Socialism -- really?

Sim

Registered Member
#1
Some people are very afraid of "socialism" in America. That's understandable, there are good reasons to be afraid of genuine socialism, there are many good reasons against it. The socialist East Bloc was dictatorial, oppressive and ruled with brute force.

What surprises me, though, is the lack of rationality when it comes to identifying socialism, and the inflationary, hyperbolic use of the term "socialism" to smear political opponents, or ideas which are not socialist at all, by some people.

For example, Europe is accused of "socialism", although many Western European countries are at the top of the world's economy, some even beat the US when it comes to GNP per capita and various indexes measuring the degree of freedom and quality of life find some of these allegedly "socialist" countries ahead of the US. How is this possible when they are "socialist"?

The answer is simple: They are not socialist. All European countries are free market economies. The only thing different from the US is a higher degree of social safety nets -- a bit more redistribution of money. But that's all. The economy is mostly private, and the amount of money redistributed is tiny compared to the amount of money distributed by the free market.

A genuine socialist would laugh at this tiny fig leaf covering the weak spots of the free market -- genuine socialists want a ban on private possession of factories, companies and financial transactions. In genuine socialism, all companies are nationalized and state owned.


Also, some accuse Obama's economic policies of being "socialist". To put this into perspective again, let's take a look at that:



The hot-pink portion of this pie chart is the percentage of listed American business assets that have recently been nationalized by the American government (ie, General Motors). Obama's version of socialism is so sneaky you can hardly see it!

(And there is some reason to think this actually overstates the portion of the corporate landscape that's been nationalized, but more on that at the end of the post.*)

There is a serious discussion to be had here, and I think Jon Henke is having it: Socialism, like farenheit, comes in degrees. Sure, a government that nationalizes GM is "more socialist" than one that does not, even if it doesn't mean we're living "under socialism." But differences of degree shouldn't obscure differences of kind, and as Tim Fernholz says, "it's clear that putting the government in charge of private production is not the Obama administration's guiding philosophy."
Source: http://correspondents.theatlantic.com/conor_clarke/2009/06/what_socialism_looks_like.php


So why don't we stop using the term "socialism" in a hyperbolic and exaggerated manner?

When we look at the facts, socialism is a completely different animal than some seem to believe.
 

Merc

Certified Shitlord
V.I.P.
#3
Like Bananas said, it's a cultural thing. I still think it's a terrible system and is destined to fail since it relies on people sharing with one another (which is truly laughable to expect so many people to cooperate with one another).
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
#4
History has shown time and time again that socialism fails. That's not to say capitalism is perfect, or that some regulation isn't necessary. It's not that it's evil, it's a system that doesn't work.
 

Bananas

Endangered Species
#5
History has shown time and time again that socialism fails. That's not to say capitalism is perfect, or that some regulation isn't necessary. It's not that it's evil, it's a system that doesn't work.

The point Sim was making is; What is Socialism? Half of the time when Americans scream "socialist" as if is something they have trodden in, it is frequently used in completly the wrong context and with a dire misunderstanding of what "socialism" actually consists of.

I've been called a "socialist" numerous times by Americans on these forums, it could not be further from the truth. It seems to be used as more of an insult than have any real meaning, especially as 9 times out of 10 the proposition presented could not even be considered as socialist by its true definition.

To respond to your statement; I do believe socialism does work, just like capitalism does, that is why the most succesful nations on this planet are of a mixed economy.............it is only when the balance sways do the cards fall.
 

MenInTights

not a plastic bag
#6
The graph makes a good point, there's no denying that. I've seen somewhere else, and I can't find it now, the per capita cost of these bailouts. So, the government only owns .2% of the private sector, but if that cost us $15,000 each then its a really big deal. So when a lot of people say socialism, maybe its not the best choice of words, but what they are really referring to is taking massive sums of tax dollars and buying businesses that should be allowed to fail or thrive on their own. Its more about the money being spent rather than who is in charge of the business.
 

Sim

Registered Member
#7
The graph makes a good point, there's no denying that. I've seen somewhere else, and I can't find it now, the per capita cost of these bailouts. So, the government only owns .2% of the private sector, but if that cost us $15,000 each then its a really big deal. So when a lot of people say socialism, maybe its not the best choice of words, but what they are really referring to is taking massive sums of tax dollars and buying businesses that should be allowed to fail or thrive on their own. Its more about the money being spent rather than who is in charge of the business.
Oh I agree it's completely legitimate to criticize Obama's economic policies. I just think it's not helping the critic's message when they rely on hyperbolic and plain wrong labels like "socialism".
------
Like Bananas said, it's a cultural thing. I still think it's a terrible system and is destined to fail since it relies on people sharing with one another (which is truly laughable to expect so many people to cooperate with one another).
I agree with you about actual socialism. Obviously, the East Bloc did not have a good system. But I disagree that certain social welfare nets or regulations of the free market constitute "socialism".
 
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ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
#8
You dared to say the S word!

I was also surprised about the fear (and the manipulation that goes on to capitalise on this fear) of anything that can be possibly be connected to the word, socialism. It's being made synonymous with total dictatorship form of government, no wonder it's scary.

Here, we do have social programs and some socialist ideals but we vote for these to be put in place and these aren't forced upon us. We're still democratic. The government helps us out, but we are still free and capitalism still exists.
 

Jeanie

still nobody's bitch
V.I.P.
#9
It's no use, Sim. I've tried time and time again to educate people on what Socialism is and is not, and no one pays any attention. They want to think what they want to think, and will hold steadfastly to misconceptions about it as long as it suits their world view. Ignorance after all is bliss.
 

CaptainObvious

Son of Liberty
V.I.P.
#10
The point Sim was making is; What is Socialism? Half of the time when Americans scream "socialist" as if is something they have trodden in, it is frequently used in completly the wrong context and with a dire misunderstanding of what "socialism" actually consists of.

I've been called a "socialist" numerous times by Americans on these forums, it could not be further from the truth. It seems to be used as more of an insult than have any real meaning, especially as 9 times out of 10 the proposition presented could not even be considered as socialist by its true definition.
I couldn't agree more with you and Sim on this one. Too many times the word is thrown out there to object to a policy they don't agree with. However, some of the current administration's policies cannot be characterized as free market friendly and to call them out for what they are is hardly ignorant, it's the truth actually.