Freedom AND Socialism in Colombia and the US
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Freedom vs. Socialism
I think that it is safe to say that nearly all conservatives in the US, and possibly a majority of liberals, would agree with the following statement:
I don't want socialism. I prefer freedom.
Living for a brief time in Colombia has shown me that freedom and socialism are not on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Colombia is obviously more socialistic than the US, with a much higher percentage of the population on the Government payroll -- police, street cleaners, parking attendants, parks & recreation, the list goes on and on. Government supplements utility and internet bills relative to social status. Child support payments are doled out at the cashier's window in workplaces. Although Colombia is a republic like the US, most of these services are provided at the National level.
Colombia also has more apparent elements of communism, with all utilities government-owned and the biggest company in the country, oil producer EcoPetrol, 89% government-owned.
So, how does that affect freedom? Well, pretty much not at all. Between the US and Colombia, which has more freedom? How do you define freedom? The only way I can think of, is that if something is legal in one country and illegal in the other, the country in which it's legal gets a "freedom point" in the comparison.
I can easily think of ten things that are legal in Colombia that are illegal in the US. I might not want to do some of them, but that doesn't mean that they don't contribute to my freedom. Other things might not be technically legal, but laws against them aren't enforced. A few of the things I do take advantage of are buying "prescription drugs" without a prescription, deciding where my dog needs to be on a leash and where he doesn't (while taking personal responsibility if I make the wrong decision), buying liquor in the grocery store or corner market. A few that I don't do, but I support others' right to do it, drinking in the park, walking down the street smoking a joint. This list is only a sample.
What rights do we have in the US that Colombians don't? The main one that comes to mind is abortion, although that is so under attack in the US I'm not even sure you can call it a right any more. Abortion is widely available in Colombia although illegal and unsafe. Government attitudes are changing and Colombia is creeping in the opposite direction to the US on this issue. The other that comes to mind is women's rights, especially in domestic violence cases. Although women have essentially the same rights as in the US, enforcing them can be problematic.
On the whole (especially from the self-centered male prospective) it is clear to me that Colombia is more socialistic and just as, if not more, free.
So the US should stop thinking of freedom as the opposite of socialism/communism. The latter are economic concepts (I won't debate their merits here) while the former is totally disconnected from the economic system in place.