Democratic socialism is a decades-old political philosophy which has seen a resurgence in recent years. Proponents of democratic socialism believe that political democracy and social ownership of the means of production should run in conjunction, and they also believe that both self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within some kind of decentralized planned socialist economy are essential. Proponents of democratic socialism additionally posit that capitalism is incompatible with the core democratic values of equality, solidarity, and liberty, and they as well say that capitalism is inherently evil. To democratic socialists, the aforementioned ideals can only be achieved through implementation of a socialist structure, in both government and society. When it comes to the establishment of democratic socialism, proponents are supportive of either revolutionary or reformist politics as a way to bring about the change.
Arguments For Democratic Socialism
American democratic socialists mainly believe that government, the economy, and society as a whole should be run democratically, and they also assert that profits should be distributed with priority given to those who need the most assistance. Democratic socialists detest the idea of a few individuals controlling a large share of the nation’s wealth, and that’s exactly the system they say exists currently in America: corporate executives are beholden to themselves and a handful of wealthy shareholders, and the decisions these individuals make behind the closed doors of boardrooms across America affect millions of people. Democratic socialists also assert that capitalists hoard vast sums of the world’s collective wealth instead of distributing it to those who need it most, and they as well believe that current systems of government and the economy must be radically transformed so that more people can possess more control of government, economic, and social systems; ordinary Americans should possess greater say in decisions that affect their lives, proponents argue.
Democratic socialists posit that social ownership in America could take many forms: cooperatives or publicly owned businesses managed by workers and consumers are two options that have long been on the table. When it comes to decentralization, democratic socialists say they are for as much of it as possible; however, they do admit that state ownership of industries like energy and steel would still be necessary. Proponents of democratic socialism have never been in favor of a centrally planned economy, and they reason this position by arguing that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy. Moreover, democratic socialists acknowledge that market mechanisms are needed to determine what goods consumers want to purchase. Some democratic socialist policies most people have at least heard of today are medicare for all, tuition-free college education, student-debt relief, massive tax increases for wealthy people and large corporations, and a $15 minimum wage indexed to “median wage growth,” instead of inflation.
Important Democratic Socialists
Two of the most prominent politicians who represent the democratic socialism movement are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York’s Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Mr. Sanders almost secured a 2016 primary nomination for the Democratic Party after running a campaign largely predicated on instituting the ideals of democratic socialism in American government, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has become a superstar in the Democratic Party because she is a young, fresh face with a talent for articulating the democratic socialist ideals she and her supporters espouse. Both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez have received strong criticism from politicians and thought leaders on the right, but criticism for their democratic socialist policies has as well come from members within their own party.
Arguments Against Democratic Socialism
When it comes to democratic socialism, the first thing opponents take issue with is the political philosophy’s name: “It’s a contradiction in terms,” says Trump administration senior political advisor Stephen Miller. Opponents like Mr. Miller argue that democratic socialism is no different from Marxist-Leninist socialism, and they assert that there has never been a democratic socialist country; this latter point is one the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) acknowledges on their own website: “No country has fully instituted democratic socialism.” While the DSA acknowledges that full democratic socialism has never been instituted anywhere in the world, they point to countries like Sweden to show how a good comprehensive welfare state is maintained; they champion socialist models like those in France, Canada and Nicaragua too. What the DSA fails to point out, opponents say, is that Sweden, France and Canada are not socialist countries, and Nicaragua isn’t even democratic.
Opponents of democratic socialism are typically, but not always, ardent proponents of capitalism, and such support is totally inconsistent with democratic socialists’ main goal of abolishing capitalism. Meagan Day, a Jacobin magazine writer and DSA member, writes for Vox: “In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism.” In the New York Times, political scientist Corey Robin posits that capitalism should be done away with because “it makes us unfree.” Proponents of capitalism argue that a strong market economy is one of the pillars on which any free society rests, and they also assert that competitive economies, libertarianism, and laissez-faire economics are all foundational facets as well. Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants lawmakers in Washington to pursue a “Green New Deal,” something she refers to as a “national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” to reduce America’s carbon emissions. Many proponents of capitalism cringe at the idea of such a plan, for they say its implementation would derail both the U.S.’s nuclear energy system and her dependency on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas over the next 10 years. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has talked at length about “every residential and industrial building [being] state-of-the-art [in] energy efficiency, comfort and safety,” and she has also said her potential plan would “virtually eliminate poverty” by guaranteeing “a living wage job to every person who wants one” while mitigating “deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth” through a universal basic income, universal health care, and other measures. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez believes that the abolishment of capitalism in the U.S. is necessary in order to achieve greater equality in the country, and this point is one which her opponents reject vehemently.
- Democratic Socialists Used to Be Decent – Wall Street Journal
- The Fantasy of ‘Democratic Socialism’ – Wall Street Journal
- What is Democratic Socialism? – Democratic Socialists of America
- Stopping the Socialist Resurgence – Wall Street Journal
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