A common critique of socialist ideas is that a market-based economy is more efficient.

This is used to criticize many in the USA who propose socialist reforms.

But obviously everyone knows that not everything can/should be market-based. Even those on the right support the idea of, say, a police-force. That's government controlled. You don't hire police officers on the free market. That would be idiotic.

So why do so many liberal US politicians use propaganda against themselves by using words like "socialism", when really they don't want socialism, they just want some social reforms, much like that of a police force, a fire department, an army, etc? Why not just talk specifically about what you want, rather than make a blanket statement that makes it easier for your political opponents to use that very blanket statement against you?

To give an analogy, imagine if you want to eat some chicken or cow, so rather than just say you want to eat chicken and cow, you go out and make a blanket statement saying "i want to eat living organisms"... and yes, cows and chickens are living organisms, but by making a blanket statement like that, it's pretty easy to make it seem as if you're a blood-thirsty cannibal.


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The big underlying problem is the word "Socialist" itself. While everyone can happily quote you an official definition, in reality it can mean almost anything depending on context, who uses it, whom it refers to, et cetera...

Bernie Sanders is the perfect example for that issue. He refers to himself as "Democratic Socialist". From my german perspective however he is a normal Social Democrat, because my local reference model for the word "Socialism" is the German Democratic Republic.
In the discourse on the political right in the U.S. however he is often even called a communist whereas Europe in general is often referred to as socialist, as their reference model is quite different.

So I would consider the answer to your question to be: They call themselves socialist because they personally consider their platform to be socialist owing to what they believe socialism to be, which may or may not make sense depending on your personal reference model.