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  • Defining Socialism

    For those who failed to recognize the ideological stakes of the recent election, Merriam-Webster Dictionary has revealed that many Americans were well aware of the confrontation between the ideas of capitalism and socialism.

    The terms “socialism” and “capitalism” received more searches on Merriam-Webster’s popular online dictionary than any other terms this year. Expectedly, the spikes in interest corresponded with the national party conventions and televised presidential debates. Online users found the below Merriam-Webster definitions:


    1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

    2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property

    b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done


    1: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

    As it relates to public policy, it is hard to improve on Margaret Thatcher’s incisive definition of socialism as a system that would rather “the poor were poorer, provided the rich were less rich” (see video above). It is a mistake to focus on the income gap rather than overall economic growth; according to Thatcher, “you do not create wealth and opportunity that way; you do not create a property-owning democracy that way.”

    Even if it were not unjust morally, Thatcher pointed out why redistributionist economic policies don’t work as a practical matter: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

    Posted in Featured, First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Defining Socialism

    1. Bobbie says:

      America's freedom instills self determination that motivates independence that builds ambition to go beyond providing for ones own that socialism (government determination) destroys. America's "change" from freedom to government socialism take over, won't and can't recognize that people are inherently mindful of self determination. That might incentively motivate poor people off government dependency.
      Lady Thatcher is always right!

    2. Peter says:

      This short article does not clarify the situation at all; in fact, it perpetuates the -very American idea- that things are all black and white.
      The first thing to mention is that no US party, and no other modern democracy in the world defends or obeys definition 2a, 2b or 3 of socialism. "Socialism" in Sweden, Spain or in the US or anywhere else in the western world is a mix between "light" socialism (definition 1) and capitalism.

      I think it is fair to say that the US are probably more capitalistic leaning than other countries, but anyone pretending that socialism is not part of the US DNA is exaggerating. You have public roads, police, parks? Then you are a bit socialist, and there is nothing wrong with that – social means living together.

      The last election was not about one system against another: capitalism has won, over 20 years ago, against the few communists systems (socialism definition 2a 2b 3).
      The last election was about how much capitalism or socialism people wanted in the mix. That's the same question that's been asked for decades (rightfully so), in the US or in Europe… With all due respect, those who pretend otherwise need to open dictionaries and history books.

      The US is a socialist country, if anything maybe just a bit less than EU Nations; and it is perfectly fair that many Americans took a stand to remain "as little socialist" as possible. Ultimate freedom is not called capitalism… It is called anarchy; and no US party advocates such a system.

      Yes, I am European, and this is only one point of view. One that you might find interesting or appalling ;-)

    3. OldmanRick says:

      How sad that we do not have an Iron Lady to save our country from the marxist brat and his trolls.

    4. Lloyd Scallan says:

      This author and his article should be taught in every classroom throughout this country. But to drive the point home about what is socialism, a photo of Obama should be presented alongside.

    5. Tom says:

      We badly need a Margaret Thatcher in the U.S. today. The Merriam-Webster definition of capitalism is interesting. Why the differerentiation between private and corporate ownership? Corporations are part of private industry. It appears Merriam-Webster does not understand that a corporation is a group of individuals any more than do liberals.

    6. Stirling says:

      The problem with our population today (v.s when thatcher spoke) is that both the liberal media and education system has re-written the definitions and preached the socialist model as "compasion" rather then "tyranny." I mean look at slavery as an example (of tyranny) , slaves were fed and kept, but they were not free. Socialism is similar because it provides for sustinace (welfare), but it denies freedom.

    7. Peter Rucci says:

      It is astounding that the crumbling of socialism around the world still leaves the majority of Americans voting for it!

    8. Bill says:

      What we have under Obama and the Democrats is properly called crony fascism, i.e. government control of private business with the spoils going to friends of those in power.

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