I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about socialism and it’s left me to wonder what all the fear-mongering is about. Although I do have a bachelor’s degree in political science I realize that either of my loyal readers could be suffering from functional illiteracy so I’ll once again start this diatribe with Webster.

Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange should only be regulated by the community as a whole. Like all political theories there are various forms of socialism. Communism/dictatorship is one type (Russia-China). Another is democratic socialism, which is a system of state/local regulation with limited state ownership that is employed by democratically elected governments (as in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the United States) in the belief that it produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth or limiting an individual’s rights.

For those of you living under a rock, the right side of our political aisle finds socialism revulsive but they don’t seem to understand that the United States is a socialist community. Our list of socialist programs is rather long; think Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, water and sewer systems, streets, bridges, highways, environmental protections, police and fire protection, courts, jails, schools, state and local colleges, farm programs, corporate welfare, parks, minimum wage, 40-hour work weeks, on and on and on.

In my mind all of these have created a greater good by improving our lifestyles through public conveniences and protections that come about as a result of a democratically elected government, and all of them fit under the rubric of socialism.

So, given the recent outrage that the Democrats are pushing SOCIALISM!!, what do you suppose that really means?

Let’s start with the environment. Does anyone out there want to argue whether or not we continue to poop in our nest? For me when it comes to our environment it’s been like being a passenger on the Titanic. We all know that the boat’s going down but rather than head for the lifeboats we all seem to think we have time to make one more run through the first-class breakfast buffet. We need to get serious about plastic and the massive amounts of other poop that we are ignoring — and that will require socialism to accomplish because we the people will have to agree to tackle it together.

Then there’s health care, where the rest of the world has not only figured out how to guarantee citizens health care but has proven that their systems have better outcomes than ours. Despite the fact that none of us will escape the need for care, we’re still relying on bake sales to pay our hospital bills because we fear socialized medicine while fogetting that Medicare is one of our largest socialism programs.

Yes, capitalism plays a major role in shaping our country, but our history has shown that markets have a tendency to abuse us when they are totally free. Thus we’ve imposed socialist rules to balance out their tendency to get away with more than we can bear.

So while one side of our political aisle is using Venezuela as an example of failed socialism I think they’re once again creating another bogeyman. Rather, it seems to me that as a result of our willingness to share our wealth we have created a raft of greater goods that not only balance the tensions between socialism and capitalism but provide we the people with services that make all of our lives better. Thus the end of my lecture; feel free to take the rest of the day off.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.