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How do your ideas of “socialism” and “democracy” compare to definitions?

Along with fireworks and barbecue, waxing poetic about freedom has always been an Independence Day tradition. Some of the old chestnuts you hear: the price of freedom is responsibility, be an informed citizen, don’t take your rights for granted . . .

What better way for a dictionary-themed blog to honor this insight than by looking at the definitions of some of the most-used political terms, and holding a mirror up to their current, popular conception?  This is a chance for you to weigh your notions of popular political jargon against their historical meaning.

Let’s look at three of the buzzwords of the political gladiator arena: democracy, republic, socialism.

Democracy is “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”  The Greek demokratia is derived from demos, “common people,” and kratos, “strength.”

A republic is “a political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president.” It is also “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.” An important point in this definition is the potential difference between a democracy and a republic, namely direct democracy versus representative democracy. The difference lies in the degree of authority elected representatives possess versus the potential authority available to any citizen who would like to participate.

Now, let’s pause for a moment. Is there a word that has recently provoked more animus and inspired a wider range of usage than socialism? Somewhere, at this moment, a fastidious student of language and politics is probably collating the myriad utterances of this word since President Obama’s inauguration, trying to find some strand of logic. If you’re reading this, hypothetical scholar, drop us a line and we’ll send you a Dictionary.com mug as a token of our admiration.

Socialism is:

1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

Do these definitions resonate with the ways pundits, politicians and entertainers throw them around? Do they describe your perception (for better or worse) of political reality where you live? Please share your opinion in that ersatz democracy called the comments section that follows this post.

WWII MEMORIAL JUST ABOUT READY CREWS ARE SCURRYING SO THAT A MAXIMUM NUMBER OF VETS CAN APPRECIATE IT.(FRONT)

The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI) April 9, 2004 Byline: Jennifer C. Kerr Associated Press WASHINGTON — Construction crews are working day and night to put the finishing touches on the World War II Memorial so the site can soon be opened to the public – especially the veterans of that era, who are dying by the hundreds each day.

The memorial won’t be dedicated until May 29, but project organizers decided it should unofficially open as soon as possible so that the ever-dwindling number of men and women who served and were its inspiration can visit it. The fence surrounding the site is expected to come down the last week in April, allowing visitors to roam the memorial grounds.

“We just think it’s important that we let the World War II veterans, especially, see it because a lot of them won’t be able to make the dedication ceremony,” project executive Barry Owenby said Thursday. “We don’t want to hide our candle under a basket.” The Veterans Affairs Department estimates World War II vets are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day – more than 385,000 a year. Fewer than 4 million will be alive at the time of the dedication. in our site art of war quotes

Owenby led reporters on a tour of the memorial, which sits on a 7.4-acre site on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Two and a half years after construction began, all of the memorial’s granite – more than 17 million pounds – and most of the bronze is in place. Crews are now busy paving sidewalks, wiring lights, and working on the landscape around the memorial.

Equal in size to the length of a football field, the memorial has two hulking 43-foot arches at each end. One is marked Atlantic, the other Pacific – symbolizing the two theaters of the war.

Fifty-six smaller granite pillars adorned with two bronze wreaths form the oval shape of the memorial and encircle a sunken plaza and pool. The pillars represent each state and territory from that period, and the District of Columbia.

The man selected in a nationwide competition to design the memorial says it honors not only the sacrifices of those on the battlefield, but also the resolve of a nation united.

“This is not a healing memorial, but a memorial that recalls, perhaps, the nation’s finest hour,” said design architect Friedrich St. Florian.

Walking around the plaza’s rainbow pool, visitors can read war quotes etched into the granite – inscriptions from Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and Generals Douglas MacArthur and George C. Marshall, among others. go to web site art of war quotes

Framed by cascading waterfalls, there’s also a “Freedom Wall” covered with 4,000 gold stars to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans killed in the war. The gold star was the symbol of the death of a family member in the war.

The wall, said St. Florian, “will remind future generations of the supreme sacrifice without which victory cannot be achieved.” CAPTION(S):

Ron Edmonds – Associated Press A visitor looks at the field of 4,000 sculpted gold stars adorning an 85-foot-wide by 9-foot-high granite wall at the western end of the World War II Memorial on Thursday. Each 4-inch star represents 100 American lives lost in the war.

U.S. Cellular buys Medford sports park naming rights.

Mail Tribune (Medford, OR) May 15, 2007 Byline: Meg Landers May 15–MEDFORD — The new, 132-acre sports park south of town will be named the U.S. Cellular Community Park, officials said Monday.

U.S. Cellular paid $650,000 for naming rights to the Medford Sports and Community Park for the next six years.

A public naming ceremony and unveiling of the logo is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the park.

“This is huge,” said Medford Parks and Recreation Director Brian Sjothun. “It is the largest naming rights per year for the state of Oregon.” Currently under construction, the $25 million park on Highway 99 will provide a range of sports facilities, access to nature walks and outdoor gathering spaces. website brier creek movies

In addition, U.S. Cellular is donating 100 soccer balls.

Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler said the company has renewal privileges if it wishes to contribute beyond the six years.

In recent years, U.S. Cellular has paid for the screen, projector and sound system for the Bear Creek Movies in the Park, as well as contributed thousands of dollars annually for the popular event. go to site brier creek movies

“They’ve been very good corporate sponsors for the city of Medford,” said Wheeler.

Sjothun said it’s becoming more common for municipalities to sell naming rights to community facilities. He said he hopes similar partnerships can be created in Medford.

“There are a lot more amenities within the park available for naming rights,” he said.

U.S. Cellular’s contribution is the latest boost to funding for the new park.

In December, the Medford City Council approved a $2.56 increase (the fee had been 31 cents) in the annual parks fee on city utility bills. The city sold $18.9 million in revenue bonds to fund construction of components of the park as well as a gymnasium at the Santo Community Center.

On Thursday the council is scheduled to award a $302,250 contract to Hardy Engineering and Associates to design part of the park. If approved, Hardy will design five field sports areas, a baseball field, an entry drive from Lowry Lane, parking and other features.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

62 Comments

  1. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 9, 2014 - 4:53 am

    Oh great, watch out for political arguments!

    Reply
  2. boo boo : ) -  January 3, 2011 - 4:32 am

    Sprode is sooo right. Our economic system and our political system are like oil and vinegar. Help! I am also soo sick of hearing the insane rantings of those like Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, etc etc. They are nothing but mouthpieces for the ultra wealthy in this country. Help.

    Reply
  3. megan is awesome -  October 23, 2010 - 7:57 pm

    that was a lot longer than i intended it to be but i’m bored and felt the need to add my two cents to the argument.

    Reply
  4. megan is awesome -  October 23, 2010 - 7:56 pm

    and as far as communism is concerned (not that it was mentioned in the article but everyone seems to be fighting over it) it does work in small groups. communism is everyone working for the good of the community and each other, people put resources into the system and take them out and everything belongs to everyone, rather than the resources available to someone being directly proportional to their own labor. this reduces poverty and is a good idea if it can be reasonably regulated, but the point is that in large groups it cannot be reasonably regulated. it relies entirely on the honesty and morality of the people involved, so it is incredibly easy if it isn’t regulated for people to take advantage of the system. too much of this can cause the system to collapse because of lack of labor and resources, much the way # 1 skillet fan mentioned about Jamestown. and if it is regulated by force or in a way that favors a certain set of people, then the system becomes corrupted, which is what happened pretty much any time a government tried to create communist society and is why people have such negative pre-conceived ideas about communism. in large groups, it is nearly impossible to regulate the system’s input and output without force. that means that any large group attempting communism will almost inevitably fail through either corruption of the system or simple collapse of the system because of lack of regulation.

    Reply
  5. megan is awesome -  October 23, 2010 - 7:35 pm

    well i’m only 13 so i don’t know much about this but what i was taught in social studies was that a democracy was where everyone votes on every little thing and a republic is where people elect representatives to vote on most of the decisions for them after hearing popular opinion. that seems to pretty much go along with what i saw in the article. and i really haven’t heard much about socialism so i can’t really say anything about that.

    Reply
  6. #1 Skillet fan -  September 6, 2010 - 3:58 pm

    One thing worth mentioning about Communism vs. Capitalism is the founding of the colony Jamestown. When the colony was founded in 1607, the colonists tried a socialist-like system called the common-store system that required the fruit of each person’s labor to be brought into the storehouse and every person would take out what they needed. The problem with that was that very few of the people in the colony actually worked to put food into the storehouse, and everyone was taking out of it. This caused the food supply to be quickly depleted. On the contrary, when captain John Smith arrived in Jamestown sometime later, he took over the colony and established a local capitalist government that worked on this one rule “thoes who do not work do not eat”. Therefore, the colony started flourishing. Also, communist economies tend to run bankrupt. Take most of Eastern Europe- especially the Soviet Union, for example. Many people in the Russian part of The U.S.S.R were forced to go without food so that the Soviet Union could feed its European Satalites.

    Reply
  7. forex robot -  August 20, 2010 - 1:13 pm

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

    Reply
  8. Mike Labno -  July 14, 2010 - 9:26 am

    @ Rachael:

    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” – Benjamin Franklin

    Reply
  9. ECC -  July 12, 2010 - 2:33 pm

    It is actually accurate (from a political science standpoint) to describe the United States as both a “democracy” and a “republic”. Unfortunately I think the original post was a little off the mark on this point, which may have caused some confusion.

    The original post described a republic as “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them”, while defining democracy as “a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”.

    Clearly, these terms are not mutually exclusive.

    The term “republic” describes who possesses political authority — in other words, what group or entity is entitled to make political decisions. A republic does not necessarily allow voters to either directly or indirectly decide who gets to make political decisions — a good example is the Roman Republic. Half of its legislative assemblies were not composed of citizen-law makers elected by the people, but of specific groups of citizens more or less chosen at random — famous example: one committee was composed of one-third young citizens, one-third middle aged citizens, and one-third old citizens. This kind of legislative assembly is wholly in keeping with the strict definition of a “republic”, but certainly does not describe a form of political organization which the vast majority of Americans — including the sort who claim that “America is a republic and not a democracy” — would find acceptable today.

    The term “democracy” describes (in a very general sense) the a specific process for deciding contentious issues — a democracy is a political system in which voters decide what course of action to take on a given issue. Citizens of a democracy may also live in a republic where rather than voting on specific political issues they delegate authority to vote on most of those issues to legislators. In this scenario the people of a democracy do not vote “yes” or “no” on proposed individual laws but rather vote for different candidates for legislative office (sound familiar?).

    Both terms do not represent two mutually exclusive and incompatible forms of political organization.

    A republic is therefore not necessarily a democracy or vice versa, but a republic certainly can be a democracy and vice versa.

    The United States can accurately be described as a “democracy” and/or a “republic”, but can more accurately be described as a “democratic republic”, where citizens vote for legislators via the democratic process (the liberal definition of who is a “citizen” in this country, however, is a relatively recent development — study your history people!).

    But even more accurately, the USA is a “constitutional democratic republic”, where lawmakers’ ability to pass a law or enact a specific political agenda is constrained by limits to political power and rights guaranteed (although not always realized) to citizens through a constitution which is the supreme law of the land. Once more, neither a “democracy” NOR a “republic” necessarily guarantees rights to citizens and limits on its own power codified in constitutional form, although both certainly often do. The term “constitutional” in a political context therefore describes a what the limit on lawmakers’ powers are. THIS is the characteristic of our political organization which prevents the government from violating our collective and individual rights, not the “republican” or “democratic” aspects of it.

    So the term “constitutional democratic republic” therefore answers three SEPARATE political questions:

    1) Q: Who was the power to decide political questions? A: Lawmakers and other political authority who represent the people (we are therefore a “republic”)

    2) Q: How are these representative chosen? A: Via the democratic process (we are therefore a “democracy” and therefore a “democratic republic)

    3) Q: Are there any limits to the power of the legislature? A: Yes, those listed in the Constitution (We are therefore a “constitutional democratic republic”)

    In sum, we tackle (most) contentious political issues by delegating authority to decide our course of action to lawmakers who represent the people. We choose who these representatives are by gaining the consent of the people by allowing them to vote. The powers of these representatives are limited by the principles outlined in the constitution — I know this is repetitive but I can’t stress enough that each of these three terms have different meanings!

    “Socialism” and “Marxism” are once more not incompatible with any of the above terms. The three terms described above outline who gets to make political choices, how they are given that authority, and what the limits to their power are. “Socialism” and “Marxism” (which are NOT totally synonymous and which are NOT synonymous with “Leninism” or “Stalinism” either)are economic ideologies which are ultimately unrelated to the three terms above — once more, a “constitutional democratic republic” [or any other combination of those terms] can be “Socialist” AND/OR “Marxist” or neither of those things.

    It is really important that people not conflate these terms and understand what characteristics of political decision making they describe, since our understanding of these terms has a big influence on domestic and international politics.

    Reply
    • Roger H Browne -  November 24, 2014 - 12:51 pm

      or, as Tony Benn rather more succinctly put it: ‘Who has the power? How did they get it? How can we get rid of them?’

      Reply
  10. chillguy33 -  July 10, 2010 - 5:13 pm

    So, communism has never existed. Brilliant analysis.

    Communism has never failed, because it has never been tried (by me, the expert). The seduction of communism survives all of its failure; because some humans prefer seduction to history.

    This ultimate stupidity inevitably crops up.

    When a constitutional republic degrades to pure democracy, the problems far outweigh Rachael your largely imaginery tyranny of the majority in the US Senate.

    Reply
  11. Rachael -  July 9, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    I’m going to touch on several things that came to my attention:

    The concept of pure, free market capitalism (largely the brain child of Adam Smith)is not regulated. In theorey, if working conditions or wages were bad, the worker could move to a different job. The consumer would/could decide to boycott products form a factory he or she knew was irreparably damaging the environment by pouring toxic gunk into rivers, etc.
    However, workers can’t always migrate or even emmigrate to where jobs are better. If they’re forced to take a job to be able to support themselves at a company/factory’s dictates, many unfair practices could spring up, like broken hours or bad working conditions. Or a consumer might not even know what a factory’s production procedures include. That is why we need to regulate capitalism: because in the interest of profit, some businesses could try to conceal bad practices and do a lot of harm, and people could perpetuate things that they don’t want simply because they were uninformed.

    Each type of governmental system is not inherently wrong or doomed to failure; its success depends on the wisdom, veracity, and general trustworthiness of its leaders.

    Keep in mind that, as stated by John Locke, authority is a SOCIAL CONTRACT between the people and the government. The government pledges to protect the people’s inalienable rights, and in return the people pledge to give their loyaly and support (and lets not forget taxes) to the government. If the government renges on this contract and doesn’t protect its people’s INALIENABLE rights (or flagrantly violates both the Lockian contract and the people’s rights, as in the genocide of the Jews at the hands of Hitler), then the people do NOT owe the abusive government allegiance.

    A republic is best lent to protecting the rights of individuals. However, sometimes this can turn into a “tyranny of the minority,” as in how a minority in the U.S. senate may dictate since law requires a majority of 2/3 to pass some laws.
    A Democracy is best to keep society working as a “unit” and lends itself more to the idea (which socialism and communism happen to share) that individuals may need to sacrifice for the good of society as a whole. This system can become dangerous because a truly tyrannical majority can develop, at worst oppressing or even killing minority members.
    **As a side note, communism in its pure form has never even existed (as far as countries’ governments in the past 1000 years are concerned). By definition, there IS no government–the community members control their community.

    One last rejoinder: most of us agree, people need liberty. But they also need security, and the two counterbalance each other. The question is, how much security do we want, and how much of our liberty are we willing to relinquish?

    Reply
  12. Beckwith -  July 8, 2010 - 3:13 am

    It is completely unfair to identify Obama as a socialist, or to refer to his policies as socialist. Obama is an old-fashoned Stalinist.

    Reply
  13. NeRF Herder -  July 7, 2010 - 8:50 am

    @Mr. Bob

    Here, here!

    I wholeheartedly agree, the right to bear arms and the freedom to demonstrate are critical cornerstones in a democratic society!

    Surely what is more effective than a crowd of demonstrators who are corralled 5 miles from view of politicians and news agents during times which justify political outcry. Its potency to affect change have proven time and again that the deep pockets of special interest groups have little influence over capital hill! Why take the time to write a thoughtful letter to your local politician when a simplified phrase on a placard will do!

    And to the first what’s a weapon is extremely effective used to immobilize or even kill an intruder in those rare occasions where you find an intruder in your home. Guns surely solve social problems of all sorts and rarely lead to escalation.

    Reply
  14. dcGOETZ -  July 7, 2010 - 7:54 am

    I think precision of terms is necessary when talking politics. Ironically vagueness is often a tool for politicians.

    A more helpful word to define (or to put into discussions) is Federalism. Few people know the original relationship between the state governments and the federal government: the two coexist and overlap each other.

    Reply
  15. R.D. Bhardwaj -  July 7, 2010 - 12:23 am

    Much has been written and commented upon on Socialist and Republic. Let us now talk about some practical aspects of these two words. Going by the preamble of our Constitutions, India is Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, but honestly speaking, though our representatives (MPs and MLAs etc.) are elected by the people and the Chief Election Commissioner lays down the guidelines / instructions as to what extent a candidate can spend on his election campaign, but it also reveals that more than 90% of the Oath papers signed by the contestants are nothing but “a Bundle of Lies” only. Exact amount of the expenses is more than 4/5 times of the maximum expenses allowed by the CEC. Secondly, it is almost impossible for an honest common man to contest election, as it has become a big business of money and muscle power. If you are lacking in either of the two, you cannot win election, apart from losing your entire life’s savings on electioneering, in case you dare to contest. Now speaking on national scale, officially speaking, total expenses on holding general elections in India last time were around Rs. 20,000 crores or Rs. 2,00,000 millions. You can imagine as to what was the actual cost of holding elections. Thus, after such a costly elections, prices of many essential commodities increased giving birth to high rate of inflation, which is quite tolerable for the rich, but it takes the lives of the poor to a grinding halt. They find it very difficult to make both ends meet. They cannot provide quality education to their children, provide good and sufficient food to them, and provide a decent shelter on their heads.

    Reply
  16. Mohan Saini -  July 6, 2010 - 8:56 pm

    Any system of governance should be flexible enough and should rise to the occasion to protect the right of the individual and society as a a whole. Different situations will demand it for their best suitability.
    In a democratic arrangement, group or majority needs are of first priority as detailed above.Individual right and minority interest though held in high esteem, in Republic, but the later may not be universally valid at all time for protecting the intersts of the integrated groups or organizations. The elected officials and the individuals or minority are expected to be aware of these intracasies. Our Repulic in US has shown remarkable flexibility;i.e. in agreeing to the election results in recent times. This has further empowered us to use the democratic tools for our goverance.

    Reply
  17. SALLEH DARASIT -  July 6, 2010 - 5:30 pm

    I think democracy works better when it comes to the question of respecting the heritage of kingship in a country such as in England.Being a Malaysian,I really admire the way a democratic government takes care of our country as a result we can live in peace.

    Reply
  18. Wren -  July 6, 2010 - 5:27 pm

    Such a coherent discussion!
    Yes, Brita, US citizens do seem to be apprehensive about the whole concept of socialism or socialist states.
    I also agree with you Anne, that socialism bridges the chasm between democracy and capitalism, ideally… We see where unbridled capitalism has gotten the globe.

    Reply
  19. GroundedDove -  July 6, 2010 - 4:30 pm

    WOW! I wish more Americans were interested in this debate/ discussion. I think there were more comments about Brittany Spears’ “come-back” than there are on this subject (Republic vs. Socialist society). Ooooohhhhhh—-THAT’S where are the erudite people are…..anyhow, bravo to everyone who took the time to read and comment. I actually started out just wanting to get the free mug (socialistic tendencies)but this got my attention in a big way. I have recently gotten the email addresses of my congressmen and intend to ENSURE that they hear from little ol’ me on a regular basis from here on out because I love the country I grew up in (USA) and desire to see that it does not decline into socialism (any further. By the way, does anyone else think the sacrifice of the Gulf ecosystem in order to turn public support against off-shore drilling is a travesty? And shouldn’t all our elected officials have to appear on (and succeed at) “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” before assuming public office?

    Reply
  20. Meg -  July 6, 2010 - 1:32 pm

    For Deborah on “waxing poetic”,

    I thought an adverb was required also, but as you might expect dictionary.com knows the proper usage. The verb “wax” means to increase, grow or become. Hence you become poetic and the adjective is correct.

    Reply
    • Passa -  April 13, 2016 - 5:16 am

      waxing poetically

      Reply
  21. rarin2go -  July 6, 2010 - 12:11 pm

    I believe the key to the use of the term is legitimate when used in the context of the secondary definition:
    2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

    The process of establishing a socialist state can be called socialism, and the people doing it can be called socialists.

    Take note how “disasters” (e.g. banking, oil, economy, health care, global warming) are used/abused to show that capitalism “is not working” and in order to “fix it” the “people/government” need more power/money/control; aka socialism.

    When the number of people/voters that are receiving from the government (e.g. welfare, grants, jobs, careers, industries) becomes the majority, then democracy, as we know it, is over. They will vote for their self-interest –money, from the “party” in power. It will not change back without “powerful opposition”.

    To put it simply:
    “The monkeys are in charge of the bananas!”

    Reply
  22. Arlen Williams -  July 6, 2010 - 10:45 am

    Actually, the best way I have put it is that Obama, Pelosi, the rest of the transnational progressives including Soros and Strong are:

    globalist Marxofascists

    Reply
  23. jpeditor -  July 6, 2010 - 10:36 am

    We should add that socialists, who are usually the useful idiots for communists, also seem to be heavy on censorship.

    If you want the “Cliff Notes” version of marxism, look up “A Manifesto on the “Manifesto”
    By Dr. Paul Kengor” or simply go to:

    http://www.visandvals.org/A_Manifesto_on_the_Manifesto.php?&printable=true

    (or will the editors here delete that this post as well – go ahead – might make an interesting discussion across the internet on how discussions on “socialism” are being promoted here as long as the comments aren’t too critical.

    Reply
  24. Anne R -  July 6, 2010 - 10:13 am

    We are a Republic. I like the adjective “democratic” – – people who are free to believe, express, and act in a decent matter for the good of all.

    Dreamer, AR

    Reply
  25. real michaud -  July 6, 2010 - 10:01 am

    unionization is the answer to corporate socialism…power to the people, power to the people that actually work for a living!

    Reply
  26. feiseldad -  July 6, 2010 - 9:59 am

    Great discussion.
    Republic or democracy, either one, I know that I still have the right to vote, and that is one right I am most assuredly going to exercise come Election Day.
    Liberty and Justice are two inalienable rights I want to hold on to.

    Reply
  27. jpeditor -  July 6, 2010 - 9:40 am

    “He who now talks about the ‘freedom of the press’ goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism…. The goal of socialism is communism.” –  Vladimir Lenin

     ”Socialism is the same as Communism, only better English.” –  George Bernard Shaw

    “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
    –  Margaret Thatcher

    “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary.”-Ernesto “Che” Guevara

    ****

    Stated Marx: “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”

    That’s the essence of communism, which Marx returned to repeatedly, including in the final paragraph of the Manifesto.

    Of course, on this point, a first grader—let alone a grown adult—ought to immediately recognize that Marxism can’t work. Abolishing private property is completely contrary to human nature, violating the most innate precepts of all peoples, from
    A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

    Reply
  28. keith -  July 6, 2010 - 9:39 am

    dear gary, you are really elena kagan, right?

    Reply
  29. Mike Labno -  July 6, 2010 - 9:21 am

    Let’s not all pick on Barack Obama solely either…George W. is just as much a Corporate Socialist as the rest of them…

    Reply
  30. Mike Labno -  July 6, 2010 - 9:17 am

    The current system of politics in the United States is complicated at best. Surely we “act” as a representative Republic through our electoral process, and “some” of our rights have not been abridged, yet. But in many ways, the term “Democracy” is thrown around like a bastion of greatness. The 2008 voting for “Prop 8″ in California is a perfect example of the majority ruling over the minority and limiting “rights”.

    By its very nature, any redistribution of wealth is socialistic. And though we are not completely socialist, there are strong tendencies in that direction as well.

    Anyone that thinks the United States is a “Capitalist” country is foolishly misguided. There is so much State-Control that suggesting we are anything near a free market is simply wrong. Nonetheless, Marx and other anti-capitalists purvey negative connotations on this system of living because of their perceived “higher moral standards”. But the fact remains that the free market is the very thing that has provided a better civilization for everyone…producers and consumers.

    This is not an attempt to berate anyone, but only to enlighten the populace. HERE IS THE REAL PROBLEM: In the United States, we have a CORPORATIST political system. That is, many large corporations and wealthy individuals use their affluence to help politicians maintain their jobs, with the return gift that they will influence legislation for the benefit of the elite.

    The people of Exelon, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, “Big Pharma”, etc, have stood up and used their 1st Amendment right to redress their “grievances”. Now it is time for the rest of us Americans to stand together for our rights and take back the power that is rightfully ours.

    Ours is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. For the past century (and more) this is simply no longer true.

    The free market (aka Capitalism) works…Corporatism (aka Corporate Welfare/Socialism) screws all of us…except the elitists.

    Instead of quibbling due to the laughable left/right political paradigm given to us by the entertainers in Washington, it is time that we band together and move upwards on the political spectrum.

    In Life, In Liberty,
    Mike Labno
    Libertarian Candidate for United States Senate (Illinois)

    Reply
  31. Baptiste -  July 6, 2010 - 9:08 am

    @MrBob

    As for my case, in my native “socialist” country, yes I can freely “stand on the street in front of your government’s capital and loudly criticize your government without repercussion.” Isn’t France known for its numerous strikes?

    As for the right to buy a weapon for self defense in your home, it’s called not-being-protected-by-one’s-government, anarchy, and barbarity.

    Reply
  32. Sharon S. -  July 6, 2010 - 8:48 am

    To borrow a phrase from Mothe Teresa, “a good hindu is a good hindu, a good jew is a good jew, and a good muslim is a good muslim”…would this not also pertain to socialism, republicanism, and democratic policies? The true depth of meaning lies in the adjective “good” rather than the labels themselves. The success of any of these processes lies in the goodness and goals of the leadership and the peoples rather than in the categories themselves.

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  33. Arlen Williams -  July 6, 2010 - 8:24 am

    Democracies fail and are usurped by despots.

    Republics will survive, if the people are upright and circumspect.

    Socialists are exactly what Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, Maurice Strong, etc. are. They are anti-American and force for the evil of globalist authoritarianism.

    http://investigatingobama.blogspot.com
    http://gulagbound.com

    Reply
  34. Bill D. -  July 6, 2010 - 8:17 am

    Dr. W’s comment is intelligent and well-phrased. Thanks Doc.

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  35. Jil K -  July 6, 2010 - 7:42 am

    Born & raised in the USA, I am simply fascinated by this article and so appreciate everyone’s comments and their insights. Wow. I’m learning a lot, but right now I think I’m more confused than ever, so I’m going to re-read all this and do some further questioning. My biggest question mark lately has been: Whenever I hear the word “socialism”, it’s automatically assumed to be a bad thing, but there must be SOME good things that fit in that category. I don’t know enough about politics (etc) to make an intelligent comment, so I won’t, but I sure don’t like to jump to conclusions. There is some good in everything. I just wish we (the people) could vote more often on issues, and less often let our “representatives” decide. Just a little shift, that’s all. I am certainly glad I live in a democracy, but I still feel I have little “choice” because when you vote for an official, you too often do not know exactly what you’re getting. I’d rather vote on some issues myself than let them vote for me.

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  36. Coco Brown -  July 6, 2010 - 7:33 am

    An excellent exposition of the two that I’ve come across is that, in a democracy, rights are granted to individuals by the majority, whereas, in a republic, rights are innate, and denied by the majority. I reject democracy for the reason stated, that 51% can decide what rights the rest have, but that’s the kind of Republican I am, not the kind that Limbaugh and Fox News claim to be, but the kind that understands that we can’t just let people do whatever they want.

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  37. sprode -  July 6, 2010 - 7:13 am

    More accurate than what the common idiots of this country think. If we actually knew what true democracy was, we’d destroy the hold that the corporations have under us.

    Socialism and communism are only fuel for the asinine commentators like Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and Palin and Cheney and etc etc etc to try and instill fear in their quest to control each and every detail of our lives. And that’s why your jobs are going overseas, why insurance companies rape you and banks crash your economy, and why we’re more miserable than ever working to receive a fraction of what we produce so we can pay someone else to buy what we produce – fear and lies. Capitalism is not democracy and the two are at odds, economic system and political system, two theories. If you opened your eyes you could see how flawed our system actually is.

    So who do you think has the real power here?

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  38. Anne -  July 6, 2010 - 7:10 am

    Socialism is the best of both worlds but demands a subtle cooperation between inherently ego driven capitalists and passive governmentally controlled communists

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  39. Mr Bob -  July 6, 2010 - 7:07 am

    @Dr. W.

    You say you came from a socialist country and implied that you had the same freedoms as we in the USA.

    Could you legally purchase a firearm and use it for self defense in your home?

    Could you stand on the street in front of your government’s capital and loudly criticize your government without repercussion?

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  40. ms.macpea -  July 6, 2010 - 7:00 am

    It seems like democracy is incompatible with the profit system and the corporate ownership of the means of production. The establishment of real democracy, the political rule of the working class,(which makes up the overwhelming majority of the population, by the way), is only possible when the productive forces they themselves have created are brought under social ownership and subject to their conscious control.

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  41. Bill D. -  July 6, 2010 - 6:50 am

    It’s this kind of semantic doubletalk that fuels right wing nut jobs like Beck and Limbaugh.

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  42. Shawan Banerjee -  July 6, 2010 - 6:42 am

    Your view about Socialism & Democracy is superb and obviously rational.

    Reply
  43. Mike -  July 6, 2010 - 6:32 am

    I’m not so sure the right wing radio pundits have it wrong. They equate socialism with “redistribution of wealth”. Among my friends there are proponents of socialism, they claim that there are already socialist practices in place in this country. The fire department and trash pickup and all done in a socialist way.

    I don’t mind a few socialist policies here and there, but we cannot go overboard. I eat ice cream, but if I ate ice cream 3 meals a day, everyday, I’d be one sick man.

    I think what they are trying to prevent is too much socialism. When you start to approach 50% or more of one’s income going to the society, it starts to break down individual freedoms. People should be free to choose there own, even if “society” things they know better.

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  44. Johnny B -  July 6, 2010 - 6:26 am

    There are many theories about how a society, and words for that matter, evolve. My economic philosophy is capitalistic/free trade. My political philosophy is republicanism. I think this discussion mixes economics and politics. We’re not mixing apples and oranges, more like mixing Granny Smiths and Red Delicious. Perhaps it’s true that you can’t debate economic theory without reference to political theory. I would quickly concede that there are times when my philosophical preferences don’t work as well as another. An infantry squad in combat is “All for one and one for all”, a “socialistic” ideology no doubt. An infantry corps (the “p” is silent, Mr. Obama) is more “capitalistic” in that the higher officers have competed for their rank just as a business or a venture capitalist competes for “rank” in the marketplace. The infantry squad is a dictatorship, the corps, during a council of war, is also a dictatorship but it has a tendency toward democracy in that conflicting ideas (strategies) are encouraged.

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  45. Mr Parrot -  July 6, 2010 - 6:22 am

    An interesting debate.

    I agree that Ian’s argument is an extravagnt one and I don’t quite follow how republicanism equals government by the people as individuals. Quite a few socialist countries call themselves republics, North Korea for example, but I doubt if their people would recognise this definition.

    It also takes a narrow view of majority rule. The 51% beats 49% system only works where there are only two credible political parties. There are democratic countries that have a strong, pluralistic political party system that are governed on a minority vote through simple majority, coalition or political compromise. Is that considered a bad thing in the US?

    On individual freedom, this is a reasonable principle to apply where it does not adversely affect the freedoms of others or the smooth running of the state, and is not something that is exclusive to republicanism.

    I should have said that I am not American and when I use the word republican, I don’t mean the political party. I may also have missed some of the nuances in Ian’s comment.

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  46. DrKevin -  July 6, 2010 - 6:16 am

    I have read that socialism (sometimes communism ) adheres, at its core, to the implications of the following:

    “From each, according to their skills.
    To each, according to their needs.”

    “Each?” and “Their?” Is there a Grammarian in the house? How, btw, would this slogan,motto,credo, be properly punctuated?
    KMFW (Doc)

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  47. GARY DAVIS -  July 6, 2010 - 6:06 am

    One difficulty in defining the definition of a word is that the comprehension of that definition is subject to the context of the surrounding culture. With the present day velocity of change speeding to an almost vertical incline the inferences of the meaning of a word change rapidly. For example, it took 200+ years for the word “awful” to shift from a reference to God as being “full of awe” to mean “something horrible.” Whereas, “suck” shifted from a multiple use word to a meaning of negative slang inference in a matter of 10 years.

    The way we perceive democracy, republic, and socialism TODAY has expanded from the original intent of the definition of those words. Who know how they will be perceived in the future? CONTEXT is everything.

    Gary

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  48. GARY DAVIS -  July 6, 2010 - 6:04 am

    One difficulty in defining the definition of a word is that the comprehension of that definition is subject to the context of the surrounding culture. With the present day velocity of change speeding to an almost vertical incline the inferences of the meaning of a word change rapidly. For example, it took 200+ years for the word “awful” to shift from a reference to God as being “full of awe” to mean “something horrible.” Whereas, “suck” shifted from a multiple use word to a meaning of negative slang inference.

    The way we perceive democracy, republic, and socialism TODAY has expanded from the original intent of the definition of those words. Who know how they will be perceived in the future? CONTEXT is everything.

    Gary

    Reply
  49. Jose -  July 6, 2010 - 5:35 am

    Dr. W.

    You missed what Ian is trying to convey.

    1. Republic and Democracy are the same.
    2. With a subtle difference: By definition: “True” democracy has the majority dictating to the minority. 51% beats 49%.
    3. However, in a Republic the majority is to protect and help the minority achieve felicity. How? By providing what our Pledge of Allegiance states: “…liberty and justice for all”!

    I am not a “Doctor” or a “PhD” recipient and I understood Mr. Ian message clearly.

    By the way Mr. Ian, well said.

    - Jose (a humble, Puerto Rican)

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  50. Peter O'Connor -  July 6, 2010 - 5:27 am

    Excellent article and even better responses.

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  51. Harrisham Kaur -  July 6, 2010 - 5:05 am

    Thanks a lot friends for throwing a light on the topic.
    I agree that the words republic and democracy are not synonymous but there is a stereotype associated with both the words. The cliche here lies in the word called sovereignty. If we look at the grass root level the categorization of the jurisdiction is basically based on sovereignty. In a republic a single vote of the minority can deprive the majority of its might.Whereas in a democracy a single vote on the other hand can cease the existence of a minority. The right to exercise this single vote is habituated by sovereignty.
    Any type of government whether a republic or a democracy is mandatory to the existence of a civilized society. Some critics might argue with me here.An individual may prefer a capitalist ruling body or an aristocracy and still continue to be civilized. But these types of juries might not always offer him the power enjoyed by a sovereign individual.
    The importance of sovereignty is clear and hence the importance of democracy and a republic is crystal clear. But in the present scenario sovereignty has become hazy. The question might become bitter but it has to be answered. Even after enjoying democratic republic why approximately 50 percent of the people have no faith in the government? Where does the power of sovereignty lies? The answer is within us. The power of sovereignty comes in a nation if and only if the denizens are free to articulate their opinions. It comes when the residents does not fear reporting a rape on a roadside. It comes when a lawyer refuses a bribe from the opponent party and stands for the fight. It comes when we the inhabitants of a country become responsible citizens of the nation.
    So my dear friends lets not merely revolve around words of socialism. Lets broaden our innate spectrum. As we as citizens are responsible to the government.

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  52. Brita Adkinson -  July 6, 2010 - 4:31 am

    Hi, folks. I was born in Sweden. During my ten years in the United States’ northwest corner, I regularly get comments from people who say: “Sweden, that’s a socialist country, huh!” and they say it as if it is a scary fact. I struggle to explain that Sweden is NOT a socialist country, but has a “social-democratic” system. It seems to me that Americans are very afraid of anything that smacks of “socialist.” Americans seem to believe that their country provides much more “freedom” than other western countries, but that is not my perception. However, thank you for explaining “republic”, I learned something new!
    Brita

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  53. Sharon H. -  July 6, 2010 - 4:27 am

    So, is it accurate to deduce that under the American system of capitalism, or corporate America, operates under pure democracy when a shareholder owning 51 percent of stock in a company has controlling interest in the company without regard to the other 49 percent of shareholders?

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  54. Cchangrl -  July 6, 2010 - 4:20 am

    Adding a definition of “state socialism” would have balanced the socialism section against the “Democracy vs. Republic” section, since many people say “socialism” when they really are speaking specifically of state socialism.

    Reply
  55. deborah -  July 6, 2010 - 3:53 am

    My one comment is on usage.
    Should the opening line have read ” . . . waxing poetically . . .”?

    Reply
  56. Baptiste -  July 6, 2010 - 3:37 am

    Republic vs. Democracy

    I am myself from France, which, I assume, is what Dr.W. calls a “social democratic country,” and I have also lived several years in different places in the USA.

    Presonally, I think what Ian writes is accurate and theorically true. Of course, what Dr.W. says about individuals in democracies not having less freedom is also accurate, as individuals build their own individual freedom, going against the decision of the majority, i.e. going against the official decision (because indeed, there is a “dictatorship of the majority” as 51 per cent of the citizens is in most cases really enough to elect a president, or any representatives, to pass a regulation, etc.). Isn’t France saddly knowned for its people cheating the system, fudging on their taxes, etc.
    I remember the joke that goes “What is the difference between England, Germany, and France? In England, what is not allowed is fobidden; in Germany, what is not forbidden is allowed; in France, even what is forbidden is allowed.”
    Personally, I think this comes into support of what Ian says, and I believe it might also be a proof that republics work better for individuals than democracies do (as for what works better for the group, I remain undecided).

    Besides, I think it can be taken as a general statement that the more laws and regulations there are in a country, the less free each individual is. I don’t mean to say that laws and regulations are bad, but just that they do —intrinsically— limit one’s freedom, (whether this is good or bad to limit one’s freedom).

    Yet, I would have to say that a democracy like France might allow the dictatorship of the majority while a republic like the United States allows the dictatorship of a powerful minority. Is it all about dictatorships and people feeling free because they follow their principles that are in accordance with the system, or on the opposite that go against the system?

    I don’t thoroughly know the laws of my country or of the USA, so I wouldn’t argue further on this matter. But my conclusion would be that a republic seems better to me as to respect each person’s rights and freedom, and as to be more fair to every individual, in theory; while a democracy is more considerate of its people as a whole, even if it means sacrifices for each person. One gives control to the powerful minority, the other one gives control to the weak majority. Which one is better? I don’t know.

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  57. Jonathan -  July 6, 2010 - 3:37 am

    I think Dr. W is putting words in Ian’s mouth, and I don’t see how ‘group think’ is a necessary consequence of democracy. I see the point about 49% to 51% and the minority having no control, but you’re free to think what you want; you just might not get your way.

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  58. Dr. W -  July 6, 2010 - 1:39 am

    @Ian:

    You say: “It is my hope that the U.S. will always remain a Republic, because I value individual freedom.”

    Individual freedom, who doesn’t want that? Still, look at the state of your country, how is things working out for you, honestly?

    I come from a social democratic country and I doubt I had less individual freedom than you.

    It is good that you love you country, but to call a democracy a dictatorship is completely uneducated. It is clear that you are more affected by group-think than anyone.

    Again, it is nice you love you country, just don’t be a douche about it. I love my country and our political structure as I have experienced how it works out for everyone, but I don’t want to say it is the best thing.

    Nietzsche said it best:
    “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

    Reply
  59. Andre. -  July 6, 2010 - 12:54 am

    That was an extravagantly informative comment. I think Ian should win a prize for being one of the coolest persons ever.

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  60. Ian -  July 6, 2010 - 12:08 am

    REPUBLIC vs. DEMOCRACY

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
    and to the Republic for which it stands,
    one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    SUMMARY
    In the Pledge of Allegiance we all pledge allegiance to our Republic, not to a democracy. “Republic” is the proper description of our government, not “democracy.” I invite you to join me in raising public awareness regarding that distinction.

    A republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a democracy the sovereignty is in the group.

    Republic. That form of government in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated. [NOTE: The word "people" may be either plural or singular. In a republic the group only has advisory powers; the sovereign individual is free to reject the majority group-think. USA/exception: if 100% of a jury convicts, then the individual loses sovereignty and is subject to group-think as in a democracy.]

    Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy. [NOTE: In a pure democracy, 51% beats 49%. In other words, the minority has no rights. The minority only has those privileges granted by the dictatorship of the majority.]

    The distinction between our Republic and a democracy is not an idle one. It has great legal significance.

    The Constitution guarantees to every state a Republican form of government (Art. 4, Sec. 4). No state may join the United States unless it is a Republic. Our Republic is one dedicated to “liberty and justice for all.” Minority individual rights are the priority. The people have natural rights instead of civil rights. The people are protected by the Bill of Rights from the majority. One vote in a jury can stop all of the majority from depriving any one of the people of his rights; this would not be so if the United States were a democracy. (see People’s rights vs Citizens’ rights)

    Reply

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