The literal definition of socialism is a social and economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy, as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system. Socialism has a long history. Modern historians don’t believe that socialism existed in the ancient times or during the era of Aristotle and Plato but there is a school of thought that tend to endorse a view that the great philosophers of various eras had accounted for socialism in their political motifs.
Socialism doesn’t find many takers today but there are many political parties in a few democracies of the world where the primary ideology is socialism. There are many socialism pros and cons. It is the outweighing of the pros by the cons that has made socialism relatively irrelevant and thus insignificant today. But there are certain measures taken by most elected governments in the world that are in accordance with socialist practices.
Socialism had witnessed a surge in endorsement and the ideology had become quite popular at the end of the nineteenth century and there were many movements in the world subsequently in the twentieth century that tried to establish socialist governments. Communism too is a cousin of socialism, albeit there are some differences between the two.
The Pros of Socialism
1. Socialism attempts to establish an order that promotes equality. In modern societies, which are mostly capitalistic, equality is a utopia. Although every citizen of a country has the same rights, duties and also become eligible for the same basic benefits or facilities, there are many types of inequalities that get and have gotten embedded in the system. If anything, capitalistic societies are not fair to all and they certainly don’t do away with the vice of inequality. Socialism aims at the creation of a society where all citizens are treated equally, they get equal access to all resources of the state and there is little financial, social, cultural or educational differences among the citizens.
2. Socialism requires public education to be made mandatory up to a certain level. It attempts to ensure that every child born in the country gets access to education up to a standard which will make everyone equally educated. This is done by making education affordable or state sponsored. No child can walk away from education and it is not a call for an individual to make. Educational institutions cannot choose their target audience and cannot charge heftily thus to make more money and in the process attracting wards of rich parents.
3. Socialism attempts to instill economic equality. This is done by offering social security, public housing programs ensure that homes remain affordable and that there are enough homes to house every citizen of the country, food stamps are issued for those living in poverty so they get fed and survive without the helplessness of not having even the basic resources, and minimum wages are determined so no one is exploited to an extent that one doesn’t get to live a dignified life. In many ways, most developed countries have inculcated some of these socialist principles, by having social security, minimum wage and right to education.
4. Socialism also ensures equal access to healthcare. Medical attention is the right of the entire human race and socialism makes it mandatory to keep healthcare costs affordable and free if it has to be so in order to have everyone being offered adequate medical help whenever needed. There can be space for healthcare centers solely for the rich but the majority of medical facilities would be owned by the state and would thus remain affordable for all or possibly free for those living in abject poverty.
5. Socialism also makes space for equal access to politics. Anyone can form a political organization and aspire to be elected to form the government. Two party democracies or single party political structures are not what socialism aims for. While people can aspire to have political careers in capitalistic societies, socialism allows for more rights for people in the less privileged stratums of the society.
The Cons of Socialism
1. Socialism has many disadvantages, one of the most important of which is a financial burden on the state. Whenever a government has to be operated in accordance with the principles or ideology of socialism, there would be massive spending. From showering funds on social benefits to welfare schemes, healthcare to education, right to food and almost every aspect of normal livelihood of people, the state would have to fund everything. Socialism doesn’t account for the source of the money. Governments executing socialist programs have often led to a rise in the debts of a country and a much steeper fiscal deficit.
2. Socialism is anti ambition. It doesn’t encourage entrepreneurships and that curtails the natural tendency of people to dream and to do something different. Socialism attempts to put everyone in the same cask and everyone is expected to do similar things. This is not just against nature but also detrimental to the evolution of a country, society and indeed the human race. Socialism instills higher taxes for those who wish to set up businesses and existing companies also struggle to keep paying high taxes and all kinds of fees, all of which have to be charged to fund the social welfare schemes. Socialism prevents companies from laying off employees even if the business is about to go bankrupt or the owners are incurring losses that they cannot endure.
3. Socialism requires a huge government and a massive bureaucracy. With limited privatization and more people being in government jobs, there is greater corruption and only a small group of people sitting at the heights of power tend to get richer. Socialism aims to create socioeconomic equality but in the process ends up creating a small super elite populace comprising of people in power and a super poor populace which comprises of every citizen who does a normal job.
4. Socialism can make an entire country lazy and unproductive. Citizens may get used to doles and welfare programs and thus not work at all. The state would be expected to keep providing for the citizens which raises a question of where the state would get the money, food and other resources to support the lives of millions, possibly billions of people.
5. Socialism keeps the rich people rich and the poor people poor. There is no space for aspirations or ambitions and no one can break the glass ceilings because the system is built in such a manner that equality would be enforced even if one is superior to others in many ways.
6. Socialism is the bedrock of communism. Some people reject this idea but it is true. Communism is actually an extreme form of socialism, which has been proven to be a futile ideology in the modern world.
7. Socialism is a failed concept in itself as it is impossible to do away with all forms of inequalities. There will be some men and women superior to others and there would always be some people doing better with their lives than others. One cannot take away the achievements of an individual and share the spoils with others for the sake of socialism.