A recent Foundation of Economic Education article by James Davenport argues that Democratic Socialism Doesn't Exist: Like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, Democratic Socialism Exists Only in Myth. I take issue with this terminology. Republican socialism doesn’t exist. Democratic socialism certainly can. But that is an issue for another column.
Davenport’s main argument is that socialism is (or inevitably leads to) totalitarianism because socialism by definition eliminates private property, which means “the end of individuals and corporations owning, improving, and exchanging resources, goods, and services,” leading to ever-increasing central control of all economic activity. (The socialist abolition of private property can be accomplished through outright confiscation or totally controlled, though nominally privately owned, property.) Davenport makes a point that I want to address:
The entire notion of democratic socialism is simply a fiction.
By hailing certain Nordic countries as successful examples of democratic socialism, these candidates mislead people about the true nature of both socialism and capitalism.
The fact is that the very countries Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez praise have market-capitalist economies.
Not only are they market-capitalist systems, several of them rank higher than the U.S. in economic freedom comparisons.
What Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their supporters label as democratic socialism is actually market capitalism with a robust (some argue unsustainable) social safety net.
I don't believe Sanders et al are making an innocent mistake.
The creation of the so-called "social safety net" has always been the means by which
socialists could gradually transform capitalist America into a socialist state. "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism," said six-time US Socialist Presidential Candidate Norman Thomas. "But under the name of 'Liberalism,' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."
But the welfare state has its limits, inherent in the very notion of a "safety net" for capitalism. The socialists have taken the welfare state as far as it can. To complete the transformation, a new rationale was needed.
Enter democratic socialism. We are now being told that our welfare state has been socialism all along. Do you collect Social Security? Send your kids to public schools? Support food stamps to help feed the poor? Well, that's socialism--democratic socialism! See? That's not so bad, is it? But unlike the social safety net, democratic socialism implies no limits. Get people to accept democratic socialism, and the road to totalitarian socialism is cleared.
I believe the miss-identifying of the Nordic mixed economies as socialist is deliberately intended to sanitize socialism's actual nature and record in order to pave the way for actual totalitarian socialism in America. Once Americans begin to identify its comparatively benign welfare state with socialism, real socialism can continue to be smuggled in piece by piece, so that by the time Americans catch on, it will be too late. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," imposed by the guns of state, will have arrived--along with its inevitable consequence of economic paralysis and collapse, and the total state.
With important midterm elections approaching, it's imperative to know what the Democratic Party is up to.