What is Democratic Socialism and Can It Work in the US?

What is democratic socialism? As it turns out, that depends on who you ask. If you ask a left leaning Christian, it is the form of government Jesus endorses in the New Testament. (I respectfully disagree.) If you ask a young democratic socialist from the US, you’re not liable to get much of a straight answer. Most responses involve phrases like, “more generous safety net,” “more kindness,” and more “being together.” This is mainly due to the fact that their definition of democratic socialism comes from the popular, self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ definition of democratic socialism amounts to a collection of vague ideological statements, such as: (directly from his website)

“Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.”

“Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.”

“It means that we create a government that works for all of us, not just powerful special interests.”

“It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.”

“It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege.”

and catch phrases…

Sanders does point out that he is opposed to the primary tenet of socialism, “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”

Sanders then points to the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden and Finland. On the other hand, Sanders does not feel that we should note other socialist countries such as China, Cuba, or Venezuela.

As a side note, if you are under the impression that the citizens of Nordic countries are far better off than US citizens when it comes to healthcare, education, and income equality, I invite you to check out my article, The US Could Learn a Thing or Two from Denmark. It’s not my idea of a utopia by a long shot.

No wonder young people are confused. They aren’t even provided an accurate definition of terms.

So, as boring as definitions are- let’s just go ahead and be clear:

Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Democratic socialism: is a political ideology that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production, often with emphasis on democratic management of enterprises within a socialist economic system. The term “democratic socialism” is sometimes used synonymously with “socialism”; the adjective “democratic” is often added to distinguish it from the Leninist, Stalinist and Maoist types of socialism, which are widely viewed as being non-democratic in practice.

– Notice that the ONLY difference between socialism and democratic socialism is that the people elect leaders through a democratic process. It should also be noted, that while Venezuela (for instance) is not where Bernie would prefer us look as an example of democratic socialism- indeed, Venezuela democratically elected their leadership.

Social Democracy: is a political, social and economic ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalistic economy, as well as a policy regime involving a commitment to representative democracy, measures for income redistribution, and regulation of the economy in the general interest and welfare state provisions. Social democracy aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes; and is often associated with the set of socioeconomic policies that became prominent in Northern and Western Europe- particularly the Nordic model and the Nordic countries- during the latter half of the 20th century.

Notice anything interesting? Like the fact that Bernie Sanders isn’t actually a democratic socialist? His views are much more in line with social democracy, which incidentally, describes the social structure of the countries that he would prefer us look at- the Nordic countries.

Why, then, doesn’t Bernie label himself a social democrat? The answer is that he doesn’t want to adopt the social democratic economy, which is a brand of free-market capitalism. This mix of free trade that coexists with a large welfare state is called the Nordic Model. In a lecture at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the prime minister of Denmark said,

“I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”

Sanders doesn’t associate himself with this model because it includes many policies that democratic socialists detest.

For 2016, the Heritage Economic Freedom Index ranks Sweden, Denmark and the US in the top 15% of 178 countries in total Economic Freedom. Although both Sweden and Denmark rank lower than the US in the categories of large government spending and taxation (meaning they have larger government spending and taxes than the US), they score higher than the US in the rule of law, regulatory efficiency, and open markets (meaning they have more property rights than US citizens, their judicial system is more effective, and that they have less regulated trade and their market is more open than the US.)

How does Sanders’ policy differ from the Nordic Model?

The Tax Foundation’s article “How Danish is Bernie Sanders Tax Plan” provides an excellent side by side comparison which reveals that Sanders’ tax plan is far removed from the Nordic Model. For starters, Denmark’s tax revenue is higher than any other developed nation. Sanders’ plan increases revenue, but nowhere near Nordic levels. Even though Nordic individual taxes are the highest, Sanders’ plan is actually more progressive resulting in a 13% higher rate in the top tax bracket than Denmark. Nordic countries have massive taxes on consumption called VAT taxes. Sanders’ plan does not include a VAT tax. Nordic countries levy lower corporate tax rates than any other country- which is business friendly. Sanders on the other hand, had no plan to decrease the US corporate tax rate, which is among the highest. When it comes to international taxation, the Danish system is territorial- meaning domestic corporations don’t pay domestic taxes on foreign income. Sanders’ plan calls for a fully worldwide tax system, which is the exact opposite of the Nordic system.

As mentioned earlier, Nordic countries have freer trade markets than the US. Sanders is strongly opposed to free trade. Sanders is considered “protectionist” in terms of his trade stance. He and President Trump agree in this aspect.

Nordic countries do not have a government imposed minimum wage. Instead unions and employers “bargain” on a minimum wage that varies on an occupational basis. Sanders’ notoriously backs a $15 “living wage.”

In the 90’s Sweden adopted a universal school choice program that is almost identical to the “voucher program” discussed here in the US. Sanders is strongly opposed to this.

Here’s a biggie- Sweden requires a balanced budget over the business cycle. Since their reform, Sweden’s debt has fallen from 70% of GDP to 40% of GDP. In 2015, US debt was 104.17% of GDP. Sanders has expressed no interest in constraining spending and taxation policies with a balanced budget requirement.

Even if Sanders’ plan was to emulate the Nordic Model in every way, there are enormous differences between the US and Nordic countries that would prevent such a system from working in the US. As Megan McArdle stated in her article, “US Can’t Import the Scandinavian Model”, “… ‘tiny population nestled atop huge fossil fuel deposits’ is probably not a strategy that the U.S. can emulate.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When it comes to the Nordic Model- size matters. The entire population of all the Nordic countries combined is roughly equal to the population of Texas. The Nordic Model benefits from a combination of several factors that are much easier for smaller populations to achieve than large populations. These points are explained very well in Lyman Stone’s article, “Are Small Populations a Nordic Handicap or Nordic Help.” I’ll summarize.

It is much easier to have a homogeneous population when you are small. (The US is the polar opposite of homogeneous.). Nordic countries have urban-capital dominance, which is much easier to achieve in smaller populations. (Again, the US is opposite. The “politics” of the largest cities are not the shared politics of the nation as a whole. Big cities vote notoriously Democrat, no matter what the rest of the country votes.) It is much easier for smaller populations to create uniform philosophical and cultural inheritance. (Again, US philosophies and cultures are diverse.) Smaller populations can more easily avoid being drawn into wars. (The US subsidizes everyone’s defense, so this would be impossible to emulate without massive changes being made.) What it all boils down to, is that the US has absolutely nothing in common with Nordic countries.

Scandinavian (and European) countries don’t spend a fraction of what the US spends on defense. In fact, Germany has essentially halted defense spending (at barely 1% of GDP). Why? Because the US has provided them with a massive “security shield” since the existence of NATO. These countries funnel the money that they would have to spend on defense into their social welfare programs. Without the US, these countries wouldn’t have the extra money to pour into welfare. If the US goes Nordic, is there anyone out there to subsidize us all? You can read more about this element in this article from the Cato Institute, “US Defense Spending Subsidizes European Free-Riding Welfare States.”

What does all of this mean? Basically, Sanders wants to achieve the massive welfare state that the Nordic system provides, without the free market, capitalist system that supports it. Sanders can’t consider himself a social democrat because, although he loves the massive government and welfare state, he is opposed to the system that supports it- capitalism. When it comes down to it, there really isn’t an existing definition for what Bernie Sanders promotes. Hugh Whelchel notes in his article, “The Mirage of Democratic Socialism”,

“At best, it is a strange marriage between capitalism and socialism: a democratic government that significantly redistributes wealth, severely regulates markets, and then expects those same markets to pick up the tab.”

This is why Sanders, nor any other “democratic socialist” for that matter, can point to an example of any country that embodies the structure of their brand of democratic socialism. Frankly, it doesn’t exist.

The group,  Democratic Socialists of America, admits this. In the Q & A portion of their website you will find the question, “Why are there no models of democratic socialism?” This is their answer, “Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960’s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.”

Sounds great, huh? Just pick your favorite aspect from the social structure of every country and ignore the economic system that maintains it. Forget “best of both worlds,” we’ll choose “best of all worlds.” Bernie Sanders’ brand of “democratic socialism” is nothing but a mirage of welfare state, safety net ideology divorced from the free- market, capitalistic economies that support them, and ignorant of the Nordic- specific societal structure that makes them possible.

Progressives Really Hate Fascism, There’s Only One Problem…

At every single progressive protest or march you will inevitably see signs waving valiantly with some varying verbiage of: “Trump is a fascist and we will not tolerate fascism.” These signs being toted by the progressive legions always strike me as such an ironic hypocrisy and leave me wondering if in fact, ANY of these people know what fascism is or, more importantly, how a country might come to be ruled by a fascist.

Honestly, I doubt many of these sign holders have any idea of the definition of fascism beyond its racist and murderous component and the fact that they have been told fascism is a “nationalistic” right wing atrocity. Or so it would appear, since they are actually lobbying for many of the characteristics that define a fascist government. George Orwell himself refers to the flippant manner in which the term “fascist” is thrown around even back in his day, “It will be seen that, as used, the word “Fascism” is almost entirely meaningless…I have heard it apply to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else.”

Fascism is defined in Mirriam-Webster as, “A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” Depending on how you lean politically, that definition will cause you to conjure up the image of completely different modern individuals. However, two poster boys for fascism both sides can agree on would have to be Mussolini and Hitler.

Using these mutually agreed upon embodiments of fascism (Mussolini is not only the embodiment, but the actual “father” of fascism) I’m going to demonstrate that the agenda of the radical progressive left not only has much more in common with fascism than true conservatism, but actually paves the way FOR it. Progressive ideology strips power away from the individual and bestows it upon the state to confer as it will- leaving all citizens at the mercy of the state and whoever comes to rule it. Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force. The Germans were willingly enslaved by degrees in return for a state that would “take care” of them, until the government was so incredibly large and imposing that they were utterly defenseless against it. True conservatism, on the other hand, is fundamentally incapable of giving rise to a fascist scenario because it precludes a powerful centralized government at every turn. Conservatism holds a government accountable to its citizenry instead of the other way around- which is the way our forefathers designed the government to work. Currently, no US president has the authority or the control necessary to usher in another “Mussolini/Hitler scenario” though radical liberal progressives are working hard as we speak to surrender the last vestiges of control we still maintain under the pretenses of “humanitarianism,” “human rights,” and “tolerance.”

Is fascism right wing? Well it’s to the political right of Marxism and Communism, but that doesn’t exactly make it “right wing” now does it? Fascism is waaaaay to the left of conservatism. But conservatives can only be fascists because they are so nationalistic and progressives aren’t, right? Well, that depends on whose definition of “nationalism” you are applying to conservatives. As far as I can tell, progressives consider anyone politically to the right of communism to be overly nationalistic because progressives envision a globalized utopian government. True Hitler and Musollini nationalistic fascism seeks to be the ultimate super power that takes over the world via war. Obviously, that is NOT true conservatism. True conservatives are nationalistic to the extent of assuring that our country can defend itself and its people against any group that would seek to harm it, but stops far short of any “world domination” war.  Fascism would be more accurately described as right wing socialism on nationalism steroids- which is still “left”. Proponents of socialism are on the rise, big time, in the US. (Let’s be real, if Hillary hadn’t cheated Bernie out of the nomination there is a serious possibility that Sanders would have been the first socialist US president.)

Radical progressives are very much on the “same page” with Mussolini when it comes to the ideal role of government. Mussolini said, “The keystone of the Fascist doctrine is its conception of the State, of its essence, its functions, and its aims. For Fascism the State is absolute, individuals and groups are relative.”

The left has been trying to get the government to assume to the role of “nanny” for decades and winning for the most part. According to them, individual and group “rights” should be subject to the government determined “common good.” If Hillary or Bernie had won the election, the left would (and did in the Obama era) relish in the huge government they have given authority to, happily demanding we on the right fall in line, accept, and embrace their ideology. Of course, that’s not what they would call it- they prefer to name what they demand “tolerance”. But if what they are demanding is tolerance then maybe I should list Mirriam-Webster’s definition of that also. Being tolerant of someone else’s beliefs has never required agreeing with or embracing said beliefs as your own. Of course, radical progressives consider anything short of that “newly defined” tolerance to be hatred. Radical progressives seem to overlook the elephant in the room: They are totally ok with a totalitarian fascist regime as long as they are the ones administering it.

The fact of the matter is radical progressives are activists for the very agendas Hitler used to enslave Germany. Here are the top 5:

      1. The creation of a welfare state. In 1934 Hitler told a reporter that he was determined to give the Germans the “highest standard of living.” Another quote- “None shall starve or freeze!” Hitler instated the NSV (“National Social People’s Welfare”) in 1933. He expanded this government agency and made it the “umbrella” over all social programs by absorbing all non-Nazi charities into it. By 1939, 17 million Germans were enslaved receiving assistance. The NSV distributed food, provided rent supplements, interest free loans for married couples, and a plethora of other services.

If we didn’t already know Hitler’s end game, we would think he was the ultimate humanitarian. Sounds fabulous, right? What could go wrong? Well, when the government controls the food and enables you to make the rent- you are effectively a slave at the mercy of that government. Maybe not a problem if you ascribe to the “approved” ideology and toe the line. But once those resources run short, or you find yourself in disagreement with a “government approved” ideology, things are going to get ugly. For an insightful account from a Holocaust survivor, please check out the link to Kitty Werthmann’s warning to the liberal left at the bottom of the page.

2.  Nationalized healthcare. Hitler’s Germany provided government funded healthcare for all!!

Hallelujah! They must have all been so happy and healthy! Well… not according to Holocaust survivor Kitty Werthmann, “Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything…If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.”

I can hear the progressive’s crying in unison now, “Universal Healthcare Works! There are SO many examples!!” Actually, no, there aren’t. You can argue this ALL DAY LONG, but this is what universal healthcare requires for success: the younger generation MUST be larger and/or generate enough tax revenue to support the older generation. Now the US (and now most other developed countries) don’t have enough kids per family to even equal a population replacement rate. Fact: Our generations are getting progressively smaller. This article in Reuters addresses the impending collapse of all these “successful” nationalized heath care programs. That is, for those who haven’t already noticed that people flock to the US for health care instead of being treated in their own countries- but I digress…

3. Free Education. Hitler was all about a nationalized education system! Why? Because Hitler recognized that whatever the government provides- it also controls. Hitler also knew that the key to the future was a bunch of indoctrinated children. In Hitler’s Mein Kampf he wrote, “…whoever has the youth has the future”. According to Lisa Pine’s book, Hitler’s ‘National Community’: Society and Culture in Nazi Germany, “ The number of nurseries rose from approximately 1,000 in 1935 to 15,000 in 1941.” You heard that right- free day care for all!

Sounds like a working mom’s dream come true, right? Not the way Kitty Werthmann describes it, “You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under total care of the government… The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology.”

Oh well, at least all school age children had access to a free, quality education. Right? Of public education beyond preschool Kitty says, “The first two hours (of school) consisted of political indoctrination.” Of course the left is completely cool with this as long as they are the ones approving the educational goals indoctrination. Any given day, you can hear liberals rail on about the evils of “school choice”. Of course, why are some people even looking for alternatives to the public school system? Because the government is running it into the ground. And because the government has been given the authority to overrule the parent and decide what constitutes “real science” and to dictate what religion can be expressed in school and what cannot. The obvious solution would be to allow school choice (sorry DeVos- NOT government funded school choice. If you’re interested in pursuing that topic you can read my post DeVos and School Choice:The Good, the Bad, and the Reality) – even a progressive couldn’t argue about having the right to control their child’s education, right? Wrong. Progressives want to control what our children are taught while telling us we have no business forcing our beliefs on their children. Religious “science deniers” are unacceptable. Apparently “science denying” individuals are harmful to the “collective good”.  (Fascist much?)

4. Gun Control. Hitler took the guns away from anyone who wasn’t a part of the Nazi regime when he passed the “German Weapons Control Act” of 1938 to get guns out of the hands of the “criminals”. Who was exempt? Nazi regime members, and officials of the central government and states.

Sound familiar? Progressives protest about this every other day and most definitely never let a good tragedy go to waste. News flash- the 2nd Amendment isn’t about protecting your hunting rights. The only government concerned about whether or not you own a gun, is a dangerously overreaching one. Spare me the propaganda- we already have background checks, and the cities/states with the strictest gun control laws also have the highest occurrences of gun violence. End of story.

5. Controlled Media. Hitler knew the importance of a regime controlled, propaganda filled media. In Hitler’s words, “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side….The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.”

The left is up in arms about this one claiming that the Trump administration is currently “repressing the media.” But, lets just be real here. The only problem they have with a controlled media, is which side controls it. (Cough, cough…Fascist) Anything that doesn’t fit the accepted progressive left propaganda is labeled “fake news”.

If no one noticed before, this year it became abundantly clear that there is extreme media bias when it comes to the agenda of the left. Not only does our mainstream media paint conservatism in a very negative light, (equating it with racism, misogyny, anti-equality and anti-human rights, bigotry, and Bible thumping) at the same time the media elevates the progressive ideology as superior on the grounds of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity of all. They have followed Hitler’s rules for propaganda by the letter.

This has led to the loss of free speech for those individuals who disagree with progressive ideology as all conservative speech is now deemed to be racist, bigoted, misogynistic, morally traditionalist ranting. Voicing conservative beliefs is considered “hate speech” and the left are compelled to get violent over it. Universities that once demanded free speech for all, now bow to the liberal agenda. The progressive “peaceful protests” are now prone to end in violet riots complete with looting thugs. Hitler would be proud.

To sum it up: radical progressives embrace the fascist form of government, as long as the dictator is a progressive ideologue. Rosie O’Donnell actually called for Obama to declare martial law rather than peacefully transfer power to Trump. In blunt terms, Rosie begged Obama to be a fascist and take dictatorial control to prevent a president she didn’t like.

Liberal progressives have abandoned the “democratic” ideology and replaced it with a counterfeit that Jonah Goldberg describes in his book Liberal Fascism:The Secret of the American Left From Mussolini, to the Politics of Meaning, “We tend to forget that unity is, at best, morally neutral and often a source of irrationality and groupthink. Rampaging mobs are unified. The Mafia is unified. Marauding barbarians bent on rape and pillage are unified. Meanwhile, civilized people have disagreements, and small-d democrats have arguments. Classical liberalism is based on this fundamental insight, which is why fascism was always antiliberal. Liberalism rejected the idea that unity is more valuable than individuality. For fascists and other leftists, meaning and authenticity are found in collective enterprises—of class, nation, or race—and the state is there to enforce that meaning on everyone without the hindrance of debate.” Truer words were never spoken.

While radical progressives shout, “Say no to fascism!”- the fact of the matter is- if a true fascist does rise to power, it will be because the progressive left rolled out the red carpet for him or her by creating a massively powerful nanny state beyond the control of We The People. It’s as if logic has eluded them. If you give a government the power to enforce your ideology over its citizenry, when power changes hands- the new government will have the power to enforce an opposing ideology over you. Radical progressives don’t fear a fascist totalitarian dictator- they fear not being able to assure their pick of dictator on the throne. What’s even more disturbing is that as long as said fascist dictator is a progressive liberal ideologue- the left will proudly wear his or her version of a swastika while purging the country of the “deplorable” conservative populace who dare to disagree.

Personally, I’ll take a United States- hold the fascism- period.


Holocaust Survivor’s Warning: