Karen Celestino-Horseman: Socialist, communist, capitalist—who cares!

Keywords Forefront / Opinion
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Celestino-HorsemanOn my Facebook page (the great facilitator of political debate), a family member claimed that Democrats are socialists. I asked, “How do you define socialism?” Not surprisingly, she never responded. I suspect it is because like most who use the word “socialism,” she has no idea what it means.

As a baby boomer, she and I both grew up during a time when the words “socialism” and “communism” were enough to send shivers down the backs of our parents. Today’s newest trend is to label any politician you don’t like a “socialist.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines “socialism” as a “political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.” Because the definition is so broad, various fascist and authoritarian leaders were able to usurp “socialism” towards their own end, e.g., Nazism, which provided that all Germans needed to put aside their own interests in the interest of the common good, which were political interests such as eugenics, anti-Semitism, etc. This is not to say that socialism promotes authoritarianism or fascism but rather shows that any political theory can be twisted to the convenience of those so inclined.

Many countries have borrowed ideas from socialism. The Nordic countries, successful economic countries that continuously score high on the happiness index and have lower crime, have borrowed elements of socialism. Their much-lauded welfare programs are designed to increase an individual’s autonomy, and they have a business system in which privately-owned businesses and workers negotiate wages with the assistance of government mediation.

All countries have elements of socialism. In the United States, we have public schools and a system of welfare. If these institutions are not producing the results we want, it is not the fault of socialism. Socialism merely provided the ideal to which these institutions were intended to ascribe.

I am not a socialist by any stretch, but there are ideas in socialism that should be examined. For example, health care should not be dependent upon what an individual can pay. At the same time, health care professionals need to be reasonably compensated in recognition of the years of training and skill they require. The question becomes: How does one enact such a system without breaking the bank? Free education is a wonderful idea, but again, how do we pay for it?

Unfortunately, we cannot even begin to discuss new innovations in how services are provided because anyone, particularly Democrats, who suggests that we adopt new approaches that require the government and the private sector to work together is labeled a socialist. The biggest finger-pointer-in-chief is Donald Trump, and sadly, our electorate gets caught up in his rhetoric without listening to the idea.

The only democratic socialist on the national stage is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (I don’t count Bernie Sanders because the only time he claims to be a Democrat is when he wants to run for president). Yet all Democrats are being painted with the socialist brush. I think AOC is inexperienced and naïve, and I disagree with her application of economics, but she has started a discussion.

With our country growing older, we cannot continue to do the same things in the same manner because it means we continue to make the same mistakes. It’s time we listen up and explore new ideas and not care where the idea originated. Change is not bad; it is simply change.•


Celestino-Horseman is an attorney and represents the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus on the Democratic State Central Committee. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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