One of the most irrational fears that America has, alongside others, is of socialism. The fact that both capitalism and socialism (in the form of communism) contended for global dominance for nearly half a century, should be reason enough to understand why America is so afraid of anything that remotely resembles a produce of the early 20th century Soviet Union; from communism to socialism, a visible outpour of fear and disapproval can be seen upon a mention of such terminologies. So, it would stand to reason that many people would start confusing the somewhat congruent terms and concepts of social security and socialism. Today, we answer the question: is social security socialism? What is the difference between a social program and socialism? All this and more down below.
The first thing one needs to know regarding socialism is that it isn’t really another name for communism; although the two concepts are very much alike. Historians and political scientists frequently use the term interchangeably, but the fact is that the two have some degree of difference; both in the theoretical framework and the application to state systems in the real world. There are many socialist program in the US, but the movement to impose socialism in the States has yet to gain traction and gain a larger audience among the power brokers and the legislature.
So, the basic difference is really in the application; what Soviet Union practiced was communism, not socialism. Although the latter does incorporate a few key points of the former, that isn’t saying the two are actually similar terms and concepts. See, socialism refers to a societal property and profit ownership; that is, that any material entity that can be owned and used for profit will be owned by a community with ownership and profits both to be shared among the community. Socialism can and has been practiced in democratic, liberal setups, and therefore poses no real threat to capitalism and America.
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Communism, on the other hand, inculcates values of ‘equality by force’, which means that a state-wide equality (without regard of individualism and basic liberties) is enforced by the state, which often crumples and disregards personal freedoms and basic liberties, making it incompatible with democracy and western ideals of liberalism and neo-liberalism.
So, with the difference established, you can now understand why leftists call rightists irrational fear-mongers when they resist calls for socialism to be inculcated in the US social service framework and why is it easy for the commoners to mistake between the two ideas of socialism and social security in the US.
Is Social Security Really Socialism?
Yes and no, right off the bat. Yes, because the basic idea on which social security is formed on and traces its conceptualization back from is essentially what socialism preaches in its more pure, basic form. That the entities used by people to reap benefits should be a collective, societal property, and not just under the ownership of a single individual who stands to gain monetarily from it. In the political context, that communal authority is of course, the government, which leads to the popular misconception of socialism being the same as communism, since the latter also supposes communal property as owned by the people, who are technically the owners and the producers of the government, which isn’t so much true when it comes to real-life application of the idea.
Social security is a program by the government, owned by the government, funded by the people and established to benefit the people, hailing from all backgrounds. That definition alone should give the reader an idea how social security sets the stage for a state practicing socialism; and add in the fact that in the USA, social security is a federal matter, not a state-level matter, which further ossifies this connection between the two.
In short, yes, social security is a form of socialism, but what is called in the contemporary time as ‘democratic socialism’, which is actually a very prevalent form of governance and state system in the West. To understand why is it called democratic socialism, you first have to understand the term and then on to why we deem it as such.
Social Security a form of Democratic Socialism
First things first; socialism isn’t all that bad. The fact that America has parts of its system running on this method of governance should tell you enough that isn’t all that ‘red’ and reminiscent of communism and the Soviets; in fact, to further appease the capitalists, democratic socialism as a basis of social security was perpetuated by a capitalist society; the Germans in the late 19th century under Otto van Bismarck were responsible for the early iteration of what was to become the basis for social system in the US. It is there where America got the idea for such a program, and include it in the social security program, as a modern iteration of a democratic socialist public program.
In America, where we pride on being democratic, liberal and inclusive, it is quite a sight to see something so closely associated with the former Soviets in such a pivotal position of the social service system. But why is the social security system called democratic socialism? That’s because America is a democratic republic, and since social security structure is a federal department, with the taxpayers funding it but controlled by the federal government only, this includes ideals of both socialism and democracy; thus, the name democratic socialism.
It is also called so because it has democratic underpinnings; for instance, you can opt out of the social security program as it is not mandated by the Constitution or the federal government. As such, it is not a legally binding entity that forces citizens to be a part of it; this is where the socialist part fades away and the democratic part comes in; making the social security system a form of democratic socialism.
Social Programs vs Socialism
Social programs are not socialist inherently by nature. Its is only the method of governance and administration that makes them socialist or not. For instance, insurance programs from a private corporation and other social benefits provided for by the company will be socialist by nature. However, those who are administered and governed by the state government or federal government will be socialist, since they are funded by the people and are meant for the people in general, not just the employee, their family and stuff like that exclusive to private corporations.
So, social programs, if managed by the government and funded by taxpayers, can be called ideologically socialist.
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Socialist Programs in the US
As evident from the passages above, the main and the biggest socialist program in the US is the social security system itself. Why? Because it is socialist in nature and focusses on the whole society rather than an individual and is funded by the taxpayer and managed by the government, who has exclusive rights to who is deemed eligible for the social security benefits and who is not included in the program.
There are many other programs that, by definition, complete the requirement of being socialist in nature and thus, are termed socialist programs. Their widespread acceptation in the American society should be proof enough for the pro-capitalists and far-righters that socialism need not be inherently bad. Just garb it under the democratic sheet and it’ll become democratic socialism, perfectly safe for the capitalist America.