I’m from Florida, which is known for being a weird state. I mean, we’re home to the infamous “Florida Man” stories that feature a man throwing an alligator through a drive-thru and a drug dealer calling 911 to report that his inventory had been stolen, among other odd occurrences.
Back in November, we made national news again — this time for a gubernatorial election that pitted a far right candidate against a far left candidate in contrast to our overall history of more moderately conservative governors. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee and current mayor of Tallahassee, has been referred to as a socialist by his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, as well as President Donald Trump. Gillum was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who describes himself as a socialist. New York just saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, win the Democratic primary and eventually win the seat for New York’s 14th congressional district.
So what’s the deal with socialism all of a sudden? About half of millennials hold a positive view of socialism, which is defined as a theory that advocates that the means of production, distribution and exchange be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Many are fine with the word “socialism,” but when asked if they support a government managed economy, fewer of them respond favorably, showing a disconnect between the word and what it actually entails.
It’s not just “socialist” millennials who are confused about the meaning — it’s also Republicans like DeSantis and Trump who display this confusion when attempting to attack far-left opponents. So-called socialists like Sanders are not actually advocating for socialism. They are instead advocating to socialize only healthcare by establishing a single payer system as well as increasing overall regulations on capitalism. Sanders has not advocated that we seize control over auto manufacturing or the entire farming industry.
Further, to slap on the label “democratic” to socialism does not change the fact that the government would be “socialist.” This term is perhaps one of the silliest things to come out of politics in the past few years. Socialism is still having the government take over the means, regardless of how the officials are chosen or managed.
The favorite model that many of these “socialists” and their supporters use for their ideas is Nordic countries like Sweden. Just pay some more in taxes, then your education and healthcare are all free, and you have access to a wide variety of programs. Countries like Sweden rely on a capitalist economy for tax revenue that funds their government programs. Without this capitalist economy, there would be no money to fund said programs.
Of course, a larger presence of these programs would be what many people consider to be part of “the welfare state.” The definition of “welfare state” varies from person to person. I despise most government programs and would consider our country to be a “welfare state,” but my friends who voted for Sanders would certainly not consider us to be a welfare state.
Many would consider Sweden to be a “welfare state,” but they still use capitalism to fund their welfare. Remember, Sweden gave us IKEA, a furniture store bigger than most American furniture stores, complete with a restaurant. Can you think of anything more American and capitalist-sounding than eating meat and mashed potatoes before buying a bunch of stuff for your house?
Perhaps one reason why millennials view socialism positively and view capitalism negatively is that they see corporatism and mistake it for capitalism. When big businesses get special treatment from the government and intermingle with government officials, that is corporatism, which is in violation of true capitalism and free markets.
Our capitalist economy has its flaws. We do have to figure out how to lower healthcare costs and ensure that a few banks don’t bring down the rest of the nation’s economy. However, solutions from many “socialists” are to eliminate corporatism and modify our capitalist economy. Most people can get on board with eliminating corporatism, and many of the debates we have today usually discuss which modifications to our capitalist economy are beneficial and which ones are harmful.
Today’s dialogue is not debating if the community should control all the means, distribution and exchange of production. Rather, in elections like the Florida gubernatorial race, main topics included pretty standard items like corporate tax rates, environmental regulation, minimum wage and immigration.
At no point did Mayor Gillum advocate that we seize and control Walt Disney World. But, hey — it’s Florida; there’s not much that would surprise anyone.