Socialism is Not A Dirty Word

socialism-detail-onehorseshy-t1National defense, roads and bridges, police and fire protection: All are managed by government, and all have “socialist” elements.  Is Bernie Sanders really such an outlier? Is quality health care for all beyond our reach?  In balancing such questions, America has some things to teach other nations, but we could also learn from them as well.

By Ian Wachstein

As our presidential election moves forward with a candidate named Bernie Sanders invested in it, we American voters are becoming used to hearing the “S” word thrown at Sanders. I grew up thinking that socialism was a dirty word until I learned that pretty much every American is, in actuality, at the very least, part socialist in nature.

When I run into a voter who is determined to shrink the size of our government, my first question is always this. I ask my friend if they want to do away with our American armed forces? Of course not, is the immediate reply I always receive. At this point I accuse my friend of being a socialist.

Yes, most of my friends and acquaintances be they liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, want our America to have a military force, federal, state and local police forces, local public firefighters and a healthy infrastructure of roads and bridges that allow for us to move about our nation in safety. And we also want our America to be a home for private enterprise. In other words, we want our America to continue to be an example of socialist capitalism that has worked for us for over two hundred years.

As for my views, I think we have done well by our mix of capitalism and socialism. The most prominent example of our socialist actions, for me, is our decision to make the creation and health of our local, state and federal roads and bridges the responsibility of all of our local, state and federal governments. And the good news is our governmental infrastructures were a piece of our nation that allowed for so many private enterprises to create, expand and become successful businesses that relied on travel within our nation.

Now I admit that I go a little further than some of my more conservative/socialist friends when I acknowledge the wish I have that someday, my country, just like so many of our allied nations around the world, will provide each and every American citizen not only with the ability to travel everywhere on roads within our nation, but also the ability to receive health care that will be created for everyone through the same taxation system that currently provides us all with roads and bridges, military protection against outside forces and police and fire protection on local levels. I’ve been to places like Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and, believe me, the people of that country are overwhelmingly happy to be a part of a community that provides one and all with health care and seriously works to care for one and all within their nation. In my opinion, we have a lot that we can teach other nations and we could also learn a lot from them.

Voices from the Past: Bernie Sanders on What it Means to be Socialist

Bernie Sanders at the time of his election to the Senate from New Hampshire in 2006:

“Well, I think it (socialism) means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship, all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interests. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means. And we are living in an increasingly undemocratic society in which decisions are made by people who have huge sums of money.  And that’s the goal that we have to achieve.”

–Sanders interviewed by Amy Goodman in Montpelier, Vt., for Democracy Now, the independent news programs.

(OK, Bernie, If that’s what it means to be a Socialist, where do we sign?)