In a recent debate the following gauntlet was thrown:
"I CHALLENGE YOU TO EXPLAIN WHY SOCIALISM IS BAD. WE SOCIALIZE OUR ROADS, OUR POLICE, OUR FIRE DEPARTMENTS. WE SHOULD HAVE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE TOO. THE "FREE MARKET" APPROACH IS NOT WORKING. THE IDEA IS TO PROVIDE BASIC UNIVERSAL SERVICES FOR CITIZENS. IT IS REPUBLICAN JOE MCCARTHY SMEAR & FEAR & GUILT BY ASSOCIATION TACTICS [HE'S A MUSLIM. HE'S A SOCIALIST. HE'S NOT PATRIOTIC ETC] THAT HAS GIVEN SOCIALISM A BAD NAME."
Free market principles and a grasp at the historical importance of liberty and the role of government are not only important but VITAL to the preservation of our Republic (not to be confused with a Democracy). If the fundamentals of our way of life are not understood then our way of life has already been lost - and we should accept that the government has grown into an authoritarian powerhouse - and we should accept the end of liberty.
To be honest, it is socialism in history that has given socialism a bad name. The premise to socialism is a large government - large governments with authoritarian control. The misuse of government authority is an historical broken record, repeating again and again, often times to deadly ends. The presence of a large government in America is a current reality, which is a direct affront to liberty, and is not only bad but dangerous.
Let me explain further.
Can we agree that the initiation of force is evil? This is not to be confused with defense, etc... but the initiation of force.
Assuming your answer is yes, I will continue.
The idea of taxation is the essence of the initiation of force by the government onto the people. George Washington referred to the policy of taxation as "inconvenient and unpleasant" and an "intrinsic embarrassment" - though he did recognize that there was a necessity of taxation with the purpose of paying down debt. In his farewell address to the nation, paragraph 30, Washington discussed debt: "...avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts..." He also advocated for neutrality in regional conflicts, as the idea of forcing free men into foreign wars was an initiation of force as well. There is an historical precedence that indicates that the initiation of force is evil, and that taxation is a nasty side effect of government with the purpose of paying down the debt. It was not until 1913 when the idea of an Income Tax was made a reality - opening the doors for a continued large scale government. This was not part of the original intent of the free nation.
Furthermore, classical economist Adam Smith indicated that the government has three functions: national defense, administration of justice (law and order), and the provision of certain public goods (e.g., transportation infrastructure and basic and applied education). The existence of these three functions provided the atmosphere for the best economic growth - indicating minimal taxation, minimal government interference in private life, while stressing the importance of collective needs which do not hinder liberty, but serve to increase fundamentals of a society (access and education). This answers your question regarding fire and police protection... classical capitalism requires the administration of justice as a means to secure private property.
Ultimately, the existence of liberty - true personal freedom - lies within personal responsibility and minimal government intervention. As stated above, the ideology of socialism is predicated on the existence of an overbearing government with the power to intervene in personal decision making. This intervention (through taxes or authoritarian laws) is the initiation of force, and by definition, evil.
Let's use healthcare as an example, assuming an employer with 20 employees or more shall provide healthcare coverage. This is an example of the initiation of force by the government. What laws of this nature encourage is economic slowdown - as an employer now has just cause not to hire a 20th person, or has just cause to lower wages to cover the cost of the mandatory service, or risk taking the money directly out of his/her small business earnings. A more appropriate (small government) path would be to fix the high cost of healthcare by encouraging more citizens to go into medicine and tightening loose laws on malpractice lawsuits (lowering insurance premiums for doctors - thus lowering costs).
The reason why healthcare is not working now is because the system is in a pull between the idea of free market and the false system of "insurance" that has propped up as a safety net - artificially driving costs through the roof. Insurance is a ponzi scheme and has simultaneously held healthcare costs artificially high (keeping it out of actual reach for the average citizen) while also using the force of the government mandates to realize immense profits to the unnecessary insurance companies. Government forced socialism, stealing the wealth of the nation and depositing it in the pockets of the Oligarchs.
This idea of a "government entity" that is separate from the people able to dictate such nonsense is the absence of liberty.
In short, Socialism is bad not because McCarthy told me it is bad. Socialism is predicated on the initiation of force by a government entity, dictating unnecessary taxes and social behavior through such use of force. By this definition, Socialism is evil.