There is a great deal of justified excitement that the COVID-19 vaccines will eventually allow us to put this pandemic behind us and return to "normal." These breakthroughs have not sprung from the private sector, but from government-funded scientific research.

In the past, similar government programs have given us transistors, microwaves, the internet, jet planes, satellites, artificial limbs and numerous other life-changing products. These are all breakthroughs that private enterprise was not able to achieve alone.

Such progress on behalf of all of society is only possible because of taxpayer-funded scientific research. This along with other social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance make paying our taxes worthwhile and "socialism" not such a bad word.

Nat Kirkland, MD


(8) comments


It was Mr. Kirkland, not I, Ms. Sheridan, that brought up the term “socialism” and inferred that it was the equivalent of social programs and a good idea,. I simply encouraged him to discover the fundamental difference between the two.

As to your first question, though I would question the term “our government”, I made no such assertion. I do not think the ruling classes would be very pleased if their political servants tried to do such a thing.

As to your second question, I assume by “private management” you mean “private ownership. That aside, if, by using healthcare as an example, you are going to try making a case that private ownership in a free market system increases costs and decreases quality you will first need to show that healthcare in the US actually operates on free market principles not distorted by massive governmental intrusion. I think that attempt would be doomed to failure, and would negate your premise. For an example of healthcare quality in state-owned and run facilities perhaps one could look to the Veteran Affairs healthcare system as an example.


Thank you for this exchange, Donald. At its heart, the discussion reveals that all participants are making similar points: the use of social programs do not make a government socialist. You did not make that claim, and neither did Mr. Kirkland nor I. Instead, the "socialist" accusations have been used largely by critics of Senators Sanders and Warren, and the Democratic Party in general. By recognizing the difference between social programs and socialism, voters will come to understand that such attacks are very far off-base.


One can be a socialist, advocating socialist beliefs while not living under socialism, Ms. Sheridan. For purposes of the campaign trail, Mr. Sanders likes to play the redefining game when it comes to democratic socialism, painting it as warm and fuzzy. To quote Wiki, ““Although most democratic socialists seek a gradual transition to socialism,[5] democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as means to establish socialism.[6]”

Mr. Sanders either knows this is the DemSoc endgame or he is really, really ignorant. And if he does know it, he would be happy to move toward that goal on the back of a large expansion of or an increase in taxpayer-funded social programs. He would view them as stepping stones.

One last note --just because a social program exists or is being promoted does not make it morally right nor does that which is seen negate a need to investigate that which is not seen (with a tip of the hat to Frederic Bastiat) – especially any unseen social impact a program may have or is currently having.


Mr. Kirkland, you may wish to learn to differentiate between social programs and socialism.


Could you enlighten us, Donald?


Again, Ms. Sheridan? Okay, one more time. Social programs are a characteristic of a social welfare state that is funded by a market-based economy and the private ownership of the means of production. All Western nations (if the word “nation” is any longer applicable) are social welfare states to one degree or another. Socialism is a political ideology in which the State owns the means of production and production is not market-based. That would be the thumbnail version.


In what ways do you see our government attempting to take over the means of production? And if private management of the means of production results in significant increases in the price and decreases in the quality of a product (think health care in the U. S.), is it madness to continue relying on such a production model?


Donald: Yes, I think the author is doing what wingnuts often do: misusing the word "socialism." Everything in his letter was spot on before that, in my opinion; in particular, much research initiated by government funds has generated significant benefits. And, even more generally, there are certain things that are most effectively achieved with public policy, since the free market doesn't suffice; the most obvious example is environmental policy, to combat the externalities that the free market ignores. (Well, I guess the free market would eventually take care of them, but after huge amounts of damage was done.) But, as you point out, that is not socialism.

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