Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A confusing cartoon

I think the point of this cartoon is to poke fun at those who denounce government-run health care as socialism while they are perfectly happy to embrace socialism when the benefit is one they like. But maybe I'm wrong, because it really doesn't make that point very well. Let's break it down:

1) Government-run health care does smack of socialism. It's an intrusion into the affairs of private companies and private citizens. It attempts to force economic outcomes by managing an entire industry through centrally planned government. That's why it's called socialized medicine.

2) Regulation of the airwaves is not socialistic. Governments of all types regulate all sorts of things. True, regulations can, and often do, become too restrictive. But free market advocates challenge such overreaching when it occurs; they don't embrace it, as the cartoon suggests.

3) The automotive bailouts are an example of socialism, as the government came in took control of private companies. But far from celebrating this, the majority of Americans opposed the bailouts, and still do. The cartoon suggests that the passengers are fine with it, but in reality they would be as apt to object to government-run car companies as to government-run health care.

4) The Interstate Highway System was constructed with the aid of the Army for the purpose of national defense, so that equipment and personel could be mobilized efficiently throughout the country. National defense is universally acknowledged as one of the right and proper responsibilities of government and has nothing to do with socialism.

5) Our public education system does smack of socialism, and the public generally embraces this, so the cartoon's creator got that one right. Unfortunately, the government monopoly on our schools ensures that millions of kids, especially minorities, aren't receiving a good education and are condemned to remain in lives of poverty. The good news is that this is changing, and parents are increasingly demanding free market reforms like school choice, charter schools, and vouchers.

6) A municipal water system isn't a hallmark of socialism. The word municipal refers to a city or town, not a centrally planned government. This simply makes no sense.

7) The National Park System has a tinge of socialism to it. There's no reason why the federal government needs to own or run our parks, and it could probably be done more efficiently by the states or by private companies. Still, this doesn't represent a huge intrusion into our lives the way socialized medicine does, so most people don't think about it much. I suppose this technically makes the artist's point, but it seems like a very weak argument to me.

If I'm understanding at all the artist's intent, I'd have to say that he fails miserably at making his point. His examples are very hit and miss -- mostly miss -- and, on net, undermine his argument more than suport it.

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