Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Monday’s I try to focus on issues. This week I am taking a look at Is Democratic Socialism the Hope of America?
That question actually opens up a Pandora’s box of questions, so let’s dig in.
What is Democratic Socialism?
Well, it isn’t your traditional socialism, that’s for sure. Let’s start with a few definitions:
Democratic or democracy simply means political power resides with all the people and that that power is exercised directly by the people. Sometimes we in America get confused and call our American system of government a democracy, but it isn’t. Our government is a Republic where the political power resides with all the people and it is exercised by representatives elected by the people. Thus, we live in a Representative Democracy. Pure democracy is dangerous and can be demonstrated in mob rule.
Socialism is the public collective ownership or control of the basic means of production, distribution, and exchange, with the avowed aim of operating for use rather than for profit, and of assuring to each member of society an equitable share of goods, services, and welfare benefits.
Social Democrat is a socialist; especially, a socialist who emphasizes gradual reform.
The above definitions are according to the dictionary.
It would be easy to confuse Social Democrat with Democratic Socialism but I think you will see that they are not the same. Below is a definition of Democratic Socialism found on the internet.
Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production, with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market or some form of decentralized planned socialist economy.
The key difference between socialism and democratic socialism is that democratic socialists don’t want the government to own the means of production and socialists do. They believe that certain general social goods like health care should be run by the government, but otherwise support capitalism.
Are you confused yet?
What Benefit is there to Democratic Socialism?
I read an interesting article that listed the pros and cons of this new concept.
1. It reduces classism within local societies.
In Democratic Socialism, there are not “haves” or “have nots” because there is a sense of community ownership in all things. Private production is used for the public good. At the same time, individuals within the society are able to elect their government officials freely, without fear of political reprisal. That means the differences in wealth and culture are reduced because everyone is working toward a common good. (Emphasis is mine)
2. It gives everyone an opportunity to pursue success.
In a truly capitalistic environment, only those with means and opportunity can pursue options like good healthcare coverage or a college education. In the U.S., there is already a form of Democratic Socialism in place with the public schools offered in the K-12 grade range. This form of governing simply extends the concepts which are already working in a democratic society and applies them to other components of it. Each person has an opportunity to pursue their own definition of success. (Emphasis mine)
3. It eliminates the threat of price fixing.
In Democratic Socialism, the government either controls, owns, or monitors every organization that provides goods and services. Instead of using free market demands to raise prices or form mergers or monopolies, the society is able to govern pricing and regulations to allow access to anyone who may need those items. There is no structure available that allows suppliers to alter pricing simply because there is a high demand for what they have.
4. It creates income equality within society.
In the United States right now, the inequality gap has been growing for more than two generations. In 1980, only 50% of children earned more than their parents. In 1940, 92% of children were able to earn more than their parents. The Top 1% of income earners in the U.S. bring in more than 20% of all income. In 1970, the bottom 50% of earners brought in more than 20% of all income. Adults in the top 1% earn 81 times more than adults in the bottom 50%, on average. Under Democratic Socialism structures, these gaps wouldn’t fully disappear. They would, however, become greatly reduced.
5. It reduces the threat of economic cycles.
During the Great Recession years of 2007-2009, many families around the world struggled to make ends meet. Jobs were lost. People were forced to find underemployment opportunities just to pay their bills. Since then, wages have exploded for the upper income tier, growing as much as 230%. For the bottom tier of income earners, some individuals haven’t seen a pay raise since 2007. Democratic Socialism reduces the threat of these economic cycles, making it easier for households to take care of their basic needs while still having income access to pursue opportunities.
6. It creates an economy that is more efficient.
Within the structures of Democratic Socialism, there is no longer a push to sell unneeded goods or services to consumers. That means less money is spent on marketing, allowing for more to be spent on production, innovation, or wage growth. People still receive what they need for comfort and daily living without the constant brand messaging demanding to be heard.
7. It offers more room for value judgments.
Products can be offered in a society based on Democratic Socialism that are based on value judgments instead of profit judgments. Even if production creates a loss, the government can subsidize production to make needed items available to everyone. In a structure based on capitalism, goods and services are based on profits first and value second.
1. It cedes more control over basic needs to the government.
Even though officials may still be elected, Democratic Socialism is still on the socialism spectrum. That means the government is given more control over how lives can be lived. There may be added benefits to social access, but that requires money, which means higher tax rates. Then there are fewer options available because the government is in control of the competition. At the end of the day, in its extreme form, the government would be telling everyone what they can do, where they can work, and what they can purchase. (Compare the highlights here to the highlights in Pros #1. Whenever the government is in control of commodities increased taxes seem to be the result.)
2. It could cause a net financial loss instead of gains for families.
Even Bernie Sanders admits that higher taxes are required in such a system, with a 25% tax rate proposed for the median income earner in the United States under his plan. In the Sanders plan, the top tax rate would still be under 40%. That means a greater tax burden, relative to available income, is given to the middle- and low-income earners instead of the higher income earners.(as noted in #1 higher taxes; not only that it is higher taxes for the middle and low income people!)
3. It would limit the influence of unions, civilian oversight
committees, and similar institutions.
Democratic Socialism would cede the rights of workers to the government through employment. If the government decides that having a union is not in their best interest, then they can get rid of it. Public employees have already experienced this in government structures that are closer to capitalism. That means there is a greater potential for unsafe work places, lower wages, and less overall incentive to work if all the physical needs of an individual are automatically met by the government. (Unions aren’t perfect and don’t always represent their members, but do you really want to do away with them?)
4. It can reduce innovation.
There may be an advantage in Democratic Socialism in that people with specific skills or talents are placed into jobs that directly benefit from that experience. At the same time, however, production within a socialism-style government structures tends to focus on domestic needs instead of new opportunities. That limits innovation because there is little, if any, competition with the government to develop new ideas. Over time, that means the society can lag behind others that incentivize innovation. (In other words, no mom and pop stores, no inventions occurring in the basement; all of which has had a strong vibrant history in America. It will disappear!)
5. It can create more bureaucracy.
The government will want to determine who is eligible to receive specific benefits. Applicants must fill out paperwork to prove their eligibility. Ongoing renewals must be processed. The goal of Democratic Socialism may be to streamline society and equalize access to services, but more bureaucracy is created in doing so. That means it could take much more time to make services available to those who need them. (Another word describing this is Big Government.)
6. It creates more government spending.
For an economy to grow, there must be a balance between domestic and foreign trade. As innovation declines and manufacturing grows stagnant, fewer international opportunities develop. That means the government may be forced to import more items, creating trade deficits with their neighbors. Without innovation, maintenance and repairs overages become common as equipment ages. In time, the government spends more than it would if it had simply invested capital into existing systems to upgrade them. (Speaks for itself.)
7. It can create a lack of societal motivation.
There will always be people within any society that do not participate in the workforce. In the United States right now, about one-third of all people who are of a working age are choosing not to join the workforce. Under a system of Democratic Socialism, those figures could increase even further. If there is no reward for producing more than someone else, yet both individuals have their basic needs met, the individual working is more likely to give up than the individual not working choosing to join the workforce. (Democratic Socialism fails to take into consideration our human nature. If we don’t need to work to eat, then why would we work?)
8.It cannot prevent a corruptible government.
Human beings are fallible creatures. We are prone to mistakes. We are also capable of doing abhorrent things to one another in certain circumstances. Under the structures of socialism, no matter where it happens to be on the spectrum, there are fewer checks and balances in place to limit the effects of corruption. New leaders can be elected by the people, but not immediately. Hierarchies tend to emerge under this structure, with leaders working to shore up power where they can. (Where absolute power exists absolute corruption also exists. While the love of money is the root of all evil, power is the driving force in our world. And Democratic Socialism breeds a very powerful government sector supposedly representing the people but actually controlling them to a severe degree.
In researching this subject I ran across an article put out by the think tank called niskanen center. This article referenced Kevin Williamson who wrote for the National Review. Apparently he is a conservative although the article doesn’t reflect that tag. His ideas and the ideas of the libertarian quoting him seem impractical and naive. For any political system to work well you need to consider human nature.
But I would like to respond to one of the ‘Pros’, namely #2 – It gives everyone an opportunity to succeed. In that item those supporting Democratic Socialism made this statement: In the U.S., there is already a form of Democratic Socialism in place with the public schools offered in the K-12 grade range.
Now I find that interesting. The United States is nowhere near the top when comparing our education with other countries. And when you dig down you find that Christian or private schools as well as home schooling outperform public schools! And that is in spite of billions of dollars being poured into our public schools! Is that really an argument for any form of socialistic governance? Not only outperform but provide a better quality of education instead of the revisionist education dribble being called education today.
Democratic Socialism may not be communism but it still represents Big Government, still rewards laziness, suppresses innovation, and would eventually destroy our country.
So Capitalism is our Hope?
Capitalism is ‘An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are for the most part privately owned and operated for private profit’. (Dictionary definition.) Unfortunately Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and, I imagine, those who agree with her, apparently failed or outright skipped any education relating to capitalism. Her characterization of Capitalism is outright buffoonery.
Still pure capitalism is not desirable. There needs to be basic regulation and by this I mean ‘basic’. We live in a world where unscrupulous people live. So I would be in support of reasonable laws (most of which I believe are already on the books) designed to protect the people or consumers. The problem as I see it is not capitalism (capitalism allows me the freedom to write and sell books), but rather men and women who abuse others. Interestingly enough there are such people on both sides of the political spectrum. Proper enforcement of the existing laws would go a long way toward leveling the field.
But we also must deal with the moral problem. Bringing us back to the school issue you can trace much of the problems we have today to the misguided action to kick God out of our schools. Today we are constantly hearing reports where Christianity is being opposed by our school system when they actually need more Christianity. It is very telling when you see that the teaching of the Bible, which is both a holy book and a very practical instruction on proper behavior, is forbidden while other ‘religious’ material is allowed.
Today our school system is exploring a laundry list of immoral acts and doctrines. To make them palpable they call these immoral acts moral. This is Democratic Socialism in action! And what are the results: unwanted pregnancies, shootings, suicide, and more. Yes, we had those back in the 50’s but nowhere near to what we have now.
In my opinion Democratic Socialism is far worse than Capitalism. Capitalism can lead to price gouging and many other crimes. But Democratic Socialism when taken to its ultimate source will steal our economic success, our economic freedoms, our privacy, our health care, and ultimately our morals.
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R Frederick Riddle is the Editor of TR Writing Services providing help to struggling and/or new authors to write and publish their books. In addition he is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical and Speculative Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.