Socialism, which is defined as state ownership/control over the means of production and distribution, and Democratic Socialism (which is just an extreme form of welfare state capitalism), are by definition NOT the same thing. And yet so many people think they are.
Well, it’s not just because they both include the word “socialism” in their names. Instead, the confusion is thanks mostly to deliberate attempts by both the Right and the Left to confound things.
The Right wants voters to confound Democratic Socialism with, well, actual socialism because it knows that the latter is extremely unpopular. By calling a donkey (Democratic Socialism) a pig (actual Socialism), it hopes that all the pig-haters out there will shy away from donkeys and pigs and favor elephants instead.
Similarly, far-Left actual socialists want voters to confound actual socialism with Democratic Socialism because they too know that actual socialism is very unpopular. Therefore by putting lipstick (the label of “Democratic Socialism”) on their pig, the far Left hopes to move the country one, two, or three big steps to the Left and therefore closer to actual socialism.
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To be clear, I’m not suggesting that everyone on the Right and Left is playing this game, but many are. And it creates great confusion.
If they advocate for European-style "Democratic Socialism," don't hit them over the head with Venezuela. That’s disingenuous and unhelpful. Instead, find other ways to prove them wrong.
And if they are criticizing actual socialism (a la Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, old China, the USSR, etc.), then don’t hit them over the head with Norway as an example of a “successful” socialist state. That, too, is disingenuous and unhelpful.
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