Free money does not exist. Universal education, healthcare, public transportation and parental leave are all fantastic ideas. We need them. However, I disagree with talking about them as if they are “free.” If Bernie Sanders supporters truly want a social democracy, we have to understand that these services are not free.
It is absolutely true that many of these services are “free on delivery” in western European countries, meaning no payment is collected immediately. But this is only provided by taxes; however, it is not necessarily true that all citizens are over-taxed to pay for them. Progressive tax schemes exist while only the very rich pay the dreaded 50 percent that Fox News pundits all lament about. In some countries, the average citizen doesn’t pay that much more than the average American does.
The point behind providing tax funded services is that they are seen as investments; it is fundamentally better to provide all citizens with the means to attend a university, which would likely result in higher paying salaries. It is better for citizens to have universal access to healthcare, because healthy citizens have more social and economic mobility than sick citizens. It is better to offer nutritious, subsidized meals to children at school, because children need to focus on learning. It is better to offer new parents with daycare options, because not all new parents — especially single ones — have familial support, and they may not be able to work while children are too young for public school.
Let me make this point clear: I am a Social Democrat. I believe that socialism has some good ideas. My politics mirror the Labour party of Norway, or the Social Democrats of Sweden or the Parti Socialiste of France; however, I still believe in neoliberal principles. These are not entitlements. These are not handouts. You do not “deserve” these benefits out of the kindness of the state’s heart. While I was abroad in Norway for four months, I noticed that you could be 99 percent certain that homeless people must have repeatedly denied any help, because services are that abundant. My end goal is this: I want there to be no barrier to working.
For those who are skeptical about what effect social democracy would have on the economy, major brands and corporations have been founded in northern European countries where taxes are highest in Europe. Nokia, Linux, Minecraft and Angry Birds are Finnish. Spotify, Skype, Ericsson, Electrolux and IKEA are Swedish. Socialism does not necessarily spell death for innovation and investment. Moreover, why should our geography or culture impede the U.S from becoming a social democracy? We are still an incredibly wealthy country.
We are in dire need of a labor revolution. Thank a socialist for the weekend, the eight hour work day, public roads and every other service that we don’t think about in our daily lives. Now, let’s work hard to protect them while we work on increasing the number of public services.
I am talking directly to Bernie supporters here: have more than a superficial understanding of social democracy. We need to familiarize ourselves with economic theorists like Keynes and Krugman. We also need to understand how these policies have thrived in certain areas like Scandinavia. We need to understand change to make change.