SOCIALISM: “…an economic system in which the means of production are either state owned or commonly owned and controlled cooperatively; or a political philosophy advocating such a system.” —Wikipedia entry for Socialism
The accusations of socialism — leveled against everyone from Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon — pre-date the 2008 United States election (obvious, yes, but we’re talking about a media-obsessed nation with the attention span of a puppy on meth). Since then, conservatives, especially the fiscal conservatives and libertarians of the Tea Party movement, have sounded the socialist klaxon with regularity. My favorite (from a September 4 Politico article):
Romney’s supporters couldn’t have been more out of place at an event festooned with characters such as former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and the blunt symbols of the tea party movement — images of one stick figure shooting another under the heading “socialism” and of an automatic weapon with the legend, “Come and Get It.”
The trouble is, socialism does not necessarily involve a police state or high taxes. What decriers of socialism intend is to evoke the spectre of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, although not always. Sarah Palin’s PAC chief fretted that “someone must save our nation from this road to European socialism.” That statement is slightly more accurate. But let’s be clear. Socialism describes a political situation where the state controls factories, farms and other economic institutions. It does not require higher taxes (the U.S. has the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, while extreme socialist nations Norway and Sweden rank 14th and 15th, respectively). It does not demand the dissolution of gun ownership (Australia has accomplished that without socialism). Socialism apparently does not even muzzle the press, as three Scandanavian countries top the Reports Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
I think most opponents of “socialism” are really more wary of totalitarianism, which Wikipedia describes as “…a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.” By definition, a totalitarian state cannot be one in which free enterprise thrives. It is one in which the government controls the totality of your living — everything from what foods you can eat to what kinds of health care you get. I don’t imagine many of President Obama’s critics will make the switch, however. Considering totalitarianism’s record, the criticism would come off as unduly harsh. But if they’re truly concerned that America is the frog in the slowly boiling pot, maybe they should take the leap. It may be political suicide, but at least it would be more precise.
— Otto E. Mezzo