The Free Agent would like to argue her confederates, especially those seeking office, out of using “socialist” as shorthand when discussing issues with the not-yet-enlightened. She hears it all the time—in the late lamented political health care debate, for example, but the pros and cons of various economic models are not understood by even a tenth of the populace. Back in the days of the communist peril of The FA’s youth, they even had to add the irrelevant prefix godless- to give some clue as to why capitalism should be preferred. To most people, socialist simply is not a dirty word. For one thing, almost every person ever born was raised as a socialist.
Functional families are socialistic. The individuals’ goals are subordinate to the welfare of the group. When a course of action is chosen, all members suffer the penalties or enjoy the rewards that ensue. A wise and powerful few make decisions for the group. (Do not get The Free Agent started on modern families wherein children have been given full voting rights!) Even when these decisions favor one member at another’s expense, sending Bathsheba to college rather than straightening Hiram’s teeth, for example, the parents should have established sufficient ethos for the members to believe that overall good has been maximized.
All but the most avant-garde schools are socialistic, including private ones. They reward conformity and have to some degree a top-down authoritative structure. This is neither here nor there, but an unintended consequence of many years of education is comfort and trust in socialism. And an unfortunate tendency to search for the equivalent of a playground monitor to settle any disputes.
Perhaps counterintuitively, businesses are also socialistic. Your friend The Free Agent has had to orchestrate many an unpleasant parting of the ways with employees whose needs and actions come to favor the self at the expense of the whole. Again, authoritative and supposedly wiser heads guide the enterprise.
Why then is the kind of institution that nurtures, teaches, and supports us not what we should advocate in the public realm? One reason is we cannot outgrow, graduate from, or quit society at large, the way we do families, schools, and jobs. Ultimately adults make differing value judgments, but socialism does not deal very well with entrepreneurship, much less dissent. Its emphasis is on allocation, not innovation. When adult Bathsheba’s home improvement tax credits come at the expense of Hiram’s capital gains, he might not see the greater good.
Most importantly, even The Free Agent’s dear Pater and Mater did not possess sufficient knowledge and wisdom to make decisions for all of us, and they exhibited common sense beyond any she knows of in public office. Only the most politically incorrect among us would suggest even a large minority monopolizes intelligence, bravery, innovation, justice, creativity, philanthropy, or any other potential social good.
536 heads will never equal 305 million.