Gerald Staack | Would a Little Socialism Help?

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Today the aristocracy of neo-liberalism and conservatism totally dominates American society. They control how we work, think, play, sleep, watch TV, spend, fight and die. In simple terms, the rich control our government in ways that make themselves wealthier while the average American fights to exist and to keep a roof over the heads of his or her family.

It’s embarrassing to call ourselves “the richest country in the world” with a gross deomestic product of over $17 trillion while other countries, especially the Nordic ones with much lower GDPs like Sweden’s $554 billion (the highest among them) have created societies in which their citizens feel a lot safer and cozier than the average struggling, debt-ridden American family. Societies that offer social amenities like affordable health care, schooling, child care, and safe surroundings, like many that dot the European continent, have less burden. They have morphed into comfortable lifestyles in spite of capitalism’s ruthless privatization thumb that tries to press the last penny out of everyone’s pocket. How can that be? What are we missing? Missing are laws that promote social well-being and denounce the exploitation of society.

As capitalism creates laws that promote corporate profits, it materializes into a ruthless dog-eat-dog enigma pressing for ultimate profits regardless of the consequences and well-being of society. One good example of this is the North American Free Trade Agreement. Our government allowed capitalism to close factories and send jobs to China for exorbitant profits while saying “bye-bye” to the American workers and sending them to the unemployment lines. Socialism, the American tax dollar, was used to bail out every American who lost their job. A conservative Congress and a neo-liberal President Bill Clinton did nothing. Capitalism always expects socialism to mediate the excesses of its actions with bailouts.

Be what it may, socialism has many forms. From the harsh socialism enforced by the Soviet Union (called communism) to the tame Scandinavian social democracy that provides happiness to its people. Once one understands the virtues of social democracy, of what it can do for the average family, it’s no longer something to be afraid of. On Aug. 3, Andrew McKay, the author of “Life in Norway,” wrote “Scandinavian Socialism: The Truth of the Nordic Model.” It offers insight into social societies that are extremely happy and safe within their confines and with their government — something that the U.S. badly needs in this moment of history.

According to McKay, “Scandinavia and the Nordic countries can be best described as social democracies. Effectively, they’re democratic countries in which its citizens are well cared for. Some refer to this as democratic socialism, though this is far from correct. Some economists refer to it as cuddly capitalism, contrasting with what is seen as cutthroat capitalism in other Western countries.”

“While the Scandinavian countries are in many ways very different, they share a lot of common history. The styles of government aren’t identical either, but they do share some common features. The ways in which they’re similar are enough that we can talk about them collectively – scholars call this the Nordic Model. Firstly, they are all free-market capitalist countries. This fact gets missed by a lot of people, but their economies are fully open and trade globally like most countries in the world. The way they differ is mostly in their welfare state. Social security in Scandinavia is more generous than pretty much anywhere else.” 

McKay characterizes the model as a number of key points:

“Generous social safety net and public pension system with well-funded public services in a relatively high-tax economy.

“Strong property rights and contract enforcement coupled with an overall ease of doing business.

“Free trade combined with collective risk sharing, allowing the benefits of globalism while protecting against many of the risks.

“Low levels of regulation on product markets.

“Low levels of corruption – in 2015 five of the top 10 spots were taken by Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland in the Corruption Perceptions Index.

“High levels of unionization – 51% in Norway up to 88% in Iceland compared with the levels of 18% in Germany, 11% in the U.S. and 8% in France.

“A partnership between government, businesses and unions leading to everyone feeling invested in a system that works well for all.

“A relatively high personal tax burden. At 45.9%, Denmark has one of the highest tax burdens in the world. Tax rates are also fairly flat so even medium and lower-income households pay relatively high levels of tax compared with the progressive systems in most Western countries.”

Basically, anything that is paid by U.S. taxes can come under the heading of a social initiative that constitutes a form of socialism. There are many, and these examples are just a few:

• The post office, public schools, teachers, police, firefighters.

• The U.S, state, and local governments and their employees.

• The armed forces, NASA, JPL.

• Federal lands, public parks and airports.

• Public highways, local public streets and roadways, libraries.

• Subsidies, research and welfare programs.

• Intelligence services, foreign diplomats, the FCC and public airways.

Laws that promote the wellness of life on Earth can be classified as socialistic, while laws that promote profits and growth are capitalistic. With Joe Biden at the helm, the U.S. will soon change laws to alleviate the two most pressing social issues of our zeitgeist i.e., the coronavirus pandemic and global warming will finally be addressed at the federal level.

Gerald Staack

Santa Clarita

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