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What does it mean to be socialist?

Updated on March 8, 2018
CreeViking profile image

Robin Olsen has lived for half a century and has been educated in fine schools. We learn a lot just going through life and making mistakes.

the more you try to control it all the more it falls apart
the more you try to control it all the more it falls apart

Does the thought of all the different political systems cause confusion on election day? Do you even listen to those who try to defend one political/social/economic system over another? Perhaps you only vote for a specific party regardless of what that party may or may not represent. Perhaps you no longer even vote because of all the deception and confusion.

Well, this article will not try to tell you what is the 'right' system or the 'wrong' system. The point of this article is to explain, in simple words, what socialism is, what it promotes (directly and indirectly through it's actions and policies) and what one can expect from a fully socialist government. This is a first in a sort of 'series' or articles regarding the different political ideologies that are foisted on us, the general voting public.

All nations have some aspect of socialism in their ideology and the influence appears to be growing not shrinking
All nations have some aspect of socialism in their ideology and the influence appears to be growing not shrinking

The People's Choice

Assuming that all ideologies are free from corruption, which system would you choose?

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Well, it's your money too... being spent by everyone
Well, it's your money too... being spent by everyone

What does a socialist society look like?

In a socialist society, the government owns most if not all of the businesses and property in a given political entity - such as a country or state. The illusion that people are dictated to as far as career choices go is just that, an illusion, people can be whatever they want in a socialist society. The number of employers is of course drastically reduced in a non-free marketplace but people are allowed to be whatever the wish to be.

On the surface, socialism seems to be a very good system for people in general. Universal health care, affordable housing, child care programs, the whole nine yards is provided at the expense of the nation (or taxpayer). Crime rates are generally lower, cities are less violent in socialist societies and generally speaking life APPEARS to be far easier for the average citizen. There is even peaceful protest against government policies in socialist countries so they also seem to respect things like free speech and political activism. This seems to be a pretty good way to go eh? Taxation is high but there are price controls and housing provided so why should the actual tax rate bother anyone that much when you do not need money for the basics? As said earlier, this seems like the way to go.

But is it? Socialism has some big drawbacks that are not always visible on the surface and that could, over the long haul, hamper the overall progess of your country. Socialism is like smoking pot, your problems do not go away, but you care about them less. To clarify, Socialism makes the 'status quo' ok and encourages us, as a people , to not advance ourselves or to not better ourselves. Consider, if you were poor in America and had to pay the rent you would be motivated to improve your circumstances, and in so doing improve yourself. You would look for a better job, or seek out some form of higher education or skill training in order to correct the issue of being poor. In a socialist country, if you are poor then no worries the government will pay for things for you such as rent, food whatever. In the end, this makes it OK to be poor and removes the motivation to improve ourselves. This can be detrimental to a nationstate's future social development. The socialist system only works well when a massive majority of the people are working and paying into that system. In a socialist state, when things like unemployment start to go up more people are on the rolls and this reduces the amount of actual taxpayers paying into the system. The motivation to improve yourself and get a new job or to be enterprising are greatly reduced as the hardships experienced through a loss of employment are greatly reduced.

The programs offered by socialist states, such as child care, are used to propagate their ideology in the young minds of the nation at the earliest possible stage, otherwise funding would be provided regardless of where that childcare took place. Example: In Quebec, you can get subsidize child care but only if the child is in a State-run daycare center. If grandma, who is living on a pension and is poor, is available to look after that child then you cannot get any subsidizing for grandma's time and expense. Even though she is clearly the superior choice in child care options. This complete disregard for family in favour of state institutions should be serious cause for alarm.

Employers are not 'Evil' simply because they are employers.
Employers are not 'Evil' simply because they are employers.

Do you think that constant and petty quarrels are detrimental to progress?

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Why so Quarrelsome?

The second big issue with Socialism is the constant need for conflict to maintain the system. I don't mean 'war' specifically but rather internal conflicts, political wrangling, strikes, disputes all seem to occur way more in a socialist society than in a non-socialist society. Unions, a socialist creation and tool, specifically need conflict to exist or they do not exist as they were created to manage the conflict - what are they then without the conflict? Nothing! Socialism seems to be this way in general. They maintain the conflict to maintain their own existence as we would not need socialism if we all became respectful of our neighbors, helped each other out on our own and respected our society and were mindful of things like adequate healthcare access for children - right now doing these things in human society seems to require some sort of mandate or law forcing us to. This means we are not ready yet as a society and a species.

Money for the taking... I guess.
Money for the taking... I guess.

If we could ensure that there would be no corruption would you consider voting for a socialist candidate then?

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Corruption is everywhere in Politics

Socialism also has a high probability of corruption as distribution within the society is decided by a very few for the many and those very few can be bought off or, during hard times, will divert more resources to helping themselve and their own families than is allowed under the socialist rule. In other words, until we treat each other as truly equals (a very long way off) Socialism and socialist states simply will not work. In the end they will always lean towards corruption, either out of greed or a instinctive desire to look after our own children at the expense of someone else's children. Corruption is inevitable given our human nature.

So, in the end

These are the hidden dangers of a socialist society. They sap motivation from the general public, the make the status quo ok when we are a species that seeks satisfaction through our own advancement. They are corrupt and use conflict to propagate their own agendas and to distract the populace from the fact that only 35% of the country is actually paying into their little socialist utopia.

So, we can expect that a fully socialist government would be a corrupt one that looks after their own interest before the state in bad times and pretty much pocket all the excess production they can during the good times. They will try to pacify the population by simply giving them whatever they want regardles of the cost in either money or social progress, Socialist countries are usually heavily indebted under producers.

© 2012 Robin Olsen


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    • profile image 

      19 months ago from upstate, NY

      "The illusion that people are dictated to as far as career choices go is just that, an illusion, people can be whatever they want in a socialist society."

      This may be true but is fairly irrelevant because of the very small rate of social mobility and opportunity in a socialist state.

      You mainly achieve through political connections and considerations rather than by bettering yourself.

      "There is even peaceful protest against government policies in socialist countries so they also seem to respect things like free speech and political activism."

      I would question this because of the old maxim, "absolute power corrupts absolutely". This would definitely be the case in a socialist state.

    • CreeViking profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Olsen 

      3 years ago from Rural Canada

      Text book definitions are irrelevant in this world as the reality of the world often times proves the text book definitions wrong. It makes little difference what Socialism is SUPPOSED to be. What it IS is a corrupt system, with or without a democratic selection processes. In today's world there are no fair democracies at all, including and especially the USA. The rich dominate the landscape and dictate all the laws and the vast bulk of those laws restricts the freedom of individuals to pursue their own ambitions and goals. The more laws the rich create, the less freedom anyone who isn't rich has.

      If you wanna know the end results of a welfare state look no further than the treatment of native Americans, especially in Canada. They have no self governance, no freedom and everything is supposedly provided for them by the government and yet they live in a third world environment nestled inside a first world environment. Only freedom can help you and being able to select from a pre-approved (by the corporations that pay for the politicians) list of candidates to be your 'leader' does not demonstrate freedom. Free people have no use for 'leaders'.

      Being poor will NEVER ,EVER be solved with simple hand outs. As I said at the beginning, what should be the aim of socialism is irrelevant. What it IS is the reality of the world today. And socialism, in reality, is not fair and never will be.

      To quote my own article " In other words, until we treat each other as truly equals (a very long way off) Socialism and socialist states simply will not work."

      Don't ever expect any political system to be fair as long as YOU are not fair.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Sorry but none of the problem listed here are socialist by definition. These are not intrinsic faults with the socialist system and many can be fix by a democratic socialist system. Corruption for example is much less a problem with the threat of elections.

      Also the idea of being poor as a 'motivation' is ridiculous, bordering on offensive. Yes, people who have less may be motivated to improve their circumstances but the 'rich' in society do not stagnated once they have reach their goals.

      The real aim of a socialist society is fairness. The true aim of a neo-socialist society should be to provide people with the basics for living so that they are able to contribute more to what makes a society better; not simple economically better, as is the only improvement sort by capitalist societies.

    • CreeViking profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Olsen 

      4 years ago from Rural Canada

      I could not disagree more. In no way do I perpetuate any myth whatsoever nor does the article even imply such a thing. You seem to be repeating standard pro-socialist talking points with no supporting documentation or proof.

    • profile image

      Dave Spiller 

      4 years ago

      To be fair this page is pretty anti-socialist. Its claim that poverty encourages people to better themselves ignores the fact that you have to have poor people in order to have rich people and perpetuates the myth that people are poor because they deserve it.

    • profile image

      An AYM 

      6 years ago

      I can see where you'd have a different perspective on it then, CreeViking. I do believe Labor Unions started as a Socialist concept, but in modern times they strike me more as just another private money-making industry.

    • Davesworld profile image


      6 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Capitalism rewards hard work and ingenuity with compensation, usually money. Socialism does not. Therein lies the greatest difference between the two economic systems, and exposes Socialism's major flaw: its failure to fully understand human nature.

      People will not go through the extra effort it takes to excel unless there is some kind of reward for that effort. Socialism by itself does not provide that reward, Capitalism does. Socialism merely plods along with everybody more-or-less equal in work effort and rewards. Socialism does not innovate, or at least does not innovate at the same rate that is seen in Capitalism.

      That is exactly what happens inside the union work force. The bottom third gets rewarded as if it were the norm, the middle third does about as well as it would without the union and the top third is stifled and ends up working down to the norm. The end result is higher costs and lower productivity. That's the same thing that happens in a socialist society only on a much wider scale.

      Socialism looks good on paper but doesn't work out in practice.

    • CreeViking profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Olsen 

      6 years ago from Rural Canada

      Thanks for your repsonse.

      I know the 'text book' definition of socialism. Perhaps our disagreement over unions being a socialist tool reflects where I was born and raised. I am Canadian (yeah, that's a commercial) in Canada unions are big supporters of hard line socialists in the New Democratic Party of Canada - the only truly socialist party in Canadian politics, although all other parties have aspects of socialism in their ideology.

      Conservative, or 'right-wing' parties in Canada are seen as 'anti-union' and all of my union experience comes from living and working with unions in this society. Unions are also very big in Europe where they also support hard line socialist parties.

      Finally, unions are a collective of workers where in the individual worker has no say and no right to negotiate on his/her own with the employer for raises, bonuses, projects to work on, working hours or anything at all that references the work load or the work place in general. This is too restrictive and it certainly reminds me of a socialist state.

    • profile image

      An AYM 

      6 years ago

      I understand where you're coming from, but that's still not Socialism. Just because something restricts or punishes Individualism it doesn't make it then Socialism by default.

      Socialism refers to aligning all steps of business to the ownership of the whole, including land, the means of production, and distribution. Unions are (Or at least formed) specifically for workers' rights and compensation. They're not fighting to take over the land the work is on, they're not fighting to take over the factories and offices. The system on the whole is still Capitalistic because the business owner still privately retains all of those aspects.

      The dynamic of a Labor Union is simply of one private group acting against a separate entity. I agree that there are some grey areas that bleed over when membership in a Union is mandatory and they affect your work against your wishes. On the contrast of that though, the Labor Union itself is then still Capitalistic because you don't control an equal share of power to the rest of the union. Not to mention that the Union itself becomes a non-socialist entity since there are top executives making big money (Such as the AFL-CIO president pulling in over a quarter million a year). You're at the whim of an individual/small group of individuals just as you are when it's just you in regards to your employers.

    • CreeViking profile imageAUTHOR

      Robin Olsen 

      6 years ago from Rural Canada

      Daves world summed it up best AnAYM. Like Davesworld I am a computer programmer who worked for almost 20 years in the private sector. I was happy at my job, I was good at my job. Then I took a unionized government term position and it all went to hell from there. They worked very hard to suppress me in that anytime I pointed out something inconsitent or suggested a new way of doing things I was slammed and told 'I was causing trouble' and 'the union doesn't like what you are doing'

      As software engineer, it is my job and my responsibility to my employer to point out problems and suggest new, more profitable, wys of doing things. This is consitent with every private industry employer I ever worked for. But not the unions, in a union I was called a troublemaker as most of my suggestions would have streamlined government operations which in the end would have led to layoffs and this would have reduced the membership of the union and also the amount of revenue taken in every year in union dues.

      I am not out to cost people their jobs, whether the government chooses to lay off or reassign is up to them, but tha does not release me from my responsibilities to my employer. Something unions don't seem to understand is tha they have a responsibility to their employers. A professional responsibility to provide the services that you were hired to do.

    • Davesworld profile image


      6 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      AnAYM, Unions are themselves the very epitome of socialism. In a union hard work, skill and dedication are ignored and replaced with length of service as the only criteria for increased pay. Upward mobility requires the union worker to leave the confines of the union and move into management, otherwise his or her pay is regulated only by seniority, and a sloppy worker who has somehow held the job for 10 years is paid the same as a skilled worker who has also been around for a decade. This is the essence of socialism.

    • profile image

      An AYM 

      6 years ago

      I'm confused about one thing in your paper in particular, and that's when you refer to Unions as a Socialist creation/tool. In a Socialist society the means of production are controlled by the state, and a Union is in direct opposition with that means of production.


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