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SOCIALISM

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SOCIALISM

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:08 am

• socialism •


Pronunciation: so-shêl-iz-êm • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Several political movements united by the belief that ownership of the means of production should be collective. Corporations should be owned by society as a whole through democratically elected governments (unlike the erstwhile dictatorships in Eastern Europe). Socialism differs from communism in the communist desire to prohibit all private ownership; everything except household possessions should be owned in common by the community.

Notes: Since the president has been accused of being a socialist, a communist, and a Nazi, we should at least know what these words mean. First of all, the Nazis were mortal enemies of socialism; before and during the Holocaust, the Nazis killed hundreds of thousands of communists and socialists until they went underground.

In Play: While there are too many socialist parties to enumerate here, I might mention the existence of a Christian Socialist movement, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those who hold to this tenet simply reject the Marxist thesis that "religion is the opiate of the people". This socialist extreme makes the point that socialism covers a wide range of divergent opinions. There are many socialist parties throughout the world currently participating peacefully in democratic governments.

Word History: Today's Good Word combines the suffix -ism "belief" + socialis "pertaining to companionship" from socius "companion". The Proto-Indo-European root underlying today's word is the same PIE word that underlies another Good Word, sequester. It came to Old English directly as secg "companion" and Old Norse seggr "companion", neither of which survived the trials and tribulations of time. We find traces of the Latin word in many borrowings of English from Latin and Romance languages: sociable, associate, and dissociate. (Suzanne Russell thought that since the President has been accused of simultaneously being a Nazi, a socialist, and a communist, we should run one of these words as a Good Word. Here it is, Suzanne; thanks for the suggestion.)
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby MTC » Mon Feb 25, 2013 7:21 am

Thank you, Dr. G, for "exposing Socialism."

"Socialism" and "socialist" have become heavily loaded words in American political rhetoric. The original meaning of the words has been so completely lost that they probably should be redefined in the dictionary. As evidence of the confusion and uncertainty about what the words actually mean, consider that "socialism" and "capitalism" were the two most looked up words in 2012, according to Merriam-Webster. The Far Right has emptied these words of their original content and beaten them into hateful, fear-generating insults. Branding a politician as a
"socialist," or a program as "socialism" almost guarantees
negative associations will short circuit rational thought. Many of the morons slinging these words around like six-shooters would be hard-pressed to define them.
Last edited by MTC on Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby call_copse » Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:24 am

Indeed, MTC. It's very confusing talking to many Americans as they seem to have absolutely no clue when it comes to such terms, or at least not in the way I have ever understood them. In general Americans seem to conflate all such terms (Nazism, communism, socialism) with brutal authoritarianism. Only one of those terms implies doctrinal authoritarianism in any way, admittedly communism as practically implemented does appear to require such, except in Israeli kibbutzes and similar smaller scale communities perhaps. It would certainly be a push to say Marx would have sanctioned say the Chinese, Cambodian or Soviet 'communist' regimes.

I'm, like, whatever, as you lot might say. I'm relieved there are some with a bit of a clue over there.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:34 am

Defining political terms has always been difficult. No one thinks Hitler was a socialist, but NAZI stands for Nationalsozialismus, National Socialism. Most political names are used to throw at the opposition. They do not actually reflect defined political viewpoints. This is not limited to US politics.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby LukeJavan8 » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:23 pm

Confusing indeed. Sequester is a totally new word
to me in the political arena.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:13 pm

My take is that "welfare state" has been replaced by "socialism" in many Republicans' vocabularies. Way back in the 50's in high school we debated the proposition that America should reject the welfare state. The only true socialism included was "socialized medicine," which itself is ambiguous. True socialization would involve government-owned hospitals and clinics and doctors receiving all their income from the state. The ACA is principally an insurance setup that allows everyone to receive some medical care, at least partially of their choice. I do remember thinking back then that if something wasn't done to reduce costs, socialized medicine would be required.

I don't know of many, even among the most liberal, who want to see the government take over the major industries with government owned car and aircraft factories, steel mills and petroleum industries (as Venezuela does). Had Obama and his colleagues wanted to do so, they passed up a great opportunity by allowing the car industry to pay back their government "loans" that arguable saved their necks.

The major economic factor mistakenly called socialism is Social Security and Medicare (and Medicaid). People usually overlook the alternatives to SS, one of which I saw when I worked as a social worker to the elderly back in the 60's. SS pensions were just coming in to replace welfare, which was totally tax payer funded. Basic welfare checks from the state of CA at that time were $95 (multiply by 10 or 12 for today's value). Today's SS averages only $1200 + a month, barely liveable if that's all you have. For whatever reason, both Congress and voters rejected the idea of gradually transferring - by choice - 10% of retirement funds to mutual funds, which IMHO would eventually produce twice what SS now gives, even if one retires in a down market.

I for one, would prefer to limit the word "socialism" to government owned industries and the like.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby gailr » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:03 pm

There is a lot of confusion in this area regarding those terms (and any others which can be pressed into fear-mongering service!). I am always surprised and disappointed that people old enough to have taken Civics as part of a regular curriculum in elementary through junior high can be so easily flummoxed by demagogues.

Thank you for the timely post, Dr. Goodword.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Slava » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:03 pm

By the by, hasn't BO also been called a fascist? Or was that just Bush II?
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby gailr » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:31 pm

Yes, he is *everything* that ends in -ist, at least in some minds. This unlikely mash-up boggles others.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby call_copse » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:17 am

Philip Hudson wrote:Defining political terms has always been difficult. , but NAZI stands for Nationalsozialismus, National Socialism. Most political names are used to throw at the opposition. They do not actually reflect defined political viewpoints. This is not limited to US politics.


'No one thinks Hitler was a socialist' - I would postulate that this is EXACTLY what many of your countrymen believe, from observing their part in some debates. They inhabit the comment pages of the Guardian spouting exactly that opinion - clearly not one worth engaging.

Whilst this knee jerk shrieking is not limited to US politics it seems most bitter there.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:36 am

When the economy is going well, the knee jerk shrieking (what a great mixed metaphor!) among partisans can be a fun game to watch. But the rubber has hit the road now and we need to get down to brass tacks. It is my great fear that we have sinned away our day of grace and are headed for a nose-dive from which recovery might require major suffering.

The Brits, having a parliamentary system of government, have it all over the USA in getting legislation passed. True, they have their "loyal opposition" to the party in power, but the party in power elects the Prime Minister, so there is actually some real power there. This is not to say that there is no knee jerk shrieking in England. But even if it gets to the actual shouting, name-calling and even assault in Parliament, a thing that rarely happens in the halls of Congress, the majority party still gets its way. In America we have no loyal opposition, just mortal enemies. The United States sets out one artificial financial crisis after another. I fear that one more act of brinkmanship could drive us over the brink.

So now I have discussed religion and politics, something some people think should not be done in society. Please don’t hurt me.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:55 pm

One thing overlooked is that our current impasse is the result, perhaps intended, of the founders and their checks and balances. The Senate gives all states equal voice, while the house reflects more of the entire peoples' views. It's ironic that the current majorities are the opposite of what one might expect. I think the founders would expect the Senate to be the more conservative. They specifically did not want England's parliamentary form of government. My belief is that at a snail's pace, the country will work itself out of the mess as we have in the past.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby MTC » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:46 pm

Whether or not the founders contemplated an impasse like the one we're in, something must be done. Former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma (not the party or the state I would normally go to for guidance) has written a book analyzing the problem and proposing practical solutions:
The Parties Versus The People: How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans. I heard part of his interview on NPR. Recently he was also interviewed by Charlie Rose. What little I heard made sense. Eliminate gerrymandered districts.
Reform the seniority system in Congress. There was more, but I missed it. Now I think I'll buy the book. Have any of you read it, or are you familiar with his proposals?
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 1:45 pm

No, but that gerrymadering districts rings clear with me.
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Re: SOCIALISM

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:08 am

You might want to read my post on the Language Blog on this subject.
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