My Turn: Good government is not socialism

For the Monitor
Published: 1/13/2022 7:01:17 AM
Modified: 1/13/2022 7:00:10 AM

A few years ago at a gathering in my town, a fiery speaker said that our government is reaching into our pockets through taxation in order to steal our hard-earned money to pay for programs that are simply giveaways to growing numbers of the “undeserving.” This is not true.

This lie has been created because the former president, the moneyed interests who support him, and the inventors and funders of the “Big Lie” regarding our free and fair 2021 election are painfully aware that the people they wrongly label as the “undeserving” have the right and the power to vote.

Let us be clear. The former president and his supporters are convinced that our democracy itself poses an existential threat to their way of life. They would prefer a plutocracy, a government controlled by the wealthy.

In our democracy, we, you and I, govern ourselves through representation by legitimately elected legislators. Social programs exist because we the people believe that these programs are necessary and appropriate and that such programs, like our public schools, contribute to the common good, to the well-being of our entire society. But an insidious revolution, decades in the making, is bearing terrible fruit.

The long-standing belief that public schools benefit our entire society has been intentionally and successfully undermined through a decades-long strategy organized and executed by such entities as the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which provides templates of legislation to Republican lawmakers in every state to achieve such things as the dismantling of public education. But why target public schools?

Last year the Republican majority in our New Hampshire Legislature voted to approve a school voucher program. It is now legal for public tax dollars to be used to pay for private, religious or home-schooling programs over which we taxpayers have virtually no oversight. When asked why they supported school vouchers, Republican legislators, most of whom had been educated in public schools, said that they believed New Hampshire public school students were being brainwashed by teachers’ unions to believe in socialism. This is not true.

Good government is not socialism. Socialism is a system of government in which the government owns the means of production. Our country is not socialist. It is a capitalist country where individuals or corporations own the means of production and where decisions regarding prices, production and the distribution of goods are based on competition in a free market.

Human beings are not perfect beings, so a free market might not always be a fair market. Sometimes the phrase “it’s only business” is used to condone practices that are not fair, practices such as child labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and environmental pollution. The abuses of unregulated capitalism were memorably captured by Upton Sinclair in The Jungle. Through bitter experience in eras like the Gilded Age, Americans recognized the necessity for wise oversight and appropriate regulation of capitalism.

Abraham Lincoln described the proper role of government as the coming together of individuals to promote the common good, to accomplish that which no one individual can do so well alone. I believe this remains a solid and sound explanation of why our government exists.

Today, as during the rise of Nazism, Big Lies have been deliberately manufactured to stoke anger in a manipulated segment of our society against the rest of us, against those of us who still believe in demonstrable facts, in the common good, in our democracy.

What will happen if Big Lies are allowed to prevail? Our democracy will be destroyed. The perpetrators of these lies will become the governors of our nation, and the dreams of Americans like Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln will die.

The death of our democracy will happen soon, on our watch, unless each of us uses the powerful weapon that our democracy has provided to us — our vote. Remove the liars and manipulators from office. Vote to restore our democracy.

(Janet Ward lives in Contoocook.)

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