Democracy, socialism and ‘We the People’

Full disclosure: I am a capitalist, and a Roosevelt Democrat.

As a capitalist, I agree with (one of the few things I do) broadcaster Paul Harvey: “There is only one economic system – capitalism. The question is, ‘Who owns the capital?’” (Why states like Kentucky and Pennsylvania call themselves “Commonwealths”.) My undergraduate major was Marketing. One could say I have a degree in capitalism.

My Campbell grandparents benefited greatly from the WPA. They lost everything in “the crash”. My grandmother was a delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated FDR. Governor James Cox hired my dad when he entered broadcasting (WHIO, Dayton). When we moved to New York from Dayton in 1957, we lived in James Roosevelt’s suite at the Esplanade Hotel.

Entrepreneurship and hard work needs be fairly rewarded – and is the basis for all economic progress. Yet, without judicious regulation, laze-faire capitalism turns into oligarchism (where the few, wealthy people control an economy – the “One Percent”).

Communism is an economic system where the “people” (read “government”) own all the capital. This benefits only the few at the top of the political and economic ladder, and squelches initiative.

Socialism in its original form tended toward communism, but in modern usage more often refers to concern for society’s response to the needs of its members.

Capitalism, communism, socialism and oligarchism (and others) are economic systems: Who owns the capital?

In a democracy, the whole of the population makes all decisions. In a republic, the population elects or appoints representatives who make the decisions for all. In others – monarchies, dictatorships, etc. – one person, by dint of heredity, power, etc. – imposes the will and whim of the autocrat on the people. This we rejected in 1776.

The United States is constituted as a democratic-republic. It has operated as a regulated (sometimes better than others), capitalistic system.

This requires us all to participate in a complicated, messy system of give-and-take, economically and politically. It requires our personal participation, which we did in spades this past election. Bless you all. But, it also requires us to recognize the legitimacy of whoever — our favorite or not — we elect.

Together, this is “we the people”. We are neighbors (in the Biblical sense – my Master’s degree). It is our privilege and opportunity to work together for each other’s benefit politically, economically, socially – and in every other way.

Let’s do it well, thoughtfully and compassionately.

Pastor Doug Campbell