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Socialism is an increasingly popular topic in the United States. Some argue that the country should actively move toward socialism to promote social progress and greater equity, while others demand that the country prevent it by any and all means necessary. The topic is often brought up in connection with universal healthcare and free college education, ideas that are socialist by definition, or as a general warning against left-wing politics.
While some politicians openly promote socialism or socialist policies (for example Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), others reject the socialist label (now Vice President Kamala Harris said she will run for the 2020 presidential campaign). democracies were not socialist during the U.S.) or invoke it as a dirty word that contradicts American ideals (at the 2019 State of the Union, President Trump said that the United States would “never be a socialist country” because “we We are born free, and we shall remain free”).
To consider whether the United States should adopt socialism or at least more socialist policies, the relevant terms must first be defined.
Socialism is an economic and social policy in which the public owns industry and products, rather than private individuals or corporations. Under socialism, the government controls most of the means of production and natural resources, among other industries, and everyone in the country is entitled to an equal share according to their contribution to society. Individual private ownership is encouraged.
Politically, socialist countries tend to be multi-party with democratic elections. Presently no country works under 100% socialist policy. Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, while heavily socialist, all combine socialism with capitalism.
Capitalism, the current economic model of the United States, is a policy in which private individuals and corporations control production that is directed through the market, not the government. Capitalism is also called free market economy or free enterprise economy. Capitalism operates on private property, the profit motive, and market competition.
Politically, capitalist countries range from democracy to monarchy to oligarchy to autocracy. Most Western countries are capitalist, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. Capitalists are also Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates. However, many of these countries, including the United States, have implemented socialist policies within their capitalist systems, such as social security, minimum wages, and energy subsidies.
Communism is often used as a synonym for socialism and the exact differences between the two are heavily debated. One difference is that communism offers everyone an equal share in the country instead of the equal share promised by socialism. Communism is usually summarized by Karl Marx’s slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” and was considered by Marx to be a step beyond socialism. Individual private ownership is illegal in most communist countries.
Politically, communist countries are led by a single communist party, and elections are held only within that party. Often, the military holds significant political power. Historically, a secret police has also shared that power, as in the former Soviet Union, the largest communist country in history. Civil liberties (such as freedom of the press, speech and assembly) are publicly embraced, but limited in practice, often by force. Currently communist countries include China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam. It is worth noting that some of these countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, label themselves as democratic or socialist, although they meet the definition of communism. and are run by communist parties. Additionally, some communist countries, such as China and Vietnam, operate with partially free market economies, which are the cornerstone of capitalism and some socialist policies.
Given those definitions, should the United States adopt more socialist policies such as free college, medical care for all, and the Green New Deal?
- America already has several successful and popular socialist policies.
- The job of the US government is to enable and protect all of its citizens. More socialist policies can work with capitalist structures to reduce the harm done by free capitalism.
- The American public supports the implementation of more socialist policies.
- America already has many expensive socialist entitlements.
- The job of the US government is to enable free enterprise and then to get in the way of individual ingenuity and hard work. The government should promote equal opportunity, not promise equal results.
- The American public supports the capitalist economy.
This article was published on January 21, 2022 at Britannica’s ProCon.org, a nonpartisan issue-information source. Visit ProCon.org to learn more.