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Answering the Mail; No, We Aren't Socialists or Communists

I don't often respond to negative comments and emails because there is generally no real "meat" to respond to, just lot's of name calling, often in capital letters with way too many exclamation points. One of the most recent criticisms of a piece we published, was "you Communists will pay dearly," which made me sad because the article supported expanded voting rights. Stalin were never big on voting rights.

More frequently [daily] we are accused of being socialists, generally when we write about topics like Medicaid expansion and environmental regulations. It's a constant reminder that many conservatives in America are wholly ignorant of what socialism means. The classic definition of the term is a system in which the means of production [companies] are owned by the state and there is no private property. There still might be a real socialist hiding under a rock somewhere in America, but I haven't met one. No one in the Democratic Party wants to nationalize Amazon, Verizon, or your doctor's office and it's ridiculous to suggest that they do.

The United States does have some European style Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders. Democratic Socialism encompasses a broad rage of views, but America's version can be boiled down to the creation of economic policies and regulations that curb capitalism's excesses, support worker's rights, and provide a social safety net. The only real, practical difference between Democratic Socialists and everyone else is one of degree. They would opt for more worker protections and a broader social safety net than moderates in either political party.

America is a pretty conservative country compared to most in the developed world with fewer regulations on business and lower taxes. We are a center-right nation in a center-left world. Whenever I meet a fellow academic from Europe they are always quick to remind me that our Democratic Party would be viewed as a center-right party in Europe. They still have some real socialists in Europe, though far fewer than several decades ago.

Hurling around the word socialist as if it's a meaningful insult is the fastest way to get any reasonably intelligent person to immediately ignore everything else you say. If you oppose Medicaid expansion, then just say that and explain why you think it's a bad idea. The Post Office is a socialist enterprise as is your municipal water company, but Medicaid expansion is not socialism. It's simply tempering the whole capitalist survival of the fittest thing with a bit of empathy and compassion. And, those are the same sentiments that produced the GI Bill, farm subsidies, mortgage and tuition assistance programs, Medicare and the many exclusions from income in the tax code like employer paid health insurance that conservatives love.


By: Don Lam

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