Conservatives and democratic socialists are wrong about democratic socialism

By Michael d’Oliveira

Mention democratic socialism and many conservatives shriek that it’s an attack on American values; basically, the softer side of Karl Marx.

Mention it to a group of democratic socialists and it’s hailed as a system that will ultimately replace capitalism for the better.

They’re both wrong.

Democratic socialism is neither the forebearer of communist hordes, nor is it something that will bring about an end to every negative consequence of capitalism. That’s because capitalism is an integral component of democratic socialism.

Free enterprise, free markets and the private control of the means of production are key to creating an economy that can support the social programs popular with democratic socialists.

If you want proof, look to Europe. Democratic socialism governs most of Western Europe, especially Germany. Europe’s most economically powerful nation has a robust social welfare state. They also have a robust private economy where individuals and corporations control their own businesses and are free to trade, innovate and produce without any significant interference from the government.

Germany isn’t some communist hell hole. It’s a very rich nation with a very high standard of living. Its people aren’t starving. It’s an example of how you can have a welfare state that is able to financially support its welfare programs. It most certainly is not Venezuela.

Private property and free enterprise are values that a majority of Europeans believe in. They don’t want government to run and control the means of production. What they do want is a balance of government regulation which tries to protect workers and consumers while still allowing companies to remain profitable and viable.

Both conservatives and most democratic socialists believe in capitalism or some form of it. If you ask a democratic socialist if someone should be able to open a business, odds are most, if not all of them, will say yes. They may be in favor of forcing corporations to pay higher salaries and taxes, but they won’t advocate for the government taking over that business.

Real, pure, unadulterated socialism and communism don’t actually have much support here in the United States. And that’s a good thing.

But that may be in jeopardy if we keep having disingenuous discussions about democratic socialism.

If democratic socialism is constantly depicted as being the answer to capitalism, the real answer to capitalism, communism, may find more and more fertile ground.

But while conservatives are great at making democratic socialism into a boogeyman, the real experts of misrepresenting democratic socialism are democratic socialists. And right now, their leader is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – a self-styled democratic socialist who is running for Congress in New York.

In August, she detailed some examples of democratic socialism, which included café co-ops and supporting worker-owned businesses.

Co-ops and worker-owned businesses aren’t examples of democratic socialism. The first is a partnership between two privately owned businesses. That’s the very essence of free markets and capitalism. No one in the government stopped those businesses from working together. As for worker-owned businesses, again, that’s not democratic socialism because it has nothing to do with government. It was a group of private individuals owning a business together.

The economy is so important in this and every other country and we need to have real, honest, accurate discussions about what kind of policies we want to shape that economy. We can’t do that when people are pretending something is something it isn’t.