An 18-year-old college freshman and the graduate-student teaching assistant in her Women’s Studies class are talking politics as they enter the campus coffee shop, and they have this exchange:
FRESHMAN: What exactly is “socialism”?
GRAD STUDENT: Oh, you have had a sheltered life, haven’t you? Socialism is what people need; it keeps things working by telling people what to do.
FRESHMAN: But you said you did whatever you pleased.
GRAD STUDENT: (chuckle) Touché. Well, some people know what’s best for them, and some people don’t. Besides, socialists don’t tell people what to do in a mean, petty way; they tell them what to do in a kindly way… to keep them out of danger. Latte or cappuccino?*
One of the tactics that socialists use when they discuss their creed with normal people, like conservatives, is to define “socialism” very narrowly. They stipulate that socialism requires state ownership of the means of production. Such an explanation, which comes to us straight out of Marxist theory, would mean that Soviet communists were socialists while Nazi fascists weren’t. But, just as the word “socialist” is part of “USSR,” it’s also part of “Nazi.” Also, both regimes were totalitarian police states, but let’s not get sentimental.
Regardless of who “owns” the means of production, what all forms of socialism share is central control by the central government. And central control of the means of production means that the central government must also be in charge of the distribution of its products, its goods and services. It’s this aspect of socialism that those running for the Democrat presidential nomination are pushing.
This year’s Democrat candidates are all about thousand-dollar checks each month from the feds (Universal Basic Income), universal pre-K, free college, Medicare for All (including foreigners), you name it. Whatever folks “need,” the government will provide. But most of the central government’s spending is already distribution: the “welfare state.” Democrats will tell you that you’ve paid for your benefits, but most Americans get far more in benefits than what they paid in taxes.