Tag Archives: Socialist

A word on Socialism

A simple question with a thousand answers, one classic example of the misunderstanding is this from ‘The library of economics and liberty‘:

Socialism—defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production—was the tragic failure of the twentieth century

This is wrong. It would be more accurate to say this of Communism (it would still be wrong but I’ll go into that in another post).
It is incorrect for different reasons (depending on which variant of Socialism you are looking at) the most important of which is the word ‘all’.
Under Socialism only the essential services are under government control (such as water, energy, public transport, health and education). Also Socialism doesn’t operate a purely centrally planned economy, much more of a mixed economy.

Who does this?
Spain, Italy, Sweden and Finland.

Are they failures?
No. According to a list of the best countries on the world (as depicted on the human development index) they rank as follows:
Sweden – 3
Finland – 11
Spain – 17
Italy – 22

To put this into some perspective the USA comes 23rd.

Other than that we can characterise Socialism as being a highly democratic system with numerous parties representing the people. Countries with elements in government that are not elected by the people are not socialist.
So that rules out the UK with its unelected house of lords and monarchy!

So basically Socialism is a political and economic system where its essential services are run by the government (paid for through taxation) at cost for the benefit of the people.

Perspective
One final note on this issue is one of perspective. The British (and I believe Europeans in general) don’t think of Europe as being Socialist however it seems that in the US (both through its people and institutions) do think of Europe as being socialist.

When is a Socialist not a Socialist? When it’s in government!

Europe is perpetually ruled by Conservative and Socialist governments though in reality 99% of the time the Socialists are centre-left and the Conservatives are centre-right operating a reasonably similar form of government.
The US is of course less democratic and only really has two parties representing the entire country (if you consider the Tea Party to be a separate party then three) the central party, the right-wing party and the far-right party.

How will it happen?

A lot of Socialists and Communists (lets say leftists in general) believe that there will be a revolution (or series of revolutions) that will bring about Socialism like a volcano erupting, building up under the pressure of capitalism until finally the masses can’t be contained any more. While this could be true for a single country it is much more likely that Socialism will come about in a much more gradual process.

Class War?

Last week the old class antagonisms resurfaced when the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown suggested that the policies of conservative leader David Cameron were dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton. Mr Cameron later responded with “If they want to fight a class war, fine, go for it. It doesn’t work”.

Though the Labour party of Gordon Brown (and his predecessor Tony Blair) is far removed from its socialist origins the question of the relevance of class is still valid.

Surprisingly (to myself) the general consensus of a BBC News “Have Your Say” debate sides with “call me Dave” Cameron. Peoples train of thought tends to lean towards that it’s better to have more highly educated people in positions of power or that as long as they are competent at their job then their background is of no importance. A small minority stated that those who have only lived a privileged life will be unable to relate to real world problems that the majority of people have to go through thus if elected would put the interests of the working class at the bottom of the pile. This can be backed up by Dave’s inheritance tax plans that would favour only the top 2% of the UK as well as lowering corporation tax to 20 per cent. To cover this deficit income must be generated from somewhere and like the bank bailout no doubt it will be the working class picking up the tab.

The chances are that after the next election the UK citizens will have a chance to see first hand Tory policies in practice but this should in no way be an indication of a class effect on politics, after all neither Labour or Conservatives have the working class as their priority, maybe it’s time for a truly working class political party to come to the fore.