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Defining Socialism

Posted By Marion Smith On December 10, 2012 @ 5:25 pm In Featured,First Principles | Comments Disabled

For those who failed to recognize the ideological stakes of the recent election, Merriam-Webster Dictionary has revealed [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] theory transitional between capitalism [4] and communism [5] and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done


1: an economic system characterized by private [6] or corporate ownership of capital [7] 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 [8]

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.”

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/12/10/defining-socialism/

URLs in this post:

[1] revealed: http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/2012words.htm

[2] society: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/society

[3] Marxist: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Marxism

[4] capitalism: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism

[5] communism: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communism

[6] private: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/private%5b1%5d

[7] capital: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capital

[8] free market: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/free%20market

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