To the editor:
Larry Baker's interesting letter of Aug. 28 asks for someone to explain "what it is about so-called socialism that causes such an uproar from the right?" Here's one answer.
Let's begin with some clarification of terms. "Socialism" properly means an economic system where the means of production are owned by the government. Whenever a government starts nationalizing industries, it is becoming a socialist state, as Venezuela is doing and as Argentina is starting to do. Socialist states end up with lousy living standards for most of the people and riches for the politically connected, as was the case in the Soviet Union. Here in the U.S., the government is dabbling in socialism when it invests in industries like Solyndra and General Motors.
What people describe as "socialism" these days is a "welfare state," a government that provides financial benefit programs for people in return for taxes paid. My objections to these programs are:
I believe in the power of individuals, families, and communities to live successfully based on their own resources, Mr. Baker will disagree, saying that we are a poor community that needs government assistance. However, we have some neighbors who have proven my point: They are Amish.
In answer to Mr. Baker's question, "Are we worried about becoming a Sweden?" I can't answer, because I haven't lived in Sweden (where the suicide rate is higher than in the U.S.). Just because we don't hear much about someplace doesn't mean that everybody's happy there. If that were true, perhaps we should all move to South Dakota.
Finally, a question for Mr. Baker: You say you are not a socialist. What, then, are you? What do you believe?
John A. Brittain