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Democratic Socialism or Social Democracy?

Back in August, Jacobin journalist Meagan Day declared that “democratic socialists want to end capitalism.” The subtitle of her article in Vox explaining the movement explicitly stated: “It’s not just New Deal liberalism.” There is some disagreement about this on the Left. Kyle Kulinski, an independent media commentator and co-founder of the Justice Democrats, supports democratic socialist candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Justice Democrats endorse a myriad of candidates who do not take large donor capital, many of them sharing endorsement with the DSA. Nevertheless, Kulinski rejects the “post-capitalist” approach to democratic socialism, and holds that “so many people now describe themselves as ‘democratic socialists’ and they do not support a post-capitalist philosophy.

In the clip above, Kulinski argues that there is a fundamental confusion of labels—politicians whose policies are entirely in line with Nordic social democracy are defining themselves as democratic socialists. He places the blame for this confusion on Bernie Sanders, who, despite a career of never praising actual socialism, has been lumped in with Venezuela and a post-capitalist ideology. If Bernie had labelled himself correctly, Kulinski maintains, the current confusion over democratic socialism and social democracy would not exist.

DSA co-chair Joseph Schwartz was quoted in a 2015 PolitiFact article litigating the difference between democratic socialism and the Nordic model: “When Bernie is asked, ‘Are you a socialist?’ he doesn’t deny it, and he immediately talks about Scandinavia. He uses [democratic socialism and social democracy] interchangeably. But if you look at his history, he knows the distinction.” A Quillette article published in March and entitled “The Falsity of the Sanders Venezuela Meme,” also observes that Sanders, uniquely among left intellectuals, has never expressed support for the Venezuelan model of politics: “There is no record of Sanders sponsoring or co-sponsoring any symbolic motion which praises the ‘achievements’ or policies of Hugo Chavez,” as well as a quote from Sanders during the Presidential primary, emblematic of his career: “When I talk about democratic socialism, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

A skeptic or cynic might argue that Sanders is simply being dishonest—he knows that he opposes capitalism in principle, and is pretending to look to Sweden and Denmark when in fact he prefers Venezuela. Yet, such a case would have to be made based on some five decades Sanders has spent in public life. If every time he is asked to expound on democratic socialism, he refers to the Nordic nations, then that may be what he actually believes. Moreover, if Sanders’s intention has been to conceal his beliefs, then why would he call himself a “socialist” to begin with?

When Sanders speaks of “democratic socialism,” it is far more likely that he is thinking of “social democracy.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of “democratic socialism” links directly to social democracy. The rather large difference between Venezuela and Sweden is bridged by the same definition according to Merriam-Webster, and Sanders, the spearhead of a movement, has made the same mistake.

The function of the label “democratic socialist” is being changed through usage. Take, for example, the political label “liberal.” This can refer either to a centrist brand of classical liberalism or a left-of-center politics in general. The former definition has only resurged in the past few years. The term “libertarian” is used by both the Left and the Right for different ends—in Europe it does not have the free market trappings it does in the United States. If “liberal” and “libertarian” do not have stable meanings, then why should we expect “socialism” to refer definitively to collective ownership of the means of production?

Many so-called socialists support Nordic social democratic policies, and are not Marxists who yearn for the end of capitalism. Medicare for All, as a shorthand, has been characterized by the Right as “socialized medicine.” But this is deceptive—state-owned hospitals such as the UK’s National Health Service may be the goal of the more radical democratic socialists. Others who have adopted the label, however, such as Kulinski and the Justice Democrats, only see the government as a single payer for all medical transactions. The state would not directly employ doctors or run hospitals.

This confusion over terminology has become a longstanding trend on the Left. I spoke to socialist writer Chris Hedges recently, and over the span of our conversation, Hedges spoke about “revolution” and evoked Marxist arguments about the inevitable collapse of capitalism’s productive capacity. Yet, when I asked him about his ideal future, he did not mention the end of capitalism, but “a highly regulated capitalism, such as the Scandinavian countries in the 1970s and 80s.” Self-described socialists continually express support for social democracy, not commune societies.

In an August article for Quillette entitled “Democratic Socialism is a Scam,” Giancarlo Sopo hashes out an understanding of when the Left goes too far—New Deal-style social democracy is wholly acceptable, but democratic socialism is nonsense. Sopo says he “presented a team of Norwegian economists with a summary written by Vox of DSA’s economic ideas, eleven out of the 12 indicated the views would fall on the ‘far-Left/fringe’ end of Norway’s political spectrum.” Sopo is right—these are poorly thought-out ideas, overreaching rhetorical flame more than actionable policy. The DSA platform includes the “abolition of capitalism” and the end of “hierarchical systems.”

But nowhere in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s or Bernie Sanders’s platforms do you find such rhetoric. Instead, they support a number of policies for reform within the capitalist system. They are more ambitious than your typical Democrats, who may defend Obamacare but resist Medicare for All, but these democratic socialist candidates do not oppose capitalism in any form but empty rhetoric. The real value of these politicians is in the distance between Medicare for All and Obamacare—ordinary Democrats have only begun to support Medicare for All through pressure from this ostensibly socialist Left. The role of democratic socialists in politics, as Keynesians who do not take corporate money, is to push for universal social programs on which mainstream Democrats have repeatedly compromised.

A critic might say that the mere touch of socialism, in any definition, makes these candidates toxic. There may be multiple factions using the definition of socialism, but the label of “democratic socialism” itself should make us wary of supporting these politicians. But if Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez understand “democratic socialism” to be “social democracy,” then they are not aiming toward Venezuela. Asking them to turn their concern to this problem of definition, after the fact, ignores the reality of electoral politics—these candidates must defend their policies, not litigate the definition of socialism. They are stuck with the label, but we might look to see what they really mean by it.

Socialists have held political power in the United States before, largely before the Cold War, including a socialist mayor of Milwaukee who did not bankrupt and collectivize his city in his 24-year incumbency. Instead, he built new infrastructure and defended workers in the form of minimum wage laws and an eight-hour workday. Nathan Robinson points out that mayors like this were known as “sewer socialists,” because of their emphasis on public works programs and local spending. Over 130 socialist mayors in early twentieth century America boasted an empirical record of success in governing as social democrats despite being nominally anti-capitalist.

Today, instead of the “sewer socialists” fighting for increased infrastructure spending, we see news like Scranton’s public sewer authority being sold off to a private water company. In his last years, Martin Luther King told his staffers that “America must move toward a democratic socialism.” King, who was no Marxist, was most likely referring to a society of redistribution, a politics akin to the New Deal, including major investment in America’s healthcare, roads, cities and yes, even its sewer systems. Rather than focusing on the zombie fear of resurgent communism, we should look to the rich history of socialism in the United States to contextualize a new wave of democratic socialist candidates.

 

Alexander Blum’s writing focuses on politics, mysticism, and fiction. You can visit his website here.

227 Comments

  1. Donald Collins says

    You do understand in the Nordic countries, it is the people that pay all the taxes, including those on the lower end of the scale. Capitalism actually thrives there. VAT taxes and the like are always paid by the people. Now maybe they want that, not my cup of tea, but it should be made clear that even the poor in this country put more value on the size of their heck and no matter how you spin it, that will not increase enough to make up for what they have to spend out of it and they will see that. Then you will get right back in the quagmire that the Nordic system has, and that is is it fair, or does it LOOK unfair

    • Jay Salhi says

      Correct.

      The Nordic system would never fly in the U.S. where nearly half the population pays no federal income tax. Trying telling an American making $38,000 per year that he has to pay 20K in taxes plus a 25% consumption tax and top it all off with gasoline priced at $5 per gallon.

      • Scroto Baggins says

        “Sanders, uniquely among left intellectuals…”

        >>So Grumpy Cat is an “intellectual” now. Good to know.

        “Alexander Blum’s writing focuses on politics, mysticism, and fiction…”

        >>But mostly the last two.

        “If Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez understand “democratic socialism” to be “social democracy….”

        >>The idea that O’Cortez can differentiate or understand nuanced political terminology is hysterical. She thinks “Scandinavia” is a clothing line. She thinks The New Deal is a gameshow. When you Google “gullible”, her picture comes up. If you don’t believe me, try it.

        “We should look to the rich history of socialism in the United States to contextualize a new wave of democratic socialist candidates.”

        >>THE FUCK???? I need a launcher that shoots poop over the internet. Links anybody? Actually, never mind: that sounds like something Amazon would carry…

        First of all, don’t write or say “contextualize.” Ever. You ought to be ashamed. You have defiled your keyboard and innocent eyeballs everywhere.

        Second of all, this article made me sad I can read.

        QUILLETTE EDITOR: There are 12-step programs to control the day drinking. You don’t have to face this alone. But for all our sakes, PLEASE GET HELP. 🍾🥴

        • Angela says

          I so completely disagree with the author of this article, but Quillette is better off posting varied viewpoints. The site loses credibility if it’s seen as only publishing right leaning viewpoints.

          • Angela says

            That’s supposed to say ” I also disagree” not ” I so disagree”. Why doesnt Quillette have an edit feature?

      • Michael Joseph says

        How about this? True story: I make $50 thousand a year but my employer pays $16 thousand for my family healthcare. If you gave me the choice of making $66 thousand and paying $8 thousand in taxes for Medicare or sticking to my fifty thou and letting my employer continue to let the healthcare system stick it to me. I will choose Medicare. Bernie admits taxes will go up under Medicare for all but he never says that employers should hand over current healthcare spending to employees because that decision is between employers and employees. Well it doesn’t have to be. Healthcare expenditures are part of employee compensation and government should mandate that this money be given to employees so they can make better decisions about their own healthcare.

        • Angela says

          You’re making a big assumption if you think employers would pass on insurance savings to their employees in increased pay. Employers will only do that if they have to do that to keep employees. Right now employers have to pay the insurance costs because it’s a requirement to get a decent employee.

          • Angela says

            Dont get me wrong most would increase pay, but only to the extent that they have to. There’s no reason to just assume if they save 16k in insurance they’ll just automatically give their employees 16k more in pay. Employers will pocket as much of the savings as possible. Good employees who negotiate hard for much higher pay might get close to all the savings, but less valued employees and employees who arent skilled at aggressive pay raise negotiations wont see much of that savings.

        • Angela says

          Opps shouldnt have commented without reading your whole comment. Disregard my other two posts. However I seriously doubt the constitutionality of forcing employers to hand over current healthcare expenditures to employees via increased pay. Actually I doubt even the most liberal judges ruling that legal. I have no doubt that the conservative Supreme Court would find such a law illegal. I mean for it to even be possible youd have to try and make it illegal for employers to cut pay (which would clearly be unconstitutional btw) otherwise they could just cut your base pay before or after giving you the money they spent on your health insurance premiums.

    • My very left leaning relatives, visiting for the holidays, gave me the the rePUBlicans want income taxes in states which is reGRESive (they’re emphasis) — without noting how the social democracies use those same tools, simply relabeled VAT.

      • Sneed Urn says

        Usually income taxes are considered less regressive than consumption taxes.

      • Angela says

        The equivalent of VAT in the US is state sales taxes not state income taxes. State income taxes usually have progressive marginal tax rates just like the federal income tax. I’m assuming you just made a typo?

  2. Jay Salhi says

    In the 1980s, the AFL-CIO adopted an anti-communist stance in solidarity with workers movements in the Soviet bloc. Some people didn’t like this and broke away and formed the Democratic Socialists of America.

    The DSA are the people who thought the Soviets were the good guys.

    • Heike says

      Lots and lots and lots of Westerners thought the Soviets were the good guys. Many still do.

      “Accounts of the Soviet labor system should be suppressed even if true, since otherwise the French working class might become anti-Soviet.”
      — Jean-Paul Sartre, 1933

      • Not mentioned in the article is that Bernie Sanders visited Moscow on his honeymoon, during the middle of the cold-war. Bernie has also praised much of Cuba, and other pure socialist systems. The distinction the author is trying to make is not so convenient.

        This article is, intentionally or not, trying to mainstream the negative consequences which come from Socialism, which are present within redistribution systems, by removing the deserved stigma. Capitalism works best when individuals have more choices and freedoms, and the greater the redistribution, regulation (on business or individuals), and taxation the less it works effectively.

        • sneed urn says

          You seem to be conflating irrelevant events to unsuccessfully hew to a predefined narrative in which you are mentally trapped. Where Sanders had his honeymoon is quite far from the policy he espouses.

          The cons of redistribution systems vs. the pros is a very worthwhile debate. But you have to actually list them and compare them. Saying capitalism works best when individuals have more choices and freedoms is an argument FOR regulation if those individuals are workers, consumers or bystanders, (everyone except owners to spell it out). Because what is clear in both theory and evidence is that unregulated capitalism results in monopoly or oligopoly which reduces choice for consumers, and aims to extract as much from workers as possible for as little as possible and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about externalities. Your statement about ‘capitalism works best when..etc’ has no basis in reality in part because it is a meaningless statement and mostly because the implications are factually wrong. Capitalism survives because of regulation. The reason the statement is meaningless is it doesn’t identify for whom capitalism works best under which conditions. The facts around who benefits from what policy are the meat of the discussion and must be addressed by observed reality. But, of course, with no redistribution, for ultra high wealth owners the sky is not even the limit for their individual choices. Until terrestrial poverty is better dealt with, I’m with the crowd that thinks maybe the sky should be the limit. And really something somewhat lower than that.

          Fundamentally, wealth Is power. The wealthy are vastly more powerful than everyone else. Consider all the ways in which your “choices” are constrained and determined by them. And then how many of their choices are determined and constrained by you. The only peaceful counter to that power by the vast majority who are not ultra-wealthy is political power. To be clear, I’m not against capitalism in favor of totalitarian statism. I appreciate many facets of capitalism. There is some element of truth to the all boats rising notion. But it is also true that at any given time wealth IS a zero sum game and our so-called market economy would work far better with radically less concentration of wealth.

          • Heike says

            “Where Sanders had his honeymoon is quite far from the policy he espouses.”

            I disagree. To have one’s honeymoon in the enemy capital city, at the height of the Cold War? It would be like playing the Horst Wessel Leid at one’s wedding reception. Ye will be judged by the company ye keep.

          • “Fundamentally, wealth Is power. ”

            Every problem with wealth is magnified under Socialism and heavy redistribution systems. Socialism relies on government actors to hold, run and administer power. You seem to think only Capitalism produces issues with power and wealth. To take from your own words, “You seem to be conflating irrelevant events to unsuccessfully hew to a predefined narrative in which you are mentally trapped.”

            I’ll ignore your red herring about regulation.

            As for proof of Capitalism? Poverty has dropped more in the last 50 years all thanks to Capitalism and systems put in place to foster the dynamic, including international finance and trade.

          • Gringo says

            Where Sanders had his honeymoon is quite far from the policy he espouses.
            Perhaps, but Sanders has praised Chavista Venezuela, Cuba, and 1980s Sandinistas. See my comments below.

          • Stanley Ketchel says

            Wealth is a zero sum game? What? You mean that because we are healthier, more educated, have more goodies, than at any time in the history of humanity that wealth (and its creation) is a zero sum game? Who in the world is poorer since the industrial revolution started, except for a few benighted Venezuelans, and that is from incompetence and criminality, not the capitalist system. Some people may be a lot less wealthy compared to others, but a zero sum game does not lift all boats. The wealth and technology in the West and Asia has trickled down to most of Africa and Latin America and any metric you chose to use will show people, in general, are better off.

    • Ok dumbass says

      No, it came from a merger of two largely anti-communist successor factions of then defunct SPA. The DSA leadership has always been quite anti-communist, their constitution literally bans anyone associated with Marxist-Leninist parties from joining.

      • DeplorableDude says

        What we call communism is always the end result of real socialism. Communism = Dictatorial Socialism.

      • Scroto Baggins says

        ” their constitution literally bans anyone associated with Marxist-Leninist parties from joining.”

        Ah! I feel so much better now. Thanks for literally clearing that up.

        @Ok dumbass-

        Because you aren’t capitalizing the “K” in your handle, I don’t think most people understand it.

        The abbreviation for Oklahoma is “OK”, not “Ok”.

    • Michael Joseph says

      Now it’s just Trump supporters who think the Russians are the good guys.

      • Really? I seem to recall all the “Liberals” in 2012 making snarking comments about Mitt Romney pointing out the Russians and The Grand Messiah Obama saying “the 1980s want their foreign policy back.” So tell me, was Obama the “lying about everything” candidate in 2012? Or did the Russians go from being all nicey nicey in 2012 to being the root of all evil again in 2016 due to Obama’s masterful foreign policy? Either he was lying in 2012 to all the Left’s “rah rah” or his policies resulting in the rising (over 3 years?) of Russia back to it’s Cold War level of power. Choose.

  3. Well, for decades popular conservative media, especially the radio dial, has described American politics in terms of a dichotomous choice between Randian-style capitalism and Soviet communism. Any support of government intervention in the marketplace, even something as basic as a minimum wage, is necessarily framed as a near-treasonous attack on our very liberty.

    I grew up indoctrinated with the myths about welfare queens and other parasites. But the thing is, the moral hazard isn’t what they’re worried about. If we’re really worried about making sure only the deserving can eat, then we ought to use government public works projects to provide employment. But when that idea was proposed in the form of stimulus, Fox News and the rest of the right hated it. It was… ::socialist::

    And what they off in it’s stead is despicably disingenuous. Kansas tried creating prosperity through tax cuts a couple years ago, and reality forced them to back off. That didn’t deter our present government from doing the exact same thing, and instead of creating broad prosperity, it created a lot of stock buybacks. I don’t think anyone can actually believe that trickle down economics works.

    But the defenders of that approach constantly label those of us who cry foul as “socialists.” We hate freedom and worship the state.

    I do tend to favor New Deal style liberalism, though I also see an appeal in Scandinavian welfare capitalism. After one of the countless times of being told that any alternative to laissez-faire is evil because it’s socialism, it becomes apparent that trying to explain that the goal is not the abolition of private property, that it’s not Marxism, and one just accepts the right wing definition of socialism because it’s the only way to move the conversation forward instead of being bogged down in semantics.

    That’s why you see an increasing number of those of us on the left adopting the label of socialism. It’s a reaction to the state of our national conversation.

    • Heike says

      When you label yourself a socialist, you are standing atop a mountain of skulls, saying “oh these weren’t caused by real socialism!” The rest of us either can’t hear you or don’t believe you. Fascism has an evil reputation for exactly the same reason.

      • That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about it, and it involves a bizarre double standard. Any socialist has to answer for the crimes of Stalin and Mao, but capitalists don’t have to answer for disastrous and amoral things like the coups in Chile and Iran, company mining towns, the famines created by the British in Ireland and elsewhere… You stand on your own mountain of skulls proclaiming “But there were governments involved, so that wasn’t real capitalism!”

        It’s a dishonest tactic.

        • @ Joe

          I don’t think socialists have to answer for the crimes of Stalin and Mao. I think Soviets have to answer for the crimes of Stalin and Maoists have to answer for the crimes of Mao. All socialists have to do is, when making a claim that their economic theories work well and not lead to tyranny, to provide evidence that it has ever, any where it was attempted, even just once, worked well.

          Capitalists have shown that capitalism works amazingly well many times under many conditions. What they have not shown is that it works perfectly, that it has no flaws, or that it is foolproof against corruption and mismanagement by the state or businesses. The reason they have not shown this is because they don’t make these claims. They only claim that there is no other economic theories that have been tried or even that we know of that work better. They also claim that there are many ways to alleviate (but not eradicate) many of the flaws of capitalism.

          • @Marshall Mason: I can’t say that I agree with that approach at all. I don’t think that capitalism really has demonstrated as much as you say it has. I think that they’ve demonstrated that there are benefits to markets, but they’ve greatly overstated the benefits and ignored the costs. I mean, one of the things that often gets ignored in critiques of the Soviet Union is that it actually did increase the standard of living for most of it’s citizens compared to the Tsarist dictatorship they previously lived under, because even under totalitarian systems there are meaningful differences between them. But I wouldn’t consider that a reason to endorse the Soviet system.

            There’s a degree of truth to capitalist theory, but it rests upon a lot of assumptions about equal access to information, equality of bargaining power, ease of entry and exit into markets, product differentiation… etc… To the degree those things are present, markets function very well. But we can’t pretend that those things are always present and that therefore we can always assume markets always work. I think health insurance is a prime example. We could argue about whether or not insurance is the best system to deal with health care, but since it’s what we’re using, it’s worth pointing out that health insurance has a number of natural monopoly characteristics. The most important, I think, is that unlike other markets where having a variety of competing providers enhances overall welfare, a bigger insurance company really is objectively better because the larger the customer base is, the more predictable risk is.

            As far as your second post, most of it strikes me as utterly disconnected from reality. The “down” part of “trickle down” is the idea that you have to invest in the upper classes, and their wealth increases will benefit everyone.

            From there you rehashed the same tired old arguments made in favor of it, and once again, they don’t work.

            I mean:

            “Let’s consider some very basic economic facts. We know that economies can grow. We know that a growing economy means more jobs. We know that the poorest of society benefits tremendously from the creation of jobs. We know that some people are innovators and some people are laborers. We know that innovators create jobs and laborers consume them. These are all facts. Supply side economics merely combines these facts.”

            Those aren’t really all facts. Our present situation shows that they aren’t. Unemployment is plummeting, but wage growth has still fallen below the rate of inflation. And it’s not like all the people who don’t labor are innovators, at best a small fraction of them are. Look at Sears. It’s “innovators” managed the company into failure, and still took bonuses for themselves while it’s laborers are left out in the cold.

            I get the theory behind supply side economics, it’s certainly elegant and coherent. It just doesn’t match up well with reality.

            Tax rates are only one segment of a larger issue. Political economy matters. What we have in America is a system where those with means have been able to buy laws favorable to themselves and enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, and it’s backed up by a propaganda machine spouting the specious assertions you just repeated.

            The socialist movement is a reaction to that. Personally, I’m not particularly invested in any particular solution, they all have their ups and downs, but this plutocratic nonsense has to end before some actual revolution pops up.

          • Michael Joseph says

            Marshall, capitalism works amazingly well if your goal is to have the biggest army and need a superfund to clean up industrial waste.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Joe

          That bares some thinking about. Yeah there is a double standard but is that wrong? Capitalism happens by itself, it arose spontaneously as folks started pooling their resources to engage in collective projects that one person couldn’t manage alone. Capitalism is ‘natural’ one might say, requiring some basic level of legal regulation only. (Shylock explains it quite well.) Communism is an explicit ‘project’ a plan to deliberately destroy capitalism and replace it with an engineered economy. That engineered project naturally attracts attention as to whether or not it worked or whether the economy should have been left alone.

          It’s raining outside right now. Who to blame? No one, it’s just the weather. But if you announced a grand plan to control the weather and you promised me that it would never rain again except when ordered to, and that didn’t happen, now I have someone to blame for the rain.

          • @Ray Andrews

            I’m reminded that Thomas Paine wrote that he felt that every person was entitled a sum of money upon reaching the age of majority as compensation for their lack of access to their rightful share of the natural resources of the planet which had already been claimed by others.

            I don’t think I agree with your assessment of the origins of capitalism as organic. I think that left to their own devices most human societies have at least started out organizing themselves into authoritarian hierarchies and then iterated from there. Capitalism as we know it, at least to my knowledge, began as merchant classes in the 18th century gained wealth and power enough to challenge the nobility in the way that the nobility had eventually become able to challenge the power of monarchy.

            But I wonder why we’re debating origins? In modern America, “capitalism” is far from an organic system, it relies on a number of policies that cement the position of entrenched wealthy interests. You could argue that the Federal Reserve’s emphasis on fighting inflation by raising interest rates when unemployment drops below 5% is beneficial to society as a whole, I don’t think that argument is without merit, but it seems equally unarguable that it represents an upward transfer or wealth.

            I think the word “corporation” is unfortunately used interchangeably with the term “big business,” but it obscures the fact that the corporation itself has a become a legal instrument that protects the very wealthy from the same rules that apply to everyone else. Of course we should protect silent shareholders from liabilities, but it’s offensive to me that we protect executives from liability for intentional torts.

            We allow coercive contracts in the form of non-compete clauses and binding arbitration agreements in employment contracts, but have right to work laws to prevent unionization.

            What we have now isn’t a system that creates economic freedom. We have a system where the laws favor the wealthy, but the criticism is only leveled at the attempts to correct imbalances that harm the working man.

          • Angela says

            That’s a really good point. I never really thought of it that way, but you’re right capitalism is just something that happens more or less organically when people are free.

        • peanut gallery says

          @Joe
          We actually need to abandon “Capitalism,” which I take as “free trade” but folks like you see as “building a puppy kicking factory.” I suspect I dislike corruption and crony-capitalism just as much as you do. The last few days I’ve been thinking about making the case for just abandoning the word. We can’t save it. I want free trade that has good regulations. I think I can abandon “capitalism” and still be honest about what I want to support.

          Whatever happened in Chile is probably not even something I would consider capitalism, which I just see as “free trade.” Also, there is no such thing as a Capitalist Party really. There’s no manifesto, but IMO it is a leftist boogeyman. Communism and Socialism do and have had such parties that have have resulted in mass murder and tragedy. I think that’s a big distinction. By comparison, liberty and free trade have only managed to improve the lives of all humans. It’s imperfect, but that’s why we must always remain vigilant. Americans have not been so, which is why we are in our current situation that could spiral out of control at any moment.

          • @peanut gallery

            I like Ambrose Bierce’s definition of politics as “The strife of interests masquerading as the contest of principles.”

            Like I said above, there are benefits to markets, which is what I think you mean by “free trade.” I acknowledge them, but I think that argument is generally perpetuated in service of the advancement of what you call “crony capitalism.” I prefer to call it “plutocracy.”

            And I think you’re making the argument that true capitalism has never been tried. And it’s true, but only to the same degree that true socialism never has either. So I don’t know where that leaves us.

            So if you’re going to blame socialism for the deaths by famine in the Ukraine, you have to also blame capitalism for the deaths the British caused by famine in Ireland and India by implementing market and work based system. Not to mention the Opium Wars fought to open the Chinese markets to the influx of… opium.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Joe

            I agree with much of what you say, and I’d nuance part of it.

            I still say that capitalism is more ‘organic’ than socialism, but that’s not absolute. Of course it can’t exist without various social structures around it — making it dependent on ‘socialism’, ironically. It is also true that capitalism tends to unfairness and that it can become quite corrupt and even a caricature of itself and that it routinely perverts into mere protection of the wealthy. But plutocracy and oligarchy are not actually capitalism and can arise in so called socialist countries too. Capitalism is really just the pooling of resources so as to, say, finance a Dutch ship to the Indies with the promise that on its return, the profits will be shared. We should be careful to distinguish between that and the various other things we see in so called capitalist countries, but that are not really capitalist in essence.

          • “I think that left to their own devices most human societies have at least started out organizing themselves into authoritarian hierarchies and then iterated from there.”

            Joe, I would organize around competence hierarchies because that would be my best chance to prosper my family. I have this thing about “individuals” being unique— not collective robots,

          • Kent M. Gold says

            @Joe–

            I think you need to save your energy and write a book, brah.

            This is not healthy. You are on an anonymous comments board of a two-bit online zine. Three people are going to read this.

            A life. Get one.

        • Stephanie says

          @Joe, the fundamental difference is that capitalism is not a utopian ideology, it makes no claim there will never be coups or famines. Capitalism is simply based on the premise people will make better decisions for themselves than government can make for them. It’s not a monolithic thing you can blame when things go badly, just a collection of people’s choices. Capitalism does not claim at all that it can control the future.

          Socialism does. Socialism says “I can plan away all future problems,” because that is the justification for the government taking away people’s free choices. What they end up doing with that planning is purposefully killing lots of their own people. The coal mining life might have been tough, but not compared to the government stealing all your produce until your whole family starves. You’re better off being able to make your own decisions, even if life is going to be hard.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Stephanie

            That’s a very useful point. Capitalism does not presume to utopia but socialism does. It must therefore be judged against what it promises.

          • Tome708 says

            Thanks again Stephanie, I always enjoy and admire your points. Uh oh. Does that mean I will be kicked out of the “patriarchy” ?
            Just ask Joe if he believes in supply and demand. It’s not a premise it is a fundamental truth. His answer will reveal his ignorance. Hint hint I already know what he will say, he alluded to his position in reference to raising minimum wage.

          • @Stephanie
            Cheers. You’ve got it about right. Thanks for that. That is, capitalism (small c) is the natural state of things outside of tribalistic systems, where many gather to exchange goods and services. It is not perfect because people are not perfect, but, it doesn’t claim to be.

            Capitalism is also adaptive because it is not working according to some grand plan – it rolls with the changes, changes that destroy the best laid plans of the socialist cabal.

        • Jack Danzey says

          Although I think that you have somewhat of a point, it is not quite as strong a point as you seem to think. First, the difference in sheer magnitude is so large that it can’t be ignored. Tens of millions of corpses tends to attract attention, friend; sorry if that complicates things for you. Second, there is much more of a direct link between socialism and the devastation that was caused. It wasn’t incidental that people kicked in doors and took other peoples stuff; there is a link to socialism. Third, there are not only many more examples of socialism going badly, there are just about nothing but examples of catastrophic failures, and you are still baffled that people are skeptical?

          Finally, a little personal view. Socialism and capitalism cannot be compared in the way you are trying to compare them. Socialism is like a religion, it requires certain actions. Capitalism is like atheism. Very few people do things “in the name of” atheism. Just because you are an atheist that does not mean that your actions are a result of your atheism, because it is simply a lack of belief. It is the default, and so is capitalism, in a sense. Your points about atrocities committed by others doesn’t quite add up. Why is it connected to capitalism? You might say “well because they did it to enrich themselves”. Sure, and every other system of government does the same thing, so what makes it uniquely capitalistic?

          • peanut gallery says

            There was a monarchy when the east India Company was around. There are no systems of government that had a root in “capitalism.” Empires have been self-serving since the dawn of human history. I just see capitalism as a thing, based in the dismal science of economics. I attach no value-judgement to it or with it. There’s no direct comparison to socialism, but I suspect the word is too tied up with Marx to be saved from the socialism view on capitalism. You can’t defend capitalism to a socialist, because it’s already tainted.

        • Heike says

          Joe is very heavily into whataboutism. Pointing out an opponent’s flaws does nothing to mitigate your own.

          I’d like to take this moment to savor the flavor of whataboutism deployed for its original purpose, to distract from the crimes committed in the name of collectivism.

        • Only governments wage war, and only they wage taxation, and only they can imprison, and only they can mal-spend and give away benefits to the rich. Corporations may want money, be greedy, but without a government tyrant, they have zero control over our lives.

          • Yawn, the “they give money to the rich” argument is conflated with driving of stock dividends while ignoring that the vast majority of stock (and bond) holdings are institutional investments “owned” by the people in the form of pensions & 401ks and such. That “those evil Rich” hold it too is just a strawman. Fine, have the government confiscate stocks/bonds/dividends. Have the government tax dividends at 99% and capital gains at 99%. Who hurts the most? It won’t be the rich but will be all of the suddenly penniless pensioners and those with worthless 401ks (taxed at 99% you know!)

            The conflation of net worth and income is the core problem since net worth is a snapshot in time (ask Zuckerberg who lost what when FB lost 25 bil of value in a week?) As any homeowner who watched the value of their home drop by 1/2 in 2008. Check the KBB value of your car every couple months.

            The tax code incentivising investment may provide “on paper” more wealth to the already wealthy but it also helps pensions dig out of the red and the growth in assets for 401ks and such. It’s merely a compound interest problem where “Those evil rich” have had their money growing with inflation + growth longer, so it grew bigger and now grows faster. Suggesting, for example, that the 15% tax paid by Buffett should be compared to the 31% paid by a worker is nonsense since it ignores the relative value of the dollar (assuming USD). You pay 15% long term cap gains because that dollar you invested in 1985 that is now 2 dollars in 2018 changed in value. To pay 31% or 40% on that 1$ means an actual loss since the relative value of $1/1985 is calculated as anywhere from $1.98 to $4.49. So he’s paying 15% on 1$ of gain (15 cents) which is ACTUALLY a $0.13 – $3.34 loss for him on a stock that doubled in “value” over a 32 year period.

          • Michael Joseph says

            David, do you really think that the motivation for invading Iraq was a US government wanting to do right for the American people? It was corporate greed pure and simple. Research the Carlyle Group, KBR, and Halliburton. Halliburton, you know that corporation that just gave Zinke a brewery.

          • Michael Joseph says

            Bill, yawn: GOOGLE search- who owns the most stock. ANSWER: richest 10% own 84% of stocks, yawn.

        • Gringo says

          capitalists don’t have to answer for disastrous and amoral things like the coups in Chile…
          Here’s one answer. Chile’s Agriculture (PIN) Net Per Capita Production fell 18% from 1970 to 1973. So much for “land reform.”
          Here’s another answer. CHILE’S SALVADOR ALLENDE YEARS IN ELEVEN TRUTHS.

          1. “The Allende government, from its very start, has been striving to obtain total power and use it to exert rigid economic and political control, thereby creating a totalitarian system.” [Resolution of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, August 22, 1973]

          This Resolution passed in the Chamber of Deputies by a 81-47 vote, a strong 63% majority. Allende correctly stated the resolution promoted a coup. José Piñera’s website has a more complete discussion of the Resolution.
          Here’s another answer. The center left coalition that has governed Chile for over two decades- a coalition that includes Allende’s Socialist Party- did not nationalize the businesses that the Pinochet regime had privatized. The results speak for themselves.

        • Michael Joseph says

          Kent you read Joe’s comments or did you just look at the big paragraphs and tell Joe to get a life?

        • Angela says

          Well one flaw with your argument is socialists have literally no success stories to point to to make up for the tragedies caused by it. People who support capitalism on the other hand can point to countless success stories.

          And no socialists can’t point to Scandanvia because those are free market economies that just have high taxes and large safety net. The closest thing to a success story is communist China and that’s only after it became a capitalist nation that just calls itsself Communist still.

      • Defenstrator says

        That is not quite true. There are certain things that I, a firm capitalist, want socialized. For example U am fine with the state controlling the means of production of armed forces. I want the state to have a monopoly on force. The same as I don’t want private police forces.

      • Capitalism’s mountain of skulls is much higher, like 1.6 billion of them. Capitalism has also left a trail of poverty, misery, endless wars, and ecological destruction, and is now threatening to destroy most of the biosphere.

      • Michael Joseph says

        When you label yourself (insert any economic hegemony here) you stand on a mountain of skulls.

    • “I don’t think anyone can actually believe that trickle down economics works.”

      Many people do, in fact, including democratic socialists. This is a bold claim, so hear me out.

      Trickle-down economics is a Reaganism for supply side economics. The idea is that lowering the tax burden for those in society who are most likely to reinvest their surplus into growing the economy and creating jobs will benefit everyone, including those who need jobs. This is contrasted with demand side economics, where you forcibly reinvest that surplus into those without jobs or with low income, people who are incapable of growing the economy. Demand side economics shifts the sizes of the pie slices. Supply side economics is about making bigger pies.

      Let’s consider some very basic economic facts. We know that economies can grow. We know that a growing economy means more jobs. We know that the poorest of society benefits tremendously from the creation of jobs. We know that some people are innovators and some people are laborers. We know that innovators create jobs and laborers consume them. These are all facts. Supply side economics merely combines these facts.

      There was an argument Cenk Uyger made in a debate with Ben Shapiro. He said that both 0% taxes and 100% taxes would be bad. 0% would be pure anarchy and 100% would be pure socialism. So, he argued, we can all agree that it’s possible for taxes to be too high or too low. There is a “sweet spot.” The only disagreement is over where that sweet spot is. By saying that, Cenk, a “democratic socialist,” just made an argument for supply side economics.

      Why not 100%? If we lived in a society with 100% taxes, what possible benefit would there be for lowering taxes? If demand side economics works and supply side does not, then 100% would be ideal. The best way to grow the economy would be to funnel as much as possible into the hands of the poorest. We know from history that this is a failing strategy. It’s inherently coercive, it breeds tyranny, and the economy shrinks. Just resizing a pie will not grow that pie. The pie would shrink over time as more resources are consumed by the dead weight of a corrupt government. That’s what socialism does, and has done in every experiment where it was tried.

      Why not 0%? Well, because we also know that no man is an island. Some resources are inherently communal. Economies rely on a lot of trust, a peaceful environment, and a prodigous supply of healthy, educated citizens. We cannot have that if no one can afford education, if the air is choked with pollution, if foreign armies are constantly invading, or if every company or local official you deal with is a crook. We need laws. We need to pay people to enforce those laws. And we need a social safety net. Not only is it healthy for an economy for there to be good schools and very few diseased people starving on the streets, it’s just the right thing to do.

      So, pure supply side economics doesn’t work but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work at all. We know it works, in certain conditions. One such condition, admitted by Cenk Uyger, is if the tax rate is 100%. Presumably it would also work if it’s 99%, or 98%. In fact, the more you drop the tax rate in these conditions, the better the economy will be for everyone. That’s supply side economics.

      But there is a point of diminishing returns, a “sweet spot.” Lowering taxes under those conditions would only make things worse. So the real question isn’t whether supply side economics works but, does it work under the current conditions? That is a matter of debate. The conservatives will be more likely to say yes. I would say if taxes are low and the economy has been seeing a healthy growth, lowering taxes further is probably a bad idea. Not because supply side economics doesn’t work, but that it won’t work quite so well under current conditions.

      • The problem with your argument is ‘the bigger the government the smaller the citizen’. As much as possible needs to be in the hands of states/locals. The idea that the federal government can provide jobs or create jobs in the private sector comes from New Deal thinking. It’s sick. The federal government is supposed to tear down obstacles to such. But all they have done is create obstacles through massive regulation and taxation. They Gov exists to grow itself. As long as we have those millions of bureaucrats regulating us from their cubicles with their guaranteed gold plated pensions, The innovative and creative among us will be stifled.

      • Tome708 says

        Yes Joe also introduced the term “trickle down economics” this was a pejorative label created by liberal main stream media (Then they disguised their bias, but it was as real) He again demonstrated his ignorance by claiming this was an “investment” in the rich, another lie. Allowing someone to keep more of what they produced is NOT “investing” in them.
        Words mean things.

        • Michael Joseph says

          Tome, trickledown economics is only a pejorative when you see it for its basic lie. I don’t see a pleasant life sustaining rain of water trickling down from the sky as a pejorative. The lie of trickledown economics is the one you just spread: that when we tax the rich we are taking what they produce. When we tax the rich we take from them what they have failed to share with the workers who produced the wealth. I realize that assessing the fair share of those performing the actual work is difficult but it cannot be done by the party that benefits off the minimization of their contribution. The great dilemma for you and your kind will be when automation puts you out of a job. I know that you would have society let you starve to death among plenty, however, I’m sure sustenance will be provided.

    • R Henry says

      @Joe

      “I do tend to favor New Deal style liberalism”

      Trouble is, if people don’t NEED to work hard to survive…they don’t.

      • @Ray Andrews

        And I think we agree then, that arguing about broad ideologies and abstract ideas is largely semantics. The flag I’m planting is for a downward redistribution of wealth to correct our present caricature of captalism.

        @R Henry

        So what? I mean when unemployment skyrocketed back in the 2008 housing crisis I experienced shortages of absolutely nothing. We’re really efficient these days, and that’s a big part of what’s driving wages downwards. Think about all the money that goes to creating useless crap. Advertising is a huge industry whose sole purpose is to generate demand.

        The problem with this whole “If people don’t have an incentive to work the whole colony will starve” argument is just that this isn’t 1650 anymore.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Joe

          Sure. Capitalism has it’s built in inefficiencies. But what is going for it is its creativity and its drive — the profit motive just works.

          • Yup, it just works to destroy people’s lives and the biosphere.

        • ga gamba says

          The flag I’m planting is for a downward redistribution of wealth to correct our present caricature of captalism.

          I’m unopposed to taxes to cover roads, sewers, water treatment, police and fire, and many of the other services for the common good. I’ll even accept public education, albeit grudgingly.

          However, by what right do you have to seize my labour and redistribute it to others? You have compelled me, by force of law and gun, to hand over what I have earned by my own effort, time, talent and investment, which is a risk, to others who cannot or will not do likewise.

          This is simply Danegeld. I’m paying off the masses for a semblance of peace. Yet, work abounds. It may not be the work they prefer, or it may even be work they consider beneath them, but it exists. And it’s not all backbreaking labour. In the US presently nearly 300,000 trucking jobs go unfilled. The average annual income for truckers is $73,312, which is several thousand dollars above the median household income of $62,175 in 2018.

          If you want to redistribute your income to those less well off than you, you are free to give to the charities of your choice or simply hand over a pile to a person of your liking. It’s much more likely to reach the hands of the people you deem deserving than handing it to the government that will simply hire more people to administer programmes.

          Better to distribute opportunity than to steal from others to redistribute it, especially to those who nowadays think they deserve handouts by virtue of their presence.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            “However, by what right do you have to seize my labour and redistribute it to others?”

            By the right of social contract. People have the right to make societies and to make rules of inclusion since the alternative is anarchy. One of our rules is that we all help those who need it and of course that applies to each of us whether we are at the giving or receiving end of the bargain at any particular time. All insurance policies work the same way. The obligation to serve in the military, when and where that is found necessary, is the same sort of bargain. You are free to leave if that does not suit you.

            Notwithstanding the above, various redistributions routinely go badly astray but the question is whether we should abandon them, and let those temporarily down on their luck starve — there may be work now, but sometimes there is not — or sharpen them up. I vote for sharpening them up.

        • Tome708 says

          OMG Joe just acknowledged how well free markets distribute necessities without even realizing he was making an argument for free markets. That does not happen with “planned” economies.

          • Michael Joseph says

            Tome, God how I wish we had a free market. After you turn off your TV provided to you by one of two cable companies if your market even has two, many have only one. You should take a walk. You will probably walk by sundry store like 7-11 that’s part of a national chain. You might see bells of taco, arches of gold that are really yellow, and kings of the burger that the rest of us see in our communities… all over the world. You may see a logo on a large mercantile organization with a bulls eye and concentric circles or another large mercantile that starts with W. You will see trucks drive by that supply tremendous numbers of restaurants. You will see quite a variety of cars on the road but they’re built by a small number of companies. And don’t try to sue any of those folks because you’ll find that you accidentally signed an agreement that sends you to a non court staffed by judges they pay who always find in their favor. Enjoy you freedom buddy.

      • Michael Joseph says

        Jeez Henry, all of human culture has been created in our time off.

    • @ Joe

      Thank you for your rebuttal. I actually agree with a lot of what you say. You’re right that anyone who is a fan of a theory will tend to overstate its benefits and overlook its costs. You’re also absolutely right about the assumptions required for markets to work efficiently. We agree that capitalism works well when these conditions are met. I don’t pretend that those conditions are always met, or that markets always work perfectly. I do think we need regulations to enforce these conditions. I am not a libertarian, but I do believe new regulations and taxes have a burden of proof they must meet.

      I purposely talked about supply side economics rather than trickle down economics because the latter term is misleading. Supply side economics does not mean that you put money in at the top and it drips down to the bottom. Supply side means don’t TAKE AWAY quite so much money from the top, and this will tend to grow the economy more over time, which benefits everyone, including those at the bottom. We already know this is true under conditions when taxation is extremely high. The only question is, does it work quite so well under current conditions? Maybe not, I don’t know. But that’s very different from saying it doesn’t work.

      I never claimed that wage growth would rise if unemployment dropped. I claimed that the poor benefit from low unemployment, which is undeniable. Wage growth is one measure of improved quality of life, but it’s not nearly as important as low unemployment. Wages are a means to an end. What matters is not whether the dollar figures are rising but whether the wages people do have is leading to a higher quality of life over time. Unemployment, on the other hand, is the amount of people who have ZERO wages. Prolonged, high unemployment is devastating no matter how you cut it. That said, I am mildly concerned about the stagnant wage growth, just not alarmed. It might be temporary.

      I also don’t think I claimed that all who don’t labor are innovators. I think I said that innovators create jobs and laborers consume them, which I can see now is a little misleading. Basically, the people who create jobs are not people who clean toilets, but the people who invent toilets or start businesses to buy and sell them. People who clean toilets get jobs that simply didn’t exist before toilets entered the economy. One way to make Mr. or Ms. Toilet Cleaner better off is to make sure that a) toilets exist, and b) businesses can afford to hire people to clean them. Another way is to just cut Mr. or Ms. Toilet Cleaner a check. Both might be appropriate in certain conditions, but all the checks in the world won’t grow an economy.

      I also wouldn’t make the ridiculous claim that all innovators or entrepreneurs will be successful. What I am saying is that if their tax burdens are too high, they will invest less money in new research or hiring. We don’t need 100% success rates for this to be true. I’m also saying that if you do the opposite and raise their taxes while giving money to laborers, the economy will not grow. More government bureaucracy will be needed to manage things, which creates a head wind against growth. The laborers would have more money from the government, but less money overall.

      Look, I’m not saying the wealthy shouldn’t pay their fair share of taxes, leaving the tax burden to the poor and middle class, and somehow magically this will make everyone rich. Economics is a lot more complex than this, and I’m not even an economist. I believe in a safety net, just not socialism.

        • ga gamba says

          @Joe

          By the right of social contract.

          The social contract is that I surrender some of my freedoms and submit to the authority of the ruler in exchange for protection of my remaining rights. So, the social contract is not a right itself. It’s not “I have the right to free speech, the right to a lawyer, and the right to the social contract.” Social contract describes the partial exchange of some rights for securing other rights.

          So, I surrender my freedom (to use my property as I like) to build an aluminium smelter in my garden so that my neighbours don’t build blast furnaces, discos, prisons, and helipads in theirs. We’ve exchanged the freedom of doing whatever ever we want on our property for the right to live quietly and safely in our neighbourhood. The ruler enforces this by through a variety of measures such as zoning laws, noise ordinances, and police enforcement against those hosting 3 A.M. raves in their homes.

          Redistribution of wealth is not the social contract. Further, I’m already paying for the infrastructure that’s available for their and everyone else’s use. It’s the same exact infrastructure I have access to. There’s no special lane on the motorway for people who pay the highest marginal income tax. The fire brigade doesn’t dispatch special tax-payer fire trucks to my home if there’s a fire. In fact, many recipients of my tax over consume some services, such as police service. Those who pay no income tax at all still have access to all the common services provided under the social contract. What they now want is for me to pay for their shelter, food, and utilities. Not only do I have to take care of my family, I have to take care of other families. If I refuse, the security of my family is jeopardised. How are my rights protected by this transfer of more money from my pocket to theirs? Laws are already on the books that prohibit theft and extortion, and these laws are enforced. If it’s simply that I have to pay more or else they may rise up, this demand is extortion. If peace is conditional on my buying it, then there is no peace. We’re merely at a ceasefire. If that’s the case, I want an alternative, one to suppress those who demand Danegeld. I’d rather battle the Vikings than have them reappear on my shore again and again with new demands.

          One of our rules is that we all help those who need it and of course that applies to each of us whether we are at the giving or receiving end of the bargain at any particular time. All insurance policies work the same way.

          Was this always a “rule”? Or is it a recent fabrication?

          Are we compelled to have insurance too? I don’t have life insurance. Have I violated a social contact? I suppose you may mention auto insurance, but this is only compelled for those who chose to own cars. So, auto insurance isn’t mandated for all either.

          let those temporarily down on their luck starve

          But unemployment insurance exists. Both the employee and employer contribute and it’s available when that person is down on their luck temporarily. The thing is, the benefits programmes have grown to be something more than temporary, haven’t they? And you know this. (That you use the word temporary tells me that you’re using a deceit.) Now it’s multi-generational. Has a new rule emerged that changes temporary to long-term? Or perhaps you changed the definition of the word temporary to mean three or more generations? How did this happen? If I’m poor, and I can barely support myself, how am I having children? Did I not know a hospital was needed? Did I not know they need nappies? And food? And clothes? How come the state failed to tell me this? Why are you failing me, benefactor?

          Who’s gonna take care of me and my kids?

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            (that was me not Joe)

            “So, the social contract is not a right itself.”

            I agree, it is a framework within which rights and obligations will be negotiated. In a democracy, at least in theory, the citizens will be active participants in that negotiation.

            “Redistribution of wealth is not the social contract.”

            Yes, it is. As societies have evolved, virtually every one of them has developed some level of redistribution and considered that part of the social contract. (OK, it’s not ‘the contract’, but it is ‘in the contract’ which I think you meant.)

            “There’s no special lane on the motorway for people who pay the highest marginal income tax.”

            Thanks, I was just about to point that out. In fact there is always redistribution anyway so your objection is answered. The only issue is to what degree and by what methods will redistribution take place.

            “What they now want is for me to pay for their shelter, food, and utilities.”

            So again the question becomes when, where, why, how and (mostly) how much redistribution and I’m probably far closer to your view than to the view of the free-lunch socialists. I only wanted to point out that any effort to deny that every society engages in redistribution is doomed because we all do and 99% of us understand that this is both inevitable and good.

            “Was this always a “rule”? Or is it a recent fabrication?”

            It goes back at least to the Neanderthals and IINM it is absolutely universal in all hunter-gatherer societies that have ever been studied. To this day there are Inuit here in Canada that still practice it: The men go out to hunt (you are excused only in case you are genuinely disabled), the meat brought back is shared collectively and no thought is given to who killed the most seals (tho he will have the highest respect of his fellow hunters). It is, frankly, what communism is supposed to be (but isn’t).

            “Are we compelled to have insurance too?”

            Right, I am compelled to have driver’s insurance and I’ll bet that you are too. It is in the Contract that if I hurt someone, I am obliged to have the insurance to cover his injury. Ditto in reverse. True, this is excused for non-drivers but that only demonstrates that the Contract is capable of some flexibility, it does not bear on the principal that auto insurance is a mandatory redistribution. Come to that, it could be argued that auto insurance should simply be folded into a sort of general insurance that all citizens would have in case they injure anyone, anyhow.

            “But unemployment insurance exists.”

            Yes, and here in Canada it is mandatory. Otherwise folks would decline to pay into it but would still not want to starve to death when unemployed so we make it compulsory. It is another form of redistribution. (And it is frequently abused.)

            “The thing is, the benefits programmes have grown to be something more than temporary, haven’t they?”

            Indeed they have. I might seem to be on the side of the free-lunchers but I am not. I’m probably as hard-assed as you. I merely correct you (if I may be so bold, sir) that the issue is not the principal of redistribution, it is rather the application of that principal that so often goes wrong.

            Thoughts?

      • Tome708 says

        Wages pressure will be upward in RESPONSE to low unemployment. It’s supply and demand, simple. It’s not an immediate reaction, nothing is in a large economy.

    • Stephanie says

      “I don’t think anyone can actually believe that trickle down economics works.”

      You write from your computer or phone, which cost a huge amount of investment to develop, and were purchased for years only by the rich, until now it’s so omnipresent you’re taking it for granted.

      The way people think trickle-down economics works is that rich people will just give money away to poor people, maybe take everyone out to a nice dinner. How it actually works is that rich people put their extra money in investments (those lifeless stocks you disparage and more), which pays for the innovation that has made this century better than the last. The same amount of money redistributed (remember tax cuts doesn’t mean giving the rich money, it means taking less of the money they earned) to the poor just enriches McDonald’s.

      It’s easy to believe trickle down economics works, if you look at your life with some self-awareness and avoid the expectation of free things. I swear, the same people complaining about Elon Musk and trickle down economics will still be doing it when space travel is a middle class goal.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Stephanie

        For all my noticing that capitalism just works, I believe that trickle down is simply a propaganda lie to justify plutocracy. The workers produce stuff. That stuff is then consumed. If the workers spend more time producing mega-yachts for the rich then they are spending less time producing simple houses for themselves. If they are spending more time harvesting caviar for the rich, then they are spending less time harvesting herring for their children.

        Elon Musk is a genuine capitalist, he invests real money in real innovation. I hope he gets even richer. But most of our rich today are not producers of anything they are in fact parasites. What does Goldman produce? Actually what they produce is economic disturbance but they know how to get rich by disrupting the economy. We should distinguish between capitalists and manipulators.

        • So, to condense a number of replies…

          Utopianism can be a symptom of any ideology, and I do hear a lot of utopian capitalism preached, Fox Business being a good example.

          I agree with a lot of what’s been said in principle. Here’s the thing, if we are actually interested in creating a better future and not just engaging in some abstract debate for it’s own sake, the present conditions are exactly what we need to focus upon, not theoretical and abstract arguments.

          And I think in modern America, we have a pretty clear picture. Wall Street, the guys that just trade the wealth everyone else produces are 7% of the economy. That alone is a huge drag. We have federal reserve policy, anti-union laws, and a whole host of other public policies dragging down the welfare of the working man.

          Look at all the money corporations spend on political campaigns. Do you really think those guys aren’t getting a return on their investment? And why else would they so often donate to both sides of a campaign? Of course they’re buying laws.

          I don’t know what the best answer is. I grew up around a grandmother who lived through the New Deal and was grateful for it. Maybe the Milton Friedman’s idea of a GMI, with it’s simplicity and efficiency, is better. I like that too.

          What I do know is that plutocracy has to end.

          • ga gamba says

            Wall Street, the guys that just trade the wealth everyone else produces are 7% of the economy.

            The US economy is about 20 trillion per annum presently, so that 7% is roughly $1.4 trillion. Seven per cent looks insignificant. $1,400,000,000,000, which is about one-third of the US federal budget, looks quite significant.

            NGOs are the third largest employer in the private sector, after retail and manufacturing. In 2010, roughly 1.6 million nonprofits employed 10 per cent of the US domestic work force and accounted for 5 per cent of GDP. So, Wall Street, with many fewer people, is responsible for creating more economic growth than non profits, which don’t even pay pay tax.

            Maybe the Milton Friedman’s idea of a GMI, with it’s simplicity and efficiency, is better. I like that too.

            Now you’re talking sense. At the very least it excludes those who don’t need it, which is the budget busting problem of UBI. And if you get rid of the civil sector administrators of benefits programmes, GMI may pay for itself.

            However, we’ll have to callous to the cries of those who mismanage their GMI and tell them to take their problems to the NGOs. No shortage of them to contact for assistance. Aren’t they lucky!

        • Stephanie says

          @Ray, it’s a propoganda term for supply side economics, but true nonetheless. The poor don’t lack cheap crap to buy, and free money in their hands enriches Walmart and McDonald’s, and support the terrible jobs those employers offer. Extra money in the hands of rich people is mostly going to investments, but those yacht and plane companies employ higher-skilled workers, so support better job.

          What Goldman Sachs offers might seem less important than more tangible products, but asset management is a necessary service that does our economy better than rich people stashing money beneath their mattresses or in giant pools of gold coins.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Stephanie

            I can’t agree. Workers make things. Workers keep some of the things they make, and give the rest to parasites. It is that simple. Almost. Yes, there is genuine investment, we call that ‘venture capital’, but almost everything that Wall St. does is manipulation, not investment. It is wonderful that the jobs making mega-yachts are probably good jobs, but I’d rather that the workers had equally good jobs providing decent housing for themselves.

            Goldman’s ‘product’ is economic instability, they consider the economy to be a casino in which they are the dealers. I am a capitalist! But a ‘real’ capitalist — real money invested in real businesses that produce real goods and services for real people and returning a real profit for real investors.

        • Ah, but let’s consider…Mr. Bigs spends money to buy his multi-million dollar mega-yacht. That provided money for how many people to buy herring for their kids? Or paid for those houses? It’s all about velocity of money and studies have repeatedly shown that the velocity of money in private sector hands exceeds that in public sector hands. One would not think so if one only considered “giving the dollar” but the problem is that in public sector that is via tax and distribute. That tax actually restricts the resulting velocity because of the overhead incurred by the redistribution mechanism. It’s why that “sweet spot” discussed at length above here exists. That is the break even point, the pay-back curve, if you will, is that the loss in velocity due to the tax rate is acceptable due to the mitigation of risks/social service needs are met.

          We shouldn’t be looking at “who can we benefit/hurt” the most, we should be using a true economic model varying tax rates based upon velocity of money “at the time.” Unfortunately, we have a massive tax code based upon the benefit/hurt model where we just keep slapping help/hurt ideas on top of other help/hurt ideas. Partially it buys votes and partially it is weaponized so that ANY person can be found skirting taxes somewhere, somehow — that’s why we pay CPAs, tax preparers, and even software companies for packages like Turbo Tax — to help us minimize tax burden. Of course, it’s then weaponized, like now for against Trump’s family or in 2016 for Bernie Sander’s and his inheritance, when politically expedient.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Bill

            “It’s all about velocity of money”

            Is it? You are correct that there is a builtin drag when any money is ‘filtered’ thru a bureaucracy, and if one believes that the only good is to maximize the velocity of money then the conclusion is obvious. However I dispute that the velocity of money — or the ‘size of the pie’ — is paramount. A big pie almost entirely devoured by obese parasites is not IMHO preferable to a smaller pie that is mostly consumed by the people who made it. The parasites love to pretend that they are the makers of the pie but in reality I think that they are just parasites and were they to threaten to decamp to Lichtenstein I would wish them bon voyage.

            “we just keep slapping help/hurt ideas on top of other help/hurt ideas”

            Yes, and that should stop. Bureaucracy is like cancer, it tends to expand until it kills its host. Yet, we must have bureaucracy. We are stuck in that paradox and it behooves us to handle it intelligently.

      • Michael Joseph says

        Stephanie, you’re hung up on entitlement. A rich person who owns a business with many employees deserves the fruits of their labor but they do not deserve the fruits of the labor of workers who can’t negotiate fair wages. If the alternative is starvation, a worker, also thought of by some as fellow human beings, will work for the cost of the food needed to stay alive. You may have the opinion that the business owner is “entitled” to the profits wrung out of an oppressed work force but giving the owner credit for producing the goods and services is a bit much.

        • Stephanie says

          @Ray and Michael, addressing how much a worker should benefit from the enterprise as a whole, I’d say workers have an oversized estimation of their contribution, and don’t understand why it is that the “parasites” that employ them make more. The amount people need to work to get to the top and stay there is extraordinary, much more than most people are willing to sacrifice.

          I certainly believe people should be adequately compensated for their work, but that compensation should depend on how valuable (or rare) their skills are. Those who take no financial risk should not expect financial reward beyond that.

          Those concerned that the products of their labour aren’t available to them can always change employers, or start a business of their own.

    • @Ray, the velocity of money isn’t a size of the pie argument since the pie grows until the velocity = 0. The drag (tax) reduces the velocity, therefore shrinks the pie. A lower tax increases the velocity and grows the pie. It’s the main point of the article discussing 0% vs 100% tax and the middle ground being the answer.

      Oh, and to the snarky “use google” remark above about my comment about stock ownership: https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-2e2767ddb8c17e91bb09b85aae783d7a

      Wealthy are “individuals” which are households. If households own 33%, mutual funds 21%, pensions 15%, international 16%, hedge funds/etfs/others a total of 16%, then saying the “wealthy” own 70+% of stocks is crapola. Wealthy don’t invest in mutual funds, for example, they have advisors who micro manage so they can beat what the mutual fund does for the most part. They may have mutual funds, but if they do then they are actually helping the “non-wealthy” in the funds as well by providing that fund capital to distribute across asset classes. Pensions/Gov’t retirement funds also have a portion of that mutual fund pie. “Wealthy” also hold assets outside of the stock market, which is what those evil tax cuts supposedly helped the rich with. They hold large tracts of land, for example, or precious metals and art and gemstones (investment grade diamonds anyone?)

  4. scribblerg says

    Giggling, this “that’s not socialism” two step has to be laughed at by those and the right once and for all. “Nordic social democracy” is only different in degree from Democratic Socialism.

    Let’s start by asking the fundamental question: What is socialism?

    Answer: The term first emerges in 1827, predating Marx’s work by 20 years. Socialism posited that the classical liberal order that had emerged in the West and was instantiated in the U.S. most purely was unjust and insufficient for organizing our society. It claimed that it set us all in competition with each other and actually destroyed the fabric of society.

    Get that, my fellow rightwingers. Socialism at it’s core, is a rejection of the very political order our founders envisioned. Marx comes along and offers what he calls “scientific socialism”. He drew on Hegel and other ideas of German Historicism that were emerging to make various mechanistic claims about how capitalist economies worked, but all of them were debunked. And of course that was the case – he had no “science” to speak of.

    Marx becomes one of the three “founding Grandfathers” of sociology – do you folks here realize that? Marx is presented as a crucial thinker and the nonstop critique of classical liberalism he and others of his ilk present has continued to this day as an assumption.

    Yet we don’t have an actual discussion about their ideas and why they are garbage. Worst? Socialists in the academy and govt can only exist because capitalism works so well that it creates enough excess wealth that we can host such parasites who contribute nothing to the real economy.

    Stand up for classical liberalism. And oh yeah, next time some budding Leftist fascist babbles about “Nordic socialism” recommend the book The Almost Nearly Perfect People – Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia. Of course they aren’t superior to us.

    • Pirkka Jokela says

      ”’ “Nordic social democracy” is only different in degree from Democratic Socialism.”’

      This is a lazy argument. If the nordic Social Democracy is different from Socialism only in degree, then whatever US has right now is also only different in degree. There are already social programs in the US, so there is some social something there. And therefore it is only different in degree. The only pure society is where the poor starve on the streets and nobody cleans up to body.

      The thing to realize is that politics always works on degrees. There is no pure anything… and whenever we try to create pure something, we get a dystopia. The reason capitalism works so well is that it does not need to be pure.

    • “Socialists in the academy and govt can only exist because capitalism works so well that it creates enough excess wealth that we can host such parasites who contribute nothing to the real economy.”

      Exactly.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @scribblerg

      Every social system is different from every other social system only by degree.

    • ga gamba says

      @scribblerg,

      Though I agree with much with what you wrote, I object to your downplaying of socialism, seeing it merely a difference of degree from social welfare and socialised programmes. Socialism is entirely different.

      At its heart socialism is the seizing of the means of production (tools, resources, factories, designs, etc.) by the workers from those who risked their money, time, and talent to conceive those ideas, acquire those tools, and build those facilities used by labour. None of this fell from the sky like the gifts birthed by iron birds found by the cargo cults. This is expropriation, a kind and gentle word to obscure what it really is: theft.

      Many fail to realise, and certainly don’t appreciate, that without those risk takers most of the product and service creation and innovation we’ve experienced would never have happened. Other than the AK-47 and Sputnik, can you name other innovations that came from the socialist economies that made it to the marketplace and improved the lives of those whose freedom was traded for impoverishment?

      Many hold a Scrooge McDuck caricature of capitalists in their minds. Entrepreneurs simply have money and their investments always reap wild rewards which are stashed away in vaults gathering dust. Time and time again the press fills the public’s collective noggin with stories of CEOs who earn millions, often hundreds more times the lowest earner, and many extrapolate this to most business owners. When the press reports CEO compensation, it’s most often about the Fortune 500 companies. In the US, there are about 10,000 businesses publicly listed on the stock markets. Of those who earn multi-million dollar salaries in the US, we’re talking about fewer than 1000 CEOs and few thousand more top executives. And most often their compensation includes a lot of stock. There are more than 20 million businesses in the country. When you look at the salaries of business owners, i.e. the capitalists, often it’s 30% to 50% more than the lowest wage earner they employ. They tend to re-invent a lot of their profit to sustain and grow. Depending on the sector, up to 50% of businesses fail in two years, which means the owner lost his investment. That’s the deal of the free enterprise system. You take the risks, you pay everyone else before you pay yourself, and you may reap the rewards. Generally, these are middle-class people who offer products and services that don’t scale beyond their immediate locale. Bill Gates is a billionaire because his software is used worldwide; it’s highly scaleable, and even this has a demerit because it can be easily pirated. Software piracy cost the industry $52.2 billion globally in 2017, down from $63.4 billion globally in 2011. If we were to tally the preceding years that’s hundreds of billions of dollars. Gates, Ellison, and others ought to be wealthier than they are as well as their employees and shareholders too.

    • Michael Joseph says

      Scribblerg, please stand up for classic liberalism. Condemn the corporate welfare state. I don’t know why you all believe a country that generates $100,000 for every man, woman, and child should leave millions without shelter, food, and healthcare. You either have no idea of the wealth of Western Civilization or you practice the philosophy of Social Darwinism. You know what other type of Social Darwinism unfolds with tremendous wealth inequality? The kind suffered by the French and Russian monarchs.

  5. I was confused by the paragraph on socialized medicine above the picture. First it talked about medicare for all and state run hospitals ala the UK, but then said that this isn’t what they meant, only that the government would be the single payer. I’m curious about that economic definition. If a business (hospital) has 1 and only 1 payer (government), how is that different than the government owning? It’s just a sham. The single payer sets the price (no competition, an inverted monopoly), which determines the entire economics of the firm. That the paycheck comes from CompanyX whos books are wholly controlled by the Government somehow makes it not government owned? That would be saying that China isn’t socialist simply because each Pol owns a company and gov’t pays the company and those companies pay the workers.

    More simply, i’m a doctor, self-employed, 1 man shop. If the gov’t reimbursement rate is X, then i’ve been paid X. That i’m a sole-proprietorship on my taxes does not mean that i’m not an employee of the government nor that i’m a slave to the government who at any whim could set rules which dictate what I must do/not do to remain on the payroll/licensed/etc (think about the rules abortion providers are subject to in some states which restrict their ability to practice if they perform abortions — while the Left would go “yeah! see!” they, like when Happy Harry changed the Senate rules, ignore that it could swing the other way on political whim).

    • Saw file says

      @Bill
      I can’t comment on the UK system but I can explain how the CDN universal ‘medicare’ functions.
      Understanding that “the government” = the citizenry as a whole, then the collected citizenry pools it’s financial resources to fund the services and infrastructure that provides universal necessary health care to all citizens on an equal basis.
      The various service providers are not lone agents when it comes to negotiating with the ‘system’, as there are many checks and balances.

      Here is a overview:
      https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-care-system/reports-publications/health-care-system/canada.html

      • Mellowcanadian says

        The overview is a bit of government propaganda that skates over actual events…..the challenges in the Canadian healthcare system largely stem from the federal government slashing contributions to the provinces. Trudeau senior slashed healthcare contribution from 50% to 25% in 1977; during the 90’s the Chrétien/Martin Liberals slashed it from roughly 24% down to 13%….Martin as PM agreed to “restore” funding over a 10 year period which was largely left to the Harper Conservatives to fulfill. All OECD countries have 2 tier healthcare, Canada does not ( as a result of Trudeau senior )and as a result its healthcare system has been falling internationally. The challenge with Canada’s healthcare funding model is do you fund healthcare or roads when you can’t fund both

        • Stephanie says

          I don’t know much about the Canadian health care system, but my mother is a medical secretary in Quebec, and the last 10 years have seen a major squeeze. Wait times are crazy, everyone is overworked and underpaid. My mother started off with one doctor, now she’s up to three, but the administration said she can’t get a pay raise because then she’d be making as much as the nurses. My mother doesn’t make enough to live comfortably, she lives with my grandparents. My aunt is a medical secretary as well, and she can’t afford a big enough apartment to have her own bedroom. She sleeps on her living room couch.

          I recall a NYTimes article about the UK system that said that nurses in London couldn’t afford to live there. Being the NYTimes, they buried this in the last paragraph. The spin was that Brexit was bad for the UK, because it relies on foreign nurses from Eastern Europe. British kids obviously don’t want to get into a career that pays poverty wages. Anyone who’s not ideologically possessed would notice the problem isn’t Brexit depriving the UK of slaves, it’s that nurses are radically underpaid.

      • My experience with the single insurer is exemplified with dental about 20 years ago when I was working with dentists “in the sticks” of Northeastern PA. All the workers in the area were in the same mine, so one insurer. The area had defacto single payer since everyone in the area worked for the same company and had the same insurer. That insurer decided they wanted to pay X for fillings. X = the materials cost for the amalgam. Every filling (actually every treatment) was a net loss for the dentist because the single payer could name the price they would pay. The only way this dentist ate was because her husband had a job driving 70 miles each way, every day, to the outskirts of Philadelphia to make a good living in IT. He lost his job and they moved..and that area now had no dentist because in single payer — the payer sets the price of service. I’m sure the single payer didn’t give one crap that there were no dentists…just means they never had to pay a claim for preventative care and when the workers had to drive hours to a dentist to get care — that dentist was still forced to accept the same loss dollar.

        Now, since we are NOT single payer, the Dentist had other customers (local farmers and such) where she could negotiate prices. It was still a poor community, but she was able to barter things like eggs, milk, etc in exchange for services. In the bigger communities…it’s what we ended up with in Healthcare where people complained about the “charge-master” rates for services like $5 aspirins.

        We already have a problem where medicare reimbursement rates being low result in either higher private insurance (to cover the deficit) or the loss of providers (many offices reject medicare). The ACA caused consolidations so many areas became two-three payer instead of single payer but you still see the downward pressure on reimbursal. So…all the people screaming for single payer/socialized are ok with lowest-paid doctors ala lowest-paid teachers we have now, and how low-paid LEOs mean they go for conviction rates (aka, profiling for plea-deals) so that they get bonuses?

        • Michael Joseph says

          Bill, in a capitalist economy prices reflect what the market will bear. What is your life worth?

        • Michael Joseph says

          This is why capitalism is not good for healthcare. We are seeing in real time how healthcare providers can ratchet prices up without fear. A service that makes a difference between life and death should not be open to profiteering. Doctors should be paid well and the health industrial complex should make profits but these profits should be reflective of standard business practices.

          From Axios:

          John Martin, former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, made $863 million in the ACA era — John Hammergren of McKesson ($587 million), Leonard Schleifer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals ($338 million) and Stephen Hemsley of UnitedHealth Group ($279 million) — each took home more than a quarter-billion dollars on their own.

  6. Karl's Cousin Zeppo says

    Praise for “Nordic” socialism can be translated as “socialism can work if everyone is white.”

    • Bingo. And it’s already breaking down in places like Sweden due to the hordes of young male refugees who don’t work. Denmark is putting their criminal refugees on an Island! So much for the welfare state utopia. Let’s give it another 20 years….

      • Ray Andrews says

        @lydia00

        Are they really? Rotten Danes! That would hurt feelings. The Danes should get back to the DIE project: Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. Naturally, if they have hurt feelings, the refugees will act out, won’t they? They just need more love, the poor dears.

      • Maybe if capitalist countries like the US, Britain, France, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, stopped bombing other countries and propping up dictators, and funding and arming insurgents, etc. there would be fewer refugees.

        • Stephanie says

          @Brad, you realise most of the refugees come from sub-Saharan Africa, which no one is bombing?

          Talk about not doing a moment’s research before regurgitating an old, tired talking point.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Karl’s Cousin Zeppo

      Saying things like that can get you arrested.

      • Defenstrator says

        Only in fascist countries. I would also point out that Japan in not white and very successful. It seems to be more a product of stable societies with certain values rather than skin colour advantage.

        • I think the point wasn’t skin color in either case, but that of a very homogeneous culture whose members all buy into the idea that makes it work. As soon as you have some significant number of free riders the system begins to collapse. Collapse comes quicker as more and more people deliberately game the system.

    • ga gamba says

      And it only kind of works.

      My Swedish friend’s wife recently abandoned Sweden’s healthcare system to get colon cancer treatment in South Korea. She was entirely dissatisfied with the slowness of testing and the recommended course of action: remove part of colon and attach a colostomy bag. She’s a nurse, and she described Sweden’s treatment options as “from the ’90s.”

      Because she’s still a Korean citizen she contacted doctors there and entered the hospital the same day she arrived. Korea has a national health scheme, but it doesn’t cover 100% of the bills. The doctors reviewed her Swedish records, did a few more tests to verify it hadn’t metastasised, and the tumor is being treated with radiation for the next five weeks. If this fails then alternatives including colectomy are still on the table.

      The Swedes just wanted to pursue the easiest and most cost effective option without consideration of her quality of life. This is what the state provides, and you are less likely to get choices.

      • Tome708 says

        Maybe too many free transgender reassignment surgeries scheduled. Can’t waste time on that cancer stuff

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Tome708

          Thanks for mentioning that. We do have to get our priorities right after all. Cancer is so … old fashioned.

          • Michael Joseph says

            I guess Tome and Ray have told us how they would ration healthcare.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ga gamba

        The ideologists on all sides will have something true to say about what’s wrong with the other ideologies. Indeed, the pot is right that the kettle is black, but so is the kettle right that the pot is black. If one is rich enough to fly to Korea for treatment then one should do so, however a friend of mine was recently, likewise, diagnosed with colon cancer and, as above, her handling by the national healthcare system has left much to be desired. However she is poor and should it be the case that the second rate care she is getting fails to save her, at least she will not die on the sidewalk.

        • Had nothing to do with rich enough to fly to Korea — if you re-read what ga gamba said, it was only an option because she was still a Korean citizen. See, only in the US do they not want to put nasty little restrictions like “you must be a LEGAL citizen” on social services 😉

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Bill

            Were she not Korean it might still have been possible for her to purchase healthcare in Korea. Rich Canadians purchase treatment in the US all the time — far faster and better … if you can afford it. So what’s your point of substance?

        • Michael Joseph says

          Colon cancer is a killer. They probably didn’t want to take chances. I hope the Koreans know what they’re doing.

    • Jay Salhi says

      @Karl

      Your point about cultural homogeneity is valid. However, as the PM of Denmark pointed out to Bernie, Nordic countries aren’t socialist. They have capitalist economies with large social welfare nets. Socialism = government control over the production of goods and that has never worked anywhere.

      • Venezuela isn’t socialist either. In fact, the private sector controls more of the Venezuelan economy (71%) than in any Scandinavian country.

        • You are right here, Brad, but why does nobody see or notice this? Chavez: YO NO SOY SOCIALISTA!! Of course, it’s neither a pure capitalist state either, but a pure chaos, with remnants of this or that, no structure or balance at all, but shops and factories, and many remaining farms (even very big ones), it’s all up to the whims of this or that dictator, there are rules, but it all depends. Friends of the bosses??, you are untouched and you can go on. If not, bad luck. Just imagine, that you are living there (and a lot of immigrants thought it would be a good nation to start something there, but, then, crazyness, and oil money, and santa claus behaviour for some), yes, very nice, but not as an example to follow, neither for (far)left, neither for (far) right.

  7. Sam Hall says

    So the argument is that social democrats are not socialists, or communists, and what the social democrats are aiming at is the northern European model of high taxes and big government.

    Fair enough. There is a lot of such terminological confusion in US politics, most of which can be laid at the feet of the Soviet-sponsored New Left which put huge effort into co-opting more socially acceptable labels for itself. The communist left became “liberals” and took over the Democrat Party, while the right became socially conservative and fiscally communitarian, controlling the Republican Party. This all left classical liberals politically homeless. They still exist, and are arguably a majority of voters, but have no party and no political label of their own.

    That state of affairs is also reinforced by the two-party system, where coalitions form in smoke-filled rooms without voter input, and elections are held at the last possible minute between the nominated candidates, each of whose tents are so big that you can’t tell much difference between what’s inside them.

  8. What’s the distinction being made here between Scandinavia and Venezuela? Venezuela isn’t any more “socialist” in the sense of state control of the economy, they both have some state ownership and some private ownership. Everything said here about Sanders really just being a social democrat could also be said about Chavez or Maduro. The difference between Venezuela and Western Europe is much more about one being poor, mismanaged and under attack by the United States and the other being rich, better managed, and allied to the United States, not anything ideological.

    • E. Olson says

      QL – a bigger difference between Europe and South America is IQ. Best estimates of Venezuela average IQ is 84, and for Sweden it is 99. Many social scientists suggest that stable Democracy is not viable when national IQ is below about 92-94, since the “low information” voters tend to vote very heavily for parties that promise “free” stuff. Unfortunately, “free” stuff turns out to not actually be free but is instead procured by government confiscation of the resources from the small part of the population with higher IQ who generally are the only ones producing an economic surplus.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        You remind me of Syme. He knew too much, and so do you. Democracy is a fragile flower that can only grow when several things are present:

        a) Social cohesion.
        b) High average intelligence.
        c) High education.
        d) Strong moral and ethical social values.
        e) Prosperity.
        f) Belief in the future.
        g) (Your contribution here)

        There can be some water-bedding of course. I’d suggest that various forms of socialism are theoretically desirable, but they require higher scores of the above metrics in order to work. We should perhaps not ask the question whether socialism is Good or Bad, we should rather ask whether a given society is mature enough to enable it. Sweden, in 1960, was.

      • Hmm that doesn’t seem to fit a lot of real world scenarios. Poor countries like Venezuela in a global economy tend to make money off of agricultural goods, raw materials, and availability of cheap labor. None of those are really things where an elite minority is the key economic engine. High IQ is much more an output of development than a precondition – after all existing developed countries managed to transition from being poor and low IQ to rich and high IQ without it being a Catch 22.

      • Olson, I have to ask. Are our govt bureaucrats, university faculty and students all low IQ along with the other “free stuff” low information voters? Or, are they the philosopher kings who want power over the low IQ’s?

        • E. Olson says

          lydia – IQ is highly correlated with lots of life outcomes, but the correlations are not 1 or -1, so you can have a few low IQ people who understand that “free” stuff from government isn’t actually free, and also a few high IQ professors who don’t have such understanding. In the case of most relatively high IQ academics and bureaucrats, however, I think the main problem is not that they lack such understanding, but is instead built on a hatred for the unequal outcomes that come under relatively free-market Capitalism, particularly the part where “moron” Donald Trump gets to be a billionaire, TV star, US President, and have several beautiful wives and mistresses, and they don’t. There is a reason that envy is one of the 7 deadly sins, and almost the entire Leftist point of view and voting pattern is built on it.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            Truth in that. Orwell seems to have hit the nail on the head when he says that the average middle class socialist doesn’t love the poor, he merely hates the rich.

    • Chester Draws says

      Venezuela fixed prices, which the Nordics do not. Killing the free market by that means is just as Socialist as doing it by nationalising industry. Actually, probably worse.

      The Nordics have almost no nationalised commercial operations (Statoil being an exception). Venezuela has nationalised huge swathes of industry. Moreover they attempt to centrally plan the economy, whereas the Nordics don’t do that at all.

      Blaming the U.S. for Venezuela’s woes is a standard meme, but it’s bullshit. What sanctions? Can you name them, please, or have you just read somewhere they exist? That some *individual* Venezuelans have sanctions is irrelevant to the country as a whole (whereas there are sanctions on Cuba). Moreover Venezuela was well on the slide before even those were introduced.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Brad

          Please report to the Ministry of Love, you said ‘guys’ above, thus revealing yourself to be a Sexist and perhaps an undercover Trumpanzee yourself.

        • ga gamba says

          @Brad,

          You may want to delve deeper into those government-owned companies. For example, Norfund a private equity company established by the parliament and owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The fund receives its investment capital from the state budget.

          Norfund’s mission is to help developing countries fight poverty through supporting economic growth, employment and technology transfer, i.e. it promotes private sector development in poor countries, which is an odd goal if you think this is socialism in action. Why the government decided to create a separate company owned by the ministry that performs foreign aid functions just like many other nations do without having to create companies, for example US Agency for International Development, I couldn’t tell you definitively. Perhaps it’s because as an investor in these commercial projects it may earn a profit.

          Nofima is a research institute working in research and development for the aquaculture, fisheries and food industry in Norway. It performs much of the same work as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and US Fish and Wildlife Service.

          Electronic Chart Centre makes nautical maps and charts. In the US NOAA does this aas well as the Army Corps of Engineers and many state and local authorities.

          Bjørnøen owns all land and some heritage buildings on the uninhabited overseas territory of Bjørnøya. It is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, who own the company as part of a strategy to claim sovereignty of the island.

          Central Norway Regional Health Authority is a state-owned regional health authority responsible for operating the hospitals. We already know Norway has a national health service. The other regions have their own health authorities too.

          National Theatre.

          Statskog is a Norwegian state-owned enterprise responsible for the management of state-owned forest and mountain real estate. This similar to the US Department of the Interior and its Park Service. The Department of Agriculture is also a land owner and the Forest Service is its agency.

          Posten Norge. The post office.

          UNINETT. A computer network for universities, because the Internet doesn’t exist.

          It appears that Norway has taken agencies equivalent to those that are commonly part of other nation’s governments, incorporated them as limited liability companies, and runs them under state ownership. Why it chose to do this I don’t know.

          Of the companies that perform the role commonly done by the private sector elsewhere, there is Vinmonopolet, which handles the retail sale of liquor, and Equinor (formerly StatOil), which is the state’s oil company. In the oil sector there are ancillary companies, such as the pipeline one.

          • Central Scrutinizer says

            Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, more or less the profits of Statoil saved over decades, last year yielded about 25,000 US dollars per citizen in global investment returns. Is it capitalism? – all citizens own a monopoly; or is it communism? – the (actually democratic) government owns the whole industry. Definitions aside, well done Norway!

  9. Brent Swenson says

    Mr. Blum has constructed a lovely straw man that he then takes great pains to defend. I particularly like his reference to Nathan Robinson’s piece lauding the socialist successes in America such as Milwaukee’s mayor and other what he terms “sewer socialists” because of their passion for public works.

    What he discusses only tangentially by acknowledging that socialism comes in gradations where practicality may temporarily trump theory is that individual liberty versus public welfare is the real, bottom-line issue.

    The goal of our Constitution is to promote individual liberty and the concept that governments exist for that end. Every intrusion on liberty constitutes an evil but sometimes evils are needed to prevent even greater evil. For example, war is sometimes necessary to prevent greater atrocities. The fact that humans are at times selfish, lazy, greedy, cruel, uncaring, and violent requires some restriction of individual freedom to protect society as a whole.

    Our goal should be to evaluate every action of government as to whether or not it truly achieves its proper ends or whether it actually promotes the greater evils it is designed to suppress. For example, when it takes money from me to provide for someone else, it is theft. But arguably when that theft serves to help another out of a hole, it may be justified. When it is used to support that person within his hole it is not.

    Our sense of social justice has allowed ever greater governmental power for reasons we believe appropriate in order to get people out of holes. The problem is that government power tends to accrue like guano on a rookery. Nor do we often review the value of that power and decrease it when it is shown to fail. Instead, we only add newer and more comprehensive power at the expense of individual liberty.

    In order to preserve our liberty and at the same time, support a healthy productive society we must view every proposed concession of liberty to government critically to ensure that it is a lesser evil than what it intends to address and we must be willing to take power back from government when it clearly is unwarranted.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Brent Swenson

      Very well summarized. Things become more clear when we return to first principals now and again, no? I once read a brilliant article on Victorian economy theory that used the budding gas industry as it’s example. Seems as the gas industry developed, more and more pipes were being laid and each company ended up tearing up the pipes of the others. Now, we’d all agree that the Victorians were capitalists, but they did not sit around the mandala chanting: “The Free Market solves all problems. The Free Market solves all problems.” No, they realized that the common sense of a donkey was enough to understand that the gas industry needed to be a public monopoly and they made it so. It was a question of practicalities not doctrines.

      • ga gamba says

        I once read a brilliant article on Victorian economy theory that used the budding gas industry as it’s example. Seems as the gas industry developed, more and more pipes were being laid and each company ended up tearing up the pipes of the others.

        Strange. All this digging would require right of exploitation in public areas. London’s, and England’s too, first gas company, Gas Light and Coke Company (GLCC), was created by an act of Parliament in 1810 and awarded a royal charter in 1812. From the onset the government was regulating the industry. Subsequent gas companies were formed and in conjunction to this 11 new acts were passed in 1818 and another four in 1819.

        In 1816 and 1817 acts were passed permitting people to file nuisance claims against the companies, and starting in 1818 Parliament included language specifically about pollution.

        The main problems of the industry from the start was pollution coming from the plants that converted goal into gas – air pollution from soot and water pollution from coal tar and other byproducts.

        The Gas Act 1860 ended the severe competition and encroachment on companies’ gas supply areas by permitting companies to arrange for the lighting of allotted districts. However this also encouraged London gas companies to exact greater profits because they were no longer subject to competition. This lead to more consumer complaints.

        During the 1870s and 1880s, GLCC absorbed the other large gas companies operating in London. From 1878, GLCC began to experience increasing competition from newly established electrical lighting companies which were applying to the government for powers. The passing of the Electric Lighting Bill 1882 granted these companies right of exploitation in public areas. More shovels began digging.

        No, they realized that the common sense of a donkey was enough to understand that the gas industry needed to be a public monopoly and they made it so.

        Your lack of specifics may lead the reader to infer the monopoly was created quickly – that earlier “budding gas industry” plus the “common sense of a donkey” suggests so. Have I inferred correctly? Yet, fifty years passed from the first act of Parliament to the Gas Act of 1860, which was when districts were allocated, i.e. mini monopolies. Complete consolidation to a grand monopoly didn’t happen until much later. The Gas Act 1948 nationalised the UK gas industry and 1,064 privately owned and municipal gas companies were merged into twelve area gas boards. These area boards were consolidated into one with the creation of the British Gas Corporation in 1972 by another act. By then, of course, the Victorian era was long over.

        It wasn’t until 1866 that most of London was connected to a sewer network. Roads were a mishmash of materials selected by cost, noise, and easy of maintenance. Westminster
        Bridge, for instance, cost a fortune to maintain, with five and a half inches of fresh gravel needed on its macadam every year. A London horse in 1880, travelling between Kensington and the City in the course of a day, might trot over wood, macadam, asphalt, granite setts, cobble, and unmade roads; everywhere the surface changed without warning. And the city grew by about one million people, so there was all the building construction too.

        Suffice it to say, there was a lot of digging happening in the 19th century London. I reckon shovels and picks owned by a variety of companies from many industries were cracking into all kinds of buried things.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @ga gamba

          Thanks for the history. Really. My understanding of it was far from detailed, that essay might even have been factually wrong, but the point of it still holds. Indeed, if the government understood the need for the gas industry to be nationalized/socialized/monopolized sooner than I had thought, that would seem to only underline the point.

          “The Gas Act 1860 ended the severe competition and encroachment on companies’ gas supply areas”

          That seems to be the point of the essay I was referring to. (And I read it decades ago, so please be charitable.) You and I, looking at the aftermath of the same tsunami, might describe the details somewhat differently and each of us might make some mistake, however surely we’d agree that ‘disaster’ would be correct?

          “Complete consolidation to a grand monopoly didn’t happen until much later.”

          Pardon sir, but you argue against yourself. The point is that the need for a monopoly was eventually agreed upon. It might perhaps have been too slow, but that only demonstrates that the Free Market ideologues can be a very stubborn and unreasonable lot. Common sense donkeys such as myself would have created the grand publicly owned monopoly much sooner.

  10. Lydia says

    This article is nothing but parsing terminology that ends in the same disaster. What might work in a homogeneous country with 30 million people and a history of monarchs, will automatically work here? The question is whether it will continue to work with the burden of all the low skilled refugees now in their system.

    Gov Central planning, where I have no choice, is socialism and it creates a caste Oligharchal society no matter where it’s practiced.

    Does the prime Minister of England have to wait months for a procedure, like everybody else, in the national healthcare system? If not, why? Frankly, here the system is so regulated it’s become somewhat centralized. I just about flipped when Americans were mandated. That is not the America I grew up in. (Don’t Tread on me)

    Add in the millions of illegals who use our healthcare system -but don’t pay. They have to find them to make them pay. The Working Poor citizen can’t get by with that.

    Besides, competition almost always produces innovation, lower prices and better quality. we have seen that played out with cosmetic surgery and LASIK.

    On another note, pre internet, back in the day, Bernie was kicked out of his commune because he didn’t carry his weight. Gov was the only choice for him. Having three Dachas is not a good look for an American socialist. Lol.

    Anyway, I have been “socially engineered” enough by the “experts” far away who think they know best for me and my family. Take care of your own and leave me alone. Form your own collective and micromanage each other.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Lydia

      But do you want to pay a toll every few miles as you drive down the privatized roads? Do you want to have to choose your water provider and select from various ‘plans’? Aqua-Pure offers a lower base rate, but their overages are higher. Mountain Fresh says their water is cleaner and on Sundays you get three flushes for the price of two! Never mind, Consolidated just bought out all the small players in your town, and have a monopoly and the price of water just went up 5X.

      • Ray, that argument is as old as the hills. The real question is how many bureaucrats with gold plated pensions does it take to screw in a lightbulb? And there are plenty of toll roads around the country that never cease being toll roads, ironically. In fact there used to be millions of people who believed they had an actual Social Security lock box account. shall we discuss the under funded pensions coming due because state governments had a big fat party for decades.

        I am all about competition and think that it makes for innovation, creativity and lower prices, eventually. Read Amity Schlaes book, The Forgotten Man. There is a section in there on the electrification of the United States. It’s quite interesting. I often wonder what life would be like if we had options for utilities. There is one thing that I do know, there isn’t enough bubblewrap in the world to keep us safe. There are even cons in government regulated utilities! Imagine! our local utility has a huge diversity department that pays very high salaries.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @lydia00

          It doesn’t matter how old it is, it matters whether it is valid or not, and it is. What you suggest about bureaucrats is also true — bureaucracy tends to bloat and sloth — but I’m still happy that the roads are owned and looked after by the government. You?

          I am all about competition and think that it makes for innovation, creativity and lower “prices”

          I quite agree. But it also tends toward monopoly, shoddy construction, vast amounts of resources wasted in advertising and so on. It can even be argued that the bloated bureaucracy at capitalist GM was every bit as bad as the bloated bureaucracy at any government ministry and that’s why they almost went broke.

          Surely balance is best? Do you really want to select your water provider? Or, like me, are you happier that the government takes care of it? And, when a victim of crime, would you prefer to have to hire a cop from one of several competing providers? Then hire a courtroom and judge to hear your case? Whatever mistakes might have been made by this or that government, I myself am not ready for anarchy.

          • dellingdog says

            “Surely balance is best.”

            @Ray, I think you’re exactly right. Every modern economy is a mixed economy. Some aspects of society are governed by the free market (which is regulated to different degrees), other aspects are partially or entirely socialized. The key is finding the proper balance. From my perspective, we should aim to maximize individual liberty and encourage innovation while ensuring that the basic needs of all citizens are met. Some amount of redistribution is necessary in order to prevent crippling levels of inequality and to provide roughly equal opportunity for people regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all ideology on society (market fundamentalism vs. totalitarian socialism), we should evaluate institutions on a case-by-case basis and experiment to find the best model. In considering different approaches to health care, for example, we need to balance the goals of accessibility, affordability, equity, efficiency, innovation, entrepreneurship, etc. Once we decide (democratically) what ends we hope to achieve, we can determine the proper means. Of course, this is an idealized version of an enormously complicated process which is distorted by the competing interests of politicians, corporations, bureaucrats, labor unions, consumers, professionals, etc. Still, the underlying point stands: we should view these questions through a pragmatic lens, not an ideological one.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @dellingdog

            “The key is finding the proper balance.”

            Yeah, we should forget about ideological True Religion, and see this question as one of balance, with wise and good folks sometimes disagreeing, but not making enemies of each other. The essential question is: how much of my money should the government spend for me? A Swede might say 60%, a Reganite 20%. Me, I’d be happy with 30% but I want value for it, and if the government was particularly efficient at paying my bills for me, heck 50%. Your post expresses the issue with the sort of sanity and clarity that, really, is the starting point for any competent government. (Sorry this is higher than your post, but it has no ‘reply’ button.)

          • Ray Andrews says

            @dellingdog

            Weird, it was posted above, but ended up below. I wonder if this one will too …

  11. Jim Gorman says

    @Joe,–> “After one of the countless times of being told that any alternative to laissez-faire is evil because it’s socialism, it becomes apparent that trying to explain that the goal is not the abolition of private property, that it’s not Marxism…”

    Socialism is exactly the abolition of private property by government. When the government says “we are taking part of your income in order to redistribute it to people who have less than you”, they ARE TAKING my private property. The only way to justify taking my income is to assume that my income doesn’t belong to me but rather to society as a whole! That sounds a lot like Marxism to me.

    • E. Olson says

      Jim – but don’t you know that “you didn’t build that” and that government taxation and regulation is only about fairness by helping you to “check your privilege”.

    • Well, no. Socialism is the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, not all private property, but that quibble aside, that isn’t my point.

      My point is that the term “socialism” is applied by the right to things that really are just New Deal liberalism, like the minimum wage and public works projects, or the EITC.

      It’s this fairly idiotic idea that all policies must be evaluated by whether they are more consistent with Ayn Rand or Karl Marx, and you have to pick one.

      Outside of politics, absolutely no one tries to solve problems at that level of generality because it’s obviously insane.

      • New Deal “liberalism” only proves how normalized Socialism has become. Read Amity Schlaes’ book, The Forgotten Man. The worst year for the Depression was 1936. FDR made it worse. He took advantage of a crisis to insert his disastrous brand of Patriarchal Noblesse Oblige and become president for life, to boot!

        • I did some years ago, and it was an utter mess. I recall one of the biggest things that stuck out was that she never picked a consistent measure for the health of the economy. Whether it was GDP, unemployment, income, she consistently picked whatever stat painted the New Deal in the worst light for the year she was talking about.

          I recall being left with the impression that she was another vapid ideologue.

          And besides that, I’ve heard of all these criticisms before, but I’ve never heard a convincing answer for what ended the Great Depression from the critics of the New Deal. They all only make sense if you begin with the unquestioned assumption that government involvement always makes things worse and free markets always make things better.

          • WWII ended the Great Depression.

            On May 6, 1939, Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s treasury secretary, confirmed the total failure of the New Deal to stop the Great Depression: “We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. . . . I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. . . . And an enormous debt to boot!”

            https://www.google.com/amp/s/fee.org/articles/fdrs-folly-how-roosevelt-and-his-new-deal-prolonged-the-great-depression//amp

            https://medium.com/jvnto/why-did-the-new-deal-fail-66f020c7470f

          • And to clarify… I hear the claim that World War II, rather than the New Deal, ended the Great Depression. I have yet to hear an explanation for how in that regard it constituted something other than a massive government spending and employment project, unless you want to argue that there’s somehow an economic benefit to killing Germans and Japanese.

          • ADM64 says

            Interesting. As I recall, Shlaes took pains to document her metrics fairly clearly. Left unanswered in your analysis is that prior to Hoover and then FDR’s tinkering and intervention, respectively, EVERY recession, depression or bust in US history had self-corrected fairly rapidly. So, a first question might be why the Great Depression did not, despite active attempts by first Hoover and then FDR to end it. I’d suggest that the answer is contained in the question.

            As to the reason the Great Depression did end, WWII aside, is that – contra Keynes et al – economic activity is natural because humans need to provide for themselves. Thus it is always ongoing in some form. The only question is whether it allowed to flourish or is actively hindered (even if under the guise of “helping” it). All through the Great Depression, the economy tried to right itself (sort of like the 2009-2016 economy on a smaller scale), and was frustrated by government policies. As WWII loomed, FDR made peace with the business community (sort of) and then, in the aftermath of the war, accumulated savings, normal economic forces, and the need to rebuild much of the world fueled the post-war boom. Once the regulatory state took hold again circa 1965-1975, the economy slowed again.

            Your argument that we should arbitrarily choose between consistency with Ayn Rand and Karl Marx is a red-herring. Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises and a whole corpus of economic work represents the capitalist side very well: Rand’s major argument for capitalism was moral, not economic. She argued that it was the only economic system compatible with human freedom because it was the only one that recognized a right to own one’s labor and property, and with human nature (because it recognized that man had to think and be free to act on his thoughts). All contrary views are rationalizations of an attack on those principles.

            Defenses of the New Deal et al are simply attempt to reconcile ideas that are incompatible with the Founding with it. That the degree of “socialization” differed and was not that of Lenin, is irrelevant. In fact, it was the admission of the collectivist, anti-market premise that enabled government’s growth to its present size. And, logically, if one rejects (e.g.g Rand) the small-government right and the premises of the market, one does in fact side with Marx et al, even if you don’t want to see it. Ideas that are mutually exclusive cannot coexist or be reconciled.

            What I’m curious about is how you explain the fact that for 80+ years we have had an interventionist, regulated, mixed-economy, social democratic welfare state and yet we have all these problems. Health care has been massively regulated and subsidized by government for 50 years and it’s a disaster. The least affordable cities are the most progressive. Government has totally failed to predict ANY economic crises since 1929, and yet we think it should “regulate” the economy. Government is held to alone be powerful enough to “fix” the economy but it’s numerous interventions are never to blame for crises.

          • ga gamba says

            Adding to the comment by ADM64

            Firstly, there were millions of Americans entering the military service. Americans purchased approximately $186 billion worth of war bonds, accounting for nearly three quarters of total federal spending from 1941-1945. War and patriotism unleashed capital in a way Roosevelt couldn’t. This funded the purchase of war material and resources needed to fight a two-front war as well as supporting Allies. These bonds offered a rate of return of 2.92%, which fell below the prevailing interest rates in the market. In addition to paying military personnel, the funds went to factories and farms. Contrast this with Roosevelt’s WPA that built public buildings to house more government employees – 40,000 new and 85,000 improved buildings. I’m sure they were nice and friendly people, but they weren’t producing much. The buildings are attractive, which is a nice legacy. The WPA also employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. What this did to end the Great Depression is beyond my grasp, but I reckon the 40,000 beneficiaries were happy. More preferable to picking up a shovel, I suppose.

            Prior to US entry in WW2, FDR’s gov’t spending was about 30% of GDP. During the war it increased to about 80% of GDP, and this was during period of remarkable GDP growth.

            As the defence budget increased in 1940, GDP growth was 8.8% that year. In ’41, ’42, ’43, and ’44 GDP growth was 17.7%, 18.9%, 17%, and 8%, respectively. In ’45 the US entered a light recession; in ’46 it was much more severe due to demobilisation. Certainly the war was still ongoing in ’45, but procurements had dropped significantly because both enemies were all but wiped out. Spending was on sustaining the force and not increasing it. No new US aircraft carriers were laid down in ’45. Production of tanks and aeroplanes decreased. For example, in ’43 more than 22,000 Sherman tanks were built; in ’45 it about 6,800.

            They all only make sense if you begin with the unquestioned assumption that government involvement always makes things worse and free markets always make things better.

            Barring extreme libertarians, I don’t know of anyone else making the argument you fabricated.

            Other than the federal government raising, training, and fielding a military, which is a historic role of the state, pretty much everything else, aside from the atomic bombs, was designed and built by the private sector. The Defence Department had contracts to be bid on, and these defined the military’s specifications. For example, the M4 Sherman tank was selected from five prototypes. In addition to determining things such as armour, cannon, and engine, the government also had to consider the rail network including tunnel and trestle width on which tanks were shipped to ports, as well as the merchant marine fleet used to transport these overseas. There was also the training of mechanics and the supply channels to consider. The government’s role is coordinating all of this information to define a requirement and to analyse performance.

            Another role is to get feedback from the military and revise requirements. For example it was the recommendation by Lt Col Thomas Hitchcock that the P-51’s Allison engine be replaced with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 engine after he received reports from the British of remarkable speed gains at higher altitude. This engine together with the addition of external wing fuel tanks filled with high-octane aviation fuel allowed the P-51 to not only escort bombers all the way to Berlin and beyond, the P-51 greatly outclassed the German Bf 109 fighter above 18,000 ft. B-17 bombers usually flew at 25,000 ft and higher. What had been one the Air Corps’s most deadly jobs became much more survivable.

            Had the Allison engine factory been owned by the Army Air Corps or another government agency, this engine swap would have been much more contentious if not impossible because turf protecting interests more influential than those of businessmen would have been involved.

          • X. Citoyen says

            To anyone interested in further reading, the original analysis Farris refers to is Murray Rothbard’s. You can download his book for free from the Mises Institute. Note that the intro was written by every conservative’s favourite 20th century historian, Paul Johnson, who also uses Rothbard’s analysis of the Great Depression in Modern Times.

      • Jim Gorman says

        @Joe –> “Socialism is the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, not all private property, but that quibble aside, that isn’t my point. ”

        I never said all private property. But it really doesn’t matter. The government taking any of my money (i.e. private property) for the purpose of redistribution IS SOCIALISM and is part and parcel of Marxism, i.e. everything a person makes goes into a communal pot and everyone draws out of the communal pot.

        Your definition of “abolition of private ownership of the means of production” exactly describes the government taking my private property for redistribution. What do you think I would be doing with my money that the government takes? I would be using it to enhance the means of production, whether by purchasing products or investing.

        By the very fact that you feel the government is entitled to take part of my private property you are endorsing the idea that the government owns all and only lets me keep some of my production out of the goodness of government’s heart.

  12. E. Olson says

    “Hedges spoke about “revolution” and evoked Marxist arguments about the inevitable collapse of capitalism’s productive capacity. Yet, when I asked him about his ideal future, he did not mention the end of capitalism, but “a highly regulated capitalism, such as the Scandinavian countries in the 1970s and 80s.” Self-described socialists continually express support for social democracy, not commune societies.”

    So Sanders and his ilk want the social democracy of 1970s Sweden – the kind that Sweden was forced to abandon in the 1990s to avoid going bankrupt, after permanently destroying much of the Protestant work ethic and social capital that made the country rich enough to try socialism in the first place? Swedish success stories such as Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren were being taxed at 104% of their income prior to the 1990s reforms. Throw in US innovations such as affirmative action, prevailing wage laws, gold plated public employee pensions, mandatory environmental impact studies, and the right to sue for damages or to prevent any activity any individual or group dislikes, and “public works” projects to build new sewers, airports, roads, dams, etc. becomes near impossible and/or so expensive that they require huge tax increases that slow the “Capitalistic” (aka productive) part of the economy down so much that tax revenues get depressed. For the “public good” this frequently seems to require government take overs of “strategic” parts of the economy and higher taxes, which further slows the “Capitalistic” (aka productive) part of the economy down, which requires further government take overs of “strategic” parts of the economy and higher taxes. The end result is either Venezuela or a Thatcher/Reagan/Bildt (Swedish Conservative) revolution to etc. try to beat back the swamp. If social democracy didn’t work in culturally homogeneous and small population Scandinavia, it certainly won’t work in the heterogeneous and large US.

  13. Wentworth Horton says

    Whistling past the graveyard. Until the Left wrestles to the ground and expunges Identity Politics there is nothing to talk about.

  14. You can’t tell me that the far left is merely being sloppy with their words. These are people who believe language constructs reality. They rise up in mobs to end anyone’s career whom they even suspect of “dog whistling” about racism. Sloppiness in language is unforgivable to them. You honestly believe they’re just being lazy in their choice of words, consistently, for decades?

    You can’t just go redefining words and expect people to take you seriously. If I were to run for office as a Nazi, people would rightfully destroy me. It’s not okay for me to say, “no no, I’m not talking about the German model. When I say Nazi, I just mean that I want a united people, a people’s community, or Volksgemeinschaft, where we overcome social divisions. The Germans’ version of Nazism isn’t REAL Nazism. It was distorted by Hitler’s anti-antisemitism and hunger for power. This time it will be different, I promise.”

    Words matter. The left understands this perfectly well. I think a far more likely explanation for this toying around with words is bait-and-switch. You see feminists do this a lot. If you say you’re not a feminist, they are shocked. “How can you not be a feminist? A feminist is just someone who believes in equal rights for women, the right to vote, the right to own property, etc. How can you be against these things?” But if you dig deeper, that is not all they believe. They believe we live in a Patriarchy, a conscious, systematic oppression of all women by all men, supported by a Rape Culture, where men feel entitled to rape women.

    • @Marshal Mason, well said, great point about language.

      What’s fascinating to me is that the Nordic countries are literally the only countries American self-proclaimed Socialists point to as ‘successful.” Yet they not only are very white, very homogenous, and very small (completely not applicable to the majority of nations)–they are not even Socialist, if by the word you mean “Government owns means of production.” They themselves say they are not socialist.So you get Leftists here ‘socialist-splaining”to Nordic countries what they are. Not to mention these guys never, ever, apply their vision to themselves. So Sanders has his three houses, top medical care, and so on. Has he even tried, once, seeing what it’s like to be on Medicare? I have. It sucks. The service is terrible; they treat you like parasite scum (because, well, you are…). It’s always theory, and it’s always Other People. I honestly think the Sanders of the world imagine that when Socialism comes, they will still be rich capitalists.

      One point I want to raise since it’s tossed about all the time–healthcare. I’ve lived in England. Socialized medicine really sucks. IT’s filled with incompetents or beginners because the pay is garbage. Anyone who is good or experienced, will try to go private. The rich pay for private. So what you actually get is one form of medicine for the middle class and poor, and a much better form for the rich. For the working class/poor, you get incredibly long lines, unbelievably rude or incompetent service, many things that would be sue-able as malpractice here, and so on. Yes, American medicine has enormous flaws. But you ain’t seen nothing yet if you haven’t experienced British medicine. And I’m not talking about a random person who traveled there and got a free surgery. I’m talking about regular people who live there.Ask any rich person who their doctor is, and it will be a private doctor. So like all socialism, what happens in fact doesn’t bear out the theory because they don’t take into account human nature.

      The basic reality is you can’t get something for nothing. Socalists here seem to imagine that if we make a one–payer-for-all form nothing at lll with change about the service of medicine; in other words. we’ll heavily bureaucratize the system, pay doctors a whole lot less… and miraculously the same quality and number of doctors will still serve and patients will miraculously get the same care. No, that doesn’t happen. And for people who pay very high premiums–it sucks too, but in the UK you’re paying more in very high taxes.

      You can’t get something for nothing. Be careful, very careful, about unintended consequences.

      • E. Olson says

        The UK system would collapse overnight if they weren’t constantly luring 3rd world doctors and nurses to the UK to fill their public system medical staffing needs. For some “unknown” reason, socialized medicine has led to an insufficient number of UK citizens wishing to study and practice medicine. Thus you get people with very uneven training and often mediocre ability, working a heavy load in order to generate sufficient income to live in the UK and send some money home, and somehow people are surprised by the low quality service the NHS is so well known for, but hey at least its “free”.

        • E. Olson, exactly. The NHS doctors in the UK are largely immigrants–this was very noticeable when I lived in London. Yet for some ‘mysterious’ reason, the doctors who are private – the ones the rich people go to – are largely white, native British. Hmmm.

          So you get these wealthy white liberals who pay to escape the medical care the rabble gets from the Brown immigrants–these are literally the same people who shriek about ‘racism’ if one of the rabble dares to talk about Brexit or, worse, complains about the high rate of illegal immigration. Yes, they will go to NHS doctors too. But if they want a good chiropractor or a good psychiatrist, or they want immediate care, of if they have something very serious and are rich, they all go private.

          The NHS pay is terrible, and the work load is demeaning and disempowering – I was shocked that the diagnosed over the phone – thus selecting for those who are just starting out, are incompetent, or who are grateful to have this job as they are immigrants.

          The system is unsustainable. This is why they want to import immigrants for the short term. It’s a form of insanity actually.

          And again, yes, our system has major failings. Not saying it’s perfect by any means. But try living in London – not visiting. Try using their healthcare for 3-4 years, then get back to me. And remember they pay for NHS in very high taxes. It’s NOT free.

    • @Dellingdog, regarding your quote: “The National Health Service spends less than half of what Americans spend per person on health care, and yet life expectancy is higher in Britain.” Despite its problems, the NHS remains extremely popular, according to surveys of the British people. I would gladly trade the problems of the British (or Canadian) health care system for the problems of the U.S. health care system. The U.S. spends nearly 20% of its GDP on health care and still leaves millions of Americans un- or underinsured:

      I’m not sure you read what I wrote. First of all, be my guest, like I said–live in London and experience the NHS for 3-4 years. Not as an American visiting–I mean as someone in their economy. Try to get good psychiatric care. Try to get good asthmatic care. If you have, say, a broken knee, try to get timely surgery with top notch PT. After you’re there for 3-4 years, then tell me if you’d still “gladly” trade.

      One big thing you’re missing is that rich people DO NOT use NHS. They flee it as soon as they can. Why do they flee it if it’s so awesome? Having experienced it, I can tell you I’d flee in two seconds if I could afford to. I had countless ridiculous diagnoses, subpar care, eternal waiting, and so on. I guess if you want to compare it to something, compare it to Medicare in a poor section of New York. That’s more what it’s like, only at least in that case you’re still getting fairly good care when you can get it.

      The reason the life expectancy is higher is you’re comparing two disparate populations. I guarantee you though that their life expectancy will go down now that they’re importing migrants and other at-risk populations. But also–it’s higher because *people use private doctors* if they can.

      Finally, you are wrong that the “NHS remains extremely popular.” That’s just, well, a lie. IN 2017, more people were unhappy than happy with NHS, and 70% think it’s going in the wrong direction.

      Trust me, the numbers will only get worse as the UK becomes more diverse and increases low-skilled workers unable to pay high taxes and at the same time, costing money in healthcare, schooling, and so on.

      You can’t get something for nothing. You will not get the same quality of care by paying doctors far less, treating them like garbage, and trying to make do on less and less money. It just doesn’t work like that.

      • Tome708 says

        It already happens here with education (socialized?) It becomes two tiered, wealthy pay for private, better, (competition) education, except for maybe the urban pioneer types. I am not wealthy but could not allow my children to be indoctrinated by the public system. Because guess what, socialized systems also become politicized. Now I get to pay for the socialized system and the “capitalist” system. Can’t wait to get to do that to “save money” on health care.
        Does anyone think that a wealthy person that is a veteran uses the government run health care?

    • ga gamba says

      @MM

      Great comment. The progressives are not loosey goosey with language. If anything, they are experts as crafting deceits that are unduly alarming such as rape culture or pleasantly positive such as social justice. What happened to good ‘o justice? It’s amplify this, downplay that, and equivocation.

      “How can you not be a feminist? A feminist is just someone who believes in equal rights for women, the right to vote, the right to own property, etc. How can you be against these things?” But if you dig deeper, that is not all they believe.

      Motte and bailey deception right there.

  15. Farris says

    Some questions about democratic socialism:
    1. Did democratic socialism invent the electric light, the automobile and the airplane?
    2. Did democratic socialism walk on the moon?
    3. Is democratic socialism the home to Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon?

    Regarding the Nordic countries:
    Do the Nordic countries sufficiently fund a military capable of protecting the World’s democracies at a moment’s notice?
    The supposed success of Nordic socialism is derived in part from the fact its defense spending is subsidized by the U.S.A.

    • But Farris, who do you think came with the Nobel Price? Was he Nordic, or Southern? Nobel got rich with explosives and the sale of it. Very useful in the world he lived in at the time. Also great that he included the literature price (economy and peace came later, if I’m not wrong, but can be also important, of course).

      • E. Olson says

        The Swedes didn’t practice “Democratic Socialism” until the 1950s to 1960s depending on where you want to draw the line. Nobel exploded on the scene to make his fortune during a time of free-wheeling Capitalism in Sweden.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Economics is not one of the Nobel prizes. It’s a prize handed out by the Bank of Sweden in memory of Alfred Nobel to promote economics as being a ‘hard’ science). Sloppy language and deliberate conflation has made people think it is a Nobel prize (they are for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace).

      • Corrective: Economy yes, much later (though, not 100% Nobel), but the one of peace, I now learn, came at the same time as the others, 1901, though the comite of nomination is not Swedish, but Norwegian (Norway in 1901 had no mandate about foreign affairs, that was under Sweden). To my surprise, I see that Hitler and Stalin also were once nominated for that peace price, as were Kissinger and Obama (the last two even got the price).

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Farris

      To be fair, democratic socialism was the home of Lego, and Volvo and Ikea.

      • Farris says

        @Dirk & Ray Andrews

        Thank you for your replies. I did not mean to imply that no significant advances have arisen in other countries. However capitalism has produced many more significant advancements, than control economies.
        Currently most western style socialistic countries enjoy a dividend from not having to incur military spending. The Soviet Union collapsed as a result of having to try to maintain military spending parity with the U.S.
        Compare Hong Kong’s economy with mainland China. The point being not that socialism can not preform but rather on balance capitalism out preforms socialism. I look forward to your responses.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @Farris

          “However capitalism has produced many more significant advancements, than control economies.”

          That is undeniably true. What seems unfortunate to me is that folks become partisan and binary when these things are discussed. Capitalism has its certain advantages but it also has its certain defects, ditto socialism, but the partisans on both sides seem unable to just admit them. It seems to me that a balanced economy, that is honest about the defects in both systems is the right one. Capitalism is like a bull — powerful, fertile, essential if you want new calves, but also dangerous, violent, unpredictable and in need of a ring on its nose.

          • dellingdog says

            @Ray: yes, exactly! False dichotomies are the enemy of clear thinking. Sweden was too far toward the socialist end of the spectrum in the 1970s, as France is today. It’s possible that some parts of American society (like education) would benefit from the introduction of market principles, e.g. vouchers and charter schools. Debating “socialism vs. capitalism” is far too simplistic and ideological.

        • Jay Salhi says

          Don’t call the Nordic countries “western style socialistic countries”. These are market economies. Their wealth was created by capitalism. They used that wealth to create welfare states. A market economy with a large welfare state is not socialism. Socialism means state control over the production of goods.

          • dellingdog says

            @Jay, you’re exactly right. This is precisely what politicians like Bernie Sanders are advocating. It’s dishonest to pretend that they’re a stalking horse for Soviet-style communism. Commenters who claim otherwise are committing slippery slope and false dichotomy fallacies.

  16. I’ve posted this previously but I think it is applicable here too.

    “…in the long run of the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.”
    John Cowperthwaite Financial Secretary Hong Kong 1961-1971.

  17. While it is true that politicians such as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are proposing nothing but familiar Democratic New Deal policies, I do not agree that they are misusing terms. A common misconception I see, even implied in this article, is that socialism is synonymous with Marxism or requires seizing the means of production through a revolution. Socialism is a broad term that describes a set of core values and principles rather than a specific form of government or set of policies. In the case of Democratic Socialism, democracy is a key component, which immediately invalidates comparisons to countries that do not have it. Even though Democratic Socialist politicians have not called for an immediate end to capitalism, the policies they propose – as well as the policies of FDR – are aligned with the values of Democratic Socialism.

    What’s especially frustrating about this debate over terms is that people call out what they claim is misuse of “Democratic Socialism” while advocating the even more poorly-labeled “social democracy” which is exclusively used to refer to “social capitalism.” It’s not valuable in my opinion to call politicians like AOC and Sanders “social democrats”, because that already describes the mainstream Democratic Party, who all believe staunchly in capitalism with a social safety net. If Kulinski and others think that anybody not calling for violent revolution is a “social democrat”, I think they are the ones with the misunderstanding.

  18. I love how people outside the USA brag about how great their national healthcare is all while piggybacking off all the drug and medical device innovation that comes from the USA.

    • E. Olson says

      Only if the drug or medical device is cheap enough to get past their death panels, otherwise they say no to medical innovations. Which is why most of the world’s dictators and socialist paradise leaders come to the US for medical treatment if they are really sick.

  19. @jim. Taxes aren’t the abolition of private property.

    I’m not sure at what percentage a tax rate goes from capitalist to socialist. Venezuela’s personal and corporate tax rate are 34%. Plus a VAT of 10%. This is on par with what the US corporate (and in some income brackets)tax rate was only a year ago. (Now 21%)

    I’m NOT saying Venezuela isn’t a socialist nightmare. The government owns hundreds of sinking companies. Corruption is built in and, true to human nature, if it’s the only avenue to advantage it will be pursued ruthlessly. Wealth and power disparities are insurmountable.

    Making an argument about taxes being theft of property isn’t entirely accurate. Taxes are the cost of living in a cooperative society. Especially if you have a say in electing someone who prioritizes what those taxes are spent on.

    My understanding of the danger of socialism isn’t that there are high taxes or welfare programs, it’s that it eliminates other avenues to personal enrichment and success via personal effort. The state becomes the only way for people to rise by their efforts and because the state is such an inherently political body, the efforts are filtered through that channel. Things like industriousness, entrepreneurship,and cooperation are sieved out of the mix and all that gets through the filter and into positions of power is the cess water of the politically ambitious. That is, people who would rather scheme and talk than create and work.

    • Jim Gorman says

      You should note that I said the government taking my money for REDISTRIBUTION is taking my private property just like a socialist or Marxist society would. Taxes for sure are needed for public infrastructure, but that is not what I am talking about.

      • E. Olson says

        Jim – that is the dirty little secret of government spending. The Left likes to talk about police, fire, roads, schools, and other public infrastructure that taxes pay for, but two-thirds of US Federal spending is on redistribution programs such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Food Stamps, Farm Subsidies, public housing, renewable energy subsidies, etc.

        • dellingdog says

          Interesting that you included renewable energy subsidies (less than $7 bil in FY 2016) and housing subsidies (about $30 bil in FY 2015) but not military spending or corporate welfare, which together account for at least $700 billion a year. Although you’re right that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are massively and unsustainably expensive, they enjoy bipartisan support.

          • E. Olson says

            Renewable energy subsidies (and farm subsidies) are corporate welfare. Most of the other things such as depreciation allowances and deductions for business losses that you likely consider “corporate welfare” are arguably not, because they simply allow corporations to keep the money they legally earned to reinvest in the business or distribute to shareholders (where it is also taxed). Military spending is not about redistribution except for the “political” implications of where bases and weapons program manufacturing is located to placate congressional members, but is instead one of the primary constitutionally mandated functions of government.

  20. Ray Andrews says

    @Isaac Schmalz

    “Making an argument about taxes being theft of property isn’t entirely accurate.”

    With all due respect, it seems to me that people who say such things are not worth talking to. Not being able to distinguish between theft and that which is unavoidable to make a society possible is profoundly stupid. I wish some brave folks would go and found an anarchist society somewhere and see how it works. Zero taxes! No legal system, no cops.

  21. BenBen says

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s IQ is just north of the bedroom slipper if she’s lucky; why should we give her a platform as representative of anything the left has to say. She merely regurgitates Bernie Sanders and whatever else her handlers ask of her.

    To the author’s closing point, she is correct, equality of outcome is the most dangerous element of scandinavian social democracy or whatever you wish to call it. The unnerving push towards diversity over meritocracy leads me to wonder what a triple bypass patient must experience when their HMO, like Kaiser Permanente, chooses their doctor for them. Pretty soon, the precariat will have brain surgeons with undergraduate degrees from Santa Cruz community college and felons who held up armored trucks managing their money. (i wonder if democrats will truly push prison reform given the loyal base of voting blocks within the socioeconomically impoverished, particular the black community. Such a legislative action would run counter to their investment in the race game)

  22. @ADM64

    Like, I said, I read that book when it was new, so my memory of it isn’t particularly clear, but just with quick googling:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=e6d_Pso5UMYC&pg=PA135&lpg=PA135&dq=amity+shlaes+use+of+metrics&source=bl&ots=MFTsY83p3A&sig=zw1tP5J376BOc56KYqcuL-z62XE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjts-f1kL7fAhXOnOAKHfehB1A4ChDoATAAegQIChAB#v=onepage&q=amity%20shlaes%20use%20of%20metrics&f=false

    “Your argument that we should arbitrarily choose between consistency with Ayn Rand and Karl Marx is a red-herring.”

    That’s not my argument at all. What I said is that any suggestion of government intervention in the economy is met with a demand that one choose between two extremes, and it’s a common propaganda technique amongst the right used to cast any use of the political system to alleviate poverty as necessarily leading to gulags. It’s exactly the sort of nonsense you engage in when you say “Defenses of the New Deal et al are simply attempt to reconcile ideas that are incompatible with the Founding with it.”

    I’m also not sure Adam Smith was such a great capitalist. He had a fairly varied view of the world that doesn’t neatly fall into any present ideology.

    “What I’m curious about is how you explain the fact that for 80+ years we have had an interventionist, regulated, mixed-economy, social democratic welfare state and yet we have all these problems.”

    While I recognize that as an English sentence, it’s so absurd it’s barely comprehensible. The specific policies matter. Reaganomics was a disaster. So were the Clinton years. Of course you can have good or bad government interventions.

    I tend to think our primary problem is that winners of the capitalist market place like to spend their money on buying favorable government policies. What else are lobbyists and PACs for? And I mean, for the last 40 years or so the welfare state has been under steady assault, eviscerating it was something the Clintons touted as one of their primary achievements.

    I think what we’ve had for the last 40 years or so is a Randian dystopia slowing growing.

  23. The reason anybody advocating any public policy that spends tax dollars on poor people finds themselves forced to defend the indefensible — Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot! — is because the hallowed tradition of red-baiting runs so deep in our society that it has its own shorthand, and to this day these signals can be used to shut down rational policy debate. This leads to head-scratching conundrums such as: why does anybody advocating school lunch programs find themselves in the position of being asked to defend Stalin, while oil companies and defense procurement contractors can simply accept their (order-of-magnitude larger) government checks, throw the money on the pile, and go about their business without ever being asked to defend much of anything?

    Politicians aren’t running from the word “socialist” in the US as vigorously as they once were required to, because the post-Cold War generation isn’t as reflexively scared of anything with that label as their parents were. These days a more involved explanation of why a particular policy is bad may sometimes be required for audiences that are insufficiently panicked by the merest mention of the bad, scary word. This is the environment that finds the Right working double-time to re-demonize that label and slap it on any policy that distributes tax dollars downward rather than upward.

    Since this is the Quillette comments forum, it’s obviously only a matter of time before some bright light chimes in with some version of “Socialized medicine leads to gulags!” so let me just pre-emptively address that:
    1.There are countries, many of them in fact, that practice some version of what you are calling “socialized medicine.”
    2. They don’t all have gulags.
    3. There are countries that do have gulags that don’t have this socialized medicine of which you speak.
    4. ERGO socialized medicine is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for gulags.

    Obviously “gulags are bad” is a much easier argument to win than “poor children should die of preventable maladies in order to create a stronger incentive for parents to earn more.” So it’s not hard to see why people would rather have that argument.

    • dellingdog says

      @Sylv: good points. Also, it’s worth noting that countries like Germany and the Netherlands achieve universal coverage via heavily-regulated systems of private health care and insurance providers. Single payer (like in Canada) is one model. The NHS (in the U.K.) is another. There are many other options, all of which achieve better results while spending significantly less than the U.S.

  24. R Henry says

    Socialism simply cannot work.

    Socialism seeks to divorce effort from achievement. It punishes productivity and rewards slothfulness. Socialism seeks to reverse the reality of human nature. Since it runs counter to human nature, it can only be attempted via force–guns.

    • dellingdog says

      @R. Henry: I completely agree that totalitarian socialism cannot work. However, very few people in the U.S. advocate government takeover of the means of production. Pure capitalism would lead to equally dystopian results. The real questions is one of proper balance: which aspects of society should be governed by free markets, which by regulated markets, which by socialistic principles (e.g., public education, police and fire departments, state and national parks, etc.)? I think a nuanced approach to these issues is far more useful than a bluntly ideological one.

  25. Ernie from Encino says

    Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland can be Social Democratic because they each have the population about the size of Wisconsin and they look like Wisconsin demographically; about 93% white with common values, languages, and outlooks on life. Thus, there are huge amounts of trust between the people via shared community values.

    Here..we have 100 religions, races, genders and languages mixing it up under a single Constitution.

    325,000,000 of us; not 5 million.

    Which is why we’re a Constitutional Republic…giving each of the 50 states to do what they need to for the residents of each state. That sovereignty built into the Constitution, is the bedrock which all people should embrace.

    Sadly, the left embraces a very large and controlling central government in DC and fails to understand the fear that puts upon people who want to live their lives without inordinate amounts of government interference.

    The right pushes for respect and adherence to the values of the Constitution with the belief that we’re better to be governed by and with our neighbors, family and friends than some far away power who’s never held accountable for their decisions.

    Hence, the attraction to Trump, Sanders, Howard Schultz and other outsiders.

    The bring a fresh perspective to an establishment that has become very large and unwieldy; and largely unaccountable to We The People.

  26. Gringo says

    A Quillette article published in March and entitled “The Falsity of the Sanders Venezuela Meme,” also observes that Sanders, uniquely among left intellectuals, has never expressed support for the Venezuelan model of politics: “There is no record of Sanders sponsoring or co-sponsoring any symbolic motion which praises the ‘achievements’ or policies of Hugo Chavez,”

    That Quillette article quotes the following from Bernie Sander’s’ Senate website:

    These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who’s the banana republic now?

    To my point of view, that praises the “achievements or policies of Hugo Chavez.”

  27. Brendan says

    Wonderfully nuanced and critical look at these ideas, which of course is why I read Quillette. Thank you!

  28. Gringo says

    Bernie Sanders, who, despite a career of never praising actual socialism..

    In the 1980s, Mayor Bernie Sanders defended food lines in Sandinista/Socialist/Marxist Nicaragua.Bernie Sanders Praising Bread Lines and Food Rationing

    Bernie Sanders: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”

    Sandinista Nicaragua in the 1980s and Chavista Venezuela- both self proclaimed Socialist countries- have both had food lines. Foodlines are the consequence of a shortage of food. Both countries have also had precipitous drops in agricultural production, the consequence of policies such as “land reform” and price controls.

    Crops (PIN): Fall in Per Capita Production
    Venezuela 1998-2016 35.7%
    Nicaragua 1979-1980 35.3%

    NOte that agricultural production in Nicaragua didn’t drop during the civil war against Somoza, but during peacetime, when the Sandinistas were setting policies.

    http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI

  29. Stephanie says

    What a credulous article. Does the author really believe that it’s more likely a politician who’s held onto power for decades is confused about the definition of the label he has attached to himself than that he is simply LYING? It’s a classic bait and switch: point to something totally unachievable but that people have generally positive views on (pre-migrant Scandinavia), then once that inescapably fails, call in the real socialism. How the author is blind to such an obvious tactic is astounding. The dismissal of what the Democratic Socialists of America say on their own website is unreal, too!

    • Tome708 says

      And when each of their feel good policies don’t achieve the results, incrementally, more and more central control will be “needed”.

  30. Gringo says

    Bernie Sanders, who, despite a career of never praising actual socialism..
    When Bernie Sanders Thought Castro and the Sandinistas Could Teach America a Lesson

    But despite its aversion to elections, brutal suppression of dissent, hideous mistreatment of indigenous Nicaraguans, and rejection of basic democratic norms, Sanders thought Managua’s Marxist-Leninist clique had much to teach Burlington: “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.”

    Consider Bernie Sander’s praise of Fidel Castro.

    Sanders had a hunch that Cubans actually appreciated living in a one-party state. “The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”

    These were from when Bernie was Mayor of Burlington.

    And Quillette tells us Bernie Sanders has never praised Socialist regimes. As they say in Venezuela, “Dime otro de vaqueros.” Tell me another cowboy story- another fish tale.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Burlington had a population of about 8,000 people when Bernie was mayor. Yet, under Mayor Bernie it had a foreign policy. Decades later, when Bernie ran for President he ran as a domestic policy candidate feigning lack of interest in foreign policy. One reason for that is he didn’t want people taking a close look at all the ridiculous foreign policy nonsense he supported over the years.

  31. Thanks for digging this stuff up, gringo.

    Bernie Sanders is not a very smart man. His rise to prominence was fueled by stoking envy and promising entitlements he could never deliver on. To give him credit though…he either really believes the things he is saying, or he’s an incredible actor.

    Socialism for the people=slavery to the state.

    The Russians used to have a saying that I find telling of what it means to live in a socialist economy… “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”.

  32. TheSnark says

    What scares me about the US “Progressive” “Democratic Socialists” is that they think like government bureaucrats or tenured professors: their income is guaranteed, they can’t be fired, and anything they advocate will be paid for by somebody else. The real economy ain’t like that, hence the unintended consequences of their policies are often quite large.

    A simple example you see in many countries are the laws that restrict a company’s ability to lay off workers. This “protects” the existing workers, but make the firms loathe to hire more: firms regularly turn down large orders because their current workforce can’t meet the demand, but they are scared to hire more workers because they don’t know how long the surge will last. The end result is consistently high unemployment, especially among the young, but you do have “social justice”.

    The Republicans are hardly better. They believe in free markets, which in most cases do lead to the best outcomes. But they ignore all the situations where the assumptions that underpin free markets don’t exist. If you don’t have numerous competitors and relatively equal information between the buyers and sellers, the markets turn into a racket. Which is what happens in, for example, health care (buyers don’t know what they are buying and can’t find out the price) or cable TV/internet service (only one or two providers per market). That, too results in a mess.

    The only real difference is who benefits in the long run. Under the “Progressives”, it will be the regulatory lawyers, government bureaucrats, and similar professionals. Under the “free markets run amok” it’s the the big corporate exec’s. In both cases, the regular Joe in the street gets the short end of the stick.

  33. Gringo says

    Bernie Sanders, who, despite a career of never praising actual socialism..

    Bernie Sanders of Democratic Socialism fame has done his fair share of defending Totalitarian Socialism as practiced in Cuba. He has been doing so for a half century.Sanders in the Vermont Freeman _”Cuba: The Other Side of the Story.” [1969] [page 5). Sanders’s article was a resounding defense of Totalitarian Socialism as practiced in Cuba. Why would a so-called Democratic Socialist defend Totalitarian Socialism? Inquiring minds want to know.
    Sander’s “main source of information” on Cuba was an article that appeared in Monthly Review, which most would label as at least Marxist/Socialist. Sanders is not a complete shill, as he points out that Monthly Review left out some important facts about Cuba.

    The facts presented in the article, to be sure, do not tell the whole story of the Cuban situation. They do not tell, for example, about the lack of civil liberties in Cuba..or why tens of thousands (including workers and peasants) have already left Cuba.

    Having made that disclaimer, Sanders went on:

    They do, however, present a side to the Cuban Revolution which is very rarely presented to the American population; a side which needs to be told if Americans are to gain a more intelligent perspective of Castro’s Cuba than they have at present.

    Rather condescending, isn’t he?
    Sanders went on to quote Monthly Review verbatim:

    “The statistics prove that a revolutionary approach to the problem can bring down sickness and death rates in the short space of eight years in a way that is not possible in Latin America without socialism.”

    First: As Sanders quoted Monthly Review without comment, he implicitly agreed with what Monthly Review stated. Second: No one will claim that what transpired in Cuba was Democratic Socialism. What transpired in Cuba was unabashed Totalitarian Socialism. So a more accurate statement from Monthly Review would have been:
    “The statistics prove that a revolutionary approach to the problem can bring down sickness and death rates in the short space of eight years in a way that is not possible in Latin America without totalitarian socialism.”Of course, neither Monthly Review nor Bernie Sanders wanted to be so candid.

    Let’s look at the Monthly Review claim about bringing down Cuban “death rates in the short space of eight years in a way that is not possible in Latin America without socialism.”

    From 1960 to 1968, Cuba went from the third lowest death rate in Latin America to the lowest. That is a positive accomplishment. However, other countries that had higher death rates also did a commendable job in reducing their death rates.

    Death rate, crude (per 1,000 people), decline from 1960-1968
    Nicaragua 4.49
    Dominican Republic 4.48
    Honduras 4.12
    Haiti 3.85
    Guatemala 3.47
    Peru 3.42
    El Salvador 3.30
    Bolivia 3.23
    Costa Rica 2.82
    Ecuador 2.74
    Brazil 2.62
    Venezuela 2.48
    Colombia 2.35
    Chile 2.20
    Mexico 2.03
    Panama 1.90
    Cuba 1.69
    Paraguay 0.71
    Uruguay 0.07
    Argentina -0.41

    That would indicate to me that Totalitarian Socialism is not needed for good improvement in health care. In 1960, Cuba’s Life Expectancy of 63.8 years was 7.2 years higher than Latin America & Caribbean (excluding high income)‘s 54.6 years. By 2016, that gap between Latin America and Cuba had been narrowed to 4.45 years: 75.28 to 79.74 years. Which further indicates that Totalitarian Socialism isn’t needed for improving health care- contrary to what Monthly Review claimed- and which Bernie implicitly agreed with.

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN?locations=AE

  34. thompsonsbrent says

    Random editorial-grammatical interjection:

    “Entitled” refers to rights of people, e.g. citizens of the United States are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    “Titled” refers to the name given to some work of authorship, e.g. in December 2018, Quillette published an article titled “Democratic Socialism is s Scam.”

    Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  35. Its probably better to use the verb “socialize” rather than the noun “socialism”.
    Because there is no country on earth that doesn’t have vast amounts of its economy socialized, under the control of the public.

    There is also an unspoken assumption that the outcomes of nations, with regard to prosperity, liberty, and justice re the direct result of its economic system.
    That is, with “socialism” you get this, and “capitalism” you get that.

    But there really isn’t any evidence for this. Haiti and Norway have similar economic systems, yet get wildly different results.

    Maybe the wonderful results of Norway are due less to its economic system, and more to the fact that the Norwegians worked very hard to develop bonds of trust and cooperation.

    The theory tossed out about homogeneity doesn’t seem to hold water either. Switzerland works splendidly, yet it is assembled out of a diverse mix of ethnicities and traditions and has four major languages. But somehow, they make it work.

  36. This artciel is almost completely incpmprehensible. It seems to be discussiong the differences between being a social demorat and a democratic socialist but doesn’t bother to define the meaning of either. It may be because I am not amercian but I had to look up what DSA stands for, the meaning I believe the author is intending was not even in the first list I found.

    It all seems a bit pedantic and irrelevant the labels for political groups are always ill-defined ambiguous and not mutually exclusive which simply reflects th ereality of politicla groups which are not homegeneous. This is worsened by political opponents who try to label and define what their opponents stand for in ways that are deliberately misleading.

    The articles amorphous soup of overlapping political labels just left me confused and sympathetic to those that were criticsed for supposedly mislabelling themselves.

  37. I think there is an important difference, but not sure that Sanders and AOC fall on the right side of it. The important distinction in my view is between those who focus their attention principally on “inequality”, i.e. the disparity between the poor and rich in a given society, versus those who focus on the absolute condition of people across a given society, relative to other societies across time and history. For the former (democratic socialists), the only solution is to end or at least radically deconstruct capitalism, patriarchy, meritocracy, and any other structure in society capable of producing unequal outcomes. But for the latter (social democrats), capitalism’s amazing wealth creation can be celebrated so long as some of the fruits can be redistributed such that the poor are also doing better. Maybe those labels don’t quite always fit those underlying trends, but I think that basic distinction is what’s important.

  38. Barney Doran says

    If you are going to use the word ‘socialist’ in your platform (in whatever form), you had sure as hell better make very, very clear what you mean by it. Otherwise the Right will be more than happy to define it for you, and it will mean communism. BTW capitalism is a alive and thriving in Scandinavia. With regard to the character who wants to go back to the Scandinavian countries of the ’70s and 80’s, perhaps he should ask himself why the those countries are where they are now, which is hardly post-capitalism.

  39. Gringo says

    While Bernie Sanders has made an effort from 2016 on to distance himself from Venezuela’s regime, it is uncanny that Bernie Sanders and Nicolas Maduro both described the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff as a “coup.” That suggests to me that the thought processes of “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders and corrupt leftist dictator Maduro are closer than “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders would like to admit publicly. Sanders Condemns Efforts to Remove Brazil’s Democratically Elected President.

    BURLINGTON, Vt., August 8 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday issued the following statement calling on the United States to take a definitive stand against efforts to remove Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from office:
    “I am deeply concerned by the current effort to remove Brazil’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état.

    xxxVenezuela’s Maduro: Rousseff Impeachment Trial ‘Made in the USA’

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro condemned Thursday impeachment proceedings against Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, describing them as an attack on Latin America’s left.
    “Today, the first phase of a coup to end the era of popular leaders has begun,” Maduro said during a televised speech.

    The impeachment of Rouseff followed Brazilian law, but according to Bernie and Maduro, it was a “coup.”

    Bernie and Maduro- birds of a feather flock together- or at least agree on a “coup.”

  40. X. Citoyen says

    A few observations,

    1. Nailing down what politicians mean is a mug’s game. They mean whatever you want them to mean, so long as what you want them to mean conduces to you voting for them.

    2. Socialism cannot overcome the calculation problem, first articulated by Mises back in the 1920s, making all other considerations of its merits moot. A socialist economy will simply collapse within a few years because it has no equivalent of the price mechanism. It does not matter how committed or virtuous people are. It is surprising how few people, including free marketers, know of and understand this problem.

    3. Free markets grow up in socialist economies, and they continue to spread until checked by force (they’re usually called black markets in such contexts). Socialist micro-economies have grown up now and then in free market economies, but have always failed of their own accord. This should tell you everything you need to know about how homo economicus.

    4. Socialism versus capitalism comparisons are bogus because socialist systems are planned and free markets are organic. It’s like comparing a model to the real world system.

  41. Grant says

    I don’t see a rich history of socialism in American cities. Are healthcare, roads and sewers now socialist goals? Hardly. These are basic functions that we agree to provide. Capitalism is alive and well in the ‘Nordic’ countries. What we are talking about is taxation rates, not socialism. Sanders and Cortez are not socialists, just economic illiterates.

  42. Jackson Howard says

    I think one of the best example of the strenght of capitalism and market pricing is from the reforms in the late 70’s where street selling, retail and household commodities became market allocation experiments. It was so successfull at job creation and shortage reductions that the “experiment” was vastly expanded in scope during the 80’s and 90’s.

    Cue in China becoming an economic giant. I find it ironic that the success of China came from market allocation mechanics and progressive de-nationalisation coupled with central planning becoming more and more restricted to guiding said markets.

    That being said, it is also a good reminder that a market economy does not equate civil liberty. Call it illiberal capitalism if you will. Where I live, socialists are a big party with a good deal of influence. They all support market economy coupled with economic redistribution with a strong (but not too comfy) safety net. They are very usefull counterweight to corporate wellfare proponents.

    Finally, I will argue that regulatory capture and patronage like seen in the US is not a good thing in the long run. An oligopoly that uses favorable regulation to shore up inefficiencies and failures is not much better than an inefficient state owned company as far as I’m concerned.

    Democracy need both economic and political freedom. Extreme wealth concentration be it in private or state hands kills economic freedom and stems social mobility. Do it for too long, and you get a new aristocracy where birth in the right family is the deciding factor, not skill nor imagination.

    Similarly, privatization of public services can quickly become rent industries which are no better than taxation.

    A healthy democracy is a delicate exercise in balance and restraint.

  43. Pierre Pendre says

    The only thing more resistant to extinction than socialism is capitalism which is the only economic system capable of repairing the damage caused by socialism. Venezuela, like China, will move to capitalism in some form once enough people are tired of Maduro. Working for the overthrow of capitalism – an organically evolved socio-economic system that has enriched all of mankind as opposed to scientifically devised socialism that chases theories – is adolescent politics and unrealisable. It is not going to happen.

    European social democracy was devised to allow capitalism and socialism (aka the welfare state) to co-exist efficiently in mutual self-interest and works well but is obviously not perfect if one believes a perfect system is achievable. Inequalities persist and welfarism is so expensive that taxpayers – the people who demand it – refuse to pay for it, forcing governments to run up increasingly unaffordable debt.

    America already is a welfare state lacking only the jewel in the crown which is universal health care. No doubt this will come eventually at the cost of radical tax reform including levies like value added tax (VAT) without which European health care systems would collapse. Even with VAT at 20% on all personal spending, wealth taxes and swingeing alcohol, tobacco and gas taxes, European health care is deep in the hole. The runaway cost rations its availability under both the European and American systems.

    The thing to understand about social democracy is that capitalism is an essential part of it and that goes for the Scandinavian countries as much as France or Italy. European leftists don’t for the most part attack capitalism because they want to abolish – God forbid – it but because it’s an easy way to mobilise their voters who reliably hate anyone who’s better off than they are.

    Fantasising intellectually about a world free of capitalism is a game for adolescents who have swallowed the reverence accorded to hokum like idealism which usually turns out to based mainly on Panglossian ignorance. It’s excusable in Ocasio-Cortez and the people who write for Vox, less so in Bernie Sanders. Has he actually visited Scandinavia.

  44. gobilux says

    Medicare for All, as a shorthand, has been characterized by the Right as “socialized medicine.” But this is deceptive—state-owned hospitals such as the UK’s National Health Service may be the goal of the more radical democratic socialists. Others who have adopted the label, however, such as Kulinski and the Justice Democrats, only see the government as a single payer for all medical transactions. The state would not directly employ doctors or run hospitals.

    …and what would that do to the prices doctors would charge?
    If A asks B for a service and C pays for it neither A nor B care what the prices or the costs are!

  45. David says

    This is the best comment section I’ve read on the site. Thanks to everyone involved.

  46. When Democratic Socialists get power, the “Democratic” part of that goes away. Do you think they would support “Democratic Capitalism”, i.e. allowing the people to vote out socialism when it fails? Not likely. People who believe in this nonsense are authoritarian, and authoritarians don’t give up power voluntarily. Those who oppose authoritarians typically end up in some dreadful gulag, or dead. Putting the word “democratic” in front of socialism is like putting a Christmas bow on a pig.

  47. Direct Vote Democracy FTW says

    To hell with the labels; they’re virtually meaningless and impossible to enforce in any consistent way, such that we all agree on what they are. In the end, labels are for parties and party politicians. Who aren’t going to change anything until all corporate money is removed from politics and real term limits enforced.

    Until then ponder the benefits of direct democracy. No more House of Representatives. Instead, 4 times a year, you and I go to the polls and WE decide (yes or no) on healthcare proposals from the Senate and President, WE decide on gun laws, WE decide for ourselves, directly what it is we want and don’t want. No electoral college crap, no trusting representatives who don’t actually represent us 80% of the time, just us getting off our asses, forgetting the labels and voting on what matters to us.

  48. Pingback: Newslinks for Thursday 27th December 2018 – USSA News | The Tea Party's Front Page

  49. The persistent attraction of socialism comes from its appeal to our tribal nature, which evolved not just to be territorial & aggressive towards other tribes, but also to share with and care about one’s own tribe.

    Nationalism & socialism are two sides of the same coin. The Nazis understood this & exploited it for their own evil purposes, in overreaction to which academics (many of the traumatised Jews) made a taboo of nationalism, with its ethnic prejudices, which they blamed for the horrors of war & the Holocaust. They didn’t blame socialism, because many of these academics were socialists themselves, or sympathised with its ideals, naturally enough.

    This is our dilemma: you can’t have socialism without nationalism, but nationalism is taboo.

    In its place we have statism, whereby the state seeks to implement socialist ideals, either through an economy it controls itself, or by massively taxing a capitalist economy,

    The problem with both forms of economy is that they are inherently unjust, inhumane and unsustainable on our finite, vulnerable and overpopulated planet.

    We need to liberate the concept of national socialism from Nazi occupation, which, after all these years, it is still under, thereby renaming it “grassroots-democratic multi-national socialism”, to make clear that we are not after reviving Nazism or any other form of fascism.

    Most academics will initially resist this brilliant idea, for fear that it will undermine the authority and power of their state employer and benefactor, just as most clerics resisted any ideas, such as those of Galileo, which undermined the authority and power of the church. But this is the challenge we, especially academics, urgently need to rise to.

    https://twitter.com/rogerahicks/status/1008227827945213952

  50. Solomon Stavrov says

    The author just lies.
    Sanders: “Democracy means public ownership of the major means of production, it means decentralization, it means involving people in their work. Rather than having bosses and workers it means having democratic control over the factories and shops to as great a degree as you can”. This is NOT social democracy. This is socialism Soviet type.
    Cortez’s program – Universal jobs guarantee = hided unemployment, once again Soviet type socialism.
    This is a real problem of modern US – Democratic party is party of socialists, it has nothing in common with Bill Clinton’s Dem party

    • Gringo says

      1)There is a bit of a contradiction in what Bernie wanted, as “public ownership of the major means of production” contradicts rather strongly with “decentralization.”

      2) I, Solomon Stavrov, and Angela readily found evidence of Bernie’s attraction to real existing socialism and also to Bernie’s wanting socialism -as defined as government ownership of means of production. So much for “I am talking about Socialism as found in Sweden, NOT as found in Cuba.” Which leads me to ask, is Alexander Blum a knave or a fool? Was Alexander Blum unaware of what Bernie the Mayor or Bernie the hippie slacker “carpenter” had said about socialism? Or was Alexander Blum aware of what pre-Senator Bernie said and decided to ignore it? Knave or fool?

      3)Source for the quote readily found: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/1/27/1475904/-Sanders-Democracy-means-public-ownership-of-the-major-means-of-production

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