The term "democratic socialism," in its purest sense, would mean a socialistic society that is under a democratic government. Both democracy and socialism are based on the ideal of equality. Democracy is a form of government in which the citizens participate, assisting to various degrees in governing themselves. Socialism is an economic concept that calls for sharing the wealth of a society among all of its members, rather than more wealth being held by some people than by others.
Equally Beneficial to All
People who support the idea of democratic socialism typically believe that decisions in a society should be made by considering the needs of all of the people, not just the wealthy or powerful. This applies to economic and social decisions. Some important beliefs among democratic socialists are that resources and wealth should be used to benefit all members of a society and that economic institutions should be controlled and owned by the people who are affected by them. They also typically believe in the ideal of all members of a society having a voice in the decisions that affect them. This stands in contrast with the communist form of socialism, in which an all-powerful government owns all the resources and industries, and decisions are made for the people instead of by them.
Citizens in Control
Under democratic socialism, the government usually is envisioned as being controlled by the citizens, with the primary goal of making decisions to benefit society as a whole. This democracy would be characterized by equality among the people as well. There would be no preferential treatment for the rich or important, and members of the government would live like average citizens. In addition, there would be no discrimination on the basis of race, religion, economic status, gender or any other difference.
A key goal of democratic socialism is an economy in which resources are shared, rather than left in the hands of the wealthy, as is often the case in a capitalist economy. One way of accomplishing this would be by establishing cooperatives that are owned and operated by the workers, rather than having large capitalist corporations. Another option would be putting corporations under public ownership and having them managed by both the consumers and the workers. Extremely large industries, such as energy, might require some type of government ownership or control, but the main goal would be to keep the economy under the control of the general public.
A society living in a system of democratic socialism also would be committed to meeting the needs of all of its citizens. A wide variety of needs would be met through social programs that are designed to benefit every citizen and ensure a high quality of life. Examples of such programs include universal childcare, free or subsidized education, national healthcare systems that provide access for all and other social services. As of 2011, democratic socialism had not been fully implemented by any government, but some countries did have specific programs that would be part of the vision of a democratic socialist.