What is Socialism?

Karl Marx

CONTROVERSY LEVEL: 11 of 10!! YA, I’m bringing it back. NO BIG DEAL.

That dreaded word: Socialism.

Viewed skeptically by virtually every Republican, and treated … ambivalently? … by Democrats. Demonized by extreme political conservatives, and exalted by political liberals.

But does anybody really know what it is? Naw. The word is put through funhouse mirrors, twisted, and distorted so that people are conditioned to either like it or despise it.

But, because I believe that there are still plenty of inquisitive, politically savvy voters out there who want to know, here is what it’s all about:


So yesterday I published a blog about conservatism; and this blog was designed to come out relatively soon after, just so peeps can see the difference — because I think both concepts are distorted by propaganda.

Anyway … I hear ya. I’m not overly social myself. But, the social aspect of the theory is really in relation to production.

— Socialism is NOT for only hippie, love-others, hate-war kind of stuff … because it is an economic theory before it’s a political one (but the theory has political implications). So all talk is around how production should occur, rather than advocating for a love-not-war attitude.

PRODUCTION!? That sounds all academic and school-y — I’m not interested …

I dig. I used to find economics pretty boring because all economists talk about is production and statistical curves. But now I wish I studied more about it … and I probably will in the future.

But the idea looks something like this:

In absolute socialism, there are no privately owned corporations or companies. Rather, the decisions of what to make, how much to make, and what is necessary for human life are made by overall democratic consensus (that’s the political part of it). If there is an agreed-upon production quota and standard-of-living (democratically decided), then production could be organized and fueled by public wishes.

So people own property in a socialist system (it’s just decided by the people what the ownership levels look like), but in a Communist state, the state would ultimately take over all production, and people can literally do what they want. In a socialist society, EVERYONE can get the goods they need freely. The core idea behind it is that, ideally, money could be eliminated.

If everyone agrees on what they need, there will always be people who are passionate about creating whatever it is, then products are made, and freely distributed. In this society, people’s conception of (what we now call) ‘work’ will be viewed in a completely different way.

Rather than people “working,” the new system would allow people to work for what their passions are.

In a absolute socialist system, currency no longer exists, which makes it unlikely that there will be people doing something they don’t want to do — because the work is chosen by the person. Also, there is no more poverty, and, by extension, lots of crime is decreased.

Interest and loans are no longer an issue, and people are no longer slaves to neither debt nor capitalist bosses. No longer will manufacturing workers be laid off, or have to work for low wages because (democratically agreed) demand for goods would be relatively stable. Unions no longer have to exist because everyone who works in production for a socialist state needs no protection — because they genuinely want to be there, and work is a social (as opposed to necessary) activity.

There is no income inequality, because there is no income. Instead, people are surrounded by like-minded people (because they voluntarily innovate and produce goods), and those who don’t “work” are instead following other passions.

In the socialist state, life is pretty leisurely, and pressures are minimal. You don’t have to worry about debt, which is a HUGE stress reliever. You can freely go to school if you wish, work in whatever you’re interested in, or even switch professions rather easily. Because of this, there will be less societal anger, hate, frustration, distrust, and by extension overall public health will improve. Attitudes towards “working” will change, and instead of a burden, work becomes a prideful activity. People in this society will WANT to change the world as opposed to being enslaved by wealthy, white, or other ruling enterprise.

The core idea is that by changing ownership of production from private to democratically controlled, that will in turn alter the societal values, and therefore change day-to-day life for everyone involved.

BTW: Karl Marx viewed socialism as a necessary step to reach Communism and to reach either state. However, to reach a socialist state would be very violent — because the Capitalists will always fight to keep wealth and power.

What do you think?

Sounds like the good life, eh? Very utopian.

Lots of micro-communities across the United States, and other places, have tried something like this — think of the 60s hippie cults. … But usually a singular charismatic figurehead convinces people to follow him or her … and it devolves from there, because absolute power corrupts. So in socialist systems spiritual and religious aspects of society are very de-emphasized in socialist theories (and non-existent in communist systems) — because superstitious attitudes can make people do nearly anything.

But, like all theories and isms, it could work IF everyone bought into the idea. Obviously this idea is controversial — not because it’s a bad idea, but because lots of people want to control production, stuff, and people.

If you buy into socialist theory, you have to be convinced that people are passionate and proactive enough to want to do something — and that may be a hefty assumption.

In contrast, a Capitalist system assumes that workers want to maximize leisure time, but you also assume that money motivates them to work. How else do you get people to do anything?

So, I invite people to think about what motivates people — passion or money?

Socialism’s logic, like all well thought-out ideas, is pretty sound. But, again, you would have to convince essentially everyone of the ideas — and it starts with convincing those who have the most power first … those who control stuff in the present.

In Russia, the elite bought into the idea, but if you didn’t buy into it, you were executed or purged. So the idea was essentially forced on people and devolved into a totalitarian state. Also, Soviet command economies didn’t work out so hot, because of the immense and meticulous amount of planning that had to be done in order to accurately forecast the needs of the country.

It’s hard to deny that Capitalism is a better fit for American culture, because Americans value liberty and individual ownership. Americans like to control stuff, and we also like to get (consume) lots of stuff.

Americans also like the fables; like this: individuals can earn MILLIONS of dollars if they have the drive to.

… I would say that this is largely a myth — I know there are lots of self-made millionaires, but out of the number of people who really want to be millionaires, how many ARE actually millionaires?

… American society is pretty cutthroat, similar to the capitalist’s world. If you own a small business … good luck, you better know your stuff. You want to get a PhD? Good luck … you better be pretty dedicated. People can’t even keep a steady paycheck sometimes because they’re at the mercy of demand — and unions are gradually disappearing.

So navigating through contemporary American society is pretty brutal, and there are many ways that people can slip into poverty (and perhaps resort to crime), lose their super-important jobs, have to pay ridiculous money for healthcare (because we’re at the mercy of insurance giants), and go pretty deep into debt if you want to get a better education — in the HOPES that you MIGHT get a middle-class job.

But despite all these burdens, I would say that implementing socialism wouldn’t work. It would shock the system, divide elite interests, and increase the chance of conflict — because it means a complete overhaul of American principles. Overall, I would say the American society is pretty vested in a capitalist-oriented system, and it would take a substantial ideological shift from citizens and elite alike to change that. But because of elite interests, and rampant propaganda, I would say that changing hearts and minds is pretty difficult.

Had the framers of the American constitution been informed of Marxian socialist/communist economic theories (developed in the mid 1800s) before writing the Constitution, I’m pretty sure they would have incorporated those ideas in some way, however minimal — because they included portions of republicanism, democracy, and dictatorship already, and were informed by capitalist ideas (developed in the mid to late 1700s).

Socialist and communist ideas occurred too late in history to be adopted by the United States. This, however, is no excuse to ignore the points raised by these theories — that capitalism creates alienation, slave mentalities, and fosters a producer and demand-dependent workforce among other charges. Also, the Communist movement is one, if not THE, largest human movement since Christianity — so that’s pretty substantial.

In reaction to communist (and fascist) governments cropping up worldwide, progressivism was introduced in the post-Depression United States. This movement added necessary worker and citizen protections. In the end, the American political development reflected growing criticism of strictly capitalist ideas.

Is the United States socialist?

No. There are elements in the American system that temper absolute Capitalism, try to help people survive in this system, attempt to give people tools to compete, and try to account for unemployment gaps (worker rights, building standards, unemployment insurance, food stamps, state-subsidized education, child-care assistance, etc …), but as a whole, the United States is not socialist.

The general public does not democratically agree on production (although major shareholders in partially publically owned companies have some say). Instead, capitalists dictate production, marketing, campaigning, and ultimately profits — although “the people” may indirectly decide because of demand.

Also, standards of living (prices and what you can get) are dependent on demand rather than public consensus (although this, I would say, is, in part, contributing to increasing wealth disparities).

There will not be an abolishment of private property. Also, wealthy people keep getting wealthier, so I doubt that wealthy classes, on average, have any interest in relinquishing power and say in policy anytime soon. Charitable attitudes exist in the United States, but that may have more to do with private interests and tax adjustments than it does with genuine desire to make substantial impacts in the world.

Some people say there are startup companies with startup mentalities fostering collaborative, innovative, and democratic spirits. I would say that rarely stays the case, and eventually organizations bureaucratize out of necessity. But Google treats workers pretty well … but, then again, they have a ridiculous amount of money to play with.

Some people say Obama’s policies are socialist …. naw. The healthcare thing is pretty weak — all it is is an online database of possible insurance companies you can pick from. The idea is that if you don’t have enough money, the government will pick up the slack for low-income households — but that isn’t the case yet because that decision is at the Supreme Court. … So the entire thing might fall flat. But, as is, there’s nothing socialist about it — it’s still private companies, and there are multiple companies competing in a “market.”

The best thing the healthcare law did was abolish some pre-existing conditions and let younger people stay on their parent’s policy instead of forcing entire new policies — so insurance companies relinquished some control … or were forced to.

So the American Constitution, as well as capitalist-inspired societal norms, prevent the United States from becoming any substantial form of socialist society. The American society is one that transfers LOTS of responsibility to the individual, and that fosters pretty intense competition. Also, to really do what you want in America, you have to work pretty hard at it, and be pretty ruthless.

Some people say that, because of this, the United States produces the best of everything … I have lots to say about that, but that’s for a different day.

… The main problem I have is that money can change minds, actions, and can ensure outcomes … I’ll leave it there for now.

So is socialism a pipe dream? Well, any real form in the United States is very improbable. However, we can add and subtract Amendments from the Constitution. So, if the political will ever exists in the United States, something that more-closely resembles socialism could be possible — but I would say that would take quite a bit of social development.

So now you know. Go forth and side with the capitalists or socialists! … Or if you’re like me, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both and offer solutions that play to the strengths of both, because not one singular theory has all the answers in the world.


6 thoughts on “What is Socialism?

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