Don’t be afraid of a word: Socialism

January 28, 2019 

Don’t be afraid of a word: Socialism

To The Editor: 

Social democracy is 100-percent American.
We may be latecomers to recognizing a universal right to health care (indeed, we are not quite there yet). But we were first in creating a universal right to public education, in endowing ourselves with ownership of national parks, and, for that matter, in conferring voting rights on males without property and abolishing religious tests for holding national office.

We in America have a blended economic system and just like every other modern advanced nation on Earth; some more, some less than others. This is reality. You may try to call it something else, but it is not something else. America has a capitalistic/socialistic economic system overlaid on a democratic republic which is our political system.

There’s good socialism and there’s bad socialism. 

Totalitarian socialism is bad. Democratic socialism is good. There is good capitalism and there is bad capitalism. Russian capitalism is bad. Western nation capitalism is good. 

If you’re a taxpayer, you’re a socialist. Every taxpayer in this country, every Social Security recipient, every Medicare beneficiary, and everyone who uses the post office is participating in successful socialism … practical socialism. Socialism has contributed mightily to the quality of life in this country.


We are all socialists because our economy is mixed. Unless you advocate for the repeal of everything that has even a hint of socialism, you are socialist. Where do you think the idea of Social Security, Medicare, public police and fire, came from? 

We are also Capitalist because Capital is owned, operated, and traded in order to generate profits for private owners or shareholders. Emphasis on individual profit rather than on workers or society as a whole. No restriction on who may own capital.

Again, we have many socialist systems that works alongside many private capitalist systems.

Examples include:

* Public K-12 education, which functions alongside charter schools and private K-12s;

* Public police forces, which work alongside private detectives and private security firms;

* Public infrastructure like roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and public parks–bringing easy access to all, which the private property owner needs merely to connect to or travel a short distance to use.

* And let’s not forget Social Security, which is socialism for seniors. Who can still work for extra money if they must, but won’t be totally destitute if they don’t. Medicare helps seniors as well.

Socialism at its best means a community supporting community members when they need it, in the ways that they need it. Lots of people who demonize socialism point at its worst examples but ignore its potential, including its realized potential in mixed economies that use a lot of democratic socialism.

Capitalism has its good points, but helping the needy has never been one of them.

 Some reactions about the word “socialism” reflect 70 years of propaganda by Uber capitalists and industrialist. They conflated totalitarian communism with socialism. They are not the same.

Oklahoma was founded founded as a democratic socialist state. Ever see our first state flag? It is a red banner white a white star in the middle and a 46 in the star. The flag was the banner of the Oklahoma Socialist Party. The “46” was from the 46er Party who advocated for statehood. In 1914, 175 Socialist were elected to public office in Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma City had a Socialist mayor in the ‘20s, and the state once had a socialist governor, Cactus Jack Walden.

Don’t be afraid of a word.

Bob Kemper, Oklahoma 

Editor’s Note: Kemper is an Oklahoman. He works at the Kemper Consulting Group. He is a musician, aviator, writer and transportation consultant. Additionally, he regularly reads an eclectic mix of publications, and comments upon contemporary issues including those referenced on CapitolBeatOK, The City Sentinel and other ventures in journalism. This is lightly edited (with the author’s permission) from a recent post on Facebook. 
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