Socialism can be simply explained as the number of social programs enacted, times the financial costs to taxpayers. The more costs associated with the social programs and their total numbers, as a percentage of gross domestic production, the greater the level of socialism.
Government usually provides services that are an expense to society. Although many deem socialism and communism as antonyms, this author prefers to look at socialism as a percentage of the economy where government services and products are provided, to the percentage provided by the private sector.
The primary deference between communism and socialism is private property rights. When there are no private property rights, the government then owns everything, and everyone worked for the government, that is communism. Whereas Venezuela with it private public partnership as many called it, a mixed economic model as economist called, a combination of a robust government sector and a substantive private sector, try to work in harmony.
The bigger the government is without property ownership being held by the State, the more socialistic. Once homes, lands, businesses, commercial buildings and rents are owned by the government, that is communism with everyone works for the government. Under socialism, private property rights are still in the hands of the Citizens, it’s just that the property and various activities are taxed to pay for the government, The more total taxation as a percentage of total productive output, GDP, the more socialistic your society would be.
As an example, many may not consider prisons and jails to be part of socialism, because it is a needed entity yet the fewer people incarcerated the less socialism and less government costs there would be. Of course, the more people you have incarcerated the larger the correction system must be to manage, feed, cloth, shelter and try to educate the prisoners.
Socialism can be visualized as a sliding scale. With minimal government (libertarianism) to the left and communism, total government to the far right. The Democratic Party would be right of theRepublican Party theoretically, but in reality, they are very close to one another and much closer today to the far-right communism than the to the far-left, aka, libertarianism.
This is one of the great misunderstanding as to what political ideology is far right and which one is far left. As an example, fascism appears to occur when the costs of government gets to large in relation to the amount of production or GDP, the gross domestic product as I noted previously. The major fascist nations of Germany, Italy and Japan during WWII all were highly socialistic with high levels of militarism compounding the size and costs of government. To enforce all the taxation as GDP wains from the expansion of the government sector, those in government enforcement become harsher and penalties such as incarcerations and fines stiffer as wages drop and taxes rise. Basically, the government is squeezing the profits out of the private sector to pay for the increased costs of government. Additionally, in the 20th century, with the advent of fiat currencies put in place around the world, governments could simply print more money to pay for the additional costs of an expanding government, but this debases the currency without increased productivity causing the devaluation of the currency which results in eventual price inflation, the rising of manufacturing and consumer prices.
Where this author believes government central planners make a huge mistake, is crediting the production by private companies contracting with the government, as part of the GDP calculations when a bridge, jet fighter or a school is an expense to society. As an example, if all children were primarily educated via home computers, the costs of building schools could be eliminated. I am not saying this is a good or bad idea, it’s just an example of identifying costs and expenses associated with government where the physical school itself is built by some private sector construction company but actually paid for by taxes. Today, we add the costs of building the school as GDP when it is an expense to our society making it appear that our society is more productive than it really is. A society cannot be more prosperous by increasing expenses as our society has seen since the 2008 Great Recession, with the cost of the Federal Government alone reaching $4 trillion annually with $1 trillion of that being printed with interest charges passed onto the taxpayers.