I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ve never seen this much snow in my lifetime. Heck, the whole DC/Baltimore area hasn’t seen this much snow in forever. But we got through it. (Here are some pictures of the whole ordeal.)
As my wife and I struggled to finish clearing the driveway, a man in a large pickup truck with a plow drove up. “You guys need any help?” he asked. We told him we just needed to clear the snow from the mailbox and the last big off the driveway. (It was about six feel long by six feet wide by four feet tall.) While he and I talked about strategy, my wife went inside to get some cash.
She thought he was being a kind stranger, so she was going to give him $20. While we she was inside the house, he and I agreed on $50. He was doing it for cash.
When he was finished, and our driveway and sidewalks were liberated from the snow, my wife and I got to talking about capitalism. We talked about how the man with the plow was making money, and how he was pretty much free to charge whatever he wanted. Sure, we could have probably not paid after a certain point, but he was in high demand and snow plowers were in short supply. Economic forces were at work.
However, just as I was singing the praises of capitalism, I remembered that there are many, many people in the world who can’t afford these kinds of services — or any services. For them, we look to social programs from the government or non-profits, but the services from those entities are often not as good or as efficient because they’re under-funded. Can you imagine the government trying to provide us with cell phone telecommunications? Unlike Apple, the government couldn’t outsource making iPhones to China, leaving us with no iPhones.
On the other hand, government investments have given us a lot of innovation in science and technology. Just look at all the stuff that NASA has developed. But then it took private investment to take those things to market and get them to most of us. I write “most” because not everyone has access to these wonderful things. Believe it or not, not everyone gets the antibiotics you demand of your healthcare provider when you get a cold.
Not that I’m judging you or anything.
As we chatted, my wife and I touched on the subject of Socialism, especially as it relates to Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. While Socialism sounds like a good or bad idea — depending on your political tendencies — the real question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not it is doable. (It’s the same question for any other economic or political system.) Does Socialism fit in with our current system of government and our economic environment in the United States?
In some ways, it does. The government at all three levels (local, state and federal) do a lot for us. The government — and we, by definition — control a lot of the goods and services delivered to us. This is either because of tradition or because we tried privatization and didn’t like what came of it. This was the case with the snow removal on my street and around the house. I would have loved for the government to send in someone to take care of it all, but the town plows and salt truck had barely made a dent in the snow by the third day of the situation.
So we hired someone to do it. In a way, we privatized the snow removal from our driveway and the part of the street in front of the mailbox, all for $50. We also subsidized the snow removal and road treatment for other residents of our town and state by paying our taxes. As I told someone the other day, “I don’t mind paying taxes if it means someone doesn’t call me in the middle of the night to go fix a bridge.”
Sure, I’d like to pay less taxes, but that’s a whole other story.