The following is a slightly edited version of my response to a request made to me by a fellow commenter on who goes by the screen name pieceofcake to describe to another commenter, adnoto, the definition of what many progressives/liberals refer to as "social democracy," which the former mistakes for genuine socialism. I endeavored to set the record straight for both of them as to what the differences are between genuine socialism, which I support, and a "social democratic" system, i.e., liberal capitalism, which is supported by many mainstream progressives and liberals. The original version of this essay was posted in the letters section to Glenn Greenwald's article, "Harry Ford's Warped Understanding of 'Capitalism,'" circa January 14, 2010. Pieceofcake's questions are in bold face.

Greetings, pieceofcake, and thank you for asking me to intervene here.

-how true - how true - yours was quite an interesting post -

Thank you.

[...] and it's GREAT that adnoto asks you all these questions another poster -(he considers not so 'GREAT') - has answered before.

He (this poster) has pointed out - that there is a system called 'social democracy' - which nearly truly allows life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all the people in, and not just a fortunate few.

And if you could tell our friend adnoto about that - Perhaps he accepts this truth from you?

Well, one thing I would like to point out is that genuine socialism--which is what I support and advocate--is not quite the same thing as what liberals often call 'social democracy.' The latter is a very liberalized form of capitalism, which basically retains the concept of private ownership of the industries and services that everyone in society relies upon, but with a good degree of the tax base spent on social welfare programs that are designed to mitigate the onerous effects that capitalism has on the working class, along with the nationalization of certain key industries that are perceived as particularly important to everyone in society, most notably the health care system. Many parts of Europe has variants of this system, and so does Canada and Australia to some extent. Such a liberalized form of capitalism is certainly much better than the largely conservative type of capitalism we have here in the U.S., and as such I am supportive of it and definitely prefer to live under that iteration of capitalism than the less regulated and less worker-friendly version that exists in the United States. The capitalist class of these liberalized variants of capitalism grudgingly accept the fact that it must tolerate high taxes on them to provide several essential nationalized services for the working class in order stave off dissent and convince the majority class to accept the continuation of the capitalist system.

In America, by contrast, the capitalists use a shrewd and self-serving form of ideology that worships greed and selfishness as virtues to be admired, and that nothing should be done to stifle any policies which support the endless accumulation of money in the hands of the capitalist class (note the fascination that so many workers in the U.S. inexplicably have with the theories of Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss).

Further, too many workers in the U.S. look up to the capitalists with a sense of awe and reverence, and the latter privileged class notably pushes the unrealistic belief that anyone can become members of this wealthy idle class of owners if only they have enough natural business acumen, strength of character, work hard enough, save up enough money, and are willing to take great financial risks. The available evidence strongly suggests that this ideology is nothing but a widely held social myth among Americans. The capitalist class in America even throws healthy amounts of the largely scientifically discredited doctrine of Social Darwinism into the mix of this ideology to justify the continuation of their privileged position in society, and many members of the working class eat it up like soup from a spoon.

Of course, in every social democratic system in the world today, you periodically hear the bureaucrats whine and complain that they have to cut these essential services because they "can't afford them any longer." However, unlike the largely passive and docile working class in America, their counterparts in the European nations are considerably more likely to show signs of heavy dissent and revolt if their governments do too much to hamper the social programs that benefit them.

A genuine socialist system, in contrast, would have no private ownership of the industries and services, no need for nor even the concept of 'nationalization,' no need for social services as we know them today, no money, and no bureaucrats at all. The industries and services that everyone in society relies upon for their survival and comfort would be socially owned by every worker collectively, and every worker would do a modest share of the useful work in a vocation of their choice that was in harmony with their individual talents in exchange for the equivalent of the full fruit of their labor.

On February 16, 2010, I received the following response from what appeared to be a conservative minded commenter using the screen name of Flintstone on, who likewise doesn't know the difference between genuine socialism and 'social democracy':

As someone who spends most of his life living and working overseas in several different countries, including far Left socialist countries, I wonder why you are still living in America under a system you obviously despise. You know damned well you could hop off a plane with nothing in Denmark, Norway, Spain, even Britain and any other number [of] places and not even have to contribute to the society or work your way into any sort of productivity and you can still live conmfortably off those who produce something, however little, kind of like a parasite attaching itself to a host.

For starters, my friend, the system that exists in those countries you mentioned are not genuinely socialist as defined by the founding fathers of that system, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Those nations actually have a liberalized form of capitalism, often referred to by some in the U.S. as "social democracy" when they aren't mistakenly referring to it as socialism. Those nations have the same basic features as American capitalism does:

The majority of the industries and services in those nations are privately owned by a small class of individuals who run those industries for personal profit, not for the benefit everyone in society. And there is a huge labor class who performs all the useful work in those nations and have no choice but to work for the owners, who collect the lion's share of the wealth that the labor class produces. In return, the laborers receive paychecks that are collectively worth only a tiny fraction of what the capitalists receive.

There are a number of industries in those other nations that are nationalized, meaning they are operated by the state and run on a not for profit basis. However, everyone in that society still has to pay for those government services via taxation, and those services are not socially owned by everyone in society but rather they are controlled by a handful of bureaucrats much as the totally privatized industries are run by a handful of capitalists.

The only real difference from those liberalized systems of capitalism in comparison to the one in America is that the government spends considerably more on various social services that help the labor class live easier under capitalism, including universal health care and welfare for unemployed workers, instead of spending over half of the tax revenue on a heavily bloated military to fund imperialist ventures across the globe, or on corporate welfare to prop up big businesses in order to bail them out when they screw up and keep them solvent, as is the case with taxes in America.

In other words, in those "social democratic" nations you mentioned, it's actually worth it for the labor class to pay taxes considering what they get back out of it, and also unlike in America, the owning class pays their fair share of the taxes. They realize they must do this for the common good, as there are always a certain number of people who cannot find employment under a capitalist system, and too many who are employed still cannot adequately feed and shelter themselves and their family under the pittance they receive in return for their labor. Hence, those systems are actually more compassionate versions of capitalism than what we have in America, not socialism as described by its two founders.

As for the poor and unemployed in those other nations being parasites who live off the taxpayers...well, let's just say that those on the dole receive an extremely meager allotment compared to the vast sums made by the owning class, who do no useful work--if any at all--and live off the backs of the working class. However, though the disparity of wealth between the two classes in those "social democratic" nations is notable, it's not nearly as large as the disparity that exists between the owners and workers in America.

As for genuine socialism, it means a classless, stateless, moneyless society, where the industries and services that everyone needs to survive and live in reasonable comfort are socially owned by everyone in society, and not by a tiny minority of the population who utilize them solely for personal enrichment. Thus, in exchange for working, everyone in an authentic soclialist system would receive the full fruit of their labor in return, as opposed to just a paycheck that amounts to only a tiny fraction of what they produced. There can be no involuntary unemployment under such a system, and the people would effectively be free from the fear of becoming homeless, of going without enough to eat, or of living under impoverished conditions. Nothing remotely like that exists or has existed anywhere in the world yet, and it's intended to be a global system, not confined to separate and competing nation-states.