By Teo Ekstrom
I tried to write a thoughtful, analytical article that would reveal some hidden truth about socialism, sway the opinions of all 2,000 Willamette students and establish myself as a true scholar of politics. Turns out you can’t do that very effectively in 500 words, so enjoy this article outlining a few (very basic) reasons why socialism isn’t a dirty word:
You probably already are (at least to some extent) a socialist. At its purest, socialism advocates for social control of the means of production to stop exploitation against workers (traditionally called the proletariat) by the upper class (the bourgeoisie).
However, socialism also takes on many less radical forms. Marx himself was an advocate for revolution against the bourgeoisie, but he also supported moderate measures that improved the plight of the worker. If you support Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, equal rights for women, free public schooling, food stamps, the EPA, public parks, FEMA, minimum wage or federal scholarships/financial aid (to name a few), you’re supporting ideas pioneered by socialists.
Income inequality is out of control—and it’s only getting worse. In 1983, an average CEO earned roughly 46 times what an average employee earned. Fast forward to 2013 and CEOs in the Fortune 500 earned on average 331 times what an average worker earned (Forbes). Nearly 100 percent of the economic growth since 1980 has gone to the top 10 percent (Vox). We can all agree that’s ridiculous.
Socialism addresses this problem by allowing workers more control over the workplace. WinCo is a great example —they’re a worker-owned store that offers incredible benefits to workers while keeping their costs incredibly competitive, often lower than mainstream stores like Wal-Mart. (It’s amazing what can happen when CEO’s don’t take exorbitant salaries.) Worker owned stores (often called co-ops) are swiftly becoming more popular, and they’re just one way that socialism can reduce income inequality. Caps on CEO salaries, scaling income taxes and basic income are all socialist policies that (one hopes) will come into effect in the future to reduce the ridiculous income inequality that plagues the U.S. today.
Because socialism can work. In the past, socialism wasn’t really viable because technology hadn’t advanced far enough. Today? We’re producing such incredible amounts of food that we could end all hunger. Reports indicate that we have the capability to produce enough food for ten billion people (current estimates in the New York Times put worldwide population at 7 billion).
But because of capitalism’s inability to provide workers with living wages, there are an estimated 53 million people in the United States alive who struggle with hunger (FeedingAmerica). There are 650,000 people in the U.S. experiencing homelessness, but there are 14.2 million vacant homes across the U.S. (AmnestyUSA).
We clearly have the resources to end all of these social ills—we’re just not distributing them properly.
Socialism is inevitable. As technology continues to improve, we will be forced into socialism. Google’s self-driving cars may make a large number of the 230,000 taxi and bus drivers jobless. Baristas could soon be replaced by machines that do the same thing for a lower price and 2.8 million office clerks are in danger of losing their jobs to increasingly intelligent computer programs that can do their workbetter and more accurately. Cashiers are already being replaced by self-checkout machines—that’s 3.3 million jobs that could potentially be lost (The Atlantic).
Already we have ridiculous jobs that are entirely useless, like Oregon’s gas station attendants. Socialism (more specifically, some form of basic income) is going to be the only way for a majority of people to be able to survive.