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Letter to the Editor: Socialism: Fear Mongering with a Weaponized, Meaningless Label

“Socialism” is being used as a label to further fracture our society. Rather than discussing the specifics of a candidate’s position or proposal, it gets labeled “socialism” – conjuring up images of Stalinism – which demonizes the candidate and ends further discussion. The label is commonly applied in discussions of Medicare for All.

Socialism is a system of economic organization in which the means of production is owned by the government. This is in contrast to capitalism, in which individuals own the means of production. Equating Medicare for All with socialism is nonsense: Nobody is talking about the hospitals becoming government-owned or doctors becoming government employees. 

Socialism is commonly regarded as an alternative to capitalism. Under capitalism, individuals choose what to produce, how and for whom. Because it relies on individuals – rather than government – owning the means of production and exercising the right to choose, capitalism is often proclaimed as being more compatible with freedom. That’s misleading. Capitalism requires government, too: It requires government to establish and enforce rules such as defining private property, contracts, bankruptcy and monopoly.

Furthermore, capitalism is not a system in which “one person, one vote” necessarily prevails. Markets are influenced disproportionately by those with more income and wealth: Freedom, opportunity and choices are unevenly distributed. They’re outcomes shaped by the rules of our capitalist system. Another common use of the “socialist” label is slapping it on those advocating changing some of those rules in order to change income or wealth distribution. Changing taxes or wage levels is not socialism.

Don’t be misled. Democrats are not promoting socialism. They are trying to restore a more inclusive, equitable and democratic form of capitalism. Their various health-reform proposals are about increasing access to and coverage by our health-care system. In the specific case of Medicare for All, they seek to do so by modifying the way in which health care is paid for – they are not calling for socialism. Rather, they are calling for reforms to enhance equity and promote the common good, thereby reviving the American Dream.

Jack Fiedler

Sister Bay, Wisconsin