Merriam Webster Online, one of the worlds most famous English dictionaries, has announced that the most looked up words online this year were ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism.’ This just goes to show the confusion in the American public over the true meaning of these words. They have been so loosely dropped from the lips of hundreds of pundits, talk show hosts, journalists and bloggers that no one can be blamed for being confused.
What do you have when Wall Street CEOs and huge corporations (capitalists) beg for bailouts (socialism) and get it (‘robberyism’)? What about when Red China (communist — i.e. advanced socialism) becomes the world’s second largest economy (capitalism) while still maintaining control over every aspect of the society (Stalinism)? When Vladimir Putin (Communist pretending to be capitalist) throws his country’s richest man (pure capitalist) into jail and takes over his oil company (pure capitalism) and nationalizes it (socialism), but controls the profits for himself and his cronies (ideal capitalism to many capitalists)? Then the ideas behind the words gets really muddled. Any mind would be boggled by this.
To show how aberrated these words have become from their original meanings, mark that socialism originally referred to governmental ownership and administration of the production and distribution of goods. Now it has come to mean any transaction that does not have profit involved, is done for mostly humanitarian reasons, or which gets in the way of unrestrained capitalism.
Capitalism originally referred to private or corporate ownership of the tools used to make and transport products whose prices are set by competition on the free market. In countries such as Cuba, North Korea and the formerly communist Russia, it has been corrupted to mean doing anything at all for oneself under ones own volition.
These aren’t the only words that have wandered from their original meaning. ‘Unions’ were once meant to help provide jobs for working class people, now they often block people from getting jobs. People talk about ‘freedom’ and fighting for it, yet now more than ever, people seek security before freedom, and at any price. They talk of ‘liberating’ another land, when actually, they are imposing a new order on that land, which its people did not ask for, and are not allowed to dissent from it.
‘Right to Work’ laws allegedly give workers the freedom to work any job, but in reality, allow employers to easily get rid of workers.
One should be careful when people start labeling things too readily. The only phrase one really needs to get familiar with is ‘con game.’