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Young Americans for Socialism

April 23rd, 2009

American adults under 30 are almost evenly divided on the question

Which is a better system – capitalism or socialism?

37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. For the US population as a whole, only a bare majority prefer capitalism (53% prefer capitalism, 20% socialism, and 27% are undecided.)

Granted that socialism can mean anything from “Policies adopted by Joe Stalin” to “Policies deplored by Joe the Plumber”, these are quite striking results, and certainly help to explain why the invocation of the socialist bogy by JTP and other Republican hacks has been so ineffective (to the point that JTP has recently taken to adding a “neo” prefix, which certainly made both “liberal” and “conservative” scarier).

A couple of random observations. First, I’ve seen occasional (both pejorative and positive) uses of the term “social democrat” in the US context, but it hasn’t got anywhere near establishing itself yet.

Second, this is yet another observation that suggests to me the end of US exceptionalism. My impression is that Americans aged under 30 are much more like young people elsewhere in the developed world in terms of political, social and religious attitudes than were previous cohorts. More precisely perhaps, the large group clustered around evangelical Christianity/traditional Southern white values that makes the US so exceptional doesn’t seem to be replacing itself.

Hat tip: Commenter Hannah’s Dad at Larvatus Prodeo

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  1. Monkey’s Uncle
    April 23rd, 2009 at 18:10 | #1

    It’s just as well that young Americans are more favourably disposed towards socialism, because they are going to be getting it and paying for it in bucketloads.

    Eventually taxes will have to be raised heavily to pay for the current deficits and bailouts, as well as paying more to prop up Social Security, Medicare and other programs.

  2. Alice
    April 23rd, 2009 at 21:13 | #2

    Monkey’s Uncle – we are going to be paying for welfare to the scions of the financial institutions for ages and ages.

    If most ordinary people get something back Ill be amazed but so they should. As for raising taxes – I suggest governments may start to look at higher income earners rates. There is plenty of room for movement there without causing more pain at the bottom (which they wont want).

  3. Monkey’s Uncle
    April 23rd, 2009 at 22:01 | #3

    Alice, the only problem with raising more revenue through higher taxes on high-income earners is simply that when the economy is in decline, there are fewer people making a lot of money, so hence fewer rich people to pay all the extra taxes.

    So it boils down to chasing fewer people to foot the bills.

    I am sure Obama’s promise to not increase taxes on those earning less than $250,000 a year will fall flat pretty soon.

  4. Tom
    April 23rd, 2009 at 22:28 | #4

    “I am sure Obama’s promise to not increase taxes on those earning less than $250,000 a year will fall flat pretty soon.”

    Obama said he would not raise taxes one dime on people earning less than $250,000. This promise has already been broken. He signed a federal law increasing cigarette taxes.

  5. Alice
    April 23rd, 2009 at 23:27 | #5

    Monkey’s Uncle #3

    I dont know about that “So it boils down to chasing fewer people to foot the bills”.

    We managed to reduce tax by 30% approx to the rich here in the 1980s and an even greater reduction was granted to top income earners in the US over the past thirty or forty years. If governments get desperate (which is actually on the cards now) I for one wouldnt mind seeing some that tax reduction reversed and I would suggest it may come into regulatory sights.

    I would consider it fair due to the excess that has occurred with ridiculously high remunerations over the past two decades. Some people do not fall very far (even when their income falls it may not be much of a fall) in depressions Monkey’s Uncle and in fact some remain totally insulated from the negative effects, but depressions / recessions have always fallen more harshly on the average working person on the street.

    I note some firms have cut their own executives remuneration by 10%. This is no big deal considering the obscenity of the levels they reached. Exec remunerations still way over the top in many firms yet quite a few are posting profit declines greater than 10%.

    If governments need more tax, they need it. Taxpayers bailed financial institutions out to the tune of trillions now (after their execs obviously withdrew too much money from the firm prior to the crash and had insufficient reserves available to meet bank calls – read poor management or theft and I would say it was the latter). It would help to get some of it back and if it doesnt happen Ill just resign myself to who is really running the economy.

  6. April 24th, 2009 at 05:33 | #6

    That a lot of Americans prefer socialism just goes to show that democracy has been working in America. Tragic.

  7. April 24th, 2009 at 05:38 | #7

    p.s. If America has become less exceptional then perhaps it is a product of globalisation.

  8. Alice
    April 24th, 2009 at 09:03 | #8

    Terje #6 – I agree. There is nothing undemocratic about socialism if thats what people want. Thats what they should be free to choose in a democracy. I see no tragedy in that.

  9. April 24th, 2009 at 09:29 | #9

    Alice, I can’t agree with Terje,

    Terje, democracy is not simply people being able to freely express their views, (although that is certainly a necessary precondition). It is, to use the familiar phrase, “government of the people by the people for the people”.

    It’s obvious that that didn’t happen under Bush and given that Obama is not briging about the change that Amiracans want, it is not happening now.

  10. Paul Norton
    April 24th, 2009 at 09:57 | #10

    “Second, this is yet another observation that suggests to me the end of US exceptionalism. My impression is that Americans aged under 30 are much more like young people elsewhere in the developed world in terms of political, social and religious attitudes than were previous cohorts. More precisely perhaps, the large group clustered around evangelical Christianity/traditional Southern white values that makes the US so exceptional doesn’t seem to be replacing itself.”

    I’ve got much the same impression from the American students I’ve had in my university classes (who are very good in tutorial discussions), and also from younger American visitors to Australia that I’ve met.

    It occurs to me that one possible explanation of the survey result is that the S word has accumulated some cachet as a result of being hurled at Barack Obama by the sillier of his critics (and by Joe the Plumber).

  11. April 24th, 2009 at 13:25 | #11

    American adults under 30 are almost evenly divided on the question

    Which is a better system – capitalism or socialism?

    37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. For the US population as a whole, only a bare majority prefer capitalism (53% prefer capitalism, 20% socialism, and 27% are undecided.)

    Although I have been predicting a resurgence of socialism for most of the decade (when John Howard becomes a Big Government supporter then everyone else must be further Left) I do not put much weight on this survey. Although I am prepared to believe that young Americans are more likely to want the govt to provide national health insurance and enforce ecological conservation.

    For one thing, most Americans do not really have much of a clue what liberalism, socialism or capitalism means. Most voters are dis-engaged, their dumb-and-dumber political opinions are the basis for the Onion’s success. (One reason why I suspect the validity of the Flynn effect.) For that matter most intellectuals seem to have difficulty grappling with these concepts.

    Also, there is no link to how answers to these questions have changed over the past generation. That would be helpful for comparative purposes.

    For another thing, a poll taken by the same organization reports findings somewhat at odds with the “socialism” survey. Headlined 60% Say Government Has Too Much Power, Too Much Money:

    Sixty percent (60%) of Americans say the federal government has too much power and too much money, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

    Just nine percent (9%) say the government has too little power and money. Twenty-four percent (24%) believe the government has about the right amount of both.

    Not surprisingly, the Political Class sees things a lot differently. While 85% of Mainstream Americans say the government has too much power and money, just two percent (2%) of the Political Class agree. Nearly one-our-of-four members (24%) of the Political Class, in fact, believe the government has too little money and power, but 68% say it has about the right amount of each.

    No one would describe the contemporary US economic system as socialist. Yet 60% of the general public think that it is already too socialist. Obviously socialism is an “essentially contested concept”.

  12. Tim Macknay (aka Tim M)
    April 24th, 2009 at 13:36 | #12

    It seems to me the results of that survey are probably a direct result of the Republicans’ use of ‘socialism’ as a scare word.

    The American Right have been habitually branding all manner of moderate and centrist policies as ‘socialism’ for so long now, it’s hardly surprising that many Americans have started to think along the lines that “if public health care is ‘socialism’, then socialism can’t be all that bad”.

  13. Mike
    April 24th, 2009 at 13:55 | #13

    Most of the US Govt’s debt is Bush debt – you know, “deficits don’t matter”.

    funny how the tune changes . . .

  14. Ubiquity
    April 24th, 2009 at 14:34 | #14

    According to Princeton emeritus political scientist Sheldon Wolins volume Democracy, Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008):

    “The citizenry, supposedly the source of governmental power and authority as well as participant, has been replaced by the electorate, that is, by voters who acquire a political life at election time. During the intervals between elections the political existence of the citizenry is relegated to a shadow-citizenship of virtual participation. Instead of participating in power, the virtual citizen is invited to have opinions: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them. (p. 59)”

    “In elections parties set out to mobilize the citizen-as-voter, to define political obligation as fulfilled by the casting of a vote. Afterwards, post-election politics of lobbying, repaying donors, and promoting corporate interests the real players takes over. The effect is to demobilize the citizenry, to teach them not to be involved or to ponder matters that are either settled or beyond their efficacy. (p. 205)”

    How relevant is socialism or capitalism in this type of “managed democracy” . Do the above facts and figures provided by JQ reflect anything more than “Inverted Totalatariansim” successful propaganda machine.

    I think Sheldon Wolin is closer to the truth than we think.

  15. gerard
    April 24th, 2009 at 14:37 | #15

    The American Right have been habitually branding all manner of moderate and centrist policies as ’socialism’ for so long now, it’s hardly surprising that many Americans have started to think along the lines that “if public health care is ’socialism’, then socialism can’t be all that bad”.

    ding ding ding, we have a winner

  16. Joseph Clark
    April 24th, 2009 at 15:35 | #16

    Whatever socialism means now it’s worth remembering that some of the worst atrocities of the last century were committed by governments pursuing socialist ideals. It might be more respectful to the memory of those who were tortured, starved, and killed for `socialism’ to use another name.

  17. April 24th, 2009 at 15:41 | #17

    Pr Q says:

    this is yet another observation that suggests to me the end of US exceptionalism. My impression is that Americans aged under 30 are much more like young people elsewhere in the developed world in terms of political, social and religious attitudes than were previous cohorts.

    More precisely perhaps, the large group clustered around evangelical Christianity/traditional Southern white values that makes the US so exceptional doesn’t seem to be replacing itself.

    There does seem to be some evidence that the US political culture is evolving in a more Left-liberal way. To that extent my “Decline of the Wets” thesis has run out of legs in the US.

    Americans are becoming more like us on the religious front of the Culture War, on issues like abortion, death penalty and gay marriage and religious observance. Clergymen are no longer sacrosanct political spokesmen.

    The racial front of the Culture War is also alot less heated with the secular decline in crime enjoyed by most US cities, from the mid-nineties through late-noughties. The $64,000 question is whether the large, youngish cohorts of Mexican-Americans will assimilate downwards towards African-American or upwards towards Anglo-American cultural behaviours. This NYT article does not fill me with “Hope for Change” on this vital matter.

    Obamatrons can take hope from contemporary opinion polls. The Pew Report “Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007″ summarizes the way that the US “political Landscape [is now] more favorable to Democrats”:

    Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.

    many of the key trends that nurtured the Republican resurgence in the mid-1990s have moderated, according to Pew’s longitudinal measures of the public’s basic political, social and economic values. The proportion of Americans who support traditional social values has edged downward since 1994, while the proportion of Americans expressing strong personal religious commitment also has declined modestly.

    Demography and geography are always destiny in political culture. The demographic trends for Whites in Blue State America are not auspicious. THere is a tendency for for White liberals to become extinct because the high cost of metro-coastal land depresses fertility.

    By contrast “evangelical Christianity/traditional Southern white values” voters tend to cluster in retro-hinterlands. Here the low cost of land allows higher fertility and tends to promote conservative moral values.

    So the US’s white vote will probably oscillate around the Centre-Right for the forseeable future. The direction of the US’s overall vote will tip depending on the balance bw the political values of older white natives v younger non-white immigrants.

    NB the affordable household formation issue is probably driving the AUS polity to the Centre-Left as more people require Big Government to subsidise their family values. The further you go from high-cost metro to low-cost retro suburbs/regions the less liberal are the cultural values.

  18. April 24th, 2009 at 15:46 | #18

    I hate to rain on Pr Q’s Left-liberal triumphalist parade but the psephological view is not all rosy. Whilst the US is swinging Left, the EU looks to be swinging Right. Newsweek summarises the resurrection of Europe’s Right-wing governments:

    Just three of the European Union member states—Britain, Spain and Portugal—are governed exclusively by the left.

    With Silvio Berlusconi regaining power in Italy, Europe’s right-wing parties can look out proudly on a continent they control. From north to south and east to west, Europe is painted blue. Social democrats hold ministers’ jobs in coalition governments in Germany and the Netherlands, but governments there are headed by the right.

    The arrival of Gianni Alemanno, a post-fascist politician, as mayor of Rome and the good showing of Boris Johnson, the populist Tory Euro-skeptic, as mayor of London completes the triumphant march of the European right into the corridors of power.

    In Brussels, a successful attempt by the conservative president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, to become president of the European Union at the expense of the left’s leading contender, Tony Blair, would further confirm the dominance of Europe’s conservatives as the continent’s political masters. (A decision is expected later this year.)

    Barroso won the EC presidency, as predicted. I daresay that the Tories will probably win the next UK election. France is blocking Turkey’s accession to the EU.

    Why the EU’s sudden lurch to the Cultural Right over the noughties? I am guessing that things like 7/7, the Dutch assassinations and Danish bannings may have something to do with it. But I am open to persuasion that it may be just a cyclical sync thing.

  19. Alice
    April 24th, 2009 at 16:11 | #19

    16# Joseph says
    “Whatever socialism means now it’s worth remembering that some of the worst atrocities of the last century were committed by governments pursuing socialist ideals.”
    Joseph, and what of the great atrocities committed this century by governments pursuing fascist ideals? (which is supposedly the danger in the right wing view taken too far). As I see it atrocities have been committed under many different regimes and perhaps the system of organisation is too limited a scapegoat when it comes to atrocities.

  20. Alice
    April 24th, 2009 at 16:14 | #20

    How Silvio Berlusconi keeps getting in is obvious. Corrupt leader, corrupt government, and corrupt political system. I feel sorry for the Italians. From the mafia to Berlusconi.

  21. gerard
    April 24th, 2009 at 16:34 | #21

    from today’s news

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/5200992/Silvio-Berlusconi-picks-starlets-for-European-elections.html

    The Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has included former showgirls, a Miss Italy contender and a Big Brother celebrity in his choice of candidates for the European Parliament elections…

  22. Joseph Clark
    April 24th, 2009 at 16:36 | #22

    Alice,
    It’s not a competition. Re-imaginations of fascism are in equally poor taste.

  23. April 24th, 2009 at 17:49 | #23

    # Alice Says: April 24th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    How Silvio Berlusconi keeps getting in is obvious. Corrupt leader, corrupt government, and corrupt political system. I feel sorry for the Italians. From the mafia to Berlusconi.

    Perhaps, probably. Italy is an exceptional country on many grounds. Conspiracy runs in the blood of the nation that gave us Ceasars and Machiavelli.

    OTOH, the most significant shift in modern European politics centre of gravity has been the Right-ward lurch of the skilled working classes in Turin and Milan, away from the Communist Party and towards the Northern League. Perry Anderson examines the Decline and Fall of the post-Cold War Italian Left:

    The Italian left was once the largest and most impressive popular movement for social change in Western Europe….The postwar history of Italy was thus to be entirely unlike that of Germany, where there had been no popular Resistance.

    Anderson draws pessimistic conclusions on Italy’s momentous 2008 election results:

    The magnitude of the ensuing disaster exceeded all expectations. The centre-right crushed the centre-left by a margin of 9.3 per cent, or some three and half million votes, giving it an overall majority of nearly 100 in the Chamber and 40 in the Senate.

    The shock of the election of 2008 has been compared to that of 1948, when the Christian Democrats – this was before opinion polls, so there was little advance warning – triumphed so decisively over the Communists and Socialists that they held power continuously for another 44 years.

    If no such durable hegemony is in sight for today’s centre-right, the condition of the centre-left, indeed the Italian left as a whole, is in most respects – morale, organisation, ideas, mass support – much worse than that of the PCI or PSI of sixty years ago: it would be more appropriate to speak of a Caporetto of the left.

    Central to the debacle has been the left’s displacement by the League among the Northern working class. The ability of parties of the right to win workers away from traditional allegiances on the left has become a widespread, if not unbroken pattern.

    First achieved by Thatcher in Britain, then by Reagan and Bush in America, and most recently by Sarkozy in France, only Germany, among the major Western societies, has so far resisted it. The League could, from this point of view, be regarded simply as the Italian instance of a general trend. But a number of features make it a more striking, special case.

    Just as an aside, the ignorance of the Australian media-academia of political and cultural trends in Europe is really inexcusable (and I dont exclude myself here.) In this country we are obsessed with the latest fads and fashions emanating from a couple ocean- or river-fronted suburbs in the capitals of the US and UK.

    Ignorance of the Europe is really pathetic especially given we are all supposed to be so cosmopolitan and multicultural nowadays. Yet most media-academia’s notion of Europe seems to have been picked up in art-cinemas c 1970s. They havent cottoned onto Eurotrash, never mind New Europe. EU’s dramatic shift to the Cultural Right is simply off the radar screen.

    Setting aside Italian differences, corruption does not explain the Right-wing shift in squeaky clean Scandanavian countries like Denmark and Norway. If nice Nordic people are suddenly prone to fits of Right-wing nuttery then the world is turned up-side down.

  24. Monkey’s Uncle
    April 24th, 2009 at 18:43 | #24

    One of the reasons for the leftward shift in American public opinion in recent years is that the bulk of the population don’t pay as much of the cost of more government.

    Despite all the propaganda about Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and so on, the fact is that the US tax system is more progressive in practice than that of most other countries. The top 1% of income earners pay around 35% of federal income tax, while the bottom 40% of income earners pay virtually no income tax. Moroever, consumption taxes and payroll taxes (which tend to be less progressive) make up a smaller proportion of the tax take than in other developed nations (particularly Europe). Indeed, the OECD recently confirmed that the US tax system is the most progressive among developed nations.

    Because the middle class don’t have to pay as much of the cost of funding government, it is easier for them to support higher government spending.

    The only problem with this is that as the economy tanks, government revenues from the well-off will decline. So it will become progressively harder to simply fund more government spending by slugging the wealthy.

    The American middle-class will fall out of love with Obama once they realise that they will end up having to foot the bill for his promises.

  25. plaasmatron
    April 24th, 2009 at 19:12 | #25

    On the subject of “neo-”, I liked Miranda Devine’s term “neo-pacifist” to describe those opposed to the Iraq invasion. Somehow the concept of peace had been reinvented or modernised. “Neo-” these days means “evil-”.

    Is MD a real person anyway, or just an editorial invention to raise the hackles of the average SMH reader?

  26. Ikonoclast
    April 24th, 2009 at 19:13 | #26

    Joseph Clarke is guilty of selective memory or selective quotation of evidence. He said “Whatever socialism means now it’s worth remembering that some of the worst atrocities of the last century were committed by governments pursuing socialist ideals. It might be more respectful to the memory of those who were tortured, starved, and killed for `socialism’ to use another name.”

    It is also worth remembering that some of the worst atrocities of the last century were committed by Western Capitalist Democracies. Let’s name three. The fire bombing of Dresden (unnecessary from a military point of view), the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (again unnecessary but the Americans wanted to test them in the field) and the US atrocities in Vietnam and Cambodia.

    All of these actions if performed by socialists would have right wingers foaming at the mouth but because their own side did them it’s apparently OK. It’s an obvious double standard.

  27. jquiggin
    April 24th, 2009 at 19:49 | #27

    #26, Moreover, the Original Sin of the 20th century, from which all the others flowed, was the Great War, declared and fought by all the leading capitalist powers, and opposed only by (some, not all) socialists.

  28. SeanG
    April 24th, 2009 at 22:47 | #28

    Ikonoclast,

    How about the Gulags of Soviet Russia? The mass murders in Communist Cuba? Cultural revolution? Khmer Rouge?

    Here is the issue – authoritarian governments of every bent do evil things to keep people in check.

    The real issue about socialism/corporatism/social democracy is that it is about control. What do I mean by that? A big interfering government inevitably means a reduction in an individuals liberty and freedom.

    Take the essay by ProfQ from last month about Social Democracy and the democratisation of risk. In the UK, the NHS is a nationalised healthservice. It “reduces the individuals risk”, correct? Well, an individual such as myself needs to book to see a GP two weeks in advance even if I am ill today. I cannot go to see another GP. GPs are alloted individual areas, there is no movement, no competition, no internal market for patients. If I cannot see my GP, I have to go to the hospital. I cannot see my GP after work – they close at 5pm and only open half-day saturday. Yet because of the social democrat principles of the current Labour Government, this is “fair”

    Governments cannot grant freedom. Regulation of business eventually leads to regulation over our own lives. It is a slippery slope.

    Socialism has failed in every country it has touched. Americans are turning to the extremes because of a crisis in the economy. This is a worrying trend.

  29. April 24th, 2009 at 22:55 | #29

    #27 jquiggin Says: April 24th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    #26, Moreover, the Original Sin of the 20th century, from which all the others flowed, was the Great War, declared and fought by all the leading capitalist powers, and opposed only by (some, not all) socialists.

    The Great War was certainly the Original Sin of the 20th Century. (Windschuttle, with characteristic disregard for common sense, suggests that “were someone to now compile a list of the decisive battles of history, he might not include the First World War in it at all”.)

    But its a stretch to lay the fault of the Great War at “capitalist powers” doorstep. Schumpeter was quite right to exonerate capitalism on this charge. The driving force of the war was nationalism, not capitalism.

    Serbian nationalism was the trigger of the war. German nationalism was the motor of the war.

    In reality pretty much all the parties in the Great Powers, whether liberal, “feudal” or socialist, subsumed their ideological differences under the banner of nationalism. That was the meaning of the Kaiser’s phrase: “I see no parties now, only Germans.”

    The Germans were the most socialist of the Great Powers. According to Gerschenkrohn’s theory, the late industrial developers tended to be more socialist. “War Socialism” was the German institutional invention that allowed the war to be prosecuted with such vigour.

    It is no accident that National Socialism founds its home in the post-Great War German state. Prussian militarism is much more suited to a statist, rather than capitalist, economy.

  30. Alice
    April 25th, 2009 at 00:10 | #30

    #22 Joseph says
    “Alice,
    It’s not a competition. Re-imaginations of fascism are in equally poor taste.”

    Um..Joseph.. I dont think I “re-imagined” twentieth century atrocities committed by fascist regimes.

  31. Alice
    April 25th, 2009 at 00:11 | #31

    Miranda Devine is a well paid witch.

  32. Bingo Bango Boingo
    April 25th, 2009 at 03:00 | #32

    Alice, in case you hadn’t noticed “this century” is not “the twentieth century”, hence (I presume) Joseph’s comment.

    Anyway, with socialism murderous tyranny is guaranteed. Atrocities are simply inherent to its implementation anywhere but in deluded socialists’ minds (and in particular of those socialists who have lived their whole lives under capitalism). Dictatorship is a given. Slogans like ‘socialism with democracy’ are utterly discredited. With capitalism (of whatever kind, social democracy included), you at least get the option of avoiding deliberately killing your own citizens by their thousands.

    BBB

  33. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 06:19 | #33

    Alice, please avoid personal attacks, even on people like MD who are happy to dish them out.

  34. April 25th, 2009 at 06:43 | #34

    Daggett – you missed my point entirely. The USA is being served large helpings of socialism. The public sector (Federal government in particular) has grown and grown and never ceases to grow. My point is that if Americans like socialism and they are getting socialism then clearly they have failed as a republic and are now much more a social democracy. you know the kind; people of the government by the government for the government.

  35. Ikonoclast
    April 25th, 2009 at 07:11 | #35

    Russia’s sad history of tyranny appears to have run on its course independent of its governing methods and ruling ideologies. The Czars and the Communists were equally bloody. Post-communist Russia (a kind of corporatist gangster system with a slight pretence to respectability) shows some evidence of being likely to relapse completely at any stage.

    This shows we need to look a little deeper into matters rather than chanting blindly “capitalism good, socialism bad”. Russia, for all its faults can still produce a Tolstoy and a Solzhenitsyn and many, many wonderful “everyday-ordinary” people.

    The Russian people demonstrated great courage and endurance in defending against two clear invaders and agressors, Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812 and Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

    Recommended reading. Before you rush too quickly into assigning “causes” for large historical events, read the second epilogue of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It is a philosophical essay on the problems of imputing historical causation to discrete, simplistic factors.

    Nor should we make the elementary mistake of BBB and conflate capitalism with democracy.

  36. Mike
    April 25th, 2009 at 07:25 | #36

    if people vote for social democracy terje, that’s democracy. if americans are voting for social democracy, it’s because they can see that extreme capitalism has delivered them a train wreck.

    and they know there is more opportunity for ordinary folk under social democracy; social mobility in OECD countries is highest by far in the nordics, canada and australia; lowest in the UK, US and italy. you can only hope you’re not born in the last three.

    and your distinction between a republic and a social democracy is odd; social democracy is a political movement, a republic is a particular constitutional order. they are not mutually exclusive.

  37. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 25th, 2009 at 07:42 | #37

    Australia has a tax freedom day earlier than the USA so the idea (asserted in your second paragraph) that we are a social democracy and they are not is an odd one. The USA has bigger government that Australia and it is far more intrusive in many areas. In the current GFC context the higher level of US government intrusion in banking is quite notable.

    Your first paragraph simply repeats my point.

    Your last paragraph misses the point that the USA was not founded as a democracy. It was founded as a constitutional republic with a limited central government. The limits are now all but gone.

  38. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 25th, 2009 at 07:45 | #38

    p.s. If you accept that Australian government does a better job than USA government than you must tacitly accept that bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to government.

  39. rog
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:00 | #39

    Italy is an example of the ruination by socialism – after decades of corruption, organised crime, massive government debt and administrative paralysis it took the implosion of USSR to finally bring about the collapse of the dominant socialist parties.

  40. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:29 | #40

    Umm, rog, you do know that the governing party for the decades you describe was the Christian Democrats, supported (and in early days) funded by the US ?

    Except for a few years of socialist coalition with the CDs in the 1980s, the Italian socialist and communist parties never held national office.

    So, I assume you are using “socialist” in the sense of “anything Joe the Plumber disapproves of”.

  41. SeanG
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:31 | #41

    ProfQ,

    You have to admit that Italy has had a horrific economic policy. Corporatist, corrupt, big-government/big-deficit/big-debt. Right or Left, they follow the same path.

  42. SeanG
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:33 | #42

    Mike,

    The UK Government has been run by the Labour Party since 1997. Two days ago they announced a £175bn deficit. They are social democrats.

    So your point is what?

  43. Bingo Bango Boingo
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:45 | #43

    “Nor should we make the elementary mistake of BBB and conflate capitalism with democracy.”

    Ikonoklast, re-read what I wrote. The implementation of the economic system of socialism essentially precludes the maintenance of the political system of democracy. Capitalism does not, as we all know. There is no conflation whatsoever.

    BBB

  44. Alice
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:52 | #44

    33# OK JQ – sorry about the personal attack on Miranda Devine but Miranda does get paid to write in a style of extremist personal attacks and insults (stream of invective). I once phoned the newspaper to complain about the divisive style being pushed and the girl that answered the telephone said there was continual stream of complaints about Miranda but that the newspaper loved her because of it. So what do we make of that? Sensationlism for sensationalism sake. It must sell newspapers. I doubt even Miranda takes herself seriously.

  45. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:55 | #45

    So, I assume you are using “socialist” in the sense of “anything Joe the Plumber disapproves of”.

    Why the heck not. That’s how the left uses words and phrases like neoliberalism, economic rationalism, free markets, deregulation etc etc.

    If the Howard government had sent out secret police to murder all the first born children in poor familes the left would have called it neoliberalism.

  46. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 25th, 2009 at 08:56 | #46

    Odd that Alice can be rude to many of us here but she only gets a rebuke if she is rude to Miranda.

  47. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 09:40 | #47

    Terje, if you don’t like the way I run the blog, you’re welcome to a full refund. I do my best to keep things civil here, but I can’t pick up everything. Can I remind everyone to read the comments policy and avoid personal attacks of all kinds.

  48. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 10:59 | #48

    #43 BBB, your claim is essentially that of Hayek in Road to Serfdom, who was proved spectacularly wrong by events, since he applied it to the policies of the British Labour Party. But, of course, they ended up producing a social democratic welfare state.

    The problem for your hypothesis is that, thus far, we’ve only had two kinds of tests

    (1) Socialist systems created by Communist parties that were never democratic.

    (2) Democratically elected socialist governments that were blocked in one way or another from implementing their policies (most notably, Allende stopped by Hayek’s mate Pinochet).

  49. Skepticked
    April 25th, 2009 at 11:33 | #49

    Wasn’t it Clemenceau who more than a hundred years ago said:

    “Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head.”

    ?

    So doesn’t this study just confirm that 40 is the new 30 (and by extension, 30 is the new 20)?

  50. Ikonoclast
    April 25th, 2009 at 13:09 | #50

    Clemenceau’s statement (if the attribution is correct) is nonsense. To remain social-democratic into one’s forties and fifties is to show heart with staying power.

  51. Salient Green
    April 25th, 2009 at 13:24 | #51

    TerjeP #46 if you’re a man, act like one and stop telling tales.
    If you’re a woman, that’s right dear.

  52. Skepticked
    April 25th, 2009 at 14:04 | #52

    Heart in the face of all evidence to the contrary, more like it. Watching second and now third-generation welfare cases grow up with no dignity and no hope I have no doubt what socialism does for people.

  53. rog
    April 25th, 2009 at 14:10 | #53

    In Italy socialism must also include fascism, the christian democrats existence was by way of a coalition of socialists, nationalists and other minorities. After the corruption trials of the 1990′s, which found many socialists in all forms of govt to be corrupt (mayors, MPs, cabinet ministers etc) the socialist prime minister resigned and the socialist party collapsed.

  54. Alice
    April 25th, 2009 at 14:37 | #54

    46#Terje – Ive seen you be rude to quite a few people also including me.

  55. jquiggin
    April 25th, 2009 at 14:45 | #55

    OK, please no more meta-discussion about the rules. Please leave enforcement to me, and email me privately if you have any complaints about comments or other matters.

  56. Monkey’s Uncle
    April 25th, 2009 at 15:55 | #56

    JQ @40, it may be true that Italy has not had that many years of officially socialist government during the post-war period. But the Christian Democrats were always a corporatist regulatory party. Moreover, the Socialists and Communists have controlled a number of regional governments for a long time. So genuine free market policies have had hardly any influence.

    In that sense, it is not that much of a stretch to cite Italy as an example of the failure of government intervention in the economy.

  57. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 26th, 2009 at 06:27 | #57

    JQ – sorry about the snark. I know from personal experience that moderating comments is a total pain. I’ll try and cop it sweet because thats probably the option with the least cost all round.

  58. Semjaza
    May 6th, 2009 at 21:09 | #58

    The trouble with socialism is simple. it can’t work. The Europeans got a free ride because they didn’t have to finance their own military defenses for the last sixty years. That makes their versions of socialism more like the false socialism found on every college campus. Without the US military their governments will collapse in the face of a weaker but determined power…ISLAM. Everybody better wake up. If the US wants to live like Europe who will be defending the so-called free world?
    God always gets the last laugh at every arrogant generation that comes along and thinks they have got the world figured out. Sorry young people, but you are not special.

  59. jquiggin
    May 6th, 2009 at 21:14 | #59

    Oh, dear.

  60. Alice
    May 6th, 2009 at 21:27 | #60

    oh my goodness…JQ. It gets worse?. Just when you think you educate one….oh dear is all that is left to say…there are more where they came from. Its sad actually. The media has a lot to answer for.

  61. Monkey’s Uncle
    May 6th, 2009 at 22:17 | #61

    Methinks someone has logged in under a sock-puppet identity “Semjaza” to poke fun at the lunar right.

    Come on. Own up. Who is behind this? :-) .

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