8 votes

Joe Biden, not Bernie Sanders, is the true Scandinavian – Sanders totally misunderstands what's behind Denmark's safety net

28 comments

  1. [19]
    Hidegger
    Link
    To paraphrase a bit "Denmark isn't socialist but it is democratic." but then... "Denmark’s progressive income tax tops out at 55.8 percent, and the average individual pays 45 percent. The Danes...

    To paraphrase a bit "Denmark isn't socialist but it is democratic." but then...

    "Denmark’s progressive income tax tops out at 55.8 percent, and the average individual pays 45 percent. The Danes pay an 8 percent labor market tax, a 5 percent health care tax, as well as hefty municipal taxes and a social security tax. Denmark also has the highest national sales tax in the European Union — 25 percent — on most goods and services, a big tax on the middle class." These are socialist taxes.

    Democratic socialism is a process of adding socialist concepts to a capitalist market to balance inequality and supply benefit to everyone and not just the people at the top. Having socialist networks setup to provide the basic necessities like education, healthcare and public transit are the foundation to allow entrepreneurs to be successful without as major of risks. Whoever wrote this article is an idiot.

    37 votes
    1. Sand
      Link Parent
      Sounds more like social democracy.

      Democratic socialism is a process of adding socialist concepts to a capitalist market to balance inequality and supply benefit to everyone and not just the people at the top. Having socialist networks setup to provide the basic necessities like education, healthcare and public transit are the foundation to allow entrepreneurs to be successful without as major of risks.

      Sounds more like social democracy.

      20 votes
    2. [2]
      Litmus2336
      Link Parent
      That's not really socialism though..... if the means of production are privately owned it doesn't really matter what your tax rate is. What is a socialist tax? Again, socialism doesn't really...

      Democratic socialism is a process of adding socialist concepts to a capitalist market to balance inequality and supply benefit to everyone and not just the people at the top.

      That's not really socialism though..... if the means of production are privately owned it doesn't really matter what your tax rate is.

      These are socialist taxes.

      What is a socialist tax? Again, socialism doesn't really dictate anything about taxation policy, it's quite specific on what it's about.

      16 votes
      1. vord
        Link Parent
        In America, funding or supporting anything but excessive military spending is attacked as socialism. Workers rights? Socialism. Taxes on the rich? Socialism. Food stamps? Socialism. CDC?...

        What is a socialist tax?

        In America, funding or supporting anything but excessive military spending is attacked as socialism.

        Workers rights? Socialism.
        Taxes on the rich? Socialism.
        Food stamps? Socialism.
        CDC? Socialism.
        EPA? Socialism.

        So on and so forth.

        17 votes
    3. skybrian
      Link Parent
      This is Thomas Friedman so it's not worth getting past the paywall, but I'll point out that Biden has called for raising the top tax rate to 39.6%, taxing capital gains the same as income, and...

      This is Thomas Friedman so it's not worth getting past the paywall, but I'll point out that Biden has called for raising the top tax rate to 39.6%, taxing capital gains the same as income, and eliminating caps on social security tax. Those are quite substantial changes and would get us quite a bit closer to how Denmark does it.

      Eliminating the stepped-up basis rule would be huge, too, for inherited assets like stocks. Basically, it means that the capital gains tax is zero if you wait long enough. Dodging taxes by holding real estate or stock until you die is kind of extreme but it works pretty well for your heirs.

      Not that it matters what Biden's plan is. Congress will decide if they want to change tax law, and they will do something else.

      Here's the important bit, which is why voting Democratic in November is important no matter who the nominee is: if Congress decides to do something to make taxes more progressive (miracle of miracles), it's unlikely that either Sanders or Biden would veto it. It's removing an obstacle. To get change in a stalemate situations, you need to remove all the obstacles.

      15 votes
    4. [14]
      Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      That's not what socialism is. Socialism is not just taxes. Socialism is where the people in general, rather than just some people in particular, own the means of production. This might be via...

      These are socialist taxes.

      That's not what socialism is. Socialism is not just taxes. Socialism is where the people in general, rather than just some people in particular, own the means of production. This might be via nationalisation, where a democratic government owns an industry, or via direct ownership, where the workers own their own factory. Socialism is about who owns the means of production.

      Taxes, in and of themselves, are not socialist.

      There is a semantic issue here: despite the similarities in their names, democratic socialism is not social democracy. Democratic socialism is where the people vote for a government which owns nationalised industries. Social democracy is where the people vote for a government which distributes wealth to create a better society.

      Bernie Sanders keeps saying he's a democratic socialist, but...

      “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal,” he said.

      ... he doesn't want socialism. He wants social democracy.

      14 votes
      1. [13]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        It seems rather confusing to say "socialism", "democratic socialism" or "people own the means of production" as a way of describing state-owned industry. Wouldn't it be clearer to say "state-owned...

        It seems rather confusing to say "socialism", "democratic socialism" or "people own the means of production" as a way of describing state-owned industry. Wouldn't it be clearer to say "state-owned industry" when that's what we mean? Why should we use these terms? I guess they test better?

        In particular, when there are state-owned industries, this doesn't mean the people control the means of production, because "the people" are not the people, it is just a myth used to justify representative democracy. There is an imperfect process where people's votes are algorithmically converted into changes in leadership. This may sometimes keep leaders on their toes but the leaders still make the decisions.

        5 votes
        1. [12]
          Algernon_Asimov
          Link Parent
          Sure. There are lots of words in the English language which, on the surface, don't match what they're referring to. It would be nice to go through and tidy them all up. For instance, the origins...

          It seems rather confusing to say "socialism", "democratic socialism" or "people own the means of production" as a way of describing state-owned industry.

          Sure. There are lots of words in the English language which, on the surface, don't match what they're referring to. It would be nice to go through and tidy them all up.

          For instance, the origins of the word "socialism" come from the Latin word "sociare, which means to combine or to share". Strictly speaking, socialism is where the populace combines to own industry, and shares the benefits of that industry among them all. But, over time, that original sense of the word has been forgotten, as "society" and "social" became more about people than about sharing.

          Because that's how English works. People make new words out of bits and pieces of other words; people re-purpose existing words for new uses; words drift in meaning over time.

          Wouldn't it be clearer to say "state-owned industry" when that's what we mean?

          Socialism is not only state-owned industry. If a thousand people all contributed $1,000 each and bought a factory, which they then worked in, and shared the profits of, that would be a socialist factory: it's owned by the workers for the workers.

          In particular, when there are state-owned industries, this doesn't mean the people control the means of production, because "the people" are not the people, it is just a myth used to justify representative democracy.

          In a democracy, the government is considered to be the people, because they have been elected by the people, they represent the people, and they are accountable to the people.

          5 votes
          1. [11]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            It can be helpful to replace high rhetoric with mechanics. What does "accountable" mean, operationally? I think it means that if the people are unhappy enough, the algorithm will choose something...

            It can be helpful to replace high rhetoric with mechanics. What does "accountable" mean, operationally? I think it means that if the people are unhappy enough, the algorithm will choose something else.

            (My influences: legal realism, Edmund Morgan's Inventing the People, Scott Alexander's Meditations on Moloch.)

            2 votes
            1. [10]
              Algernon_Asimov
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Operationally, it means the people can vote their representatives out if the people don't like what they're doing. I don't know what "algorithm" you're talking about. A vote is a vote. Multiple...

              What does "accountable" mean, operationally?

              Operationally, it means the people can vote their representatives out if the people don't like what they're doing.

              the algorithm will choose something else.

              I don't know what "algorithm" you're talking about. A vote is a vote. Multiple votes are counted. The candidate with the most votes (depending what counting method is being used) wins. It's not like there's some massive computer deciding who should be chosen as the winner. Winners are determined by counting people's votes.

              EDIT to fix hyperlink.

              2 votes
              1. [5]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                Yes, vote-counting is an algorithm, and although it can be a relatively simple and transparent one, there are still choices to be made. Counting delegates, the 15% rule, superdelegates, voting by...

                Yes, vote-counting is an algorithm, and although it can be a relatively simple and transparent one, there are still choices to be made. Counting delegates, the 15% rule, superdelegates, voting by state, the order in which states vote, what day the vote is held on - all are algorithmic choices. Some people like instant runoff voting, or STAR voting, or whatever. You can really geek out on this stuff.

                I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with having an algorithm. There is no way to convert hundreds of millions of people's different opinions into a single choice (Biden) without an algorithm. But, conceptually, the "will of the people" is not something we can perceive directly, it's an artificial construct we think we see via an algorithm, and different algorithms would make different choices. They can't all be right.

                5 votes
                1. [4]
                  Algernon_Asimov
                  Link Parent
                  Ah. You're talking about the existing over-engineered U.S. presidential election process. I'm talking about a direct representative democracy, similar to what we have here in Australia: you vote...

                  Counting delegates, the 15% rule, superdelegates, voting by state, the order in which states vote, what day the vote is held on - all are algorithmic choices.

                  Ah. You're talking about the existing over-engineered U.S. presidential election process.

                  I'm talking about a direct representative democracy, similar to what we have here in Australia: you vote for your member of Parliament, and that's it. The Parliament is comprised of directly elected members. No delegates, no superdelegates, no states. Just a direct vote by the people in an electorate for a representative, who goes straight to Parliament (or Duma or Knesset or whatever). The Parliament can then elect itself a leader (such as a Prime Minister), but that's not required.

                  I'm talking about a purer democracy, a more theoretical democracy.

                  3 votes
                  1. [3]
                    skybrian
                    Link Parent
                    How do political parties choose who to run in Australia? And parliament choosing a leader: how is that working out?

                    How do political parties choose who to run in Australia? And parliament choosing a leader: how is that working out?

                    1 vote
                    1. [2]
                      Algernon_Asimov
                      Link Parent
                      We have 151 electorates for the House of Representatives. The major parties will have 1 branch per electorate. Smaller parties might have fewer branches covering multiple electorates each. The...

                      How do political parties choose who to run in Australia?

                      We have 151 electorates for the House of Representatives. The major parties will have 1 branch per electorate. Smaller parties might have fewer branches covering multiple electorates each. The members of each local branch decide on their candidate for their local electorate. In theory, they'll meet the potential candidates, interview them, and then all members vote. In practice, most members won't participate, so it'll be left to a dozen or so committee members to decide on their local candidate.

                      However, not all candidates come from political parties. Any person can stand as a candidate in elections - with or without a political party behind them. The ones without political parties are called "independents". Our House of Representatives currently has 3 independent members. Famously, one of these independents defeated a former Prime Minister in his electorate at the last election.

                      For the Senate, where Senators represent a whole state rather than a single electorate, the decision will be made by the relevant state office of the political party.

                      And parliament choosing a leader: how is that working out?

                      Point taken.

                      However, I'll take our process over the American presidential process any day. Because our leader of government is a member of Parliament, they are continuously accountable to that Parliament, and can be removed whenever necessary. This can be done by their own political party changing its leader, but the Prime Minister can also be ousted by the whole Parliament in a simple vote of no confidence. The system might have been less stable recently, but it's also more accountable.

                      5 votes
                      1. skybrian
                        Link Parent
                        It does sound like a good system. I also like the alternative vote and single transferrable vote. All systems have weaknesses though. Just by the nature of elections, when the public is split in...

                        It does sound like a good system. I also like the alternative vote and single transferrable vote. All systems have weaknesses though. Just by the nature of elections, when the public is split in such a way that that the election is very close, an answer will be chosen essentially arbitrarily. This falls out of the requirement that the system choose an answer in all cases.

                        I am somewhat a fan of the idea that when the election is very close, we should choose the winner by picking a name out of a hat. This would make it official that the winner just got lucky. People might find that a bit unsettling, even though it does fulfill the requirements.

                        Sometimes mechanical rules do stupid things, though more rarely if they're designed well. Then again, people do stupid things sometimes too. And sometimes we are collectively undecided, and we have the machine pick for us.

                        3 votes
              2. [4]
                SheepWolf
                Link Parent
                [massive computer deciding who should be chosen as the winner](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchise_(short_story/)) There's an extra "/" at the end in your link. [massive computer deciding who...
                [massive computer deciding who should be chosen as the winner](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchise_(short_story/))
                

                There's an extra "/" at the end in your link.

                [massive computer deciding who should be chosen as the winner](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franchise_(short_story))
                
                1. [3]
                  Algernon_Asimov
                  Link Parent
                  Yes, there is an extra "/". That's because there's also an extra ")" in the URL. The extra slash cancels out the extra parenthesis, so the parenthesis doesn't break the hyperlink formatting.

                  Yes, there is an extra "/". That's because there's also an extra ")" in the URL. The extra slash cancels out the extra parenthesis, so the parenthesis doesn't break the hyperlink formatting.

                  1. [2]
                    Deimos
                    Link Parent
                    It would need to be a backslash (\, not /) for that. In this case it's actually breaking the link. Tildes's markdown parser is able to handle it without the backslash anyway though, so it's not...

                    It would need to be a backslash (\, not /) for that. In this case it's actually breaking the link.

                    Tildes's markdown parser is able to handle it without the backslash anyway though, so it's not necessary. I assume that's probably a habit you picked up from Reddit, where you do need to.

                    2 votes
                    1. Algernon_Asimov
                      Link Parent
                      Oh. I've edited it. (FYI: @SheepWolf) Yes. :)

                      In this case it's actually breaking the link.

                      Oh. I've edited it. (FYI: @SheepWolf)

                      I assume that's probably a habit you picked up from Reddit, where it is needed.

                      Yes. :)

                      2 votes
  2. [2]
    chas
    Link
    I know a little about the region, and this article strikes me as pure nonsense. The ideals behind the nordic governments are essentially the same as Sanders'. Thomas Friedman is mainly fixating on...

    I know a little about the region, and this article strikes me as pure nonsense. The ideals behind the nordic governments are essentially the same as Sanders'. Thomas Friedman is mainly fixating on differences in rhetoric. In my opinion, for example, once one starts contrasting Sanders' use of the word "revolutionary" with "evolutionary", one is just navel-gazing.

    Actual scandies here on tildes, please speak up if you disagree!

    26 votes
    1. zonixum
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Pretty much what you said. I want to mention that I am well not versed in the american candidates policies and don't really follow Norwegian politics as closely as I perhaps should. It's hard to...

      Pretty much what you said. I want to mention that I am well not versed in the american candidates policies and don't really follow Norwegian politics as closely as I perhaps should. It's hard to really talk about American politics in a meaningful way, while also being succinct. There are so many small and large things that needs to be addressed, which at the same time affect each other. There are things worth bringing up here in this article, but I wouldn't have framed it as "who's more Scandinavian", which seems a bit reductionist.

      Friedman seems to posit the idea that there are things that Denmark can do, which USA can't because of (which has some technical term) trust in government and overall stability. I think there is a lot of truth to this. The whole political climate and how we(Scandinavia) talk about politics is very different than in the US. This enables us to be more agile and precise in policymaking. Friedman mentions that denmark has had steady iteration over a long period of time, which I agree with (at least when it comes to Norway). It seems like no matter where a Scandinavian country lies on the political spectrum, most things gives way to reason eventually. In that sense one could argue that Scandinavia is quite conservative. Having said all that, this is where me (and many others I'm sure) diverge from Friedman. He seems to be reasoning that we should vote for Biden for he is most likely to get any change through. Again this reveals how the system is broken. Voters should vote on the candidates which presents their views accurately and not think about their vote as some kind of gamble. It's the politicians job to make those inevitable compromises between each other.

      It is my impression that Sanders is more closely aligned with Scandinavian policies. It's true that politicians between these two places play by different rules. You can't however just equate Biden with the Scandinavian political system and therefore argue that he is more Scandinavian (in values). It is my impression that the glacial pace of Scandinavian politics is partially because we haven't had the same need for major change, like the US needs now.

      As a footnote. It is kind of unfortunate that Friedman goes after Sanders for his rhetoric when Sanders talking points is most likely a result of how the politics is played in the US. It's a vicious cycle. If Friedman had actually addressed Sanders proposed policies,then a conversation might have been had. It's really easy write an opinion piece attacking somebody's rhetoric. We get the same kind of opinion pieces in Norway and they are just as unproductive, except perhaps when written by somebody injecting a fresh perspective into the conversation. This perhaps points out the uselessness of establishment opinion pieces.

      Edit: Last sentence only

      15 votes
  3. [3]
    Death
    Link
    It's kind of hilarious how condescending this manages to be. Friedman basically reduces Sander's political agenda to a an almost satirically basic premise of "billionaire bad, socialism good" with...

    It's kind of hilarious how condescending this manages to be. Friedman basically reduces Sander's political agenda to a an almost satirically basic premise of "billionaire bad, socialism good" with a handful of factoids, then frames this ersatz platform as a refusal to understand the complex realities of the Danish economy. It's a great rhetorical sleigh of hand: he gets to dumb down the argument to something easily picked apart, while framing it as if it's his opponent that actually did this, forcing him to stoop down to that level.

    Biden, in my view, would be much more likely to — and able to — build a new social contract in America than a President Sanders, because Biden not only genuinely cares about the working class and the homeless — and understands the need for access to lifelong education and health care — he also knows that you don’t get there by demonizing the engines of capitalism and job creation. You have to find a way to work with them.

    There's this one joke a fellow student once told me: a group of scientists, including one economist, are stranded on an abandoned island and come across a crate of canned foods, but no way to open it. Each scientist proposes a method in line with their respective discipline, until it's the turn for the economist to speak. His proposal starts: "Suppose we have a can opener...".

    "Suppose Joe Biden decides to implement a new social contract. How great he would be at it!". Of course to suppose this you have to ignore that Biden, who has been in various positions of power for decades, never seemed all that interested in doing this. Somehow Friedman doesn't even deign to support his own assertion, like actually mentioning Biden's proposed health care reforms, which would have been such an easy thing to do. He even barely acknowledges one of the core issues the Sander's campaign wants to address, rising inequality, or even analyses it. Just sweep that under the rug, it's fine, we don't need to think about the problem, only about which solution we don't want.

    Really is this anything else but the same thing we've already seen a dozen times, the same attitude Elizabeth Warren slammed John Delaney for during the July debates? Not actually arguing for something, constructively, but just telling people why this idea is bad, what they can't do, and what they can't have?

    It amazes me that anyone could think that would somehow be a good sales pitch.

    21 votes
    1. [2]
      Loire
      Link Parent
      That's not what Friedman is doing here. He started with a premise "Denmark is actually very capitalistic" and he set out to try and describe how that somehow applies to Biden more than Sanders. He...

      Really is this anything else but the same thing we've already seen a dozen times, the same attitude Elizabeth Warren slammed John Delaney for during the July debates? Not actually arguing for something, constructively, but just telling people why this idea is bad, what they can't do, and what they can't have?

      That's not what Friedman is doing here. He started with a premise "Denmark is actually very capitalistic" and he set out to try and describe how that somehow applies to Biden more than Sanders. He didn't say you can't have the social net, he said Sanders is not the way to go about it.

      It amazes me that anyone could think that would somehow be a good sales pitch.

      It doesn't really have to be. The majority of Democrats don't support Bernie Sanders, let alone the majority of Americans. They don't need to be sold on Biden, they need to be sold on Sanders. Thats somethinf that seems to be continuously misunderstood on tildes.

      5 votes
      1. Death
        Link Parent
        I'm sorry but when the better part of a piece as a rebuttal/dismissal then the negative is going to be the message that comes out of it. Had he actually taken the effort to argue in favor Biden's...

        That's not what Friedman is doing here. He started with a premise "Denmark is actually very capitalistic" and he set out to try and describe how that somehow applies to Biden more than Sanders. He didn't say you can't have the social net, he said Sanders is not the way to go about it.

        I'm sorry but when the better part of a piece as a rebuttal/dismissal then the negative is going to be the message that comes out of it. Had he actually taken the effort to argue in favor Biden's plan rather than positing it as the default that sentiment would be countered somewhat, but that's not the case.

        It doesn't really have to be. The majority of Democrats don't support Bernie Sanders, let alone the majority of Americans. They don't need to be sold on Biden, they need to be sold on Sanders.

        I don't know why there seems to be this belief that if the majority of Americans don't support Sanders then Biden can dispense with having to be argued for at all. As if the vote is a passive act and doesn't require motivating, only slight course corrections. You would think the US wouldn't be in it's current situation if that was the way it worked.

        8 votes
  4. patience_limited
    Link
    Let me start by saying I have very little respect for Thomas Friedman - his track record of explanatory or predictive power is risible. He's made an error here, probably intentionally, in...

    Let me start by saying I have very little respect for Thomas Friedman - his track record of explanatory or predictive power is risible.

    He's made an error here, probably intentionally, in characterising socialism as only state ownership of industry, excluding state control.

    The extreme of laissez faire capitalism demands that government must not regulate or tax capital. That's part of the American problem - generations of propaganda have labeled these state activities as "socialist". Worse yet, U.S.
    regulatory capture and corruption exploit, drain, or seize public resources to benefit private capital - socialism in reverse. I can't accept Friedman as an honest analyst when he fails to mention any of these basic aspects of political economy.

    Sanders attempted to reclaim the word from the propagandists. Both he and Elizabeth Warren proposed the reassertion of Federal regulatory and taxation power, at least to the degree established during the post-World War II era.

    We can dissect precise terminology to the minutest degree, but we're starting with bad translations of Marx and proceeding down through generations of propaganda wars. I'm content to say that if a government act promotes general social benefit, it's "socialist", since that evades the constraints of an outdated model predicated on ownership of physical plants and land.

    The Scandinavian model establishes that it's possible to build successful social democracies with private, but carefully regulated and taxed, industry, in addition to taxes on private incomes and wealth. The emphasis should remain on the word democracy.

    14 votes
  5. [3]
    vivaria
    Link
    Hey @mycketforvirrad, you've posted a couple of topics related to Denmark/Norway. Is that area-ish where you're from? Am curious about what your experiences are like, and what perspective you're...

    Hey @mycketforvirrad, you've posted a couple of topics related to Denmark/Norway. Is that area-ish where you're from? Am curious about what your experiences are like, and what perspective you're approaching this topic from. :)

    Asking because that info might help to reconcile possible differences between an American point of view and a European point of view. There might be something in this article that spoke to your personal experiences, and I'd love to understand that context a bit better.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      mycketforvirrad
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I am Swedish/British dual citizen currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. My post history is a little unusual here on Tildes as it is purely centred around a geographic region, that being the...

      I am Swedish/British dual citizen currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. My post history is a little unusual here on Tildes as it is purely centred around a geographic region, that being the Nordics.

      I tend to post a broad range of topics here, and in a variety of groups, from this rather narrow niche. I see myself more as a content provider on Tildes as opposed to a conversationalist. I rarely get drawn into the topics I post, unless the topic happens to be my love for the tagging meta!

      That doesn't mean to say that I'm passive about the content I post, merely that I take greater pleasure in posting it than I do talking about it. :)

      12 votes
      1. elcuello
        Link Parent
        Yeah your username isn't helping you here either ;-). Thanks for the explanation I've had the same question for some time.

        Yeah your username isn't helping you here either ;-). Thanks for the explanation I've had the same question for some time.

        2 votes