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Sunday, March 21, 2021

The socialism bogeyman frightens a lot of people

What exactly is socialism and why should we fear it? First, it is democratic socialism that most of the West's left-wing politicians embrace. According to the World Population Review, a democratic socialist believes that the government should provide a range of essential services to the public for free or at a significant discount, such as health care and education. 

Unlike socialists, democratic socialists do not believe the government should control everything. Government should only provide support for basic needs and help all of its citizens have an equal chance of success. Democratic socialists are committed to democracy and so are guided by an adherence to democratic principles.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? So, why are so many folk so frightened by the term? Right-wing lies. It is that simple. Think of the term cancel culture. The Republicans in the States have managed to brand the Democrats with the term. Yet, it was the Republicans who tried to upend the 2020 presidential election, toss out millions of legitimate votes, and shove their candidate back into power in a very undemocratic power play. Now, that is cancel culture.

What countries have democratic socialist parties and, in some cases, democratic socialist governments? The following are but a few.

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France 
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy 
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom 

The following is from World Population Review

Scandinavian countries are often touted as democratic socialist paradises. Sweden is a great example. It has a free-market economy, meaning that the government interferes very little in business. There are very few business regulations, particularly regarding workers; in fact, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries do not have minimum wages for their workers.

In Sweden the government offers school vouchers to all children. The government will pay for school wherever the parents decide to send the children. The children can go to schools run by religious institutions or those run by the government. If parents add some extra money to the pot, they can send their children to more expensive private schools, as well.

Swedish workers do pay more in taxes than workers in non-socialist countries, like the United States. The reason they do so is so that the government has money for generous social services, including maternity and paternity leave for new parents and the school voucher system. There is also more income equality in Scandinavian countries than in the United States.

However, Sweden is not a “pure” socialist country. It has a free-market economy with very few government regulations, something that is a capitalist’s dream. Perhaps the lesson from Sweden is that both socialism and capitalism can co-exist. Now, does that sound so bad?

Then there is Finland. The land of compassionate capitalism. Finland has a free-market economy with minimal government regulation and interference. The government supplies free schooling, including college, for all students and generous maternity and paternity leave for new parents. Healthcare will not bankrupt someone living in Finland.

The last democratic socialist country we will look at is Denmark. Denmark is probably more capitalist than the United States. Its government encourages businesses to run solely on market principles rather than government policies. Additionally, it has better rates of healthcare, education, and social security than many other capitalist countries because the high tax rates create a redistribution of wealth in the form of social programs. 

One caveat: There are concerns that Denmark’s social programs are unsustainable. In the coming decades, substantial changes may be necessary and the social programs may suffer. Time will tell.