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As either the transitional stage to communism or legitimate socio-economic ends in its own right.
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#13615934
"Folkesocialisme!"

I remember clearly the above term being shouted at the top of countless lungs at a political rally in Copenhagen, Denmark when I was young, but I had no clue what it meant, nor did I particularly care. It wasn't until I hit my twenties and began digging into the gritty details of Popular Socialism in Scandinavia that the term acquired some measure of meaning for me, and I have been struggling with the falsehood of the entire prospect since. I am the first member of my family to be born in Canada, and although both of my parents hail from Sweden (Stockholm, naturally), neither of them are particularly political people. As a result, neither have been forthcoming with opinions on what Sweden is, was, or should be in their minds.

According to the Mises Institute (this link is to a post you will probably want to read if you're interested in discussing this), genuine Scandinavian Socialism is a myth; the relatively significant level of economic freedom and lack of corruption in places like Sweden are generally touted as examples of why. It is further postulated that Sweden's trade freedom, monetary freedom, property rights enforcement, investment freedom, and financial freedom rivals that of the United States, but there is little to no mention of what cultural programs, what transportation and health initiatives, and what other sectors of the public and economic establishment Scandinavian governments approach management of in a consummately "socialist" way.

Now, assuming you know what is what, is anyone interested in providing ammunition that supports the existence of Scandinavian Socialism, or has the region made such substantial leaps forward in capitalist development that such a thing has become little more than an illusion?
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By Ombrageux
#13615937
Things aren't touted as "Socialist" for Socialism's sake. That's not why Scandinavian countries are touted as models. They are "Socialist" models because:
A) They have very high levels of State intervention in the economy, very strong welfare states, and a more egalitarian economy than virtually any other countries in the world.
B) They are extremely successful societies by any measure, both economically (among the best in the world) and in terms of any number of social indicators (life expectancy, literacy, housing, education, etc).
These two facts are very awkward for the more dogmatic libertarian, who regardless will tell you that a priori his theory states that humans in a Statist-welfarist society become slothful, inefficient, backwards, corrupt, decadent and so on. Facts be damned.
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By The Canadian
#13616072
Ombrageux wrote:Things aren't touted as "Socialist" for Socialism's sake. That's not why Scandinavian countries are touted as models. They are "Socialist" models because:
A) They have very high levels of State intervention in the economy, very strong welfare states, and a more egalitarian economy than virtually any other countries in the world.
B) They are extremely successful societies by any measure, both economically (among the best in the world) and in terms of any number of social indicators (life expectancy, literacy, housing, education, etc).
These two facts are very awkward for the more dogmatic libertarian, who regardless will tell you that a priori his theory states that humans in a Statist-welfarist society become slothful, inefficient, backwards, corrupt, decadent and so on. Facts be damned.

I see what you're saying, but the problem I'm having with the idea that Scandinavian Socialism can still be applied as a label to the current state of economic society (and its relationship with government) in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in particular is that, if the barriers which separate "high levels of state intervention" and a more aggressive form of economic freedom have been diminished or, in some cases, completely brought down, is not the end result a nation which is effectively a capitalist democracy featuring a robust set of social welfare, housing and education programs? In other words, at what point does the line between "soft" capitalist democracy and "soft" socialist democracy disappear?

It seems to me that allotting the appropriate funds for the maintenance of a compassionate, healthy and educated society is something that is a priority for many free market capitalists, communists, strict nationalists, technocrats and so on. Socialism needs to blend that with a more tightly controlled domestic and foreign economic policy in order to be defined as such, but capitalist economics appear to be prevailing.
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By Ombrageux
#13616403
The Canadian - I completely agree with all of that. The Scandinavian countries notwithstanding their social democratic characteristics are fundamentally mixed-market economies, like all the other developed countries in the world. As such, they are not necessarily of interest to genuine Democratic Socialists or Communists who desire a fundamentally and qualitatively different form of economic organization. I would add however that very few parties in the mainstream are even Social Democrats, let alone actual Socialists. Labour in Britain became relatively pragmatic and realistic while in power (even before Blair infidelity), as were the Social Democrats in Germany. In France the Socialists had a Utopian ideal prior to their election in 1981, after they abandoned all ambition, becoming extremely cynical while not totally abandoning the dream, the party on the whole being rather schizophrenic. The Italian Communists were very interesting and hard to place as they were not necessarily totalitarians, but they never governed and have long since collapsed.

Today then, there are nothing in the mainstream (e.g. "potential to govern") left who would not see things to admire in the achievements of the Scandinavian countries. That goes for the right too, so long as it not hostile to government policies that benefit the nation on the principle that they are government policies (e.g. only fractions of the American right).
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By The Clockwork Rat
#13616502
To spout the socialist party line, for the distinction to be made there would have to be an abolition of capital for there to no longer be capitalism. Currently, the state provides a significant amount of capital to industry, making it more of a state/welfare capitalism. Sorry I can't say anything more useful.
By KPres
#13634564
Things aren't touted as "Socialist" for Socialism's sake. That's not why Scandinavian countries are touted as models. They are "Socialist" models because:
A) They have very high levels of State intervention in the economy, very strong welfare states, and a more egalitarian economy than virtually any other countries in the world.
B) They are extremely successful societies by any measure, both economically (among the best in the world) and in terms of any number of social indicators (life expectancy, literacy, housing, education, etc).
These two facts are very awkward for the more dogmatic libertarian, who regardless will tell you that a priori his theory states that humans in a Statist-welfarist society become slothful, inefficient, backwards, corrupt, decadent and so on. Facts be damned.


Most of that is myth. The Scandanavian countries have become icons for the "Socialism", while the US is an icon for "Capitalism", but the truth is that the difference between them is not that wide. All developed countries all mixed-economies at this point like you said, and correlations between the outcomes for the slightly-more-interventionalist and slightly-less-interventionalist are spurious at best. At this level of similarity, the nature of public policy (such as the corporate tax rate) will be more important than the quantity, not to mention non-policy factors like demographic homogeny or natural resources like oil.

For instance:

GDP per capita rank:
Norway: 4th
US: 6th
Sweden: 14th
Denmark: 16th

Total Social Spending as % of GDP
Finland: 19%
US: 26%
Denmark: 27%
Sweden: 31%

Corporate Tax Rate:
Finland: 25%
Denmark: 26%
Sweden: 26%
Norway: 28%
US: 40%
By KPres
#13634615
^ I think you guys might have mentioned that once or twice....

Thus the scare quotes.
By CounterChaos
#13667006
A) They have very high levels of State intervention in the economy, very strong welfare states, and a more egalitarian economy than virtually any other countries in the world.
B) They are extremely successful societies by any measure, both economically (among the best in the world) and in terms of any number of social indicators (life expectancy, literacy, housing, education, etc).


@Ombrageux...I think you hit it right on the nail-head so to speak...I would add, that while allowing very liberal gun-type ownership, the Scandinavian countries have added many common sense checks and balances into regulation. This approach fosters state trust, increases safety awareness and responsibility.

The Scandinavian countries have managed successfully to turn an issue where socialism and nationalism usually collide and create a successful model....Gun ownership being not exclusive in this "common sense" approach.
User avatar
By Lightman
#13667032
You know actual socialists do support private gun ownership, right? You can't well have a revolution without shooting people.
By CounterChaos
#13667077
You can't well have a revolution without shooting people.


That would be true if you believe that all revolutions are violent.... :)

A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, "a turn around") is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

Aristotle described two types of political revolution:

1. Complete change from one constitution to another
2. Modification of an existing constitution.

As a socialist I choose to peacefully modify, while still enjoying my hobbies of reloading, hunting and target shooting..... :)

I don't believe in welfare, but I do believe in all fairing well. ~Sandori~
User avatar
By ihofidel
#13667610
Scandinavian countries are debt-free. Canada has 800 billion debt becausee they refuse to enact the 100% foreign equity ownership for foreign investments. So nobody is investing. Immigrants end up in factories instead of working as computer technicians where their talents lie.
By grassroots1
#13667626
KPres... GDP per capita is not necessarily a measure of the quality of life in a particular nation. The distribution of that wealth also matters. The percentage of social spending is also a number which doesn't necessarily tell us very much, because we have to ask the questions of where that money is being spent, how effective the social systems are, and then we have to look at real measures of quality of life. Those statistics are unconvincing to say the least.
User avatar
By ihofidel
#13667748
grassroots, GDP is a measure. 100% of those countries with high GDP also has high per-capita-income and 90% has surplus budgets. Their workers are productive because they anticipate a future labour force. So they cut their foreign investment taxes and grant so much incentives like Singapore that because of their booming economy they provide too much welfare, citizens do not know how to spend their monies...(NO offense, brad)
By grassroots1
#13667896
Their workers are productive because they anticipate a future labour force. So they cut their foreign investment taxes and grant so much incentives like Singapore that because of their booming economy they provide too much welfare, citizens do not know how to spend their monies...(NO offense, brad)


What? This doesn't make sense to me. I'm not saying that GDP per capita is a useless measure, it's just not necessarily the best. I've functioned under the belief before that the quality of a society could at least partly be judged by the status of those who are on the lowest socio-economic level. Using that criteria, I imagine the US would not do so well, when compared to European social democracies.
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By ihofidel
#13668100
Grassroots, US is a different case. US has a high GDP and high per capita income. I can understand what you are referring to. US is buried in debt. There are reasons. They are made milking cows of countries threatened with insurgencies and terrorism like AFghanistan, Philippines, Iraq, etc. They spent 400 billion dollars fighting the Vietcong in Vietnam. They spend billions fighting terrorist New People's Army in the Philippines. So in Iraq and AFghanistan. They are really generous to countries whose countries are threatened with terrorism annd communist insurgencies because they too would be affected if they fall into the Talibann or communist terrorists just like the domino theory..
By spellbanisher
#13727315
Most of that is myth. The Scandanavian countries have become icons for the "Socialism", while the US is an icon for "Capitalism", but the truth is that the difference between them is not that wide. All developed countries all mixed-economies at this point like you said, and correlations between the outcomes for the slightly-more-interventionalist and slightly-less-interventionalist are spurious at best. At this level of similarity, the nature of public policy (such as the corporate tax rate) will be more important than the quantity, not to mention non-policy factors like demographic homogeny or natural resources like oil.


Agreed. What also been taken into account is that Scandinavian countries have homogeneous, small, and stable populations. They really cannot be compared to a country that is as economically, culturally, and ethnically diverse and dynamic as the United States.

For instance:

GDP per capita rank:
Norway: 4th
US: 6th
Sweden: 14th
Denmark: 16th

Total Social Spending as % of GDP
Finland: 19%
US: 26%
Denmark: 27%
Sweden: 31%

Corporate Tax Rate:
Finland: 25%
Denmark: 26%
Sweden: 26%
Norway: 28%
US: 40%


The numbers presented here seem to have been selected deliberately to be misleading. Take the corporate tax rate. Why not include other tax rates, like the vat tax, or the personal income tax? The tax burden as a percentage of GDP is around 50% in Scandinavian countries, whereas in the United States it is about 27 percent(counting all levels of taxation, local, state, and federal). As far as total social spending, I don't even know what that means. In Denmark, government spending as a percentage of GDP is about 52%. In the United States, government spending as a percentage of GDP is about 38%. However, in Scandinavian countries, health care and education is fully provided by the government, as well as other forms of basic healthcare. When you throw in healthcare costs and education costs and other costs, a person in the United States actually pays more than 60% of their wages for these services, and in the United there is not universal healthcare nor is there free higher education.

On the GDP per capita, the reason that the United States has a higher GDP per capita is because people in the United States work more hours. Since 1979, the United States is the only country in North America and Europe to increase average working time; in all European nations average hours worked has declined. In the last decade working hours have actually declined, from a peak of about 1866 average to about 1768 in 2009. However, that decline is almost fully attributable to the significant increase in underemployment over the last decade. The tech bubble greatly reduced the demand for high skilled workers, and the bubble fueled consumption based economic growth of the last decade created jobs mostly in low skill part time industries. This reality is also mirrored in income statistics; the average worker today makes less money than the average worker did in 1997. The economy has to create 1-1.5 million jobs a year to keep up with population growth. During the Bush years, 1 million jobs where created, and 10 million needed to be created to keep up with population growth. In the Obama years, there has been a loss of about 3 million jobs, whereas about 4 million jobs needed to be created to keep up with population growth. All told, over the last decade the US economy has created 16 million fewer jobs than is necessary to keep up with population growth, and most of the jobs that were created (and that are being created) are in low wage industries. Why is this important? Because the decline in hours worked in the United States is involuntary, but unlike in Europe, the social safety net and public resources are not nearly as robust in the United States.

At the peak of the boom (when we had higher employment), the average worker in the US worked 1801 hours. In Denmark, to contrast, the average worker worked 1586 hours, which is 215 hours less, equivalent to about 5 fewer working weeks a year. In Germany, the average worker worked 1390 hours, or 411 hours less, equivalent to about 10 fewer working weeks a year. There is reason to believe, however, that average working time is overreported in European countries, whereas it is underreported in US countries. The reason is difference in incentives. In a European country, workers are motivated more by the prospects of leisure than they are by the prospects of higher pay. Consequently, the tendency for employers would be to give good workers opportunities to finish tasks in less time than the hours billed in order to boost the quality and productivity of their work. In the United States, however, workers are motivated by bigger paychecks. So the tendency is to offer higher pay, but to underestimate the actual number of hours it takes to complete a task. For example, my mother as a home health nurse makes 57 dollars an hour. She normally gets paid for about 35-40 hours of work a week, but the actual number of hours she works is about 50-60 hours a week. How does this happen? Well, for every patient she sees she gets credit for 30 minutes of work. 30 minutes, however, is the minimum amount of time she spends with a patient. On about half of her patients she spends 1-1.5 hours. The amount of time required to do paperwork is also grossly underestimated. But this is not atypical; most American workers work more hours than they get credit for.

Because Americans work more, they pay for things that in other countries people do for themselves. For instance, the percentage of mothers who work in America is much higher than the percentage of mothers who work in Europe. Consequently, Americans spend a lot more money on childcare than Europeans do. Part of this is also cultural; because a career (and the ability to make money) is seen as central to identity and status in America, (what's the first question Americans ask a stranger? What do you do for a living?) having a career is seen as almost essential to being a complete citizen and person. To not have a career to somehow be less of a person or somehow a subcitizen; so work and wages is essential to woman's rights. This is probably true everywhere, but it is especially pronounced in a country that values wealth as highly as Americans do. In most other countries, a job is just a job. There is not stigma or degradation from not having one.

Americans also pay to have their food prepared (processed food is essentially pre-prepared food), dry cleaning, gardening, and so forth. On average, American spend about fifteen percent more on basic services than citizens in other countries do. This has good and bad effects. The bad effects, of course, means that the higher wages of Americans are largely illusionary, because it comes at the expense of leisure. But this extra service spending also creates jobs and opportunities for low skill immigrants, which is why the American economy is more conducive towards immigrants from poorer countries than other economies.

People in Europe tend to value leisure and security, whereas people in the United States tend to value stuff. Its a difference of values and priorities. In Scandinavian countries, they will have less stuff and smaller homes. But they also have more leisure time and less stress and worry. They don't have to worry about paying for education or being bankrupted if someone in the family gets sick or loses their job.

Let's compare two poor families, one in America and one in a Scandinavian country. Chances are, the poor family in the US will have a bigger living space, and more stuff. An American will conclude that he is better off. However, in a Scandinavian country, a poor person will have access to the same healthcare that his middle class compatriots, to the same schools and education, to the same public transportation, and to the same educational opportunities. Meanwhile, the poor person in America will not have good access to healthcare, and will not have access to the same public infrastructure (i.e. schools and public transport) that his middle class compatriots have. So while the poor American family will be privately better off than the poor Scandinavian country, the person in the Scandinavian country will have much greater access to public resources. People can decide for themselves which is better, but I think it should also be considered that upward income mobility is much greater in Scandinavian countries than it is in the US. Inequality has other pernicious effects. A poor family in the United States will have to send their children to different and often inferior schools to those that middle class kids attend(thus, de facto segregation), and it is likely that there will be more crime and violence in the area that the poor family lives. Consequently, there will be less investment in the area, which means less work opportunities,as well as fewer "real world" role models.

So, after all this rambling, I get back to the point; are Scandinavian countries socialist, and the US capitalist? Or is the distinction purely in the imagination. A economy is more than its political economic structure. It is also the ethos of its people. In the United States, we value wealth probably more than anything else. We have one of the highest rates of inequality in the developed world, and we tend to be somewhat okay with that (although we tend to get more rankled during recessions). We also have lower taxes than most of the rest of the developed world (US tax burden as percentage of GDP is 26.9%, the OECD average is 35.1%). What matters is our values. I doubt any people is 100% capitalistic(we still support social security, medicare, progressive income taxes, universal education, public roads, and so forth) or 100% socialistic(people in Scandinavian countries complain about taxes too). But I highly doubt that people in Scandinavian countries would be willing to make significant alterations to their welfare state to achieve greater economic growth. Even after liberalization in the nineties the welfare state in Scandinavian countries is still very strong. So, Scandinavian countries are mixed economies, but what makes them socialistic vis a vis the United States is their commitment to welfare and egalitarianism. Though the United States has a relatively strong commitment to welfare (although much less than most other OECD countries), it has not a commitment to egalitarianism. Egalitarianism and socialism are not necessarily the same thing, but it is important to note that government is central in Scandinavia in achieving the egalitarian state, with a mandate from the people, thus making it socialistic, if not socialism. So I say that Scandinavian Socialism is not a myth.
User avatar
By KurtFF8
#13729362
This myth comes from intentional misinformation by the libertarian Right-Wing. They constantly attempt to redefine the term Socialism and make it equal to "state intervention in a capitalist economy." This definition, while not only dishonest and false, proves not very useful in understanding a socioeconomic system like capitalism (or a "mode of production" like capitalism).

State intervention is not non-capitalist by any stretch of the imagination, and if anything: Marxists will be the first to point out that capital needs state intervention. Especially at this stage of its development where investment opportunities are becoming harder to come by. (István Mészáros had a good article in the Monthly Review about Capitalism as being in its "declining stage" and does a good job at pointing out how Mises and other groups are simple apologists and not trying to understand systems).

These myths about the state somehow being the same thing as socialism go back as far as Engels time though. It really comes down to an attempt to use rhetorical tools to promote a political agenda, not an actual understanding of the world.
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By daft punk
#13737334
ombrageux wrote:Things aren't touted as "Socialist" for Socialism's sake. That's not why Scandinavian countries are touted as models. They are "Socialist" models because:
A) They have very high levels of State intervention in the economy, very strong welfare states, and a more egalitarian economy than virtually any other countries in the world.
B) They are extremely successful societies by any measure, both economically (among the best in the world) and in terms of any number of social indicators (life expectancy, literacy, housing, education, etc).
These two facts are very awkward for the more dogmatic libertarian, who regardless will tell you that a priori his theory states that humans in a Statist-welfarist society become slothful, inefficient, backwards, corrupt, decadent and so on. Facts be damned.


Well, there has never been a socialist country. The countries of Scandinavia are capitalist. Admittedly a lot better than most, with socialist-type policies here and there (though many are being reversed), but there is no such thing as a scale from capitalism to socialism, they are separated by revolution. Scandinavia has not had one.

chaos wrote:That would be true if you believe that all revolutions are violent...


You don't need to shoot people, but in reality the capitalists usually start a war, so you end up having to fight back. Unless you are a Stalinist in which case you assure the masses the capitalists can be trusted and then watch as the socialists are mowed down with British-made machine guns.
Last edited by Vera Politica on 20 Jun 2011 20:59, edited 1 time in total. Reason: fixed quote

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