Thomas M. Hanna
December 10, 2018
The US has a surprisingly large amount of public ownership. But in order for it to truly serve the social good, it must be expanded — and democratized.
Socialism in the United States is making a comeback. Socialists are winning elections at the local, state, and federal levels; the membership of Democratic Socialists of America stands at a record fifty-five thousand; and polling consistently finds that younger Americans have relatively positive opinions of the concept.
While the term “socialism” means different things to different people, for the vast majority in the burgeoning movement it suggests the promise of a very different kind of system — one that is far more equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable than both capitalism and past experimentation with its alternatives. This system, though qualitatively different from the current order, won’t be conjured out of thin air. It will have to be constructed, at least partially, from existing institutions and arrangements.
In the economic realm, one such approach is expanding public ownership — enterprises, services, assets, and other entities owned and operated by the state at various levels. When done the right way, public ownership can create more equitable distributions of wealth and power and can be a mechanism for addressing vital social needs.