Robin Hood, Superman, Jesus, and John the Baptist made me a socialist. Robin Hood taught me that heroes take from the rich and give to the poor. Superman taught me that an advanced society like Krypton shares the world's resources with all its people, and if you can't live in an advanced society, you help people where you are to make a better world. Jesus taught me it's easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than it is for rich people to get into Heaven, and John the Baptist gave the simplest explanation of how a sharing society works: If you have more, share with someone who has less.
Karl Marx only helped me understand how capitalism works: the ruling class owns most of the things that make wealth, and the working class works to survive.
Though I suspect I've always been a socialist, for decades I thought I was a liberal. I believe passionately in democracy, and one-party systems in Cuba, China, and the USSR made me accept the logic of people who do not believe in progress. Like them, I thought what had not been, could not be.
But then, like the first people who dreamed of democracy, I realized that what had not been, must be. That's my definition of progress.
In my life, the world has made enormous strides toward increasing personal freedom while the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows greater. People who don't understand the United States say this is a rich country, but the truth is it's a country ruled by the rich. The US's median wealth is not first in the world—that's Australia's, which is $193,653. The US's median wealth is 27th in the world, at $38,786. Half of Americans live below or near the poverty line. 80 Percent Of U.S. adults face near-poverty and unemployment.
Tell me Americans are lucky because we're not as exploited as people in some other countries, and I'll tell you house slaves should not be grateful that they're not field slaves. The world is rich enough for everyone to live in comfort, if only the resources were shared.
So I'm a socialist. I'm not an ideological socialist—I don't feel like I know enough about Marx to be called a Marxist, and I certainly don't know enough about Marxism's many splinter groups to claim membership in any of them. In his lifetime, Marx looked at one group of self-proclaimed Marxists and said, "If that is Marxism, I'm not a Marxist." I suspect he would say that of every group which wastes time sniping at potential allies.
I'm a pragmatic socialist. Defining my socialism calls for two adjectives:
1. Democratic—I would rather lose under a fair system than win under a biased one.
2. Libertarian—I believe adults should be free to do as they please, so long as they do not limit anyone else's freedom.
If you need a label for me, the best is probably left-libertarian, but you could also call me a Christian who believes in Jesus's teaching about how to live in this world.
To come: Why I believe socialism is practical.
ETA: Top 1% of USA take biggest income slice on record
The social chasm in America