Thanks to Daphne for the A2A.
First off it is important to differentiate between State socialism and other forms of socialism that are non-Statist, such as libertarian socialism, collectivist anarchism, anarcho-syndicalism, etc. It is often assumed that “socialism” equates State control and centralized empowerments, but that is an error.
Second it is important to understand the basic philosophical ideas behind socialism, which do not subscribe to the belief that a “fundamental objective” of all people is “self-enrichment.” The belief in “economic realities imposed on us by human nature” is a product of individualism and materialism, which are very recent developments in human civilization, and don’t actually describe how society has been organized or how it has functioned throughout most of human history. Neoliberal economists and folks like Ayn Rand have popularized (and propagandized) individualist and materialist beliefs so that they have entered into mainstream thinking, but it is important to realize that these authors have never provided a scientific basis for their ideas; they are invented fictions. Going all the way back to Locke’s conception of “labor appropriation,” there have been fundamental mistakes in evaluating human preferences and motivations that are simply not grounded in reality. In fact, most scientific research points in the opposite direction, toward what are called “prosocial” behaviors in humans and animals that contradict pro-capitalist assumptions about what motivates reflexes like generosity, kindness, compassion, sharing and altruism. To read up on this, do a search on “evolution of prosocial behavior” or “genetic predisposition for prosocial behavior.” Historically and biologically, humans are simply more geared toward collectivism than individualism.
What “hard core socialists actually want to happen” is freedom from tyranny. This is one of the basic building blocks of socialist thought. To achieve this freedom, one of the greatest oppressive forces of modern civilization needs to be recognized and disrupted: namely capitalist enterprises that enrich themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else. In your own language, it is these corporate monopolies that are “holding us for ransom,” and governments often complicit in service to corporations. If you are unfamiliar with the tyranny of capitalist corporatocracy, I recommend reading Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, Yanis Varoufakis or Greg Palast on that topic. If you want to explore a more traditional critique of capitalism - you would also do well to read Marx’s Capital.
Socialists believe that, in order to create a more egalitarian civil society where relative equality, democracy and community are facilitated in the most effective ways, “the means of production” of all services and goods needs to be returned to the control of the people instead of the capitalist oligarchs. However, there is much debate around how best to do that - and that is why you see so many variations of socialist thought over time, from Marxism to democratic socialism to anarcho-syndicalism to Participism. If you were to try to understand all of these variations of socialism - and the sometimes subtle and nuanced differences between them - you would likely need to dedicate a few years to serious study. Alternatively, you could read books that cover a lot of historical ground in a more summarizing way, or offer proposals grounded in historical realities. There are probably two books I would recommend in this regard: Alec Nove’s The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited, and Peter Marshall’s Demanding the Impossible.
As a libertarian socialist, I am also a fan of Noam Chomsky, and you can find many of his lectures on YouTube that elaborate on socialism, capitalism, anarchism, democracy and so forth (just do a search on those terms). It’s well worth your time to watch a few hours of these IMO. From the libertarian socialist perspective, the same concerns over the tyranny of capitalist oligarchy applies to the State itself, as the State so often becomes the focus of plutocotratic manipulation. This is what we call “crony capitalism,” “regulatory capture,” “State capitalism,” etc. and it is the system under which most of the world currently operates. At the core of the socialist ideology is a well-proven observation that concentrations of human wealth - and/or concentrations of human power - are disastrous to our overall well-being and indeed the well-being of everything else on Earth. You could say it is simply an extension of the observation that “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The natural end-state of our current form of corporatocracy will inevitably be the enslavement of most of humanity and the destruction or exhaustion of our planet’s resources - it is already happening via sweat shops, wage slavery, debt burdens and excessive and rapid environmental destruction. This is why socialists want to move beyond capitalism as quickly as possible to create a more compassionate, sustainable and egalitarian political economy.
My 2 cents.
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