The question of capitalism vs socialism is as old as modern humanity, but when it comes to socialism, what once was enshrined in the Cold War and viewed through the narrow lens of American perspective as distinctly Soviet is now resurfacing in a different light.
Indeed, it’s being brought up--subtly--by some of America’s high-profile billionaires who seem to think that capitalism has gotten out of hand, even if the extreme of socialism isn’t the answer.
The U.S. is, of course, the leader in global capitalism--which has been helped along by the era of globalization that followed the Cold War.
The general sentiment is that the U.S. is an idyllic country in which to live in nearly every aspect--the ‘land of dreams’, it’s always been. But cracks are emerging in that dream, and things aren’t always black and white.
In the introduction to "The Myth of Capitalism", authors Johnathon Teper and Denise Hearn, give us a glimpse of the true face of "ideal life" under capitalism.
"Capitalism is the greatest economic system in history. Unfortunately, the so-called capitalism that exists in today's United States is the antithesis of a competitive marketplace....(..) We have the illusion of choice, but for most critical decisions, we have only one or two companies when it comes to high-speed Internet, health insurance, medical care, mortgage title insurance, social networks, Internet searches, or even consumer goods like toothpaste...”
Overall, the book sets out to address inequality in society in the U.S.
But that question is now also being addressed by key players that one might not expect: American billionaires, who may not be calling for socialism, but do think that capitalism needs a serious upgrade.
Those billionaires include Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Ray Dalio, Bill Gates and others--all of whom are saying that capitalism in its current form simply does not work for the rest of the United States. The
Many of them are even calling for higher taxes, even if this is simply clever rebranding with politics at its heart.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates says he has paid more than $10 billion in taxes and "the government should require people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes." According to him, "there is no doubt that as we raise taxes, we can have most of that additional money coming from those who are better off".
"I'm capitalist, I'm a professional capitalist. The system has worked for me...(..) But the important thing is to take those tax dollars and make them productive," Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio told CNBC.
Dalio--a hedge fund titan worth $18 billion--went further as well, telling 60 Minutes: “I think that if I was the president of the United States — or it has to come from the top — what I would do is recognize that this is a national emergency. It’s unfair, and it’s unproductive, and at the same time it threatens to split us.”
The elephant in the room, of course, is the widening gap of inequality between rich and poor Americans. Recent data shows that inequality is now as high as it was in the late 1930s--the depression era.
Today, the wealth of the top 1 percent of the population is more than that of the bottom 90 percent of the population combined.
Health care is, without a doubt, the biggest sore spot for millions of Americans.
As we see every day, overwhelming medical bills are the fastest way route to bankruptcy and the downfall of the middle class. And that’s not even the worst news: Instead of being reduced, health-care costs continue to rise. There is no solution in sight, as partisan politics hijack the debate at every step.
Now, let's teleport across the Atlantic--to the part of the world that is geographically recognized as Scandinavia. These countries have established a model of social democracy. Generally speaking, the system works pretty well. The Scandinavian countries are among the happiest on Earth. They enjoy some of the best healthcare on the planet. As an example, Norway has the highest Human Development Index score of any country in the world. And guess what? Other Scandinavian countries such as Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are making their way into the top 15 on the same index.
And, of course, inequality in these countries is practically an unknown term. It's been evicted from society.
To be clear, there is no Utopia, as painfully detailed by Thomas More in the 16th century. But if we try to find some kind of ideal system for life, in this case, it means finding balance in capitalism with social reforms. Scandinavian countries are the best example of this possibility. But while they may be the inspiration for the rest of the world, the same American beast that dictates what toothpaste you use will be a hard one to quell.
If the American middle class dies in the meantime, modern-day capitalism will have killed the dream.
By Josh Owens for conil.me