I want to add my two bits to the discussion of socialism. The Thursday’s letter, “Word has lost genuine meaning,” correctly mentions many social programs that could be construed by some as “socialist.” However, those people would be incorrect. These programs are “social programs,” and “safety nets.” The system we are evolving here is Democratic Socialism, where the means of production remains securely in the hands of private capital. Private capital is the chief employer in the U.S., not the government. The U.S. government is simply the point of transfer and distribution of taxes paid to provide the programs and federal infrastructure necessary in a large and complex society and economy as we are. Private capital cannot be relied upon to provide needed safety nets or security, in most cases. Albeit labor unions can promote these things.
Socialism is sometimes confused with communism, but they are very different systems. Communism, ideally, holds the means of production in “common” by people, or worker owned and shared. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” as defined my Karl Marx. Such a system has never been achieved on a large scale. Socialism is government owned means of production, and government is the chief employer, such as North Korea.
Ours is a balance between public and private. Maintaining that balance is the challenge we face, as many on the right want to tip the balance in favor of the private at the expense of the public, and the left wants to maintain a balance that benefits all.