The unfortunate result of our gradual move to shorter and shorter attention spans so well encapsulated in sound bites is that we loose all subtleties and start to think only in absolutes. Shades of grey disappear into pure black and white. The current debate on capitalism vs. socialism is the recent casualty. In reality there is no such thing as Capitalism in the world today in the black and white sense any more than there is one sort of socialism. Both are systems that can be of varied degrees.
Socialism taken to the extreme is Communism while Capitalism taken to the extreme becomes monopolism and self-destructs. The hard line socialists of the 60s never could come to grips with human incentive as part of a necessary economic equation and the socialist model where Government controlled a wide array of business simply could not compete in a world where there were those who had incentive to do better. This was the fatal flaw of Socialism. Likewise the hard line "Capitalists" of the last several decades did not understand the fatal flaw in capitalism; that incentive uncontrolled can lead to dominance hence perversion of the market by the strong. Such dominance by definition means the market is no longer the decider, it is the supplier, hence no more capitalism. Therefore Capitalism unfettered by anti-trust controls cannot survive for long as capitalism. Nor will Capitalism always make safe and better products if the incentive to cut corners and exaggerate is there. Truth in advertising laws, and a host of other laws to protect the public, and a legal system to punish those that hurt their consumers in the quest for money are necessary to avoid the flaws of capitalism. The truth is that Capitalism has to be controlled or it cannot sustain itself. Regulation is an absolute must.
In the UK by the end of the 70s we saw clearly that Socialism could not harness public energy into a strong economic system that worked for its members. Perhaps in a very close knit community like the Israeli Kibbutz (the most complete Socialist Communist model) it worked but even that tired after time. This gave Margaret Thatcher the power to alter the course and get the Government out of most of British business and more towards the controlled capitalist model. Many aspects of British society are still "socialist" however and even the most conservative elements would not want to change that.
In the US we now have been given the chance to see the flaws of Capitalism the same way the Brits got to see the flaws of Socialism. Thinking that the business people know best turned out to be complete hokum. As we hear a few dullards today ask, "What does the government know about running an automobile company?" Most of us would respond, "what do the current heads of the automobile companies know about running an automobile company?" Precious little, it turns out. Who could do worse than the heads of General Motors who did not even have the sense to fly commercial or drive to Washington to plead poverty and beg for taxpayer money. They showed up in their private jets!
The biggest flaw of the Republican mantra since Regan was the belief that Government was ALWAYS the problem. An absolute truth in their minds. Hence no thought of how to make government better or bring smarter people into it. We are now forced to see things differently -- and lets face it -- more sensibly. The truth should be Government is not ALWAYS the solution -- but it can be an option and sometimes just might be the only realistic solution. To refuse to accept that is just burying your head in the sand. Meanwhile we need to encourage Government to be better and get better people into government with incentives and motivation to deliver greater good. The Republicans constantly belittled government (except the armed forces) and it became a self fulfilling prophecy. If Obama can change that one simple thing he will have done great service to our country.