What’s the Difference between Socialism and Democratic Socialism?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the new it girl of the left. She captured the imagination of liberal America when she defeated longtime Democratic congressman Joe Crowley in the Democrat primary. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called her the future of the Democrat Party.

She calls herself a democratic socialist.

So what’s the difference between regular old socialism and democratic socialism? We can look out to the world and see examples of socialism. There are the communist countries, most of which collapsed in the early 1990’s. Today, we most often point to Venezuela, a country with vast economic resources that elected an avowed socialist and then quickly descended into abject poverty and despotism. A google news search for Venezuela returns story after story of deprivation, misery, and brutality, all done in the name of socialism.

But that’s not democratic socialism, they say.

Democratic socialism isn’t anything like Venezuela. You see, under democratic socialism the people will own industries, not the government. Well, the government will own some industries, but only the important ones. The rest will be owned by all of us for all of us, and we’ll get free healthcare, free education, free food, and high wages for work we enjoy. In this utopia, doctors won’t even care they go through a decade of intense training for an incredibly demanding job, and then don’t get paid much different than the orderly who just finished high school.

Sounds great, right? If the only downside to democratic socialism is that some rich guy can’t buy a third home, then sign me up.

But socialism will never work no matter how many fluffy modifiers you add onto it, because socialism is a garbage philosophy for dreamers and fools.

As their plans fail and they realize running a successful multinational corporation is actually hard work that not everyone can do, that most people won’t study long hours and work demanding jobs without commensurate rewards, that eventually they will run out of other people’s money, democratic socialists will have a choice to make. Maybe it won’t come in the first year. Maybe it won’t come in the second year. But eventually, all democratic socialists have to choose between their two systems. They can either be democratic socialists, or they can be democratic socialists.

Socialism, as a philosophy and economic system, attempts to wash away human nature and is therefore doomed to failure. Step one of socialism of every variety is “pretend people behave the way we want, not they way they have since the beginning of time.” When their perfect policies for human happiness are met with human nature, socialists assume sabotage. At that point, the committed socialists can justify punishing people who do not act the way they want, because a little pain now is worth it to get to the utopia they know is right around the corner.

This is why socialism has only ever been implemented by force or quickly abandoned.

So what’s the difference between the brutal, dictatorial socialism of Venezuela and the democratic socialism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Time and power.

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