The countries of Europe discovered a long time ago that both capitalism and communism, if adhered to in their purist forms, will eventually destroy the societies which adopt them. This is, in my opinion, because capitalism is an economic system and communism is a socio-political system and both actively work against the type of system that they are not. At best, communism will provide enough for every citizen to live on but will never create enough communal wealth for the pursuit of happiness. At best, capitalism will provide wealth for a minority of the people and enough for the majority to survive on but will always condemn a minority to a miserable existence. Europe has responded to this fact by adopting a hybrid system of the two which is basically democratic socialism. Sometimes this is more people orientated and sometimes it is more money orientated depending on the political and economic situation at each general election. This is why, to an outsider, and often to insiders as well, mainstream, European conservative parties appear to be almost socialist in many of their policies and the left seems to adopt a capitalist approach in much of their economic strategies.
Even so, we have not yet got the balance right as the following article from THE LOCAL (Germany) shows only too well.
A new study presented in Berlin on Tuesday showed that even young children’s future hopes are affected by poverty, with 20 percent of children in Germany reporting they feel disadvantaged.
According to the second annual World Vision children’s study, most of the country's children (80 percent) between six and 11-years-old have a positive outlook for the future. But the remaining 20 percent of children, who suffered from poverty and little encouragement at home or in school, learned early not to expect a bright future.
“Children from the privileged classes can take advantage of their better chances from the beginning,” co-author of the representative study Professor Klaus Hurrelmann said.
More than 2,500 schoolchildren took part in the study aimed at finding out for the first time how younger kids see their world. Results showed that even younger children realise they are underprivileged and wish to have their voices heard. A healthy self-esteem and the experience of being an effectual person are fundamental aspects positive child development that these children often do not experience, Hurrelmann and his co-author Sabine Andresen said.
“But the lower fifth is breaking away from us,” Hurrelmann said, explaining the situation had worsened since 2007. “These children see their futures negatively and don’t trust in any successful educational system. Their daily lives are spent in large part alone in front of the television or other forms of media consumption. Boys are particularly at risk here.”
Meanwhile more privileged children not only get more support at home, they also have more free time options. While 43 percent of wealthier children reported taking part in creative and musical activities after school, only five percent of poor children did the same.
“But the bridge to this greater educational orientation currently happens through the school,” Hurrelmann said.
Other aspects of the study showed that parental attention was very important to the younger children, but not constantly desired. Instead it should be short and intensive, Hurrelmann said, adding that this should be a relief to working parents.
Most children reported having two working parents, but said this made no negative impact.
“On the contrary, the children wish for parents who are socially integrated. It’s the children with unemployed parents and little structure in their daily lives who complain about too little parental attention,” Hurrelmann said.
The researchers were particularly concerned about this in single parent homes.
“These are still massively underprivileged in our society,” Andresen said, encouraging more state spending on full-day schools with attractive free-time offerings.
From a European, social democrat perspective, this proves that not only does capitalism rarely work for the poorest in society but it works against itself by taking an increasing number of people out of the wealth creating enterprise. Poverty and lack of opportunity creates more poverty and lack of opportunity within a fixed, and expanding, underclass.
However, the answer is, almost certainly, not to ditch capitalist economics altogether. In my opinion the answer is to increase the socialist component of social democracy drastically (almost to the exclusion of the capitalist element) when addressing the problems of the poor and that this should be paid for by the rich minority. Capitalism, as this report proves, will never rescue the poor - it only ever maintains the middle class and over-provides for the already wealthy. There may be some movement between the middle class and the stinking rich but there is rarely movement between poverty and the middle class that doesn't involve some criminality, winning the lottery or being able to play football well.
I think we understand this in Europe and the only thing that is stopping us grabbing poverty by the horns and creating a society where all children can look forward to a "happy" life is our lack of will, our greed and the tenacious belief that perhaps capitalism could just work for everybody if we tweak it a little bit.
But in the United States this will never happen unless the national zeitgeist undergoes a major sea change. One of the myths of Americanism is that anybody can become rich. But, as Europe has shown, this only true in the "winning the lottery" sort of way. Some people will move from the underclass to become reasonably well off, maybe even stinking rich, but the number that do will always be insignificant and the system that promotes such a possibility will always create an underclass whose lives are dominated by poverty, unhappiness and a complete lack of hope. This is because money and human beings are two completely different types of things.
In Europe, "social" is not a dirty word. In fact, for most people, in respect of human politics, it just means "human." The people of the USA need to rid themselves of their paranoia in respect of social policy, which has, been subversively installed in them by the stinking rich through the clever manipulation of the media and the deliberate perversion of the ideology of the nations political and philosophical founders.
But more than this, the people of the USA need to drop their isolationist and downright arrogant view of themselves and learn, not just from the mistakes of the old world, such as Soviet communism, but also from the things we have done well or, at least, aspire to do well.