The closing days of the recent presidential election in the US saw the odd emergence of words referring to old ideologies of centuries past: socialism, communism, and capitalism. Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed and abandoned its bizarre ideology of coerced socialism and China has mollified their version of it without collapsing, the US may be the last country that continues to harm to itself in the avoidance of 18th and 19th century ideologies.
An ideology is a set of doctrines or beliefs about the correct way in which a society should run and people should behave. Ideologies may be rigid or flexible but we have seen that those that have remained rigid tend to fail. This happened with both the rigid socialism and capitalism of the 20th century.
The US has looked at the world as a battleground of ideologies since World War II: democracy against dictatorship, capitalism against socialism. European nations have long since abandoned the fear of these ideologies, more and more ignoring them. Other nations have created societies intended to generate the greatest benefit for all, blending the workable bits and pieces of any ideology. The result has been the fall into irrelevance of the ideologies themselves.
One of the hopes President-elect Obama brings with him is that the US will cease to harm itself out of fear for words referring to anachronistic ideologies. The sound of these words thumping to the ground during the closing days of the campaign is a promising prelude to clear, intelligent policy based on good ideas rather than fear of now empty words referring to ideologies intended for social conditions of the 19th-century.