It's mildly frustrating that when the Washington Post has a chance to interview Tim Geithner, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, the first question they ask about the administration's policies is: "How is this not socialism?" But it is surely just one big, festering national embarrassment that that the Republican Party actually considered a resolution to rename the Democratic Party the "Democrat Socialist Party" and passed a resolution urging the Democrats to "stop pushing our country towards socialism and governmental control."
The problem with the socialism tactic -- and it is quite obviously just a desperate tactic -- is that it relies not on any strange new insight into the administration, but instead rests entirely on a strange new definition of the word socialism. It's a tactic that proceeds by misinformation, and can end only with a confused public or a new definition of the word in question.
And since the public has been warming up to the word ever since the McCain campaign called Barack Obama a socialist for supporting the progressive income tax, I assume we are on the road to a new definition. Which is fine, really, since it's possible to imagine a world in which "socialism" refers to method for making ice cream or healing puppies. The word still wouldn't give any additional insight into Barack Obama, or Republicans any edge in the next election.
On a slightly unrelated note, it wasn't always this way. When Joseph Schumpeter made his famous prediction in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that capitalism was doomed to fail and socialism was destined to rise, it was a time (1942) in which a plurality, if not a majority, of the world's people were living under totalitarian or communist governments. Schumpeter asked, "Can capitalism survive?" and answered, simply and worryingly, "No." Turns out he was wrong, but at least it was plausible.
We're now living in a world in which a plurality of the world's people, if not a majority, are living under some species of capitalist democracy. I don't know if that's an inevitable result of human destiny, but the road to socialism is certainly looking a lot less plausible than it did 70 years ago. Republicans are looking increasingly ridiculous for suggesting it.
The cover image of Capitalism Socialism and Democracy is from Amazon.com