Do I even dare go here? Can't resist.
First, let's set the stage for the recent revival and use of the terms "socialist" and "socialism". Here are the elements:
1. An American population whose every shifting thought, feeling, belief and behavior has been analyzed and cataloged by a gargantuan corporate marketing machine.
2. Since the 50's this information has been exploited to inject into all of us a deep sense of inadequacy, longing and discontent paired with artificial external "solutions" (aka mindless consumption of goods and services).
3. Because government is and has been the only referee in this game, corporate marketers have every motivation to bribe or sabotage the referees.
4. So they portray government agencies as the source of the very discontent which they themselves have sown upon us!
5. Hence their propagation of that incendiary but obtusely overused word, "socialism", in talking about "government".
What percent of folks who use the socialism label do you think have actually looked up the definition? I would guess close to zero, based on the facile arguments that include it. I'm not going to get into it in this blog. Please see the excellent discussion at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism
Can we agree on just one thing?: That it makes sense to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of our means of production and allocation of resources. How could anyone argue against that guideline? Am I being unreasonable?
No single system will be the best at doing this in all cases at all times. As Blackwater (the mercenaries in the Middle East who massively botched the job) has demonstrated, a private sector military just does not work. Self-regulation by the financial sector does not work. Corporate prisons do not work. Self-management of pollution by the polluters does not work (might as well have prison inmates managing their incarceration). The private sector also gets a D- grade for its dismal investment in essential infrastructure like roads, bridges, communications networks, schools, water quality, air quality, soil & food quality, research & development. We should be using an evidence-based approach to decide which type of system works in each situation.
Maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of our means of production and allocation of resources requires a broad view, adherence to scientific principles, consensus on paths of action, and discipline to be sure everyone does his part and is rewarded for doing so. Call it what you like- mass co-operative ventures, government, socialism, etc. -these types of large scale long-term collaboration are essential to a free and civilized society. Which may be why we don't have one.
Civilized societies don't wage perpetual war. Civilized societies don't let their members die or go bankrupt for lack of health care. Civilized societies don't prey on their children to satisfy prurient urges and corporate bottom lines. Civilized societies don't allow some of their members to poison others in the name of profits. Civilized societies don't revel in imposing ignorance and deception upon their citizens.
So let's keep the debate at the level where it belongs- efficiency and effectiveness of public policy -and abandon the tossing about of uselessly labeled stereotypes like "socialist" or "free-market".