[Note: Now that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan as his VP choice, more than one radio announcer has stated that voters now have a clear choice in this election — American capitalism with Romney & Ryan or “European-style” socialism with Obama & Biden. Of course, this is a cartoonish representation but it got me wondering why so many Americans are seemingly afraid of socialism, given that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid seem to be just that. So I asked my friend Alec, just returned from France to provide his perspective. He submitted this guest post.]
“Barack Obama is a socialist” — that’s what we can expect to hear quite a lot the rest of the campaign from the Romney camp. And it got me thinking about socialism and its evils.
I recently returned from a vacation in France, in Paris visitng friends and biking through the Burgundy region. Socialism, of course is pernicious…it results in…well, i’m not quite sure what the perceived evils are to be honest, but they must be bad. I think it has to do with the government charging such high taxes that people don’t have much incentive to work, everyone is lazy, business plods along, nothing works very well because nobody wants to work hard and there’s general lethargy in society.
In Paris I walked through the beautiful clean streets and parks, the efficient and pristine subway stations, the beautiful museums. Well, I guess that’s one good thing about socialism–the government has all that tax money to spend on public works. I saw people eating leisurely meals–much less of the grab-a-sandwich culture–but of course that’s a symptom of being lazy and not being in any rush to go back to work just to make more money to give to the government.
My American friend Jackie, who has worked for a European company for 14 years, just got laid off in Paris. But amazingly, she’s getting two years pay in a lump sum, plus she’ll get 70% of her salary in unemployment from the government for the next year–all because of the labor unions and the government job protections. How the hell can they do that?? it’s ridiculous. I mean, it’s good for Jackie who has a small child, but society has to pay a price for that, right? Companies are just going to get the heck out of France.
But oddly, France still has the world’s 6th largest economy and many thriving industries. I wonder why they just don’t pull up stakes and go elswhere with those onerous policies that require them to pay such huge payouts to laid-off employees?
With the government encouraging lazy behavior by paying off unemployed people so generously, there won’t be any money left to keep the country going! But oddly, things still seem to be working just fine in France. And even the unemployed people have health care.
My friend Nicolas runs a small business, struggles a bit to support his wife and two young children. He probably makes around $100,000 per year at most. That’s not a lot for a guy who wants his kids to go to the best schools and colleges. He lives with the family in central Paris in a small two-bedroom apartment, which actually he loves. If he lived similarly in New York, he would be paying $30,000 per child each year for private school; plus another $50,000 for each year of college. But in Paris, the neighborhhood school is excellent, and a good college will be paid for by the state in this ridiculous socialist world! Yes, he’ll save about a million dollars all tolled over what he would have to spend for similar education in the U.S….but dammit, he has to live under socialism to get that!
I walked all over Paris for a few days, and I could very rarely find any evidence of poverty. I saw some aging hookers on St. Denis street, but that was about as lowbrow as it got. Now, I’m sure these socialists have plenty of poverty, it’s just that it seems so much harder to find than in New York or San Francisco. I just don’t get it. How the heck do they hide all the problems caused by socialism and manage to make life seem so pleasant?
Man, that’s a magic trick Obama needs to learn when he implements his socialist America if he wins!