Can anyone sensibly define "socialism" in a way that would include western Europe but exclude the US?

As I understand the conservative argument:

1. Socialism is wrong and the U.S. should avoid it at all costs.

2. Certain Western European countries--in particular countries like Sweden, Denmark, and France--are and have been socialist for many years.

3. At least until recently, the U.S. has not been socialist.

So what exactly permits you to draw the line between a socialist and non-socialist country in a logical and consistent way?

It can't be socialized medicine. Many aspects of the U.S. healthcare system are already socialist--Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans' Hospital system, Old Age and Disability Insurance, etc.

It can't be tax rates. Yes, European individual tax rates are higher than U.S. tax rates. But U.S. corporate tax rates are higher than European rates, and at one time, the U.S. individual rate was 91% (under Eisenhower and Kennedy).

So what is the real difference between the "socialist" nations of Western Europe and the "capitalist" United States?

If you happen to think Obama has made the U.S. into a socialist nation, feel free to imagine that it is 2004, if you want, as you formulate your answer to this question.


A cut-and-paste job from Wikipedia will not answer my question. I still want to know how to define socialism so as to make it possible to INCLUDE western Europe but EXCLUDE the U.S.

Update 2:

This is a question about socialism. It is not a question about communism. These are two different doctrines practiced in different countries at different times.

I'm asking about the difference between American capitalism and Western European socialism.

Update 3:

I have read many, many questions from conservatives on this site--for more than a year now--expressing fear of socialism and expressing the idea that western Europe is already socialist. To suggest that no conservative holds those beliefs flies in the face of at least a thousand questions on this site.

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    To your main question "Can anyone sensibly define "socialism" in a way that would include western Europe but exclude the US?" the answer is no. It can't be done because it can't be sensible.

    I will now explain the reasoning behind people making this assertion anyway.

    According the American right anyone who's not in favor of social darwinism, the law of the jungle, is a socialist. That's the truth behind their lies and the attempt to demonize every social program or less than free market fundamentalism as socialist or socialism.

    Social Darwinism, term coined in the late 19th century to describe the idea that humans, like animals and plants, compete in a struggle for existence in which natural selection results in “survival of the fittest.” Social Darwinists base their beliefs on theories of evolution developed by British naturalist Charles Darwin. Some social Darwinists argue that governments should not interfere with human competition by attempting to regulate the economy or cure social ills such as poverty. Instead, they advocate a laissez-faire political and economic system that favors competition and self-interest in social and business affairs. Social Darwinists typically deny that they advocate a “law of the jungle.” But most propose arguments that justify imbalances of power between individuals, races, and nations because they consider some people more fit to survive than others.

    Social Darwinism's philosophical problems are rather daunting, and fatal to it as a basic theory (though some have applied similar ideas). First, it makes the faulty assumption that what is natural is equivalent to what is morally correct. In other words, it falls prey to the belief that just because something takes place in nature, it must be a moral paradigm for humans to follow.

    This problem in Social Darwinist thinking stems from the fact that the theory falls into the "naturalistic fallacy", which consists of trying to derive an ought statement from an is statement. For example, the fact that you stubbed your toe this morning does not logically imply that you ought to have stubbed your toe! The same argument applies to the Social Darwinists' attempt to extend natural processes into human social structures. This is a common problem in philosophy, and it is commonly stated that it is absolutely impossible to derive ought from is (though this is still sometimes disputed); at the very least, it is impossible to do it so simply and directly as the Social Darwinists did.

    Socialism means the reorganization of economic life under the democratic control of the actual producers, the working people whose labor creates all wealth. It can come about only through the independent political mobilization of the working class, led by a revolutionary party, which establishes a new and far more democratic form of state, a workers' state, which exercises ownership and control over the means of production. Socialism cannot be engineered through backroom deals between Wall Street bankers and Washington politicians, or through the policies of any Democratic or Republican politician.

    Some 160 years ago, Karl Marx wrote, "A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of communism." He was describing the mood of fear and trepidation in the European ruling classes on the eve of the great revolutionary wave of 1848, even though the number of conscious revolutionary socialists was still a relative handful. If the specter of socialism today haunts the American ruling class, despite decades in which socialism has been subjected to an unrelenting campaign of slander and vilification, it is likewise because the profit system faces a new period of revolutionary upheaval.

  • 1 decade ago

    The line of socialism and a free nation is a government's control over the individual. There is no defined limit, because everything has a modicum of socialism. For example, welfare is a socialist idea. That doesn't make the nation socialist, but the government does practice socialist ideals. Complete socialism is that moment when you look around, and you realize the the government has control of you money, your job, and ultimately your life. This can be perceived as a good thing by many, because they have the security of the government behind them, but it is also very dangerous, because the government has a power over you and your life. Defining an exact line or time that socialism takes over is a difficult concept. You are on the right track when you are talking about the isolated cases i.e. taxes, health care, etc.

    This includes Europe, because the government has control over health care, has control of money (by exponentially increasing sales taxes), and even has control over the amount of electricity, gas, and water the citizen uses. This is the point of total control that defines socialism.

    As stated before, there are some socialist ideas that have matriculated into the US, but we are not a socialist nation (yet) because the government does not have total possession over the citizens of its country.

    I hope this answers your question

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Socialism only works if its world wide. The banks pay the army to make sure you never learn the truth about socialism. You would realize you don't need banks or money and the ruthless banker's reign as kings of the world would come to an end. The federal Reserve bank is a private corporation that lends the government every dollar in circulation at interest. This is why you have a national debt. You must submit to labor to pay them back. This is called economic slavery. Ignorant soldiers fight and die to keep you enslaved under the guise of freedom.

    "None are so helpless enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free". Andrew Jackson

  • 1 decade ago

    As you understood it, you are wrong. Making assumptions about what you "hear" versus what is really said is the problem. No one ever said socialism was "wrong" nor has it been said it's been only recently that it has been socialist.

    Get your argument points straight and some of us will be glad to debate you on it. The arguments you lay out can be squashed quite easily with one fact--we cannot afford to be a purely socialist nation. Take a look at what's already in place and see how successful it is. It isn't.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Genius question, the best that I have ever seen on Yahoo Answers. Congratulations, and I can guarantee you that nobody will be able to give you a satisfactory answer.

    Another good question is if Western Europe has been socialist since the post-WW2, when they all began to adopt their welfare state programs, why have these countries not collapsed, but only gotten better, if socialism is so horrible?

  • 1 decade ago

    Socialism is a socio-political/economic system in which the means of production are 'held in common' (ie owned or de-facto controlled by the government).

    So called 'social democracies' or 'welfare states,' like America, Canada, and much of the EU, are not technically socialist, since not all the means of production are under the state's thumb. But, they all have some socialist institutions that put some productive assets under government ownership, place substantial control on producers, re-distribute wealth, or otherwise distort the normal operation of thier nominally market economies.

    It would be fair to say that Europe is 'more socialist' than America, but not to say that Europe is socialist and America isn't.

  • 1 decade ago

    Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines or political movements that envisage a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community for the purposes of increasing social and economic equality and cooperation. This control may be either direct—exercised through popular collectives such as workers' councils—or indirect—exercised on behalf of the people by the state. As an economic system, socialism is often characterized by socialized (state or community) ownership of the means of production.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The first answer describes Communism. Americans have merge the definition of communism into socialism to make it less appealing. They know socialism as is, is very difficult to argue against. None have answer your question, and some used distorted sources (capitalist smeared).

    Let me attempt.

    Socialism is a system of beliefs focus on society (community, economics, and government) to improve quality of life and human development.

    areas of focus:

    education - to improve the level of human capacity and relations in society. Improving both the intelligence, civility, ethics, morality, skills, talents, knowledge, technology, science, human maturity etc...

    family - protect the basic institution of child development, by ensuring family time takes priority over work through required time for leisure over work holism.

    labor- given the workers a just stake in their employers success, by providing some level of individual ownership in the benefits derived from his efforts.

    health care- is a basic necessity and moral obligation, provided to all who needs it.

    standard- provide a basic plain field for which all can derive from and accomplish their individual goals.

    enterprise- apply anti-monopoly policies, to ensure fair competition.

    natural resource - control measures to ensure use of resources are not squander away or used inefficiently.

    law- all people are equal and entitle to the same basic rights. No person is more essential then the next regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation,faith, creed personal achievement or assets.

  • 1 decade ago

    They are looking for reasons to hate Obama so him attempting to make the government accomplish things is called "socialism". We are the only industrialized nation without some form of health care for all its citizens so if that's the argument than we are the only non-socialist in the civilized world. It is not the taxes, Obama raised taxes to the same level they were under Clinton. It is all politics. Period.

  • 1 decade ago

    Well, if you really want to learn socialism, you can rely on ignorant Americans and Faux news! LMAO, JK.

    Go to and see for yourself

    Recommend Reading:

    The Communist Manifesto - Marx, Engels

    The State and Revolution - Lenin

    The Principles of Communism - Engels

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