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What distinguishes a socialist economy from a freer economy with a large welfare state?
I feel like this is misleading. Socialism doesn't come in just one shape and size. A nation can nationalize an entire sector, say energy production, and still allow capitalist forces in every other sector and still not have a large welfare state.
This definition of absolute socialism and a complete command economy is too generalised to be truely informative. Some parts of the market require regulation or government ownership and cannot be entrusted to the whims of the invisible hand. Absolute free market capitalism has also led to an oligarchy, widespread poverty, environmental damage, and monopolies fought by Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
I agree that this is misleading. There is nit a state today that practices TRUE (Marxian) Socialism. Marx always stated that Socialism could only form in a post-Capitalist state. Venezuela, Cuba, USSR, Vietnam, and China all jumped straight in to Socialism without enduring Capitalism first. I think that the USA is entering a very fertile time to consider true Socialism.
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