Ahhh, socialism. If you want to scare a bunch of Americans on Halloween, don't sneak up behind them and yell 'BOO!' sneak up behind them and yell 'SOCIALISM!' It will scare them witless.
When I was in the US this summer a New York Post columnist (I know, I know) wrote about how you could smell the socialism in the air in Europe and it would bring about the downfall of the old continent.
But see, here is what I don't get. Socialism this and socialism that, but seriously, what is socialism?
I used to think of socialism as communism's poorer cousin. A bit like a bunch of communists got cold feet going whole hog so they settled for socialism. The image I have of socialism, from my old days at American public school, is a country that controls the production of goods within its borders. It is also a state that controls the flood of goods in and out of its borders. The theory, as I understood it, was that government would own and run the businesses and the people would work there.
Anyway I learned that a long time ago, and, well I can't even remember what I ate for dinner yesterday so definitions of socialism I am fuzzy on.
But that said, I do spend a lot of time wondering if it really is Socialism that Americans are so afraid of, and why don't Swedes see themselves as socialist?
When I talk to Swedes about this being a socialist nation they often look at me a bit confused. This is probably because if you look around, capitalism is also thriving. The Swedish government has sold off their shares of Absolut, Telia and other previously state-owned businesses. You cannot find a parking place at the shopping mall on a Saturday because people are out fueling the economy.
Is socialism just social welfare? Living in Sweden, as I have written before, I pay a lot of tax. But I also get a LOT of benefits. Little Swede's daycare? Oh, you would crack up if I told you how much it cost. That is because it is subsidized, heavily, by the state. We get a monthly child stipend. And of course the 'free' health care, and that Masters program I am doing? It costs nothing out of pocket.
Are Americans really just afraid of someone else getting something for nothing?