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How to define socialism?

  1. Dec 13, 2007 #1

    EL

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    The term "socialism" seems to be used in many different ways in this forum, something which I think now and then causes quite much confusion. Sometimes "socialism" is used as an opposite to "capitalism", sometimes it's used for all political systems with a social wealthfare program, and sometimes the definition seems more to be related to some specific tax rate or size of the public sector.

    How do you "define" what is "socialistic"?
    By tax rate?
    By degree of public ownership of companies?
    By something else?

    What countries would you classify as "socialistic"?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 13, 2007 #2
    I have only ever had direct experience with social democracy, which I like to define as capitalism + social justice. Social democracy is, as you probably know, one of the leading political ideologies in Europe.

    Pure socialism seems 19th century, which I identify with ideology designed for the main benefit of the working class.
     
  4. Dec 13, 2007 #3

    EL

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    I'm Swedish too, so I know.:wink:

    Thing is, many (americans) define "social democracy" as part of "socialism". (Which of course makes the spectrum om "socialism" very broad.)

    What I would like to see is how people think "socialism" should be defined. For example, what makes you think for example Sweden (or some other country) should/shouldn't be seen as "socialistic"?
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2007
  5. Dec 13, 2007 #4
    It's a relative term. Sweden is called socialistic simply because it is more socialistic compared most other first world countries. Also, you could easily say Sweden is a very capitalistic country if you compared it so a nation like Cuba.
     
  6. Dec 13, 2007 #5

    EL

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    Why would you call Sweden more socialistic then other first world countries?
    That is, what are the criteria for being "more" and "less" socialistic?
     
  7. Dec 13, 2007 #6

    russ_watters

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    I would think that that would be self-explanatory. What makes a country more or less socialist is the prevalence of socialistic policies. Things like government's share of the economy, government's level of control over industry, scale of social programs, etc.

    I would say that the main thing people need to keep clear is whether someone is talking about a "pure" form of socalism, a predominantly socialistic state, or just a specific socialistic policy. In other words, if I were to say that Sweden is socialist, it shouldn't be taken to mean that they are a "pure" socialist state, just that they are predominantly socialist or more than other countries.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2007
  8. Dec 13, 2007 #7
    In a general sense, a "more" socialistic government would be bias towards redistributing wealth and/or services evenly to its citizens. Sweden has higher taxes and a larger number of government services than most countries. So I think these criteria would make it more socialistic than most countries.

    Conversely, a country would be "less" socialistic if it favored letting its citizens decide individually how best to spend their money. Take the United States for example, it does not provide health care for its citizens, but rather lets them individually decide how to provide health care for themselves (this is the romanticized version anyway :rolleyes: ). This would make it less socialistic than most countries.
     
  9. Dec 14, 2007 #8

    mheslep

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    The US has socialist attributes. Land control has been mentioned in the discussion of socialism The government controls 28.8%, greater than 1 million sq miles of the total land area of the US.
     
  10. Dec 14, 2007 #9

    mheslep

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    I maintain that it is and has always been the control of property and the means of production by the state. Sweden does quite a bit of that, but also does some free market. So its only part socialist. Far as I know Cuba and N. Korea are the only purely socialistic countries, where its illegal to privately own anything.
     
  11. Dec 14, 2007 #10

    mheslep

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    El - If you have lived anywhere other than Sweden I would like to see your opinion on a comparison of the benefits.
     
  12. Dec 18, 2007 #11
    Yeah you are quiet correct.

    In Europe we have: Massive tax, huge public sector, endemic corruption... Sounds just like USA, apart from the massive tax part.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2007
  13. Dec 18, 2007 #12

    mheslep

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    Though the US has corruption, I don't believe its endemic. Thats one of the draws of doing business in the US.
     
  14. Dec 18, 2007 #13
    Europe is not endemic either..
     
  15. Dec 18, 2007 #14

    ShawnD

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    You're connecting two unrelated things here. First off, the US government does seem to have a consistently high level of corruption compared to other first world nations. Let me give some examples:

    Public schools in the US cost much more to run than the public schools in other countries, yet the education is worse. Public school funding in Washington DC is roughly $13,000 per student, and yet some schools are literally falling apart. It takes an overwhelming amount of corruption for funds to get stolen on this scale without somebody being fired or thrown in jail.

    In debates about socialized health care, in response to the argument that it seems to work in most countries, it's usually Americans who argue something like "yeah well it's different here, our government is incapable of running anything." When those same people cite the condition of public schools, the War On Drugs, FEMA, or the USPS to support this claim, it's not hard to see why somebody would feel their government is too corrupt and useless for such a program.

    If you're older than 25, you'll remember how in the 80's Reagan had that "just say no" campaign with drugs, and he refered to drugs as being some kind of scourge that he planned to eliminate. Then on April 17, 1986, Reagan's administration released a three page report acknowledging that there were Contra-cocaine connections in 1984 and 1985 as a way of funding international terrorism in Nicaragua, and to make it worse, former DEA agent Celerino Castillo alleged that the CIA was involved in this smuggling. Say one thing then do the exact opposite; that's almost the definition of corruption. Reagan's administration was also caught selling weapons to Iran (America's enemy) for the purpose of funding terrorism in Nicaragua.


    You're right that corruption is universal, and you're right that the US is a great place to invest, but I wouldn't try to draw any connections between investing and corruption.
     
  16. Dec 19, 2007 #15

    russ_watters

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    ShawnD, could you provide the complimentary statistics from other countries that provide the context for that post? You said the US is worse than other countries, but you didn't actually compare the US to other countries!

    Ie, how much do other western countries pay their schools per student (adjusted for cost of living differences)?
     
  17. Dec 19, 2007 #16

    ShawnD

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    I guess I could start with my own city of Edmonton
    District's operating budget is $700,000,000 for roughly 80,000 students. That's roughly $8,750 per student. That's in Canadian dollars, but we're pretty close to parity right now so you could just as easily say US dollars. The province as a whole has a median income of $52,000 (in 2003) while the city of Edmonton has a median income of $57,000 (in 2003). The economy is actually growing here, so it has probably gone up since that time. Average house price has recently fallen to something like $380,000.
    If you're thinking of comparing education as a percentage of GDP, Edmonton's GDP for 2007 is 44.1 billion. That would put education at about 1.6% of GDP (extremely low).

    Close to $9,000 per student is damn expensive too, but the schools are in excellent shape and the education is good. On a relative scale of cost as a percentage of GDP, USA is about average at 4.8% while Canada is at 5.4%. USA's spending as a percentage is about tied with Britain, Spain, Italy, Australia, and Germany. If you account for PPP, as you requested, the numbers change drastically. Try to remember what PPP actually means. PPP is to normalize for what your money can buy; it accounts for how much money you make, and it accounts for how much things cost. The ratio of USA's PPP per capita to Canada's PPP per capita (based on the IMF chart on the left) is 1.22. Basically that means 1% of Canadian money won't go as far as 1% of American money. You would need roughly 1.22% of Canada's GDP to have the purchasing power of 1% of America's GDP, per person I mean. If it took 1% of American GDP to buy x number of books, it would take 1.22% of Canadian GDP to get that same number of books. So let's apply PPP to the %GDP and see where this goes.
    USA - 4.8% PPP adjusted (normalized to USA)
    Canada - 5.2% / 1.22 = 4.3% PPP adjusted
    Germany - 4.5% / 1.38 = 3.26% PPP adjusted
    Britain - 4.5 / 1.22 = 3.69% PPP adjusted
    Italy - 4.6% / 1.39 = 3.31% PPP adjusted
    Spain - 4.5% / 1.55 = 2.9% PPP adjusted

    Overall the US is paying more for education, in PPP dollars, than most countries.
    So what does that buy exactly? A concerned parent made a few graphs to compare the quality of education between countries, only to find that US education was floundering. Here are more numbers with that same trend. How much corruption does it take to make a system fail so bad? Where does all this money go?
     
  18. Dec 20, 2007 #17

    mheslep

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    The connection is direct. A foreign national can purchase property in the US/EU or enter into a contract w/ a US/EU party and be near certain that they can get an uncorrupted court to adjudicate the matter and enforce the purchase/contract, the inertial and expense of the courts aside. That is by no means a constant in the rest of the world.
     
  19. Dec 21, 2007 #18

    ShawnD

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    Sorry I derailed the thread, I thought you were talking about a different kind of corruption.
    You are absolutely correct.
     
  20. Jan 12, 2008 #19
    How to define Socialism? You can't in one simple sentence. The ideology is too complex and is split up into several 'subtitles', as it were.
     
  21. Jan 16, 2008 #20
    Socialism is a term that Marx defined and popularized as the stage between capitalism and communism.

    In Capitalism, you have property rights, social classes, and wage labor and a government.
    In Socialism, the workers overthrow the ruling class, take over the government and means of production, and use the power of the state to redistribute goods and services to all.
    In Communism, the state is dismantled, and everyone runs the economy collectively, with no ruling class or authority figures.

    In reality, no country is purely Capitalist or Socialist. Every country in the world with a government utilizes a mixed economy to some degree.
     
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