Sweden has long been a bellwether of social democracy. The following excerpt admirably sums up Sweden’s accomplishments:
Once one of Europe’s poorest countries, in the post World War II decades Sweden evolved into a slum-free, affluent, egalitarian full employment welfare state, with a strong commitment to work for all and women's equality –the poster child of advanced welfare states. Income differences narrowed dramatically and poverty was nearly eliminated. Labor-management cooperation, high union density, high taxes and (except for a few years) Social Democratic political dominance, were the norms. A strong commitment to the welfare state and jobs for all eventually cut across political party lines.
Full employment was a national ethos and the top priority of economic policy. Swedes considered jobs the key to a normal life and the economic foundation of the welfare state. Sweden's benefit programs were developed to meet virtually all contingencies and include, among others: pensions; support for the unemployed that includes benefits, job training, retraining and job creation; disability and sickness benefits; health care; parental leave; child allowances; financial… Read More
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency last year both stunned and appalled those on the left of America’s political spectrum. Perhaps even more dismaying, along with Republican control of Congress, is the fact that 25 states are now under total Republican control (governor and both legislative houses) as against only five for Democrats.
The American left, such as it is—poorly defined, without a rigorous theoretical framework for government—is at its lowest ebb in many decades. This in spite of the fact that its opponents on the right have grown more, not less, reactionary over the same period.
We are told from some quarters not to worry, that the victory of the left (as represented by the Democratic Party) is inevitable, that demographic change will overtake the (electoral) majority of conservative, older whites who have disproportionately selected Donald Trump, Congress’s current majorities and state governments throughout the country. This thesis, unfortunately, is problematic from many angles. The first is time: even were we to grant the thesis’s (unproven) validity, how long are we to wait for this promised demographic shift to become operational, while the nation suffers… Read More
THIS YEAR’S French presidential campaign, which ended May 7 with the election of Emmanuel Macron, was extraordinary in the eyes of observers both within and outside of France. Beleaguered by brutal terror attacks, struggling with the assimilation of immigrants and the effects of economic globalization, France, like other Western democracies, is experiencing a crisis of political affiliations. With its electoral system allowing a large field of candidates from across the ideological spectrum, France’s recent balloting afforded a remarkable glimpse into the nation’s current political cleavages—and social democracy’s place within the mix.
The French president, elected to a five-year term (the quinquennat) by a national majority, shares executive responsibilities with a prime minister answerable to the lower house of the French parliament. Thus, the French system, like the American, allows for a president of a different party than the parliamentary majority. This split system can result, as during the presidency of Jacques Chirac, in the sort of divided government (and attendant gridlock) with which we Americans are so familiar. When the president and the parliamentary majority are of the… Read More
Any analysis of social democracy will inevitably include a discussion of the welfare state. And indeed, the welfare state, broadly defined as a polity in which the state is committed to insuring, or at least advancing, the welfare of its citizens, is a key component of social democracies. So integral is the welfare state to the social democracy project, in fact, that for many the two terms are practically synonymous. For a meticulously crafted description of the modern American welfare state, one could scarcely do better than College of William and Mary government professor Christopher Howard’s 2007 volume, The Welfare State that Nobody Knows.
Over the course of the last generation there has developed a solid body of research comparing welfare states cross-nationally—and especially across the nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. The mother of these studies, and a foundational source in social democracy discourse, is Danish sociologist Gospa Esping-Andersen’s volume, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990). Esping-Andersen classified the welfare states of the OECD into three categories: the Nordic model, featuring high cross-class solidarity… Read More