Discussion about Socialism

No an expert but I think that would be comunism not socialism.

Forced redistribution of property is characteristic of all branches of socialism. Gulag is the feature of only the most advanced one (which was called revolutionary socialism or communism). Soviets used to call themselves “real-existing socialism” and the full official name was Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

This is a very strange - and obviously wrong - definition of socialism. By that definition, also the United States, the ancient Roman Empire, the British Empire and basically every state would be socialist. Also every normal family would be socialist.
Your opinion on socialism seems very biased. I’d suggest a more scientific approach.

Traditionally socialism was defined as collective (state) ownership of means of production. But since of the collapses of couple of experiments trying to implement this, socialism become vague definition-less political philosophy. There still exist hard left of course (Cuba, Venezuela, etc), but most socialists started calling themselves social-democrats in second half of XX century and their ideology oscillates around support for highly regulated capitalism (instead of abolishing it) with high dose of redistribution of income and property (instead of abolishing them).

And yes, hell you’re right I’m biased against socialism.

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Insurances are kind of socialistic.

It obviously depends on definition. There can be political (forced) collective ownership (like in Cuba) or there can be a voluntary version (like in Israeli Kibutz). I obviously have nothing against second one (it’s weird but harmless in my opinion), but the first one is my mortal enemy. And should be mortal enemy of anyone who doesn’t want to lose his property.

PS. Sorry for the offtopic, we should fork it into another thread.

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Again you are just making up a definition saying that “traditionally it was defined” - which is simply not true. Sorry, but you cannot have a serious discussion about politics when you just take your opinion and state it as fact.

I like to discuss controversial topics, but a discourse without sticking to the basic rules of science is futile.

Open any encyclopedia or dictionary:

“Socialism is a populist economic and political system based on public ownership (also known as collective or common ownership) of the means of production.”

“Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers’ self-management[10] as well as the political theories and movements associated with them.[11]”

“Definition of socialism 1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods 2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state 3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.”

“any economic or political system based on government ownership and control of important businesses and methods of production”

“1A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

“Socialism is both an economic system and an ideology (in the non-pejorative sense of that term). A socialist economy features social rather than private ownership of the means of production. It also typically organizes economic activity through planning rather than market forces, and gears production towards needs satisfaction rather than profit accumulation.”

“Socialism is best defined in contrast with capitalism, as socialism has arisen both as a critical challenge to capitalism, and as a proposal for overcoming and replacing it. In the classical, Marxist definition (G.A. Cohen 2000a: ch.3; Fraser 2014: 57–9), capitalism involves certain relations of production. These comprise certain forms of control over the productive forces—the labor power that workers deploy in production and the means of production such as natural resources, tools, and spaces they employ to yield goods and services—and certain social patterns of economic interaction that typically correlate with that control.”

“Socialism, social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources.”

“Socialism—defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production—was the tragic failure of the twentieth century. Born of a commitment to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism, it has far surpassed capitalism in both economic malfunction and moral cruelty.”

If encyclopedias and dictionaries are wrong, please tell us what is right definition of socialism? Let me guess, it’s just good and fair society? That’s the scientific definition?

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Seriously? Have you never studied at an university? You cannot cite second-hand sources to sustain an argument.

Here is a quote from a scholar: “Was unter ‘Sozialismus’ zu verstehen ist, erscheint nicht nur in speziellen Fällen zweifelhaft, sondern generell und prinzipiell umstritten. Es gibt keine allgemein anerkennte, wissenschaftlich gültige und zuverlässige Definition des Sozialismus, und es fehlt vor allem ein Begriff, der die verschiedenen historischen Erscheinungsformen des Sozialismus adäquat erfasst und sie nicht dogmatisch reduziert, simplifiziert oder gar eliminiert.” (Albers, W. 1977. Handwörterbuch der Wirtschaftswissenschaften. Bd. 7, S. 7)

What you are doing is exactly the last point - you are reducing a definition to a dogmatic statement which just fits your personal opinion. This is how politicians talk, but as a scientist, I prefer not to do it. Simplifying things like this will never lead to any useful outcome.

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Because the quote of Taleb was so powerfull, he had to explain it several times in interviews. The one I think is the easiest to understand and not fall into the rabbit whole of socialism/communism is this one.
“With my family, I’m a communist. With my close friends, I’m a socialist. At the state level of politics, I’m a Democrat. At higher levels, I’m a Republican, and at the federal levels, I’m a Libertarian.”

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Isn’t this discussion slightly offtopic?

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Well, if you were studying at university, you would know that argumentum ad personam doesn’t fulfil standards of scientific investigation.

Read our discussion again. I wrote that socialism used to be defined as collective ownership of means of production, but today it has vauge definition-less nature because collectivisation experiments failed in the past. Then you say that I create my own definitions. I give you quotes to encyclopedias and dictionaries that prove my point. You then quote a guy who says that socialism is definition-less, which again, proves my previous point. If you’re a scientist, you have to start working on logical thinking and increase your standards, otherwise you won’t be successful in your field (putting aside random internet forum).

I guess this closes the topic. I’m not going to continue anyways, as I promised myself that I won’t anymore lose time and energy on pointless political discussions.

As a conclusion, I’ll only leave a quote from one of my favourite economists-philosophers:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.
~ Frédéric Bastiat, The Law (1850)

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Nice quote. It shows that it’s all about trust. I don’t think I would trust anyone to be on communist terms with them (in the ideological sense). On socialist terms I would be with close family, like parents.

And is that weird to you?

The difference is that under socialism, these insurances are mandatory, enforced by violence. If you don’t pay, you go to jail, if you resist, you will be hunted down and killed. To ease the shock, socialists will tell you about the existence of a “social contract” (which you didn’t sign), under which you take responsibility for other members of the society, and in turn they will take care of you.

In my personal opinion, the existence of many mandatory social security programs makes sense (health insurance, unemployment benefit, pension, disability). It’s nice that we have countries around the world with different levels of socialism, and we will see which ones will succeed in the long term.

I think many western countries have overdosed on socialism. In Germany you give up half of your salary, and if you get a raise, the marginal rate is even 80%. How should that motivate people to give that extra 10% effort?


That was in reaction to the claim that socialism = forceful redistribution of property. The question then would be: why should something be ok within the family but not outside of it. I am convinced that ones ethics should be of general value. If your ethical beliefs are relativistic, then I don’t think they do make much sense.
So I think, yes it is weird to use the term socialism when it comes to family. In the same way, as I have my reservations against Taleb’s quote. At first sight, it is nice, but when you start to dig deeper, then you have to ask yourself, what exactly does he mean by socialist, communist, etc. Since there is no single definition of every one of these terms, his quote leads to many questions.

Personally, I think it does not make much sense to argue about what socialism actually is, the same way it doesn’t make sense about what capitalism is or should be.
I am much more interested in actual questions, like: Should there be services which are mandatory for everybody? If so which ones, and to which extent? If no, why not?

I also like you mentioned the ‘social contract’. I assume you refer to Rousseau, right? To be fair, his theories were the foundation for many following philosophers who made thoughts about society and statehood. The idea of a social contract is not tied to any “socialist” ideology, but rather to society as opposed to anarchy (what Rousseau called the state of nature). In this sense, any modern society has its social contract, even the U.S. And of course it is not a physical contract which you can sign, but unless you withdraw yourself from society and live in a hut, then you are actively deciding to partake in this society. So unless you are born in a dictatorship that forces you to stay in the country, then you sign the contract simply to choose to live in a certain country. (Although Rousseau would probably go even further and say it does not depend on single countries, but society as a whole. But that is a more philosophical topic.)

The discussion about incomes and taxation in Germany is an interesting one, but not quite trivial. We would have to put together quite some statistics to compare it to CH. However, where did you get these 80% Last time I checked, the marginal tax rate in Germany was 45%.

Tax % Tax Base (EUR) (from 2018)
0 Up to 9,000
14% 9,001-54,949
42% 54,950-260,532
45% 260,533 and over

And don’t forget the 5.5% solidarity tax and 8%-9% church taxes.
So with more than €50k per year, you are practically in the highest tax class.

I spent some time with the tax calculator and indeed I couldn’t get to 80% marginal rate, but 50% is easily reached. Sorry.

The topic of socialism vs capitalism is indeed complex. What guides me through it is the realisation that progress comes from effective allocation of resources and from work, not from consumption. And I don’t believe that some government official will do a better job than market forces. Also, helping the poor by taking away from the rich is a short term solution, because you are using up resources, which could be invested in growing the economy.

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