I just heard a quote on the radio from the now-famous Joe the Plumber who said he’ll be voting in the U.S. election for the candidate he thinks will preserve democracy and not institute a socialist state.

I thought I’d throw open a thread here so we can talk about this, mostly because I live in Canada and am therefore surrounded by peers whose daily life is spent in a democratic country whose culture is based on fairly ingrained values of taking care of each other, and we have a hard time understanding why the word “socialism” is spit out in the U.S. as if it’s a curse. (When I lived in the U.S., I also couldn’t understand this.)

I’ll note off the bat, though, that Joe has erroneously implied that a form of governance (democracy) is incompatible with an economic framework (socialism). Most of the democracies in the industrialized world enjoy some degree of social programs, such as health care*, child care, and education.

So, what do you think socialism means? Do you see Barack Obama’s policies as extreme? What are your assumptions about how people live in countries that do have socialized programs? When someone utters the s word do you cringe?

(Like last time, please be respectful. I’ll moderate comments if necessary, but since you’re all so rad, I’m sure I won’t have to.)

* I couldn’t understand John McCain’s comment during the debate last night when he seemed to imply that if Obama won, Americans would be miserable just like people in Canada and England (a quick search didn’t turn up a clip, but I did watch the first few seconds of this video, which shows a clip of McCain making the same point on a news show). Now, I wouldn’t say that any country has a citizenry that is totally pleased with their government all the time, but I’ll make the sweeping generalization that Canadians and the English are just fine, and happy. And that even those who think their health care system could use some improvement would loathe the idea of adopting the current American system. But anyway, my question about socialism isn’t just about health care.