Communism is an extreme form of socialism in which the government aspires to own all industry and where, theoretically, wealth is shared. In its Russian, Chinese and North Korean forms, it has been accompanied by totalitarianism. It failed in Russia and is failing in North Korea. The Chinese have combined totalitarianism with capitalism and are thriving economically.
The socialism of Western Europe is far less extreme, without sliding toward communism or totalitarianism. Take Sweden. About 90 percent of resources and companies are privately owned; 5 percent are owned by the state, and another 5 percent operate as cooperatives.
Its economy is rated the fourth most competitive in the world and is considered the “most creative” in Europe, with government investing 3.5 percent of gross national product in research and development (the U.S. figure is 2.8 percent). Inflation is low; debt is at 35 percent of GNP (71.8 percent here). The Swedes surpass us in home ownership.
Sweden also has strong “socialist” programs, especially in education and health care. And to support these programs, taxes are high. But the Swedes get much in return. Education through college is free, with government devoting 13.3 percent of GNP to it. (Here, the figure is 12.7 percent, not including what we spend on higher education.)
Sweden spends 9.5 percent of GNP on health care, compared to 17.7 percent here. In a Forbes Magazine rating of the 15 healthiest countries in the world, Sweden came in second. The USA did not make the list. Sweden has 3.9 doctors per 1,000 people; we have 2.4.
Is Sweden perfect? No. Would I want to move there? No. But it and other European socialist countries are hardly on the brink of failure, as conservatives so often contend.