As a longtime reader of The Times, I have read many letters railing about the horrors of socialism. Free stuff for everyone, government control of everything, no more personal freedom of any kind; those kind of statements are all exaggerations.
All governments perform some form of socialism. When the government subsidizes oil exploration or farmers crops to fend off foreign competition or funds basic research to develop a vaccine, that is socialism.
A free market economy only works if there are laws and regulations that set some boundaries on industry. This country, along with most of the world, is facing what is more than likely an end to the free market economy that has dominated the world for centuries; here is why.
The cornerstone of capitalism is making things cheaper, better, faster; it is what has made this country the world leader we have become. Up until now that has provided growth, jobs, and the economy we now enjoy. But in the last 20 to 30 years the road to cheaper, better, faster, has led to automation and artificial intelligence that is eliminating the weak link in pursuing that goal further: people. It no longer takes hundreds, thousands, millions of people bolting together cars, boats, appliances, machines, almost everything; automation (robots) are doing it, cheaper, better, faster. Artificial intelligence is eliminating much of the clerical work done by humans. Autonomous cars and trucks will eliminate human drivers in the not-to-distant future. There will still be jobs for humans, but they will require much higher skill and education levels, or be in low-paying service industries.
Companies are lowering their expenses by eliminating these labor costs. In a free market economy all those savings are going to company owners or stock holders; so how do the people who have been replaced get compensated? They don’t unless the government steps in and redistributes the savings through taxing companies and distributing the wealth to the displaced workers.
The future I am describing has not totally happened yet, but we are well on the way to this end if capitalism remains unchecked. A form of socialism may be necessary to allow much of the population to survive. We must have a government that can see the future and prepare for it, not one that only looks back in time. Socialism may be the only way our children and grandchildren will thrive.
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