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Author Topic: The word 'socialism' in the context of Europe  (Read 1722 times)
Mittlyle
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June 24, 2011, 10:43:37 PM
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Funny thing that comes around reading political and economical literature is the use of word socialism. It is commonly used by writer with US background when discussing European countries and their economies, usually criticising the welfare model. Socialism as word is seldom used in europe and when it is, its mostly associated with communism in historical context. Socialism by definition stands for economic system in which means of production are in public ownership. I think both uses in a sense match the definition but there's a great difference! State owned enterprise working under the principles of capitalism is quite different than factory running under Soviet system.

I'd like ask fellow bitcoiners how do you define and perceive socialism and do you think it's generally bad policy or good. Is it really a describing term to welfare states? Also, if you think welfare state is a bad model, what do you think of the recent economical succes of, say Sweden, despite the economic crisis?
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June 24, 2011, 10:44:58 PM
 #2

Socialism is lovely when guns aren't used to sustain it.
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June 25, 2011, 12:33:46 AM
 #3

The word "Socialism" is an "anti-concept" as far as I'm concerned...

Quote from: Ayn Rand
An anti-concept is an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding. But in the realm of cognition, nothing is as bad as the approximate...

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smellyBobby
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June 25, 2011, 02:03:26 AM
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I think that the word socialism has been used as a decoy from the more important elements of discussion about a political system and the results achieved by these countries. I grew up taught that communism is evil an socialism will never work. But if look at these so called "Socialist" countries on nearly every objective metric they have outperformed all capitalist countries. I believe the word Socialism and the negative associations that are carried with are nothing more than a distraction, preventing real reform and change from occurring in countries where people desperately want it.

By using the word socialism in the context of describing the outcomes achieved in countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, it allows media to simply dismiss these achievements as illegitimate, as an outlier that should be ignored. Good luck trying to sell liberalism in these countries.

I think that people have overlooked some counter-intuitive outcomes of having a large state. The public sector employs a significant proportion of the population in these countries. This has forced the public sector to become very efficient to justify their high tax rate. If the public sector does not perform then voters will simply choose a more "liberal" party. So the public sector has strong incentives to perform well, they are held accountable to the collective market known as the electorate. Secondly by making the public sector bigger, more people are apart of the "monopoly on force". Some might argue "why would you want more people to have a monopoly on force?", simple they are more likely to perform in the interests of the community. Every person that works in the government will know at-least another two who work in the private sector. This strong interconnectedness between the public and private sectors encourages both to pursue outcomes that will benefit both groups.

The other element that is addressed well is the flattening of the human hierarchy. Their education system is comprehensive, but also forces children to be taught together. In Sweden home-schooling is rarely allowed, they want people to be apart of the group.  So by the time people leave university, you have a group of people that are strongly interconnected, well-educated and this is available to everyone regardless of your socioeconomic circumstances. Freedom of expression laws are some of the strongest in this region of the world.

So there is a population of highly educated and strongly interconnected individuals combined with free-access to information holding their institutions to account.

When faced with external threats, once again the community of strongly interconnected and highly educated individuals are more likely to survive. Look at how Sweden managed World War 2. It was a country basically next to Germany and was not occupied by Allied or Axis forces. They obviously know how to play RTS. That is a government truly looking after its people.

The next obvious question is, well how come other communist / socialist countries have not achieved this outcome? It's because of the transparency and accountability factors. Look at China and look at America the common person suffers from the same problem, disconnect between the top and the bottom. IMO the ideology in place has little to do with it. I believe that most people are reasonable if they have adequate access to the correct information, they will eventually make the right choice.

They have strong Justice Dragons that are constantly watched and frequently punished.

BTW I see very little difference between anarchism and communism, both are lawless and rely on people conforming to social norms without being held explicitly accountable.

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June 25, 2011, 02:23:49 AM
 #5

By using the word socialism in the context of describing the outcomes achieved in countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark...

Small, local almost decentralized states. Of course it works for them.

I'm done here.
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June 25, 2011, 02:38:39 AM
 #6

By using the word socialism in the context of describing the outcomes achieved in countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark...

Small, local almost decentralized states. Of course it works for them.

I'm done here.

Yeah, it's amazing how many times the small decentralized states of the Nordic region are used as examples of big government.  People forget that folks in the US have to deal with both oppressive state and federal governments.  European citizens don't have to worry about an overarching oppressive federal behemoth EU just yet...

Anyway, what is the tl;dr summary of your post, smellyBobby?  I just saw the first bold phrase, "they are held accountable to the collective market known as the electorate", which doesn't even make sense since it is so perverse.  Voting is the opposite of voluntary trade.  Voting is stealing from your neighbors.  Voting is forcing debt onto the unborn future generations.  Voting is coercion.

"We will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.

Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks, but pure P2P networks are holding their own."
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June 25, 2011, 02:38:41 AM
 #7

State owned enterprise working under the principles of capitalism

This is a logical impossibility.

"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent meetings and conferences. The apex of the systems was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, a private bank owned and controlled by the world's central banks which were themselves private corporations. Each central bank...sought to dominate its government by its ability to control Treasury loans, to manipulate foreign exchanges, to influence the level of economic activity in the country, and to influence cooperative politicians by subsequent economic rewards in the business world."

- Carroll Quigley, CFR member, mentor to Bill Clinton, from 'Tragedy And Hope'
smellyBobby
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June 25, 2011, 02:41:14 AM
 #8



Decentralized? So they don't have central governments?

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smellyBobby
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June 25, 2011, 02:45:57 AM
 #9

Anyway, what is the tl;dr summary of your post, smellyBobby?  I just saw the first bold phrase, "they are held accountable to the collective market known as the electorate", which doesn't even make sense since it is so perverse.  Voting is the opposite of voluntary trade.  Voting is stealing from your neighbors.  Voting is forcing debt onto the unborn future generations.  Voting is coercion.

Sure just like people misuse the word violent, I have misused the word market.

Coercion is apart of life. My mind is under the coercion of my stomach to get food. Get use to it.

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June 25, 2011, 02:49:40 AM
 #10

...Also, if you think welfare state is a bad model, what do you think of the recent economical succes of, say Sweden, despite the economic crisis?
Sweden and it's neighbors get away with projecting an image of happy, successful socialism, but I think their "free" medical care is to die for.

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LastBattle
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June 25, 2011, 02:51:21 AM
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I think that the word socialism has been used as a decoy from the more important elements of discussion about a political system and the results achieved by these countries. I grew up taught that communism is evil an socialism will never work. But if look at these so called "Socialist" countries on nearly every objective metric they have outperformed all capitalist countries. I believe the word Socialism and the negative associations that are carried with are nothing more than a distraction, preventing real reform and change from occurring in countries where people desperately want it.

By using the word socialism in the context of describing the outcomes achieved in countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, it allows media to simply dismiss these achievements as illegitimate, as an outlier that should be ignored. Good luck trying to sell liberalism in these countries.

I think that people have overlooked some counter-intuitive outcomes of having a large state. The public sector employs a significant proportion of the population in these countries. This has forced the public sector to become very efficient to justify their high tax rate. If the public sector does not perform then voters will simply choose a more "liberal" party. So the public sector has strong incentives to perform well, they are held accountable to the collective market known as the electorate. Secondly by making the public sector bigger, more people are apart of the "monopoly on force". Some might argue "why would you want more people to have a monopoly on force?", simple they are more likely to perform in the interests of the community. Every person that works in the government will know at-least another two who work in the private sector. This strong interconnectedness between the public and private sectors encourages both to pursue outcomes that will benefit both groups.

The other element that is addressed well is the flattening of the human hierarchy. Their education system is comprehensive, but also forces children to be taught together. In Sweden home-schooling is rarely allowed, they want people to be apart of the group.  So by the time people leave university, you have a group of people that are strongly interconnected, well-educated and this is available to everyone regardless of your socioeconomic circumstances. Freedom of expression laws are some of the strongest in this region of the world.

So there is a population of highly educated and strongly interconnected individuals combined with free-access to information holding their institutions to account.

When faced with external threats, once again the community of strongly interconnected and highly educated individuals are more likely to survive. Look at how Sweden managed World War 2. It was a country basically next to Germany and was not occupied by Allied or Axis forces. They obviously know how to play RTS. That is a government truly looking after its people.

The next obvious question is, well how come other communist / socialist countries have not achieved this outcome? It's because of the transparency and accountability factors. Look at China and look at America the common person suffers from the same problem, disconnect between the top and the bottom. IMO the ideology in place has little to do with it. I believe that most people are reasonable if they have adequate access to the correct information, they will eventually make the right choice.

They have strong Justice Dragons that are constantly watched and frequently punished.

BTW I see very little difference between anarchism and communism, both are lawless and rely on people conforming to social norms without being held explicitly accountable.


Haven't I already covered this in the other thread? Sweden has had virtually no private sector growth since 1950, high unemployment, games the statistics through loopholes like absurdly long "sick leaves", has had very few innovations or competitive businesses since 1950, and very nearly crashed before non-Social Democrats briefly made huge reforms.

Norway, first of all, isn't especially socialist (they have a populist/libertarian opposition party and I recall it is actually skeptical of AGW)), and secondly is able to fund itself through oil exports. You may notice a similar situation in Saudi Arabia: Lots of rich unemployed young men living off of oil money that the Saudis spread around to keep people from overthrowing them. Saudi Arabia, despite this, is not a good example to emulate.

Denmark is (A) very small, (B) definitively not as socialistic as Sweden and (C) makes up for what extremely socialist policies it has with extremely free market policies on the opposite end to make up.

Finland isn't especially prosperous.

Hey, if you want real examples of prosperity, look at Estonia and Hong Kong.

Also, the "collective power of the electorate" argument doesn't fly; in effect, everyone is in a majority in some way but in a minority in another. Thus, people in these "ideal" European states end up using the power of the state to loot the guy next door because he happens to be unfortunate enough to belong to a group that is outnumbered by the public at large, yet the aforementioned people all become targets in some way or another. Maybe they are "filthy foreigners" (you will notice that racism is a far larger issue in most of Europe than in freer places like Hong Kong, seeing as how racism is unprofitable in a free society but functions as a way to find an easy target for robbing under a welfare state), maybe they are rich (but not super-rich, since they have the power to control governments regardless of the electorate and if worse comes to worse they will just pass costs down to the consumers), maybe they happen to be skilled at something. Whatever the case, everyone ends up robbing everyone, and the only way it can end is with mass chaos. I believe the term is "legalized looting"

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June 25, 2011, 03:47:39 AM
 #12

Haven't I already covered this in the other thread?


Nope.



Hey, if you want real examples of prosperity, look at Estonia and Hong Kong.




http://www.google.com/publicdata?ds=z9a8a3sje0h8ii_&met_y=unemployment_rate&idim=eu_country:SE&dl=en&hl=en&q=sweden+unemployment#ctype=l&strail=false&nselm=h&met_y=unemployment_rate&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=country_group&idim=eu_country:SE:EE&hl=en&dl=en

BTW This is called a graph let me know if anyone needs me to explain what it is.


And Hong Kong  is a decent example of something that works. But does not enjoy the social freedoms that the Nordic countries do. One thing that HK and the Nordic countries have in common is their comprehensive education system.

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June 25, 2011, 04:16:06 AM
 #13

OMG, this is about to turn into one of those threads where each side presents graphs and statistics for the same metric yet somehow manage to directly contradict eachother!  How could it even be possible!!  Huh

"We will not find a solution to political problems in cryptography, but we can win a major battle in the arms race and gain a new territory of freedom for several years.

Governments are good at cutting off the heads of a centrally controlled networks, but pure P2P networks are holding their own."
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June 25, 2011, 04:19:32 AM
 #14

OMFG Right!!!!! Their actually like going to like use facts!!!!!!!! So cool, yeah!!!!!!!!

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Anonymous
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June 25, 2011, 04:42:44 AM
 #15

OMFG Right!!!!! Their actually like going to like use facts!!!!!!!! So cool, yeah!!!!!!!!
Sure, unemployment might be lower but what does it actually mean?

More people are employed to useless paper-pushing jobs?
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June 25, 2011, 06:01:39 AM
 #16

I actually already covered this, but I suppose I just have to stop being lazy and repeat my infodump:

Yeah, Sweden.
Quote
http://www.economist.com/node/7880173
Quote
In truth, the Swedish economy's best years are long gone. Between 1870 and 1950, average growth in Swedish GDP and productivity was, by some measures, the fastest in the world. In 1970 Sweden was the fourth-richest member of the OECD club of industrial countries. But for most of the past 50 years the story has been one of relative decline, including a deep recession in the early 1990s (see chart 1). By 1998 Sweden had fallen to 16th in the OECD rankings. It has since climbed back a bit, but the relatively strong growth of the past decade should be seen mainly as a rebound from the 1990s trough.
Quote
Set against this are two big weaknesses. The worst is employment. Par Nuder, the finance minister, makes much of Sweden's having the highest employment rate in the European Union after Denmark, at just over 70%. The official unemployment rate is 6%. But Sweden is a world champion at massaging its jobless figures, which exclude those in government make-work programmes, those forced into early retirement and students who would prefer to be working. Sweden's suspiciously large number of workers on long-term sick leave are counted as working, and included in the employment rate (sickness benefits account for 16% of public spending). Absenteeism is common.

Quote
Earlier this year the McKinsey Global Institute, a think-tank, studied Sweden's labour market. It found that the rate of employment among working-age people had declined in the past decade. Indeed, Magnus Henrekson of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics says that Sweden has created almost no net private-sector jobs since 1950* (see chart 2). Youth unemployment is among the highest in Europe. The McKinsey boffins conclude that the “true” unemployment rate is around 15-17%, which puts Sweden among the worst job-fillers in the EU. It translates into more than 1m people without work.
Quote
But the biggest problem for immigrants, as for young Swedes, is work. A study of comparable Somali groups in Sweden and Minnesota found that less than a third of working-age Somalis in Sweden had jobs, half the share in Minnesota.

In other words, Sweden has had no actual growth in the private sector since 1950 and is living off of past prosperity caused by no wars and low government spending.

Yeah, great example of success.
----

Okay, official unemployment is low. That isn't so hard to achieve when the Swedish government actually pays people to do nothing so as to push the unemployment rate down (if you want, I can get off my lazy ass again and source that, too) and provides enough subsidies for employment that a large portion of the work force is on "sick leave" most of the time yet the employers gain the difference in productivity from government cash. I believe Japan has a similar system with its employers and Japan certainly isn't in good shape.

Unemployment could be pushed to practically zero if the government rounded up all unemployed and had them construct a massive pyramid, but employment in itself isn't indicative of prosperity. Jobs are a means, not the ends in themselves. People work to live better, to put food on the shelves. Real growth means production of what people demand, which is entrepreneurship, not your central plan.

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Mittlyle
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June 25, 2011, 07:54:32 AM
 #17

By using the word socialism in the context of describing the outcomes achieved in countries like Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark...

Small, local almost decentralized states. Of course it works for them.

I'm done here.
This is exactly my point. I find it interesting how exactly same arguments are used against US government intervention and far smaller european countries. To be honest I see many problems with European system as strong governments tend to spill money to inefficiencies (just as criticised) in addition to reasonal uses of centralisation (imo). The size is definitely one of the key things here; small government is far more likely to function well as it's not colossaly slow to adopt. The logical question that has to be asked here is that if small functions better that big, what about even smaller or even non-existant? Another question is how big should the government be relative to size of the governed.

State owned enterprise working under the principles of capitalism

This is a logical impossibility.
I don't see any problem here. State owned enterprise functions just as any other enterprise: the objective is to make profit for shareholders (in this case the biggest owner is state) and market remains free to competition if thats viable in that market. The only difference I can think of is that there is no need for constantly aim for short-term profit to please shareholders as state is more for long term results. And I think thats just positive thing for the market. State owned enterprises have been criticised for being inefficient but thats just about lack of competition in fields that have historiacally been so called natural monpolies (water-supply for example). Monopoly by short-term-profit-only company would be much worse for all. The privatizing fever that has struck the world has shown many examples of this.

To go back to the case of Sweden, I'd like to point out that the high unemployment in a sense is a made decision. Welfare removes incentive to work for low wage thus resulting in lower supply of workforce. This naturally leads to higher unemployment. However the same welfare (in other forms like health and education) can be thought as invested capital which results in higher-paid works being sustainable. I'm not saying this would definitely be better than unregulated model with minimal unemployment, but I think it leads to more egaliterian outcome and is thus justifiable from certain set of values.
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June 25, 2011, 08:11:11 AM
 #18

It's much more complicated than simple left vs right. There are so many flavours.

For example, you cannot compare North Korean "self-reliance" juche ideology with the mass-immigration, globalist, outsourcing of labour (whether at home or abroad), high dependency welfare state (but with people sat on their arse) policies of the European left.

I personally think that the latter is far more damaging.
Anonymous
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June 25, 2011, 08:12:24 AM
 #19

It's much more complicated than simple left vs right. There are so many flavours.

No, it's actually very simple. You either believe man owns himself or you think he's an incapable irrational animal that needs some amount of restraint.
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June 25, 2011, 12:13:14 PM
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It's much more complicated than simple left vs right. There are so many flavours.

No, it's actually very simple. You either believe man owns himself or you think he's an incapable irrational animal that needs some amount of restraint.
My opinion is that restraining is acceptable if one is able to remove other more important restraint for that. And it has nothing to do with people being irrational. Just whats good policy is thought to be. The strongest institutions are the ones that make restrictions no matter what political system we are living in. What you can change is that who benefits from those restrictions.

I'm sure Nolan chart is familiar. I think even that proves there is more flavors than just left-right. And frankly in Nolan chart liberties versus restrictions is orthogonal to left-right axis
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