With All This Socialism Going Around…

July 20, 2010

Socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

Yep, it’s time for another political statement. Often when I take the time to write these, I get very interesting comments and emails, so I am sure this time will be no different. You should have seen the hate mail I got when I wrote my post about Obama getting elected – it was unreal! Seriously, we should be able to have disagreements without the threatening of lives, yes? This time I want to focus on something that has really been bothering me lately, and that is the advent of the “Socialism is Evil” mantra that many from the right in America have taken on as a slogan and political platform. First up, some definitions…

Socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

Fascism: a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

Communism: a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.

Hopefully those definitions will put to rest the Faux News version of what Socialism is – it is not Fascism, it is not Communism, and it is not representative of Adolf Hitler. When used correctly, it is what it is; a system of community ownership of the things that are needed to help said community thrive and exist. Sure, it can be used incorrectly and abused, but as this article states, “intellectuals, particularly academic intellectuals, tend to favor socialism and interventionism“. There is a reason for that truth. If you have bigger concerns than how much money you can put in your own bank account, the idea of socialism makes perfect sense. If your only true concern is to make as much as you can and somehow take it with you when you die, well, socialism doesn’t look so great, I would imagine. But keeping that in mind, let’s take a walk through the world of American socialism and see just what has been socialized in this country:

Libraries
Fire
Police
Fire hydrants
All public roads
Airports and air travel
Local, State, and National Parks
Public Schools
Public Universities
Public Day Care
Subsidized/low-income housing
Everything having to do with the Military
Social Security
Public transportation
The price of gasoline
Bridges
Dams
Tunnels
Public beaches
Courthouses
All farming is subsidized
Health insurance & benefits for all Federal employees

And so much more…

Are you really willing to give these things up just for the benefit of yourself? I am not being facetious when I ask this; are you truly willing to give up the very things that help our society function as a whole? While I am sure there are abuses at every level of our political system, I for one am not willing to give up these things just so I can have a few extra dollars in my pocket. Tired of paying high taxes? (which, mind you, are at the lowest point in the last 60 years – just an FYI) Protest the wars that cost trillions a year and serve only to kill our young people and nothing more – not the public school system that is barely making ends meet in so many communities but is so necessary to the future success of our country. Priorities, priorities.

Here is Einstein on socialism, in an essay titled “Why Socialism?

“I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

If Einstein thought it was a good idea, well, I’m with him. Einstein was a pretty smart dude, I do believe.

I have asked people who cry “Socialism!” every time Obama’s name gets brought up to give me an example of what he has done that is socialist in nature, and all that anyone can come up with is talk about the bailouts (that he actually didn’t start) or healthcare reform (which is not socialism, but rather a giveaway to the insurance companies as it is currently written). Obama is nowhere near being a Socialist… at all. He is a corporatist like most other Presidents before him. But I find it funny how no one against socialism complained when Bush “socialized” things like the private banking industry and the auto industry when they were about to go under, or when Obama signed the “Cash for Clunkers” law, enabling you to get a new car for thousands off sticker price. Bush even wanted to “return the favor” to those who helped buy the election for him by privatizing Social Security so the bankers could profit off your savings. Privatize profits, socialize losses – that’s the name of that game. Socialism is only evil when it benefits everyone in a society equally, I guess – but yet it’s A-OK when it only benefits the wealthy.

Now I understand…

So let’s stop the fear mongering over Socialism, ok? It’s not evil, it’s not Hitler-ish, it’s not the end of a free market society. The free market and socialism can co-exist quite peacefully, thank you very much. It’s all about priorities and where we focus on time, energy, and money. Let’s quit the screaming rhetoric and look at these things with clear eyes and ears, and I think we can all agree – driving on paved roads or visiting libraries or having the fire department show up at your house are pretty good things for a society to provide for each other, don’t you think?

Filed in: Responsible

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (31)

  1. How nice to hear a sane voice! We in the UK now have a predominantly Conservative government, and yet i hear Americans describe our venerable NHS as ‘Socialist’ as if Mccarthyism was back in control of the States, seeing ‘Reds under the bed’ everywhere! Get a grip, guys ;oD

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you for concisely stating the many thoughts flying through my head when people “cry socialism.”

  3. Steven R says:

    crazy. this is exactly what is wrong with america, people like you

  4. DeMarie says:

    Well said David. Thank you for being sensible and a good human!

  5. Rene says:

    Right ON and well said. Geez, if only we could get this through the masses’ thick skulls.

  6. Kasia says:

    I’m interested in hearing your explanation on a few of the things you listed as being socialized in our society: “The Price of Gasoline” and “All farming is subsidized” & “Health insurance & benefits for all Federal employees”.
    Also, I would like to point out that in some states and cities from the 1990′s to now, private firms are actually running… See More public schools. How successful they are, I am not sure myself. However, it comes to mind that prisons and jails in our country all used to be socialized and are all (or at least most) owned and run by private firms. We all also remember the scandal behing “PA Child Care”.
    Regarding Airports & air travel, I’m assuming you actually mean the TSA, as in Airport and air travel safety and that airplanes can’t generally just fly where they want to, they have to get clearance first? I’m not sure how it works for the rich 1% who own private jets worth upwards of $1million and fly around last minute to Las Vegas or wherever they go.
    Regarding “Subsidized/low-income housing”. I had a girlfriend who was on it for some time before I met her, she had hit some rough patch in her life or something, and she had to apply with the apartment complex to live there, and they could have turned her down just as if you had applied there, because while public funding goes to her rent, the company that owns the apartment complex is still privately owned.
    Regarding “Social Security”, we’ve all seen how that’s failing. In fact, aren’t we supposed to be/or soon will be able to contribute to our own savings in place of SS soon? I hope so. The thought that I contribute to people who can’t work is one thing but I have met people who due to anxiety or bipolar disorder or something else, is ridiculous. I have anxiety and I don’t collect SS, bc I can find something else to do for a living. I know a few men who have BPD who work whereas other “men” who suffer from it who I’ve met don’t work and collect $800-1300/mo on SS sitting at home living w mommy & daddy and selling drugs and other nonsense on the side, not because BPD leaves them unable to work (if you can sell drugs you can work) but bc they CAN sit at home collecting $$. I’m sure we’ll all agree that’s a touchy one.
    Regarding Bridges, I’m sure we can all remember a couple of years ago when the Mississippi River Bridge collapsed. An audit all over the nation ensued checking other bridges and as one example in MD the Key Bridge was said by an inspector to be dangerously in need of infastructure upgrading.
    I’m not for or against socialism. My intectual mind leans toward it, as would anyone’s. But then you see how theory is not the same as application.
    Regarding your definition of Communism, you are actually incorrect. “Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as a political philosophy and social movement that advocates and aims to create such a society.” is actually the definition. I wonder that perhaps you never read the book of Marx? The definition you gave of Communism is not a definition at all. It is an opinion which we as a society have developed of it in response to viewing it’s unsuccessful corrupted applications in countries such as Russia, Cuba, and China. However, the theory itself should be applauded, as should socialism.
    But like many things in life, what is seen as a beautiful idea on paper and debated over dinner among the intelligencia is one thing, and applied to a real world where there are also corrupt evil people who see everything as another tool to gain for themselves. To clarify, I am not a socialist or Communist. I believe we should turn from Capitalism, bc we are not a democratic republic anymore, to true Democracy.

    • david says:

      Do you have any idea how expensive gas would be if the govt didn’t subsidize it? Or that our tax dollars pay for the health insurance of all Fed employees? Or that air travel is in fact subsidized by Federal dollars, i.e. our tax dollars?

      Basically, everything in this country is already socialized.

  7. Kasia says:

    Regarding Hitler, it’s because his party was “National Socialism” according to US media, which is not exactly true. His party was Bavarian German Workers’ Party at first, but then they changed the name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (National-Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei–NSDAP), bc the book of Marx was a very popular … See Moreread at that time and the name would appleal to those they were trying to reach, the ex-soldiers, the poor farmer, etc. They were called Nazis bc of the way Germans say National. Nazism is a form of political philosophy and a form of Facism, and Hitler intended to create it further into a religion. Calling Socialism a tool of Hitler is an insult to all those who died under his reign and if anyone thinks that Nazism and Socialism are the same, they know absolutely nothing and in that case should stay far away from politics bc their HUGE ignorance can only do more harm than good.

    • david says:

      “Calling Socialism a tool of Hitler is an insult to all those who died under his reign”

      Turn on Faux News, you will hear it all day.

  8. TaosJohn says:

    I think you left out the huge tax breaks for corporations and billionaires. The oil industry, for example, gets money from the government, as lunatic as that sounds. In many ways, we have increasing socialism for the rich in this country, while many of the other items you list are actually under attack.

    GREAT article, though. So many people just don’t understand any of this. Except for propping up the rich, Obama is about as much of a socialist as my cat.

  9. Kasia says:

    David, I forgot about the bailout we gave to the airline companies. But is it really socialized if we pay into something that is privately owned & we don’t exactly see a positive result for the betterment of all? You could argue that it makes tickets cheaper, travel safer, etc. But that is for the betterment of travelers. I don’t recall Sally down the street who has never flown ever getting a dividend check from American Airlines. It’s not the same thing as “Socialized”, I don’t think. Not by definition.

    • david says:

      That’s my point – everything IS socialized, we aren’t even doing it correctly (which would cost more), and some people would still rather go without parks, roads, or subsidized air travel because it costs them a few bucks. Sad, really.

  10. Kasia says:

    True, one of my fave jokes to say is when I am trying to do math off the top of my head and look at people and say “Give me a minute, I went to public school”. Why is it funny? Bc they laugh and say “I understand, I did too!” Then I tell them, “You know I can’t do multiplication off the top of my head, but halfway through junior year of high school I finished Calculus 2″ and they look at me dumbfounded and ask “How did that happen?” and I reply “Again, public school” to which they laugh and say they understand. Sad

  11. david says:

    Thanks Caitlin, appreciate your thoughts on this, from someone in the know.

  12. Kris says:

    Great article!

    ~ Socialist in Canada

  13. Caitlin says:

    I’m so grateful to people out there like you who put themselves out there and speak the truth. The amount of misinformation out there is incredible. Articles like this one are very much needed.

    In regards to Kasia’s question of “subsidized housing” being subsidized and subsequent comment, I just want to clear up a couple of things. First off, subsidized housing IS, without question, subsidized by the government. There are state and federally funded programs. Whether or not someone gets a project-based voucher (i.e. the housing subsidy is attached to a specific unit in a certain building) or they receive a mobile-based voucher (i.e. they can live wherever they please, so long as the full rent amount falls within the guidelines), does not change the fact that it is subsidized. I’m not really sure where you were going with that comment, but I just wanted to set the facts straight. Eligible individuals or families with housing subsidies pay 30-40% of their income toward the rent and the government (state or fed) covers the remainder. A family’s portion is adjusted when their income goes down or (hopefully) up. Affordable housing programs are a critical element to homelessness prevention across the country. Without this government subsidy, millions more would be homeless.

  14. Photolight says:

    Very much appreciate you putting the clarity out there on the web.

    Can we talk about this part more?:

    “Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.”

    I see this in interpersonal interactions every day, most interactions. The ego and id are going to take this society down. When neighbors don’t help neighbors but instead are the cause of greater problems, when employees and coworkers only worry about themselves instead of looking out for eachother, when social media becomes less about empowering the people to share information and collaborate and more about “me” and “celebrity”, when in dating there is a lack of mutual respect. Perhaps capitalism has divided us from eachother instinctually as well, and socialism would return our humanity by having to work together and as a community once again?

  15. Megan says:

    Thanks for a great article David!

  16. Mike says:

    Amazing article Dave, I never thought of things in that light.

  17. A few years ago, when my son was in second grade, the school had a program to teach them to become better Americans. Part of the idea was to teach them what was bad. On the list was anarchy, which bothered me, since they used the more pop definition than what that political system teaches. When I witness the cries of socialism (particularly as applied to LEED-EB or other green/sustainable ideas, I am puzzled. When those crying socialism for everything they hate, and then state that they are Christians, I remind them that it has long been accepted that the teachings of Jesus lead to socialism. With the anarchy situation, I discovered that people did not wish to listen. I am beginning to think that it is due to a laziness of thought, which is not a problem with our educational system, but our culture. It is easier to cry socialism or state people like you are what is wrong with this country than make a real argument. To be honest, this is a problem which lies on both sides of the debate. We need to think through the implications of our statements, and we need to build valid arguments based upon verifiable facts. If we discover that our facts are wrong, then we should check our beliefs.

  18. Kasia says:

    If we are discussing the fact that the definition taught at school for anarchy was incorrect and was a pop version, can we also discuss that even your definition of communism is incorrect and is a pop version? Having read the book of Marx (trying to better understand other political systems & why millions died under the communist politics regimes), the definition of socialism AND communism in this country are used incorrectly.

  19. Kasia, I would agree. My communist grandfather would have died at the hands of the National Socialists if other factors had not intervened. Due to the fact that I had family members of various political stripes, I did study them when I was younger. I never understood why we did not read Marx’ Manifesto in school or sections of Das Kapital along side of Adam Smith. Most cultures wish to demonize their enemies instead of understand them. My concern is that our culture here in the US is geared towards the soundbite now. Well,maybe we always have been. To grow, we have to go deeper.

  20. phil says:

    I enjoyed the read very much. I tend to align myself on a Libertarian point of view. However, I always enjoy reading and listening to the points of the opposing side, mainly bigger government, more regulation and control of the resources of the collective. I believe that form of government arrests the individual and limits the motivation and ingenuity of that individual due to the limited return on investment (time, capital, etc.) I have always wondered, also, how a socialist government would sustain itself. For instance the lesson in tragedy of the commons which if I may summarize states that if everyone is responsible for the welfare of the collective there will inevitably be those that will not work to full capacity. As more people don’t work the workload becomes heavier on fewer people perpetuating a collapse. In my opinion it is a logical argument as to why a socialist collective would not work in a country of our size – too many people looking for entitlements as opposed to earning it. I believe the post office, social services, public parks, public schools, public hospitals, etc. etc. demonstrate this from some level because the private counterparts for each, by in large, out perform the public versions in terms of quality of service, innovation/product development, consumer satisfaction, and limits on waste. What’s more is that the private sector can even turn a profit allowing for further innovation/employment opportunities and overall freedoms.
    It is an argument that makes complete sense to me, but not to others and I think its because I may not know enough. If A=B=C and human nature being what it is how is it possible for a population the size of the US capable of achieving a socialist system of government that is more efficient (in terms of collective societal progress) than a more libertarian/capitalistic system? I guess that’s the question I throw to you. I suppose it isn’t the goal that we differ on but more the basic assumptions of how we reach that goal and whose responsibility it is to get us there. I believe its up to the individual to create their own destiny by adding value to his or her life while not infringing on another’s ability to do the exact same thing. From your perspective where do we differ in achieving overall satisfaction while respecting the differences in each person’s values and motivations?

  21. Anthony says:

    Before I get people thinking I’m out to prove them all wrong, I just want to say I’m a Junior (though almost a senior) in high school. I still have a lot to learn. However, I just took a course in Econ. There are multiple branches of both Capitalism and Socialism. When people think of either one, they often think of extremes. Radical Capitalism is where only the most successful survive. Communism, the most radical form of Socialism, is where equality is meant to reign from one citizen through another by an individual’s CHOICE. Communism, in my opinion, sounds like a wonderful thing. But would it really work?
    America is a Capitalist government that is a borderline socialist government, known as State Capitalism. This means there is heavy taxation (over 50%, which we have when considering property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, death taxes, investment taxes, etc.)and the government has control over many of the things listed above. Good job on that list for the most part, by the way. I’d like to point out, though, that we could easily have a good portion of those items through Classical Liberal Capitalism. This includes the maintenance of a national defense, provisions of law and order through police and courts, and other provisions necessary for public functions (building highways and supporting education). Everything else would be left for the people.
    Socialism is a communal thing, which sounds good when appealing to the heart. However, it is economically unstable. This is because Socialism requires the involvement of everyone in production, healthcare and security. Sounds good, right?
    I wish I could say it was. I’m a Christian, so I support the idea of a community working together for a common good. That is what the church is MEANT to be (though I will be the first to admit that it is far from that goal and this needs to be changed NOW). However, from an economical standpoint, a given nation under socialism would crash. There would be little circulation of money because everyone shares an equal amount. If everyone shared an equal amount of money, it would not be worth much. Hence the good faith principle. Productions of exports would also be horribly inefficient. Everyone would have to do the same amount of work. This also sounds like an amazing thing, but, even if everyone worked super hard, the laws of supply and demand would whiplash on everyone. This means that the given nation’s product would be worth very little (since there is so much to go around with little demand) or everyone would need to work horribly inefficiently and produce very little to create a product with high demand (in which case a country’s infrastructure would crumble).
    For these reasons, I strongly believe in the Free Enterprise system. The Free Enterprise system does often mean that the strongest thrive. But that’s where character comes in. That’s when a person who has that kind of financial baking takes leadership and supports others. I’m not saying they would need to get rid of everything they own because then the economy would crash. But nobody wants that kind of wealth because of the opportunity cost. You know Henry Ford? He said this: “I was happier when doing a mechanic’s job.”
    For a society to succeed, the goal is not for the government to take control of it. The people beneath the government are to do that. People are often happier giving, anyway. Whether you share the same religion as me or not, haven’t you done something for a friend over yourself and found the satisfaction of that way better than your other choice? It’s a lot like that. Unfortunately, the right people to make the right decisions are either corrupted or in the wrong places.

    David, you are right. Socialism is not an evil thing at all. It just doesn’t usually work. If you don’t agree with me, then compare the Economy of the United States when people still believed in the American Dream to where it is now. Government aids are nice. I’d love to go to college for free. But how many people do I have to make the government to tax for me in order to make it possible? You can’t tax businesses because they merely raise their prices and charge us for their taxes. Socialism is more of a Utopian dream than an achievable approach at economic and government stability.

    I know this is a couple years later than the article was initially posted, but I’d love to hear some feedback on this. Thanks.

    • David Quilty says:

      Thanks for the comment Anthony, appreciate it. Unfortunately, people don’t even like to believe that most things in our country are, in fact, “socialized” and we all pay for them. It’s how it works. It may not be socialism in the truest sense of the word, but most everything and every industry is supported in some way with tax dollars.

  22. Kyle says:

    Of course the US is part socialized now- pretty much every country is! Almost every country builds roads, provides police, and fire through government funds. Only anarchist states (or theoritcally an extremely privatized state) don’t do this. Heck, if you pay taxes you are part socialist! The article is right in saying how Socialism should not be such a forbidden word.