Are American Democratic Socialists Really Irresponsible?

Thanks Jim, you taught me a couple of new things. I did not know the federal government had ownership or some of the oil areas. Nor did I know the federal government made any money selling banks.

Alaska the Outlier

But let me address some points of the points you mentioned. I was afraid you would pull Alaska out of the hat. I don’t really think it is a good example. Alaska has had insane amount of oil production, possibly more than Norway and 7x smaller population. Yet the Alaskan oil fund is miniscule compared to the Norwegian one. Hence Alaska simply has had a fund because a state with a very small population had at times oil production which could rival Texas.

American Left vs Right

The problem with your discussion of the American left and right is that you conflate liberals and democratic socialists whenever it is convenient. This really muddles the argument. Liberalism is after all where much of the ideas of modern capitalism arose from classic liberals such as Adam Smith. You cannot expect them to promote a strong state with high taxes to fund a sovereign wealth fund. Look at liberal strong holds like Calefornia. Not an ounce of socialist thinking there. Homeless people abound. Infrastructure in shambles. Extreme wealth combined with extreme poverty and depravity. Not something any social democrat would have ever tolerated.

The democratic socialists such as Bernie Sanders and AOC are a tiny minority among the democrats, and hold very little power and influence. Thus what democrats in general do in no way reflects opinions of democratic socialists in America. It refects the will of American liberals.

No one else here in the US is suggesting they be saved either. That was my original point

Except for most American political history American social democrats and democratic socialists have had pretty much zero power. Thus as I say it is premature to make conclusions about what they would and would not have done. They have never held any power in the US. Social democrats and democratic socialists have held power in most of modern Nordic political history. That is a big difference.

Those claiming to be social democrats are suggesting “Tax, Apply A Lot Of Wishful Thinking & Spend, Spend, Spend”.

They have never had power. They don’t even have a party. So I think you are a bit quick to judge. Secondly this is what they sound like to you. But what can you compare with? Knowing Nordic political history and having been part of the social democratic party here in Norway I can actually compare the rethoric. And I can promise you that American democratic socialists are the least radical sounding of the lot. Had you heard Nordic social democrats when they first got power and in the post war years, you would have screamed “dangerous communists!”

Let us get real here, your democratic socialists are rather lame by Nordic standards. They are only seeking to have free health care and college. They are not even advocating a full state takeover of hospitals and colleges. Nordic social democrats in contrast had for over 70 years on their party program a stated goal of full abolishment of capitalism. Have you ever heard AOC or Bernie publicly state that captialism should be completely abolished? Our social democrats called for the creation of a fully socialist economy.

Why am I mentioning this? Because American seem to have this naive idea American democratic socialists are somehow way more radical than Nordics. That simply isn’t true. The Nordic left was radical enough that there was almost civil war. In Finland they actually did have a civil war. In Norway when the labour party first had election victory in the 1920s chaos was averted in large part because the king said “I am also king of the communists,” thereby accepting the labour party. Indeed the labor party wasn’t even democratic socialist initially. It was a straight out revolutionary communist party. They still won an election, and the country still didn’t collapse.

Norway (as well as Sweden, Denmark, etc…) are where they are because of slow, incremental change over the last 90 years. Social Democrats in the US aren’t interested in that. They appear to be under the belief that we can transform the US into Norway in a decade or two. That’s not reality.

You keep trying to conjure this image of reckless radicals. Reality is that you got it all in reverse. Their politigal agenda is far less radical than what it was for Nordic social democrats, as I have already elaborated on. Nordic countries managed to create social democracy because the left pushed real hard to create it. They never set out to create social democracy. They set out to create a socialist state. Social democracy is simply as far as they got before they ran out of steam.

Socialists and Profits

There is no contradiction in social democrats establishing an oil company to get profits from oil extraction.

Aren’t profits and rent-seeking all completely against the beliefs of most people who are ardent champions of socialism?

First of all I don’t see this as rent seeking as Statoil never had a monopoly, and secondly socialists have never been against economic activity creating profits. Socialism oppose that economic wealth is controlled by a small rich elite, the capitalists. Socialists don’t oppose that a democratically controlled government control some of the means of production. In fact this is standard fare for social democrats. Having government run businesses is quite normal. Just look at China. Lots of government run enterprises. Including oil companies.

State Pensions Funds

You got a good point about pensions funds. Although I assume that is a requirement due to future commitments. An oil fund is optional.

They all operate the exact same was the Norwegian oil fund works. Are the capitalists complaining about them?

They cannot give away people’s future pensions in tax breaks. But they could choose to give away oil revenue as tax breaks. I question that any ardent capitalism fan would pass up on a chance to dole out tax breaks.


But there wasn’t a significant difference in the end results other than in public perceptions.

I would say there was a big difference. Lots of corporate fat cats in the US got fat bonuses from how the bailout was handled. Thus there was no lesson learned. Those who created the mess learned that you could get away with it. Despite the massive fraud the only one who went to prison was a whistle blower. Not a single banker. In tiny Iceland some 20 bankers got put in prison. In the US they decided putting bankers in prison would make people loose faith in the system, so they skipped on justice.

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store