Monthly Archives: November 2012

Socialism at the Gate

So many seem to think that if socialism works in country x it should work in America too. For example, because the socialized health care system works in tiny Denmark or frozen Canada, it should work here in the United States of America. Right?

I have a simple illustration why stock socialism will never work in America even if some argue that such systems work in other countries. I’ll even grant that it works extremely WELL in those countries even though some conservatives will argue against that supposition too.

First off, on the scale of individualistic vs. consensus driven cultures, America is THE MOST individualistic society in the world according to the Hofstede score. But one doesn’t need a fancy academic study to convince them of this idea (assuming it convinces them anyway).  Anyone who has traveled on a domestic carrier can see the end result of American socialism in microcosm, in action, in every city, every day.

Common airline policy limits travelers to one carryon item of a maximum dimension and weight that is to be stowed in the overhead compartment; and one personal item such as a purse or briefcase to be stowed under the seat in front. In consensus driven countries, the size and quantity of such items would not exceed the scientific dimensions prescribed by an international standards organization. In fact, those subjects would commonly err on the side being under the legal limits in the spirit of truth and cooperation and social welfare and Janteloven.

But how does this simple policy play out in our beloved United States?

My recent trip to Portland, OR through Minneapolis MN is a typical illustration. I had a densely packed regulation sized carryon with a netbook personal item arguably smaller than the Japanese understanding of “personal”. Still I kind of cheated because no one checks the carryon gravitational pull even if they check the capacity.  The airline implored passengers at the gate to check in carryon luggage as the plane was full and the style of plane had little overhead space. I reluctantly checked in my luggage with great murmuring, imagining that it probably wouldn’t be there at my final destination, all the while kicking myself for not jockeying for premature boarding despite my worthless assigned seating zone.

Even with my cheating and grousing and regretting, I was the exception. The rule among my compatriots was to consider any two items as compliant regardless of mass and size and even number. The woman in front of me had two wheeled contrivances neither of which could be construed as “personal” by even a Cyclops. As she marched through the aisle, she found a bin for her first carryon item ten rows ahead of her seat where she stowed her second load of <stuff> above it. One guy wasn’t letting go of the concept that his bungee-lashed wheeled amalgam of luggage constituted “one” carryon item. And of course, this doesn’t include the countless consumers who bought duty free, sky mall, special gifts and souvenirs toted in ginormous shopping bags as additional personal items that don’t count because God-would-agree. Technically speaking, even if Americans adhere to the rule of law—which we do, generally speaking—the spirit of the law can go straight to hell. And it does. Every day. Everywhere.

So what economic system would work for our competitive, individualist, narcissistic, every-man-for-himself, kill-or-be-killed, dog-eat-dog, it’s-all-about-me, barbarian horde federation of warring peoples we endearingly call the United States of America?

It’s called capitalism. It doesn’t work in all countries, but it works really, really WELL here.

I AM the 1% (that checked his bag at the gate).