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(44,052 posts)
Sat Feb 12, 2022, 06:35 AM Feb 2022

Is it Fascism? Is it Socialism? Words mean things. [View all]



Now we use these terms all day long and no one knows what they mean. I was talking with my friend Preet Bharara, the proprietor of a newsletter on politics and justice, and we were frustrated (as many of us are) by how much of our public discourse is short-circuited by people who don’t understand basic terminology. I wondered if I should write something about this, and Preet suggested that I do it. He’d already challenged me to eat my fill of Indian food, and that went well, so I decided to try it. Still, it’s hard to boil these concepts down to basics.

There was a thing, years ago, called The Handbook of Political Science. It’s now out of print, but no one wants to read hundreds of pages of that. Instead, let me offer a quick and dirty version of some of these terms, with a bit of snark and apologies to Ambrose Bierce (wherever he is) for incompetently lifting a Devil’s Dictionary approach. Some of my fellow political scientists and historians will take issue with what I have here. I say to them: If you want to have long arguments about Juan Linz or Hannah Arendt, let’s do that in our patched elbows over some sherry. For now, I just want informed and engaged citizens to think twice about the kinds of words they’re slinging about a tad too loosely these days.

Let's dive in.....



What it is: State ownership of the means of production. One more time, for the people in the cheap seats: State ownership of the means of production. In a socialist regime, private ownership, beyond small enterprises, doesn’t really exist. Large enterprises and other assets are held by the government—in theory on behalf of, and for the good of, the public. (This is why, in the old Soviet empire, everything was “The People’s This” and “The People’s That,” as part of the idea that the “State” was holding assets in trust for “The People.”) The state nationalizes most enterprises—especially the big producers—and directs the economy as the major holder or owner in all businesses and natural resources. The government is the main employer.

What it isn’t: High taxes. A generous welfare state. Government participation in the economy. Government shareholding in business. Government control of some natural resources. Natural monopolies owned by the government (like the military). Government investment. Policies in which the government does something large for the good of society isn’t “socialism.” Regulating your workplace isn’t socialism; nationalizing your workplace, seizing it from its owners, and making you an employee of the government is socialism. In sum, socialism is not “anything you don’t happen to like.” (Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here.)

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The sweet irony... Fyrefox Feb 2022 #1
Per the OA, Putin would be an authoritarian leader of an illiberal democracy / capitalist economy Klaralven Feb 2022 #8
Back in the day the Soviet Union came to be understood as "state capitalism" Dave says Feb 2022 #18
The word is not the thing. It is only a symbol for the thing. multigraincracker Feb 2022 #2
K&R for an excellent article, but ... Martin Eden Feb 2022 #4
"Fascism is Capitalism plus murder" - Upton Sinclair sop Feb 2022 #5
Fascism is defined under totalitarianism along with Stalinism and Maoism Klaralven Feb 2022 #9
So, when Republican/Nazi's kidnap and torture small, foreign, brown skinned children, deport the johnthewoodworker Feb 2022 #3
Economic systems Puppyjive Feb 2022 #6
Are Fascists and Socialists really so different? sop Feb 2022 #7
It is one of the most important contributions Hannah Arendt made to our understanding . . . Journeyman Feb 2022 #12
Many, on the far right, are confused about "Socialism" and they will Chainfire Feb 2022 #10
If only we could get a little closer to Denmarkism Mr. Ected Feb 2022 #11
people would lose their minds over the way our neighbour Denmark deals w/ their refugees/immigrants Celerity Feb 2022 #15
F.A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," Buckley's "God and Man at Yale" show how F-ed New Reps are. TheBlackAdder Feb 2022 #13
Murray Rothbard (so-called anarcho-capitalism) was another crackpot Celerity Feb 2022 #16
The article was excellent, but I just replied to T. Nichols on Twitter to ask where bullwinkle428 Feb 2022 #14
Fascism lived on in Spain under Franco until '75ish. Spain was a US ally since '53. Klaralven Feb 2022 #17
So can we safely say that "all fascism is authoritarianism, but not all bullwinkle428 Feb 2022 #19
Fascism is totalitarian, not authoritarian Klaralven Feb 2022 #20
K&R JudyM Feb 2022 #21
Very good article, words have meanings and a lot of political terms are being misused Amishman Feb 2022 #22
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