Throughout this election there has been a lot of talk about socialism, most notably because of Bernie Sanders. And, like it or not, socialism has become very popular among younger people, with 35% of people under the age of 30 finding it somewhat favorable, according to a YouGov survey. Recently, I have seen many people on social media who are completely misinformed about socialism, and have gone so far as to get it confused with communism.
Let’s start off by talking about the difference between socialism and communism. Socialism is the belief that all individuals should have access to basic articles of consumption and public goods (i.e. healthcare and education), while communism is the belief that all people are the same, (classes make no sense), and the government should own everything. Communism is a more extreme version of socialism, since socialism allows some private ownership. And yet, there are no pure socialist countries, or capitalist countries, for that matter. Even the United States of America is not a pure capitalist society, but rather a mixed one with socialist elements in it.
Bernie Sanders claims to be a “democratic socialist,” meaning that he believes that the social and economic decisions should be made by those they affect the most: the people. Democratic socialism ensures that big businesses will not control the government. Sanders and his supporters are looking for democratic socialism as opposed to pure socialism. He believes that the issue of wealth and income inequality “is the great moral issue of our time. Scandinavian countries, (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland) have a very high wealth distribution and strong income equality. They also have very high GDP per capita, and in 2014, the average Norwegian made $97,307, the average Swede made $58,938, and the average American made $54,609. They also have higher life expectancies. So, why are these countries outperforming the United States in these aspects? Well, for example, in Sweden, education is completely free, and they have more access to healthcare and basic needs. However, Scandinavian countries aren't perfect, with students still having a lot debt, but they still have managed to be the most progressive countries in the world.
The main misconception that I have seen on social media regarding socialism is that “everything is free,” “no one is rich and no one is poor,” and that “you don’t own anything.” Although this is close to the definition of pure socialism, there is no country in which this occurs or has worked. Most successful countries have a mix of both, such as the United States of America and Scandinavian countries. In socialism, the government operates the system, but there is private ownership and private wealth. Communism and socialism are often used interchangeably, and wrongfully so.
Regardless of what people may say, there is no pure capitalist, socialist, or communist society. Societies are three-dimensional and very mixed, so it is impossible to label one as purely socialist, capitalist or communist. Basically, do your research.
Walrond is an contributor to The Millennial Times.