Reason for a New Age

Words – Socialism

Posted by publius2point0 on 2010/11/06


Nice big scary word. Perhaps not as scary as Communism, but certainly up there. The thing though, is that it actually doesn’t mean anything (that’s the beauty of it).

Historically, as best I can tell, the advocacy of Socialism meant basically that you supported the value of a classless society where all are equals. Do you believe in meritocracy? Yes? Socialist scum! By simple virtue of the Declaration of Independence announcing the intention of forming a nation where all men are equal, we are all Socialists. It’s really that simple. If you ask why it is that Americans tend to relate Socialist beliefs to those crazy Europeans, it’s because the nations there persisted with a class system through the 19th century (and to some extent into the 20th) that caused this to be so. Equality versus classism was a fairly big issue there until comparatively recently and hence Socialist forces were rampant. In the US, there was no need for a Socialist movement and the people who rallied and cried out that there was were mostly ignored as morons — because they were. Not because Socialism was bad, but because we already had it.

Through the rest of the world, there’s a major party that is Socialist in probably every single nation. Personally, I’d happily live in the UK, Australia, Austria, Norway, or Switzerland and I don’t think I’d experience a particularly drastic change in lifestyle than if I moved to a different state in the US, so far as governance goes. The reason for that is, essentially, because the Socialists did their work and made Europe and Australia into a group of meritocracies like the US is. That the parties stuck around with the same name is nothing more than a demonstration of inertia. That the Communist states were “Socialist”, while true, is wholly irrelevant to anything.

Where there is a problem is in that since Socialism has already been achieved in most of the modern world but the word has kept kicking along, it’s come to be used by everyone and their brother for things that have nothing to do with social equality. There’s the secondary problem that, like I discussed with Karl Marx, many of the original advocates of Socialism advocated non-free market economic policies in the belief that this would be the only way to create equality. In result you end up with one group of Socialists thinking that Socialism is “characterised by a free association no longer based on coercive wage-labour, organized on the basis of relatively equal power-relations, self-management, collective-decision making and adhocracy rather than hierarchical, bureaucratic forms of organization in the economic and political spheres of society.” AKA anarchism. And yet another group will believe that it is the belief in trade unions, yet another in social safety nets, while others think that nationalisation and economic planning are bad and its the ability for the individual to make choices which should be stressed. That is to say, it’s likely that for any political or economic belief in modern day, you can find a Socialist group which has advocated it. And that makes sense since in modern day most nations that we would be observing are Socialist. All but the most peculiar of fringe groups wouldn’t be Socialist. And honestly, if there’s a group in the US which is advocating a return to class-based society, they’re so fringe that I doubt I will ever hear of their existence, but that would be the only political or economic group which was truly not Socialist.

So what should you call people who espouse a belief in big government handouts? Pro-handoutists? You don’t really need to get creative. It’s better to use a word that isn’t a real word but which everyone understands than one which doesn’t mean anything. You may as well call them a “poopyhead” for all that it means in any rigorous way.

If you support trade unions and want more of them, say that. Don’t say that you want your Capitalism mitigated with a light sprinkling of Socialism. That’s just meaningless. Even if you argue that in the context of modern day America it does make sense, then I’d still say no. Say precisely what you mean because half of everyone in America thinks that by Socialism you mean an authoritarian government which enjoys reading your emails and sending you to the Gulag. The word has become useless for any reasonable discussion in the US. And outside of the US, you’re probably just referring to a local political party not an idea — so just reference the party instead of the word. It’s not hard and there’s no chance of being confused for someone advocating anarchism.

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2 Responses to “Words – Socialism”

  1. Roberta said

    I understand that you are refering to the original idea of socialism which was to have a classless society (which came from Europe because the European nations had been governed by monarchies and the resulting cronyism aristocracies for generations) and the desire to overthrow the ‘upper crust’ bums and bring the ‘normal people’ into their own — and to have a say in their own governance. That is totally reasonable, and, it is the same desire of the original colonists of the U.S. Our founding fathers were also trying to find a way to bring ‘equality’ to the people and to throw out the idea of any monarchies or aristocracies. And, I do believe that they achieved that to just about the best degree that can be done. (But — no form of government is perfect as with anything having to do with people, a governmental system is a system of people and people are never perfect.)

    What would you call then, if the word ‘socialism’ has been corrupted over the years and now has various meanings depending on who is using it, a system whereby the government gets very big and very central and starts basically ‘telling’ everybody what to do and where to go and starts re-distributing wealth more and more thereby underminding our freedoms and therefore underminding our equality? It seems to me that when a government starts to get so big and with so many rules, taxes, fines, etc. — and with even corruption sneaking in — that the classless system is disappearing and a new sort of aristocracy is returning. What would that be? Just curious…

    • Actually, I suspect that corruption is far less rampant today than it was in years previous, mostly thanks to the FBI. I’ll discuss that in a later blog though.

      Otherwise, I’d suggest terms like Big Government, State Nannyism, or Federalism.

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