Canda is not a Social Democracy

Thanks for an engaging and entertaining article! Hope you don’t mind that I will engage in a bit pedantry. I get that what you aim for in this article is to talk about political choices for the future in broad strokes.

Yes in that sense when it comes to the view on things like welfare and health care one can in a very simplified sense divide the rich developed world into what America does and what everybody else.

But as a Norwegian, who has grown up in a “real” social democracy and lived in the US, the Netherlands and spent time in Canda I got to say it feels really, really wrong to label Canda a social democracy.

When reading up on Canadian politics and when talking to people, when you look at Canda both in the small and in the large it feels very little like a social democracy.

Social democracy derives from socialism. Social democratic parties are steep in socialist mindset, rethoric and thinking. Countries which are strongly social democratic have deep traces of this mindset all over society. Collectivism is frequently favored over individualism.

Ask a Scandinavian which have performed well at work about how they are doing and they will almost always talk about how well their team has done. Scandinavians hate focusing on themselves as individuals.

Listen to how politicians talk in a social democracy. Words such as solidarity, common good, equality and the welfare state abound.

Canada and the US in contrast are in my humble opinion primarily liberal countries, not social democratic. Canada is essentially what you would have gotten if American democrats had been in power for more years. But liberals are not the same as social democrats.

Liberals love words like free choice, freedom, opportunity, individualism, affordable, tolerance and free speech.

Scandinavian countries have liberal parties and these are typically on the right of the political spectrum. They also happen to favour universal health care, unemployment benefits etc. That is not enough to label somebody a social democrat.

In Canda rugged individualism is cheerished in much the same manner as in the US. It is just a more moderate version of it. People care more about opportunity, ability to make a career, reward for effort etc rather than equality. The Canadian welfare state is considerably more limited than European ones typically are.

Just walking around a major Canadian city and you see poverty on the street at a level that is quite unknown to me in my native Norway. Go inside a company and there is much larger differences in wages and far more hierarchy.

Canadian cities are a reflection of similar rugged invidiualism as found in the US. You find large subdivisions with huge houses neatly on a row. It is a car culture as much as America. Subways and trams are few and far apart.

I have been to cities in Canada larger than hometown of Oslo, yet there is nothing but large highways. No subways, no trams, no trains and only a rather patchy bus network.

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

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