SOCIALISM (The Buzz Word)

Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D.

          The single word that can upset Democrats’ plans to win the Presidency and control of the Senate (and keep the House) in 2020 is “socialism.” Although the term has a loose meaning, the real strength of the word is to inspire “knee jerk” responses in those who react to other “knee jerk” buzz words.  In the jargon of the day, it is “red meat” to the “base,” that already Manipulated Minority, but its use goes beyond that demographic.

          First: a technical definition:  the term generally refers to an economic and political system in which private property is subject to social controls.  In its simplest form, socialism is the use of individual and corporate taxes for purposes which benefit society as a whole as opposed to single individuals.  It is a system in which the society, in the person of the state, controls various segments of society in order to provide benefits that individuals cannot.  It is not in any manner contrary to democracy and indeed is an integral part of democracy.   Indeed, the socialist approach to government is actually included in the Constitution and has been with us since the founding of this country.  So other than its use as a “buzz word” to create those “knee jerk” responses, it is completely unclear what all the fuss is about.

          Like most societies, what the United States has is a mixed society, involving numerous “economic” and “social” theories and institutions.  We have capitalism but we also have socialism.   Although the Constitution states in the Preamble and Article I Section 8 Clause 1 that the government is to provide for the “general welfare,” it also has many provisions that keep the government out of the business world.  Therefore, it is clear that the framers of the Constitution envisioned a mixed economy, one that worked under the given circumstances and not one paralyzed by ideology. It is well to keep in mind that over time, the government’s role has increased long before today.  Indeed, during the Ronald Reagan days, it was his administration’s theme that government is the problem and not the solution.  But despite the rhetoric, the role that government plays in our collective lives has become integral. 

          To debunk the myth of “socialism,” it seems to me that all that needs to be done is to list programs in the United States that are technically “socialist” and the response from the “knee jerkers” would likely be “well, except for that…” In the United States, these are some but certainly not all, of the examples of “socialism” where the government provides the services: 

1.      Government at all levels (see more below).  Every government is a socialist government since governments would not exist but for taxes which are then used to create government for all.  This of course includes the Department of Homeland Security (the one in charge of keeping our southern border “safe” and thus the current darling department of the “base”).  The power to tax is expressly provided by Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 and the Sixteenth Amendment.

2.      All elected governmental officials (whose salaries are paid for by those same taxes)

3.      New Deal Legislation from the 1930s including Hoover Dam, extensive road and building construction projects (many of which include gorgeous architectural classics that we all know and visit)

4.      Farm subsidies such as the “relief” provided to farmers on account of the tariffs (and other forms of government give-aways…see below)

5.      Tariffs  (the “Commerce Clause” Article I Section 8 Clause 3)

6.      Taxation in nearly every form  (see above)

7.      Corporate bailout packages such as we saw during the 2008 financial meltdown and which are the essence of the 2017 tax act.

8.      Free or subsidized public schools including state universities (which are also paid for in part by tuitions etc. thus being a “mixed” service)

9.      State, municipal and county services such as trash collection and fire and police departments and libraries

10.  Student loan programs which are funded at least in part by the federal government

11.   Public transportation such as buses and trains and including the roads and highways and bridges and tunnels including the interstate highway system that we all use

12.  Public parks

13.  The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard and including the Veteran’s Administration (Article I, Section 8, Clause 12) .

14.   Social Security and Medicare as well as other government subsidized medical care including for members of the government (the same members of the government who would take away your health care.  Read “The ACA Lawsuit”)

15.  The Postal Service  (Article I, Section 8, Clause 7)

16.  Public hospitals

17.  Water systems 

18.  The payroll protection plans and other stimulus plans enacted after the virus took over.

          And as if the above by themselves were not enough to awaken intelligence, note the astounding conflict between the one below and those who are in favor of the one below: 

18.  Governmental laws of every kind including those restricting individual freedoms such as the freedom of a woman to choose how to care for herself (these laws are nearly identical to those “communist” China imposed on family planning until those laws were withdrawn).

          If you are opposed to “socialism,” then you are opposed to all the above.  Many of those who are opposed to “socialism” will find themselves to be in conflict because they really do not want to lose the benefits of those “socialist” programs including and perhaps especially the last one on the list.   So if you oppose a woman’s right to choose, you must be in favor of “socialism” which takes away an individual’s rights to make such decisions.

The Knee-Jerk Approach 

          However, the above discussion requires intelligence and thought.  But politics, indeed much of our society, involves no intelligence, no thought and knee-jerk responses to buzz words.  So we have political ads and politicians using the term “socialism” (or indeed any other such terms such as “capitalism” or “immigrants” or “witch hunt” or whatever) without any such intelligence or thought.  And then the electorate respond like so many salivating dogs to the dog-whistle that this is. 

          A more nimble approach is required, one that allows us to consider whatever “works” for the given situation, much as the framers of the Constitution did.   Read “The Baseball Hat.”

          But nimbleness of ideas cannot fit on a bumper sticker.

Or a hat.

Copyright © 2019 Ivan Hoffman.  All Rights Reserved. 

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Ivan Hoffman has been practicing intellectual property law for over 46 years and has written extensively about that topic. ( 


This article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice.  This article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information.  This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed.  You should not rely on this article in any manner whatsoever and you should not draw any conclusions of any sort from this article.  The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you.  This article is based on United States laws but the laws of other countries may be different.  You should consult with an attorney familiar with the issues and the laws of your country.  This article does not create any attorney client relationship and is not a solicitation.




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