Lane Kenworthy on why we’re headed toward social democracy

Lane Kenworthy
Lane Kenworthy

Does the arc of history — specifically U.S. history — bend toward social democracy? Political scientist Lane Kenworthy thinks so.

Well, he more than thinks so. Kenworthy has written a book-length treatment of his belief, titled “Social Democratic America.”

In case you don’t use these terms, “social democracy” often refers to the kind of socialism practiced in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, with higher taxes and a larger safety net than in the United States. Kenworthy explained his thinking Wednesday in a talk for the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

Yes, the U.S. system of politics and government makes major governmental change hard. And yes, the two major U.S. political parties can’t agree on anything and one of those parties seems to have decided its raison d’etre is to block any further increases in taxes or expansion of government. Kenworthy conceded all that. But you would have to concede that — notwithstanding those tendencies — the Affordable Care Act has just expanded the role of government in a very substantial way.

And Kenworthy isn’t predicting that any particular step toward the next level of social democracy will occur right away. He suggested only that over perhaps the next 50 years, the portion of GDP that is devoted to all forms of government spending — currently about 36 percent — will grow by another 10 percentage points or so and start creeping up on 50 percent, and that the chief cost of the that expansion will be to pay for more more kinds of government insurance programs, along the lines of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare and various welfare-type programs that soften hardships on the poor and near-poor.

He predicts this 50-year tendency will be “slow, unsteady and episodic,” which would also be same as in past years. It would be accompanied by constant arguments from conservatives that the growth of social spending will undermine economic growth and strangle economic freedom, but he said that the data from the Scandinavian countries indicates the opposite, that economic growth  can co-exist with a larger public sector.

For a longer version of Kenworthy’s arguments, here’s an interview he gave to the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (117)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/17/2014 - 01:27 pm.

    Social Democracy is not Socialism

    It’s the same hybrid system of capitalism and public responsibility for (some) social welfare as we have.
    The only difference is in the proportions of the ingredients in the mix — the basic product is the same.

  2. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/17/2014 - 01:29 pm.


    Good old news.

  3. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/17/2014 - 03:18 pm.

    The cycle of civilization

    – from bondage comes spiritual faith
    – from spiritual faith comes courage
    – from courage comes liberty
    – from liberty comes abundance
    – from abundance comes complacency
    * from complacency comes apathy*
    * from apathy comes dependency*
    – from dependency comes bondage

    Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 04/17/2014 - 04:12 pm.


      To whom are the Scandinavians in bondage?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 04:55 pm.


        In Norway, it is oil that allows them a unique existence. Not sure what they will do if that goes away. I hope they are diversifying.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/17/2014 - 05:19 pm.

          Of course

          We’re also starting to ride a gas/oil bubble.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 08:49 pm.

            Norway, Alaska and ND have a lot in common. Small homogeneous populations and a lot of wealth from oil…. I am not sure the USA as a whole is getting wealthy off oil…

        • Submitted by Lance Groth on 04/17/2014 - 06:02 pm.

          Incomplete answer

          That does not explain Sweden, Denmark and Finland, nor is it a complete answer for Norway. The fact is, no one has imposed anything on the Scandinavians. They are not in bondage to anyone. The people of those countries embrace solutions through government and especially social safety nets in a way that Americans, who are traditionally suspicious of government, do not. They voted for it, they make it work, they embrace organized social responsibility for one another and they are happy with the results. They have, in repeated measures, the highest satisfaction and quality of life in the western world, and they are content to pay high taxes to get it. It’s not about oil.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 09:08 pm.

            Fear and Selfishness?

            The USA spends tons of money policing the world.
            The USA allows in a large number of poor uneducated immigrants/refugees.
            The USA allows our society to shift and change.
            The USA allows ~17 million illegal immigrants to stay here.
            The USA has ~319,000,000 citizens.

            Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway are about as populated and complicated as our 5 state region. Without all the diversity and language issues…

            So I guess their system may work if we locked our borders, stopped global policing, etc… I am not sure why these countries are so immigration averse… Maybe they want to keep the money for themselves.

            By the way, Volvo auto, Saab auto, Nokia, etc didn’t fair very well… And remember the GDP link I provided.

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/18/2014 - 09:43 am.


              about 12% of the current population of Sweden is foreign born.
              The largest numbers seem to be from the former Yugoslavia and from the Middle East.

            • Submitted by carter meland on 04/18/2014 - 10:58 am.

              more complicated than MN

              Don’t be fooled by personal assumptions or hoary stereotypes about the homogeneity of Scandinavia.

              About 7% of Minnesotans are immigrants, and the five state region as a whole is less than 9%. In the US about 13% of the population are immigrants–that is likely a few ticks higher when you factor in the widely agreed upon number of 11.7 million undocumented immigrants (not the 17 or 20 million that the fantasists at Fox/Washington Times imagines).

              A quick google on the demographics of Norway and Sweden shows that 14% of Norway’s population is immigrant and that 19% of Sweden’s is. Sure, a lot of those immigrants are from other northern and eastern European countries (which still means language issues: Finnish is not even related to Norwegian, nor are Latvian or Polish), but there are huge and rapidly growing immigrant populations from south and southeast Asia and the Middle East in both Norway and Sweden. Both countries have greater immigrant population than MN, and Sweden has a larger immigrant population percentage-wise than the USA. In both cases, the stereotype that those nations are “immigration averse” utterly fails.

              These countries are not just supporting “their own” race/ethnicity/nationality as your comment implies

              As another commenter to Minnpost frequently points out, it is best not to use stereotypes to do your thinking. The world is much more interesting, challenging, and complex than stereotypes let it be.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 11:20 am.

                Pauls Site is Interesting

                “The country’s carefully regulated effort to allow only selected migrants to be admitted, together with its commitment to ensuring social equality for those who arrive, closely fits the model to which many other European countries (with varying degrees of success) aspire.”


                “The current Social Democratic government’s restrictive approach is meant to appease anti-immigrant opinion with the goal of preventing the rise of a popular protest party with anti-immigration politics as its principal platform. Yet the government must balance this with the political support it depends on from the Green Party and the Left Party, both of which disdain the ongoing erosion of humanitarian asylum and refugee policies.”



              • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/18/2014 - 11:33 pm.

                All the Western European countries have immigrants

                Anyone who thinks otherwise probably hasn’t been there recently. Even Iceland has immigrants, as I found out when I visited.

                Anyway, the idea that lack of immigrants makes it easier to have social democracy is just a bit racist. It implies that immigrants are not as intelligent, honest, or hard-working or otherwise worthy as native-born citizens.

                Norway does have oil at present, but I’ve seen articles in business magazines praising Norway’s stewardship of its oil revenue. It’s worth remembering that Britain also shares in the North Sea oil, but while Norway has obviously spent its revenues on shiny new infrastructure and other quality-of-life measures, and looks tidy and prosperous in both private and public places, Britain, with 22 out of the past 35 years under Conservative governments and the rest under a Labour government that undid almost none of the previous Conservative policies, has a strongly bifurcated economy, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

                It’s also worth remembering that Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have social programs similar to that of Norway and that even Norway’s system predates the oil discoveries.

                When I was in Stockholm three years ago, I attended services at the Engelska Kyrka, the Anglican church, which attracts English-speaking residents from all over the world. One of the Americans told me that they go to Eastern Europe for their charity work, because so few people in Sweden fall through the cracks of the safety net.

                We have people falling out of the middle class and the working poor not coming even close to making it to the end of the month. We have young people who can’t find a first job that will let them pay off their student loans and middle-aged people who have been dumped from their jobs and are unable to find a new one. We have entire towns losing their main employer as manufacturing and even some clerical and professional work moves offshore. Under such circumstances, it’s not surprising that people are beginning to question laissez-faire capitalism.

                Two of the best selling books on economics on Amazon are “Capital in the 21st Century” by Thomas Piketty and Arthur Goldhammer and “The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor” by William Easterly.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 04:09 pm.


                  Did you notice one other thing in Sweden? Almost all cars on the road were Volvo’s… Almost all the construction equipment were Swedish brands… My point is that the Swedish citizens apparently are smarter than American citizens. They apparently understand that to have jobs in Sweden, they need to buy products from Swedish firms. The irony of course is that Volvo auto is now owned by a Chinese firm. (I was there last June.)

                  Part of Germany’s success is due to similar country loyalty. Trying to sell products into that market is HARD.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 11:32 am.

              2050 Map

              Maybe Northern Europe will change its selective policies as growth stops.

              Though you can see the USA plans to keep the doors open.

              By the way, most of my ancestors came from Norway so I am not trying to pick on them. However comparing them to the USA is just incorrect on so many levels.

              By the way, MN has a few more citizens than Norway. And somewhat less than Sweden.

              • Submitted by carter meland on 04/18/2014 - 03:35 pm.

                the point…

                … of my comment was to address the stereotype that the Nordic countries were homogeneous and immigration averse.

                Immigration patterns will of course change over the next 35 years (they even changed between Paul Brandon’s 2006 numbers concerning Sweden having a 12% immigrant population and my 2011 numbers of 19%) and will likely change again as wars end, nations stabilize, economies shift, collapse, recover, etc. A map projecting population growth (which includes births) does not necessarily predict immigration patterns. Immigration is just one factor in population growth. I have no argument that there are nativists in Norway and Sweden that want to shut the borders, just as there are nativists in US who want to do the same. Nativists are immigration averse while the nations they live in may not be–the US being a good example.

                BTW, Minnesota has a population of 5.4 million people and Norway has 5.1 million, so I’ll grant you that MN has a few more citizens. At 7% MN has roughly 378K immigrants while Norway (at 14%) has around 714K. Norway has a lot more immigrants than MN does, both in percent and numbers. That’s what I mean about avoiding stereotypes in making assumptions about how lily-white the Nordic countries are and how that makes it easier for “them” to have a socially democratic society.

                And if the comparison of MN or US to Norway is “incorrect on so many levels” as you state, why did you make the comparison in your post. All I’m trying to do is show that the assumptions of the comparison made in your post are not supported by the numbers. The numbers are more interesting and challenge us to rethink what we thought we knew. Rethinking assumptions in light of fresh info is good; defending assumptions despite the facts is not so good.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 10:50 pm.

                  One Last Try

                  Thank you for the info. I also noted that ~50% of their immigrants come from Northern Europe.

                  Now I agree there are likely language issues, however many cultural concepts may be similar.

                  • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/23/2014 - 01:28 pm.

                    There seems to be an underlying assumption

                    that having a large population of immigrants from poor countries is in itself a reason not to have social programs.

                    Are you assuming that immigrants from poor countries are too stupid to benefit from good schools?

                    Are you assuming that immigrants from poor countries are so lazy that they will glom onto the welfare system and never let go?

                    Are you assuming that they are more prone to crime than people born in the U.S.?

                    Or do immigrants from everywhere go through a rough patch (remember the Irish and Jewish gangs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?) before settling down in a couple of generations?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 05:54 pm.


                      Someone has to pay as the immigrant population learns and adjust to the new society. And there are challenges that do occur occasionally. I don’t know what the previous US immigrants would be like today if they hadn’t needed to strive to adapt, learn and work.


                      Personally I don’t know much about “work ethic” as related to culture. However Paul seems to believe the protestants have a strong work ethic. And the families from East Asia seem to adapt pretty quickly. (ie low academic achievement gaps)

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/17/2014 - 04:13 pm.

      I’m Not Sure What “Spriitual Faith” Your Author is Referring to

      But it would appear that, in the case of Christianity, “Spiritual Faith” calls us to follow the example of “the Good Samaritan,” and countless other parables and examples provided by Jesus and the prophets in caring for those less fortunate than ourselves,…

      and to use our “courage” to battle on behalf of those in need,…

      NOT our OWN selfish wants and needs.

      It was not every man “courageously” pursuing his own selfish wants and needs, i.e. RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM that produced the abundance of the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.

      Such abundance comes from creating a more equalitarian, interdependent society as is the case with the existing social democracies

      We all do better when we ALL do better.

      The “bondage” we’ve been continuously sliding toward since the 70’s is the bondage which occurs when those who have the most are increasingly able to shape the economy and the government to meet their own needs at the expense of, and to the exclusion of the needs of all other members of our society.

      Where THAT leads (lacking and FDR to take it back in a healthier direction) is directly to the type of bondage which leaves enough of the populace with no hope of a better future (all ladders having been pulled up by those at the top), nothing left to lose and nothing to give to win a better future for themselves and their children but their own lives;…

      in other words, the kind of “courageous liberty” that the author you quote takes to be so beneficial actually leads to only one thing,…

      the takeover of the society of those with the most,….

      and the inevitable downfall of those people and the society they’ve warped in their favor as those with the least rise up in revolution.

      Indeed, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it, but your opening quote is a figment of its author’s imagination and has nothing to do with actual, factual history.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 04:44 pm.

        Data Matters

        If things were better in the 50 and 60s, it was because we had fewer entitlements and more people who believed in “Buy American”.

        Yet this individual wants to keep trending in the wrong direction.

        • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 04/17/2014 - 05:17 pm.

          Do You Not Comprehend

          That it was American Corporations who chose to cease “buying American” in that they ceased to buy the work of American workers,…

          so that they could outsource their labor to foreign workers at pennies on the dollar, lower their prices slightly, and pocket MOST of the difference?

          While American corporations and retailers, i.e. Walmart, worked mightily to convince American consumers that quality doesn’t matter in the least, that cheapest is always best,…

          and that what the people who are making the products you buy are paid will never make even the slightest difference in your own quality of life?

          Americans were expertly seduced into undermining the quality of their own lives by those who profited mightily off the slide of the middle class into poverty, (which those who stood to profit very carefully engineered).

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 09:47 pm.

            Oh Come Now

            So you think the Big 3 wanted their sales to go away.

            The reality is that consumers like yourself and me, wanted those low cost and/or high quality goods. No one had to convince us to buy that cooler and/or more reliable item for less money. We happily voted with our wallets, so the companies gave us more of what we wanted. Great products at lower prices.

            I mean we moved from our Curtiss Mathis and Zenith TVs to that cool Sony… Then that wasn’t the best / cheapest so we moved to Samsung… Someday soon it will be products from a Chinese company… Oh too late, Lenova bought IBM’s pc business.

            The latest war is in the area of home appliances. LG and Samsung are pretty cool, who wants those GEs, Whirlpools, etc.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 04/17/2014 - 05:25 pm.

          That’s a big if

          We had things like Korea and Vietnam to boost the economy and dampen unemployment (remember the draft?). Also more poverty, although it may have been less concentrated than it is now.
          Anyone remember “Those were the good old days” from Damn Yankees?
          I was there in the 50’s and 60’s — I don’t want to go back.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/17/2014 - 09:57 pm.

            Good Old Days

            But those were the good old days for the USA. 1/2 the countries in the world were decimated and just trying to rebuild, communication costs were still high, shipping costs were significant, etc and the USA could offer “OK” products and charge a lot for them.

            Since the 1970’s, other countries recovered / learned, shipping costs dropped, communication costs plumetted and the American consumers learned that better products were available for the same or less money. At which time the American consumers, being the good capitalists we are, started buying from who ever offered the best value. And the rest is history.

  4. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/17/2014 - 07:36 pm.

    Not true

    So Mr. Kenworthy said that the data from the Scandinavian countries indicates the opposite, that economic growth can co-exist with a larger public sector. Well, he is wrong.

    First, Scandinavian countries do not spend anything on defense – they are under American umbrella (I recall that a Russian plane recently entered Swedish air space and no one noticed). Someone has to stand up Russia and China.

    Second, their glory times have passed. Norway is actually the only country that is doing great, thanks to its huge oil reserves. Others are beginning to struggle. For example, Swedes are looking for employment in Norway and Finland is cutting social benefits.

    And third, all those countries have been mostly homogenous which excluded all internal tension. America is a completely different story.

  5. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/17/2014 - 10:07 pm.

    Just gonna happen?

    Mr. Kenworthy must be a very optimistic person. Reading the interview at the link, he seems to dismiss every liberal or progressive initiative as being achievable yet he firmly believes that somehow we’re going to arrive a some future state of social democracy beyond the pathetic ghost of one that exists here now.

    Maybe he explains in his book how he thinks this social democracy is going to happen. But I can pretty much guaranty that it’s not going to happen with our current political two-party plutocracy.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 08:30 am.

      Look at This Graph

      History is showing that Mr Kenworthy is absolutely correct. That is why the Conservatives are working so hard to stop the Titanic before it hits that iceberg.

      “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”

      ~Benjamin Franklin

      • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/18/2014 - 08:23 pm.

        “The people” voting?

        The only vote I think might qualify in recent history as a “vote themselves money” took place in 2008 when a right wing Secretary of Treasury, Paulson, who was part of the right wing, President George W. Bush’s cabinet, asked– no, demanded– that Congress approve the bailout of the largest 8 banks in this country, a vote which happened under false pretenses and under duress. And we know who “voted themselves money” by the grand bonuses awarded the following years by AIG, Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street cabal and the succeeding flush of money which flowed into political campaigns throughout the land. Like everything else in this so-called “republic”, “printing money” for your pet projects/ delusions is OKIUAR. (or, to quote Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter”).

        I suppose “conservatives” believe that this accounts for the triumph of the Affordable Care Act. Except that the Affordable Care Act is/was a right wing concept proposed by the Republican Party to forestall single payer health care. As evidenced by Mitt Romney’s advocacy of the same program in Massachusetts when he was governor there.

        I wish people who define themselves as “conservatives” would engage in a bit more self-examination about what they profess as their core beliefs and whether the people who claim to be speaking on their behalf as “conservatives” really reflect or express the principles they claim to espouse.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 11:43 pm.

          Seeing Blue

          Who do you think has been voting for that ever growing Blue section of the graph?

          Though I agree that all politicians can be pressured by voters to spend “other peoples money”, I think it is the DFL and its core that keeps asking for more. Otherwise this group wouldn’t keep vilifying the GOP for wanting to cut spending. This gentleman explains it well.

          • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 04/19/2014 - 10:53 am.

            Just cut the poor

            Conservatives don’t care about deficits. If they did they would be screaming to cut the bloated defense and national security budgets. The only thing people like Paul Ryan and other darlings of the right want is to cut spending that helps the most vulnerable people in society: children the elderly, the homeless and the poor. After the right has been more or less in charge of all three branches of the government for over thirty years, you’ll never convince me that the right really cares about deficits. Unless it’s a way of inflicting pain on the poorest segments of society.

            The gentleman’s article you refer to doesn’t really prove that deficits do matter anyway. If his historical charts prove anything, it’s that the economy and some people have done very well despite of the growing deficits and the spending. One could make the case that the economy has done so well is because of deficit spending and would have done even better if there had been more spread more evenly to the people who need the money most.

            The Democratic Party has gone along with all of the conservative initiatives for the past thirty years. Those elected to office have sold their souls for tenure, paying lip service to some of the social democratic foundations laid in the New Deal, while voting to repeal most of it. That’s why the middle class has all but ceased to exist in this country.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 04:16 pm.

              Red, Green and Orange

              See the graph, red green and orange are shrinking.

              Personally I think local and state governments should be providing the blue. Feds should be handling national defense, interstate issues, etc.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2014 - 01:10 pm.

    Yes, social democracy is inevitable

    This bizarre Ayn Randian detour of the last couple decades will come to an end and that may happen sooner rather than later. You’ll see the Liberandian’s (libertarian/Ayn Rand acolytes) here react with near hysterical denial because for some reason a more equitable society terrifies them.

    The biggest problem Liberandian’s have is that on very basic level they don’t recognize the fact that we live in a liberal democracy, and that fact has consistently pushed us towards social democracy for over 200 years. The function of government in a liberal democracy is to serve the people as the people so choose, not hang people out to dry so they can serve themselves and exploit their fellow citizens.

    Social democracy may happen sooner than Laneworthy thinks, the whole assumption of glacial progress depends on a stable political landscape that looks more or less like the one we have now. The thing is we may be on the verge of a tipping point of sorts here. At the height of their power the Tea Party could not prevent the election and/or re-election of Franken, Dayton, and Obama, and their implosion elsewhere such as in Kansas appears to be accelerating. Their culture war is not only collapsing but appears to be turning against them very quickly. I think Americans are fed up and beginning to demand effective governance and progress. I think Americans are tired of agents of intolerance, obstruction, and fear.

    Republican’s may have a few electoral victories here and there in fits and starts but the over-all arc is decline until new republicans emerge with integrity, better ideas, and a desire to govern effectively. When and if such Republicans emerge they will be more likely encourage rather than obstruct social democracy although maybe a little less enthusiastically. Just think Arne Carlson or even Arnold Schwartzenegger instead of Michelle Bachmann.

    People are going to see that light rail, public amenities, higher minimum wages, gay marriages, and more affordable and attainable health care aren’t the end of the world and their gonna wonder what all the fuss was about? What if people realize they should’ve been worrying more about global warming instead of whether or not we say: “merry christmas?”

    Liberandian’s will do what they always do, they’ll try to crank up the hysteria, but if people don’t buy into it again things could change much more rapidly than predicted.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 02:16 pm.

      And I repeat…

      “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
      Benjamin Franklin

      I do agree with one of your statements though. “we may be on the verge of a tipping point of sorts ”

      And agents of fear… I thought that was the CAGW supporters.

      Just curious, what encourages people to work hard, learn continuously, save/invest, take financial risks, take personal risks, etc in this heavenly social democracy that you envision?

      What dissuades people from taking advantage of the efforts of others in this heavenly social democracy that you envision? Or from spending the free money on products and services from other regions that are more competitive than our somewhat socialistic state?

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2014 - 03:56 pm.

    Human nature

    “Just curious, what encourages people to work hard, learn continuously, save/invest, take financial risks, take personal risks, etc in this heavenly social democracy that you envision?”

    John, people have been doing these things for millions of years. They’re not going to stop just because they have a decent public education system and vacation time. On the contrary. By the way, in a free country, people aren’t required to live the lives you think they should live, they can pursue their own lives.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/18/2014 - 05:10 pm.

      Incomplete answer

      Apparently you have no “free loader” individuals or criminals in this new society. Everyone is intrinsically motivated to work hard, get educated, avoid vices, contribute to the good of society, etc. Excellent…

      We already have a pretty good Public Education system. Unfortunately it is very difficult to teach people who are not intrinsically motivated to learn. What are you going to with those people in this new society?

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/18/2014 - 06:07 pm.


        Well, for one thing we’re not talking about Utopia, we’re talking about social democracy. Second, human beings have been living with individual differences for millions of years, somehow we manage to cope and a society with more resources devoted to coping would probably cope more successfully.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 12:00 am.

          Not Necessarily

          Societies like ours that love to spend money outside of our economy need to keep creating wealth at a very fast rate or our standard of living drops. The more money you move from wealth creation to “coping” , the faster our “wealth balloon” may go from staying stable to shrinking.

          Tonight I was listening to the news about Venezuela’s shift to the Socialist side. Not surprisingly their oil revenues which supported their “Utopia” are dropping because of poor management by the government and the fact that no private investors are going to invest in a country like that.

          Sorry, though most people are intrinsically motivated to work hard, learn and improve their status in life. There is always a percentage of humans that aren’t. That is where extrinsic motivators are needed. Sticks: out of money, hungry, poor housing, getting fired, old stuff, etc. Carrots: job security, money, food, nice stuff, beautiful home, etc.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/19/2014 - 11:54 am.

            “ private investors are going to invest…”

            While I grant the possibility of mismanagement on the part of the Venezuelan government (although the private sector is certainly capable of mismanagement, especially when short-term profit-oriented thinking overrides their common sense), the lack of investment sounds like a “capital strike.”

            It’s not that investors couldn’t make money off Venezuela’s oil. It’s that they no longer own the government as they did in the pre-Chavez days, so in a fit of pique, they refuse to invest.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/19/2014 - 01:45 pm.


            Sounds distinctly like social engineering to to me. Live as WE want you to “or else”. Tell me, is it strictly fear of poverty which motivates you to employment or is that reserved for those “other” people whose motivations are inferior to your own?

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 10:19 pm.

              A Variety of Factors

              I am perfectly happy letting people live whatever life they like. However to ask others and myself to fund their life choices seems a bit odd. (ie provide them with food, lodging, health care, clothing, etc)

              By the way, there are people that lack intrinsic motivation at all levels of wealth. That is why some heirs squander what they started with.

              Personally, I am motivated by both carrots and sticks.

              • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 01:47 pm.

                Action by inaction

                So in other words you wish to promote those who are “intrinsically motivated” by a desire for financial achievement, those who would “pay their way”, but would simply be content to allow for the existence of those who might be motivated by other values, though the policies you support would make such an existence virtually impossible. Except, of course, for those already financially independent. When one of the choices is an impossibility, its not exactly a choice now is it? Could you allow that it might be of a benefit to a society that the majority of its members might be better off if they needn’t devote the majority of their time towards basic survival? That constant financial insecurity might not be the best way to keep the “masses” productive?

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 04:09 pm.


                  So does this mean you want to promote people to not work? To promote that they do not help build America? To promote that they rely on the wealth of others?

                  I agree that it would be nice and good if people had more free time, however I don’t think it should come at the expense of another citizen through more arbitrary government forced transfers. Let’s change our culture so that consumers support American businesses and employees. Not the least cost highest value products made in foreign markets.

                  • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 05:57 pm.


                    I would promote service to others, directing talent to jobs that are critically necessary yet not considered financially lucrative, altruism. I realize this is anathema to those who view life as a game to be won, but in my opinion the single minded devotion of a segment of the populace to amassing as much wealth as possible before death serves little purpose in the grand scheme of things.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2014 - 08:56 am.

                      Big step

                      “the single minded devotion of a segment of the populace to amassing as much wealth as possible ”

                      It seems you are making a big step, since Ilya are only proposing that all able bodied and minded citizens should work for their keep. And that promoting government dependency is bad for the country and bad for the people who become dependent. If I supported “he who dies with most toys wins”, I wouldn’t give ~6% of my my gross income to a wide variety of charities.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/22/2014 - 12:28 pm.

                      No offense

                      But charity is far more about the giver than the receiver. Also, it you deduct it it ceases to be charity and instead becomes a tax avoidance transaction.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 04/23/2014 - 08:43 am.

                      I think it can be both charity and a deduction at the same time. I’m certainly OK with that, and I don’t mind being able to deduct my charitable contributions, though I certainly wouldn’t characterize myself as someone who actively avoids paying his taxes (nor as someone who complains about it openly). The tax code is a good tool to incentivize certain types of behavior, such as charitable giving.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2014 - 09:29 am.

                      I don’t look to discourage charity

                      Rather I look to discourage the self congratulation of those whose only motivation for it is the tax break. Conservatives love to trot out charitable giving stats, without context, as a bludgeon of hypocrisy toward those not like minded. There is also the fact that charitable causes are necessarily limited to a specific issue or problem, rendering them ineffective at remediating systemic, society scale problems. Often the conservative thrust is that charity should substitute for governmental social programs, a notion both naieve and destructive.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 01:28 pm.

                      Only motivation

                      Do you often feel motivated to spend $1000 to save $200 to $450? (depending on tax bracket)

                      Give2Attain was named around the concept that people should give more time and/or money because it is so beneficial to the giver and the recipient. In a country where the typical giving rate is <3%, I think we have a lot of room for improvement. That is if we truly do care for others and are willing to put our personal money where our mouth is.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 01:19 pm.

                      About Both

                      Actually charity is about the giver and the receiver, both gain from the transaction. Whereas government programs support the receiver very inefficiently because of the huge bureaucracy, and often have the unintentional negative consequence of promoting chronic dependency.

                      Especially when the money is collected by the Feds, transferred to the States , distributed to the counties, distributed to the recipient… That’s why I think money should be collected and distributed within the state.

                      Charity is only a deduction, not a tax credit. Therefore it is both a charity and a tax benefit to encourage giving. If a wealthy person gives $1,000,000 to charity, their tax bill is only reduced by ~$400,000. Is that a bad thing?

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2014 - 02:13 pm.

                      That would illustrate problem I stated earlier nicely

                      So to what is that 1 million being donated? From what is that 400k deducted. I could come up with any number if scenarios that would be disastrous to someone based on divergent priorities. Therein lies the problem with using charity to solve social ills, that which is trendy, or which has the best public relations campaigns, gets the dollars. How do you address what falls through the cracks? You can decry bureaucracy all you like (as if they don’t exist within the non-profit charity industry) but at the very least we have some say in directives for spending through electoral politics.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 05:58 pm.

                      Some is good More is bad

                      We already have many many safety nets. I have no desire to eliminate them.

                      However I would like to put more work requirements on them, and shrink somewhat.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2014 - 06:31 pm.

                      Yes, yes, I heard you the first three times

                      The problem being, given the rhetoric you’ve espoused elsewhere, I’m not inclined to believe you. I always find it odd, not even in a way relating strictly to political ideology, when folks rail on and on about a topic from one viewpoint then act surprised when its assumed that this viewpoint is that which they adhere to. I find your position very hard to fathom. On the one hand you preach to us that governmental assistance is a dependency creating shackle that restricts people from reaching their true potential, that it empowers the “intrinsically unmotivated” to a life of parasitic ease. On the other hand, you tell us “don’t worry I only wish to “trim” a little from this evil monstrosity”. Which is it?

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 08:47 pm.

                      Too Much of a Good/Bad Thing

                      Both… Some morphine is good… Too much can kill a person

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2014 - 09:38 pm.


                      Might that not apply to unfettered capitalism as well?

  8. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/18/2014 - 07:59 pm.


    “people have been doing these things (working hard) for millions of years.” That is true and they were doing it because they had to survive. If they can survive without doing that, they will. Soviet Union is the best example. Unfortunately, MinnPost did not publish my article about that…. In the Soviet Union they were saying “It’s better to do nothing for 100 rubles than to do something for 200 rubles.” This is what is happening in Europe now and that is where America is going…People learn quickly; if one doesn’t need to work to survive, he will not.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/19/2014 - 09:43 am.

    History and work ethics by Ilya and John

    I’m afraid Ilya and John are making a series of flawed assumptions about everything from economics to human nature.

    To begin with, no spending can take place outside of economies. By definition commerce (i.e. spending be it direct or indirect) is economic activity that cannot take place “outside” the economy. I know that Liberandian’s (libertarian/Ayn Rand acolytes) like to pretend that public and private sectors of the economy compete rather than compliment each other but that is yet another ill informed pseudo-economic principle. Walmart recently discovered this when the Food Stamp cuts took a bite out of their profits.

    This notion of economies being organized and driven by individual wealth building is likewise incoherent because it assumes that economies are driven by a small percentage of actors who build wealth while everyone watches because their not motivated enough. This is merely Protestant work ethic pretending to be economics. The reality is that economies are complex enterprises with massive and diverse participation on many levels. Within those economies and societies some individuals are simply more interested in building wealth than others. Social Democracies don’t suppress wealth, but they do manage wealth disparity.

    Speaking of Protestant work ethic, this impulse to discipline EVERYONE into conformity as some kind of worker bee is simply tyrannical and contrary to the whole notion of a free society. Since it’s based on religious values rather than legitimate economic principles it also happens to be unconstitutional here in the United States. This is dictatorial social engineering pretending to be compassionate conservatism, we’ve seen that before.

    Since this isn’t my first dance I’ll anticipate the comments regarding social engineering. The difference between Liberandian social engineering and Liberal social engineering is that one seeks to suppress individuality while the other seeks to accommodate it. Look at John and Ilya’s notion of utopia and try to imagine how an artist who’s not interested in being wealthy would survive for instance. There’s no room in Liberandian societies for people who want to pursue interests instead of wealth. Several science fiction writers have imagined nightmare societies like that, in fact there’s a Dr. Who episode that comes to mind…

    Finally the most obvious flaw in this line of reasoning is that it assumes that there is some kind of inverse relationship between affluence and productivity. If this were the case, those countries with highest degree of social democracy would NOT be the wealthiest nations on the planet. Furthermore, logic would dictate that if affluence is the enemy of hard work, creativity, and motivation, the ideal society would limit extreme wealth rather than promote it. This idea that affluence is good for a small number of wealthy people but detrimental to everyone else is simply class warfare pretending to be anthropology. The suggestion that the wealthy work harder or are more intelligent than everyone else is too absurd to comment on.

    Basically the Liberandian notion of good society is one organized around greed. History has shown us repeatedly that societies like that always collapse. We can have a society that accommodates greed but its sheer folly to make it an organizing principle.

    By the way, almost every single religion in the world, including Christianity denounces greed. I’ve always thought is was weird to see so many Christians convert greed into a Christian value over the last couple decades. It’s actually a mortal sin if I’m not mistaken. The attempt to impose religion is weird, but the attempt to impose sin takes it to a whole new level. Listen: The only religion I know of that doesn’t denounce greed is Satanism… go figure.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/19/2014 - 04:28 pm.

      Choices again

      “Look at John and Ilya’s notion of utopia and try to imagine how an artist who’s not interested in being wealthy would survive for instance.”

      So who do you think should pay for the food, housing, healthcare, clothing, etc of this artist?

  10. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/19/2014 - 10:58 am.

    “When the people find that they can vote themselves money…

    etc. is commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin in right-wing sources.

    However, a bit of Googling reveals that there are no citations of this aphorism from before 1988, which suggests that it is another product of the right-wing’s Spurious Quotes from the Founding Fathers Co., Inc.

    Similar sentiments, which just happen to coincide with extreme Republican ideology, have been falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington. All are twentieth century fabrications.

    Whatever the source of the quotes, the writer is using the rhetorical device known as Appeal to Authority, namely, “If a famous person (actually or allegedly) said it, then it must be true.”

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/19/2014 - 08:15 pm.

    History and facts

    Unfortunately, Mr. Udstrand ignores the arguments of others and answers his own imaginable foe. He brings Protestants and religion here even though no one mentioned them and he uses his own terms to describe different people. But I will be more specific.

    “impulse to discipline EVERYONE into conformity as some kind of worker bee is simply tyrannical and contrary to the whole notion of a free society” is not religious but more socialistic and was implemented in full force in the Soviet Union. But that came as a part of the package when no one was responsible for one’s own fate – government decided everything (is this what Paul wants?).

    “There’s no room in Liberandian societies for people who want to pursue interests instead of wealth.” Actually, this is how it happened to be in the entire history of mankind and yet we still got Michelangelo, Leonardo, Beethoven, Mozart, Tolstoy, and Salinger. Sure there were multiple others who would want to paint, write, etc. but couldn’t do it because they had to work to feed themselves. But that means that they did not deserve to be paid for writing and painting. The mankind won.

    No one assumed any relationship between wealth and productivity. I just assumed inverse relationship between desire to work and having free stuff. It’s not about greed but survival. And in this case it is supported by the entire 20th century history (Russia used to export food and the Soviet Union imported it, for example).

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/20/2014 - 11:26 am.

    History and work ethic part II

    Ilya, You and John are promoting a Protestant work ethic, just because you don’t call it that doesn’t mean no one else can. At any rate the impulse to control or modify other people’s “intrinsic” qualities for economic gain is a dictatorial impulse no matter what you call it. Again, the liberal impulse is to accommodate individual differences as much as possible rather than stomp them out or outlaw them, that’s the whole point of individual liberty. This is why Liberandian ideology is ultimately incoherent, it pretends to champion the individual but imagines only one kind of individual and considers all other non-conformists.

    One should also keep in mind the fact that communist dictatorships are actually the rarest and most short lived form of dictatorships in human history. Russia for instance was ruled by dictators for hundreds of years before Stalin came along. It goes without saying that communism, socialism, and social democracy are not all the same thing.

    Ilya and John buttress one set of flawed assumption with others. I’m not going address ALL of their flawed assumptions but the problem of stereotypes has cropped up repeatedly whether we’re talking about Nordic immigration or “free-loaders”.

    Stereotypical thinking is flawed for several reasons but the biggest problem is that it simply misrepresents reality, usually by oversimplifying complex situations. John imagines all artists are freeloaders while Ilya imagines hard workers are less interested in “free-stuff” than anyone else. I assume that means all gamblers and buyers of lottery tickets are lazy ne’er-do-well’s and anyone accepting a large inheritance is economic dead weight. Meanwhile two billionaires are the biggest welfare recipients in the state and one of them doesn’t even live here.

    John, all of the artists I know either make a living selling their art or have second jobs. I know an actor who works at Home Depot for instance.

    The thing is, Ever since Reagan got elected a significant number of Americans have bought into this stereotypical hodgepodge of flaw assumptions for reason or another. We have politicians who have actually run on this nonsense and won… repeatedly. Pawlenty, Bachmann, and Bush all ran on this nonsense and more are cuing up to run in the next election. Don’t get fooled again.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/20/2014 - 06:11 pm.


      “Look at John and Ilya’s notion of utopia and try to imagine how an artist who’s not interested in being wealthy would survive for instance.” Paul

      I never made an assumption regarding artists, you questioned how they would survive… It seemed to me that you were implying something. It sounds like these “artists” are surviving just fine in our capitalistic world. No change required.

      Since I am apparently somewhat of a Libertarian, I am overjoyed to have people pursue any passion they desire. Lord knows I have my hobbies and passions. However I do expect them to earn their keep while they are doing it, just like I do.

      What is your point of these long comments?

      • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 04/21/2014 - 02:45 pm.

        Long Comments?

        This is a bit rich, as you are easily one of the most prolific posters on Minnpost of late, and you very often make assumptions about entire swaths of the population. I would guess that Paul’s ‘long comments’ are at least in part meant to refute your own arguments, which are often riddled with inconsistencies (espousing the free market and then damning those who adhere to it’s maxims) or downright incorrect statements (quote misatributations, incorrect statistical declarations, etc).

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 03:58 pm.


          Lots of accusations. Please back them up.

          I do make short comments often and I apologize when I am incorrect. (see above) I wish more people here would do that.

          • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 04/22/2014 - 05:07 pm.


            To those points- there are examples in this very comment thread as to incorrect information and misattributed quotes. I also know of another specific example relating to demographics for minimum wage earners. I’m not going to go through all 68 pages of your posts and identify every instance. You do ‘stand corrected’ when corrected, and I do want to give you credit for that, but it seems that most conservative commentators on the site make claims, and often repeat them, but don’t do the research before they post- you put the responsibility on us to do the research, and all the while, erroneous information (read: misinformation) is sitting there for all to see. If I make mistakes, I take ownership of them.

  13. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/20/2014 - 07:41 pm.

    Human nature

    I do not promote anything and neither does John, I believe. We are talking about what actually is there, about REALITY, and that is what Paul fails to understand. We are not trying to make people better, control them, or modify – it doesn’t work anyway. When governments act on the basis of beliefs rather than reality, they get into troubles; that is why I bring up Soviet Union all the time. Scandinavian countries are failing, too, as I pointed out with facts, just slower. Human nature is human nature. Paul’s desire to “accommodate” people leads to accommodating their “bad” qualities (good qualities do not need to be “accommodated”) thus reinforcing them (the nature’s law of evolution). We allow all kinds of individuals, just assuming that some of them will (deservingly) fail.

    I do not think John ever said that all artists are freeloaders (at least I didn’t see it) and I mentioned many of them who were hard workers. The ones that Paul mentioned are also hard workers meaning that they do NOT need government assistance (so Paul contradicted his own postulate that artists need government help). Neither did I say that hard workers are less interested in “free” stuff. They would get it, too, if they can and pretty soon many of them will stop being hard workers. People are people and many will do only what is absolutely necessary.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 06:36 am.

      So in other words

      In order to ensure that the successful don’t slack off, we must punish the unsuccessful to show the successful what happens if they don’t “pull their own weight”. This,of course, while ignoring the vast multitude of reasons why an individual might be categorized as one or the other. Sounds like “reality” based thinking to me.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 07:47 am.


        Tell us more about this “punishment” concept.

        Are we “punishing” Paul when we don’t take money from Peter and give it to Paul?

        When we do “rob Peter to pay Paul”, who is being punished?

        Which behaviors are being encouraged? Which are being discouraged?

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 08:46 am.

          Tell you again

          John, you’re circling back to flawed assumptions that government spending is “robbery” of some kind and that “Peter-Paul” analogies actually represent complex economies.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 09:58 am.

            Not Robbery

            Once government makes it legal, it is no longer robbery. It is the legal seizing of one person’s private property via taxes and the giving of it to another person via welfare.

            I believe it is what Matt calls social engineering. The use of government to reallocate Private funds in such a way to affect our society.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 10:45 am.

              OK, one more

              “Once government makes it legal, it is no longer robbery. It is the legal seizing of one person’s private property via taxes and the giving of it to another person via welfare.”

              All economies and governments redistribute wealth, it’s just a question to whom and how. Most people see extreme disparity as sign of inequity instead of fairness. Trickle down economies redistribute wealth just as much an any other economy, they just concentrate it in the accounts of the wealthy. Nor are trickle down economies “limited” government affairs; for most of the 20th century Chicago School “laissez faire” economies could only be imposed on populations after coup d’etat’s displace democratically elected governments with military Junta’s or some other form of dictatorship. There’s a story about a time Milton Friedman complained to Margret Thatcher that her “Free Market” reforms hadn’t gone far enough, she replied: “This isn’t Chile my dear, we have to win elections to stay in power here.”

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 11:08 am.

                Mostly agree

                The difference is that you want more government managed redistribution and I want the status quo or less.

                “Most people see extreme disparity as sign of inequity instead of fairness.” Source?

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 02:34 pm.

                  Mosty eh?

                  I’m also pointing out that you underestimate how much government management your status quo requires and how much more government it take to increase disparity.


                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 04:00 pm.

                    Starting Point

                    Did you notice that the opinion changes started in earnest after Obama was elected?

                    Causal or correlation?

                    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 04/21/2014 - 04:20 pm.

                      Or the beginning of the Great Recession.

                      It shouldn’t be a surprise that people become less satisfied in their ability to ‘Get Ahead by Working Hard’ when they see the wealthy getting bailed out by the government.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 05:42 pm.

                      Please Clarify

                      I thought almost all of the bail out money had been recovered. In fact it looks the American people are money ahead. Or were you pointing at a different bailout?

                      And I agree it is likely due to the recession effect, not the President or the wealth differential.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 08:36 pm.

                      Can’t notice stuff that didn’t happen

                      American opinions regarding wealth disparity have been stable for decades. I just provided a recent poll but you can grab a poll from any decade and you’ll find the same breakdown.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 11:11 am.

          Generally speaking

          Peter watching Paul starve (welfare and or SNAP cuts), lose his home (forclosure and bankruptcy “reform”), suffer from preventable illness, or easily treated injury (conservative medical “reform”), or find himself laid off and unemployable (globalization and fun stuff like credit checks for employment) whilst shaking a finger at Paul for his “bad choices” certainly strikes me as putative. But if only he’d live his life as an upright, morally correct, conservative he’d be worthy enough to not face this hardship.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 02:33 pm.


            And you see no problem with taking the money from distant unrelated citizen to pay these debts?

            As I told Paul, I have no desire to eliminate our safety nets. Though I would like them to shrink some and have a work requirement tied to them.

            By the way, I have repeatedly assigned ~50% of the contribution for our current challenges to the citizens and 50% to the businesses/government. So I guess I am shaking my finger at all Americans… Next I’ll get out the wet noodle.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 03:49 pm.

              That “distant” person

              I assume is a citizen, yes? That citizen enjoys the benefits living in our society offers. Those benefits come at a cost of taxation. Last I checked we have yet to descend into anarchy, that you dislike how the money is spent is irrelevant. Its no different than corporate subsidies and bloated defense contracts are to my side, yet I don’t recall seeing you (or me) refer to those wealth transfers as “legalized theft”.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 05:32 pm.

                Money for Nothing

                I would be against those expenditures also, if the tax payers are getting minimal or no return on the investment. However sizable expectations usually come with those payments. Be it a change in the corporate behavior, a new weapons system, encouraging a corporation to invest where they normally wouldn’t, many American jobs, stabilize a business sector, etc. The government typically isn’t just writing them a check to help that company or individual.

                What are your expectations of people that receive cash or benefits from the government?

                I have no problem with safety nets. I do have problems with safety hammocks.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 08:12 am.

    So in other words..

    Exactly Matt,

    ” Paul’s desire to “accommodate” people leads to accommodating their “bad” qualities (good qualities do not need to be “accommodated”) thus reinforcing them (the nature’s law of evolution).”

    Not to belabor the point but again, it’s foolish to allow people who celebrate greed as a supreme virtue decide what human qualities are “good” or “bad”. And the impulse to make such decisions and then enforce them with a variety of coercive mechanisms ranging from starvation to jail is a dictatorial impulse.

    If American liberals didn’t buy into this shoddy thinking every so often this wouldn’t be an interesting conversation. Unfortunately Al Gore “reinvented” government and Bill Clinton turned Greenspan into an Oracle based on some of this bull hockey. The result was the Great Recession. Now it looks like some liberals are looking at Rand Paul as a viable “alternative” candidate. This is just plain spooky. I just want to drag this out into the light of day and see it for what it really is, an intellectual house of cards built on a series of seriously flawed assumptions.

    I’m not going to address Ilya’s confusion regarding the nature of evolution, but we should note it. Let’s just say that social darwinism is yet another Liberandian bad idea… and not even an original one.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/21/2014 - 11:01 am.


      They won’t have the chance to act on these “Darwinian” inspirations this time around. Then again its been the requisite 2 generations or so that it takes for collective historical memory to be erased so we’ll see. I certainly don’t fancy seeing the interior of a debtor’s prison, or shopping from the company store.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/21/2014 - 05:48 pm.

      “And the impulse to make such decisions and then enforce them with a variety of coercive mechanisms ranging from starvation to jail is a dictatorial impulse.”

      Hunger has been a strong motivator to work hard for a very very very long time. I don’t think Conservatives have created this very natural consequence.

      As Matt notes, there are no debtors prisons. People only go to jail when they commit fraud, steal, etc.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2014 - 12:20 pm.


        “Hunger has been a strong motivator to work hard for a very very very long time. I don’t think Conservatives have created this very natural consequence.”

        You and Ilya keep bringing this up. I guess someone actually has to point out that you do not live in a hunter gatherer society. Starvation for cavemen is one thing, starvation in a society with an abundant food supply is usually criminal neglect if not outright murder. And again, it’s the impulse to impose hunger or starvation despite abundant resources that makes that impulse dictatorial.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2014 - 02:04 pm.

          No Imposing Required

          People make their own choices and incur their own natural consequences.

          Just as in the days of old, people can choose to work/eat or not work/ eat less.

          Neither Ilya or myself have recommended eliminating our safety nets, just keeping them the same or reducing them somewhat.

          Matt and yourself seem to be the ones advocating for significant change.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/23/2014 - 01:31 pm.

            I know quite a few people who would choose to work

            if someone would hire them and not tell them that they were “over qualified” for Target or McDonald’s but too old (phrased at “out-of-date,” “not a fit with our corporate culture”) for the professional and business jobs that they used to do.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 06:16 pm.


              That “over qualified” one is hard to get by… But harder is being okay with earning less…

              I used to Supervise people, so I had to do performance plans and reviews. Very often employees were resistant to continuous improvement and networking activities. This was hard for me to understand because I tend to spend a lot of time doing this.

              So my question is how “up to date” are the skills and knowledge of these individuals?
              Are they at peace with earning a lower “market based wage” since often long time employees get out of whack?

              I got laid off due to business problems about 16 mths ago, however I had 2 offers within ~2 months of sending my first resume. I did lose some income in the deal, however I thought getting working again was more important.

              • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/24/2014 - 11:31 pm.

                High tech workers, at least, are running into the assumption

                that someone who has learned all sorts of hardware and software since the 1980s is suddenly incapable of learning any more. Rather than training an experienced worker in a new computer language or type of hardware (and how long would that take for someone who had a programmer’s or engineer’s training and mindset? A couple of weeks?), they’ll beg Congress for more H1B visas, claiming that “no one” has technical skills.

                That’s very nice that you got a new job right away, but I know plenty of people who are just as smart and just as hard-working as you, and nobody will give them a chance. They think of going into debt to get retrained in a new field, but only an exceptional employer will take a 55-year-old beginner. They think of relocating–but that takes money unless one wants to live in one’s car. They survive on odd jobs. They send out endless applications and network tirelessly. They are forced to sell their houses or draw down their 401(k)s to survive.

                I find right-wingers to be prone to blithe dismissals of real problems, implying that these problem wouldn’t exist if only the person in question had done something differently–studied something different in school, not had children, moved to another state, not gotten divorced, saved more money, anything but acknowledging that we live under a system where being fourth-generation affluent confers advantages, where businesses are so exclusively focused on the bottom line that it has made them stupid and cruel, and where there’s always money for war and corporate welfare but never enough for improving the nation’s qualify of life.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/22/2014 - 12:27 pm.


        There aren’t any yet. Conservatives haven’t consolidated enough power to date. With our credit dependent society we’re not far off in my opinion.

  15. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/21/2014 - 07:37 pm.

    One more time: Many people work just because they have to and hoping that they will work even if they do not have to work is a wishful thinking. The Soviet Union tried that and it didn’t work so employment became mandatory; but people were still only pretending to work since they could not get anything for their labor. The longer this was going on in the Soviet Union, the less people wanted to work… Read the history of kolkhoz.

    People are the same everywhere so if government gives things away, more and more people will try to get it and fewer and fewer people will work. No wonder so many people get government assistance now, way more than before, and not because of the economy (and this is not a FOX propaganda but the sad truth). People worked at Hoover Dam in the harshest conditions possible because they had to survive. Now we have illegal immigrants doing that kind of work. After we legalize them, who will be doing it? What is wrong in my reasoning above? Please be specific.

    Paul, where am I confused about evolution? People do learn and they are not perfect: why work if you don’t have to? What about Nordic immigration that you think I am stereotyping? Where did I say that I celebrate greed? If anything, I acknowledge that it is a part of the human nature and if you want to ignore it, you will do it at your (and my) peril. You think that if you want something to work, it will, regardless of people’ nature. History shows that it does not.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/21/2014 - 08:48 pm.

    Most Americans already want a Swedish wealth distribution

    Nice little study from 2011:

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/22/2014 - 02:18 pm.

      Wants Aplenty

      I can agree that I want the “Swedish Wealth Distribution”. It seems like a very equitable situation. Now how do we achieve it without seizing the personal property from one group of citizens, just to give it to another.

      Now I WANT to replace all my old motorized toys with new ones. However I am not willing to make the sacrifices or do the work to attain this desire. And I don’t expect somebody who is wealthier than me to pay for my want. Those darn choices…

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2014 - 08:39 am.

    Upside down and backwards

    Ilya: “You think that if you want something to work, it will, regardless of people’ nature. History shows that it does not.”

    Actually history shows us that the countries with robust social democracy and effective central governments are the wealthiest nations on the planet while the countries following your principles look like Somalia and Bangladesh. And in point of fact while they lagged behind Western Europe people living in the Soviet Union and even Cuba enjoyed a higher standard of living than many other people in the world living with “free market” economies. You can complain about Cuban political oppression if you want but at least the Cubans got a great health care system out of the deal. People living throughout Latin America from the death squads in El Salvador to the Disappeared of Argentina got just got crushing poverty on top of the oppression.

    The problem with Ilya and John’s Liberandianism is that it inverts basic principles. We’re told that people who work to near exhaustion 60+ hours a week and collect food stamps are “freeloaders” while executives who go golfing, dodge responsibility at every turn, and crash whole industries if not world economies with their incompetence are the “hard” workers who should be making the big bucks. On TOP of that Liberandian’s fight at every turn any attempt to secure fair wages for the REAL hard workers in the economy. Look, in theory no safety nets would be necessary at all if workers were paid fair wages and retirement pensions. But our Liberandian’s think labor unions that negotiate fair wages and pensions are expressions of communism and any laws that protect labor or establish living wages are violations of all that is holy in the universe. It’s not a coincidence that wages have stagnated in the US at the same time Union participation has collapsed. This isn’t economics and it never was, it’s class warfare, maybe not French Revolution class warfare, but it does impose unnecessary hardship that does in fact kill people.

    And again, I say it’s been the liberal participation in this class warfare that’s been the big problem. Even Jimmy Carter signed off on Neo-Liberal economic theories that deregulated and privatized public interests. Clinton and the DLC embraced some of these principles with such gusto that we ended up with almost no opposition to class inequity in the US until very recently.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/22/2014 - 02:48 pm.

    John says:

    “Neither Ilya or myself have recommended eliminating our safety nets, just keeping them the same or reducing them somewhat.”

    I just want to make sure everyone sees this.

  19. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/22/2014 - 07:55 pm.

    History is history

    Unfortunately, Paul did not answer my specific questions and continued to pound me for what I did not say.

    Let’s do points again on what history shows. 1. I do not see Somalia as a democratic free market country (unless I missed something in the last 30 years). 2. Northern European countries are the wealthiest in the world but they started using this approach just in the 60’s-70’s, I believe, and they had been wealthy way before that. On the other hand, many Southern European countries use the same approach as the Northern ones and they are failing now. And, as I pointed out, Northern countries are beginning to see difficulties. 3. There was no great health system in the Soviet Union and I can’t believe there is one in Cuba since it was modeled after the Soviet Union. Good medicine was impossible to get, people in the hospitals stayed 8-10 per room, and it was necessary to give bribes to have a good doctor perform a surgery or help with giving birth. Contraceptives were not available, women were using cotton balls instead of pads and were taking cold showers before giving birth for the lack of hot water. And that was in Leningrad – I can only imagine how it was in rural areas. 4. In South America, Venezuela is going down in a hurry, Cuba has never been a prosperous place, and in Chile, Pinochet saved the country from Allende and let it prosper by going with a free market. Where do you, my reader, would want to live: Chile, Cuba, or Venezuela?

    As for unions, how come they negotiate with government which is helping all people and uses our money to pay its employees? In fact, FDR was against unionizing government workers…

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/22/2014 - 09:02 pm.

      Oh good god

      You’re really, honestly, going to set Pinochet up as your shining example of free market prosperity! I’m sure the families of the folks “disappeared” thank you.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 04/23/2014 - 08:55 am.


      You have got to be kidding me. Championing a man who led a bloody coup and became a dictator and murdered thousands of his countrymen. But hey, at least they were killing commies!

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/23/2014 - 01:58 pm.

      The Southern European countries are in trouble for different

      reasons. Right-wingers like to say “Spain and Greece” as if their situations are the same, but in fact, the causes of their troubles are quite different.

      Spain actually had low deficits until recently, but it crashed due to a housing market collapse that rippled over from Britain. (Spain functions as a kind of Florida for British winter vacationers and retirees. And I may add that neither Britain nor Spain had a Fannie Mae or Freddy Mac or Chris Dodd or Barney Frank.)

      Greece should never have been admitted to the European Union, much less the eurozone, in the first place. Everyone knew that its finances were a mess, especially because, incredibly, the Greek tax agency had very few powers of enforcement, so tax evasion was blatant and rarely punished. Their mistake was trying to institute a northern-style welfare state without paying for it.

      Instead of Spain and Greece, let’s look at Ireland. Until 2008, Ireland was the “success story” that the right-wing media with all its deregulation and tax incentives. I haven’t heard a right-winger brag about Ireland since 2008, much less lump it together with Spain and Greece as a failure.

      Now Ireland’s greatest export is emigrants, and the austerity imposed on Greece is causing extreme suffering, as one income source after another dries up. Meanwhile, the unemployed youth of Spain are getting increasingly restless and could cause some serious social disorder.

  20. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/23/2014 - 06:27 pm.


    Matt, everything is relative in this world. Alternative to Pinochet was Allende. So again, where would you want to live: Cuba, Venezuela or Chile? I am not even mentioning worst case scenarios like Pol Pot’s Kampuchea. And, there are no happy end stories with this kind of guys are power (and I mean Allende).

    And Karen made a very good point that Greece tried to have a welfare state without paying for that. So someone always has to pay for welfare state and eventually more people will prefer to get from the state than to give to the state and that’s when the trouble starts snowballing. People are people and they do what’s best for them instead of what’s “right” for society.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/23/2014 - 08:40 pm.

      Do you even know who Pinochet was?

      I think the 300,000 Chilean exiles from Pinochet answer your question. Your Freidmaniac utopia took a monster to implement, 20000 imprisoned, 3000 just gone. That you would defend this filth is atrocious, I don’t care what political philosophy you adhere to. Combined with the fact that the garbage economics lauded in the “Chilean Miracle” led to collapse, as they always do, any credibility you may have had with regards to this issue is gone.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 11:11 pm.

        Facts Matter

        Here are some details from the Congressional Research Office. It looks like you may both be correct.

        Pinochet seems like an interesting leader since he let them vote him out of office. Not something that most Dictators support.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/24/2014 - 07:12 am.

          Not really

          The only thing that saved him from the Hague was the fact that he was already dying. As for being voted out, he remained in control, a la Putin, by remaining in command of the armed forces, as well as being appointed to a “lifetime” position in the Senate. Simply put, the man was a totalitarian monster. Ilya’s questioning is irrelevant, if I had a choice of society to reside in it would be none of the above as all are equally broken, but for differing reasons. A wealthy person would have power and influence in all, and a poor person would have limited prospects. That’s the funny thing, no matter the ideology that underpins it, Dictatorships generally wind up looking pretty much the same in the end. It should be noted that no strongman has been needed to implement the social democracy we all originally began this discussion about.

  21. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/23/2014 - 10:03 pm.

    Unanswered question

    Matt, you still didn’t answer my question: which country would you want to live in: Cuba, Venezuela, or Chile? At least Pinochet let people out of the country; Castro did not… Obviously, I never had any credibility in your eyes but I hope that other people would try to answer my question for themselves and will make the right conclusions.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 04/24/2014 - 03:09 pm.

      Castro does let people out of the country

      But they have to find another country willing to take them. Spain has a visa program for any Cuban who can claim full or partial Spanish ancestry, and anyone who can get a Spanish visa is allowed to leave. (I visited Cuba with a church group, and we saw the lines outside the Spanish embassy.)

      The U.S. and Cuba have a treaty by which a certain number of Cubans can leave legally for the United States every year. Those who fall outside the quota are the ones who are “boat people.” The principle that the U.S. Coast Guard follows is that anyone who makes landfall can stay, but anyone who is picked up at sea is returned to Cuba. (By the way, Cubans are the only people in the world who receive automatic refugee status if they make it to the U.S. People from Haiti, where living conditions are said to be far worse, are simply considered illegal immigrants.)

      Even if I were to try to leave the U.S. permanently, it would not be easy. Sure, I can just take my passport and hop on a plane to nearly anywhere in the world. But I can’t stay more than three months in Japan or most of Europe or six months in the UK without applying for an immigrant visa, and it is not easy to qualify, especially since I am over 40. There are some Third World countries that give Americans retirement visas, but First World countries? Forget it unless you meet very strict requirements for having recent ancestors, usually a parent or grandparent, from that country.

      Venezuela does allow people to leave the country, but they have to find a country willing to accept them.

  22. Submitted by John Appelen on 04/23/2014 - 11:00 pm.

    Unfettered Capitalism

    “Might that not apply to unfettered capitalism as well?”

    Yes it does. That is why I like ~33%. It is halfway between the extremes. See image 3.

  23. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/24/2014 - 06:50 pm.

    Chile and Cuba

    Statistically, Chile is the best country in South America – economically and socially. So consider that you have a choice of only those three countries – then what is the choice? And by the way, Cuba had not allowed its people to go abroad freely for most of its history – just like all other Socialist countries. And of course in Europe they tried to put Pinochet on trial while they easily let all left-wing dictators off the hook… (of course, the difference is also that he stopped being a dictator and the left-wing ones never do).

    As for social democracy that we were discussing, my point was that economically socialism is a grotesque form of that and, as such, the ultimate result will be the same.

Leave a Reply