This is good question. Allow me to answer it as a socialist, not a capitalist.
Personally, I'm a very pessimistic Socialist. I don't think the "Communist" societies that have been created so far worked well.
I do believe that even in Stalin's Russia, at a huge cost in lives and liberty, the Communists did get a few things right
But Soviet-style socialism did fail in the end, it was guilty of the murder of millions of people, and it's not a possible model for how we should build a post-capitalist American economy in the future.
I'm also not very impressed by Chinese or Cuban-style communism as an alternative.
The Yugoslav Communists under Tito did briefly experiment with a form of "market based" socialism that I think had a lot of promise.
In the 1960s and the 1970s, when they were allied with the US against the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the Yugoslav communists attempted to combine "capitalist" consumer markets, with social ownership of the biggest economic enterprises, with a system of "workers management" of the factories and office buildings. And for a few years in the 1960s and 1970s, I think the Yugoslav model of "market socialism" worked fairly decently.
I might favor that kind of socialism here in the US, but only with a lot of extra tinkering to make it suitable for a democratic rather than dictatorial society.
But the main reason I call myself "socialist" is not because I love socialism so much. It's because I distrust and dislike American capitalism.
In the long run American capitalism is doomed for ecological reasons, in the first place. In the second place, it's going to wreck the lives of millions of people in the short run and half-destroy the planet until we finally create some replacement for it.
Capitalism as I personally have experienced it for the past 61 years also appears to require endless American wars in the Third World -- in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, places that no sane American would ever choose to invade if not for economic considerations.
Capitalism American style also seems addicted to the repeated sending of US trooops to enforce a pro-corporate "order" in places like Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Haiti and Somalia.
In my lifetime a basically capitalist US government has repeatedly authorized the CIA to overthrow democratically elected governments in places like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), the Congo (1960) and Chile (1973) -- mostly for the benefit of big capitalist corporations, such as the global oil companies.
American capitalism during my 61 years on the planet has even featured the US government sometimes lending military and economic aid to brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein (1984-1989) and ruthless terrorists like Osama bin Laden (the 1980s in Afghanistan.)
Meanwhile, of course, capitalism today seems to have been permanently captured by speculative financial investors on Wall Street, who came close to blowing up the world economy in 2008.
And today, even under the most "liberal" president in 40 years, the American economy is unable or unwilling to provide decently paying jobs for more than 13 million people who would like to be working, if anyone would agree to hire them.
So this is a bad system, I thin. It has little if any morality in terms of its foreign policies; it is no longer supporting the American people very well in terms of providing jobs and home, and in environmental terms it's engaged in ecological suicide on a planetaryl scale.
We therefore need a new system, whether that system is called "socialism" or something entirely different.
We don't need Russian "Communism" or Chinese or Cuban "Communism," I admit, since these might be even worse for some Americans than the bad system we already have. We may not need or want European style "socialism" either, because it also has some really bad problems.
I call myself "socialist" because I think some American socialists are at least looking for an alternative to this basically suicidal economy.
I cannot call myself "capitalist," because I don't think most American capitalists are even looking for other options, or aware that amu other options are necessary.
Answered By: Andy F - 10/4/2010