For some strange reason, the Chicken Littles of the world have become terrified by the idea that socialism is just over the hill for the United States. The most frightened even throw in communism as though it was synonymous with socialism.

Under communism, there is no such thing as private property. The country was hysterical over communism after World War II when Stalin was gobbling up the small countries in Europe. In fact, the Vietnam and Korean wars were fought to stop the march of communism in the world. But we should not fear communism because Russia has already proved it doesn’t work.

Consensus needed for socialism

According to history, socialism is less rigid but makes changes through democratic practices, which means that a significant majority of the people must support the idea or the politicians won’t pass it.

People who live in fear of socialism simply do not understand democracy. They believe that somehow they will wake up some morning and socialism will be everywhere. The governmental system in the United States, with all of its vertical and horizontal checks and balances, requires years of consideration before anything gets adopted.

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Case in point: the greatest need in our society is a medical program that will stop all of the illness and death suffered by people who can’t afford coverage. This was brought up by President Harry Truman almost 100 years ago and we are still talking, talking and talking about it.

Socialism or meeting needs

Most folks in America were around when President Barack Obama threw the “Hail Mary” that fell way short of providing universal medical care. The plan was full of compromises and in need of repair. So people are still dying.

We already have some significant socialism because it was not considered socialism but responses to pressing needs. The Great Depression of the 1930s told us that we needed Social Security; then we needed medical care for the elderly; then we needed minimal medical aid for the poor. Each as the need became apparent.

The volatility of the agriculture industry brought farmers a “safety net,” which they deny is socialism, but socialism by any other name is still socialism. In fact, our farming industry was born when the federal government handed out free land to settlers and the Northern Pacific Railroad.

Socialism slow and incremental

If we looked back at our history, the socialism we have adopted has been slow and incremental. That’s the way American democracy works. There will never be a sudden junking of free capitalism, so sleep peacefully.

Socialism is no stranger to North Dakota. Many of those now frightened by socialism are the same ones who proudly tell out-of-staters about the state-owned largest mill in the Northern Hemisphere and the most prosperous bank west of Minneapolis.

In the minds of some, any form of socialism is evil. It takes a degree of selfishness to arrive at that conclusion because most of the socialism we have adopted to date has created a sense of community. It shows that we care about the needs and problems of others.

Increasing care for others

Actually, this country is so rich that we can afford to increase our care for others by building our national community to include more and better health care, social security, education, infrastructure, retraining, health research and whatever else we think is a pressing need.

Many people in America are in need of more socialism. This is no time to yell that the sky is falling.

In the final analysis, we will be judged more on our compassion for others than the purity of our economic system.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former professor at UND and state lieutenant governor.