Freedom AND Socialism in Colombia and the US

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.
2 people like this.
Comments
Larry Rose Bravo! I would like to post this on my blog if I may!!! btw I wasonce told by an american that public schools in the us was not socialism. I hope your article enlightens such folks.
LikeReply1 hr
Mark Bachrach "Not Socialism" in the US is whatever benefits me. Schools, police, fire, roads and bridges, ATC, and mortgage interest deduction. Socialism is what helps someone else. Hope that clarifies.
LikeReply1 hrEdited
Mark Bachrach Larry, feel free to republish. Most of these posts are really just for my own benefit -- random musings -- an on-line diary, if you will. Documentation of my experiences and thought processes here in Colombia. After 60 years of living where someone else indicated that I should, this is a very important time in my life and I want to be able to look back on it -- whether I'm still in Medellin or somewhere else.
LikeReply55 mins
Mark Bachrach Another right in the US that I just thought of is the right to have an anonymous cell phone number. I won't debate the relative merits of any of them, I'm sure each is crucial to someone.
LikeReply54 mins
Larry Rose The def of Socialism that I get back from US folks when I tell them about socialism and how they all benefit from it is THE government controls means of production...sounds to me like a highway project or govt grants to Universities etc etc... They just dont get it. And thanks for letting me post your ^^ diary ^¨...
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Comments

  1. I dispute your assertion that Colombia is more socialist than the United States. The Colombian pension system is entirely privatized as well as the health system. There is no Colombian equivalent of government-run Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. About 35% of US GDP is government expenditure while its 27% in Colombia.

    Public transportation is also highly privatized. Though Medellin has a fair bit of good publicly-owned non-bus transit, many people still depend on privately-owned buses. In other cities, the percentage of privately-owned public transport is much higher. Even the vaunted Bogota Transmilenio is 100% private buses. Gas taxes pay the capital cost of Transmilenio, fares cover the operating cost and profit of the private companies.

    It is also not true that all utilities are government-owned, though it is certainly the case in the Medellin area. Electricity generation is split about 50-50 between private and government companies. Had the collapse in oil prices and the peso not occurred, the government would have gone through with their plans to sell Isagen and the split would have become more like 70-30. Many water companies throughout the country are also private (Baranquilla being the largest example). Finally, though some may exist, I am not aware of any publicly-owned telephone and internet providers. Further, the USA has many publicly-owned utilities. TVA and Energy Northwest are the two largest that come to mind, but there are many others throughout the country.

    I've lived in the Medellin area for eight years and do not have the same perception that most (or many) workers are government employees. For example, I have never, to my knowledge, seen a parking lot attendant who is a government employee. They may exist, of course, at parking lots owned by the government, but though I park in the city fairly often I have never seen a government parking lot.

    By the way, please don't take this as a personal attack - I just consider this a disagreement about facts. I very much enjoy your blog.

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