Does anyone know what socialism really means?

The popularity of Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has ignited debates over the meaning of "democratic socialism" and what it would look like in the United States.

The popularity of Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has ignited debates over the meaning of "democratic socialism" and what it would look like in the United States.

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With the growing popularity of the phrase “democratic socialism” amongst millennial Americans, conservatives love to point out the political and economic catastrophes occurring in Venezuela, stating that Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are really no different that the dictator Nicolás Maduro when it comes to economic visions. With President Trump recently stating that military action against the South American dictator is an option and his administration sending foreign aid to those victimized by Maduro’s tyranny, Trump and other conservatives are trying to convince Americans that socialism, in any form, is evil and catastrophic.

What’s going on in Venezuela is a product of socialist tyranny. Maduro is a dictator who is oppressing his civilians and trying to implement a complete state-run economy built on corruption and authoritarianism that has for too long led to various forms of human rights abuse. So why would liberal millennials want an America reflective of socialist Venezuela?

The answer is they don't. Regardless of one’s political affiliation or age, there isn’t a single American citizen who looks at what’s going on politically and economically in Venezuela and thinks, “Wow, I’d love to live in a place like that!” Millennials are hooked on the term “democratic socialism,” but the fact is that democratic socialism is as foreign of an economic concept in Venezuela as free market capitalism is.

When millennials think of socialism today, they think of Canada and many European countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and Finland, countries that, in addition to virtually every other developed country on the planet, have guaranteed social programs like single-payer healthcare, free college-tuition, paid maternity leave, guaranteed paid vacation, less income inequality and overall better qualities of life.

I personally would not advocate that the United States transition into a completely democratic socialist society. While small European countries may be good at implementing a socialist state, their tax rates are very high, in some countries over 80 percent. In addition, it would take a considerable amount of time to implement a successful transition into social policies like single-payer healthcare, as the cost is very high. Taking smaller steps such as expanding Medicare, making public college tuition-free for low-income in-state students and having giant corporations start paying higher taxes would be much more realistic and not be as high of a cost to bear. 

When talking about politicians and their connection to socialism, one must consider how it is inherently different from the authoritarian socialism we are witnessing in Venezuela. Democratic socialist countries do not have complete control over their economies, nor do they retreat to authoritarianism or corruption.

As conservatives continue to compare Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s policy proposals to the likes of socialist dictators, it is important to understand their rhetoric and understand that Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, while somewhat radical and very unrealistic in their proposals, are far from authoritarian socialists seeking to gain complete government control over the American economy.

 Dominic is a sophomore studying political science and environmental studies. What do you think about the recent discussions about socialism in the United States and elsewhere? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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