I haven't started a thread, or even written a more than five sentence post, in some time. I think the level of dialogue on ADISC has declined in recent months, and I've resisted the urge to so much as look at any of the numerous threads relating to politics largely because, as a professional political scientist, I find the assertions people make to be skewed at best and unsubstantiated BS at worst and covering that range thoroughly from end to end.
As most of you know, I teach contemporary political ideology at one of this counrty's largest flagship state universities. We spend three weeks on socialism, and in a class that functions primarily through discussion, it was necessary to begin that section of the course with a definition of socialism to serve as a baseline for all our future work. I defined socialism as "the use of private money to buy public goods." In other words, the use of tax dollars to fund government services. By that definition every country in the world is a socialist country since all of them collect tax dollars and use them to buy public goods such as roads, schools, and militaries.
I was inspired to write this thread after readingThat was written by FullMetal in his "Universalized Health Care" thread.I am all for Universalized Health Care in America. First of, yes, I am an American citizen, born and raised. Secondly, no, I do not want to dismantle America by turning it into a socialist country.
The U.S. federal government provides a military, federal law enforcement, federal monies for public education, federal disaster relief, and Medicare and Medicaid, and thousands of other federal programs. And then tere are all the other states and municipal services. All of that fits the definition of socialism that I used in class, a definition approved by two senior tenured professors.
My class was a class that dealt with the use of ideologies as a labels. People on the far left are socialists, people on the far right are fascists, people are liberals/conservatives/fundamentalists/feminists/etc. One of the objectives of the course was to dispell these labels and shed light on what those ideologies actually are.
So my question is this: Why are countries like Norway, Denmark, Canada, the UK, Sweden, and others regarded as "socialist" when the idea of applying the term "socialism" to the United States is met with abhorrence, fear, anger, and political teeth gnashing?
The countries I just listed all have open and free markets, like the U.S. They have democratic governments, like the U.S. And they collect taxes and distribute government services, like the U.S. But they collect higher taxes-though not in all cases- and provide more, and sometimes better, goods and services than the U.S.
I posed this question to ninety bright college students of all political persuasions, actually skewed more towards the right in this part of the country, and the answer they came up with is that the term "socialism" is used as an epithet mindlessly, without self-reflection or afterthought, largely driven by the mistaken conflation of socialism with communism, itself misunderstood by many.
I like that answer. But it begs the question of why socialism is seen as such a great evil, or at least an untenable liability. Adam Smith-style capitalism is not enshrined in our laws or our Constitutions just as socialism is not outlawed in them. Both are enshrined in our popular and political culture. But I would argue, as a scientist, theorist, and teacher, that we are a socialist country, just like all the others, and that's it only a matter of degrees after that.
This is a quote from Karl Marx, the one I used as my opening to the socialism section in class.Ignoring the practicality of creating such a society, and the reprehensible manner in which Marx wanted to create, what exactly is wrong with that sentiment? And if it is impractical, or even impossible, isn't that something that we should try to create? Milton Friedman assumed a world with no barriers to entry into the market even though he knew that wasn't the way the world worked. Just as it would be a good deed to create the kind of world that Friedman wanted, is it not also a good deed to create the world that Marz envisioned?In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonism, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.