Socialism: The Military as a Microcosm
Socialism is an economic system. It is inherently neither evil nor good.
Some people will already have their hackles raised just because of that statement. They have been so conditioned to equate socialism with evil, bad, and lazy that they cannot imagine how it can possibly be beneficial in any way. Ironically, many people who jump to that conclusion also have very high regard for the military, and fond memories of military life.
If they only understood that they have never been subjected to socialistic society more than the time they spent in the military than at any other point in their lives, they may have a slightly different regard for socialism. However, many of them will try to split a hair to explain that the time they spent in the military was the reason they "earned" benefits rather than the more realistic idea that it was the time they became "entitled" to those benefits.
Beyond recognizing that veterans "earned" the benefits they are now "entitled" to receive, the entire military experience is pretty much an experience in socialism.
The government inside the military is anything but democratic. It far more closely resembles a totalitarian dictatorship that owns its personnel. The personnel give to that dictatorship a commitment to do what it tells them to do up to, and including, giving their lives. In exchange for faithful performance of this commitment, the government will take care of housing, food, and medical, plus they will give them a monetary stipend and promises for benefits to which only veterans are "entitled."
The first thing that happens is everyone is given uniform clothing and uniform grooming standards to follow. Any idea that they are individuals is taught out them. They are taught that any group is only as strong as its weakest member. Standards are set to weed out any member who is too weak to maintain an acceptable level of performance, or who will not conform with the purpose for the group he or she is in.
The government can rescind its contracted obligations from anyone who does not obey, or who, in any other way, fails to conform to standards sufficiently to retain these benefits. That is about as symbolically totalitarian as a government can get, but the government is not so inherently evil as to eliminate those who do not meet the standards it expects from its citizens.
It is important at this point to recognize that the type of government and the economic system are separate from one another. Totalitarianism has nothing to do with an economic system. It has to do with the lack of rights of its citizens, and its total control over them. Socialism has to do with government ownership and distribution of goods, services, and benefits.
Those who pass basic military training will continue to receive some money, a place to live, meals, and medical attention as needed. In the most basic forms, the place to live is a barracks room, the meals are at the chow hall, and the medical attention is at the clinic. It is quite efficient.
At this level, everyone is essentially equal. Any variance in equality will be for a reason, with rank being the most recognizable inequality.
There is another inequality in some cases that demonstrates the most highly socialistic aspect of the economy within the military community. If the person who is entitled to these benefits is married, the place to live and meals prepared at the chow hall will be replaced with allowances in the form of extra money intended for these benefits.
Any dependents of the person also become "entitled" to medical benefits, but not because the person "earned" that additional benefit. Rather, the dependent is entitled simply because the benefit is needed by that member of the society.
The aspect of inequality that is controlled by the totalitarian government is that of giving rank. Certainly rank is "earned" in one sense of the word, but the standards for earning promotion vary at times based on the government’s need for ranks to be filled. Promotions are more easily "earned" during times of expansion than they are when the system is stable. Promotions are far more difficult to "earn" during times of contraction.
These changes in needs at any point in time will also have other effects, such as reenlistment opportunities and bonuses, and reductions in force that affect a person’s ability to stay in long enough to retire. Those who conform, perform, and endure sufficiently and adequately to retire from the military, will "earn" an "entitlement" to a lifetime stipend based upon their time in service and rank.
After a person has served in the military and received an appropriate discharge, he or she will be "entitled" medical care at VA facilities, the honor of draping his or her coffin with an American flag, and maybe even a military headstone. A veteran may also be "entitled" to education benefits, as well as permanent compensation for disabilities or reduction of abilities.
Whether a veteran looks back on his or her time in service with pride or regret, he or she is looking back at the time he or she lived under totalitarian government in a socialist economy - even if he or she does not want to accept it or believe it.
Some other things I've written about: