Don't Let Me Stop You

What the heck, you'll do what you want anyway.

What Does “Socialism” Look Like?

Posted by Ryne McClaren on February 25, 2010

I occasionally engage persons at random — now more than ever — in conversation regarding whether or not America is becoming a “socialist” state.

Let’s face it: most people have a very loose grasp on what socialism or communism really look like.  Socialism, they kind of get (“Weren’t the Nazi’s socialists?”).  The same goes for Communism (“It had something to do with a wall, and nuclear bombs.  And then a movie star ran for president and a Russian guy had a funny birthmark on his head.”)

Anyway, I was particularly intrigued the other day when someone I really don’t know very well made the comment on Facebook (paraphrasing), “Wonder if those who criticize socialism realize how many social programs upon which we all rely…”

The “…” made me immediately spring in to action, because ending a written sentence with a “…” leads me to think you’re looking for my input.  I thought that my reply was pretty straightforward: “It might be helpful to use ‘social democracy’ rather than ‘socialism.’  Because yeah, most people do criticize one more than the other.”

It must have been an off day on the Internet Tubes, because my 2-cents went largely unnoticed in the following discussion about the dumb rubes in America who spend all their time criticizing “socialism.”  But it did get me to thinking, namely, “What is socialism, and do we live in a socialist society?”

The answer, at least in February of 2010, is a firm No. The collectivist ownership aspect of socialism is not yet present (yet), nor is the distribution of collected resources mandated by the government.  Again, yet.  And our only serviceable interstate commuter rail service has essentially failed, so I have no idea how we’d ever get to the gulags.

But let’s back up to the Facebook comment.  The ensuing responses were largely supportive of the fools like me who criticize what a wonderful job our government does taking care of us and providing for our needs.

One individual lent support by saying, “Like public education?”  Fair enough.  Most, if not an incredible majority of us, were educated in the public fashion.  (The debate over whether it did any of us a damned bit of good would require a post of its own.)

Another (and this is my favorite) voiced their approval as well: “Police, fire, military, roads, Medicare/Medicaid.”  The argument that these are “social programs” is debatable.  Laughable, but debatable I suppose.  The cops, firemen, public roads… well, those are all things that we would probably agree our state and federal governments not only should do, but are required to do.  Nearly all good citizens (and especially small-l libertarians like myself) would raise our glasses to toast what a fine job these organizations do, and how we should be fairly and equitably paying for such things.  The military?  Not a social program as I define it.  In fact, it’s one of the few items in the discussion that the Constitution provides for in language even someone who attended a public school can understand (heh, see what I did there?).

But again, what is socialism, and is it spreading red little fingers through the fabric of our American life?  Yes.  Well, yes and no, actually.  Something far more benign in form is starting to creep in on us, and that’s the European-style “social democracy.”

Oh, it’s an innocuous thing at first.  The bank is failing?  The government is here to help.  13-year olds aren’t getting educated, and are instead spending their youth in the local sweatshop?  Not so fast, the government is here to help.  But then, like the neighbor who graduated from minding the petunias while you go on vacation to walking in the back door of your house without knocking one Saturday morning, we’re seeing something far more oppressive forming.

Instead of “free” public education, we’re seeing America’s children held hostage by unionized gangsters who break the legs of parents requiring a voice in said education.  Instead of a safety net to help those of us who could not afford to age in comfort and peace, we’re seeing the forced submission to a Medicare system that isn’t simply broke, but failing.

Nearly all of our “social programs” were designed to help.  But then they overstayed their welcome, becoming more.  More expensive, more oppressive, more entwined with our everyday lives.  The American taxpayer stopped calling the shots, and turned the reins over to elected for life politicians and ward heelers.

Actual socialism in practice is a failure, and a massive one.  That’s why we’re so fond of those caring (but zany) Europeans and their “social democracies.”  See?!  We put two perfectly usable words together there, and we came up with something for everyone to love!  Democracy and the government distribution of resources and money.  What could possibly be wrong with that?

This is what’s wrong with that: Greece: Mass Strike Over Tough Economic Measures Sees Country Grind To A Halt

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is attempting to reform the country’s bloated public sector in the face of mounting national debts.

His government wants to freeze pay, increase the retirement age to 63 and raise extra duty on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol.

Yannis Panagopoulos, head of the private sector union GSEE, said: “We ask the government to set people’s needs as a priority and adopt a mix of economic and social policies that won’t lead to recession but to jobs.”

The government giveth… and giveth… and giveth… and giveth… and taketh away.

The strikes have effectively caused the country to shut down – airports, schools, ministries and hospitals have all been hit.

Greece needs to get its finances in order quickly.

Its national debt stands at more than £275bn pounds, while its public deficit has reached 12.7% – four times the amount allowed under Eurozone rules.

This latest national strike is the second in as many weeks.

Union leaders are warning there is worse to come if the government does not listen.

Can’t happen in America, you say?  Have you caught a headline out of California, recently?  Say, in the last two years?  Their bonds are virtually worthless, backed by house-of-cards municipalities.  Public sector employees accepting IOUs in lieu of paychecks.  Corporations and income earners fleeing in droves.  Manhattan and California alone should offer enough proof that a “social democracy” is an 800-pound gorilla.

I, for one, don’t find anything funny any more about American reliance on “social programs.”  Do you?

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