There’s been a lot of talk about socialism in this election cycle. The people pushing for it assure everyone that they’re not talking about socialism as seen in the Soviet Union or Venezuela. Instead, they’re promoting “democratic socialism”. But what does that even mean?
Oxford Dictionaries—whose slogan is “Language Matters”—defines socialism as “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” It offers these terms as synonyms: leftism, welfarism, progressivism, social democracy, communism, and Marxism.
Maybe now we’re getting somewhere. Sounds precise, right? Hardly. What is meant by “the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole”? Should a convenience store have to put to some public vote the decisions about what to stock the shelves with or whom to hire for the night shift?
And what about this “regulated by the community as a whole” stuff? Have you ever known a regulatory body to be everybody in town or all 325 million people in the country? Don’t such bodies end up being some handful of people with political power?The XYZ’s of Socialism
It occurs to me there is a form of socialism where the entire population votes on these things. My local grocery store changes how it stocks its shelves based on the votes of every person in the entire country, although most of these people vote “I don’t care”. The tally of these votes, received almost continuously, tell the store owner which stock items to keep, which to buy more of, and which to get rid of. And if enough people care about who’s working the night shift, the store owner hears about that too.
And this is perfectly democratic. It’s much more democratic than our politics are, since the voting is not restricted to an election cycle or a voting day. Furthermore, the store owner has an incentive to seek more votes, so he can make better decisions. Store owners who ignore votes wind up losing business.
So when all is said and done, the very best form of “democratic socialism” is what we call “capitalism”.