28 October 2008

Why socialism?

Now democracy is considered as a best form of government. More than 2000 years back (~ 400 BC), when Athens tried democratic governing, Socrates had a different view and one of reasons for which he was sentenced to death. He viewed that it is not majority opinion that yields correct policy but rather genuine knowledge and professional competence, which is possessed by only a few. Imagine having a democratic vote on equal rights for minority people during civil war period. Fortunately those rights are given by our constitution, established by few great minds, our founding fathers. There is a long history and debate behind every governing principle. No principle is perfect for all conditions. Often we forget them and take things for granted.

Socialism was introduced with a dream to create heaven on earth - to create equal society; to get rid of unfair concentration of power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. But in practice, it is more likely to be controlled by a state and historically a totalitarian government. Socialism also shows inefficient governing and might create less innovation and development. Economist Adam Smith demonstrated that, in a free market, an individual pursuing his own self-interest tends to also promote the good of his community as a whole. It is the fundamental principle behind capitalism, a self-organizing, decentralized system. Capitalism is attributed to the rapid economic growth of 19th and 20th centuries. But it also has some inherent flaws – monopoly, business cycles, unequally distributed wealth, etc; and hence we have many regulations and controls.

In this global village, everything and everybody is dependent on each other like never before. Building a heaven on earth may not be practical, but we should eradicate poverty at minimum. Certain basic needs and conditions are very important for a stable and growing society. We can not afford to sit idle to AIDS crisis in Africa, or bird-flue virus that might possibly originates from any country. Healthcare and education should be available to every children at minimum, and affordable to every citizen. These are all not individual's problems. The failure to meet those basic requirements would affect each and every one of us.

We need capitalism with good regulations along with certain minimum socialism that ensures basic needs. We do not have to associate socialism with communism and then with totalitarianism, and create hate and fear. Today, every country on earth follows the principles of both capitalism and socialism. Our debates should not be about whether we need socialism, but about how much, what kind and purpose.