I've heard from many Western denizens lately -- Americans, Canadians, and Britons -- who think that socialized health care, trade, domain name registration, gun ownership, etc. are all the only sensible way to handle anything. It wasn't until recently that I heard from non-Westerners polarized to the exact opposite view.

The problem with both types of people is that extremism is invariably inaccurate; truth always lies somewhere in between. Capitalism is, IMO, a Very Good Thing in a government. It ensures that everyone has a chance to earn their own success and discourages people from relying on a higher power to provide for them in every time of need.

On the other hand, pure capitalism isn't a good thing either. This is because the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in any such system: wealth begets wealth, and poverty begets poverty. It's always a good idea to have some socialist devices to keep this in check. Otherwise, the democratic majorities will have no way to ensure that their government treats them fairly.

Take the American health care system, for instance. It's currently dominated by a wealth of competing HMOs, with Medicare and Medicaid standing in for the poorest citizens. But the doctors and hospitals are still permitted to levy whatever prices they deem suitable for their work, no matter how basic -- including routine physicals, vaccinations, and eyeglasses. Canada, on the other hand, has a nationalized health care system as well as HMOs for those who can afford them. This way, everyone is entitled to basic care, and the population and country as a whole benefits.

It's certainly not a good idea for a government to manage all business. Competitive markets in the food industry, for instance, ensures that agricultural researchers constantly develop better hybrids and higher yields. But at the same time, allowing pure capitalism would permit the widespread use of agricultural pesticides or excess irrigation that could ruin the local environment. Government regulation is unquestionably a good thing in this regard.

It's been said that moderation is a virtue in all things. So it is with government economics. It's difficult, if not impossible, for any large nation to strike a perfect balance between the two, but few people will disagree that a balance, rather than an absolute extreme, is what's needed to benefit the largest number of people.