With the exception of three years at an international school, I have always worked for socialist institutions: public schools and universities. We assign our government to collect taxes from those who have children and those who do not, to support an enterprise that provides a literacy level beneficial to all of us. These are not private institutions.

Other agencies managed for the public good include the police, the military, our firefighters, and more. Even the public roads we drive on are based on taxes and managed by governmental agencies, although they certainly fund construction projects that private businesses bid on.

Unfortunately, the term “socialist” elicits a knee-jerk negative reaction from most citizens. This has been our response for over a century.

As an upper elementary student, I read every utopian and dystopian book I could find in the libraries, from Thomas More’s Utopia to Orwell’s 1984. That included Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. He was the cousin of Francis Bellamy who became famous for writing our “Pledge of Allegiance.” Francis Bellamy was also a Christian and socialist who “championed ‘the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources, which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.’”

Both were convinced that the social ills of America of that time were caused by capitalism. The late 1800s were our “Gilded Age” where a few rich captains of industry had their private police and fought attempts at unionization. Both the utopian Edward Bellamy and the minister Francis Bellamy pushed for state management of banks and railroads. By the 1890s, they had over a hundred “Nationalist” clubs in the United States advocating for this limited takeover. But why “nationalist” rather than “socialist”? In 1888, Edward explained the reason in a letter to another writer:

“Every sensible man will admit there is a big deal in a name, especially in making first impressions. In the radicalness of the opinions I have expressed, I may seem to out-socialize the socialists, yet the word socialist is one I never could well stomach. In the first place it is a foreign word in itself, and equally foreign in all its suggestions. It smells to the average American of petroleum, suggests the red flag, and with all manner of sexual novelties, and an abusive tone about God and religion, which in this country we at least treat with respect. ...Whatever German and French reformers may choose to call themselves, socialist is not a good name for a party to succeed with in America. No such party can or ought to succeed that is not wholly and enthusiastically American and patriotic in spirit and suggestions.”

By the mid-1890s, the Nationalist clubs were absorbed into the populist People’s Party that continued to advocate for the nationalization of some industries.

A socialist party did grow after the violent suppression of railroad workers. To many working class Americans, Eugene V. Debs was their hero and labor leader, proclaiming “While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Eugene Debs was well-loved by the working classes, but his Socialist Party never gained the votes to make him President. His successor, Norman Thomas — trained as a minister — was likewise a powerful orator. But he came to understand Bellamy’s observation that “...socialist is not a good name for a party to succeed in America.” However, many important socialist concepts have been adopted over the years.

Our elderly constituted our largest group in poverty until F.D.R. adopted Social Security. Among all the developed nations of the world, only the U.S. has failed to provide medical care for all of its citizens. The easy way to resist any such proposal is to merely label any such effort as “socialized medicine.” No further intelligence or thinking is required. Indeed, many folks do not realize that Norway, Sweden and Denmark are socialist. France and Spain likewise.

But many Americans, who themselves receive Social Security benefits or benefit from their parents being independent still have a knee-jerk aversion to the S-word.

If they really think unlimited capitalism, private schools and private police is the best system, perhaps they should go back and read Charles Dickens.

(13) comments


Not trying to make a point. Just observing.

KB Thomas

If the people discover they can bribe Congress with the public's money, it's Katie bar the door.

KB Thomas

Democracy and Socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference, while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude. Alexis de Tocqueville.


And then there's democratic socialism, the one everyone is to scared to talk about.


Hoorah! At last someone has finally outlined the socialist situation in our country.Thank you. When the lady down the street heard I was a teacher a few years ago, she frowned at me and said, "I don't see why I have to pay property tax for schools because I don't have kids." I told her to start putting bars on all her windows and doors to keep out all the uneducated thugs that would be coming to steal all her stuff. Imagine what we would be like as a citizenry if our kids were not educated.


I’m trying to work my way through the gist of your comment. If I put it in syllogism form it looks like.

1. Uneducated people are thugs

2. (Insert name) is uneducated

3.Therefore, (insert name) is a thug.

Abraham Lincoln was eneducated. Was he a thug?

Eric Hoffer was uneducated. Was he a thug?

Ray Bradbury was uneducated. Was he a thug?

And what of the goodly number the educated thugs who inhabit the halls of Congress, state legislatures, or city/county commission chambers? They apparently learned how to connive, steal, lie, etc somewhere and they applied what they learned quite well.


It has been proven over and over again that the more educated a society is the lower the crime rate it has. That's not syllogism, that is a statistical fact.


The German people were among the most highly educated and literate people on the planet back in the 30’s and 40’s. Much of the Nazi bureaucracy was highly educated. They were, as Eli’s Weisel pointed out in his autobiography, the people who gave the world Goethe and Schiller and Wagner also gave us anti-semitism on a monstrous scale. They even used the engineering genius of Germany to develop and deadly efficient method of killing people in masse in the death camps.

Crime and evil behavior is far from the sole domain of the uneducated. The Germans proved that. So did the Communists in Russia.

The Holocaust and the Gulags are historical realities.

The fact that they were designed and orchestrated by highly educated people is also a historical reality.

Education can do some things. Inculcating morality isn’t one of them.

Are there uneducated thieves, muggers, bigots, and murderers? Yes. Are there educated thieves, muggers, bigots, and murderers? Yes.

Education doesn’t make a person a paragon of virtue. Thinking that it does is an exercise in self-deception.


I don't think he's talking about folks who didn't complete college from back in the good ole days when nobody locked their doors, he is talking about teenage kids today who can barely read and write and hardly show up for school, whose parents don't care where they're at or what they're doing. The comment was pretty simple to get the gist of... I'm just trying to figure out the gist of YOUR comment. What point are you trying to prove? That rich people commit crimes too? That not all poor people are criminals? Cause thats all obvious too, just the ratio of poor criminals to rich ones is somethinig stupid like 1000:1.


I wasn’t trying to make a point. I was making an observation.

Now you’ve got me thinking about your ratio. I’m hoping it’s hyperbole. Otherwise, we’re left with having to believe that 99.9% of the crimes committed in this country are being committed by the poor.

If you believe that, we have nothing to talk about.


Depends on what your definition of "rich" is. Mine is just as the definition states, "having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy." or "plentiful, abundant amouts of money". And poor being the opposite, defined as "lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society."

Maybe you should have a peek at how many prisioners are "rich" and how many are "poor" My ratio is a guess, but its a damn good one.

And you sure say a lot for not having a point.


Excellent! I have seen that same argument applied to the reason not to drug test welfare recipients. They claim that if we don't give them benefits, they'll be our homes stealing from us. Isn't that like "extortion" when one presents an argument based on a threat? An education does not prevent someone from being a "thug", and neither does it make one a "thug". Having home schooled one of my kids........... Yeah, I was trying to keep him safe from..............


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