There's a nice convergence today of three top-notch discussions of "socialism," prompted by a NY Times reporter asking Obama the other day whether he is a "socialist." Times have changed. The accusation of political evil used to be the L-word, "liberal." I guess the right has caught on that the American people have moved left. Now it's the S-word.
Both Andrew Koppelman and Peter Levine make the point that Obama is only really a socialist if one makes that claim (or accusation) from the perspective of a rather far out and vicious libertarianism (which makes every existing government look "socialist").
I suggest reading Peter's post first. It's brief and to the point that it's rather incoherent to try label the new administration "socialist" because it's unclear what the term really means. Then move on to Koppelman's tidy discussion of different political shades on the left (Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism) and the right ("Market Fetishists" and "Sentimental Fools") in the US. His take is that Obama is a basic Social Democrat, and the critics on the right are Market Fetishists. If you're still going, move on to Sheri Berman's piece in Dissent, "Unheralded Battle: Capitalism, the Left, Social Democracy, and Democratic Socialism."