A Facebook friend sent me a video in which a pop star proposed we create a new organization to “take back our government.” My reply, I’m afraid, was jaded. We don’t need another political organization to which we can write checks. We’re up to our ears in those, the ACLU and Common Cause, being two of the oldest.
Ideally, our constitution already points to our common cause: our right to the pursuit of happiness. Though I am an old woman, I’ve never heard anyone dispute this aim. As citizens, we disagree when we attempt to decide the economic system that best suits the goal: capitalism, socialism or democratic socialism. In other words, do we believe in a monetary system directed by social values or in the freewheeling competition of capitalism?
The answer is far from simple. If socialism is the engine to support happiness, then we believe the general good takes precedent over an individual’s interests. Our task, then, is to determine the nature of that “general good.” Is it free health care? Free higher education? A green world? Or, is it all those choices? If the last, then we must ask how much we, as individuals, are willing to give up to support that general good.
On the other hand, capitalism glitters with the promise of personal achievement, hence personal freedom. But, as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. Who decides the worth of an individual’s time? For how long must a person labor to obtain a degree of personal freedom? If wages are set too low, an individual might never obtain personal freedom.
So the question isn’t, “do we need another organization to take back our government.” The question is, “What should the government look like?” Answering that question lies at the heart of the 2020 election.
If the right to pursue happiness truly is the American dream, then the nation – east, west, north, south, religious, non-religious, natural citizen or newly arrived immigrant, shares a common purpose. The challenge is to settle upon the economic engine best suited to provide it. No single system seems to satisfy, unfortunately. Even so, together, we must choose.