Obama has often been accused of being a socialist and has sometimes been accused of having a socialist agenda. I thought I would take a few moments to sort this out a bit.
The classic form of socialism is an economic system in which the state controls and owns the means of production. In more modern terms, the state would own and control the economic entities of the nation. This is, of course, consistent with private ownership of personal items.
Economic socialism is, of course, consistent with many political systems ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. After all, there could very well be direct voting by the people while the state owns and controls the economic entities.
There is a tendency to confuse socialism with totalitarianism. Under totalitarianism, the state has complete (total) control over all aspects of life. Obviously, complete totalitarianism would also be socialist in character, since the state controls everything and thus controls the economy. But, this does not entail that all socialist states would be totalitarian (the fact that All Ss are Ps does not entail that all Ps are Ss). Not surprisingly, some folks accuse Obama of also having a totalitarian agenda, but that is a subject for another time.
There is also a tendency to take almost anything the state does as socialism. These cases typically involve the state using tax revenue to provide public goods. For example, Social Security is often cast as socialist because of this.
Getting back to the main point, does Obama have a socialist agenda?
Under the definition of classic socialism, clearly not. Obama’s actions seem to point towards a clear desire to keep the economic system in private hands. Obviously, folks will point towards GM as an example of his socialism. True, the state did take control of GM. However, the plan is for GM to eventually be private again. In this case, the state is acting like a corporation-providing cash in return for control.
It might be argued that Obama as a socialist agenda under a very broad definition of socialism: he wants to expand state power and use the tax payers’ money t0 fund social programs. Under this definition he would be a socialist. But, of course, every government would also be socialist. In this case, the charge of socialism would be as meaningful as accusing Obama of being a politician or a human being. After all a charge that applies to everyone really cannot be a special problem for anyone. So, Obama is a socialist on this view. So was Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes.
But, one may ask, what about his secret agenda? Well, if it is secret…how do you know he has it?