In response to a letter ("Socialism produced a thriving middle class," Feb. 13) on socialism ... words mean things. Calling all sorts of different things "socialism" does not make them so. Socialism is simply "government control of the means of production." In other words: a government entity directs (forces, compels, coerces) productive companies or individuals in what product to produce, how much to produce and how much to charge for that which is produced (unfortunately socialist governments don't limit themselves to economic control and unfalteringly extend themselves into general overall control i.e. totalitarianism).
Settlers constructing a community building is not socialism. Constructing a community building is a voluntary act among individuals. There is nothing voluntary about socialism. A fire department or a police department are not institutions of socialism. They are government services. The funding of which may or may not be voluntary, depending on your point of view, but "governments are instituted among men" in order to keep the peace and protect the citizenry.
The military is not a socialist institution. Ideally, a military is a tool of government instituted to provide for the national defense. That "tool" can easily be misused by a government to oppress its citizens but is not, in and of itself, a "socialist institution."
I have many disagreements with the letter writer's treatise on the benefits of socialism. More than I can list in this forum (Except I must mention the assertion about communism being bad. Karl Marx considered socialism a transitional state between capitalism and communism, so by advocating for socialism you'll end up with what the letter writer, and I, would not like - communism).
The point I wish to make is, as mentioned, words mean things. Conflating good things together with another in an attempt to make that other thing virtuous is a misuse of our language.
James Frerichs, Tehachapi