Originally Answered: To those who support socialism, what is your definition and why do you support it?
Socialism is defined as an economic system based on the social ownership of the means of production and appropriation of the surplus product to benefit the entire community:
A society may be defined as socialist if the major part of the means of production of goods and services is in some sense socially owned and operated, by state, socialized or cooperative enterprises. The practical issues of socialism comprise the relationships between management and workforce within the enterprise, the interrelationships between production units (Plan versus markets), and, if the state owns and operates any part of the economy, who controls it and how.
– The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
I don’t have a unique definition for this system in the same way I don’t need to invent my own definition for the term gravity.
As for why I am supportive of socialism, it’s primarily because capitalism is an outmoded way of organizing the economy, with institutions and norms developed before modern scientific knowledge. The result is an institutional arrangement that is incompatible with our modern understanding of human psychology leading to unneeded stress and unhappiness, as well as inefficiencies at the systemic level. Furthermore, capitalist dynamics constrain the further development and employment of technological progress to benefit the entire population. Much of human society revolves around the accumulation of capital, which constrains human action at the micro-level, as encapsulated by phrases such as “we live to work”, and the macro-level, where the expression of democratic will and satisfaction of human needs is constrained by the needs of the market (lest they distort the market and lead to “interventions”).
Capitalism is largely sustained by a deranged ideology largely derived from religious belief in the efficacy of “hard work” for the sake of work itself (this influence is particularly strong in North America), resulting in a collectivist mentality where people are only thought to be “deserving” of material necessities and luxuries if they work to ironically serve the needs of the collective as determined by the labor market. In reality, the labor market serves to induce people to work in the interests of private owners and employers which as a byproduct can benefit society indirectly. This myth is sustained by the ruling capitalist class which benefits most from the continuation of capitalism. Unsurprisingly, the ruling class is exempt from having to engage in “hard work” as they live off capital income. This archaic notion of work and valuation based on hours worked (the latter of which underlies capitalist dynamics) is a holdover from the industrial revolution that has less relevance to a knowledge economy.
Maintaining such a coercive system incurs an unnecessary hardship and misery for the rest of humanity, which is forced to spend most their waking hours working or figuring out ways to develop an income, a precarious situation that is not only harmful to mental and physical health but unsustainable given technological progress and increased automation. Simply put, human labor power accounts for an ever smaller portion of value produced in the economy relative to capital inputs. The majority of the population can’t be expected to rely on diminishing sources of labor income (i.e. work) indefinitely, and capitalism by its nature due to private ownership and appropriation of the surplus product lacks a mechanism for adjusting the necessary labor time and work hours required to sustain the economy (instead you get pockets of unemployment on the one hand and over-worked workers on the other). The negative impact isn’t confined to economics but impacts the broader society and culture: philosophical and critical thinking skills are devalued as people have little time and energy to engage in such pursuits when having to focus first and foremost on career, and cultural development is stunted as most cultural products primarily come to serve as escapism or simple pleasures targeting a culture of workers and burned out employees.
The logical conclusion is some form of shared social ownership of the increasingly automated means of producing wealth, with productivity gains and the reduced demand for human labor not only benefiting the entire population in the form of higher incomes but also progressively shorter work hours. In short, a socialist economy has the capability to minimize the amount of work demanded of its population, greatly expanding the scope for human freedom in the form of free time to actually live life. To put it succinctly, socialism is a bridge toward a form of society where the economy exists to serve the needs and desires of its inhabitants.
The goal of any economic system is to serve the needs and desires of its population. Under contemporary capitalism, the inverse is true: the population serves the needs of the economy. This is the strongest non-technical argument for socialism.