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Socialism in America or Europe?

Sim

Registered Member
After the recent debate about problems in the MD section, I'd like to do my best to start a thread that's not ridden with cheap insults or attacks, but instead give food for thought.

I promise I will do my best to keep it that way, and I hope other members will join me in this effort.

As some of you may have noticed, I had a problem with the use of the label "socialism" in some instances, especially when it was directed at Obama or Europeans. On that topic, I'd like to re-post a posting I made on another forum, replying to an American who used this label in this, as I believe, faulty manner:

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There are bad experiences with socialism in Europe: The Soviet Union and its socialist satellites -- East Germany, Poland, Hungary and so on -- were ruled by socialist dictatorships until 1989/90. That was bad, because the people had no say, their freedoms were violated, including basic civil and human rights.

If you are American, that might confuse you, but this brand of Soviet socialist dictatorship has almost nothing at all to do with democratic socialism, social democracy or social liberalism that existed and still exists in Western Europe. Also, these socialist dictatorships were not bad because they had public healthcare. They were bad because they wiretapped and controlled people, because they extralegally detained people, denied them fair trials and tortured them. There was no freedom of speech, no independent fair judicary, and people were not allowed to leave the country as they pleased.

I don't blame Americans who don't get this, and who don't get the difference between socialist dictatorship and liberal social democracy, because you never had to live under such a Soviet regime, unlike half of my country and half of Europe. If you had, you'd maybe see that there are worse things than public healthcare, and what tyranny actually is. Also, you'd see that socialism is not always socialism, and you'd be more precize when using this label. Maybe you'd even stop giving up the very freedoms that distinguish free Western democracy from dictatorship (socialist or otherwise) in the name of fighting some boogeyman (today, it's Muslims). Hundreds of thousands of people went on the streets to protest for their freedom in 1989/90, and you give up many of the precious freedoms they fought for voluntarily.

A while ago, I visited a former Stasi prison in East Berlin (Stasi was the socialist East German secret police) that now is a museum, and former political prisoners give tours there as guides. The former prisoner showed me the little cells were people were extralegally held, denied fair trials, waterboarded, exposed to "harsh interrogation" and broken. He had tears in his eyes when he told about his liberation in 1989/90, when the Berlin Wall fell, the socialist dictatorship collapsed and he was set free. But soon, he got very sad and explained that he believes this victory may have been in vein, because the self-declared "leader of the free world" does exactly the same today, as official policy, what his people went on the streets against.

(...)

I have the impression you are missing exactly this crucial difference: Soviet-style socialism was authoritarian, those countries were dictatorships, civil liberties like freedom of speech, and democratic elections to chose the leaders and influence the policy did not exist (or on the paper at best). In Western Europe/today's EU, this is different, no matter how much wealth redistribution there is: There are civil rights like freedom of speech and habeas corpus protected in republican constitutions, and there are fair and free elections that allow the people to chose a government by the people, through the people and for the people. That's the crucial difference. And this difference is much, much bigger than any tax could ever be.

This is what I have the impression many Americans fail to see: In East Germany for example, people could not vote against their government, if they disagreed with public healthcare, economic policies or their leaders in general. They could not even speak out against it -- when they did, they had to fear repression, that some Stasi snitch would arrest them out of their living rooms, make them disappear, torture them until they were finally broken. They could not even escape their country: Those who attempted to do that were shot to death at the Berlin Wall. In schools and workplaces, people had to parrot socialist slogans, else they'd get on the ****list and be denied promotions, or not allowed to go to college. And there was no way, no means to ever change that, except mass rebellion: And that's what finally happened in 1989, when the oppressed people peacefully forced down their oppressors.

None of this is the case in Western Europe or the EU today, no matter how "socialist" these countries are: You disagree with wealth redistribution or public health care? Vote against it in the election. You don't like your leaders? Vote for another. You want to make a ralley or form a party, using free speech to gather likeminded people? Nobody will keep you from doing that. If you are accused of a crime, nobody may arrest you except the police protecting your rights in the process, and if you are suspect of a crime, you have the right on a fair trial. Your right to vote for the candidates and policies you like is protected, your right on free speech is protected, and your freedom of movement is protected. And if you still hate your country, you are free to leave.

So you disagree with public healthcare? No problem, that's perfectly fine. Vote against it. Use free speech to convince people that it's wrong. Nobody will keep you from doing that -- not even Obama in his wildest dreams, nor Swedish socialists, nor German social democrats. And what is the worst that could happen? Your side loses the election and you have to pay higher taxes. But higher taxes are not oppression, and they are not tyranny. They are an annoyance at worst. You find it annoying to pay taxes for other people's healthcare bills, others may find it annoying to pay taxes for the military you might support.

Behaving as if the sky was falling, tyranny is only one step ahead and higher taxes and/or public healthcare are "socialism" à la Soviet Union, as some people do, is very hysteric to say the least. And it's incredibly decadent, if you ask me: Compare your loss when you have to pay higher taxes to the loss of someone who was raped and tortured by the communist secret police, like that former prisoner in the Stasi prison I mentioned. People who overreact this way don't know what oppression really is, in my opinion -- and maybe that's good. It shows how lucky your people is, because you never had such an oppressive regime. You have my honest best wishes it will stay like that forever.
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What do you think?
 

Ilus_Unistus

Registered Member
I was not alive for pre-independent Estonia, but I have talked to many who were and I wish to add more "personal" freedoms that were greatly violated during the Soviet Socialist times in which Estonia was then a part of the Federation.

Things people who lived through this have told me of stories and I have read books describing just how bad this time was. Common people were treated much like farm animals, told when they could leave there homes or shop, what they could buy and how much they were allowed, this included especially foods. If it was a time you were allowed to be outside your home and you happen to see soldiers, you may not look at them directly and never make eye contact with them as this could result in imprisonment or death.

All that I read Sim says is true as well, I just wished to put more perspective on how valuable freedom is and to lose the simplest of freedoms can lead to tyranny without you even noticing, until is to late.

Very good thread Sim and well written.
 

Bjarki

Registered Member
Well put Sim. Although I have to make a critical note.
For us Europeans the two American parties may seem pretty identical (right-wing leaning centrist parties), but I think when Americans look at our political parties they will find it equally hard to distinguish between the various parties.
It seems that political programs are greatly influenced by national cultures and worldviews, much more so than the basic global seperations between left and right, socialist and republican (if one may call it that).

Something that may seem like a trivial issue to us may turn into an explosive debate on American soul because it symbolizes the basic disagreement between democrats and republicans. We on the other hand make a fuss of entirely different issues, that may seem like trivialities to outsiders.
Much like it is hard to understand that in some countries bloody civil wars are raging between the 'socialist people's party' and the 'people's socialist party'...

But I have to agree with you though. Any American who brands the opposite party as 'socialist tyrants' or 'human rights violating nazi's' is waaaaay off reality.


Compliments on the essay.
 
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SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
I think many of us know the difference between socialism and repressive dictatorship. Unfortunately when I write socialism some believe (incorrectly) that I mean dictatorship.

Here is the thing: Many of us believe that socialism is wrong, that it is one of the first steps toward over reaching government, and that it sets the stage allowing for repression and the types of abuses that you have laid out.
 

CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
I agree with SS, many of us do believe socialism is wrong and is oppresive.

I take issue with your statement that the worst thing that can happen under public healthcare is paying more taxes and that is only an annoyance.

There are far worse things that can happen namely the government mismanaging care and causing costs to go up. And paying more of my money that I earn to the government for them to waste it is FAR more than just being an annoyance. I don't know about you, but taxing my labor more and more leaving me with less to spend as I wish is much much much more than just an annoyance. So is changing the way we care for our sick.
 

Sim

Registered Member
I think many of us know the difference between socialism and repressive dictatorship. Unfortunately when I write socialism some believe (incorrectly) that I mean dictatorship.
I remember at least one member here who posted various pictures of Obama, Soviet-style (red-yellow flags, "working class art"-style). Apparently, this difference escaped this poster.

Here is the thing: Many of us believe that socialism is wrong, that it is one of the first steps toward over reaching government, and that it sets the stage allowing for repression and the types of abuses that you have laid out.
Why should it? This has not happened in Western Europe and some of the most "socialist" European countries score much higher on many indexes measuring human right standards than America (Scandinavian countries, for example).

In America, on the other side, violations of human rights take place, they were made official policy by a Republican government that, on the other side, was in favor of tax cuts and against public healthcare.

And why do the same people who oppose alleged "socialism" when it comes to welfare or health insurance, because this allegedly paves the way for excessive human right violations, not oppose those laws and the politicians who favor them, which are not indirectly leading to potential future excesses, but which are directly violating civil and human rights?

I think it's pretty absurd to assume public healthcare can lead to human right violations. How should that happen? No, human right violations take place when a government makes laws that violate human rights, not because a completely unrelated law somehow magically changes its focus.
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I agree with SS, many of us do believe socialism is wrong and is oppresive.

I take issue with your statement that the worst thing that can happen under public healthcare is paying more taxes and that is only an annoyance.

There are far worse things that can happen namely the government mismanaging care and causing costs to go up. And paying more of my money that I earn to the government for them to waste it is FAR more than just being an annoyance. I don't know about you, but taxing my labor more and more leaving me with less to spend as I wish is much much much more than just an annoyance. So is changing the way we care for our sick.
Fair enough, but probably you will agree that it is not tyranny or comparable to what happened in the USSR and the East Bloc. Not remotely.

And I don't see how that's fundamentally different from any other kind of government project you may support or oppose: Think of the huge military. The USA are spending more on their military than all other nations on this planet combined (no joke!). You think the former is a "waste" of money, but maybe you support the latter. It's just as legitimate to see it the opposite way, and one is just as much "socialism" as the other. And you decide about it in free elections.

When Obama pushed through his healthcare reform, he just did what the people ordered him to do, by electing him and his platform. That's the exact opposite of what happened under socialist dictatorship: There, the government pushed down their policies on the people, there were no free elections and no alternatives. What happens in America is the opposite: When the people wants a healthcare reform, it elects a government which then executes this order.

Of course you are free to disagree with these policies. And you give a very good reason: You don't want to pay for it. Your money is your's, and you don't think a reformed healthcare system would benefit you. That's a good reason. But please don't demonize those who disagree with you by evoking associations with Soviet-style socialism and socialist dictatorship.
 
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CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
Fair enough, but probably you will agree that it is not tyranny or comparable to what happened in the USSR and the East Bloc. Not remotely.
You're right, I do agree it doesn't compare. I still find it tyrannical however.

And I don't see how that's fundamentally different from any other kind of government project you may support or oppose: Think of the huge military. The USA are spending more on their military than all other nations on this planet combined (no joke!). You think the former is a "waste" of money, but maybe you support the latter. It's just as legitimate to see it the opposite way, and one is just as much "socialism" as the other. And you decide about it in free elections.
But there are different reasons for supporting the latter. I certainly think there should be some cuts in our military spending but at the same time there are a LOT of things our military does for people around the world. I think as the world's superpower we have an obligation to do so. That shouldn't be construed to mean I support all actions our military has taken over the last ten years however.

When Obama pushed through his healthcare reform, he just did what the people ordered him to do, by electing him and his platform. That's the exact opposite of what happened under socialist dictatorship: There, the government pushed down their policies on the people, there were no free elections and no alternatives. What happens in America is the opposite: When the people wants a healthcare reform, it elects a government which then executes this order.
I would argue that it wasn't since right now it's about 50/50 on the support of nationalized healthcare, but your point is well made, he was elected president and thus it's his, as well as Congress', decision to make. And the option if you disagree, is to vote him out.

Of course you are free to disagree with these policies. And you give a very good reason: You don't want to pay for it. Your money is your's, and you don't think a reformed healthcare system would benefit you. That's a good reason. But please don't demonize those who disagree with you by evoking associations with Soviet-style socialism and socialist dictatorship.
I would also add that I don't think that it benefits society in general as much as a better run free market system would, and I don't invoke those kinds of associations. However, when someone makes the socialist claim they are often-times not invoking a Soviet-style socialism but a system in which decisions are taken out of the hands of the consumer and put into the hands of the governmemt. (I understand the argument of the decision being in the hands of a CEO and not the consumer thus my comment about a better run free market system and I was speaking more generally, not just in reference to healthcare).
 
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Bananas

Endangered Species
Nice essay Sim.

I think the difference can be summed up a lot simpler though; Americans see socialism as a political entity, whilst Europeans see it as a social philosophy.

As our fellow American posters have demonstrated the problem is not with socialism, it is with governance, because they see socialism as political, Im sure this has its roots all the way back to their Independence and in how the flag and constitution have the highest honour, that creates a false perception to what socialism is. Whats extraordinary and supports my argument is the way that corporate socialism does not receive the same retaliation as political socialism in the US.

Meanwhile in Europe, socialism is seen as a philosophy, of course it has political and economical repercussions but Europeans are slightly more honest and accepting to governance. This can be clearly seen in the way our taxes are spent, no European government would be allowed to have a military budget like that of the US, yet it is unlikely that the US government will ever be allowed to have the subsidised welfare programs that Europeans enjoy. There is a slight irony in that the US military is one of the largest social programs in the world. But the point is there is little difference other than the stigma attached.
 

maat

Registered Member
So you disagree with public healthcare? No problem, that's perfectly fine. Vote against it.
IMO, social healthcare means less freedom, inovation and supply. It is watering down in order to spread the services. Too many people are confusing it with a right, if it were a right we would have perfect bodies.

Your side loses the election and you have to pay higher taxes. But higher taxes are not oppression, and they are not tyranny.
Anytime an individual is forced to give up his freedom or property is a form of tyranny, the question is: at what point is it Constitutional in america? IMO, my personal education, healthcare, housing, food and retirement are not federal issues. This is why the Constitution has separation of powers.

They are an annoyance at worst. You find it annoying to pay taxes for other people's healthcare bills, others may find it annoying to pay taxes for the military you might support.
Nowhere in the Constitution is there a right or provision for healthcare, yet there is the enumerated power for national defense. Yet, IMO, we spend more than was intended for defense.

IMO, living with constitutionally high taxes would mean we are in eminent danger of national collapse due to invasion, which is not the case, so we should not have excessive debt and taxation.

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SmilinSilhouette

Registered Member
I remember at least one member here who posted various pictures of Obama, Soviet-style (red-yellow flags, "working class art"-style). Apparently, this difference escaped this poster.
I don't get your point. So what if someone posted art in certain styles. That doesn't mean that they don't understand the definition of socialism.


Why should it? This has not happened in Western Europe and some of the most "socialist" European countries score much higher on many indexes measuring human right standards than America (Scandinavian countries, for example).
Then why were there major strikes in France, riots in Greece and the UK? Why do people in the UK have such awful experiences with the NHS? Why is Germany concerned with financing bailouts across the EU? It is because socialists can not keep the promises they make with other people's money. They do not run things efficiently, they become a bureaucratic nightmare. But they keep taking the money from the citizens.

And what is the result when the people rise up against the broken promise of an education, or retirement, or quality health care? Riots? Police action? Destruction of property? Are the socialist European countries free of these problems?


In America, on the other side, violations of human rights take place, they were made official policy by a Republican government that, on the other side, was in favor of tax cuts and against public healthcare. And why do the same people who oppose alleged "socialism" when it comes to welfare or health insurance, because this allegedly paves the way for excessive human right violations, not oppose those laws and the politicians who favor them, which are not indirectly leading to potential future excesses, but which are directly violating civil and human rights?
In the US we have this thing called a Constitution, that thing defines what the federal government is supposed to do and things that it is not supposed to do. One of the things it is supposed to do is provide for the common defense. One of the things it is not supposed to do is something that was not granted to it by the powers enumerated by the Constitution. I guess that is something that socialists can't seem to understand. There is no correlation between military spending and entitlements like health care.

Why should it? This has not happened in Western Europe and some of the most "socialist" European countries score much higher on many indexes measuring human right standards than America (Scandinavian countries, for example).
In America, on the other side, violations of human rights take place, they were made official policy by a Republican government that, on the other side, was in favor of tax cuts and against public healthcare.
Always with the blaming of republicans for any negative. While the issue of socialism and entitlements have nothing to do with military as noted above.


And why do the same people who oppose alleged "socialism" when it comes to welfare or health insurance, because this allegedly paves the way for excessive human right violations, not oppose those laws and the politicians who favor them, which are not indirectly leading to potential future excesses, but which are directly violating civil and human rights?
They are two different issues

And I don't see how that's fundamentally different from any other kind of government project you may support or oppose: Think of the huge military. The USA are spending more on their military than all other nations on this planet combined (no joke!). You think the former is a "waste" of money, but maybe you support the latter. It's just as legitimate to see it the opposite way, and one is just as much "socialism" as the other. And you decide about it in free elections.
Why the focus on the military? It seems that others believe that because we have a big military then we should be doing something else with those resources. That is the primary responsibility of our federal government: to provide for the national defense. We take it seriously. The government deciding who gets what is not what we want.

When Obama pushed through his healthcare reform, he just did what the people ordered him to do, by electing him and his platform. That's the exact opposite of what happened under socialist dictatorship: There, the government pushed down their policies on the people, there were no free elections and no alternatives. What happens in America is the opposite: When the people wants a healthcare reform, it elects a government which then executes this order.
No one ordered a 2000+ page of unread unconstitutional regulation to be imposed upon our health care system. What was passed will result in the opposite of every promise made about it. It will not cover everyone, It will cost more, It will deliver services less efficiently, I could go on and on about all the lies told about this legislation but I won't bother.

Of course you are free to disagree with these policies. And you give a very good reason: You don't want to pay for it. Your money is your's, and you don't think a reformed healthcare system would benefit you. That's a good reason. But please don't demonize those who disagree with you by evoking associations with Soviet-style socialism and socialist dictatorship.
I don't want it IMPOSED upon me. When someone forces you to do things against your will then it should come as no suprise that Soviet-style socialism and dictatorship come to mind.

I think the difference can be summed up a lot simpler though; Americans see socialism as a political entity, whilst Europeans see it as a social philosophy.

As our fellow American posters have demonstrated the problem is not with socialism, it is with governance, because they see socialism as political, Im sure this has its roots all the way back to their Independence and in how the flag and constitution have the highest honour, that creates a false perception to what socialism is. Whats extraordinary and supports my argument is the way that corporate socialism does not receive the same retaliation as political socialism in the US.
There is no false perception. Corporate socialism is a choice. Government socialism leaves no choice.


Meanwhile in Europe, socialism is seen as a philosophy, of course it has political and economical repercussions but Europeans are slightly more honest and accepting to governance. This can be clearly seen in the way our taxes are spent, no European government would be allowed to have a military budget like that of the US, yet it is unlikely that the US government will ever be allowed to have the subsidised welfare programs that Europeans enjoy. There is a slight irony in that the US military is one of the largest social programs in the world. But the point is there is little difference other than the stigma attached.
Were it not for the US military European governments woul be forced to spend more on military. If they did not have a powerful ally like the US then they couldn't afford the social programs that they have now (and they they can't afford the ones they currently have)

I have a hard time understanding why non-Americans are so concerned that the US is not more of a socialist-democracy. I wish that we had less entitlement programs and that government bureaucracy kept it's nose out of my business and hand out of my pocket.

If europeans like their form of socialism then good for them! We want to keep our form of capitalism.
 
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