What Is Socialism?

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 10:36 AM
What Is Socialism?

The term Socialism is thrown around quite frequently in political and economic commentary, but what does it really mean? Let’s tie some definition to the term.  When socialism is used in articles or in commentary, those opposed to the use of the term will invariably argue that, regardless of how it is being used, it is not the actual meaning of socialism.  They tend to follow up with some arbitrary dictionary definition.  From Webster’s standpoint they may often be right, but they are missing the substance of the point which is trying to be delivered:  the damaging forces of collectivist intervention are real.

While the principles explained below remain generally valid on a global scale, I am focused on what socialism - that is, what collectivism means from an American perspective, since that is the popular  reference being made in commentaries.

The terms socialism, central planning, communism, statism, collectivism, progressivism, Marxism, interventionism, and their variations are used interchangeably in this writing. While the technical definitions of these terms certainly have differences, essentially they all contain common elements of the actions listed below:

  • Violation of the Declaration of Independence and/or Constitution
  • Any form of centralized planning (economically and behaviorally)
  • Price or currency manipulation or control through either laws or regulations
  • Behavioral controls through either laws or regulation which are not enumerated in the Constitution or violate the Fundamental Rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence
  • Any confiscation of property
  • Any communal sharing of resources other than people freely and willingly participating
  • Any redistribution of another’s property other than people freely and willingly sharing their property and resources
  • Any coercion and/or seizure of a citizen’s property, behavior, or resources

The array of authors commenting on socialism will reference a myriad of the terms listed above. Additionally, they will often quote multiple authors who also refer to socialism with an extensive vocabulary relating to its practices and policies.

It should also be pointed out, as economist Daniel Mitchell tells us, that even though Keynesians, Marxists, Austrian economists, monetarists, or any type of economists may not agree on much, they all contend “that living standards are determined by the quality and quantity of these two factors of production”[1] – capital and labor. Dr. Richard Vedder explains that “about 70% of U.S. output is attributed to the labor of human beings;”[2] that is, human capital.  This is critical to understanding why collectivists focus on controlling people – citizens both generate political support and generate the vast majority economic output of a nation.  David Ricardo in 1817 in his prolific book, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, discussed the direct link between labor and capital with productivity when he wrote, “Economy in the use of labour never fails to reduce the relative value of a commodity, whether the saving be in the labour necessary to the manufacture of the commodity itself, or in that necessary to the formation of the capital, by the aid of which it is produced.”[3]  In fact, Ricardo establishes “making labour the foundation of the value of commodities” and the amount of labor “which is necessary to [a commodity’s] production” is what gives it its value in an exchange for another commodity.[4]  The labor, one’s time, along with a product’s utility is fundamental in determining value.

Weighing a progressive’s statement against the aforementioned elements will give you a great measure of their policy, idea, or suggested government intervention is a collectivist tenet.  That is, it does contain elements of socialism.

This clarification will be valid whether in reference to any article I write and most other authors as well. The principles and lessons are sound and put commentary into an understandable and formidable argument.Carry forward this explanation and those who try to counter the argument will be left out in the cold – of the destructiveness of collectivism to freedom and liberty.

[1] Daniel Mitchell, January 17, 2013, “Obama’s Dismal Record on Jobs, Explained with Common Sense,” townhall.com, [http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/danieljmitchell/2013/01/17/obamas-dismal-record-on-jobs-explained-with-common-sense-n1491110/page/full/].

[2] Richard Vedder, January 16, 2013, “The Wages of Unemployment,” The Wall Street Journal, p. A13.

[3] David Ricardo, 2012 (originally published in 1817), Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, (Lexington, KY: Maestro Reprints), p. 10.On page 9 Ricardo discusses five type of labor which can make up the manufacture; that is, productivity, of products, including; cultivating, conveying, production, engineering, and retailing.

[4] David Ricardo, 2012 (originally published in 1817), Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, (Lexington, KY: Maestro Reprints), p. 34.