What is a Socialist Anyway?
With Obama being called a socialist by many of his opponents and some of the proposed health care plans being called socialized medicine I had to think to myself, what does it really mean to be socialist and why are those terms considered insults?
Per Wikipedia: Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.”
I had to look up egalitarian too. Basically it means equal. So, you could say that the clause “all men are created equal” in our Declaration of Independence is an egalitarian statement and suggests we already have some aspects of an egalitarian society. Now that I think of it, I do remember some economics class I took that taught us the same definition of socialism as Wikipedia, but it included the word “major” before “means of production and distribution” and the words “and services” after the word “goods”.
So what exactly is a socialist? Here again, per Wikipedia: “Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.”
I know one thing; wealth is not distributed according to how hard you work or how smart you are. It’s always seemed unfair to me that some very smart, hard working and honest people struggle financially while some lazy, conniving idiots become wealthy. Of course, there are plenty of hard working and honest people who do become rich. There just doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between the two and that’s frustrating. Then again, money can’t buy happiness either, but, that’s another rant for another time.
So, it occurred to me that we have always had some aspects of socialism in America. Pretty much anything that starts with the word “public” is socialist in nature. Public schools, public libraries, even public restrooms could be considered socialist. How about the police and fire departments? Yep, I think anytime you collect a tax to provide a public service to everyone for free (or even just subsidize it) it’s socialist. I think the Post Office would also qualify as socialist in that case.
When Obama said something about spreading the wealth his opponents jumped on that to label him socialist. But don’t we already have a federal income tax system that is designed to do just that? Why hasn’t it been called socialist before now? Maybe there was no perceived political advantage to doing so before.
Given all that, I can’t quite understand why calling anyone socialist would be an insult, which certainly seemed to be the goal of those slinging that term at Obama. I like the fact that we have those “socialist” institutions mentioned above. Come to think of it, didn’t we have quasi-socialist telephone and electrical service back when our only choice was AT&T for phone and HL&P (if you live in Houston) for electricity? And don't get me started about these Wall Street bailout plans!
The election is over, but the partisan politics hasn’t stopped in some circles. Obama is still being called a socialist. Truth is he’s nowhere near one. I guess the goal is to demonize him by calling him a name that throws fear into people. Of course, you first have to demonize the word itself. So, go ahead, call Obama a socialist. It doesn’t scare me a bit. While you’re at it you can call me a liberal (look it up in Wikipedia)…and I’ll say, “Thank You!”.