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Column - America is socialist-capitalist 'marriage'

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We keep hearing - especially from some Tea Party doomsters - that this country is going to the dogs, that it's going to the socialists.

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Some of these reactionary folks hoist signs, showing President Barack Obama with Hitlerian mustache, proclaiming him to be a Nazi socialist.

These historical flunk-outs are the same people who think Karl Marx was Adolf Hitler's kissing cousin - or twin brother. Just because Hitler dubbed his disgusting policies "National Socialism" does not mean that the tyrant or the stupid people who willingly followed him had anything at all to do with "Socialism" as a political movement.

In the last 200 years (one could argue the last 2,500 years), there has been a constant tug-of-war between the individual and the state. The immortal Greek playwrights, like Sophocles, more than 2,000 years ago dramatized that terrible tension in plays like Antigone, which is about personal loyalties and passions versus state control and security. Will Antigone be allowed to bury her brother?

Since then, those two opposing forces (state vs. individual) have taken on vicious variants, causing oceans of blood to be shed. One example: Pagan Rome as "State" vs. Christians of faith "Individuals."

When Machines-Money more or less replaced Faith, along came Scottish economist Adam Smith whose The Wealth of Nations in 1976 is still considered the precursor of what we call "Capitalism." Then, in the 1800s, there were economists-philosophers who preached that unrestrained market forces were ruining people and the earth. A rational, planned, state economy is required, they argued.

In the mid-1800s, along came bearded bogeyman Karl Marx who argued that life is nothing but the history of class struggle between the haves and have nots - the "haves" being those who control the means of production (the ability to make wealth) and the "have nots" being the alienated, exploited workers.

During the Industrial Age, which did indeed pauperize people, revolutions swept through Europe and beyond. There were socialists and communists of every persuasion; there were free-market advocates and capitalists of every stripe; there were insanely misguided fools in every camp - people willing to kill and die for their causes.

Here in America, in 1929, unregulated financial speculation plunged the nation into a financial melt-down, massive unemployment and hopeless misery. The country was on the verge of a revolution, sinisterly socialist in nature. Many were fed up with unrestrained capitalism. President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisors ingeniously adapted some "socialist" concepts to save the country. Blatant capitalism, they knew, could sink baby and bath water.

One of the socialist safety nets was the federal Public Works Administration that helped put people back to work; another was the Social Security Act, ensuring people they could live in dignity even when old or crippled. Yet another was the progressive property tax. Those programs were all socialist-inspired. In fact, since those days, the United States has been a more-or-less successful marriage of socialist and capitalist ideas. On one hand (socialism), pooling money and resources to strengthen the country by helping hard-working people in need; and on the other hand (capitalism), individuals with entrepreneurial ideas, being able to make as much money as they want, regardless of someone else's social policies, thereby creating earth-shattering innovations and wealth that, when responsibly shared, can benefit humankind far and wide.

In America, those two once-combative concepts are by now so interlinked - often successfully so - it is ridiculous to picket, howl and scream about Socialist Obama or Capitalist Bush. What is keeping this country down from its millennial promise are those who refuse to understand the vital ongoing marriage, for better or worse, between collective needs and talents (socialism) and individual and innovative market forces (capitalism).

Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between should be helpfully, happily searching for ways to promote that marriage. It is the way of the world, like it or not.

Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at dennisdalman@jetup.net.

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