Do Capitalists Support Pubic Health and Education?

Repost from the old site.
In a response to my post, The Paradox of Capitalist Regulation, brilliant British commenter huy suggests that capitalists nowadays are enlightened enough to see that public health and education are needed for the workforce. I argue otherwise below.
Huy:

I would say that history has taught capitalism that free education and law and order run by the state is essential for capitalism to work, as without those things capitalism fails.It looks like capitalism is learning across the globe that free and equal health provided by the state is also essential for capitalism to run (from a free market economic point of view).
Socialism wants national health and education for the benefit of the people, while capitalism wants national health and education for the benefit of the market and growth of the economy, An economy with higher-skilled, more versatile workers who are in good health is a more productive one.
I consider myself vey leftwing and technocratic, and I’m deeply in favour of the free market, but only if the state provides good free education and health for all, minimum wage, poverty benefits, unemployment benefits and the chance for adults to get apprenticeships and qualifications for free when ever they need to or want to (within reason) so as to allow the lower-skilled workers to keep up with the fast pace of the free market and all the job cuts and creations that come with it.
The free market is humanity’s best hope for destroying poverty, but only if it is galvanized by the state properly, whereby social mobility and equal opportunity and social justice and lack of social deprivation is followed through. This makes both moral and economic sense.

I respond:
If you look at the 3rd World, the capitalist classes there do not want public education and they certainly do not want state health care. Even here in the US, the capitalist class has waged all-out war on public education and national health care through the Republican Party, although the Democratic Party also now seems to oppose national health care.
In parts of the world where national health care has been put in, the capitalists and their rightwing parties quickly wage ideological warfare to get rid of it.
Europe is an unusual case, probably due to circumstances discussed in my earlier post, For Justice, A River of Blood.
Europe was a very rightwing place in the 1930’s. WW2 completely destroyed most of the European Right, defeated all rightwing governments, killed, wounded or imprisoned many of the rightwingers themselves, destroyed or made illegal their organizations and dissolved much of their wealth and power, and more importantly, humiliated them and completely discredited rightwing ideology.
As a consequence, the Right was in disarray for decades after WW2 in Europe, and they have not yet regained their power. After the war, there was a Cold War threat from the USSR and from Left groups all over the rest of Europe.
In order to co-opt the Soviet model and the West European Left, the ruling classes in Europe cut deals with workers, consumers and society in which a Social Contract was erected in the form of a socialism called variously the social market or social democracy. Due to the decimation and discrediting of the European Right, even European elites and media bought into social democratic ideology.
Hence we see in France large Leftwing papers like Liberation, huge Euro-Communist parties getting 10-30% of the vote and even ruling states in Italy. A Gramscian cultural hegemony was constructed by the Left in post-war Europe, such that the media and culture itself promoted social democracy as the normal way for a society to operate.
Elites in Scandinavia formed collegial relations with Communist and Leftist states and Leftist guerrillas on the basis that they were all socialists. For instance, Scandinavian governments had friendly relations with Sandinista Nicaragua, Cuba and Vietnam, along with the FMLN and FARC guerrillas in El Salvador and Colombia.
Scandinavian governments gave generous aid to the Third World, often in pro-people forms with no capitalist or reactionary strings attached. This had the effect of taking the wind out of the sails of West European Communists. In a relatively just social democratic society, most saw little need for revolution.
In Europe, even the capitalists have gone along with national health care, although in the UK they have been whittling away at it since Thatcher. European executives love their free national health care and paid six week vacations.
However, in much of the rest of the world, capitalists have rolled back national health and education. In China, national health care is apparently gone as a right. In Russia, too, it scarcely exists anymore, while education has been decimated along with educated persons and professions.
In some East European states like Bulgaria, health care has been devastated. The first thing the hero of both US parties, Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro, did when the Sandinistas were voted out was to get rid of free public education and free national health care.
In Canada right now, the rightwing party and the business class have declared war on the national health care system (an ongoing project for a good 15 years or so now), but it is popular, so they have to tread lightly.
If the business classes in the US supported public education and national health care, we would not have a decades-long war against both of them waged by the party of business, the Republican Party, and supported by the business class in its entirety. It is true that some more enlightened US capitalists (especially big businesses) do support public education and even national health care, but they are an exception.
In this sense, the US small business class is even more reactionary than US big businesses. The US small business class supported Ross Perot and Ron Paul and are often far to the Right of the corporate guys.
This rightwing populism can and does lead to fascism. Small business and the petit bourgeois were the army behind fascism in Nazi Germany and have led many far-right movements in the US too.
The petit bourgeois resents the plutocratic elites for screwing them, but on the other hand also resents the working classes for being unionized and making good money via union wages. They feel oppressed by both groups.
Also, many petit bourgeois did not go to college, so they resent those white collar workers (seen as intellectuals and professionals) who got degrees and the resulting higher-paying jobs.
The petit bourgeois work in offices, banks and stores as clerks, tellers, low-ranking managers, etc. This class sector is often equated with something like the lower middle class. They often have no class consciousness at all, which is why they are often fodder for the Far Right.
What you are advocating above, huy, is not the free market at all, since the free market advocates getting rid of most to all government spending and regulation. Instead, you are advocating for socialism in one of its many forms. This form being the social market or social democracy.
I am a strong supporter of social democracy along the lines of the European model. The social market is a regulated capitalism with many government programs as a safety net and considerable government involvement in and even ownership of parts of the economy. In Sweden, 93% of the economy is private, but almost everyone, including managers and office workers, is unionized.
Government involvement in the economy takes the form of industry guidance as a corporatist element. Ownership of aspects of the economy takes the form of ownership of large industries like aircraft and ship building, national airlines, vehicle manufacturing, national rail, etc. It’s worked quite well.
Keep in mind that capitalists are loath to invest in industries like ship building in which it may take 100 years to make your first profit. These industries need to be state-run for a long time.
Further, passenger rail is almost never profitable for the private sector, so they just don’t run passenger trains. Since it operates at a loss as its nature, it must be run by the state.
This is what is so sick about the endless demands on Amtrak to make a profit – it is almost impossible for Amtrak to make a profit, because large passenger rail networks almost never do. In order to profit, they would have to charge so much money that they would hardly get any passengers.
In the same way, city buses never run at a profit either, hence we never see the private sector running passenger buses inside cities. Do you see any private rail lines running passenger rail in any areas of the US? Of course not.
Why? Because it’s not profitable. Passenger rail must be run by the state for it to exist at all. Demands for Amtrak to run a profit are perverse, dishonest and wrong. How many Americans think Amtrak needs to run a profit? Of those with an opinion, possibly most. This is what rightwing propaganda will do to you.

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0 thoughts on “Do Capitalists Support Pubic Health and Education?”

  1. Dear Robert
    There is widespread dissatisfaction with socialized health insurance in Canada because for many operations there are long waits. This is used by the enemies of public health care to attack the system. Of course, thee is no reason to believe that privatization will do much to alleviate the problem.
    I use the following analogy. Suppose that in a bank there are 4 tellers and a line-up of 20 people, which is 4 per teller. One of the tellers goes private and charges 5 dollars for her services. Two of the 20 customers go to her. Now the line-up for the other 3 tellers is 18, which is 6 per teller. Two customers get quicker services by paying extra, but the wait for the other 18 has become even longer.
    That’s what partial privatization is likely to do. The root of the problem is shortage of certain specialists. This can’t be solved by partial privatization. The argument that specialists will work more hours if they can charge extra is false because they are already working full-time, and higher hourly returns may induce them to work less because they can have the same income with fewer hours of work.
    That is something that conservatives will never understand. People may choose to work fewer hours if their hourly net pay goes up. Suppose that someone grosses 60 dollars per hour and pays 30 dollars of tax on it. Then his weekly take-home pay is 1200 dollars if he works 40 hours. If his taxes are reduced to 20 dollars per hour, his take-home pay will increase to 1600 if he continues to work 40 hours. If he reduces his working hours to 35, he can increase his take-home pay to 1400 and still enjoy more leisure. That is what often happens when earnings go up. People start to work less.
    Regards. James

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