Tag Archives: Social Democracy

The Strength & Beauty Of Democracy

Throughout history, democracies have been touted as the form of government that’s not only the most efficient, but also the most satisfying. By allowing a high amount of input across the spectrum, democracy succeeds because it empowers a large amount of stakeholders. Also, in light of recent events on the world stage, it’s clear that democracies can help create a global sense of understanding. Unfortunately though, even the strongest of democracies can have periods in their history that test its resilience.

Ever since the Fairness Doctrine for media was lifted, Americans have been exposed to a high level of political bias. As a result, a narrow view of political news is often reported now. In the past, the Fairness Doctrine required both sides of a political topic be reported. Nowadays – unless one reads multiple news sources, we tend to miss out on the true variety of modern political thought. This is because media centers often cater to one political view.                   

For years, political theorists have advocated that a range of different ideas be presented to preserve democracy. For example, a candidate’s debate allows divergent views to give voters a true choice. Respect for debate of all types has been the lifeblood of a free, efficient, and civil society. By exploring a variety of opinions, democracies have been able to find practical and holistic solutions to complex issues.

Unfortunately, we now live in an era where political purity is valued. Echo chambers – where mostly like-minded views are held, are becoming more common in both traditional and social media. And instead of honest and earnest debate being used to judge political policy – political power brokers often rely on smear campaigns to overwhelm opposition.

Interestingly, mainstream Democrats and Republicans do share similar ideas on some policy issues. Historically, the reason for this is that the American respect for spirited and honest political debate has sometimes led to practical compromise. This ability to find hybrid solutions – and blend opposite ideas together, is one of the reasons the democracy revolution of the past 230 years has been successful.

For the last 50 years, political debate in the United States has often revolved around finding a balance between capitalism and socialism. Likewise, debate regarding cultural issues often deals with finding a balance between respect for tradition, versus cultural change. Ironically, mainstream Democrats and Republicans have sometimes done a good job of balancing out these opposite ideas. This is shown by the fact that America today has aspects of the Social Democracy style of government that’s a norm for advanced democracies. Social Democracy relies on a regulated free-market to provide a large portion of goods and services, in conjunction with government services for a social safety net.

Hopefully…the United States can reinvigorate the notion that the political process is mostly a tool that exists to find the best solutions for our country. Although party politics and ideology are extremely important, the winner-takes-all mindset that’s recently evolved can have negative consequences. At the end of the day, most people make practical decisions – based on their own perceptions, on who to vote for. This doesn’t mean that there is no room for deal-making with political opponents. What it means is that America’s democratic-republic form of government actually relies upon political compromise to run well. After all, the strength and beauty of democracies lie in how they combine different ideas from across the spectrum for practical solutions.

The Different Types Of Socialism

To most of us, socialism conjures up many images. These range from modern American politicians, to the Social Democracy nations of Scandinavia, to communist countries such as modern-day North Korea, and then to the most famous socialist in history…Karl Marx. Undoubtedly, with so many images created by the word socialism, it’s hard to know who owns the definition of the term.

Although Marxian socialism as practiced in communist countries is probably the most famous example, Marx is hardly the last word. Throughout history, the concept of socialism has had many adherents dating back to ancient Greece and the philosopher Plato.

Over the past 200 years there have been many socialist thinkers that not only differed in impact from Marx, they also differed in their ideas about free-markets and democracy. When one looks at leaders such as John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell, and Clement Attlee, one discovers thinkers who looked at socialism as something to be used in combination with both capitalism and democracy. These leaders were influential in the evolution of Social Democracy. At times, some advocates for Social Democracy call themselves Democratic Socialists.

What makes the practice and rhetoric of Marxian socialism different is its emphasis that capitalism is exploitive. In addition, the rigid way that communism has been practiced is another way it’s differed from other forms of socialism. Although its been proven since the fall of the Soviet Union that Marxian communism is weak economically, there are many who still adhere to the Marxian premise that capitalism creates exploitation.

Therefore, although the economic premise of Marxism is problematic, the influence of Marx historically and on contemporary culture looms large. Although many people may not describe themselves as Marxists, they may agree with Marx’s theory that capitalist culture is exploitive. As a result, on many issues that address social change, a common way to challenge tradition is to claim that a certain practice is exploitive. And yes, exploitation does exist in many areas and needs to be addressed. However, it’s fair to say that the levels of exploitation some claim exist, are not always apparent to all.  

Obviously, socialism and capitalism can co-exist. As many know, the products and ideas of a capitalist system enhance the creative way we lead our lives. On a daily basis, we express our freedom and make decisions about how to live based on our interactions with a free-market. Therefore, in light of these positive aspects, its obvious capitalism’s not as exploitive as some claim. Where aspects of socialism have a role in modern life is in ensuring a social safety net, regulating marketplaces to ensure equality of opportunity, and upholding common environmental standards. This ability to rely on free-market capitalism to provide most of the goods and services of society, while also ensuring a moderate level of government services for infrastructure, security, human services and defense, is the hallmark of the most successful and least radical form of socialism…Social Democracy. Most democracies, including America, have aspects of Social Democracy

In modern America there’s now a strong push for what some envision as more Social Democracy. Interestingly though, the rhetoric these advocates use is sometimes similar to the rhetoric Marxian socialists use. This is shown when they infer that both capitalists and capitalism are exploitive and greedy. Hopefully, when people nowadays advocate for more Social Democracy, they’ll realize that demonizing capitalism often turns many practical people off. In reality, the ideal of Social Democracy is often best achieved by first acknowledging the useful role that capitalism plays in modern life.