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Think Tank discusses how socialism functions in various countries

(Getty Images Photo/George W. Hales)

The word “socialist” is thrown around in our politics as an epithet, reflecting a grade-school level (“socialism=bad”) understanding intended to end a discussion rather than to further it.

This week’s Think Tank dissects various political and economic forms based on the following principles:

  • It doesn’t matter what a country calls itself, it matters what it really is.
  • There are at least two relevant dimensions:
    • politically free democratic forms vs. authoritarian regimes
    • state-controlled economy vs. private enterprise

In other words, there are separate political/governance and economic dimensions that are independent of one another. So, there are at least four distinct political/economic systems, and more if you recognize that each dimension is more of a continuum than a dichotomy.

Even most communist countries allow some private enterprise, at least since China figured out how well this worked starting in the late 1980s. We think of Western Europe as generally socialist, but they have thriving private enterprises with somewhat stronger social safety nets and incrementally higher taxes than we do. And while many think of the U.S. as the bastion of capitalism, we have endorsed many socialist programs; Social Security and Medicare, for example, have become untouchable expectations. For that matter, publicly funded K-12 education and public streets are also inherently socialist in that government taxes everyone in order to provide these services.

On closer examination, these distinctions are neither neat and clean nor absolute.

Mike and returning guest Francine Hardaway have both spent a lot of time traveling to countries with a wide array of economic and political forms. In this week’s Think Tank we discuss some of these, with an emphasis on how these countries actually function, not just what they say they are.

The Think Tank airs on KTAR News 92.3 FM on Sunday at 1-2 p.m. and repeats at 9-10 p.m.

Podcasts are available after each show is broadcast.

The Think Tank

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