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4 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    An excellent way to recast the “Obama: Socialist or not?” question.

    Interestingly I just finished a big, long, boring history book called “Not Without Dishonor: The History of Anticommunism”. Socialism in the US probably would have been as big as it was in Europe if it hadn’t been for WWI and the Russian Revolution. Communism wasn’t thought about much in the US until Lenin pulled Russia out of WWI thereby leaving the US with one less ally against Germany. Communism was immediately seen as betraying the US war effort.

    In the US socialism and communism never took off after that. It briefly had some respectablility after Hitler invaded the USSR and Japan brought the US into WWII but it never went anywhere. Right after WWII Stalin squandared any ability of socialists and communists to make any headway in US politics by forcing lock step solidarity among the party which made Henry Wallace bomb in his 3rd party run for President.

    Anyway the primary difference between liberals and socialists is control of capital. In liberalism the market controls capital, in socialism the gov’t does. A typical European socialist policy was to nationalize ‘key industries’ like the coal mines. The idea being that gov’t could both raise wages and lower coal prices to zero out the profit thereby splitting the income that was going to capitalists between consumers and workers.

    Liberalism took a different take allowing the market to more or less operate as it would but dulling the impact it has. Those who are very successful pay higher taxes, those who aren’t benefit from various assistance programs. So one system has the coal mine promise not to lay off any jobs. The other system pays unemployment benefits and lets those laid off borrow to go back to school.

    Of course this is very big picture stuff and it took decades of back and forth to evolve.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Do the EU “democratic soclaislsts” (or is that vice versa) are what we are comparing. I’m not sure they advocate complete ownership of business and control of capital.

  3. Boonton says:

    I don’t know Mark, what are you asking to compare? On the one hand I think you want to compare the US Democratic Party to something in Europe. That’s fine, so what exactly is that thing in Europe you want to compare it too? Do you have an actual political party in mind? A set of current policies or policies of the recent past? Or perhaps you are asking to compare it to the mental image of a European political party that Rush/Fox News types have in their imagination but isn’t based on any real tracking of European politics?

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Hmm, I thought any number of EU countries have parties named something which translates roughly to “social democrats.” Do those parties have anything in common?