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Socialism, capitalism, being nice and infection.

When the conservative American commentator and author of The Conservative Sensibility, George Will, was told on Beyond 100 Days that 51% of young women in America prefer socialism to capitalism, he responded that many of them probably just think of socialism as our being nice to one another.

That might be true so far as it goes, but there are various notions of 'socialism' from the old formula of common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange to a more free-wheeling idea of local communities looking after the vulnerable. Sanders includes a clean environment in his prescription. In any case, many sympathisers, including amongst educated people, believe getting rid of capitalism is essential for socialism, however they understand it.

I suspect that from the point of view of a conservative like Will, or 'neoliberal' free marketeers, the toughest challenge will come from drug-resistant infections, more than climate change or plastic. Hayek defended markets as sources of information. But in some cases, especially where specialised information is needed, other sources have to come into play. If the pharmaceutical companies can't see much return on ever more specialised drugs, the state is likely to have to intervene. But then that's socialism's strongest suit - crisis mangement when ordinary procedures are too slow to respond.

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