Ever since I can remember there has always been a strong anti-socialist sentiment amongst certain Americans, especially those of conservative sway but from what I can tell most of that sentiment is based on political fallacy rather than a critical understanding of what socialism actually is.
Samuel Wurzelbacher (Joe the Plumber) provided a perfect example of this misled sentiment when he said that Obama’s tax plan “sounds like socialism” and the point of the fallacy itself became evident when Govenor Palin succesfully got a rise out of the conservative base by quoting the nescient plumber. So what makes Sam, or Joe, or whatever his name is (I’ll just call him Joe) think that Obama’s tax plan sounds like socialism and why do I think he’s wrong?
Well, if Joe is anything like the “anti-socialist” conservatives that I’ve had conversations with, he thinks that anytime the government takes money from someone who earned it and and gives it to someone else who hasn’t earned it, that’s socialism.
The reason why I think that’s wrong is because every definition I’ve seen, and there are many variations, all base socialism on the public ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods and Obama’s tax plan isn’t calling for the public ownership of anything. All Obama is suggesting is that the government starts getting more of its revenue from a different bracket. That’s not socialism, that’s just taxes.
If Joe the Plumber wants to talk about socialism he needs to find an example of where the government actually controls production or distribution of goods such as the Pentagon, a tax-funded agency that controls the distribution of defense-related products… that’s socialism.
Now I realize that the so-called anti-socialist conservatives are liable to take offense to such a claim, but that’s another example of the fallacy, where despite certain features of socialism being strongly supported by conservatives, the word “socialism” itself is simultaneously promoted by conservative rhetoric as a derogatory term, frequently used to describe liberal opponents. This leads many people to the false conclusion that the very socialist features that conservatives actually support can’t possibly be socialist for the simple reason that conservatives hate socialism. It amazes me how that social conditioning actually works.