Obama is a socialist! Or is he? What is socialism? It seems to be one of those words that is loosely defined enough to apply to nearly any government policy. Below are some of my observations I have made over the course of my lifetime and how they relate to our current struggles to understand each other.
In one sense, socialism is any government activity. This is in fact exactly the way it was defined in a column I read years ago. The author of this column then went on to state that not all socialism was bad. Others seem to imply that socialism is only when the government does anything outside of its core role inherent to the nature of government (military and police). Thus, trash pickup, fire fighting, the FDA, and printing money would all be socialism. Others associate socialism with “social programs” such as welfare, affirmative action, social security, and FEMA. To still others, socialism is a means of control through interference in the free market and always bad. Thus, the explicit socialism of the NAZIs and the more subtle, backdoor interference of the Democrats (and many Republicans), both being means of control, are both socialistic. Also included sometimes is interference from non-government entities, like the mob. Any deviance from a free market may at times be termed socialism.
Is it then any wonder that the Obama administration, which has been involved in (or accused of being involved in) bailouts, takeovers of the auto industry, takeovers of the banks, advocacy for laws restricting carbon emissions and the forced redistribution of wealth (cap and trade), scrutinizing CEO pay and employee bonuses (Ken Feinberg), statements praising Mao, Chavez, and Communism (Anita Dunn, Mark Lloyd, Van Jones), massive new spending (stimulus and jobs acts), and mandating that citizens purchase insurance, has been accused of being socialistic? If that isn’t interference in the free market (or the threat of it), nothing is.
This activity has now brought upon us wave after wave of angry, anti-socialist, “tea-partiers.” Whether these people are misinformed or underinformed is not the point of this blog. My goal here is to understand people. After what I have described here, it should be clear why it is they accuse Obama of being a socialist.
Now there are some who correctly point out that Obama has not moved us into a fully state-run economy, nor has he sided with the American Socialist Party on every issue. These same people also point out that not all government activity is bad. Having firefighters and police are not only good things to have, but good things to pay for through governments, whether federal, state, or municipal. These people call this form of activity “collectivism” and distinguish it from socialism. To them, railing against all forms of socialism is silly.
I have to admit, collectivism was a new term to me when I first heard it about a year ago, but there really are people who use it. These people are not totalitarians, authoritarians, or even just nanny-staters (necessarily). Some of them part with Obama over some of his more controversial policies. It’s just that they don’t see all government activity as bad, and when they hear calls to end all socialism coming from the same people that (in different context) define socialism as any government activity that may, directly or indirectly, interfere in the free market, they understandably become concerned.
It is these two groups, the anti-socialists and the collectivists, that now fail to understand each other. I hope this entry helps.
Hi, I'm Dan. I like chocolate, hiking, and politics.