Have you ever experienced an argument where the other side “just didn’t get it”? Have you ever been on the side of the argument where you “just didn’t get it”? I believe many modern arguments can be more productive if opposing sides begin with, and maintain, an equal understanding of the definitions of key words in the discussion. Some words have multiple meanings that are easily distinguishable from one another. Sometimes this is not the case, and it requires those of us in the argument or discussion to ask the other for clarification.
For example; when out camping Jane says, “Look at that ash.” Is she referring to the campfire ash or the ash tree? Both are possible in a scenario where both examples of “ash” may be present. The answer is simple to discover with a single question. “Which type of ash are you talking about?” “Oh, the tree.” Now, “ash” may be an example with easily distinguishable definitions, but too often a word has multiple, yet confusingly similar, meanings.
When Dr. Byran Van Gorp and Col. Stan Gudmundson are discussing the pros and cons of socialism, which definition of socialism are they using? Are they using the same? Readers must recognize there are multiple definitions and beware of equivocating. Equivocation is a logical fallacy where the same word or phrase is used with more than one meaning in the same argument. Socialism isn’t Democratic Socialism.
When Col. Gudmundson reads “socialism” I believe he thinks of one, or a combination of, these definitions 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. 2b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.
Whereas when Dr. Bryan Van Gorp writes about Democratic Socialism, I believe he’s referring to this definition of Democratic Socialism: a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices. “Welfare state” meaning: a social system where a political state assumes the primary responsibility for the individual and social welfare of its citizens. (definitions derived from Miriam-Webster Dictionary online)
In looking up “Socialism,” here’s what I found: “In the many years since socialism entered English around 1830, it has acquired several different meanings. It refers to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, but the conception of that control has varied, and the term has been interpreted in widely diverging ways, ranging from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. In the modern era, “pure” socialism has been seen only rarely and usually briefly in a few Communist regimes. Far more common are systems of social democracy, now often referred to as democratic socialism, in which extensive state regulation, with limited state ownership, has been employed by democratically elected governments (as in Sweden and Denmark) in the belief that it produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth.”
To misconstrue or equate democratic socialism with communism in order to make misleading claims or imply socialism has led to “At least 100 million dead in the countries overrun by this madness” is absurd. In the two nations identified as examples by Miriam-Webster Dictionary as social democracies, how much madness do we see? Those Swedes really go mad over meatballs! And the hambo!
What I’m trying to say is we must choose our words wisely but also read carefully to ensure we accurately understand what the author is saying. I am a capitalist who values the free-market and what it can do for this country and the global economy. I also recognize there are flaws with capitalism if it becomes weighted towards wealthy individuals who can legally buy elected officials’ votes.
Social Security was blasted for being “Socialist” when it was first proposed. It’s a social program in a capitalist economy. As is Medicaid, as are public schools, the U.S. military, farm subsidies, and the plows we need on the roads in this very snowy winter.
Definition of Equivocation: https://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/resources/fallacy-definitions/Equivocation.html
Definition of Socialism: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism#usage-1
Definition of Democratic Socialism: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/democratic%20socialism
Definition of Welfare State: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/welfare%20state
Dr. Van Gorp’s Article: http://fillmorecountyjournal.com/democratic-socialism/
Col. Gudmundson’s Article: http://fillmorecountyjournal.com/socialism-its-never-worked-lets-try-it-again/
All opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and not of the Fillmore County Journal.