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What is a socialist?

  1. Nov 30, 2003 #1


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    ... as the word is used, and understood, by members of PF?

    It seems to me there's a difference between what Americans mean when they use the word 'socialist', and what people in Europe and Asia mean. Perhaps, too, Canadians have a different spin in it.

    If someone is a socialist, in the eyes of a PF member or guest, to what extent can they also be a

    Also, what is an 'entitlement'?

    To what extent are either word shibboleths?

    [edit: remove "and guests" (they can't post; add "capitalist?" and "entrepreneur?"]
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2003 #2
    In America, for the most part, socialist means either 'traitor', or 'someone who is hated for caring more about people than about profits'.
  4. Nov 30, 2003 #3


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    Thank you Zero.

    Would it be correct to say, then, that 'socialist patriot' (or 'patriotic socialist') is an oxymoron, at least as understood in the US (except when referring to some other country, e.g. 'Castro is a patriotic socialist')?

    However, if a member of the Republican Party cares about people more than profits (a 'compassionate' Republican?), it would not be odd to say that she is a 'socialist Republican'? However, this would be a pejorative, rather than a neutral statement, would it not?
  5. Nov 30, 2003 #4


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    Nereid, I am sure you understand that Zero was being ironic, or maybe bitterly sarcastic would be a better term. You can be a socialist in New York or Boston and if you are careful not be spat upon.

    The haters usually don't use the term socialist. Liberal is usually a strong enough insult, and if all else fails there's old reliable commie, or Red.

    An awful lot of Amerians are socialists without knowing it. My wife, God bless her, went to her grave believing that simple justice requires the US to have National Health Care. But she was conservative on most other issues.
  6. Nov 30, 2003 #5
    In America, the blind worship of unrestricted capitalism seems to make the idea of a 'patriotic socialist' seem like an oxymoron.

    Now, 'compassionate Republican' is a real oxymoron! In this day and age, even a bill that contains a little bit of support of poor and middle class people is seen by many to be anti-American.
  7. Dec 1, 2003 #6
    Nereid, as a general rule of thumb, if Zero says a statement, it is the gospel truth, because I worship him like unto a God!. SelfAdjoit is generally correct too.
    Okay, back to the topic:

    1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
    3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

    : an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

    This courtesy of http://www.m-w.com (BTW, that was all it said under capitalism, I didn't cut anything but pronounciation guides.)
    As you can see, socialism is directly opposed to capitalism. Our current society is mostly capitalist, and was more so in times past. That is the simple logic behind socialism=antiAmerican.
    However it is a little known fact that in the beginning, the Pilgrims, being ideologistic, setup a socialist economy. You have to admit, it sounds really good in theory. But by 1623 (they landed 1620/21) they had had two/three years of famine and many were dying so they switched to capitalism. By 1624-ish, they were doing well enough that they started exporting corn.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2003
  8. Dec 1, 2003 #7
    I think that one day we'll enjoy a capital oriented, socially conscious world. Hang around for another 500 years, you'll see.

    There's nothing wrong with capitalism or socialism once you smack the ism out of 'em.
  9. Dec 1, 2003 #8
    The problem with any 'pure' system is that 'purity' seems to always lead to totalitariamism. Pure capitalism is at least as bad as pure socialism, if not worse. The trick is to balance off capitalism with some sort of government restrictions. If America is to be 'of the people, by the people, and for the people', then unbridaled capitalism is anti-American.

    Certainly, pure, unrestricted captialism leads to anti-American behaviors by corporations: lower wages for employees, lower safety standards in production and in the finished goods, accounting fraud and legal loopholes to avoid taxes, moving jobs away from America.
  10. Dec 1, 2003 #9


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    Careful, Zero - Though I happen to agree in principle with what you are saying (though clearly not in its scale or implimentation), you just said freedom is anti-American. "Unbridled" is an exact synonym for "free."

    The question obviously becomes how much should freedom in economics be limited? Though clearly you disagree, the founding fathers were for near complete freedom as implied by the term "lassez faire" which was thrown around a lot early in our country's existence.

    People tend to forget that the goal of our government as set out by the founding fathers is that it be as small and unobtrusive as possible. The first iteration (the Articles of Confederation) failed because it was TOO small, but the concept that it needs to be small remained in the Constitution.

    One of the implications is that people have to fend for themselves. Freedom is a double-edged sword: being free to succeed means you are also free to fail. IMO, the Democratic party's focus is on rejecting this concept: give those who fail a free ride. Socialism takes it a step further: bring those who succeed down to the level of those who fail. Naturally though they differ only in degree since in order to give the failures a fee ride you have to take the money from the people who earned it by succeeding.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2003
  11. Dec 1, 2003 #10
    I like dictionary definitions although they dont always give you the current meaning with all social implications.
    Britain after WWII became more socialist, following a wave of collectivism sweeping across the world. FDR was already socially progressive, so more socialism was unnecessary in the US - companies & government jobs provided health care & living wage. socialism and communism have been disgraced by the likes of Stalin to the point where the name for a reasonable idea (the government regulates the commanding heights of capitalism but not individual property) becomes synonomous with totalitarian despotism.
    The same thing will happen with "democracy" after Bush is through with it.
  12. Dec 1, 2003 #11


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    I was going to post this morning about runaway capitalism ending our constitutional way of life, but news came that the Supreme Court was going to review whether the courts should have any say in the Gitmo sentences. And then the word that they were going to release a lot of Gitmo prisoners. And I thought, well the mills of the Law, like those of the gods, grind slowly, but they grind fine. We'll see.

    Many a sleazy politian has depended on "the Law's delay" to kite a policy that will surely be shot down in time, but will lift him in the meantime. The Bush administration is nothing if not full of sleazy politicians, with Ashcroft at the head. So maybe their totalitarian kite is about to fall.
  13. Dec 1, 2003 #12
    You know, we have seen that in practice, absolute free markets lead to totalitariamism just as surely as any other system, Russ. There is simply too much temptation to cheat, and too much incentive to screw over the little guy. Governments and societies exist, IMO, in part to prevent the powerful from running over the powerless.

    If America is 'every man for himself', then how does that fit in with American ideals like equality, governemnt for of and by the people, 'United We Stand', ect?
  14. Dec 1, 2003 #13


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    I agree completely. Funny though how the implimentation can be so vastly different.
    Wow, Zero. Those are such basic concepts, and yet encompass the vast majority of what the Consitution and the US itself is all about, that for you to miss the entire point of the Constitution that completely --- wow. It explains a lot.

    Equality is equality of OPPORTUNITY - not equality of outcome. It says that in the Preamble. It means that you have to succeed ON YOUR OWN. No freebies (AA).

    "Every man for himself" is the basis for our system of rights. Rights are individual rights. We had this discussion before though and I don't think you bought it then even though I supported it with quotes from the political theory that it came from.

    "Government for of and by the people" is your VOTE and the fact that any idiot can run for and be elected to public office (and a lot do).

    "United we stand" is a slogan about patriotism - another concept you miss that I explained to you in another thread.

    Now that all said, the Constitution is a living document and I won't deny that (indeed, thats one of the great things about it). Certainly, not everything that the founding fathers intended is adhered to today. The Sherman Act for example - at face value I don't think they would have approved. But seeing the changes in our society that necessitated it, I think they would - as do I. But there are limits to that - the concepts you asked about above are fundamentals that can't be lost without losing the very essence of what the US is.

    IMO, the expansion of government that we have seen this century that is synonomous with socialism is a bad thing. And its not arguable that many of these changes are failing and dragging the country down with them. Social Security for example - its not a question of if but a question of when and how much it hurts the country.
  15. Dec 1, 2003 #14
    Russ...you seem to be a bit confused as to what I mean by I guess what I would call the 'limited but necesary socialism' that any healthy society should contain. I don't expect 'equality of outcome', because that would just be nonsense. I don't have a problem with rich people getting rich by their own effort. I do have a problem with the already rich getting even richer off of you and me, because America's government seems to have a different set of rules for the rich. I don't think that a person should have to work 50-60 hours a week just to afford the basics. I sure as hell think that my tax dollars are better spent on school lunches for poor kids, than cleaning up environmental messes created by profitable corporations.
    Look, America is already socialized in many ways, but because we do it in a 'backdoor' sort of way, it is killing us in the pocketbook. I think we should go ahead and deal with it honestly, get the most bang for the buck, and close the loopholes of corporate welfare. Our taxes would go down...and if corporate profits go down, screw them, they can afford it.
  16. Dec 2, 2003 #15
    It seems quite appropriate that I reply to this thread (just look at my pic on te right)

    Anyway, my belief is that a socialist world is basically a world better than the one we have.

    I hope you do understand the points of communism - where you recognise that everyone is equal, a society geared towards the greater good of all, where disputes do not exist because everyone respects one another.

    Unfortunately, humans cannot grasp these simple ideologies of communism. ie. all former communist countries that existed pre - 1990. I blame capitalism for bringing about the capitalist model of competition but lets leave that small gripe behind...

    Anyway, socialsm works basically like this but (as was taught to my brother in the 7th grade) socialism allows for certain "capitalist" enterprises to exist in a communist society. Basically, a "perfect" socialist society would incorporate healthy capitalist characteristics while operating within a broader communist which, unlike capitalism, cares for the masses.

    I really cannot understand why the USA is so against communism/socialism. I think the reason is that the communisn/socialism that they are against is a dictatorial one where corruption, nepotism etc. exist. Who can blame anyone for being against such a system.

    I believe though, that run right, a communist/socialist society is a better society than a capitalist one. It would alleviate poverty, crime, violence and any other problems. However, as mentioned earlier, mankind is incapable of allowing such a society. It is all but a dream.

    I'm sorry that I've been very vague in my arguments but I will explain further if you insist!
  17. Dec 2, 2003 #16
    Oddly, I agree. But I also think you were too vague, so I will just say it as I have before: it works in theory, and sounds great, but the temptation for free loaders is too much. Being Christian, and actually understanding the Bible to an extent, it is obvious that this is the type of system Jesus advocated. However, it can only be practically applied if evil ceases to exist. It hasn't, so it doesn't work. It's too bad, but capitalism is the next best one down the line.
    However, I am for some welfare programs. As is obvious, and Zero pointed out, there are cracks in the system. I think welfare, and the illegalization of bill stuffing (or whatever that is called when they put stuff on a bill that is completely unrelated), would fix most of them. My problem with most of the socialist programs is that they often give indescriminatly, and the free loaders take advantage. You fix that, and make it so that they only help people who have not had an equal opportunity, as opposed to those who threw it away because they were lazy and stupid, and I'll be all for it.
  18. Dec 2, 2003 #17
    The 'freeloader' thing is mostly a myth, I think...and even if it were all true, let me ask you a question: do we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Do we allow children to suffer, because a program isn't 100% efficient? Plus, those mythological welfare cheaters are getting away with nothing; why don't you point your anger at the true source of your tax dollars being wasted: corporate America. All that a poor family can 'steal' from the taxpayer is a few hundred a month(and almost every person on government assistance is also working, and just can't make ends meet), while a corporation can get millions in government subsidies in exchange for campaign donations. Which situation should really concern us?
  19. Dec 2, 2003 #18
    I just thought of this now so forgive me if it sounds weird.

    I think the key to any political system is education of all those who the system effects. If every man/woman knows there purpose and responsibility, any political system will work. The problem is that people don't want to learn and thus all politics will have some sort of problem.
  20. Dec 2, 2003 #19
    Don't forget that many people also don't want others to know anything either, besides what the government and corporations want you to know. There are those who believe that education for the masses is a waste of money, since not everyone will be an asset to the corporations.
  21. Dec 2, 2003 #20
    I think education is not only formal education ie. maths, physics, languages but also knowing political theory and really knowing the purpose of life through knowing everything.

    I recently read a book on che guevara by john anderson (i think) and what hit me was how knowledgable he was. Even if you don't like the guy for whatever reason, you have to marvel at his knowledge of evrything, be it political theory OR physics. When someone is that educated, it warrants any political inclination that he may take. In the same breath, running a business because your family has been doing it for years is wrong ONLY becasue you are not doing it out of an educated decision. Understand??
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