Marc Jampole: What exactly are “capitalism” and “socialism”?

Vox Populi

In the newspeak of political name calling, a New York Times reporter calls government ownership “capitalism,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says granting statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, DC would lead to “socialism.” It’s time to review the meanings of these terms.

The problem with the news media talking about socialism in the context of the current election cycle is that most people—including most reporters and columnists—have no idea what socialism is and only a fuzzy notion of what capitalism is. What’s worse is that popular but inaccurate or misconceived definitions of the two words confuse the issue. A reporter may use the technical definitions of socialism and capitalism in an article, but her readers understand one of the several non-technical meanings of the two words, and may therefore not get the point of the article. It is more likely, however, that the reporter is misusing the words…

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