What is socialism and do people in the U.S. understand it?

United States
November 8, 2015 12:13am CST
When we as a society decide that we want to band together and accomplish something, it is a social program, and could be called "socialist". The actual definition of "socialist" is an economic system of social ownership and democratic control. We create and own programs and we vote on how they are run. For example, prior to Social Security, most elderly people in the United States died of either hunger or exposure. We have Social Security because we, as a society, decided that allowing our elderly to freeze or starve to death was unacceptable. We have Fire Departments that respond to every house fire, not just those who can pay for private fire departments. So having a Fire Department that is paid for with money we collect together (taxes) is "socialist". Same thing for roads, water treatment plants, police, and parks. They can all be considered "socialist" because we create and maintain them together. But for many years, some have deliberately confused "socialist" with Authoritarian, or dictatorship, or communism, in an attempt to make the very word "socialist" a bad thing. Do you think people in the U.S. are still afraid of the word "socialism"? Are younger people immune to the anti-socialist rhetoric of the 1950s? Do these kinds of labels even matter anymore?
5 people like this
5 responses
@norcal (3280)
• Nevada City, California
8 Nov 15
I think people are afraid of that word. In fact, when Obama was running for president, many people who opposed him called him a Socialist.
3 people like this
• United States
12 Nov 15
You're so right! And if he actually had been a socialist, then he's the absolute worst socialist in the world, because Wall Street is raking in profits during his presidency.
• United States
13 Nov 15
Today there was an informative article on Democratic Socialism by a US expat living in Denmark. It's short but full of good info. For anyone interested, it can be found here -
As an expat American who’s lived in Denmark since 1991, I’ve been longing to write about Danish Democratic Socalism, ...
@Auntylou (4412)
• Oxford, England
16 Dec 15
@friendlyopinion I enjoyed that article on Denmark you linked to. A short sweet explanation
1 person likes this
@jstory07 (57733)
• Roseburg, Oregon
8 Nov 15
Everyone should work together to have the things that society needs.
3 people like this
• United States
12 Nov 15
I love that! And you're right. We can accomplish so much more by cooperating together, than we can by competing against each other. It's *civilized* to work together and lift each other up :)
2 people like this
@dodoazo (6334)
• Philippines
8 Nov 15
What are talking about is very difficult for the ordinary people to understand it. Socialism is not interpreted or understood in the way you present it. It is too broad as what democracy is. It is very difficult to discuss it here.
2 people like this
• United States
12 Nov 15
Well, the general definition of socialism is that the economy is owned and regulated by the people in the community, instead of some rich guys at the top and poor workers at the bottom. In general, that would be control of manufacture, distribution, and regulation by the people. You can see it in say, Denmark, which is an example of Democratic Socialism. The people vote and decide how their taxes are spent, how their businesses are regulated, how their people are cared for. Democratic socialism creates a more economically equal society. And every year when Forbes lists the happiest countries on Earth, most of the top ones are Democratic Socialist.
@dodoazo (6334)
• Philippines
12 Nov 15
@friendlyopinion I check the definition of socialism in the Internet and this is what I get: "Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system."
1 person likes this
• United States
12 Nov 15
@dodoazo Yes, you're exactly right! I paraphrased it in a couple of different ways, but yes, it is social ownership, and democratic control. Thank you for looking it up and posting it here!
2 people like this
• Preston, England
11 Nov 15
not just in the States as in the UK socialism has become taboo even in the working class labour movements which were proud to be socialist until a few decades ago. I see myself as a liberal minded socialist
2 people like this
• United States
12 Nov 15
Me too! I think its time we took back that word that's been used as a weapon for so long. I mean, what exactly is wrong with wanting an entire society to live better? When did selfishness become a virtue?
2 people like this
• Preston, England
12 Nov 15
@friendlyopinion our government has made selfishness sound like a positive lifestyle creating an everyone for himself attitude here - extremely unhealthy and dangerous
2 people like this
@Auntylou (4412)
• Oxford, England
16 Dec 15
I do think you are right, this word came up often during the health care debates as being a terrifying prospect. We in the UK with our National Health System find it strange that Americans think it a scarey prospect
• United States
17 Dec 15
You're so right. There are a lot of jokes about how ignorant the majority of US citizens are, and sadly, it has proven to be true. And our media does not do its job of educating citizenry, instead it distracts with celebrity gossip and misinformation. It's not necessarily their fault; many people here are working 2 and 3 jobs just to make ends meet and don't have the time or energy to read up on politics. So, catch phrases, talking points, and outright lies capture their attention and stick in their minds, influencing them without their even being conscious of it. You'll hear people repeating these phrases word-for-word, yet when you ask about it, they really have no idea at all. I am constantly amazed at how little many US citizens know about their own government, even the basics of how it works.