According to Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism is:

“What democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

 

Can someone who unabashedly states that they are a Democratic Socialist be elected president?  Are Americans programmed to abhor the term “socialist?”  I grew up in an era where you didn’t want to be any kind of “socialist.”  It was considered JV communist.

I do agree that it is immoral for the top one-tenth of 1 percent to own almost 90% of the wealth.  I like many of Sanders’ ideas.  Some I don’t like.

Your thoughts?

 

63 thoughts on “What is Democratic Socialism?

  1. BSinVA

    IF everyone in this country has a level playing field in terms of education, career opportunities
    , health, security, food, clean water, housing, cultural expression, financial security, art, political representation, and other basic needs of a people, I don’t care if some amass more trinkets than the others.

    Our current situation though is that not everyone has access to that level playing field and those with more trinkets mostly inherited them from their families that had social and economic advantages that were unfair by social democratic standards.

    1. I find it interesting that you said “clean water.” That’s something we don’t think about much in this country.

  2. Steve Thomas

    “Can someone who unabashedly states that they are a Democratic Socialist be elected president? Are Americans programmed to abhor the term “socialist?” I grew up in an era where you didn’t want to be any kind of “socialist.” It was considered JV communist.”

    Moon, this question is quite well-framed. Boomer’s and Gen-X’rs grew up under the specter of the cold-war, Communist expansionism, and the term “Socialist” was included in the official names of our main global adversaries. We didn’t differentiate much between “Commies” and “Socialists”, even though true “socialism” was being adopted by some of our oldest allies, namely the UK and France. Europe’s main economic power, Germany, is quite socialist in many of its policies. Even our neighbor to the north, Canada was adopting certain socialist policies, such as government provided healthcare. Our strongest Asian ally Japan has adopted some very socialist policies.

    As the federal government has taken over more programs, such as student loans launched government alternatives to private programs in mortgage-lending, mandated certain programs such as healthcare and social-security, the US has been on a slow march toward socialism since the New Deal.

    Form a political standpoint, the parties have somewhat traded ownership of certain ideological views on socialism. Back in your young adult years, southern democrats were ardent anti-socialist/communist, while Republicans tended to focus on business and commerce. This all began to radically change with the counter-culture, as domestic and foreign policy issues collided in the 60’s. Vietnam, Civil-Rights, 2nd wave Feminism, the rise of other economic powers (Japan, Taiwan Saudi Arabia), the “war on poverty”, etc. have gradually changed the fabric of our culture. We used to export goods. Next we tried to export democracy. Now, our greatest export is pop-culture. We used to be the worlds largest creditor. Now we are the largest debtor.

    BS’s comments, and to a lesser degree, yours, are quite telling. As long at everyone else gets theirs, it’s ok for you to do a little bit better economically. I’ve always thought as long as you didn’t cheat, it didn’t matter how much or often you win. Individual merit mattered more than anything else, and while there were certainly those “better off” than me, I respected those who earned it. I was always taught that there are indeed those need a hand now and then, but it was their responsibility pull themselves up.

    In an age of social media, the idea of “everyone’s opinion matters and has equal merit” has been ingrained in the minds of millennials, as well as some X’rs and boomers.

    So, to answer your question, in a time when “social justice” “economic justice” “food-security” “fair share” “job-lock” and other terms have permeated public discourse, and considering the social path we’re on, yes, a “socialist” can get elected president. Look at the demos of those supporting each of the candidates. Sanders (the oldest of the candidates) owns the younger demographic, products of over 80 years of a slow creep towards that which if not in name, certainly in function, can be defined as socialism.

  3. BSinVA

    Steve: Re-read my post… I explained that as long as everyone was on an even playing field, I had no problem with some doing better than others. That is a long way from “As long at(sic) everyone else gets theirs, it’s ok for you to do a little bit better economically.”

  4. Steve Thomas

    BSinVA :
    Steve: Re-read my post… I explained that as long as everyone was on an even playing field, I had no problem with some doing better than others. That is a long way from “As long at(sic) everyone else gets theirs, it’s ok for you to do a little bit better economically.”

    BS, when you say “even playing field” and then qualify that term with a (long) list of items that must be satisfied before an “even playing field” exists, and only then will you be satisfied with someone having more material wealth, you well within that which I categorized. Let’s break them down, shall we?:

    “education”: Every child can obtain a public education. Some school systems are better than others, and some students work harder than others. Would your “level playing field” be that failing schools must be given money taken from taxpayers in more prosperous areas, so failing students can fail in a better-funded school, before someone else can be allowed to earn material wealth?

    Career Opportunities: We have a certain number of jobs available at any given time. Sometimes there are more jobs than people, sometimes this is reversed. Mostly, it’s a function of market economics. Certain people are better qualified for these jobs, and some advance higher and faster than others, because they do a better job. Does everyone deserve a well-paying job, regardless of the skills required to do the job, amount of effort applied to doing the job, and the economic productivity of the job, before someone else can earn a higher income, or “amass more trinkets?”

    Health: Some people are healthier than others, either by genetics, or lifestyle. Does everyone deserve to be healthy regardless of genetics or lifestyle, before someone else can be wealthy?

    Security: Some areas are safer to live in, than others. Mostly, this is a function of the people who live there. Some choose to prey upon others, and it has always been this way. Must crime-rates fall to a certain level in all neighborhoods, before someone else can live a financially comfortable life?

    I could go through all of these things you list that must be satisfied, furnished, provided, secured, ensured, before it’s OK to be rich in your book. Basically, all societal ills must be solved, before someone can keep more of that they earn, inherit, produce, generate. And even worse (IMHO), you ascribe the current situation to previous and current social inequality. What you seek is social utopia. Socialism is just the tool to achieve this. I am sure Marx would be pleased.

  5. BSinVA

    When poor women can control their family size as well as rich women, there will be an even playing field. When all failing students have access to tutors, there will be an even playing field. When all students have access to a college education just as the children of the elite do today, there will be an even playing field. When every American has access to affordable health care, there will be an even playing field. I could go on.

    Steve: however it is defined… are you against an even playing field for all Americans or are you saying that it is already even??

    1. I am going to say BS is more generous than I am. I absolutely believe that poor women should be able to control the size of their families.

      All students don’t try, regardless of economics. Those that try should get tutors at their schools. Those that don’t try, screw them.

      College–not everyone should go to college. I think students and their families should be able to have affordable student loans.

      I believe everyone should have access to affordable health care before they turn 65. I am not sure how to pull that off. Perhaps its a work in progress.

      I believe all people in the United States should have enough to eat…maybe not filet mignon but they shouldn’t go to bed hungry. This food should be something other than moon pies and pepsi.

      I do think the polarized wealth makes us like Europe…the ugly underbelly of Europe.

  6. Cargosquid

    BSinVA :
    When poor women can control their family size as well as rich women, there will be an even playing field. When all failing students have access to tutors, there will be an even playing field. When all students have access to a college education just as the children of the elite do today, there will be an even playing field. When every American has access to affordable health care, there will be an even playing field. I could go on.
    Steve: however it is defined… are you against an even playing field for all Americans or are you saying that it is already even??

    Then you will never have a “level playing field.” Trying to “level” it to that extent makes all equally poor. See the USSR. See communist China under Mao.

    There is no such thing as a “level playing field.” It is impossible for everyone to start out on equal footing.

    1. True, but we could do a little better than we do.

      (with the basics) My basics are different than BS’s.

  7. Ed Myers

    We have socialism now…it is just that corporate socialism has become stronger at the detriment of individuals. Corporations can influence (buy) elections but can’t vote directly and that influence ($ in politics) has made government more interested in providing corporate welfare than individual welfare. Individuals can vote and with political strength pull back some of the socialistic benefits that have been going to corporate interests and redirect them towards individuals.

    This is not a issue of capitalism versus socialism but an issue of how to assemble the socialistic pieces we already have for the better.

  8. BSinVA

    @Cargosquid It is not impossible for poor women to be able to control family size.. not impossible for all children to have access to tutors…not impossible for everyone to have access to affordable health care or a college education. Your crystal ball is on the fritz again.

  9. Steve Thomas

    @BSinVA
    “Steve: however it is defined… are you against an even playing field for all Americans or are you saying that it is already even??”

    I am against the “level playing field” as you define it. You don’t level anything by using the force of government to take from one, and give to another, all in the name of “leveling the playing field”. While I fully support laws that make illegal practices that discriminate on the basis of Race, Gender, ancestral nationality or religion, I do oppose “leveling the playing field” by imposing quotas based on these classes. The rest of your statement is telling: “Free” tutors, “free” college, “free” healthcare…except it’s not free. Someone has to pay for it, and you solution it to take from one, and give to another. You perpetuate mediocrity.

    That, sir, is socialism. It is also Un-American. Furthermore, the social utopia which you seek has never existed in the history of civilization. Everywhere it has been tried, it has failed.

  10. BSinVA

    Where did I say “free”? I’m talking about equal access. When blacks were allowed to sit at the public lunch counters, they didn’t get a free lunch! When women were allowed into previously all male public colleges, they didn’t get free tuition or free A’s.

    Steve: Are you saying the social and economic playing fields are level now and nothing needs to be done? Does a poor black girl born in rural Mississippi have the same chance of success and fulfillment that a rich white boy born in Northern Virginia has?

  11. Starryflights

    If you asked me 50 years ago if America could elect a socialist, I would’ve said he’ll no. But not in 2016. Times change. The Cold War ended 25 years ago. Younger generations don’t find the term “socialist” threatening. I think Bernie can be elected today.

  12. Censored bybvbl

    The pendulum swings. People aren’t afraid of “socialism”. (Well, some right-wingers can be made to fear the term.) What they’re sick of is paying politicians salaries to do nothing. The Republicans have become a party without ideas – except reacting negatively to anything Obama proposes. Reality check – you don’t get everything you want to the detriment of the majority of the people who live in this country. A hateful, boorish party will seem less attractive than a “socialist” who appears to care about people.

  13. Steve Thomas

    @BSinVA
    “Where did I say “free”? I’m talking about equal access.”

    You are playing word games. When the usual hurdle to access is means, and the individual seeking access lacks means, the way to address this is to provide the means to the individual. Any failing kid has “access” to a tutor today. There are private tutors everywhere, for a cost, and there are tax-payer funded tutors, again for a cost. The issue isn’t “access”. The issue is resources, or a lack-thereof.

    You are also playing games with regards to your earlier comments on socialism. It is you who made achieving an acceptable level of “access” before the rich can be allowed to be rich. If “the playing field is level”. So how does a socialist attempt to “level” the field? He taxes the rich to fund social programs to “level” the playing field. Rich people can afford better medical care? Tax them and provide free and subsidized health care to those less fortunate. Rich people can afford to send their kids to better colleges? Make college free so every kid has “access”.

    I am not saying that the social and economic playing fields are “level”. I am arguing that you can’t level it with social programs funded by confiscatory taxes on those who have more to take, and I am also saying that your premise of “you can be rich, as long as you pay to solve all of society’s access problems” is Un-American.

    As far as your hypothetical girl and boy, please. That is almost as pathetic as Obama’s imaginary son. Yes, she has the same chance of success and fulfillment as the rich boy from NoVA, if she’s willing to work to achieve it. Our history is replete with individuals who came from modest means, overcame adversity, sought opportunity, and most of all, worked hard to become successful.

    How about a young black man, born in Detroit to a minister and a housewife (who dropped out of school in the 3rd grade, and encouraged her kids to read and work hard in school), both originating from rural Georgia. She discovered her husband was a bigamist, who soon abandoned her with three kids. Since welfare as we know it today did not exist, this uneducated single-mother supported her family as a seamstress and housekeeper. This young black man attended Detroit schools in the 50’s and 60’s, worked to help support the family, excelled academically in JROTC earned an appointment to West Point. Free college and a commission in the US Army upon graduation. He turned that earned opportunity down, and instead applied for scholarships and worked his way through Yale. Then he completed medical school, and interned at Johns Hopkins. Through hard work and perseverance, he became one of the top pediatric neurosurgeons in the country. Now retired, he’s a top-tier candidate for the GOP nomination for President.

    If there’s someone who knows about the the condition of “the playing field” its this man. Yet he’s not advocating for government “leveling the playing field”. The one who is advocating for it the son of a polish immigrant who fled a socialist in Europe, came to the US, and married an American. This son, attended college (not sure how he paid for it), spent much of his time involved with socialist student organizations (considered radical during that period) and would appear to have accomplished little outside of getting elected to office. Yet he thinks the field needs leveling.

    Someone else advocating for “leveling the playing field” is a woman who was raised in the suburbs in a traditional upper-middle class home, attended suburban public schools, whose father was a fervent anti-communist, and who canvassed for Richard Nixon 1960 and campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. She attended an exclusive all girls college, and actually served as the president of the schools YR chapter. She studied Saul Alinsky, and later became a liberal democrat. She attended law school at Yale, failed the DC bar, passed the Arkansas bar, and married a charming man with political ambitions, was 1st lady of Arkansas, the US, a US Senator, and the US Secretary of State. Yet she thinks the field needs leveling.

    No BS, I don’t think the field needs leveling, because it cannot be leveled. People shouldn’t be able to lie, cheat, and steal their way to wealth. That is immoral, and in a just society “Malum en se”. It is just as immoral to deprive someone of their wealth or property for the purpose of “leveling the field” by means of government power. Our country was founded on the principle of created equality of natural rights, those being “Life, Liberty, and Property”.

    It was not founded on “leveling the field” or socialism. Socialism is un-American. Charity and compassion are virtues. However, when you force people to be charitable, and call that force compassion, there is nothing virtuous about it. That is tyranny. Perhaps a soft-tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless.

  14. Cargosquid

    @Ed Myers
    This is not a issue of capitalism versus socialism but an issue of how to assemble the socialistic pieces we already have for the better.

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, right Ed?

  15. Cargosquid

    BSinVA :
    @Cargosquid It is not impossible for poor women to be able to control family size.. not impossible for all children to have access to tutors…not impossible for everyone to have access to affordable health care or a college education. Your crystal ball is on the fritz again.

    Of course it is…because it is impossible for “all” anything to get everything. Who will pay for all of this?

  16. Cargosquid

    BSinVA :
    Where did I say “free”? I’m talking about equal access. When blacks were allowed to sit at the public lunch counters, they didn’t get a free lunch! When women were allowed into previously all male public colleges, they didn’t get free tuition or free A’s.
    Steve: Are you saying the social and economic playing fields are level now and nothing needs to be done? Does a poor black girl born in rural Mississippi have the same chance of success and fulfillment that a rich white boy born in Northern Virginia has?

    No..you didn’t say the word free….but you weren’t describing “access.”

    Does a poor white boy born in Louisiana have the same chance of success and fulfillment that aa a rich black boy born in Hawaii has?

    You cannot level economic playing fields without force. And once you do that, everyone loses.

    1. In fairness, Obama didn’t grow up as a rich boy. He was very middle class.

      I will go toe to toe with anyone over the opportunities open to women during the better half of the last century. It’s all related to one’s ability to control one’s own reproduction.

  17. middleman

    The root of the economic inequality that Sanders speaks of is the fact that the vast majority of Americans haven’t shared in the productivity gains of the past 40 years. This hasn’t happened by accident, it’s the result of a concerted effort by those who control industry and the government to reduce labor costs and corporate social responsibility. From corporate structure, with boards of directors and CEO’s maximizing short term profits over r & d and company investment, to robotization, to off-shoring jobs and much more, the working man has been left behind. A quick look at real wages tells the story. It takes two incomes to get by now when one was adequate in the 60’s and prior. In many cases, it takes 3 jobs just to pay the bills.

    Most of the other inequality issues mentioned stem from this. It ain’t socialism to ask that folks helping to make the productivity possible share the monetary benefit. It’s called fairness and the American Way.

  18. Cargosquid

    Censored bybvbl :
    The pendulum swings. People aren’t afraid of “socialism”. (Well, some right-wingers can be made to fear the term.) What they’re sick of is paying politicians salaries to do nothing. The Republicans have become a party without ideas – except reacting negatively to anything Obama proposes. Reality check – you don’t get everything you want to the detriment of the majority of the people who live in this country. A hateful, boorish party will seem less attractive than a “socialist” who appears to care about people.

    The GOP is the party without ideas? And yet….you have two politicians advocating the failed policies of the late 19th century and early 20th century. I’m completely ignoring both O’Malley and Webb.

    For a party that reacts negatively to everything Obama proposes….Obama gets most of his stuff passed and funded. The PEOPLE react negatively because Obama has lied to their faces and failed in public.

    The only thing that has been detrimental to the country lately are the progressive policies put forth for the last 15 years.

    You did get one thing right…. people will vote for politicians that “appears to care about people” while not giving a damn for any actual beneficial results. Oh..look…you just described the entire Obama administration, Hillary and Bernie’s campaigns, and the Democrat party in general.

  19. Cargosquid

    @Steve Thomas
    DAMN THAT WAS GOOD.

  20. BSinVA

    “Yes, she has the same chance of success and fulfillment as the rich boy from NoVA, if she’s willing to work to achieve it. ”

    My question to all is – Can a politician that believes the above quote, be elected to anything in this country today?

  21. Steve Thomas

    @middleman
    “The root of the economic inequality that Sanders speaks of is the fact that the vast majority of Americans haven’t shared in the productivity gains of the past 40 years. This hasn’t happened by accident, it’s the result of a concerted effort by those who control industry and the government to reduce labor costs and corporate social responsibility. From corporate structure, with boards of directors and CEO’s maximizing short term profits over r & d and company investment, to robotization, to off-shoring jobs and much more, the working man has been left behind.”

    So what you are saying is, because the masses don’t control the factors of production, they are at the mercy of those who do, and this is because elites in industry and the government have colluded to make this happen? Are you also saying that the remedy for this is for the State to confiscate the produce of this immoral enterprise, and redistribute that to the masses through massive social programs?

    Just want to make sure I understand your argument.

  22. Steve Thomas

    @Cargosquid
    And a few +1’s for your comments, back-at-ya.

  23. Steve Thomas

    BSinVA :
    “Yes, she has the same chance of success and fulfillment as the rich boy from NoVA, if she’s willing to work to achieve it. ”
    My question to all is – Can a politician that believes the above quote, be elected to anything in this country today?

    And my retort is: Should we elect leaders who don’t believe this, or those who don’t lead by example?

  24. BSinVA

    Yes, we should elect leaders who don’t believe this. Remember the Allegory of the Cave? It is time to come outside and look around for real, my friend.

  25. Steve Thomas

    BSinVA :
    Yes, we should elect leaders who don’t believe this. Remember the Allegory of the Cave? It is time to come outside and look around for real, my friend.

    This is why a socialist can be elected president. It is because socialists will vote to elect him or her. It is because they have a warped view of fairness, charity, and compassion, and have perverted the meaning of “justice”, and have an almost god-like ability to manufacture “rights” out of thin-air. They will purchase their power with promises of taking from one, and giving to another, and those who want, will vote for this.

    Worked out well for Venezuela, and the Soviet Union. Stunning success in Kalifornia.

  26. Steve Thomas

    @BSinVA
    “Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville

  27. BSinVA

    @Steve Thomas Tocqueville’s main purpose was to analyze the functioning of political society and various forms of political associations, although he brought some reflections on civil society too (and relations between political and civil society). For Tocqueville as for Hegel and Marx, civil society was a sphere of private entrepreneurship and civilian affairs regulated by civil code.[15] As a critic of individualism, Tocqueville thought that through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both in public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning according to political and civil laws of the state.[3][15]

    Maybe old Alexis isn’t the one you should refer to in order to bolster your sloganeering.

  28. Steve Thomas

    BS,

    Spare me the history/philosophy lesson. I’ll wager I’ve read more de Touqueville, in my somewhat shorter life than you have. I’ll bet I’ve read more Marx as well. de Touqeville espoused the value of Judeo-Christian morals and natural law as fundamental to the democratic civil society. Note, as states have minimized the Judeo-Christian moral code in favor of secular – humanism, they’ve also become more socialist.

    But really you are deflecting, since your word-games were insufficient defense for your socialist advocacy.

  29. middleman

    @Steve Thomas
    Nice try, Steve, but trying to put words in my mouth won’t change what I said, which is pretty clear. The numbers are also clear on the long-term imbalance in sharing productivity gains. I made no mention of how to remedy the situation.

    But since you brought it up, a solution would likely involve more patriotism and egalitarianism on the part of employers, something like that which existed from the period after WWII until the “greed is good” generation took over in the 80’s.

  30. BSinVA

    Now that we are done with our “did”, “did not”, “did”, “did not” discussion, we can review your original question: “Can someone who unabashedly states that they are a Democratic Socialist be elected president? ”

    I think if Senator Sanders can get enough people to believe, as he does, that the folks in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, etc. live longer, are happier and are healthier than we are under our capitalistic system, then he can be elected our President.

  31. middleman

    Incidently, as an article in today’s WaPo by Harold Myerson points out, many of the European and Scandinavian socialistic leaning countries also have very successful business and manufacturing economies. In other words, social democracies often have very successful capitalistic economies.

    Kinda puts the lie to the charge that giving workers more power will kill the economy, don’t it? Maybe old Bernie’s onto something!

  32. Steve Thomas

    @middleman
    “Nice try, Steve, but trying to put words in my mouth won’t change what I said, which is pretty clear.”

    It wasn’t clear, which is why I asked the question. I have no issues with the rest of your statement, re: patriotism.

    Look, just because I am anti-taking doesn’t mean that I don’t see corruption. That the “too-big to fail banks” could essentially set up a “Vegas Rules” casino of a market, where they win, no matter who is losing, is not only immoral, I believe it is criminal. Yet, the government gave them TARP, and other stimulus, ensuring that not only were they made whole from their own actions, they profited greatly from it.

    The Fed has made “easy money” so “cheap” to our debt-addicted culture, they are essentially waiving a bottle of booze in front of an alcoholic, and the banks are happy to pour the shots. What is the interest rate on what we knew as a pass-book account these days? 0.8% or so? But these same banks, using “fractional reserves” will turn around and lend a single dollar to 25 individuals, and charge them 12-18% for the privilege. They know a certain number will be unable to pay, and they will turn around and tap some government program to recover the loss.

    Yes, the “system is rigged”, and this makes certain individuals wealthy. It also creates the “bubbles” which wreak havoc on our economy, and our individual lives. Where I disagree with the socialist/populists is the solution squeezing some “wealthy” individual based solely on a line on his or her W-2, rather than going after the institutions that we can all agree are profiting from the misery of us all.

  33. Steve Thomas

    “Now that we are done with our “did”, “did not”, “did”, “did not” discussion, we can review your original question: “Can someone who unabashedly states that they are a Democratic Socialist be elected president? ””

    BS,

    You ignore the fact that I answered this question in the affirmative, twice on this thread. You just disagreed with how I arrived at this conclusion, while illustrating why I concluded such.

    As far as Sanders goes, while I disagree with every aspect of his socioeconomic and political philosophy, I do not doubt his sincerity or his integrity. I have searched and cannot find where he’s railed against wall street, while profiting from it, or attacked insurance companies, while taking “foundation” money, or otherwise used his Senatorial power for profit. Mrs. Clinton? She is the epitome of what he’s against.

    In a way, he’s like Jimmy Carter. While I disagreed with just about every one of his policies, I always felt he was an honest man.

    Can he get elected? It would depend on who turns out. I definitely think he will get the younger vote. How much of the “coalition” breaks his way, remains to be seen. He didn’t do himself any favors last night, when he defended Hillary on the email scandal. If he wants to win, he needs to let her clean her own mess. Makes me think there’s a deal..where the two front runners have agreed to add the other as their running mate. Considering the limited field, it would make sense.

  34. Kelly_3406

    @middleman

    Socialism = Mediocrity

    The socialist-leaning European and Scandinavian countries have okay economies, but very few of the innovations that have improved our lives and produced wealth have come from them. iPhones, GPS applications, Google mapping, nano-technologies, drones/robotics were largely the results of capitalism. We have not seen many life-changing innovations emerge from socialist-leaning countries.

    On a personal note, I have a small number of patents. A couple of them hold some promise, but so far, my time, effort, and investment have not been profitable. The bottom line is that I am taking risk and putting in substantial effort. I find it to be quite self serving for people like Bernie Sanders and his supporters to think that if someone’s idea were to become successful, then it would be fair “to spread the wealth”.

    If capitalists/inventors have to share profit with employees who simply work their eight hours and go home, then the incentive to put in the extremely hard work and long hours needed for innovation is greatly reduced. It also creates an incentive to limit the number of employees hired.

    1. I think there is good socialism and bad socialism. For instance, last week I complained about several schools in the country hitting the more affluent parents up for all these school supplies, only to have the school require the parents to dump those supplies in the big melting pot for everyone to use. Oh hell no! I pay taxes and have no kids in school, just grandchildren. Use my tax money for the poor kids. Don’t hit up my daughter for double taxation, which is really what it is.

      Good socialism…education. All kids are educated as an American “right.” It is an investment in our future. Plus, you want a smart work force dumping into social security when you get old. (evil grin) More good socialism–buy basic supplies for all kids to use, rather than forcing parents to buy supplies for kids who aren’t their responsibility.

      Those parents who can afford supplies will buy, those parents who can’t or don’t give a rats ass about their kids not have their kids punished.

  35. BSinVA

    Here are some innovations that originated in NASA – a governmental agency. CAT scanners, computer microchip, cordless tools, ear thermometers, freeze dried food, insulation, invisible braces for teeth, enriched baby food, the joystick, light emitting diodes (LED), memory foam, scratch resistant lens, sole insoles, smoke detectors, solar energy collectors, powdered lubricants, the water filter, space blankets, flame resistant textiles, long distance telecommunications, highway safety grooving, and more.

  36. BSinVA

    Here are some Swedish inventions: Automatic identification systems for tracking ships, the adjustable wrench, HIV tracker, the heart pacemaker, Power Trekk to charge electronic devices, Tetra Pak which eliminated glass milk bottles, the three-point seat belt, ultrasound imaging, the zipper, and more.

    Here are some Danish innovations: the loudspeaker, the dry cell, insulin, the ostomy bag, the Lego brick, the fiber scope, and more.

  37. Scout

    I spend a lot of time in Norway. Of course, one can’t generalize very accurately about these things, but, for that country, their brand of socialism seems to work rather well and has general popular support. There is really no mainstream movement to dismantle the health care system, the transit agencies, the national education system etc. The standard of living is very high, probably much higher on a national basis than in the United States, the quality of health care, top to bottom, is statistically better than in the United States, the education system seems to function better and I think that can be statistically verified by the usual standard test comparisons. A Norwegian/American doctor friend, who has practiced in both countries, told me that he would far rather go from infancy to old age in the Norwegian health system than that of the US, but was careful to say that there were exotic diseases (e.g., rare cancers), that can be better treated in the US.

    Norway has tremendous oil wealth from the North Sea fields. Their system might not work as well without that wealth. The direct tax burden would be too high if they could not rely on that source of revenue (and the fields are being depleted – they know that it is a finite resource). That money is carefully managed and invested by the Government in special funds. Some of it is plowed back into infrastructure investments (roads, bridges, transit projects) that will pay back well over time. That kind of thing makes American infrastructure look absolutely Third World, at best. The government people I know, whether civil servants or politicians, tend to be extremely well-educated and, of necessity, aware of the rest of the world, far more so than one finds in this country. They are very well trained to provide effective management and governance, something that one doesn’t see much of in the U.S. these days, I fear.

    High tech industries thrive. Banking, Insurance work on an international scale out of Oslo. Again, like every other country, this is a special case, but one should not assume that socialism, in the sense of substantial government ownership and management of a wide range of elements of a modern economy, cannot exist in a vibrant, democratic, society that places high value on individual liberties.

  38. Cato the Elder

    se·di·tion
    səˈdiSH(ə)n/
    noun
    conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.

    Nothing new for the democrat party, unfortunately.

  39. BSinVA

    non se-qui-tur
    /, non ‘sekwadar
    noun
    a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.

    Nothing new for Cato the Elder, unfortunately.

  40. middleman

    BS, you beat me to it. There are a plethora of inventions and new technology that came from the bad old government and then led to American business making a fortune off of them. The Internet and a myriad of medical breakthroughs from NIH come immediately to mind along with those BS named. I personally think that’s great- capitalism and government (or socialism, if you prefer) working together for the good of all. The problem is when the system gets out of whack like it is now.

    I’m frankly amazed that some people honestly seem to think that if folks are payed a living wage it will somehow kill innovation and investment. It didn’t seem to do that when America was a manufacturing juggernaught and expanding at a record rate from 1945 to 1980. Whatever happened to paying folks enough to actually buy the products they make? Wouldn’t that boost the economy?

    1. He beat me too it also, Middleman. I had put up a NASA comment, saw BS’s and took mine down.

  41. Kelly_3406

    I am well aware of technologies developed by NASA and the Scandinavian countries. But you are completely missing the point.

    Technology development consists of two key parts. The first is the initial R&D, which is conducted by governments and private enterprise. The second part is consumer product development and marketing, which are mostly done by private enterprise. New technology is not worth much until it is developed into a marketable product. There are new technologies that sit on the shelf forever, because no one has turned them into useful products. It takes someone with some vision and creativity to come up with a practical product or service.

    An example of this was GPS. Satellite navigation existed for years to support military operations, but no one in government conceived of any consumer uses of GPS. It was not until capitalists got involved that we saw an explosion of innovative new technologies that have changed our lives.

    There is also a large number of technologies that capitalists have attempted to refine into profitable consumer products, but failed. This failure rate is what makes technology development risky. It often takes many tries and lots of money before something becomes successful. When governments drive the cost of innovation too high (high taxes, over regulation, expensive labor), then innovation stagnates because the higher costs make it less likely that an investor will ever get his money back.

    This is why socialist countries tend to be less innovative. High taxation removes money from the economy that might otherwise be used on new product development. Because of this, technology that has emerged from Scandinavian countries is much less extensive than it could be.

    The main reason that you have heard of the innovations listed above from NASA is because an individual or company found a practical use for them. There are many, many more NASA inventions that you have not heard of, because no practical consumer use was ever found.

    1. Yet….

      Most countries, including our own, are hybrids, in my opinion. Comparing the countries behind the iron curtain to us or other modern European countries–no contest.

      However, I don’t think of health care or education for all as being socialist. I just see those things as the mark of a civilized society.

  42. Kelly_3406

    @Moon-howler

    In principle, I agree with you. It is not socialism for government to promote the arts and sciences. Education should be promoted also. It is part of what government is supposed to do.

    The encroaching socialism that I object to is the “share the wealth” viewpoint that leads to high taxes for corporations and investors. The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. The U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 for economic freedom in terms of investment and free enterprise. On top of that, there is now a global market place for labor. The U.S. worker is expensive, but highly productive. But when you add in increasing costs for U.S. labor (living wage, Obamacare?), it is not surprising that U.S. employment has stagnated.

    And then you have Bernie Sanders who thinks the answer to these problems is … more socialism? That’s crazy talk.

    1. The US wages have been stagnant for the past 40 years. I don’t think we can say that has been Obamacare driven.

      I also agree that share the wealth can have a bad meaning. Then there is the contra side to that expression. If you have a really bad class in education, you might propose sharing the wealth…splitting some of the little devils up and distributing them across the grade level.

      On the other hand, I feel I should be taxed higher than some indigent person, and less than a person out making an exceptional salary at the height of his or her production. (not to sound like Lenin) US companies also figure out how to get around paying taxes. Methinks that some of the high tax rate is purely theoretical because large corporations can escape it. Now, where I think it hurts is the small business owner.

      Do you not think it is obscene that the CEO of Anthem made 10 million bucks annually? I do. I also think that it is obscene that the superintendent makes 5 or 6 times more than the average teacher. I honestly can’t see the justification. The average teacher probably works 5 or 6 times harder in a day.

  43. middleman

    @Kelly_3406

    Except that U.S. employment hasn’t stagnated. In relation to most of the world we’re doing great. And while the U.S. may have the highest corporate tax rate, the actual corporate taxes paid are much lower due to designed-in tax deductions, with a net tax level below many other countries. And in your earlier post you’re ignoring all the innovations from more socialistic countries that are listed above while claiming that socialistic countries are less innovative. The fact that your assertions are demonstrably false obviously undercuts your arguments.

    Apple has announced that it will begin issuing stock to its lower level employees as it does to its executives. This is how companies can hit two goals at once- incentivize workers to be more productive because they have a piece of the pie, and raise income at the same time. This has been shown to work on numerous occasions.

    We’re really talking about two different issues here- I’m talking about paying folks more for the productivity gains they’ve helped produce, and you’re talking about taxes. Look, if you want to argue that we still have too many folks taking advantage of welfare who should be working I’m right there with you. But one way to affect that is to have the lower-end jobs pay enough that it’s not more remunerative to NOT work. If you can lay around the shanty and make more than working forty a week many folks will choose to lay around. We need to attack both ends- better pay for work AND less “free stuff.”

    1. Companies that offer incentives always win in the long run. Starbucks has benefits for part time employees as well as college incentives. They also have a 401k program for baristas and shift managers. Incentives such as these produce a stronger work force. Plus…and this is big…it incentivizes (I hate that word) young people to plan for their retirement. Look at how many older people really have nothing to rely on but their social security.

  44. Kelly_3406

    The US has its highest non-participation employment rate since the 1970s. The only sector in the US that has seen job growth is immigrants. I would call that stagnant.

    My assertions are NOT demonstrably false. Go back and read the list of innovations for Scandinavian countries and then read this (incomplete) list: automobiles, airplanes, telephone and telegraph, record player/phonograph, incandescent light bulb, electronic television, personal computer, Internet, PC modem, satellite communications, cell phone, lasers, GPS, duct tape, iPod, automatic surveillance/ID of aircraft (ADS-B). These are society-changing innovations.

    Surely you can recognize that the scale of innovation from the Scandinavian countries is not even close. The U.S. has probably been an order of magnitude above its nearest competitors historically in terms of innovation. My point is that we may be in danger of losing that edge.

    I am not against Apple, or any other company, finding better ways to reward its work force. Apple has to compete for top talent, just as workers have to compete for the good jobs. What I am against is for the government to make profit-sharing mandatory. Our government has history of taking a practice that makes good sense for a particular company or industry, and making it mandatory for all employers to the detriment of the economy.

  45. Kelly_3406

    Moon-howler :
    The US wages have been stagnant for the past 40 years. I don’t think we can say that has been Obamacare driven.

    Obamacare is just the latest in a series of costs that exert downward pressure on US wages. I am no expert, but it looks to me like wages stagnated at about the time that the US economy became globalized. Cheaper goods and labor became available from the Japanese in the 80s, the Koreans in the 90s, and now the Chinese in the 2000s. There is also substantial labor competition in India. I bet companies do not have to pay for Obamacare-like expenses in India and China.

    1. When I was a kid all sorts of cheap junk had made in Japan on it. It was the quality kiss of death.

  46. Steve Thomas

    @Kelly_3406
    “New technology is not worth much until it is developed into a marketable product.”

    BINGO!: A great example is the “minute magnetron”, developed during WW2. which enabled radar to be placed aboard military aircraft. This eventually enabled air-to-air missiles, which revolutionized air-combat in the supersonic jet-age. This was a joint-public/private effort, part of the “military/industrial complex”, with Raytheon being a principle developer.

    These contractors further developed the technology, for use aboard civilian aircraft, as jet-travel became commonplace, improving safety.

    But the BIGGEST boon to the consumer market was when a Raytheon technician realized that radar waves passing through certain substances generated heat. A commercial division of Raytheon, Amana, developed the 1st “Radar Range”, and thus introduced the world to the “microwave oven”.

    To claim “the government” gave us this, is a false argument. The government is a customer, and forms a market. Certain technologies are developed to meet the particular demands of market-segment, and others developed to meet a consumer market. Rarely has the government had a great idea for some technological development, turned to industry and said “hey, here’s the plans…build this”.

    Usually, bright thinkers, inventors, and academics conducting theoretical research, happen upon something by accident. What takes it from theory to practical solution, is demand. War can create a tremendous demand for innovation, as well as can general human need. Did the government have the idea for the light-bulb, vacuum tube, phonograph, telephone, or radio? No. What it did was create a demand, just like any other market-customer. It just so happens that it also has money, tax money, that it can also make meeting the demand profitable for companies. Socialism and Communism weight the demand to the government, at the expense of the consumer, or citizens.

    Look at the Soviet Union. The state owned the means of production, and prioritized the needs of the “collective”. They had plenty of money for arms, and to fund a space-program. They ran state activities that trained people in the arts, sports, medicine, etc. But couldn’t provide for the most basic needs of the people. Having a world-class ballet means nothing when you can’t get toilet paper, your state housing is falling apart, or in the extreme, when you are bathed in radiation and forcibly evacuated. Look at the PRC. They remained a backward, 3rd-rate economic power, until they adopted certain aspects of evil capitalism, and further began courting western capitalists with promises of cheap labor….making cheap products, of cheap quality. Japan too, with the Zaibatsu partnership of Government/Industry initially grew at an exponential rate.

    Yet, the Soviet Union collapsed, Japan is stuck in perpetual recession, and China is showing signs of economic instability today, and there are questions as to whether or not their new middle and upper class can generate sufficient native demand to sustain a contracting economy.

    1. I think it’s a delicate balance. Unbridled, capitalists are governed by greed and feel good. I always go back to the freaking railroads arranging the buffalo expeditions where entire herds were decimated. Soon the buffalo were near extinction. It took the government intervention to bring the buffalo herds back.

      Looking at the most devastating weapon ever known to man. Who did that? The govt was certainly behind it. They also tapped into the intelligentsia of the nation. Today, how much of our electricity is generated by nuclear power?

      Just a few thoughts….

  47. Steve Thomas

    What concerns me most is how mathematically-challenged the American Socialists are. Bernie Sanders has proposed trillions of dollars in social-spending, and his funding source is “tax the rich”. You could tax the wealthiest 25% in this county at 100%, and wouldn’t even come close to funding all of the spending he’s talking about.

    There was a time when that “delicate balance” may have existed (immediately following WW2), but I would argue the more “socialist” we’ve become, the poorer we’ve grown. And to add insult to injury, certain groups (including some capitalists) want to import poor, uneducated citizens of other countries, and set them up here, all the while giving them public dollars in the form of housing, food, healthcare subsidies, a “free” public education….like being pecked to death by a duck.

    1. I believe most immigrants come here fairly poor. It’s the immigrant way. Most work hard and by 2nd generation, are strongly middle class.

  48. middleman

    @Steve Thomas
    “The more socialist we’ve become, the poorer we’ve grown.”

    Depends on who you define as “we,” and what date you pick for the onslaught of “socialism.” If you start with the New Deal, we raised the standard of living substantially and created the middle class in the period after with the help of housing assistance, college assistance, strong unions, government infrastructure project construction, etc. If you pick the initiation of the Great Society, we had 15 years of strong real income growth to follow.

    On the other hand, the middle class has lost ground since the 1980’s, coinciding with “trickle down.” If you define “we” as middle class working folks, they’ve fared much better after so-called “socialist” policies than supply – side schemes.

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