I say this nearly every week these days and this is the biggest area of contention for followers of this site. No issue has produced as much pushback as the idea that modern leftists, operating under the label of socialism to distinguish themselves from run of the mill progressive Democrats, aren’t really socialists in the traditional sense. I’ve pointed out that George Reisman agrees and writes that “Social democrats should stop calling themselves socialists.” Reisman:
Consistent with the laws of logic, the social democrats need to stop calling themselves socialists and to insist that no one else call them socialists. This is because the word “socialist” means “one who advocates socialism.” Inasmuch as socialism means government ownership of the means of production, the word “socialist” logically implies that one is an advocate of government ownership of the means of production, which, in the real world of choosing and acting, the social democrats—to their credit—have repeatedly shown that they are not.
I even elaborate on this here, arguing that if we are going to call them socialists, we should at least keep in mind that socialism means something different today and what we see now is more of a Neo-socialism. Nevertheless, here’s Bernie to support my case:
Democratic socialism, Sanders said, is not tied to any Marxist belief or the abolition of capitalism. “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal,” he said.
Again, technically speaking, these leftists are far Left Interventionists (to use Mises’ phrase), not traditional socialists. Interventionism is, of course, horrible and destructive; but our arguments against it are distinct from our arguments against traditional socialism.
Socialism is basically a marketing phrase at this point to agitate against the sentiments of the centrists and capitalists.