The Problem of Socialism

The Problem of Socialism

Socialisn isn't a bad word. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

It would seem as in modern American political discourse, socialism is a bad word.  But should it be?

When most people hear about socialism, the first thing that comes to mind is the Soviet Union.  And of course nobody wants to go there.  And for good reason.  Soviet Russia was dominated by the Communist party, which was essentially defined by extreme socialist principles.  Put simply, grab all the wealth from everyone and redistribute it to the people within the Communist party throughout the country.

The problem with Soviet Communism wasn’t socialism, though; it was the one-party rule.  Without the check of an opposition party, officials grew corrupt and complacent.  No matter, powerful influencers within the US who seek to preserve the status quo tend to use socialism as a scare word because they know the stigma that comes with its unfortunate history.

In reality, we already have socialism to a certain degree.  It makes good sense.  It basically means there are some goods and services for which it makes sense for people get together under the recognition that they can save a significant deal of money and get better value by pooling their resources.  For example: roads.  Imagine if everywhere you drove, you had to pay a new toll.  Left turn here?  Toll.  Toll at this block, toll at the next block.  Need a toll to get out of your driveway.  Every piece of motorway is owned by some private entity who needs the tolls to maintain the roads.  It would get real annoying, real fast.  And so we all agree to pay into a tax, and the tax money is used to build and maintain the roads.  The end result is that we spend a lot less money than we would have spent on tolls, we all benefit from the convenience of the roads being free at the point of sale, and there’s peace of mind knowing we can still go somewhere if we fall on difficulty.

That’s socialism, in a nutshell.  It’s counterproductive to derogate a politician, activist, or policy by branding them a socialist.  All it does is create a false psychological connection between that individual and fear of Soviet Communism, a residual fear steeped into a generation.  This makes it an evasive strategy meant to derail a conversation away from someone arguing a certain commodity might be better socialized.  To be sure, there will always be people who lose out once a good or service is socialized.  Just imagine all the toll road operators who made a killing extracting tolls from people going about their day.  One might imagine the kinds of things they will tell you to keep you paying more and more.

If you’re afraid to have that conversation, what are you really saying?

Michael Patrick Lewis is a teacher, and bestselling author of Preferred Rewards.  Check out my newest book, A Dance to Remember, a gripping tragic romance.  You can also find him on Twitter @fakeMikeLewis.

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