Scott asked why I was so scared of Socialism, and then threw out some statistics in regard to literacy rates and healthcare in some socialistic countries. This is a meaningful question, and I didn’t want to make an off-the-cuff response. So here goes.
The basic idea of socialism is that society in general, always with government as its tool, should shoulder the responsibility of taking care of its citizens, and that the means and products of commerce, and in fact, the concept of private property in general, be shared amongst members of the society to some extent or another.
This concept is predicated on the idea that the people, or, in a democratic socialistic society, a simple majority of the people that have the same values, desires, and wants, are thus justified in their numbers in enforcing their wants and desires onto those that don’t share those goals, wants, or desires. Thus a simple majority can create a system where they help themselves to the freedoms and properties of others, because the concept of “yours” no longer means anything.
I believe that human rights are inextricably intertwined with property rights. A system that recognizes one without the other is suspect on its face. One can argue that our American Experiment has failed in many regards to Human Rights, but the fact remains that our capitalistic Republic was not PREDICATED on the denial of those rights, it just failed in its promise. Socialism, on the other hand, is actually predicated on a denial or subjugation of individual freedom to the "greater good" however that is defined, on its most basic level.
So how to fix this problem where some force their will on others? In the twentieth century, in the revolutionary forms, it has , in every case, depended upon mass executions in order to eradicate those that heretically believed that their property or the fruits of their labor was somehow "theirs" or believed that they should be free to choose their own path in life. That’s an unavoidable byproduct historically when you try to take what belongs to others without compensation or consent, regardless of culture. Violence is always the answer to that nagging residual cling to liberty of the few that have not “gotten with the program”… the few eggs being broken to make the perfect society omelet, to paraphrase Lenin.
Populism, the appeal to class hatred in the name of Democracy, is the standard tool of the 20th Century's most evil leaders. Pit a numerically larger demographic against another, while delegitimizing the claims to liberty and property of the minority is a tried and true method of gaining power, and never to the benefit of the People except in its most surrealistic abstract form, or human liberty. Conquest perhaps, or eradication of whole religions or peoples certainly, but never for human liberty. Hitler is the obvious shining example, but he is mimicked by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others within our own society.
That the idea that people can vote themselves to your property or your human rights with impunity is not imemdiately discarded by those that value human liberty should be seen as the obscene absurdity that it is. Perhaps a final esample of the failure of our educational system, even. It is this very reason why we once had a Bill of Rights, one that has been steadily eroded by two centuries of interpretive legalisitc revision to legally mean today exactly opposite what any five year old would say it means on reading.
Governments act like any other entity… they attempt to survive and grow. As such, they are no more or less moral than a large corporation, without the accountability of actually having to sell stuff to a buying public (you know the old rubric... people vote for corporations every day using dollar bills as ballots). That governments have police powers, the power to create business monopolies (what is a lottery but a State Monopoly) and the power to “legitimize” the theft of your freedom and property makes them far more insidious thatn the largest "Evil Corporations", considering that there exists no controls over this beast. That government will evolve on its own to a decadent police state should be expected and foreseen. Our founding fathers certainly did, and warned against it strongly, and did their best to curtail it. As governments grow in size, scope, and power, the more important it becomes for the individual to be in its good graces, and the more tantalizing the opportunity to somehow coopt its extra-legal power for your own special interest.
Some simply triangulate Corporations against People. Ridiculous on its face, it is never that simple. It is some People that want to cram religion down your throat, some other People that want to cram environmental ethics down your throat, some more People that want animals to have human rights, People that have a myriad of special interests that are not widely held, or more insidiously, not held by all. The all-powerful government cannot help but become corrupted when so many of the People and the Corporations are trying to cram their own version of perfectibility on those that don’t want to buy that brand of stuff that they are selling. Laws are passed to make people do things that they might otherwise not want to do, or not do what they might otherwise want to do, and the culmination of law-making today is a society where nothing new is allowed, and every facet of life is thoroughly controlled.
Lastly, strong and powerful government being the goal of those that want to control us all, and socialism the grand scheme to carry out the dream, who controls that government becomes more and more critically important. With so much power on the line, God or Gaia forbid that the Evildoers on the other side of the philosophic spectrum grab control of power. We must do whatever we can to keep them away! That road leads to Hell. That is why I like Small instead of Big, in both commercial dealings and governments. They tend to pay more attention to their customer and don't have the power to play stupid games with them or force them to buy crap they don't want to buy.
I can only wonder at what kind of life experiences the people have who, in my opinion, wildly and naïvely think that bureaucrats are the best stewards for dealing and balancing what is, at best, a stew of special interests with competing agendas. If I need to choose, I choose human liberty and freedom as a goal. Not subjugation to what someone else thinks will make me “happy”. But please don't tell my home-owners association I think that. They will make my life a living Hell for not getting with the program!