Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Matter of Degrees

Atlantic Magazine coorespondent, Conor Clarke has a bit of fun at the expense of conservatives who are crying "socialism." He points to a pie chart that shows what industries have been nationalized and what still remains in private hands.

Bloggers Justin Gardner and Pete Abel have chimed in accounting about the silliness of such conservatives.

Now, I do think that Republicans have been too quick to use the word socialism to all things tied to the Democrats. (Of course, some liberals tend to tie the word fascist to all things Republican, but that's another story.) I also think that screaming "socialist" tends to discredit what I think are real issues, such as if it is a good idea for the federal government to nationalize a car company. (Chris Bowers at Open Left calls what happened at GM socialism.)

Now Clarke does say show that some on the right are having a serious discussion on Obama's take on the American economy, but it seems to be done with a short shrift.

I feel that is a shame. While nationalizing a few banks and a former auto giant doesn't mean we are becoming the new Soviets, such moves should be questioned. What does it mean that we now own a car company? How will that save General Motors and bolster the economy in the Midwest? Is there an "exit strategy" to get the government out after a certain time? Why was it necessary to become the majority shareholder of GM? Will all this money be put to good use, or will GM end up like British Leyland?

It's one thing to regulate an industry, or to give a company a loan, ala Chrysler in 1979. It's another to basically have Uncle Sam start making cars. This is new territory for the United States. No, it's not necessarily socialism, but it does harken to some of the tactics used by Western European democracies with varying success.

Clarke and other seem to believe we aren't on a slippery slope. I don't know if we are sliding towards a worker's paradise, but how can Clarke be so sure? What if the GM takeover sets a precedent? What happens if another company heads into trouble? Will the government know how to hold back?

I don't have the answers for this. I'm not saying we are becoming socialist, but I don't know where we are heading. What I do think is that we should have an honest discussion about it, without being viewed as crazies or without resorting to screaming "socialist" all the time. This is not something that should be trivialized.

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