I consistently see both liberals and democrats misuse the term 'socialist.' Sanders is a socialist, claims the left. Obama is a socialist, claims the right. One sees it as a good thing, the other as an evil. But neither fits the traditional definition.
Socialism means government (or common) ownership of the means of production — industry, natural resources, etc. It does not mean the welfare state or programs for the common good. The modern welfare state arises from the policies of such men as Bismark, not Marx. It exists to protect the capitalist system from socialism, to co-opt the socialist into the established order.
In essence, it is a form of corporatism. Democratic corporatism, if you will, rather than democratic socialism as many are referring to it. It very much protects big business and tries to promote a stable society in which it can flourish.
I also frequently see those on the left referring to the far right as corporatists, but this, too, is incorrect. Those 'conservatives' want to dismantle the partnership between government and business, and replace it with unbridled capitalism.
Now, I will admit that I do not feel particularly fond of socialism, capitalism, or corporatism. (I will not include communism — there has never been a truly communist nation, the Soviet Union, etc, being essentially socialist. Indeed, by Marx's definition, there can not be a communist nation because the state will 'wither away.') I am a sort of distributist, in essence — whether that makes me liberal, conservative, or simply crazy, I do not know.
I will also admit that words mean whatever we choose them to mean. If the definition of socialism has shifted, so be it. Things will go on no matter which words we use.
Things always go on.
Stephen Brooke ©2015
I rarely write anything of this sort anymore, preferring to tuck such ideas into my fiction. But here it is anyway.