Is there some reason why people in the US believe we must have Capitalism to have Democray? I don't think this is necessary at all. If you look at Europe, most of the governments in Europe are Democracies, yet they have managed to include a lot more Socialistic programs including Socialized medicine and no one sees that as threatening to the Democracy in any way.
As democracy is largely based on individual freedoms, capitalism and opportunity have become associated with it, especially here in America. Of course, democracy exists with varying degrees of capitalism, as European socialism in countries such as France and Denmark show that other economic systems can coexist with democracy, but our legacy with the Cold War prevents most Americans from envisioning or valuing any other kind of system.
In order for individuals to have the most economic and political freedom, government must be restricted and small. Capitalism and Democracy go hand in hand because of that common element of freedom; individuals should be free to exercise economic and political volition; in short, they should be able to exercise rights. Freedom is the ability to exercise rights. Social-Democracies limit individuals choices, and are therefore not as free economically nor politically as they could be. Communists, well, then there's neither economic nor political freedom, and most adults now living have seen the long term results of that system. If the US becomes more like Europe in economic and political philosophies, expect to have European problems stemming from the restriction individual freedoms.
The link between democracy and capitalism is asserted because of the element of freedom that is so closely associated with both. Capitalism revolves around the freedom for individuals to engage in business and economic growth. Democracy revolves around the freedom for individuals to pursue an advocacy for their government. Prevalent in the 20th century, the link between state run governments and economies of scale in other nations stood in stark contrast to the American vision. The link between both democracy and freedom almost became synonymous when contrasting it with other forms of government that limited freedom in both domains. This link has remained in the minds of Americans throughout the last century and into this one. It is not that the link is wrong or right as much as it is a reflection of values that are deemed as "American."
Excellent question. I think in light of the recent healthcare reform discussions, we might think of it more in terms of your pointing to the socialistic programs of the democracies in Europe rather than capitalism. With socialistic programs, there is a removal of choice--democracy, to be true democracy, is defined as "by the people, for the people". Many members of Congress and the House in our country have already said they wouldn't give up their "healthcare or retirement" programs to be part of the ones they "provide" for the people in our country. They choose a lesser program for us, but won't participate.
True, socialist programs can exist instead of capitalism, but the people have fewer choices when forced into these programs. This is why so many people from Europe who can afford it currently come over here to the US for healthcare...our system as it is provides better care (and it does serve everyone--even those without insurance--in emergency rooms) than socialist programs provide.
It is quite true that for a long time USA was rather paranoid about communism, which championed the cause of socialism. As a result there was some kind of association between socialism, and the kind of totalitarian government existing in communist country like USSR. Thus, their opposition spilled over, from totalitarian government, to the socialism. Also, in this opposition to socialism, some part must also have been played by powerful business lobby.
But even during the period of most fierce opposition to communism, USA had significant elements of socialism. As a matter of fact traces of socialism were present in USA from the time of its formation. For example, the articles of confederation adopted in 1777 granted federal government monopoly over carriage of letters between states. The Sherman Antitrust Act passes in 1890 which sought to put restriction on monopolies, is another example attempts of government of intervene in the capitalistic working in the interest of common people.
The Social Security Act was passed in 1935. Subsequent to this many social security programs have been taken up by the government - for example, social security, disability and old age insurance, School lunch and breakfast programs, and Low-income home energy assistance. It is true that a lot more needs to be done. I do hope that USA will continue to move in this direction.
Well, first of all, a socialist program is not forced upon the people in a Democracy. It is voted for by the congress which represents the demands of the largest number of people.
Also, the fact is that a lot of working Americans can't afford healthcare and when they need it they can't get welfare medical or a break in their bills from hospitals because they do make some money. Believe me, you do get charged a lot for emergency room visits (and that is not a good alternative to good ongoing health exams.) Every minute an American declares bankruptcy because of medical bills. Insurance companies have posted a 1,000% profit in the last five years. The system we have is broken and must be fixed somehow. The average American family must pay $12,000 for healthcare insurance. That, it is estimated, will triple in the next five years. If you don't work for a large company or if you don't make plenty of money, you just won't be able to afford it. And what will that do to our economy?
Then there is the fact that the French have socialized medicine which works quite well and they are on the forefront of medical care and medical advances. There is no waiting. There are few problems. They love it. We can fix any problems as we go along.