What primarily sets socialism apart from free economies is how private property is viewed. In a socialist setting private property of all forms is considered the property of the collective and the private individual does not own it even though they may currently have possession. The socialist believes that it is the right and the duty of the collective to determine what the individual can keep. It is the belief of the socialist that it is his right and his duty to redistribute what is rightfully owned by the collective in a manner they deem to be fair.
In a free economy, the belief is that private property is legally owned by the individual. The collective has no claim on private property that is legally owned by the individual. The believer in a free economy is concerned with opportunity and not outcome. Our founders declared in the Declaration of Independence that all should have equal opportunity.
Many people who would denounce socialism actually have socialist beliefs. People who would support a progressive income tax support socialism. People who would support national health care in any form including Medicare and Medicaid support socialism. People who support Social Security support socialism. People who support public loans of any form support socialism. People who support the government taking property from one private individual to give to another private individual support socialism. The list goes on and on.
The Untied States has become so progressive and so socialistic that most Americans do not realize how much socialism they support. Socialism always eventually destroys. Socialism only has short term benefits for its beneficiaries. Socialism never benefits those it is intended to benefit for the long term. Socialism promotes poverty and mediocrity. Socialism only allows its advocates to feel good about themselves with the false idea they are helping people. They are in fact contributing to the downfall of the individual which in turn destroys the society in total.
The United States can only be saved from this destructive self-serving disease when individuals who claim to be advocates of freedom, including a free economy, will understand what socialism is and be willing to start the painful journey back to a competitive free economy where all can benefit.