I believe that one of the things that makes it so very hard to “nail down” a definition for Socialism, is that folks—myself included—have a tendency to view various terms through their “personal lens.”
Put simply, people allow their experiences and the words of others, to “color” their view of particular words or expressions. This is certainly the case for the term “Socialism.”
It has been my intent to try to bring the definition of Socialism down to its “lowest common denominator.” I have not (until recently), been very well able to do that.
It came to me today, what the definition I would support might look like. I’m going to try to sum it up here.
The definition of Socialism I think to be most apt can be expressed thusly, “The successful attempt by a person or other entity, to gain control—consensual or not—of some aspect or aspects of another person’s existence.”
The first thing to note about this definition, is that it doesn’t limit the controlling entity to a person or to government. It can readily be argued in my humble opinion, that business is, in nature Socialist to the degree it—with the consent of those “controlled” or not—wields power over those who work for that entity, those who partake in the goods and services produced by that entity, and frankly, those otherwise affected by the actions of both the body in question, and others it affects.
In this age of mega-corporations, this is more true than ever. If, for example, one agrees to the “terms of service” for an entity like Google, or Facebook, one assents to the idea that such an entity has the “right” to filter the content one sees and “publishes” through that entity. This, like it or not, is “weak” Socialism.
The stronger a given entity becomes, the “more Socialist” that entity will be. The more difficult it is to ignore or reject the tenets and philosophies of a given entity, the more likely it will be that the vessel in question will hold sway over day to day reality for those by it affected.
It turns out as a result of the above, that government proves to be one of the most effective vehicles of Socialism.
There are probably many more reasons this is the case. Certainly one such reason is that governments can implement policies that affect both those who support them and those (even outside the confines of the physical or logical region they supposedly govern, and assuredly within those confines) who are otherwise affected by them.
Sometimes, such policies are the implementation of promises made by the government or other entity or some members of it; at others, they are neither expected nor desirable even to the majority of the folks “governed.”
Obviously, the preceding can be applied to private industry as well as government; the primary difference being that it tends to be easier to “walk away” from a company than a government.
I hope I have done an acceptably good job of “boiling down” the basic concept of Socialism.
Having done this, let us now proceed to consider the relative merits and “evils” of Socialism.
One inherent property of any Socialist activity, is that it must take away freedom. Put another way, Socialism is by nature the “surrendering of personal liberty to a collective” with the intent of making things better for all (or some part of) the collective’s members.
You can certainly imagine that there are instances where this is not just desirable, but necessary to make societies or providers of goods and services be at least palatable to those “buying into” the particular group.
For example, murder (here defined as, “The intentional killing of another human being without justifiable cause.”) is not a desirable activity in most societies. The result is that it tends to be “banned” or outlawed. This, accept or no, is an example of Socialism.
I think most would argue, that disallowing through whatever means, the act of murder, is “acceptable” Socialism.
There can be argued to be a “group of” things that at least the majority can count similarly acceptable and reasonable.
Another example would be disallowing physical harm to another member of the group without, again, justifiable cause.
The larger the number of restrictions, the smaller the number of peopleß likely to support them. Obviously, it will often be true that some percentage will support some things, some percentage others, and there will be “overlap,” as well as things that are unique to a, or some particular group or groups within the larger body.
It’s also obvious, that over the course of time, different people will find their respective ways into authority. One problematic result of this, is the tendency by those in power to “swing wildly” to one direction or another on a given issue.
This is why the United States of America, as an example, is a republic, not—as many appear to be confused into believing—a democracy. The U.S. is a “republic with democratically elected representatives.” In fact, a glimpse at the various writings of those who established and assented to, the U.S. form of government, shows that they had no love whatever for the idea of “pure democracy” by and large.
The concept of a republic is that by laying down “foundational legal concepts,” it is possible to set what are considered reasonable limits to the power, authority, and direction of those ”in charge.”
That doesn’t make all Republics “equal.” Funnily though, to some extent, all republics are socialist. The main difference can be summed up in the question, “To what extent are they so?”
One of the considerations of the founders that can be found to be addressed in the U.S. Constitution is exactly that. Put in simplest terms the question answered succinctly but thoroughly in the Constitution is, “Who has what power?”
The unfortunate reality is—as with most such entities—the intent of those who created the entity can be said to be “in the way of” folks who—for whatever reason—want to see government have more power. Since I am “out of space and time,” I will not address who those people are except to say some have good intentions and some, not so good.
Intent aside, actions that expand the role and power of various levels of government past the limits placed on them by the U.S. Constitution are almost always disastrous.
Okay, as I have said, I’m over my time and space constraints. Allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you, yet again, for reading.