Some (note I said some and not all) Republicans like to claim the United States under President Obama is on its way to socialism. Yet we have not seen nationalization of any industry, and many of the national standards for education and health care conservatives complain about were actually suggested by Republicans prior to Obama coming to office. President Obama may in fact be the world leader most open to capitalism currently in office. But the term “socialism” was often used by Southern Conservative Democrats in the 1950s and 1960s to imply a relationship to civil rights or African-Americans. Perhaps it is no coincidence this term is being used to describe President Obama by some critics on the right.
Having spent some time in India in recent weeks I can see what socialism is like even though since 1991, the country has been trying feverishly to deconstruct its national socialist model that was gradually built between 1947 and the mid 1980s.
Pre-colonial India was a hodgepodge of kingdoms and states. The largest Indian kingdom in 1800 was the Maratha Kingdom followed closely by the disjointed holdings of the British (which included every major city except Pune and Delhi). India was a mess and the British took advantage conquering much of the rest of the subcontinent by 1858. But a century earlier, the Mughal Empire which ruled over what is today North India, Pakistan and Afghanistan boasted the largest economy on the planet.
It is against this backdrop India’s post-independence rulers who inherited one of the poorest countries on the planet decided to employ real socialism and eventually align with the Soviet Union despite efforts by the USA to be friendly. The British exploitation of Indian resources and the poverty stricken rural areas turned the newly independent state towards “national socialism”, which combined nationalization of several industries including banking, petroleum, transport with a private sector made up almost entirely of domestic based companies.
What India’s post-independence rulers did not consider is that when the Mughal Empire had the world’s largest economy, the Industrial Revolution had not taken place in Europe yet. The Mughals- foreign invaders who as Muslims ruled over a majority Hindu population brought advances in science and technology from West Asia, the Far East and Turkey and were able to create an economic juggernaut. Wise rulers took the best knowledge they had acquired from abroad and applied it to build a state that in its day arguably the most sophisticated and advanced in the world.
The idea of “national socialism” was to look inward, but the Mughals did not do that. So let’s look at Obama’s “socialism” with this in mind.
Since President Obama was elected no effort has been made to nationalize industries. In fact the opposite has occurred where legislation has been used, such as the Health Care law to grow private sector insurance. Those of us who are true liberals like myself advocated a real government role in Health Care like the UK or Canada has, but the administration never really took that possibility seriously. The administration has also used its big stick diplomatically to lucrative secure foreign contracts for private American companies such as Boeing, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin and others.
Banks have remained completely deregulated with a notable exception – Ally Bank. Ally is currently majority owned by the United States Government. However, this happened late in Bush Administration after Obama had been elected but before he took office. By contrast, while India has in the last two decades allowed some private banks, 17 of the 20 largest domestic banks in the country remain in the hands of the central government.
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