Simply put, socialism is a system where citizens are promised results, not just opportunity. Our Constitution promises the “pursuit of happiness,” but does not guarantee that any particular citizen will attain anything, but will not be restricted from pursuing any legal goal. Socialism preaches that every citizen has the right to certain entitlements, and the state endeavors to provide them to its citizens. Socialists believe that under capitalism, too much wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of too few, who then exploit the less privileged. Socialists advocate a more even distribution of wealth and power, “spreading it around,” to quote a recent Obama phrase.And, as Shepherd Book stated so succinctly in the Firefly episode "War Stories,"
Under the socialist ideal, effort is rewarded, regardless of results, and accumulation of wealth by a few is prevented, so that more may enjoy the benefits of what society has to offer. The sad fact is that often even a minimal effort is not required, and everyone gets entitlements, deserved or not.
So, what is wrong with wanting to make sure that all citizens are provided for, and that more can have a better lifestyle by taking from the overabundance of the privileged few?
The problem is that to implement socialism, basic freedoms have to be curtailed or abolished. For starters, socialism is built on government ownership or very tight control of industry and commerce. This means, obviously, that citizens' rights to freely pursue business opportunities are severely limited by the government. Property rights must also be greatly curtailed, and the personal accumulation of wealth abolished. The government becomes the arbitrator of who succeeds, and to what extent.
-- Gene Retske @ I'm Sick of the Crap, "What's wrong with a little Socialism?" from February of 2009
A government is a body of people, usually, notably ungoverned.