Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Its time for a brief educational lesson. In response to the repeated and aggressive assertions that our President and by extension our government is on the fast track to Stalinistic regime (I've seen comments referring to us as the USSA on many a conservative political blog), I've decided to do my duty to the uneducated masses and break down exactly what socialism and communism are and why you needn't fear them like monsters under your beds.
Let's first make something crystal clear: Socialism is NOT communism. The two have related characteristics but they should never be confused as being one in the same. I will break it down into details, but the simple way to think of it is like this: socialism is an economic system and communism is a political system. Furthermore, though many tend to disagree, the two are not mutually inclusive as a rule. You can have either one without having the other. And whereas communism, like all political systems, tends to be fairly black and white (either you are communist or you are not), socialism exists on a scale. At one end of that scale is Laissez-faire capitalism and at the other is full one government ruled economy with many points of stability lying in between.
Socialism in its most basic form means that the economy is owned and run by the state or the workers. In ideal situations the state and the workers are one in the same. In a democracy, they are not exactly the same but through the power of the voters, the workers essentially control any parts of their economy that are controlled by the government. In a country like America, for all the kicking and screaming about social programs, voters have a privilege that many other nations do not afford their citizens; the right and ability to change who runs the programs and therefore the programs themselves. The political hardliners seem to get in a tizzy when they see programs they don't agree with getting more funding or vice versa, but this is in fact the will of the majority. If people really didn't like it, they would vote to change it.
Communism, unlike socialism, is a political system which is ruled by a single party. Its one of those "looks great on paper" systems that tends to fail every time it is put into place in the real world. This is because it leaves the door wide open for corruption. There is no doubt in my mind that communism is an ideal form of governing. The problem is we are not an ideal people. We are no trustworthy and we can not handle the type of power communism instills in us. The system is fine but it will not work until humans evolve. For the time being, it must be avoided.
Socialism, in measured doses, has its merits though. I can make the argument that China is a communist state with a ever increasing gait in the direction of capitalism. I think an equally stable argument can be made that the US is a democracy with a steadily maturing appreciation for socialism. What I do not understand is why this idea frightens so many people who do not have any understanding of what it means. I'm not talking about those that can debate the merits of capitalism over socialism on a scholarly level. I may disagree with them but I respect their opinions. What I'm talking about are the ones who hear the word socialism and think of the USSR. The two should not be equated under any circumstances save in text book footnotes that mark down for the record that the USSR at times claimed to be socialist. Read my definition of socialism above and then decide for yourself if the Soviet citizens ever had a say in what their economy did. Reach your own conclusion.
All I'm saying is that "socialism" shouldn't be a four letter word. When you hear "socialism," think of many of the programs we already have in place. Certainly many need to be reformed, but some are in good shape. Programs that are socialist in nature are the USPS, the FAA, the Interstate system, Social Security, the Peace Corps, the FDA, the FDIC, the CDC, the Department of Energy and the EPA among many more. Again, the nature of socialism is simply that the people own the economy. The agencies are a functional part of the economy. If you pay taxes and vote, you are part owner of them. Its that simple. Sphere: Related Content