Why is the idea of a government monopoly on markets through force still popular? Wasn't socialism defeated in the late 80's? Will people ever grow tired of it?
First of all, I have a serious disagreement with the assumptions behind this question. The question assumes that true socialism, in the form of a government monopoly over the entire economy, is actually a popular idea today. I have trouble with this assumption given that there are very few countries that have this type of socialism. This is not the sort of “socialism” that exists in the Scandinavian countries and it is not the type of socialism that Bernie Sanders advocates. This question seems to imply that many people would like to see socialism of the sort that existed in the Soviet Union, and that exists today in Castro’s Cuba, or in Venezuela after Chavez. I do not believe that this is true.
So why, then, do some number of people want some sort of socialism? There are a variety of answers to this. Let us look at some of the more important reasons:
- Inequality of wealth seems to be rising in the rich world. The wealth of the middle class has largely remained stagnant over the last couple of decades while the rich have gotten much richer. People are attracted to some form of socialism because socialism promises to reduce this inequality.
- Socialism seems to some to be a fairer and more just system. In our system, a poor person can work just as hard as a rich person and yet remain poor. This does not seem fair. It does not seem fair that we could have such a rich country in general and yet have some people remain poor and lacking in such basic needs as good healthcare. Therefore, socialism seems to some like a system that is morally better than our current system.
- Socialism has a more optimistic view of human beings than capitalism does. Socialism assumes that people will work hard even if they do not have to do so in order to make a living. Socialism assumes that people will work to help one another, not just for selfish reasons. This is a much more pleasant outlook than the capitalist vision of people who only do things because it is in their self-interest.
- Some people in the United States believe that European countries have succeeded even though they have systems that are relatively social democratic. Americans who like the idea of democratic socialism feel that it is possible to have a good standard of living without the sort of cutthroat capitalism that we have in the US.
For these reasons, at least some people would like to see more socialism in America. They largely do not want socialism where the government monopolizes the market for everything as it did in the Soviet Union. Instead, they want more of democratic socialism which would, they feel, create a more just world without sacrificing too much of our quality of life. It is not clear that people will "grow tired of" this idea unless it is proven to be wrong through experimentation or until our capitalist system provides outcomes that are more to their liking.