lpsrocks's Blog


Rockville, Maryland,
web developer, NOLA native, mom of two, concerned citizen living apparently waaaayyy too close to the Beltway, as I have become part of the "chattering classes"... just a political junkie, I guess...concerned about the environment, the wetlands, and keeping the world safe for democracy... no wonder we can't sleep at night...


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 15, 2009 6:52PM

What the Heck is Socialism Anyway? A Quiz

Rate: 22 Flag

Socialism has been quite the big news recently. “We Are All Socialists Now,” screamed the Newsweek headline. Salon’s Mike Madden writes, “Here Comes Socialism” just last week  and a New York Times Reporter asked President Obama if he’s a Socialist.

It’s clear that Socialism poses a grave threat to the American way of life. Or does it? The Chicken Little branch (of the GOP and Fox News) would certainly have us believe so. Others (Democrats, Obama, Geithner) shrug off the question of socialism and want to focus on solving the overriding current economic crisis.

Me? I certainly don’t have the answers and as Pope Rob might say, I’m no economist. Nor am I a political science professor or quite the A-student that Saturn Smith is. But, I do feel like there is some basic misunderstanding around what socialism is, how it is defined and implemented and what it means to American democracy.

In sum, when I read and listen to all the buzz, I feel quite like the littlest girl in The Sound of Music, who in the middle of Maria teaching the children “Do, Re, Mi” is frustrated and shouts, ”but, it doesn’t mean anything?” (it's at about 2:28 in this video if you wish to listen)

Rather than burst into song ala Julie Andrews (which would be truly frightening) or write a lengthy treatise on socialism (which I considered, and thankfully rejected), I thought I’d put forth a quiz to both entertain and enlighten.

NOTE ADDED: I'll make it easy and BOLD, for those of you like Michael Rodgers, looking for the CHEAT SHEET!   

[Don’t worry if you didn’t score 1500 on your SATs; we grade on a curve these days, don’t you know? In true SAT/standardized test fashion, this test includes Multiple Choice, True/False, Fill in the Blank and Analogies (my un-favorite). And except where noted in the Fill in the Blank section where there may be multiple right answers, there is usually one BEST answer. Answers and explanations can be found in a separate post. Prizes will be awarded - virtual, of course.]


Section 1: General Questions. Multiple Choice.


1. Socialism is defined as:

a.  A political theory advocating state ownership of industry
b.  An economic system based on state ownership of capital
c.  A doctrine advocating the elimination of private property and the exploitative ruling class
d.  A stage in Marxist-Leninist theory on the path from capitalism to communism
e.  All of the above

2. Socialism is NOT:

a.  Fascism
b.  Communism
c.  Totalitarianism
d.  Anti-Christian
e.  All of the above

3. The United States’ economy (let’s say, prior to October 2008) would best be described as:

a.  Laissez-faire capitalism
b.  Corporate capitalism
c.  Mixed Economy
d.  Market socialism
e.  Classic socialism

4. The form of government in the United States can best be described as:

a.  Direct democracy
b.  Constitutional Republic
c.  Oligarchy
d.  Participatory democracy
e.  All of the above
f.  Both b and d

5. The following countries could be considered socialist in Marxist or classical terms:

a.  Cuba
b.  Sweden
c.  Canada
d.  Great Britain
e.  All of the Above

6. These U.S, government program(s) could be considered socialist in nature:

a.  Social Security
b.  Schools and Libraries
c.  Unemployment Insurance
d.  Maintaining an Active Military
e.  All of the Above

Section 2: Comparative Economies: TRUE or FALSE

7. Since 1995, the United States has consistently scored among the top three countries in the Index of Economic Freedoms.

8. The U.S. ranked 18th in the 2008 Democracy Index rankings compiled by The Economist.

9. The economy of the Republic of Iceland, called the Nordic Tiger, can be said to be an example of the successful implementation of Free Market philosophy and loosening regulations.

10. China’s economy can be considered primarily to be a Soviet-style centrally planned communist one.

Section 3: Taxes and an Historical Perspective. Fill in the Blanks

11. President (or Candidate) Obama has been called “Redistributionist in Chief” by: _______________________________ (there may be multiple right answers)

12. President Eisenhower cut the highest marginal tax rate from 92% to ______.

13. Under President _________________ , the highest marginal tax rate was 39.5%.

14. The Earned Income Tax Credit was initiated by President _______________ and expanded under President ___________________.

Section 4: Putting it all Together. Analogies.


15. Most Americans fear (and/or disdain) socialism because they believe:

a.  They will not be allowed to choose our own doctors and be denied surgeries
b.  We will become lazy Frenchies sitting around drinking wine and getting 6 weeks of vacation
c.  Whatever Rush tells them to
d.  It will mean higher taxes and less efficient services
e.  It is a form of redistribution of wealth that is essentially un-American and unfair
f.  Frankly, I have no idea, but am pretty sure it is some or all of the above.

16. Socialism is to democracy as Ham is to:

a.  Observant Muslims and Jews
b.  Rush Limbaugh
c.  Tofu
d.  Green Eggs

Thank you for taking the time to complete this quiz. Answers, with explanation and commentary, can be found here.

free hit counter

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Very clever and well done! I am drinking beer with brauts right now and haven't a clue or inclination to take this or any other test right now! ;)
There is no point in participating in a test where the premise of the questions is defined by Socialist. Nothing against you but this would be similar to allowing only Chris Mathews to ask the questions in a Presidential debate.
T.S., I disagree. Only the last two questions are based on MY interpretation. The others are factual or based on written or objective definitions of terms.

My point is not really to convince anyone as much as it is to define terms and understand why the notion is so threatening and divisive.

I have had a difficult time framing a discussion with anyone when we are talking past each other. i.e., a right-wing friend claiming we're all Marxists whereas I look at current social programs and wonder what is driving all the fear.

BTW - I would not label myself a Socialist.
great post this obviously took a lot of time and thought, I only had time for the multiple choice questions as I am still at work, but I enjoyed the concept none the less, and I have been wondering what socialism is defined as now (when all the name calling started some weeks ago) since I was accused of being one by my middle school economics teacher (too many years ago to count).... but that is another story, rated!
Nice. Now can we please nationalize all the banks that we have invested more than their cost if we bought them outright on the stock market? Oh, and AIG too? And then can we fire all the bastards that got us into this mess and run these "institutions" just like the FDIC runs all the banks it places into remission until they are solvent again? And can I have an ice cream cone? Made by a socialist dairy, please? Oh. Ignore that last one. The dairy that makes the best ice cream around here is an Amish co-op -- which is the same as Socialist, isn't it?

I meant to write receivership but remission sounds even better doesn't it?

I admire your ambition. It would be a New Political Planet if the label-babbling ideologues actually knew the meaning of political words, and felt compelled to use them only in that context.
What that means is it would render them mute, as using those words in an emotional sense is all they know how to do.
Thanks for at least trying to shut them up. ;-)
monte - I'll take remission and an ice cream cone, please.

surreal - thanks for stopping by. feel free to skip right to the Answers post.

Paul - not seeking muteness, just clarification. but then where would all the fun and gotcha moments go?
I just commented on the answer section and reiterate that this is wonderful, informative, witty, engaging and fun. An absolute must read. You nailed it. Rated.
Thanks for a great post! I posted my own attempt to define the term a few months ago, prompted by a similar desire to clarify some common misconceptions. But your version is much more fun! Great idea, well executed. Rated.
This was a great idea and very well done!

I do sort of wonder, at this point, though, if America isn’t closer to an Oligarchy, a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

I think the misuse of these terms is strongly supportive of the lack of “bipartisanship” to which I refer in my own recent post:


This was GREAT!

Very nice. It's a word that has been abused about as much as any other Republican catch word or phrase. They seem to latch on to one word or phrase, such as "tax cuts" and beat them to a bloody pulp. In the case of Socialism, they are reminding me of the McCarthy days.
This was so cool! (I done gud, too! Who knew?). It's also very important, because current bandying of the term "socialism" has become the replacement for "Have you quit beating your wife?" It's just a very literal hoodwink for the political/economic unsophisticate, of which there are plenty (I thought I was one til I took the quiz!) and we're still not a people inclined to check stuff if we can just as easily repeat it. Meanwhile the useful aspects of socialism are thrown out with the bathwater. And yeah, what Rick Lucke said about us being an oligarchy. Probably should get equal credit. All in all, outstanding!
Awesome piece, Lisa! I must say the last two questions were my favorite. :)

Oh, and I second everything that Monte said including the ice cream.
Great quizz. Took it for the fun of it, my wrong asnwers were the ones I was never taught having lived under different suns from 0 to 33. But I scored very high, probably because I am French (not lazy though, plus I hate fries and only like American coffee...), or rather European (and lots of European countries have experienced, since 1945, periods of democratically elected "social democracy" without anyone being sent to the Gulag, imagine!) and also had the opportunity to live in the ex-USSR when Gorbatchev was trying hard to "tear down that wall" as ordered to (or begged to) by President Reagan.
Noone, and I mean it, can genuinely know what Marxism is if they have not stood up in line for 3 hours not knowing what was at the end of the line, just in case it was good! Been there, done it, can talk for hours about it! That is called Communism, and has nothing to do with Socialism...
The day the US become a Socialist country, pigs will fly!
Hooray! I added it to the G4G index. This is wonderful, and a great way to explain things.
What the administration is doing with bailouts isn't socialism it is just corporate welfare. Nationalizing loss and privatizing profits. They get the jobs, bonuses and golden parachutes and we get the bill.

What no one seems to ever answer is how they would achieve socialism, since people can currently vote for a candidate of any party. Ban elections, outlaw parties, get rid of private property, seize all the wealth and assets? How would someone get in power, by appointment?

Without excess good and luxuries the standard of living is horrendous, like the Soviet Union or East Germany, as compared to China. Limiting goods limits wealth. The believe that wealth is a pie to be divided evenly is to imagine wealth is static and growth doesn't exist, when in fact wealth is created with new industries, inventions, building houses and other buildings, computers and cars. It is not merely money, but the assets in existence. The problem with Soviet Style government is wealth is fairly static in that model. The bare necessities.
This explains so much (and was a fun read!!)