The Scurge(?) or Scourge(?) of Socialism

Scurge: Like being the scum of the earth, when there is nothing worse than you. (No, the tea potty is not a good example. There are actually a couple of things in the world that are worse.)

Scourge: A cause of affliction or calamity. (This is where the tea potty is a good example.)

Socialism: A system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.(And one more definition, just for balance)

Plutocracy: Government by the wealthy.  (Coming soon to a Grouchy post near you.)In doing research for the tea potty series, I ran into their use of the term “socialism” a hell of a lot.

At first I wondered which type of socialism they were referring to. A lot of them seem to associate Nazism with Socialism. That’s probably because the official title for Hitler’s political movement was the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei aka National Socialist German Workers’ Party. (By the same reasoning, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a democratic republic.) The Nazis were fascists. There’s a huge difference.

Of course, a lot of baggers seem to think that socialism is communism. (Well, after all, there was The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics aka Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик.) To be fair, I’ll give them a half point on this one. Communism is socialism gone to extremes and then perverted. (Much like evangelicals are Christians gone to extremes and then perverted.)

I didn’t notice too many baggers railing against market socialism. (That’s the type practiced in the People’s Republic of China aka 中国.)

There were, however, a large number that railed against European socialism i.e. democratic socialism.

I finally came to the conclusion that most baggers were too damned ignorant to accurately define socialism if their lives depended on it.

All this socialist name calling did get me a bit curious, so I decided to check a few things out.

In looking around the world, the viable model for modern socialism is most likely democratic socialism. Market socialism will only last as long as the current Chinese regime lasts. And, to be honest, I give it six months to 20 years at the longest. (For various reasons, probably more like 8 -15 years.)

The most reliably democratic socialist countries are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. And, just for good measure, I’ll throw in our northern neighbor. (After all, they have socialized medicine among other left-wing maladies.) So, let’s take a look at the horrors of socialism that baggers dread so much:

All of these countries have a major public safety net that includes universal health care and pensions for retired citizens. As a result, Iceland has a below poverty line rate of 1.2%. Norway has a rate of 4.3%. Finland’s rate is 6.3% and Canada has  9.4%. The U.S. has 15.1% living below the poverty line.

The workers have greater input due to much higher union membership. Sweden has 82% and leads the world in percentage of union membership. Denmark and Finland are tied for 2nd place with 76% In 4th place, Norway has 57%. Canada comes in at 9th with 30%. The U.S. is down at #17 with 11.9%.

This is reflected in the ratio between income levels of the top 10% and the bottom 10%: Finland 5.6; Norway 6.1; Sweden 6.2; Denmark 8.1; Canada 9.4; U.S. 15.9.

Sure you damned facist, commie, socio….whatever. With wealth confiscation and tight government control of the economy you kill all incentive to succeed.

Despite what the baggers believe, every one of these countries have free trade economies. They also have little product market regulation. (There goes another right-wing myth.)

To top it off, the level of perception of government corruption is among the lowest in the world: Denmark is #2; Finland is #3; Sweden is #4; Norway is #6; Canada is #10; Iceland is #13 and the U.S. is #24.

Ok, but what about taxes, Taxes, TAXES. These poor people are taxed to death!

Yes, taxes are high in these countries. Overall tax burdens as a percentage of GDP are among the world’s highest. Denmark has an “out-of-pocket” rate of 48.2%; Sweden’s is 46.4%; Finland is 43.1%; Iceland’s is 41.4%; Norway’s is 41.0%; Canada is 31.1% and the U.S. pays 24.0%.

HOWEVER, in a twist of the old adage, “You pay for what you get.”: If you factor in health costs alone, that 24% “out-of-pocket” we pay jumps to 38.5%. (We pay more for health care than any country in the world. But, in health care results, we’re only #37.) Then, if you factor in the other benefits those countries provide (pensions that make S.S. look chintzy; free education including books, from primary up to post-graduate studies, etc.) our “out-of-pocket” rate jumps a hell of a lot higher.

Hey fella, Forget about that cheap education shit. We’ve got the best educational system in the world. Those puny countries just can’t compete with us.

Sorry, at the risk of boring you with more stats, we get our ass handed to us by these “puny” countries. For instance, Finland is #1 in math, #1 in science & #2 in reading. We’re #27, #22 and #33 respectively. For the rest of the scores, check out the above link.

And finally, I wondered how all this affected the citizens of the democratic socialist countries. 24/7 Wall St (not exactly a liberal or socialist organization) did a study of the happiest countries in the world. Five of these countries: Denmark (#1), Canada (#2), Norway (#3), Sweden (#6) and Finland (#8) made the to 10. The U.S. didn’t make the cut.

Ok, I get the picture. You just want to make this country look bad.

No, I just let the numbers speak for themselves. Actually, I was completely surprised when I started researching. And yes, we are #1 in some areas. The U.S. does lead the world in military spending, arms shipments to unstable countries, prison occupation and the previously mentioned health care costs. There are a lot more world rankings on sites like this one, but this post is rather stat-heavy as it is.

So, we should all turn into damned socialists? Is that it bunkie?

Not necessarily. This is not a one size fits all world. Or even a one size fits all country. However there is a lot to be admired in the way the Nordic countries pull it off. And, there’s more than one thing worth copying, such as single payer universal health, and free education as far as it can take you.

Of course, the “stupid states” would probably try to secede from the U.S.. And, this time it might be better to let them go. They’ve been trying to drag us down to their level far too long.

In the mean time, don’t worry baggers. For those of you that are still frightened to death by the merest whiff of socialism, I have help for you. It’s even in comic strip form, so hopefully your lazy minds can grasp it.Grouchy



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