Joseph J. Ellis is an American historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for "Founding Brothers." He is the author of the new book "American Dialogue: The Founding Fathers and Us." The views expressed here are the author's. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)The Green New Deal is a bold and controversial legislative initiative proposed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, designed to address four pressing challenges facing American society that have thus far eluded solution.
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They are: reforming our extremely expensive and inefficient health care system; reducing our currently unprecedented levels of economic inequality; rebuilding our aging infrastructure; and recovering our global leadership role to combat the existential threat posed by climate change. If we fail to address and resolve these problems, all talk of America as a "city on a hill" needs to cease.
The great advantage of the Green New Deal initiative is that it forces and focuses a much-needed debate about the role of government in defining our agenda as a people and a nation. At present, however, critics on the right are attempting to short-circuit that debate by arguing that the Green New Deal is socialism, a loaded label with potent un-American associations for many.
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Whatever you might think about the Green New Deal, it is not socialism. As Casey Stengel loved to say, you can look it up. Pick your dictionary: the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Random House. They all say the same thing. Socialism is a political theory based on the principle of government ownership of the means of production; in short, the abolition of private property.
Advocates of the Green New Deal are not proposing anything of that sort. Far from being un-American, what they are proposing is a collective response to our common problems with deep roots in American history, all the way back to...
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