There is a lot of talk lately in this election about Barack Obama having “socialist views” and being “a socialist.” For some – especially those who grew up during the Cold War – this evokes an image of radical Socialism as practiced in Soviet Russia and Mao’s China. Or is that Communism? What is the difference anyway?
The idea of Socialism has been around for a long time – longer than German philosopher Karl Marx (who wrote The Communist Manifesto). Socialism is a set of ideals and not a type of government. Examples of types of government are Representative Democracy & Constitutional Republic (United States), Parliamentary Democracy & Constitutional Monarchy (United Kingdom, Canada), Direct Democracy & Parliamentary Republic (Switzerland) and Socialist Republic (Cuba) … among many others.
Having “socialism” written down as a set of ideals came out of Europe where people had been struggling with class for centuries. Industrial revolutions made the worker more valuable but also the CEOs of the time much richer. Common people wanted to be recognized as a more important part of society and given more rights and better compensation for their work.