Eric Scheie posting at "Classical Values" asks how do we have a legitimate conversation about socialism — do we have it, do we want it — without sounding like some conspiracy theorist.

Unfortunately (as I have pointed out in several posts), the "s" word is so fraught with problems that it might be too contaminated to use. I worry that "socialist" within five words of "Barack Obama" has become code language for belief in various popular far-right conspiracy theories. The "Obama is a secret Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya" stuff. After all, who but a secret Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya would want to impose socialism on the United States?

In theory, "socialism" is still a perfectly legitimate word, but I worry that it is becoming delegitimized. As it is, the responsible critics of Barack Obama’s economic programs are very, very careful not to use the word "socialist," and if they do, it is only to distance themselves from those who call Barack Obama a socialist.

An old adage is "you’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you."  Use of a particular word ought to be acceptable if it describes things accurately.  I’ve been using the word "socialism" here for a couple months, but only after describing a recent event that, in my mind, continues to push our country in that direction.  Eric has this feeling, however, that anytime someone uses the S-word, they get labeled a kook and ignored. 

Marginalizing a word is an easy way to avoid debate.  I hope this isn’t happening.

Filed under: CultureEconomics

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