"Socialism is communism."
This is probably the most common knee-jerk reaction to the word socialism in the United States. It is mostly a result of years of military wars, economic wars and propaganda wars--not that the statement is completely without truth. Both are economic systems based around the value of the worker and the wealth they create through labor. The main difference is the way in which that wealth is distributed. In socialism, there will still be some inequality (albeit significantly less and to a lesser degree) as certain products or services draw more income than others. Communism’s main philosophy is “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” In other words, resources are allocated based on how much an individual requires (family size, disabilities, etc) as opposed to how hard/in what industry that individual works. Under most circumstances, communism would require a significant amount of bureaucracy.
“Everyone is not equal in their abilities and capabilities and therefore socialism erodes people’s desire to put effort into work.”
We as Americans have been sufficiently brainwashed to believe that hard work is the purpose of life. It is not. The purpose of life is to enjoy it; to contribute to the betterment of the society in which you live; and to, most importantly, safeguard the future of our planet and our species (our children, grandchildren, etc). Furthermore, as addressed above, it is the prerogative of the employees in the democratically-run businesses to decide whether they wish to increase output and therefore increase profit, or to reduce hours/labor and therefore increase time for family/socialization/leisure/hobbies. If you personally profit from the output of your labor, you are likely to work harder than you currently do under a wage-labor system, where your main concerns are working hard enough to not get fired, or the slim chance of advancing into an ever-narrowing upper class.
“If our economy suffers in the way that socialist countries have in the past, how would we recover?”
This has a threefold answer. One, there never has been a socialist country that has avoided the massive impact of interference from the US, its allies, and the ruling elite. Two, the United States is arguably the most resource-diverse nation in the world. It is certainly not dependent on one or two exports to maintain its economy. And finally, economies can suffer in many ways from manifold issues. So, to have a blanket answer to address them all, or a crystal ball to predict them, verges on impossible. In reality, it will be up to the society in question to determine the best course of action. Socialism would naturally be much more stable than capitalism, not reliant upon the insatiable appetite of the board of directors or investment firms; and we believe these economic busts would be significantly less frequent and less severe.
“Power corrupts, so how would we keep the government from taking advantage of the system in the same way that they do now?”
With the wealth distributed on a much more even playing field, the consolidation of power becomes increasingly more difficult. Certainly the sort of staggeringly influential power that we currently suffer from becomes impossible. This is, again, a question that seems to misunderstand what socialism is and is not.
“How would socialism address environmental issues?”
As just a very small snapshot of popular opinion, Yale and Utah State University used statistical data to determine, county by county, that in 100% of counties, a majority of the population believe we should fund research into renewable energy. 100% believe we should regulate CO2 as a pollutant. 95% believe we should have strict limits on CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. 99% believe that utility companies should be required to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources. 100% believe in global warming.
This is just a minimal window into opinions on the environment that nearly everyone has. If we break it down to concerns that a national majority have, it becomes even more revolutionary. The reason there is such little support for environmentally sound legislation is mostly an issue of corporate lobbyists. Their power to influence policy, the coopting of the environmental movement by “green capitalists,” as well as the lack of any mass movement, is made even more challenging by direct attempts to divide and distract us. Under socialism, we would be unable to disconnect the effects we had on our environment from the calculation of our profits. We aren’t capitalists. We can’t pick up and move our homes and businesses if the water becomes contaminated by our pollutants. Furthermore, if majority opinion impacts business practice then those issues disappear and we stand a real chance of preserving our planet and our species.
“When will you come for my guns?”
We won’t. In the words of Karl Marx, “Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered. Any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.” Although you will find differing opinions on this matter from a thousand different voices, the general consensus among socialists is that worker control is vital and something to be defended. You have the right to defend yourself and your economic autonomy from oppressors.
“I’m religious...how does socialism fit into my beliefs, and will my beliefs be respected?”
I’m going to tread lightly here, because it is a touchy subject. Many Marxist states have been decidedly anti-theist and actively sought to oppress religion. This isn’t something which is generally supported by most socialists today. In fact, there is a long history of religion and socialism co-existing. The Christian Socialist movement held significant sway in the United States from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. There have been Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist socialist movements worldwide. A number of Heathen groups lean toward socialism as well. At a basic level, capitalism runs counter to the teachings of most major religions. Seeking profit and power, competing against and causing injury to others in the name of greater wealth is not something supported by their doctrine.
“How would socialist policy address higher education? Sexual orientation? War on drugs? Etc…”
There are a lot of questions that people have about individual rights and social programs when confronted with the idea of socialism. Again, this spawns mostly from the misconception that socialism is a form of government. It is not. It is entirely possible to maintain a democratic republic, or (as our technology level allows this now) a true democracy and have a socialist economy, as we addressed in the manifesto. Under that future government, these issues would be dealt with through the democratic process. Without the constant impediment of corporate lobbyists or the propaganda of the corporate-owned media, these issues would be much more representative of people’s needs and desires.
“How would you guard against devolution into dictatorship / oligarchy?”
This has been addressed above but it bears repeating. Socialism is economic, not governmental. We believe that socialism is the perfect complement to governmental democracy and so there would not be any room for dictators or a ruling elite.