Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
Democratic socialism: a political philosophy that advocates for political democracy alongside a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on workers’ self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within market socialism, or some form of a decentralized planned socialist economy.
Believe it or not, the United States of America is now in a presidential election year.
I know, I know, you’re like, “duh, Bill, where have you been?” Let’s be honest, though; in the world of 24-hour news networks and the increasing popularity of political partisanship it seems like every year is an election year.
One of the hot topics in this year’s presidential race will be the finer points of “democratic socialism,” a system of government espoused by Democratic front runner Bernie Sanders and offered up as an alternative to the corrupted and broken version of capitalism currently in effect in the United States. Here is a wonderful resource for understanding the different kinds of capitalism, and with it you can decide for yourself which is currently dominating the US. I would argue we labor under something between Turbo Capitalism and Crony Capitalism. Our elite ruling class buys influence and even elections with their seemingly limitless resources, while the poor are increasing exponentially and have less and less say in the affairs of government.
For the purpose of this blog entry, however, I would like to focus on socialism, and specifically democratic socialism.
When you bought your house, was there already a road in front of it, or did you have to build it yourself? If it catches on fire, will you have to hope your neighbors come help you put it out, or will you call 911 and have the professional assistance of the local firefighters? If someone broke into your home, would you call 911, or try to do your best impression of John Wick and handle it alone? Do your kids have the option to go to a public school?Do you have running water in your home, but didn’t have to dig your own well? What about electricity? All of these services are paid for by our taxes, and we elect people to oversee the disbursement of said taxes.
The United States of America has been a socialist country almost since white Europeans first set foot on its eastern shore. They survived solely because the native population was made up of many generous, welcoming people who happily provided food, clothing and shelter to the ill-prepared soon-to-be invaders. That is socialism to the core!
To be clear, democratic socialism is a system in which the governed elect their leaders and the leaders implement the framework of a society designed to support and sustain its citizens. If the people don’t like what’s being implemented, they can vote those leaders out and choose new ones with different ideas.
The key difference between our current system of government and that proposed by Bernie Sanders is that basic human rights are seen to by government institutions rather than for-profit “multi-national” corporations (so named because they keep their headquarters in other countries to avoid paying taxes in the US). Of course, those industries won’t give up without a fight, so they spend billions every year buying influence in Washington, DC. You can tell who they’re paying because it’s the folks who rail against government health care and swear it can’t work, all the while enjoying the amazing health care system provided to them by our government and paid for by you and me through taxes.
One of my favorite exercises (futile, I know) is to call the Congressional office of the people who run TV commercials railing against government health care, or who go on record wanting to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. I simply call their offices and ask the intern who answers the phone whether or not their boss has declined their government-sponsored health care since it “can’t work.” The answer, of course, is always “no.”
(The big question with Universal Health Care revolves around the cost, and for an in-depth look at this issue, you can link here!)
Is socialism really something to be feared, as the corporate media and crony capitalists insist? Not for the average American. That fear is merely a scare tactic deployed to sway low-information voters into voting against their own best interests. I would argue that a version of democratic socialism would raise the overall standard of living for the vast majority of Americans, negatively impacting only the ones who have long taken advantage of the loopholes in and intricacies of our current economic system.