What Is Socialism?

Are we losing our country? Those of us who have been Americans for over four or five decades have seen this country move at an alarming exponential rate from free market capitalism to increasing government control of the economy. Some applaud that shift, some decry it, and some either don’t know what’s happening or don’t care. Except for a very few leftist extremists, almost everyone acknowledges that it was our country’s unique dependence on a capitalistic democracy as our socio-economic model that made the United States the greatest nation in the history of mankind. The common belief has been that the founding fathers, inspired by God, established the best governing and economic system ever on the planet.

The chipping away of that national philosophy since the mid-twentieth century has been tolerated by the majority of citizens while maintaining their personal belief in our proven socio-economic model. We have overlooked a lot of wake-up calls and red flags signaling that our nation is in decline, and another signal has just flashed in our faces.

An avowed socialist is campaigning for President of the United States. That anomaly was first met with chuckles and eye rolls from most of us. Then he began to gain traction as the chortles gave way to jaw drops. Who was giving this old man support other than those who were looking for any partisan alternative to his opponent? Turns out it is mostly the youth of our country—largely the millennials. What? The youth of America following a white-haired geriatric? Generally, this young demographic doesn’t know much about the cold war, the Berlin Wall, and the resounding failures of socialism around the world. But, they embrace our own nation’s growing lust for entitlements and have been given more “free” stuff than any previous generation. They have been educated by an increasingly liberal school and college faculty. And, the idea of “free” tuition, “free” health care, etc., tickles their ears. Their lack of economic understanding and experience protects them from having to reconcile the “free” with the ultimate cost. We must, we absolutely must, extend the truth of viable economics to succeeding generations. They must understand what socialism really is. They must “feel the Bern.” So, what is socialism?

As simplistically as it can be put, socialism is community ownership and regulation of a nation’s production, distribution, and exchange (buying and selling). Well, that sounds acceptable. Yes, until you think about the only way a community of people can all own something together is through a government system managing it for them. This means no private ownership of anything. Individuals have no possessions that they manage and no personal determination of how it is managed. Socialism usually results in a dictatorship as power gradually ascends to the top. This may still sound comfortable enough if you don’t mind losing control of everything around you. But, this system almost always leads to those at the top of government manipulating those who gave them power. Oh, everyone is equal, and there are no class inequities, except for the government elite, but there is also no incentive to be exceptional, to improve the quality of life, or to be more efficient and productive. This system has never, ever elevated the quality of life for the citizens of any country other than those in power. It often transfers the people’s resources to military capability in order to survive a failing economy.

Socialism was experimented with centuries ago, but it became of age and as a social science with the works of Karl Marx in the mid-19th century. Born in Prussia (now eastern Germany and Poland) in 1818, he advocated that the class struggles between the owner class and the working class could ultimately be resolved as the working class gained control of a society’s production. This would usually require a revolution by the workers. Once the workers had control, production and everything involved in it would be owned by all the people who would share in it equally. They would manage collectively the equitable distribution of goods along with the prices and allocation of those goods. In other words, to each according to his needs; from each according to his abilities. Theoretically, it seems the perfect way to live—even appears biblical. In practice, however, it fosters an elite privileged few who end up running the economy, lining their pockets, and rising to despotic power. It’s a natural progression when the people, although having collective ownership, have no means of participation in it.

Socially, this form of government is repressive to the people. It restricts income, purchases, possessions, civil rights, and even religious freedom. It promotes a very secular society with little consideration for life.

Now, Bernie Sanders will cry foul if you try to label him a Marxist socialist. He will proclaim that he is a democratic socialist. Democratic socialism has evolved from the Marx model as it has spread through Scandinavia, Western Europe, and other locales around the globe. It has been an attempt to “humanize” free-market capitalism by trying to take the unpopular aspects of capitalism out of these nations’ economic models. Democratic socialism allows for the people to elect their leaders so they can have some level of control in managing their economy. However, the government they elect still controls the production levels and, to a great degree, prices and allocation of goods and services. There is often private ownership of property, but the property is heavily taxed and restricted by the government according to its own interests. The people keep little of their personal income and few civil rights. Understand clearly that democratic socialism is not capitalism with a socialist twist; it is socialism with a capitalist twist. Marxist theory drives the core values of these nations.

If you want to evaluate how pure Marxism works, look no farther than the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and China. If you want to observe democratic socialism at work, look no farther than Greece, Italy, France, Germany, and to a growing extent, Canada. Their economies have performed abysmally over the past few decades as they have become more socialistic.

That’s where Bernie Sanders wants to take America. Listen to him: free tuition, free child care, total government health care, unlimited taxes, war on corporations and banks, and big government programs. Watch your politics carefully. Sanders is the radical socialist, but many other liberals are leaning in that direction.

The hope of the American economy is a correction away from our socialist trend and toward more free market capitalism. And quickly.

I suggest sending a link to this post to a millennial friend.


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