Every word has a definition and you can look that up in a dictionary and call that definition the gospel truth. But many words also have emotions attached to them which are harder to define because they are unique to the individual that feels them.

Everybody know what “patriotism” is, it’s love of country, but just as everyone has their own definition of love they also have their own emotional definition of patriotism. For some it is storming the United States Capitol, for others it is peaceful protest for women’s rights.

For some people, patriotism is embodied in a symbol, like the flag, for others it is embodied in a concept, like the Constitution, but for everyone, a patriot is certainly not someone who expresses patriotism differently than they do, so you have people calling themselves patriots fighting other people who call themselves patriots. But whatever patriotism means, it is seen as a good thing.

Democracy is another word that has positive meanings, so people tend to use it to, as it were, make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. You have nations with names like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North part) or the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, neither of which have anything remotely near the basic freedoms that the word democracy implies, but the word sounds nice.

When I was a kid , calling someone a “communist” was a very bad thing indeed, and people who were labeled as communists, whether they were or not, had their lives ruined by an addlepated alcoholic Senator named McCarthy. Now, the word is “socialism” which is shorthand for bad. The bad things about socialism are loss of freedom, thought control, the loss of owning firearms, it is immoral because it takes from some and gives to others, it is the loss of individuality. It is the loss of privacy. Of course, for some it means economic security.

As far as the loss of privacy is concerned, it was once--and maybe still--thought that the government would take it away from us, like they did in the Soviet Union. Social Security cards once had “Not to be used for the purposes of identification” printed on them, that’s how afraid we were of “big brother.”

But in fact, nothing has stripped Americans of privacy more quickly than private enterprise, which continually and successfully can know where we live, where we are going or are likely to go, or what we have bought and are likely to buy, not to mention what we say on our cell phones. Why? Because we fell all over ourselves to give them our information, no strings attached—on the people’s part, anyway. And being private enterprise they want this information so they can make money, in one way by getting us to buy what they sell, and in another case by selling the information to others such as the United States government.

So, scratch privacy concerns about socialism. Google beat socialism to our most personal information by a mile. Of course, they will sell the data to any socialist that has the bucks.

Income redistribution? Well, you can never have enough money because, because. Well, you just can’t. There are $98 Trillion of household net assets in the United states. Divvied up, that parcels out to $297,000 per person, babies included. The top 1% (3.3 million) of Americans own $25 trillion of wealth, or $7.753 million, each. The middle class (60% of Americans, or 198 million people) hold $18 trillion of wealth, or $90,000 average. I’m sure the top 1% deserves what they have, but the American middle class deserves better than not quite enough money to buy a used motor-home—a lot better.

If there is anyone who likes socialism, well, parts of it anyway, it’s big business. They’ve got a sweet deal going. It’s called privatizing profit and socializing loss. When they make money, they get to keep it. When they lose money, as in the great recession of 2008, the American people get to pay for it. They’re too big to fail and we’re too small to fight it. Of course, that’s why we elect people to Congress, so that they can … they can … they can … oh, never mind.

Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator and four years as chairman of the Montana Democratic Party. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek. Montana Viewpoint appears in weekly papers across Montana and online at missoulacurrent.com.