I’ve defined socialism several times as government provided services (as opposed to government provided goods). Citizens provide funds with taxes, government allocates the funds to provide services: national defense (military), legislation (congress), neighborhood safety (fire and police), education, etc.
There is also the consideration that socialism is government interference, that is, government sets policy and regulation in an otherwise free market. For the most part, this form of socialism is advantageous to any national economy and its also important in pragmatic terms.
In pragmatic terms, a certain amount of government interference in the form of regulations keeps us safe and healthy. FAA guidelines concerning airplane maintenance, for example, provide a great deal of confidence to consumers since we know there is at least a minimum amount of effort required to keep our airbuses safe. Skyscrapers and even individual homes are subject to building regulations for the sake of protection; my water heater is required to be elevated and secured in a particular way as a means to reduce risk of potential hazards. Just this week, several US producers of Parmesan cheese were in the news thanks to the efforts of the FDA to ensure packaging claims corresponded to actual content, a federal regulation that holds companies accountable to their advertising.
In economic terms, government regulations keep the game balanced and healthy. One of the reasons Wall Street players were able to create the housing bubble that enervated our economy was that a significant regulation in the form of the Glass-Steagall Act was rendered impotent (see Greta Krippner’s “Capitalizing on Crisis”). Banks are forbidden to collude with one another to fix interest rates. Congress has the power to regulate state to state commerce. (I will interject here that many would denounce any kind of Wall Street regulation as interfering with the free market. I would submit that the idea of a “free market” is somewhat an illusion anyway. Even with laws in place, several people engaged in illegal activity to create the housing bubble, banks colluded with one another in an interest rate fix, and a few Asian countries were affected when foreign exchange rates were artificially inflated. Not so much of a free market from this perspective.)
Socialism in the form of government regulation has been around since our inception it appears, even early Jamestown settlers were subject to commerce restrictions. While I recognize that it’s possible to become entangled with too many regulations, we have to acknowledge that there must be some kind of boundaries in place in order to keep an economy healthy and sustainable. Socialism in the form of regulation is both advantageous to national economies and important in pragmatic terms.