Socialism vs equal opportunity

If you look to American popular opinion, you might think that socialism is an altogether bad form of governing. Or you could be led to believe that it opposes the American Dream. The American Dream is the notion that any American citizen, given some effort, can become successful and rich. It is quite clear that this notion is a fallacy, certainly today, and presumably in the past. Some from the lower rank succeeds, typically in showbiz, but most don’t. The American dream has become a Pipe Dream.

According to Richard Wilkinson though, it may be possible to find the American Dream in Denmark. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and this is a clear pudding indeed. There is an overwhelming correlation between inequality in a society, and its social issues (murder rate, health issues, etc). Inequality is measured as how much richer the richest (20%) are than the poorest. And the inequality is huge in America.

But how do these concepts relate? Socialism is not really well defined, for that it has had too many interpretations over the years, with communism being the one dragging socialism into the mud (for some). Modern and pragmatic socialism as practiced in the Scandinavian countries isn’t very much like these older varieties. Some aspects, such as industry controlled by the government, is part of what the socialist parties fight for, but other socialist activities, such as public school, are agreed upon by all parties.

So how can it be that Denmark (and Norway and Sweden) as mostly socialist countries makes it easier to fulfill your dreams? Because social programs aren’t there to pull everyone down to the same level, but to in fact aim for equal opportunity.

An important success criteria for many will be proper education. Without deep knowledge of a particular subject, you’re not likely to be successful. E.g, a computer programmer needs deep knowledge on programming computers. Some will argue that it is better to be self taught, but that is questionable in my opinion. Those that are self-taught and successful, wouldn’t have been less successful if they learnt the same at University. And even if you are self-taught, there is a cost. A social study program will thus provide for cheap studies for most or all professions. In Europe this typically means that there are no tuition costs, and you only need student loans and stipends for your living costs. The same argumentation can be used on other levels of school – some may benefit from home schooling or similar, but most won’t or can’t, and unless school is provided for all, equal opportunities regarding a successful professional life won’t be present.

Other social programs have similar effects. Unemployment programs, social programs for those that are sick and cheap/free health care all provide individuals with the opportunity to fail or be unlucky in life, or the victim of less ethical financial movers. In total the effect of all these social programs seems to be both that the people living here are more equal in economical terms, and they have all, in general, equal opportunities.’

If you fight against social programs, as seems to be part of the ideology of the Tea Party movement, you also fight for more inequality, and in consequence, even more thourough social issues – more violence, worse health and so on. Is that what you want? You can argue yourself blue on the merits of various ideologies, but look at the facts, socialist programs works.

As an end note; having socialist programs doesn’t necessarily mean a socialist state, in fact I argue that they work better with a more market oriented state. This can be seen in Norway, where the state is too socialist leading to inefficient implementation of the programs (highly bureaucratic, very expensive), partially fueled by our oil driven economy.

  • http://profiles.google.com/ronaldmcoker Matt C

    I think it’s important to look at systems, especially in Europe, as being Social Democratic (or Democratic Socialist) instead of just “socialist.” Although there are plenty of democratic societies where regular socialist parties exist (aiming for very little to almost no private ownership), many societies in Europe are comprised partially of Social Democratic parties. Usually, in the case of countries like Germany, these parties embrace a welfare state, benefits for more people, and general promotion of equality, although the SPD has been accused of being influenced too much by money and since the 1960s or 1970s has gone further towards the middle relative to more Marxist socialist policies. Regardless of that, both the CDU/CSU and the SPD in Germany can generally be seen as being left of Republicans and Democrats respectively here. Social Democracy usually is considered reformed democracy, with emphasis on social programs and protections of minority rights. My belief is that we should get rid of the Republican party in the US completely, and allow the Democrats to be the conservative party here, with social democrats and greens being the opposition.