More people looked up the definition of socialism than any other word in 2015. Interestingly, Merriam-Webster also reports fascism as the most-searched word the night of the presidential election.
Between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, it seems Americans are getting a crash course in civics. While Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, didn’t make it past the primaries, Trump surprised many by taking the presidency. Now some on the left see this as a good thing; they’re convinced a Trump presidency will reinvigorate the far-left and bring even more social programs to the table.
“Give us eight years of this bastard and watch — our economy is on threads and can only be milked so much longer,” says Thomas Thompson, who’s growing his own food in anticipation of “a major economic collapse [that will] cause the rise of the far-left.” Like others, Thomas is looking at the past as a possible predictor of the future. Socialism often follows capitalism when capitalism is left unchecked.
I’ll explain. First, socialism, like capitalism, is an economic system. Democracy and fascism are examples of political systems. Because of the Soviet Union and Cuba, people often associate socialism with dictatorships when, in fact, many dictators oversee capitalist-based economies as well. (Think Angola, Sudan, Iran, and just about every Central- and South-American country during the last half of the 20th century.)
There is no country that is completely socialist; that requires people (communities) own, work, and drive the means of production. Imagine if everyone who worked at Walmart owned part of it and shared in the profits and/or the losses. There are also few countries that are totally capitalist. Pulling community resources to build socialistic structures like public roads, schools, and water supplies is usually required to make a society function. Capitalism left unchecked is a term that refers to a society where things become more and more privatized and, usually, the wealthy steadily get wealthier while the poor get poorer.
Countries with the most socialistic economic structures include Canada, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, and Finland. Do they pay more taxes? Yes! Do they get more bang for their buck? Many say “absolutely!” Finland has a literacy rate of 100% and they enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. Most of these countries have some form of a free-market economy. Some, if not most, businesses are privately owned and run. At the same time, these countries also offer free education, healthcare, daycare, and many other social programs.
Aaron Johnson supported Bernie Sanders and he says these social programs would be good for either economic system. “I truly can’t understand why wanting universal healthcare isn’t something that every business would want. It would eliminate so much hassle for them. Why would every business in America not want free universal childcare? These are things that make it simple for people to work.”
Others on the left worry this country is heading in a direction where the average person has little or no say. “What I see are all the fundamental institutions that are necessary to support any democratic society shutting down.” Cliff Sommers is a retired manager with the US Forest Service. He maintains America has no functioning press, fraud-ridden elections, local police forces resorting to militarized armies, institutions of higher learning suppressing free thought, and a government effectively under one party rule. “All the lights of democracy are winking out one by one.”
Most on the far-left do not want this country to go through a loss of civil liberties to birth more socialistic systems. But, more and more are optimistic that Trump, his appointees, and a Republican-led Congress will ultimately push America in the opposite direction.