide-range of social service systems that deal effectively with mental health issues, providing activities for children, and social support. Where is this place? It’s Fort Gordon, Georgia.

Is it possible too have an effective health care system for millions of people? The military’s been doing it for over a century and a half. Yes, the Veteran’s Administration has had its problems in the last couple years, but the Military Health System generally works. I’d like to see more figures on how much it actually costs, but it manages to combine universal coverage, an effective preventative care system (technically the Surgeon General is a General for a reason), and high quality results. For some odd reason, Military Health never comes up in our national discussions of Universal Health Care. I don’t believe that the military does everything well, but the right likely knows perfectly well that the military (the bad old government) actually delivers health care and public housing surprisingly efficiently.

One of the ironies of the military defending the “American Way” is that the military itself is hardly a market-based or laissez faire system. One would think the armed forces, as the literal front line of national defense would choose the most efficient system possible to distribute goods and services. If that’s the case, our military is far more socialist than any Western European country. I realize that the army is not a complete society. It doesn’t serve the very elderly among other groups, but it suggests to me that there are millions of Americans who know quite well that there are American institutions that already know how to set up a health care and housing system.

I do want to mention one other thing. The free market is often praised for its level of innovation. There has long been one other spur to the development of new technology that’s been far more efficient than the market and that’s war. I don’t endorse war in any way in fact I abhor it. I just point out that there’s this counter-example to the notion that all government services are utterly incompetent that’s more or less staring us in the face.

I’m not saying that the armed forces do everything well or that they aren’t corrupt at some level. I’m just pointing that they deliver social services with surprising competence using a system that a large number of Americans (a group that takes pride in its patriotism and support for the military btw) insist is utterly abhorrent.



At 4/01/2008 06:50:00 PM, Blogger caucusdebacle said...

"Capital is dead labor that, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." --Karl Marx, 1867. A bonbonmot that.

As you suggest, we already have several powerful models for providing non-vampire health care, yet we are stymied by the single phrase "socialized medicine." That single phrase seems to stop all dialogue as utterly as garlic & a cross fends off the fanged ones.

I don't think we need a better UHP (Universal Health Plan), we need a Better Riposte?

At 4/03/2008 02:54:00 AM, Blogger Marianne said...

What were you doing in Georgia??? Visiting relatives?

At 4/04/2008 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Caucus debacle,
thanks for stopping by and you put it well about that one word, "socialism" being like a policy vampire in this country.
the other thing that irks me is that people start talking about the flaws in other countries universal health care systems and then totally ignore how much more broken ours is. It's as if the only acceptable replacement system must be completely perfect or else we should stick with what we have.

Yes....we went to pre-register our daughter for college this fall and stopped in to see our oldest one in Augusta. His wife is stationed at Fort Gordon. We took a red eye to Atlanta, jumped in the car and drove to Augusta. It was not a smart thing to do. We're still tired.


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