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Free Minds & Free Markets

Americans Are Still Confused About What Socialism Actually Is

Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin used the motto, “Land to the peasants, peace to the nations, bread to the starving.” Sounds good, right?

Last week, this column asked: "Why are we still debating the merits of socialism?"

Based on quite a few responses, I've come up with three main answers. First, a surprising number of people still are seduced by its nice-sounding promises. Second, some politicians and activists are using the term again, which gives rise to this discussion. If you ask the public anything, including the virtues of cannibalism or self-immolation, a certain percentage will like the idea. Third, many people think wanting more social-welfare programs is the same as being socialist.

It is a good idea for people living in a self-governing democracy to have discussions about basic political philosophy even if the debates can become overheated in a world dominated by social media. As King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." The same ideas and temptations are always with us, so reprising musty old debates is healthy. Here goes.

Regarding the first answer, some readers criticized me for bringing up the suffering in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela. That's not socialism, they say, but communism. Russia was known as the United Soviet Socialist Republic and all such regimes referred to themselves as socialist, but, yes, communism is an extreme example. But both rely on the transfer of power from individuals to the state. As the saying goes, any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have. Socialistic governments of all types obliterate the incentive to work and invest, so they end up just taking things away.

Today's democratic socialists are, quite obviously, not calling for the creation of gulags and state ownership of everything, even if some of them (see Bernie Sanders) had nice things to say about Cuba's Fidel Castro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. But those "bad" socialists and communists didn't call for those horrors, either. Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin used the motto, "Land to the peasants, peace to the nations, bread to the starving." Sounds good, right?

Hugo Chavez didn't promise that in 10 years people would be hunting rats out of dumpsters to feed their families, but wrote into Venezuela's constitution that, "Health is a fundamental social right, an obligation of the state." As late as 2013, prominent progressive activists were still praising the country's economic miracle. Today's democratic socialists probably emulate a Scandinavian welfare state, but those countries are not socialist and are moving in a less redistributionist direction.

There is indeed nothing new. Perhaps it's human nature to cheer politicians who make grandiose promises that don't pan out, while being overly critical of the flaws in a system that has created unparalleled wealth and opportunity. But can't we try to be a little wiser?

Regarding the second answer, the renewed and proud use of the socialist term is what I'm reacting against. Similarly, I'm also troubled by some American conservatives, including our president, who proudly use the "nationalist" term. Christian writer C.S. Lewis described patriotism as love of country, but wrote that nationalism can lead to "a devilish form of ideological thinking that propels morally destructive powers into leadership."

Left or right, terminology matters. Most of my life was set against a Cold War backdrop. My father and his family were rounded up by the Nazis. My wife's family suffered through Polish communism, so I'm more willing than many others to believe that American variants of "socialism" or "nationalism" can go too far.

In the column, I mentioned the Democratic Socialists of America website, which argues that "working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs." You don't think that idea—people apparently should vote on how other people's businesses are managed—could lead to draconian results?

Yes, early American socialists championed women's suffrage and an end to child labor. Socialists, however, weren't the only people pushing those policies, which aren't "socialism" as much as reforms that take hold as nations become more prosperous and enlightened thanks to industrialization and, yes, market capitalism.

Regarding the third answer, some critics noted that Western democracies have passed socialistic programs such as Social Security and Medicare—and that hasn't led to gulags. True enough. Wealthy, capitalistic nations have the excess wealth to afford costly entitlements. But look at the resulting debt levels. These Ponzi schemes are unsustainable and do an iffy job providing comfortable retirements and health care for the masses. They embody many flaws of socialism, even if they have not led to disaster. That could change because Democratic socialists want to expand them much further.

Polls say large percentages of Americans have a vaguely warm view about socialism. The best response is to highlight its failures in its many forms, especially as some politicians use the term in a positive way. Let the debate continue.

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

Photo Credit: Chris Riha/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Socialism is an existential threat in any country where it takes root. We absolutely have to stop the progressives from pushing their agenda, or prepare to submit to their slavery.

    The smart move is to get rid of them.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Can't be done. There are simply too many, killing them would make them all martyrs, and a certain percentage of every generation will always find other people's money attractive.

    Here's a better idea, as long as we're fantasizing. Vest all, or almost all, government functions on voluntary associations, by contract, renewable yearly. I'd say all, but some people insist on a military, some insist on government police, prosecutors, and courts. But all redistribution absolutely has to devolve to personal initiative.

    So socialists would have to do it by voluntary contract with these associations. Some people, like me, would handle charity etc on my own. But a lot of people will figure that is too much hassle, and they will sign up and agree to donate 10% of their income to the association. These contracts could be pretty darned coercive, depending entirely on how much you devolve cops, prosecutors, and courts to them. That's partly why I want no government cops, prosecutors, or courts. I want these associations to have free rein. Give 'em all the rope they need to alienate their members.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I believe most such associations would be decently handled, and by no means very socialistic. But some would be full-on nutters, requiring members to sign over all their property, and not renewing the contract would mean starting out from scratch.

    I think most so-called socialists would be satisfied with this because they could get 90% of what they want -- control of other people's money -- without all the hassles of putting up with non-believers. The hard core wouldn't be satisfied by any system because only one could be in charge.

    What would happen is fiscal reality. How long would they support someone who got laid off? How many members would renew in the face of corruption?

    What it would provide is plenty of examples of how poorly even mild socialism takes care of people. Sure, the hard-core wannabes would rant and rave, but their associations would be such pathetic examples that few would take them seriously. Maybe the most common refrain would be "Some day ...".

  • Enemy of the State||

    What you describe is essentially anarcho-capitalism, the most moral means of social organization...

  • bignose||

    That guy who shot up those mosques in Christchurch said the same thing about Muslims. Weird, right?

  • aajax||

    Progressivism isn't socialism.

  • Nardz||

    Progressivism is socialism.
    Socialism is progressivism.
    It is a governing system that seeks to consciously dominate natural processes, and to create New Man through centrally planned social engineering.
    Ultimately, it is necessarily totalitarian.
    Types of progressivism: social democracy, democratic socialism, fascism, communism.

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    Yes, it is.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Attacking Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and school lunch programs while clinging to superstition, guns, and bigotry sounds like a great plan for continuing to lose the American culture war.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Maybe we should emulate our betters and bribe our kids way into the schools you approve of, right Clingin' Kirkland?

  • alex schaefer||

    it's not bribery, it's called "Too Big To Fail" and it's the new anti-capitalist status quo that everyone here is defending. it makes perfect sense. "Too Big To Fail" and "Too Big To Jail" are both entirely antithetical to "Free-Market Capitalism existing in a Republic" which is what you IMAGINE America to still be, but recent history has proved otherwise. And reading these comments, you all have Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with your criminal Wall Street hijackers.There was no justice, and there will be no peace. It's the elephant in the room shitting all over your faces and everyone ignores. You prefer to get mad at "immigrants" and "Muslims" and "queers". pathetic

  • Nardz||

    Umm...
    I think you're confusing this thread with voices in your head.

  • Sevo||

    "...And reading these comments, you all have Stockholm Syndrome and are in love with your criminal Wall Street hijackers..."

    You left out the other guy on the grassy knoll and Elvis's alien love child.
    Now straighten out your tin-foil hat and mosey along, little twit.

  • ElvisIsReal||

    Elvis is real!

  • Sevo||

    "Attacking Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and school lunch programs..."

    Gee, asshole, you went missing for a while. I was hoping you'd made the world measurably more intelligent by dying.

  • rudehost||

    I guess the alternative to attacking medicare and social security is to giggle when people find out that they are not getting anything back from the gazillion dollars they contributed. While that may be your approach it seems cruel to me. Why not be honest with people and point out that 60 trillion dollars of promises can't be kept?

  • Vernon Depner||

    and that hasn't led to gulags.

    Thousands of people in federal prisons, or bankrupted and ruined by federal investigations, would take issue with that.

  • aajax||

    These are the result of Social Security and Medicare?

  • rudehost||

    I think it's more a function of the kind of mentality that spawned medicare. The same paternalistic impulse to put our private financial matters in the hands of our political betters is the same mentality that led to the drug war as one example. You can't separate a paternalistic candy distributing state from the jack boot. It's all part of the package.

  • Rockabilly||

    Socialism is a evil ideology, responsible for the murder of countless individuals.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +10

  • ||

    it attracts losers. Look at the roster.

  • Michael Cox||

    Some have tried counting. Over a hundred million, it would seem. Still counting (Venezuela)...

  • Hank Phillips||

    Just like prohibitionism,,,

  • Mr. JD||

    By some magic, Nazism is the only evil whose name sticks in the Leftist psyche as enough of an evil that he does not embrace it. All the others he finds grand, recognizing them as easier means of self-advancement than legitimacy.

    Of course, he embraces Nazism too, but without the name.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nazism is National Socialism.

    Modern Socialists definitely embrace the same government controlling policy that the Nazis did just sometimes slightly tweaked.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Christianofascism added, and voilá: Vichy France!

  • Paulpemb||

    The Left liked Hitler and the Nazis, right up to the moment Hitler attacked the Soviets, and they never forgave him for it.

    They liked Hitler, but they loved Stalin.

  • loveconstitution1789||

  • Merl3noir||

    Hitler Hated communism, and the communists, He created the Nazi party, as an alternative to communism. The Nazi Party was Fascist, and while it does have a lot of similarities, to socialism, it is, not socialism. It could really be more accurately compared to crony capitalism than Socialism. It is ironic that anything to do with Nazi's and Hitler are so politically incorrect that most people don't even know what Hitler actually said. As a result, many on the left will unknowingly agree with his comments, if credit to Hitler is not given.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    Yes he hated communist. The same communist that were running for their lives because the socialist Stalin was murdering them by the millions. This is the problem with most people. They think socialism and communism are the same thing. They are NOT. As for fascism, it is nothing more than a stepping stone to socialism. Instead of the government taking over control of all resources and labor, they start out by taking control of the big businesses. Eventually this will lead to take over of everything.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hitler was a socialist before he tweaked socialism into Nazism like Mussolini did with socialism into Fascistii.

    The Nazis tried to use fascism to control industry but after a few years took over many industries and used slave labor. They owned and controlled the means of production. The Nazis also owned the people as all Germans belonged to the state.

    Hitler hated the Comintern and felt that Socialism with a racist and nationalist flair would conquer the world. The Comintern thought that communism spread internationally would conquer the world.

  • aajax||

    Names?

  • ConstitutionalDon||

    Communism: The workers own the means of production (employee stock options)
    Socialism: Government owns the means of production (public schools)
    Capitalism: The private citizen owns the means of production (Non public company)
    Fascism: Government does not own the means of production but tells you how to run it (minimum wage)
    -
    Capitalism succeeds because they must satisfy the customer.
    Communism fails because hardworking owners cannot fire a lazy owners.
    Socialism fails because everyone is a government employee and cannot be fired.
    Fascism struggles because capitalists will try to find a way around the dumbest government edicts.
    -
    Communism and Socialism are the most violent and produced Stalin and Mao, gold and silver medal winners in the category of mass murdering your own citizens.
    Fascism comes in third, bronze medal going to Hitler.
    Capitalism finishes in last place because it is hard to keep good employees and you can fire bad ones.

  • Mcgoo95||

    Hard to disagree with any of that. Well done.

  • ||

    Good job.

  • Fats of Fury||

    The problem with employee owned companies is that some of the owners refuse to act as the owners. United Airlines is a good example. They should have ditched their unions.

  • Merl3noir||

    "Communism: The workers own the means of production (employee stock options)"

    Actually Communism is really just an extreme version of socialism. Not only does the government own the means of production, it owns all land and property as well.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    Wrong. Communism is the people, not the government. Socialism was formed because they knew that the people would never truly embrace communism, so they decided to force it on them through government ownership of resources and labor. Read history folks! This is exactly what happened after the revolution in Russia. Lenin believed in communism, but knew that it was a hard pill to swallow that everything is owned by everyone. This lead to instituting socialism, just until they could put forms in to place for the "people" to control everything. Then Stalin killed Lenin, and said screw communist.

  • Nardz||

    "everything is owned by everyone"

    Aka, nobody owns anything
    Except the most powerful warlord.

    Anarchy will always dissolve into warlords. There may be good and bad, permissive and strict, detailed and vague, authoritative and delegating warlords, but ruling (no matter the self-imposed breadth of that rule) warlords they will be.
    Communism is simply the most practicably totalitarian form of progressivism - warlords, minus the artificial constraints of custom, tradition, and accountability.

  • Sevo||

    "Wrong. Communism is the people, not the government."

    Your fantasy is shared by many, which still leaves if a fantasy.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    It's not a fantasy, it is the definition of communism. I never said it would work. I personally think it is a huge pipe dream that does not take into account the very human nature it wants to dictate.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To add...

    Communism: The state owns everything which includes the workers and the workers own the means of production.

    Monarchy: The state is owned by a King or Queen or some other 'royal' head of state or Dynasty. The monarch is usually supported by a slightly lower group (Nobles) who run the means of product for the monarch.
    Theocracy: The state is owned by a religious group in the name of a God or Deity, typically with a religious figure at its head. The religious groups owns and controls the means of production.

  • ConstitutionalDon||

    I would say that both Monarchy and Theocracy are forms of Fascism.
    Individual people still own the means of production but the government tells them how to run things.
    In one case the "government" is an agent of the King, in the other it's an agent of the Church.

    The root of Communism is commune. Like a hippy commune. Government does not own the shop, the hippies all pretend to own it together.

  • ClassicLiberal||

    +10

  • DrZ||

    Socialism is where the government takes your stuff.
    Democratic socialism is where you get to vote for the people who will take your stuff.

  • aajax||

    Public schools, lol!

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Today's democratic socialists are, quite obviously, not calling for the creation of gulags and state ownership of everything

    Not publicly, at least.

  • Trainer||

    This. You can't be a card carrying member a socialist organization and not understand exactly how the government you want to set up is going to work. They feel it's justified though but know they can't talk openly about it.

  • ||

    "…Regarding the first answer, some readers criticized me for bringing up the suffering in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela."

    Oh Tony. Leave Mr. Greenhunt alone. We try our best Steve but sometimes, you know, these progs just can't help themselves.

    "…Today's democratic socialists are, quite obviously, not calling for the creation of gulags and state ownership of everything, even if some of them (see Bernie Sanders)"

    Give it time. They never call for it. It just devolved into it.

    "…C.S. Lewis described patriotism as love of country, but wrote that nationalism can lead to "a devilish form of ideological thinking that propels morally destructive powers into leadership."

    I agree.

    "Polls say large percentages of Americans have a vaguely warm view about socialism. "

    That's troubling and we see how this ignorance or indifference is playing out. Also, eat shit Howard Zinn.

    Worse, the DNC is mixing socialist drivel with identity politics. How they think this toxic mix is a winner boggles and befuddles the mind to the point of blowing it.

  • ||

    Greenhut. My apologies.

  • alex schaefer||

    the simplest definition of "Socialism" in Americans minds would be "FREE MONEY FOR LOSERS"; the classic "welfare queen" living off the system getting welfare checks and food stamps etc all on the hardworking taxpayers dime. A lot of people would likely agree with this simple definition of "Socialism" and what they don't like about the idea. SO: My question is: "What about Bank Bailouts? What about $16 Trillion dollars of taxpayer money to "bail out" Wall Street Financial firms? How is "Too Big To Fail" economic policy not Socialism?" Not only do Bank Bailouts and Quantitative Easing equal "Corporate Socialism" for Wall Street criminals, they are entirely ANTI-CAPITALIST and throw the fundamental principal of Risk-Reward out the window. And then to top it off the US Dept of Justice waits out the statute of limitations on the financial crimes that led to the collapse so that everyone involved never got prosecuted, aka Too Big To Jail, this is entirely ANTI- RULE OF LAW, especially when we learned that it was criminal activity that led to the need for the bailouts to begin with. Over 12 years more money has been handed to Wall Street crooks via Q.E. and bank bailouts than has been given to human beings in the form of "social programs" in the history of Social Programs in America. So many heads up so many asses, I am completely at a loss as to why the Public is not outraged over this...

  • middlefinger||

    "I am completely at a loss as to why the Public is not outraged over this". K-12 does not or will not teach finance or life economics, and its not a racial thing. Appalachia has lots of pregnant 15-16 year olds without a pot to piss in and baby mamas galore. The average U.S. citizen is a financial illiterate. How can they care, when they don't know what Wall Street is. They are busing pumping out kids, or watching grandkids, living in dysfunctional families (after drug ods) and they will never, ever contribute or pay for those kids?

    Many of us are upset about growing the Government, the sociopathic Nanny State and the bailouts to come. The American people have decided on State Run Capitalism or Socialism.

    The federal bailouts for union pensioners in blue states will be make the Bank bailouts look like penny change. Why aren't libertarians talking about taking state bankruptcy to the SCOTUS?

  • middlefinger||

    will make the bank bailouts. No edit feature here.

  • alex schaefer||

    And WHY are the Pensions in such a disasterous state? A major reason is many of them were criminally fooled into buying TOXIC "mortgage backed securities" that were fraudulently AAA rated by the ratings agencies and then when they collapsed they took everyone who bought these "sacks of sh-t" with them. So right there are TWO entities conspiring to commit fraud, aka RACKETEERING and FRAUD; and nothing happened to them. Everyone involved simply got free money to stay afloat and deferred non-prosecution agreements and nothing has gotten any better. If the government is going to need another trillion dollar round of "bailouts" and Q.E. then that money should be given to the American people and anyone with outstanding debts, be it student loans, mortgages, creditcards etc be compelled to pay down debt until they are clear. THAT free money would be an actual benefit to the economy, instead of just giving to the Banks where it just disappears and we have what we have now, a dystopic economy: https://bit.ly/2W44abI

  • middlefinger||

    WTF?
    -one of the largest bull markets in history has taken place since 2009-AFTER the crash, why are the blue states government pensions still in the red? Could it be that the government is completely impotent, incompetent and corrupt.

    I was, as probably most on this site, against the bank bailouts, this isn't the Wall Street Fucking Journal!

    Join in taking State bankruptcy to the SCOTUS. Fuck the cronies that purchase muni bonds, Fuck the muni bonds, FUCK the muni bonds!

  • ||

    You're conflating things.

    What you describe there is cronyism and cronies exist when politicians allow them to.

    I don't agree with corporate bail outs for the connected.

  • ||

    You seem, and I could be wrong, to give the government a pass in their role in the mortgage mess.

  • ||

    Another issue is that socialists in North America are psychopathic liars. They don't always admit they're socialist and if they do, they reassure us they're 'Democratic' socialists. As if the 'D' word makes it all better. They claim the Scandinavian model except, upon scrutiny, what happened there is free market principles is what made them wealthy (after being among the last to industrialize) and then socialists began to raid the coffers given out 'free stuff' thus setting back the gains made to which they had to revert and beat back the parasites.

    In sum, capitalists through ability, risk and capital build and create wealth. Socialists (communists, Marxists - whatever - all the same shit to me) through envy, avarice and lack of ability plunder and pillage. Alberta just experience this when the NDP took over. The second they came in, they began to dismantle all the things that made Alberta what it was.

    The essence of a socialist remains coercion or else it's meaningless. Progressives are attracted to it because of the control and power aspect of it given how they adhere to critical theory and social constructs. It's a natural fit. Thus....

    I'm not saying I'm a socialist but I'm a socialist.

  • ||

    Whenever I see articles mocking the fear of socialism (which is justified in my view) they reveal they're cowards. Out with it. Like we know the liberal media existed but was denied, it's the same here with writers and politicians in Congress. Admit it so that way it can be debated in good faith.

    This jabbing and pulling back socialism where they knowingly propose a socialist idea while claiming it's not at the same time is a tactic that people should read through.

    They know how to play the long game while fooling people.

  • ||

    Avarice was a poor word. I meant their extreme greed for other people's money.

  • ||

    Last, the other issue I find problematic is how socialist 'ideals' don't offend people who should know better. I have friends who own rental income properties, work in pharma and oil, run businesses etc. who just see 'well, health care and education is a right so what's so bad? Aren't those socialist things?'

    No, they're not and neither of those things are 'rights'. They're privileges.

    They have connected the dots that illiberal idiots like AOC and Sanders want what THEY have for themselves.

  • ||

    haven't.

    Three errors in this thread alone. /hangs head in shame.

    Can I have an edit button before I cry?

  • DarrenM||

    Type everything up in Notepad or some other text editor, then when you're done, copy and past it into the comment window.

  • ||

    I don't have that kind of time. My orphans act up pretty quick.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    Type everything up in Notepad or some other text editor, then when you're done, copy and past it into the comment window.

    Yep, that fixes everything!

  • alex schaefer||

    I'm sorry but the favorite free-market canard "Risk-Reward" went out the window with "Too Big To Fail"... now it's "Heads Wall Street wins, Tails Main Street Loses" a win-win for the financial crooks who crashed the system to begin with.... they take the profits when there are profits and when there are losses then the FED and the US Gov't bails them out. Couple that with a US Dept of Justice that will not prosecute and an SEC that will not regulate then you have what we have now: top down Market Control and total legal immunity for the inner circle at the FED and Primary Dealer banks.Sounds like Soviet Style economics but hey that's what you're fighting for now

  • Nardz||

    "I'm sorry but the favorite free-market canard "Risk-Reward" went out the window with "Too Big To Fail""

    Yea, dude, we get it. We agree. You keep posting like you're contradicting something put forth in these comments, but it's not there.
    I get that you hate the banks, but I think you might have to establish some psychological stability for yourself before anything.

  • middlefinger||

    Yeah, thats the new talking point from the Democrats. Did you see Bernie on SNL? He actually did a skit on something like "We wanna help people", and then threw the republican response as, "but thats socialist".

    Its some kind of deep psychological fuckupedness to call yourself a Socialist, then say you're not a Socialist.

  • JonFrum||

    "If you ask the public anything, including the virtues of cannibalism or self-immolation, a certain percentage will like the idea."


    Go to Youtube and search BDSM. Then watch some videos - particularly the ones by young women. The ideas they like will leave a metallic taste in your mouth, and a floating feeling in your head. Unless you're One of Them. People really will decide ANYTHING is a good idea. Check out the pleasures of dehumanization as a lifestyle. And dollification.

  • Freddy the Jerk||

    You have to read comment-thread drivel and you only get $180 per hour to do it??? Damn, you're underpaid.

    Especially Tony or Hihn threads. You should be collecting combat pay for those.

  • alex schaefer||

    Here it is guys: The biggest beneficiaries of all the US Govt Free Money Corporate Welfare for Financial Criminals are the Wall Street Primary Dealer Bank CEOs TOO BIG TO FAIL! the Wall Street Welfare Queens Win!! 10 years later of course. the Statute of Limitations is past (Too Big To Jail) "Big Bank CEOs' Pay Tops Crisis-Era Highs 'As If It Never Happened'" Zero Hedge: https://bit.ly/2W2dLja

  • ||

    Not backing corporations is a simple enough fix. It just takes some balls on the part of politicians to say no.

    Socialism on the other hand mixed in with identity politics ensuring free stuff that people get addicted to and then feel entitled to is much harder to solve.

  • RodgerMitchell||

    Socialism is government control and ownership of everything. No American I know wants that.

    Calling something "socialism" is a red herring, promulgated by those who don't want the poor and middle classes to receive benefits (i.e. the rich and the anti-government types).

    Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, schooling, roads, bridges, dams, fire departments, police departments, libraries, along with the R&D that brought us the Internet and rockets to Mars – all were paid for by the government, and are equally "socialist."

    Which would you like to eliminate?

  • DarrenM||

    If everything any government does or pays for is "socialist", the word no longer has any meaning.

  • Sevo||

    "Calling something "socialism" is a red herring, promulgated by those who don't want the poor and middle classes to receive benefits (i.e. the rich and the anti-government types)."

    Making up lies like this is not helping your cause, slaver.

  • RodgerMitchell||

    The author says, "Western democracies have passed socialistic programs such as Social Security and Medicare—and that hasn't led to gulags. True enough. Wealthy, capitalistic nations have the excess wealth to afford costly entitlements.

    "But look at the resulting debt levels. These Ponzi schemes are unsustainable and do an iffy job providing comfortable retirements and health care for the masses."

    Debt nuts have been calling the federal "debt" a "ticking time bomb," every year for 80 years. Back in 1940, the so-called "debt" totaled $40 billion. Today it is about $20 trillion, a 50,000% increase, and that ol' "debt bomb" still is ticking.

  • ElvisIsReal||

    And meanwhile the purchasing power of the people has plummeted and government interference in our lives continues to grow. If you can't see the impact of the debt + monetary policy, it's only because you're not looking.

  • RodgerMitchell||

    The author says, "Western democracies have passed socialistic programs such as Social Security and Medicare—and that hasn't led to gulags. True enough. Wealthy, capitalistic nations have the excess wealth to afford costly entitlements.

    "But look at the resulting debt levels. These Ponzi schemes are unsustainable and do an iffy job providing comfortable retirements and health care for the masses."

    Debt nuts have been calling the federal "debt" a "ticking time bomb," every year for 80 years. Back in 1940, the so-called "debt" totaled $40 billion. Today it is about $20 trillion, a 50,000% increase, and that ol' "debt bomb" still is ticking.

  • RodgerMitchell||

    Sorry for the accidental duplication.

  • Henry||

    This is no different from observing that if you never take a day off, and there are no bank holidays, you can kite checks "on the float" indefinitely. Neither idea creates wealth, just fraud.

  • RodgerMitchell||

    The "debt" is not unsustainable for two reasons:
    1. It isn't even classic debt. It's deposits into T-security accounts over which the depositors retain ownership. The government could pay off the entire $20 trillion tomorrow, if it chose to do so, simply by returning the dollars that reside in those T-security accounts.

    2. The federal government is Monetarily Sovereign. Unlike you, and me, and the states, counties, and cities, the federal government never can run short of its own sovereign currency, the U.S. dollar. So calling the "debt" a "Ponzi scheme" simply is a lie, meant to confuse you out of your benefits.

  • flashgordon||

    Ok, they tried it in the Wiemar Republic and Zimbabwe and the results were not positive. I would argue there is a credibility factor that is important (the United States is the worlds reserve currency). If you are saying that all Monetary Sovereigns can spend whatever they like, I think that's incorrect. There's obviously some limit, even for the United States.

  • DarrenM||

    socialistic programs such as Social Security and Medicare

    Is Social Security really "socialism"? Is simple wealth transfer "socialism"? The core of "socialism" is ownership of production by the "community", which usually means the government. I don't see SS as meeting this criteria. The other issue is regulation. I don't see regulation itself as "socialism". Every economic system requires some degree of regulation. I'll grant a heavy degree of regulation to the extent that the effective, though not technical, owner is State can be regarded as "socialism". It seems to me this is a matter of the degree of regulation. (The more regulation, the more "socialistic" an economy would be.)

  • ValVerde1867||

    Move to Cuba or Venezuela for a few months. You'll get up to speed real fast. Or, if you don't like to uproot yourself, America will provide a great socialist experience in about another 4-5 years or with AOC at the helm, whichever comes first.

  • FMurderSlaybraham||

    "Wealthy, capitalistic nations have the excess wealth to afford costly entitlements. But look at the resulting debt levels. These Ponzi schemes are unsustainable and do an iffy job providing comfortable retirements and health care for the masses. They embody many flaws of socialism, even if they have not led to disaster."

    Some of the countries American Socialists love to point to have excess wealth because they don't have to spend money on the same things we do. For example, the largest shipping company in the world, Maersk, is headquartered in Denmark. Maersk had $28 billion in revenue in FY 2018. Denmark has a $4 billion annual military budget, well below such noted powerhouses as Angola.

  • guscambreo||

    I'm from Argentina and i can tell you that it's a difficult ideology to fight aganist, I hope some day we'll find some peace

    Al margen, mira estos servicios de limpieza en Cornellà de Llobregat

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I appreciate you keeping us informed about living under socialism in Argentina.

    The more ammo to use against the Socialists that hide among us here, the better.

  • Chuck Vipperman||

    King Solomon did not write Ecclesiastes.

  • factjack||

    They're "confused" about it because they do not understand that for all rights and purposes, socialism and communism ARE the same. As long as people are dependent on their gubmint for every stinkin' thing, including life itself, it's a socialist/communist country.

    Maybe they don't recognize it because the USA has been operating under very similar conditions for some time, depending on your "class". Well weep no more if you want freebies, because the rich will soon be doling out to all of THEIR classes, set up by THEIR rules, real soon, whether we want it or not. IOW, obozocare, only for now we are still paying for our own, even if it's crappy and not what we want. Hang onto your knickers, however. Medicare for all is not far away, you can be sure of it. A lot of other welfare type programs are coming for the former "middle class" too, which is now being done away with. The elitists are narrowing society down to 2 classes - rich and poor, no more middle class anything.

    Does that sound familiar?

    If they're still confused, have them check out Venezuela, Sweden and Norway to an extent already and they're almost fully there, and now several EU countries are getting there, as well. The gubmint's all over the world are now in the process of eliminating the middle class, so you'll either be poor and getting everything free from the rich (gubmint) and the rich will be telling you what you can and can't have and when and where and how and why.

  • Nardz||

    You nailed it, factjack.

  • Nardz||

    Progressivism.
    Progress to what?
    Socialism.
    Degrees of socialization?

    Progressivism necessarily results in global socialism.
    Where else could it go?

  • Moderation4ever||

    I don't feel that my point was addressed by this column. Socialism is what people turn to as capitalism fails them. Capitalism fails when it loses a strong middle class. Wealthy people use political strength to secure their wealth and the promise is that giving them more wealth will benefit all. But instead in the process capital is sequestered and not available to the economy. The wealth gap increases and socialism is seen as the remedy. So again, don't try to scare me by telling me about socialism's failures. Tell me how to make capitalism work for a broader group of people. To get capital into the economy and spread throughout the economy.

  • ElvisIsReal||

    Government manipulates capitalism to pay off the politically connected. Giving them a bunch more money and power isn't going to lead to a different outcome.

  • Nardz||

    Socialism = crony capitalism on steroids

  • patskelley||

    Well good grief people, we have to have some way to get rid of all the wrong people, don't we?

  • kldimond||

    [sigh] all good, except it was the "Union of the (not United) Soviet Socialist *Republics*" (not one republic, but many).

    It's always mystified me why they copied the rhetoric of the U.S. Constitution, particularly pertaining to 'republics' and to making a union of multiple republics.

    Then again, start looking at who stood up the Bolsheviks financially, and things start to make sense. ...in a way. ... a propagandistic way.

  • ||

    If Social Security as it was originally designed is a Ponzi scheme, then all investment banking is a Ponzi scheme and should be abolished. The thing is though, while it's a Ponzi scheme in how it's run now, that's only because Congress gave itself loans out of the Social Security fund and never paid those loans back fully.

    Social Security, on paper, has never been in better financial shape and is funded entirely from invested money collected from the people who paid into the fund. The payments into it that are causing financial drag on US government budgets are the loan repayments -- and they could be a lot higher, if Congress hadn't given itself an interest-free loan. Of course, that really sucks for the people whose money was loaned out interest-free instead of remaining where it would have been earning interest!

  • Echospinner||

    Over the years. When libertarians stick to basic principles it gets noted.

    Small government, individual rights, non aggression, those things.

    Lefty or righty, blue or red, those are traps. There is another axis.

  • Hank Phillips||

    When looters were forging communism, "the" alternative was slaveholding monarchic mercantilism. To this day Altrurians imagine THAT when they hear "capitalism," while mystical conservatives imagine National Socialism. Both looter religions seek to redefine "liberal" to mean communist and wedge "centrist" between Molotov and Ribbentrop. So what's in this linguistic dishonesty for the LP.org? Where's the advantage in using Looterspeak?

  • buybuydandavis||

    'Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin used the motto, "Land to the peasants, peace to the nations, bread to the starving." Sounds good, right?'

    Commies don't just lie, they get the truth exactly backwards.

    I note that the author felt the need to explain who Lenin was.

    Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.

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  • FreeMktMonkey||

    "From each according to his ability. To each according to his need." What that describes is what everyone in a beautifully functioning family experienced. It is the essence of the parent-child relationship. IMO this explains the never ending yearning for something that enjoys a special place, but does not transfer beyond it, as is clear by its ubiquitous failure whenever its tried by those who have never grown up.

  • Jim2112||

    Good article. I'm a centrist who definitely doesn't have the answers to the problems. I admit I'm more afraid of the far right than the far left but they both scare me. It looks like many people commenting want a military police state. So many comments about eliminating all of the socialist. I might disagree with them but I will defend their rights to their beliefs.

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