Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series where Colorado Times Recorder contributor Gregory Hill asks readers to email him their concerns about the Biden administration in order to engage in meaningful conversation.

My great uncle John Hill liked to say, “Before we can discuss anything, we must first agree to a definition of terms.” (He may have cribbed that line from Socrates, but the wisdom persists.)

I am convinced that, when the left and the right attempt to discuss virtually any subject, they are actually talking about two different things that happen to share the same name. And so attempts at civil conversations inevitably collapse into two parties sharing one argument about two different ideas. 

And so, it is in the memory of Uncle John that I’ve invited my brave and specifically-religious correspondent Leona — who agrees with me on virtually nothing politically or theologically — to join me in sharing our respective definitions of socialism. 

Leona has agreed to go first:

“Socialism (not that different from communism) according to the dictionary, means having the government own all major industries (and perhaps all property) rather than allowing private ownership. This is one step further down the road from Fascism which allows private property, but the government steals all private property through excessive taxation – thus destroying the middle class (which is the hallmark of a free society), and ends in Socialism. One of the first goals of socialistic dictator wannabes is to take away the means of self protection from the proletariat. That form of government works to get the approval of the people by giving handouts and getting everyone to be dependent on the government. They also work toward getting people to hate each other.”

That explains quite a bit. If this is the definition of socialism that’s floating around conservative circles, then it’s no wonder that so many people are wary of things such as socialized health care. 

Of course, within liberal ideology, there’s an entirely different definition of socialism. Here’s my clumsy attempt at summarizing it:

“Socialism is any system into which a group of people pool some portion of their collective wealth or energy as a means of providing mutual assistance in times of need.”     

Whereas the idea of socialism as defined by Leona would seem incompatible with the Christian Bible (or any philosophy which concerns itself with human decency), this second definition seems to fit perfectly well with the virtuous human ideals of loving one’s neighbor (and enemy), and caring for the weak. With the understanding that there’s a Biblical quote for any argument, I shall pluck a line from Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Now, I shall ask Leona if she can picture a version of socialism which, rather than attempting to take possession of all private property and thereby barrel towards a fascist state, instead takes the form of limited programs whose sole purpose is to engage citizens to contribute to the greater good of the country? And is there any imaginable circumstance in which such a program — one geared toward helping those in need (aka potentially anyone) — could be useful, or even righteous? 

Leona, the floor is yours:

“I am fully aware of the fact that many good people on both sides of the aisle would agree that it is indeed a righteous and noble goal for people to want to help their fellow man. But isn’t the real question we need to ask actually: Is mankind capable of achieving such an altruistic state? I would posit that such a universal paradise is not possible here on earth.

“Yes, there are many good people, but when put into a situation of live or die, most good people would put themselves first over their fellow man. Whether you choose to attribute this to evolution and survival of the fittest; or to the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden as written in the Bible, for eons we have seen man want to dominate his fellow man.

“While there have been small communities that have practiced this sort of lifestyle, from what I have read, most have only lasted short term.

“I would ask you, Greg, if you have any actual examples of where Socialism, as a form of government has actually worked.

I will be delighted to answer you, Leona, in my next column.