Some people use a more rational set of definitions. When I think of “socialism” I think of centralized control over economic liberty (regulation, command-economies, and other central economic control), and the redistribution of wealth (which can be direct via payouts, or services like health care). The government need not nationalize “most” or all industry for it to be socialized. Its a continuum, it’s not a sharp line in the sand, IMO. The US is socialist already—almost 50% of healthcare in the US is already delivered by the State (medicaid/medicare is ~46%).
Communism I reserve for actual communism, or people/societies that self-identify as “communist.”
Fascism, well, I reserve that for those states that actually used it—all of which were also socialist to varying extents. The trouble with massive, centralized control over people’s lives is that the machinery is there for it to be exploited if Bad People™ come into power. In a less centralized system, the risk is mitigated considerably, since one really bad egg at the wheel can’t really screw things up badly. Those on the rabid extremes will accuse their current political rivals of this on both sides. Some like to paint Bush as a huge attacker of civil liberties, for example, but that was not even noise compared to the FDR administration during ww2, lol. Similar hyperbole exists WRT the current administration as well—though painting them as socialists is not off-base, they are, it’s just a matter of magnitude.
That website “political compass” has a decent way to plot political views on an X/Y axis with economic freedom on one axis, and personal freedom on another.
Where is the socialism hiding? Nationalizing healthcare for one. I see this every day (my wife is a doc). She is forced to see medicaid patients, and every single one she sees costs us money out of our pockets. She’ll get paid $50 to see someone, and during that 30 minutes her overhead is about $93 (payroll, insurance and building-related stuff). That doesn’t even include HER time. So we pay—really, we in effect write a personal check—to the tune of ~$40 for every single medicaid patient she sees. It adds up to tens of thousands of dollars in direct cost to my family each year. That’s in addition to the fact that we pay taxes to provide the medicaid to them in the first place. Medicare is similar, but it’s closer to break even. Right now the plan is to expand medicaid (eventually covering everyone as private plans are taxed out of existence). This is a tax on my wife, compelling her to pay money out of pocket AND use her valuable time.
The simpler socialism to spot is wealth redistribution via taxes. Basically, if you are not in the top 20% of taxpayers in the US, you don’t even pay one share of the government expense (divided by population). If you are in the top 20%, you pay a share for each family member, as well as subsidizing everyone else (single people can probably pay a fair share even in the next lower 20% group, actually, since they only need to cover one share (which is ~$12,000 per capita per year right now).