The definition of a socialist government is one that distrusts its citizens. It may distrust them in a "benevolent way", that is its leaders believe that the people are insufficiently competent to look after themselves, or it may distrust them in a "paranoid way", in that its leaders believe that the people are dangerous and must be rigidly controlled for the state and society to function along their guidelines. The practical difference between these two lies primarily in their viewpoints and attitudes, in how ruthless and undemocratic the advocates of socialism are willing to be when they don't get their way.
And that is why we call it a nanny state. Adults do not need nannies, children or the incompetent do. A nanny state is a declaration by the rulers that the people cannot look after their own interests or make their own decisions. A people that willingly and enthusiastically accept the provisions of a nanny state are declaring their own unfitness to be citizens and manage their own affairs. A nanny state is a velvet gloved tyranny, the disenfranchisement of the people for their own supposed benefit.
Socialism reverses the political gains made against royalism and tyranny. It puts the people back in the box, tucks them in and then slams the cage door shut. Where revolutions were once fought to give the franchise to the people from a ruling elite, socialism reverses democracy in favor of an "enlightened" oligarchy. Where the growth of democracy that the people do not need a chosen few to rule over every aspect of their lives, socialism pats the foolish people on the head and promises to take care of them, if they promise to behave themselves and not make any trouble.
By prioritizing social benefits as an absolute moral good, socialists effectively displace freedom and democracy as the moral arbiters of a free society. If free health care is more important than the right to vote, it follows logically that a country with free health care is better off than one that has the right to vote. Every time liberals defend Cuba and tout its health care system, they are explicitly making this exact argument. The problem is that all too few people are willing to call them on it. Because that is exactly the undemocratic and totalitarian premise at the heart of socialism-- that government services are more important and more moral a thing, than democracy or freedom.
Small wonder that Obama and the Democratic party in the United States firmly refuse to hear the American people saying a loud and clear, "No" to their health care plans. Because you can't say "No" to a socialist. To do so is to brand yourself as either ignorant, extremist or greedy-- these are the only legitimate motives that the left will accept for opposing its policies. This is why socialists disenfranchise the public, because agreement with them is a redundant show of support, while opposition to them is counter-revolutionary activity instigated by rich white men who want to keep their grip on the country-- and is therefore illegitimate. Much like the Muslim Caliph Omar, who on capturing Alexandria, commanded that the Library of Alexandria be burned since if the contents of its books were to be found in the Koran they were redundant, and if not they were heretical.
This is a typically extreme worldview held by those who cannot tolerate the notion of people making choices that they disagree with. And that rigidity in a nutshell defines socialism, which insists that only its leaders and bureaucrats are capable of making the people's choices for them. Democracy is a redundant intrusion into a process which is held to be inherently correct because, like the Koran, it is based on the absolutely right philosophy. (And if you think this is an exaggeration, the left regularly purges its own ranks over philosophical differences, though generally not with firing squads as in the USSR.) Of course if your philosophy is absolutely right, your approach can't help but be absolutely correct. And when it fails, someone has to be blamed. Which is when the purges of the enemies of the state begin.
The inability to tolerate dissent is of course one of the more obvious signs of tyranny. Which translates easily into the need to impose your way by force. And the easiest way to do so is by becoming the government. The secular theology of socialism battles perpetually to create a perfect society against the fallen state of the people and the forces of right wing reaction. Naturally the only way to overcome both obstacles is through the use or threat of force.
Since socialism already assumes preemptively that the people are incapable of managing their own affairs or participating in the process, unless their choices are reduced so narrowly that they cannot help but make the right decision-- naturally there are times when the mob will have to be brought into line. And the counter-revolutionaries, who unlike the saintly revolutionaries, want nothing more than to greedily control everyone and stuff their faces with sugarplums, must of course be suppressed as well. Piously the socialists intone that one day such measures will no longer be needed, when every child for numberless generations has been processed through the maw of their cradle to grave propaganda system, and brainwashed to within an inch of his, her or it's life. But for now, it's oppress or be oppressed, in the black and white view of the country that they use to justify every lie, every dirty trick and every act of corruption.
To shield themselves against accusations that socialism is essentially a totalitarian and undemocratic system, its proponents maintain that government imposed controls are necessary in order to end the oppressive economic and social controls of the "elite", often defined by American liberals as "Rich White Men". The obvious absurdity is of course that the average liberal is himself a rich white man. But the left routinely fails to see the hypocrisy in this as its revolutions were traditionally run by the scions of the upper and upper middle class. Lenin's father was a member of the Russian nobility. Fidel Castro came from a wealthy family that owned its own sugar cane plantations and was connected to the Cuban government. Bill Ayers is the son of a man who sat on the boards of the biggest corporations in America.
Socialists have to define themselves as anti-elitists, precisely because they are elitists. They have to shout loudly that they are fighting for our rights, precisely because they are fighting to take away our rights. They have to claim that they are the only ones who will actually represent us, precisely because they are the least likely to represent us. In reality, the socialist cause is totalitarian and elitist, it does not credit the people with any rights except those granted to them in the name of social utility. They do not believe in bottom up democracy, unless they have already created and nurtured it from the top down with training and grant money to do exactly what they want. That is because the one thing socialists can never do is trust the people.