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Old 03-04-2014, 03:57 PM   #1
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Question Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Many western countries out there embrace some aspects of socialism. They haven't become totalitarian states. Yet I feel that many of us in this country (United States) gave been told at a younger age that socialism is bad. "Universal health care?" "No, it's socialist!" A decent amount of Americans also don't know what socialism actually is except it's bad and/or favored by lazy people.

I'm just curious. I'd honestly like to know what everyone else here thinks. Please don't f*** this all up by starting a flamewar. And please don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, trying to say that the United States should become a socialist state. That's not even the same answer I am seeking. I'm merely asking why socialism has such a negative connotation.


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Old 03-04-2014, 04:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Mainly because socialism became equated with communism during the Cold War (i.e. what USSR stands for). Even though officially, socialism requires democratic elections, that perception became very ingrained.

Also, it completely runs against the consumer culture of America. In order for socialism to actually work successfully, you need high income or consumption taxes, usually both, which means people have much less discretionary income. Considering how important it seems to be for Americans in general to A) own at least one car, and B) own a detached house, socialism makes all that and more virtually impossible.

And frankly, socialism sucks. Something that guys like you and me need to remember Warhammer, all socialism will do is grant disproportionate power and wealth to a different set of white, middle-aged, heterosexual men. At least with capitalism, there is some meritocracy involved, and if you work hard and develop skills that the free market demands, you can make a good living. Under socialism, wealth tends to concentrate in the results-agnostic government sector, or among corrupt non-profits and NGOs.

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Old 03-04-2014, 05:00 PM   #3
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Because people hear Socialism and think Comunism.

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Old 03-04-2014, 05:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Due to the fact that many people who grew up in the Cold War were told that Socialism = Communism and they have never learned different. Many don't care to learn either and consider it to be the exact same thing because Communism = Not 'Murican! So it's evil and terrible and who cares what it means, it was bad for my pappy and my pappys pappy so it's bad for me too.

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Old 03-04-2014, 06:30 PM   #5
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

For the most part people like to make decisions for themselves instead of letting government make decisions for them. Keep in mind that many people view government as being wasteful and inefficient. When government grows it takes away more of your disposable income in return for more services. Your choice is now taken away for better or worse, but people tend to like to have choices no matter what the situation.

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Old 03-04-2014, 06:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Government controlled economies = disaster

In most cases.

But you can have a welfare state (universal healthcare, free college, etc) and a free market economy. It's pretty much the Nordic model they use in Scandinavia. It's also known as social democracy.

But for some reason Americans don't know much about that brand of socialism.

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:07 PM   #7
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

I'd love to see North America follow the Nordic model a bit more. Considering how much politicians go on and on about how important it is for kids to get access to higher schooling then turn around and let schools charge tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for education that leaves them destitute for decades afterwards, it's very hard to see the point they're trying to make.

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:31 PM   #8
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

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Originally Posted by KevanG View Post
I'd love to see North America follow the Nordic model a bit more. Considering how much politicians go on and on about how important it is for kids to get access to higher schooling then turn around and let schools charge tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for education that leaves them destitute for decades afterwards, it's very hard to see the point they're trying to make.
There are options to avoid much of the costs i.e. community college and financial aid and grant money, but very few seem to utilize them. I think my total costs in college were about $13,500 from a Cal State school because I went to a community college first and working full time during community college enabled me to pay for it out of pocket and didn't have to take out student loans. If you want the "college experience", living in the dorms and all that jazz you will have to pay through the nose for it. I think the problem with education has little to do with funding.

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:38 PM   #9
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

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Originally Posted by KevanG View Post
I'd love to see North America follow the Nordic model a bit more. Considering how much politicians go on and on about how important it is for kids to get access to higher schooling then turn around and let schools charge tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for education that leaves them destitute for decades afterwards, it's very hard to see the point they're trying to make.
There's a vicious cycle going on with higher education.

It started with the population growing rapidly, and jobs requiring higher education because of the changing economy. Nothing wrong with those, in and of themselves.

But all that increase in demand forces prices up. Simple economics.

To counter those higher prices, students were forced to take out loans. That's where the cycle starts.

The students who take out loans can go to the schools. Which means demand remains high and even increases. So prices go up more. So more, and larger, loans are taken out. So demand remains high and even increases. So prices go up more. So...


One of the things that needs to happen to counter this is for supply to increase. We need more schools, classrooms, and teachers. This will ease prices since, assuming there were enough classrooms, schools would need to compete more to attract students and stay open.

We also don't need these sprawling campuses that cost an exorbitant amount to build.

There's also administrative fat that could probably be cut.

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:41 PM   #10
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There's a vicious cycle going on with higher education.

It started with the population growing rapidly, and jobs requiring higher education because of the changing economy. Nothing wrong with those, in and of themselves.

But all that increase in demand forces prices up. Simple economics.

To counter those higher prices, students were forced to take out loans. That's where the cycle starts.

The students who take out loans can go to the schools. Which means demand remains high and even increases. So prices go up more. So more, and larger, loans are taken out. So demand remains high and even increases. So prices go up more. So...


One of the things that needs to happen to counter this is for supply to increase. We need more schools, classrooms, and teachers. The will ease prices since, assuming there were enough classrooms, schools would need to compete more to attract students and stay open.

We also don't need these sprawling campuses that cost an exorbitant amount to build.

There's also administrative fat that could probably be cut.
Agreed with all of this, and add to the fact we need to have more diverse higher education options available like technical and trade schools.

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Old 03-04-2014, 07:43 PM   #11
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Yep. Not everyone is cut out for a traditional college. Nor does every job need to have a college education.

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Old 03-04-2014, 08:41 PM   #12
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Well the attitude in America is "why should the wealthy pay for everyone's healthcare and education when a select few can get super-rich from those industries and leave millions of Americans in debt".

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Old 03-04-2014, 10:28 PM   #13
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Well the attitude in America is "why should the wealthy pay for everyone's healthcare and education when a select few can get super-rich from those industries and leave millions of Americans in debt".
That isn't the attitude at all. That may be what you perceive the attitude to be, but I think you'll have a hard time justifying that position if you do some research. Per pupil spending is above the Nordic model that you desire so I don't know what you are talking about. We spend over $25,000 dollars per pupil in post secondary level of education the OECD average is $13,000. We outspend other countries in education, but we aren't seeing the results we should be. The problem is not that we aren't funding education enough. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_cmd.pdf


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Old 03-04-2014, 10:38 PM   #14
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Our educational system as a whole needs a good revamp. We still use the outdated model of throwing information at kids instead of teaching them how to think and learn.

And we still use the old agrarian calendar for school years, giving kids the summer off so they can 'work the farm'. A nice 3 months to forget everything they learned.

Kids, and teachers, need more school days and probably also longer hours at school. It doesn't make much sense to have kids be done with school while parents are still at work. And teachers could certainly use the additional time and days to spend with kids.

And, as my sister can attest with her students, it seems like we've got a whole generation of kids whose parents don't parent, and don't make sure their kid's educations stick. (I know it's not a whole generation, but a lot of kids had kids over the last couple of decades, and since they never got to be a responsibility-free adult, they're acting like a responsibility-free adult when they shouldn't be.)

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Old 03-05-2014, 12:24 AM   #15
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That isn't the attitude at all. That may be what you perceive the attitude to be, but I think you'll have a hard time justifying that position if you do some research. Per pupil spending is above the Nordic model that you desire so I don't know what you are talking about. We spend over $25,000 dollars per pupil in post secondary level of education the OECD average is $13,000. We outspend other countries in education, but we aren't seeing the results we should be. The problem is not that we aren't funding education enough. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_cmd.pdf
I was referring to college and healthcare, not public school.

The Nordic model uses tax revenue to allow everyone the chance to go to college and to provide free healthcare while America puts our students and patients deep in debt.

Do patients and students deserve to be deep in debt for the sake of education and vital health?

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Old 03-05-2014, 12:51 AM   #16
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I was referring to college and healthcare, not public school.

The Nordic model uses tax revenue to allow everyone the chance to go to college and to provide free healthcare while America puts our students and patients deep in debt.

Do patients and students deserve to be deep in debt for the sake of education and vital health?
You are asking the wrong question. The problem in both healthcare and college education are exploding costs. Why for instance is the cost of a college education in the U.S. nearly twice that of the OECD average? We need to find ways to bring down the cost and the answer is get away from the standard university model and create more options for people. Greater choice and competition will drive down the costs and college will become more affordable. There was nothing wrong with taking out student loans to pay for college in the past (after all it is an investment), but costs have exploded and we need to act accordingly to bring costs back down.

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Old 03-05-2014, 01:45 AM   #17
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

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Many western countries out there embrace some aspects of socialism. They haven't become totalitarian states.
That's because the "socialism" that was adopted in the West isn't real socialism. It's social democracy which allows free market enterprise with large degrees of regulation and a strong welfare state.

After the Socialist Schism in the early 1900's, the true socialists like Vladimir Lenin took on the name Communists while the socialists who weren't as extreme like Jean Jaurès kept on fighting with the Socialist brand. Then in the 1980's Marx's ideology got its ass handed to it with the failure of François Mitterrand's economic policies leading to economic stagnation in France and forced it to privatize many industries, Mikhail Gorbachev leading the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Deng Xiaoping turning China into a faux-Communist society. Meanwhile the capitalist oriented regimes of Ronald Reagan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Helmut Kohl, and Margaret Thatcher were the success stories of the 1980's.

Communism has never regained its credibility and the Socialists were forced to become faux-socialists. My point being of my rambling post is that you really can't use the totalitarian argument on the grounds that even though many Western nations have adopted socialist aspects into their social and economic policies, you can't really categorize them as socialist the way many totalitarian states were.

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Yet I feel that many of us in this country (United States) gave been told at a younger age that socialism is bad. "Universal health care?" "No, it's socialist!" A decent amount of Americans also don't know what socialism actually is except it's bad and/or favored by lazy people.
There are many reasons why socialism has a bad name in the United States:

1. True socialism, not the faux-socialism that we see in Western Europe, pretty much, kinda, always leads to some form of authoritarian government due to the political system that Marx designed and his failure to take into account basic human nature. And unfortunately some of the worst authoritarian states i.e. Mao's China, Stalin's Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Kampuchea, and North Korea, are that of the socialist variety.

2. The founding ideology of the United States is a blend of Hamiltonian liberalism and Jeffersonian republicanism which were highly influenced by the likes of thinkers like Adam Smith, John Locke, and Thomas Paine. As a result, American culture is EXTREMELY individualistic which doesn't exactly jive well with socialism. In a way, socialism is just anti-American. Now in no way am I saying that socialism is bad or evil, it just doesn't mesh well with American ideological culture the way socialism has been more accepted in nations such as France, an extreme republican culture based off of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."

3. People are stupid. It's why we see people call Obama a socialist, even though Marx would be rolling in his grave if Obama were a socialist.

4. The Red Scares, particularly during the Cold War in which the Communist Soviet Union was our chief enemy. The extreme left, which never fully integrated into American political culture the way it did in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, was utterly vilified during this time period.

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I'm just curious. I'd honestly like to know what everyone else here thinks. Please don't f*** this all up by starting a flamewar. And please don't get me wrong. I am not, in any way, trying to say that the United States should become a socialist state. That's not even the same answer I am seeking. I'm merely asking why socialism has such a negative connotation.
Personally, I just don't think that socialism works.

As an ideology, it was made in mind for those who did the dirty work in industry and kinda said **** you to everyone else (it's why the Soviet Union adopted the sickle to try and broaden the base to include farmers). Unfortunately, these people aren't particularly very educated and as a result, socialism's biggest advocators are typically the educated bourgeois elites that Marx essentially vilified. Not only that, but educated elites aren't exactly the best salespeople for the ideology when they haven't really endured the hardships of the people the ideology is trying to benefit. When I think about it, America's Eugene V. Debs (someone who actually originated from the working class) is probably one of the few good salesmen of socialism.

I also think that Marx's ideology is just fatally flawed. By creating a dictatorship of the proletariat, vastly expanding the powers of the central government, opposing political parties, etc. Marx's socialism just ultimately leads to authoritarianism. Now, not all Communist dictatorships are like Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Il, but states that are authoritarian to a much lesser degree like Cuba and Vietnam are still authoritarian. Marx also failed to take into account basic human nature which is motivated by some degree of self-interest. The self-interest of powerful men led to totalitarianism. The self-interest of the working class killed productivity. And the planned economies of Stalin and Mao forgot to take into account that people want basic consumer goods for themselves.

Going into territory that is straight up my opinion, I think a society in order to be free, needs to have some degree of a free market capitalist market. It doesn't have to be purely capitalistic the way Adam Smith envisioned it, but a society in my opinion, does need a modicum of capitalism in it like France for example. Whenever society has lost faith in the capitalist system like we saw even in non-Communist situations like in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, etc., the results weren't pretty.

And finally, as a person who is an ardent classical liberal when it comes to individual and property rights, socialism just really doesn't jive well with my personal ideology.

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Old 03-05-2014, 01:49 AM   #18
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

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Mainly because socialism became equated with communism during the Cold War (i.e. what USSR stands for). Even though officially, socialism requires democratic elections, that perception became very ingrained.
Marx really wasn't fond of democracy. His form of "democracy" was essentially choosing between different people who all shared the same ideology. He was all for a dictatorship of the masses (favoring the industrial workers) and had a great disdain for political parties. There really isn't room for candidates whose ideals diverge greatly in a socialist democracy as opposed to a liberal democracy where we get a wide range of candidates from the far left (like Communists) to extreme right (modern day neo-Nazis).

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Old 03-05-2014, 07:23 AM   #19
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You are asking the wrong question. The problem in both healthcare and college education are exploding costs. Why for instance is the cost of a college education in the U.S. nearly twice that of the OECD average? We need to find ways to bring down the cost and the answer is get away from the standard university model and create more options for people. Greater choice and competition will drive down the costs and college will become more affordable. There was nothing wrong with taking out student loans to pay for college in the past (after all it is an investment), but costs have exploded and we need to act accordingly to bring costs back down.
The cost exploded because those industries are privatized and people are greedy.

Just look at the difference in price in prescription drugs in countries with universal healthcare versus the USA.

It's not an accident. Private companies look for ways to charge Americans as much as possible for medicine they need. Ditto for healthcare and education in general.

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Old 03-05-2014, 08:36 AM   #20
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This always made me laugh

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/1...n_1175218.html

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The poll, published Wednesday, found that while Americans overall tend to oppose socialism by a strong margin -- 60 percent say they have a negative view of it, versus just 31 percent who say they have a positive view -- socialism has more fans than opponents among the 18-29 crowd. Forty-nine percent of people in that age bracket say they have a positive view of socialism; only 43 percent say they have a negative view.
I think we can blame the republicans for making socialism cool by constantly telling us how bad it is. lol

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And while those numbers aren't very far apart, it's noteworthy that they were reversed just 20 months ago, when Pew conducted a similar poll. In that survey, published May 2010, 43 percent of people age 18-29 said they had a positive view of socialism, and 49 percent said their opinion was negative.


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Old 03-05-2014, 10:15 AM   #21
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Socialism does have a tendency to appeal to younger, more idealistic minds (a lot of ideologies from a variety of positions do). Then once reality kicks in, they tend to have a more rightward shift in attitudes.

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Old 03-05-2014, 11:10 AM   #22
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Socialism does have a tendency to appeal to younger, more idealistic minds (a lot of ideologies from a variety of positions do). Then once reality kicks in, they tend to have a more rightward shift in attitudes.
I would argue their is the same amount of idealism that capitalism can work perfectly as socialism

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Old 03-05-2014, 11:14 AM   #23
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Default Re: Why Does Socialism Have a Negative Connotation?

Jeez Hippie keep up talking like that and you'll ruin the image us peons have of mods being big dumb jerks.

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Old 03-05-2014, 11:17 AM   #24
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The cost exploded because those industries are privatized and people are greedy.

Just look at the difference in price in prescription drugs in countries with universal healthcare versus the USA.

It's not an accident. Private companies look for ways to charge Americans as much as possible for medicine they need. Ditto for healthcare and education in general.
Private companies do not look for ways to charge Americans as much as possible, they look to increase their profits sure this does not always mean charging more. For instance, Wal-mart has huge profits but clearly does not charge more than their competitors. The problem with the health insurance industry was that their wasn't enough choices and you could only buy your insurance within your state and not across state lines. Competition drives down the costs without consumers, when there is a lack of competition than the for profit companies can gouge you. The same is going on in post-secondary education, we do not have diverse enough options and we tell everyone they need to go to a 4 year traditional college so the demand is high and the supply is low so prices go up.

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Old 03-05-2014, 07:07 PM   #25
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That's because the "socialism" that was adopted in the West isn't real socialism. It's social democracy which allows free market enterprise with large degrees of regulation and a strong welfare state.

After the Socialist Schism in the early 1900's, the true socialists like Vladimir Lenin took on the name Communists while the socialists who weren't as extreme like Jean Jaurès kept on fighting with the Socialist brand. Then in the 1980's Marx's ideology got its ass handed to it with the failure of François Mitterrand's economic policies leading to economic stagnation in France and forced it to privatize many industries, Mikhail Gorbachev leading the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Deng Xiaoping turning China into a faux-Communist society. Meanwhile the capitalist oriented regimes of Ronald Reagan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Helmut Kohl, and Margaret Thatcher were the success stories of the 1980's.

Communism has never regained its credibility and the Socialists were forced to become faux-socialists. My point being of my rambling post is that you really can't use the totalitarian argument on the grounds that even though many Western nations have adopted socialist aspects into their social and economic policies, you can't really categorize them as socialist the way many totalitarian states were.

There are many reasons why socialism has a bad name in the United States:

1. True socialism, not the faux-socialism that we see in Western Europe, pretty much, kinda, always leads to some form of authoritarian government due to the political system that Marx designed and his failure to take into account basic human nature. And unfortunately some of the worst authoritarian states i.e. Mao's China, Stalin's Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Kampuchea, and North Korea, are that of the socialist variety.

2. The founding ideology of the United States is a blend of Hamiltonian liberalism and Jeffersonian republicanism which were highly influenced by the likes of thinkers like Adam Smith, John Locke, and Thomas Paine. As a result, American culture is EXTREMELY individualistic which doesn't exactly jive well with socialism. In a way, socialism is just anti-American. Now in no way am I saying that socialism is bad or evil, it just doesn't mesh well with American ideological culture the way socialism has been more accepted in nations such as France, an extreme republican culture based off of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."

3. People are stupid. It's why we see people call Obama a socialist, even though Marx would be rolling in his grave if Obama were a socialist.

4. The Red Scares, particularly during the Cold War in which the Communist Soviet Union was our chief enemy. The extreme left, which never fully integrated into American political culture the way it did in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, was utterly vilified during this time period.

Personally, I just don't think that socialism works.

As an ideology, it was made in mind for those who did the dirty work in industry and kinda said **** you to everyone else (it's why the Soviet Union adopted the sickle to try and broaden the base to include farmers). Unfortunately, these people aren't particularly very educated and as a result, socialism's biggest advocators are typically the educated bourgeois elites that Marx essentially vilified. Not only that, but educated elites aren't exactly the best salespeople for the ideology when they haven't really endured the hardships of the people the ideology is trying to benefit. When I think about it, America's Eugene V. Debs (someone who actually originated from the working class) is probably one of the few good salesmen of socialism.

I also think that Marx's ideology is just fatally flawed. By creating a dictatorship of the proletariat, vastly expanding the powers of the central government, opposing political parties, etc. Marx's socialism just ultimately leads to authoritarianism. Now, not all Communist dictatorships are like Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong Il, but states that are authoritarian to a much lesser degree like Cuba and Vietnam are still authoritarian. Marx also failed to take into account basic human nature which is motivated by some degree of self-interest. The self-interest of powerful men led to totalitarianism. The self-interest of the working class killed productivity. And the planned economies of Stalin and Mao forgot to take into account that people want basic consumer goods for themselves.

Going into territory that is straight up my opinion, I think a society in order to be free, needs to have some degree of a free market capitalist market. It doesn't have to be purely capitalistic the way Adam Smith envisioned it, but a society in my opinion, does need a modicum of capitalism in it like France for example. Whenever society has lost faith in the capitalist system like we saw even in non-Communist situations like in Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, etc., the results weren't pretty.

And finally, as a person who is an ardent classical liberal when it comes to individual and property rights, socialism just really doesn't jive well with my personal ideology.
Then maybe this faux socialism is the best of both worlds. Really, the Scandinavian countries have some of the standards of living in the world and I'm not sure how many rational people would call them actively oppressive societies. Most of the social democracies do better then the US in terms of areas like freedom of the press:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Press_Freedom_Index

I'm not sure how many people here are arguing for a total establishment of the free enterprise system, but likewise, I have not heard very many convincing arguments for laissez-faire capitalism. I don't believe in a false choice between laissez-faire capitalism and a total state oligarchy, there is a huge middle ground in between those two extremes.

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