Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.
—Harry S. Truman, speech, Oct. 10 1952
Socialism is a word that can strike fear into the hearts of many who grew up in the United States. For those who live outside of this country, socialism may be seen as a way to improve lives and provide more opportunities for the middle class. Although socialism has been proven to work in other countries, it continues to be demonized and seen as evil here in the US. This blog post will discuss 13 reasons why socialism shouldn’t scare you, but instead should be embraced with open arms!
1: Many people do not really understand what socialism is.
When people don’t know much about something, they are often afraid of it. There is likely no topic that this could apply to more than socialism. Socialism has also been purposefully and systematically demonized in the US for decades by politicians and media, but the essence of socialism is really just working together to improve the lives of everyone. This website and article are designed to help alleviate some of that fear and introduce some new possibilities.
2: The term “socialism” encompasses a vast range of ideas and systems.
There’s everything from democratic socialism, to authoritarian socialism, to anarcho-socialism, social ecology, libertarian municipalism, eco-socialism, green anarchism, and the list goes on and on. One of our goals is to have more open discussions about the similarities and differences between these systems and ideologies in order to clear up some of the confusion.
To say that “socialism is bad” would be like saying “cooperation is bad” or “technology is bad.” There are so many ways it can take place that it’s not possible to narrow it down to one system or model. When you try one form of it, there are always limitless other ways to try it, and just because it’s failed (or been corrupted) numerous times in the past doesn’t mean that it does not or cannot work. It simply means that iteration of it didn’t work. Thomas Edison knew this. That’s why he said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — before the light bulb finally worked one day. Same with the Wright Brothers, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, and a thousand others who were told it could never happen. We simply keep trying until we get it right. People cooperate all the time, in various ways. We can work together to achieve our goals and help everyone benefit. In reality, that’s the basis and the most defining factor of socialism — cooperation, as opposed to our current, competition-based, capitalist system.
3: Two main aspects of socialism could make a huge difference in our economy.
The first main aspect is employee/public ownership of the means of production of most necessities (factories, energy infrastructure, agriculture, etc). Public ownership would also entail greater public participation in the decision-making process at the local/community level. Employee ownership models like cooperatives have been proven to work well in numerous instances. Mondragon, the largest cooperative in the world, based in the basque region of Spain, maintained remarkable employee retention throughout the financial crisis of 08-09 because they were able to shift people to other positions within the company instead of firing them to maintain profits. Employee control of companies means that businesses are more geared to benefit their workers and communities since the employee/owners usually share in the profits and have a say in how the company is run.
The second major aspect of socialism is providing safety nets and other benefits to the general public. The Nordic countries have had great success with their model of providing generous benefits and public safety nets. Safety nets and benefits for the general public help vulnerable populations with much-needed resources, such as healthcare, childcare, housing, food, paid maternity leave, and more. Many people would otherwise experience extreme hardship without these benefits. Providing people with these benefits actually has a long-term positive effect on the community as a whole, as well, since in the long-term, people are better equipped to meaningfully contribute and pitch in where it is most needed.
4: Technology is ripe for socialism.
There is now a way to track and distribute goods without the need for money or middlemen. This means that socialism can work in today’s modern world, as long as we use technology correctly. Capitalism needs scarcity in order to function properly and promotes something called artificial scarcity, through things like copyrights, patents, zoning laws, planned obsolescence, intentional destruction, and more. The more things you have to pay for in capitalism, the better. The opposite is true for socialism. Socialism actually works better when more is provided for free while utilizing technology and automation to its fullest extent. People then have more autonomy over their lives and do not have to work at meaningless jobs just to survive. Tech and automation can then take over a large portion of labor without the externalities of unemployment, exploitation, and poverty. The result is a population that has much more free time and resources, and the work they do is more fulfilling.
5: Socialism, in a nutshell, is a way to describe people sharing and cooperating on a large scale.
In socialism, people come together and focus on what they can do for each other rather than trying to take from one another. Many people think that socialism automatically means “taking” things from one individual and giving them to another. This is not true. Socialism means collective ownership and cooperative control of productive resources. It means sharing and collaborating with the resources that we have. In this socioeconomic model, people combine their efforts to achieve more rather than competing for resources at each other’s expense. In this way, we are able to accomplish much more with much less.
6: Socialism is NOT synonymous with authoritarianism.
One of socialism’s biggest enemies has always been the word “communism” and its association with authoritarianism and violence. While socialism’s past indeed carries the baggage of corruption and violence, many modern socialist ideas advocate that it should be a voluntary arrangement without coercion or force. This means that under systems like democratic socialism, individuals can still choose their jobs, their homes, their food, their pastimes, and all the same freedoms they enjoy under the capitalist system. The only current freedom in capitalism that would not be lawful under socialism would be the right to exploit other people or resources for personal profits.
Perhaps the foremost socialist scholar of our time, Professor Richard Wolf, makes the case that capitalism has been through many phases and changes to get to this current form. We should see the forms of socialism which have been implemented in the past and the socialized aspects of many of the most flourishing economies of today as experiments helping us arrive at the best possible social system. It is no longer 1918, or 1956, or 1973. This is something people need to understand, and it is something that makes an enormous difference. We do not seek to simply replicate past experiments, but to learn and grow from the past and look forward to what is possible to create something truly new. With technology, sensors, automation, feedback systems, computers, AI, the internet of things, and more, we have access to a vast array of tools to assist us in more equitable and democratic management of production and resources. We simply need the mindset to put them to good use.
7: Socialism is not necessarily communism.
They can be two very different things — especially when you compare the general idea of socialism to the current communist states that exist in the world today. In theory, socialism is technically considered an in-between step before moving onto a communist society, which is when automation would take over a large portion of production and the need for labor would diminish greatly. And socialism is not necessarily what we see in China, Venezuela, or Cuba, either. These countries are what is generally considered a Communist or Socialist State, or in other words, a state-run, authoritarian version of communism that has incorporated major elements of capitalism and the market society. A true communist society, as described by Marx, would be classless, stateless, and moneyless — and highly technologically evolved.
8: Capitalists want you to think Socialism will never work.
…and that’s understandable. Socialism would mean that workers and the public would own the means of production. In order to maintain the status quo and build their power and wealth, many ultra-wealthy capitalists have gone to great lengths to deceive the public and convince people that capitalism is the only viable socioeconomic model. Numerous right-wing think tanks such as The Praeger Institute, The Heartland Institute, and The Cato Institute, are funded by ultra-wealthy capitalists, and they all just happen to produce loads of misinformation and scare tactics to turn people away from anything that resembles socialism (or might threaten their bottom line).
9: Yes, Socialism can and does work. Even in the US.
Certain elements of socialism have been tried before in the US and it would be foolish to think that something so successful wouldn’t work here again… or even isn’t currently working. The US military contains many aspects of socialist models, such as free housing, food, and clothing, with the utmost degrees of camaraderie and cooperation within the military organization itself. Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted numerous socialist-leaning policies in his “New Deal” plan after the crash of the stock market in 1929 and was elected to FOUR TERMS – which is why there is now a two-term limit for the US President.
It has also been tried around the world many times and has worked in the past. The town of Marinaleda, in Spain, which also boasts a 2,500-person agricultural cooperative, has been under the leadership of a communist/socialist mayor for over 30 years. Note: the town also has no police force, saving them over $350,000 per year, and no mortgages.
Unfortunately, many capitalists have sabotaged legitimate, large-scale/national socialist attempts in the past. Project Cybersyn in Chile in the 1970s was one example of a technologically-advanced, socialist model that likely would have worked if it weren’t for a capitalist coup that resulted in the death of Chile’s (and South America’s first democratically elected) socialist president, Salvador Allende. In fact, there is a long history of the US government backing the overthrow of democratically elected socialist leaders in South America.
10: Real socialism will put an end to “Socialism for the Rich.”
The only reason why failed banks and corporations get bailed out is because our socioeconomic system protects the interests of bankers and CEOs more than the general public. Without the profit motive and capitalists in control, socialism has the ability to work for the benefit of all people and not put corporations (or their debts) in front of the interests of the people.
11: Socialism can benefit everyone
Socialism can not only improve conditions for those who are struggling but also create a better society for the vast majority of people. This is because instead of just distributing the same amount of resources among all people, socialism can help people create MORE resources. Under socialism, instead of production facilities being tied up under businesses (aka mini-dictatorships), workers and members of the community have more of a say in what benefits them. That means that the means of production have the capability of being made more accessible and equally distributed with the socialist economic model. This, in turn, gives more people access to resources they need, and this more equal distribution especially helps lift impoverished communities out of local economic stagnations or depressions. Socialism is about ALL people – not just the rich.
12: Socialism is more sustainable than capitalism.
Socialism is not about money or economics – it’s about cooperation, sustainability, and social responsibility. Socialism will put an end to the wastefulness of capitalism which has created more pollution and environmental catastrophes in our world than it can handle. With socialism, there is less room for capitalists to misinform the public with lies and propaganda, nor is there the incentive to burn through endless resources for the sake of turning a profit. Instead of society pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with reckless abandon, we can finally reel in fossil fuel interests and take control of climate change once and for all.
13: Socialism is the future.
Socialism has been tried and tested in many parts of the world — and yes, it can and does work, and more often than many people realize. There now exist more technologically-oriented economic models that have the ability to automate most labor, such as the “resource-based economy” model, designed and promoted by The Venus Project and The Zeitgeist Movement. A resource-based economy works within those ideologies but is based in the present and the future, and utilizes all the tools and systems we have available today to the greatest extent possible.
The world has the technology to build a new, better society. We have the potential to eliminate nearly all pollution, waste, and poverty with these systems and technology. In reality, we could make our world and cities into something similar to what we currently call “Solarpunk” – a futuristic, sustainable, green, world that utilizes technology to the fullest to create abundance and synergy. At the same time eliminate vast amounts of labor, largely automate our economy, and increase the living standard for everyone. Wouldn’t that be nice? It’s definitely possible. Let’s make it happen — for our children, if nothing else.
Conclusion: It’s time to come together as a society and help each other instead of competing for limited resources and destroying our planet and futures in the process. If you’re interested in learning more about how we could build a better world with modern technology, as well as why capitalism is not equipped to deal with our current problems, listen to the Moneyless Society Podcast, and keep an eye out for my first book — Moneyless Society : The Next Step of Social Evolution — due for release on May 1st, 2022.