babble home
rabble.ca - news for the rest of us
today's active topics


  
FAQ | Forum Home
  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» babble   » current events   » canadian politics   » The Swedish model

Email this thread to someone!    
Author Topic: The Swedish model
rasmus
malcontent
Babbler # 621

posted 12 November 2003 01:05 AM      Profile for rasmus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Over in this thread, Stockholm said:

quote:
If the choice is, which of the following regimes would make the best role model for Canada:

a. Sweden after generations of social democracy
b. Cuba under Castro
c. Albania during the salad days of Enver Hoxha

I choose a.


Sure, if your setup is biased, it's obvious. It's fairly well known to my Marxist friends that I'm not Marxist. However, there are a couple of points to be made about your examples, and, much as I vehemently disagree with Marxism, I think it's important to recognize when there is something to learn. By and large, I'm out of my depth both with Marxist theory and historical/geographical specifics of the cases I discuss, but I'll make a thumbnail argument.

The first point I'd like to make is general. That is that progress -- if we accept the idea, which I don't, necessarily -- isn't continuous or smooth; new social arrangements aren't born fully formed like Athena out of the head of Zeus. Liberal democracy evolved over centuries, dabbling in many forms of atrocity over that time. Did US slavery or the Reign of Terror discredit bourgeois democracy per se? No. And there is no reason to believe that historical experiments with socialism are the final historical experiments. Humans learn through experience, and it is possible that future generations will come upon highly stable, attractive, and democratic forms of socialism. That is a general point.

Secondly, the specific historical examples you chose to illustrate communism aren't necessarily ideal, especially when offered in contrast to Sweden. (We could choose much less desirable examples of mixed economies, to be sure.) I'm no Marxist theologian but it seems to me that a standard Leninist analysis would have it that in neither of these countries were the objective conditions of revolution satisfied. Both were economically undeveloped, to say the least. (And if anything is true, it is certainly true that Castro's Cuba is a better place to live than pre-revolutionary Cuba.)

Sweden, by countrast, has matured into liberal democracy over time, has an advanced economy and bourgeois intellectual life, and so on. In other words, the objective conditions -- the economic base for socialist policies -- were there. Of course, whatever the sanctimony of the bit players of Europe, the wealth was created in an over-all context of imperialism. But let's ignore that. Point is, Sweden is not only ideologically, but historically in many ways so different from the other two countries, that it is hard for a meaningful comparison to be made.

Now, I know many self-described social democrats in Canada tout the Swedish model as something for us to follow. And Sweden is probably the most successful example of social democratic policy in the world. But it's important not to ignore historical factors that throw doubt on the possibility of importing the Swedish model.

First, there is the smaller size and relatively greater homogeneity of Swedish society (though this is changing). There is also an exceptionally high rate of unionization -- 89%. There is the fact that Canada is tightly integrated with the US economy, and subject to far greater pressures to conform to US expectations on trade and economic policy. And, of course, in this day, because of a continuous history of strong social democratic policies in Sweden, there is also a difference in political culture, education, and expectations.

If we were in the heyday of movement-building social democracy we might be in a position to build such a social democracy. But we aren't. We're in a period where disempowered, hollow social democratic parties in many Western countries have experienced severe and demoralizing failures in government. The sources of social democracy's power have largely evaporated. All of these make the idea of importing the Swedish model implausible in the extreme. A more radical rethink is required.

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: rasmus raven ]


From: Fortune favours the bold | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mycroft_
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2230

posted 12 November 2003 01:23 AM      Profile for Mycroft_     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I'm not sure if this is what you meant by "the Swedish model" but...

Back in the early 1960s the NDP at U of T under Gerry Caplan and Stephen Lewis won government through the elections to model parliament by taking out a full page ad in the Varsity which featured a blonde model in a bikini and the slogan "look what socialism has done for Sweden!"

I suspect Lewis has been the target of a number of lectures from Michelle Landsberg about that one.

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: Mycroft ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 12 November 2003 03:07 AM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Certainly one suspects that if Sweden had been subject to embargo and sabotage by the EU for fifty years, their economy--and, indeed, their political system--might be in less glowing shape than it is.
From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 12 November 2003 11:19 AM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Interesting comments, RR, although I wonder if it's really necessary to dignify Stockholm's glib remark with a whole new thread.

The comment about Sweden reminds me of people who point to Singapore's economic success as a model for all of Asia. Unhelpful and irrelevant -- and, in this case, just another ruse by Stockholm to get away from the charge that he was being inflammatory and unfair when he red-baited a candidate in the municipal elections.

Never mind all of Sweden's social, geographic and historic specificities (including "neutrality" in the Second World War). In our neo-liberal era, the "Swedish model" is even on the ropes in Sweden itself. How is it supposed to be a viable model for the six billion other people who live on this planet?

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 518

posted 12 November 2003 11:33 AM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The first question is whether we need a model at all, or whether we can't come up with something indigenously Canadian. Sometimes it seems to me that we spend a lot of time trying to find new ideas elsewhere, rather than inventing them ourselves.

I generally agree with Rasmus' concern that Swedish conditions, both historic and cultural, do not obtain in Canada. But neither do American conditions, British conditions, or New Zealand-ish conditions. Newspaper debate often functions at the level of "models"; usually in order to demand fidelity to the inadequate.


In the days of Soviet Communism, Sweden functioned as a counter-example to respond who those who thought Tommy Douglas was identical to
Stalin. At a certain level of debate, you can still hear: "Your ideas never worked anywhere!"


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 12 November 2003 12:24 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It may surprise a lot of people to know that up until the start of the 20th century, Sweden was actually one of the poorest countries in Europe. There was mass emigration in the mid-19th century and as recently as the 1870s there were famines in northern Sweden where people actually died of starvation!

As a matter of fact it is debatable which country was more advanced economically in 1900. Cuba or Sweden.

One thing we do know for sure is that in the history of the world whenever any regime has tried to implement a communistic system, the result has been total failure.

Its true that Cuba has (relatively) good education and health care, but there are also thousands of people in jail as political prisoners and a totally state controlled media. Recently the economy there was so bad that people were living off dinner made up of fried grapefruit peels. Even know the US dollare is the main currency and the economy is highly dependent on money sent back by Cuban expats and money spent by sex tourists.

I suspect that if Castro had never happened, Cuba would have a standard of living more or less comparable to Mexico today. (ie: relatively poor, but at the high end for a developing country).


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 518

posted 12 November 2003 02:59 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As a matter of fact it is debatable which country was more advanced economically in 1900. Cuba or Sweden.

It may be debatable, but I have no doubt that Sweden was in a much more advantageous position.

Sweden never had a Platt amendment giving a foreigh country a veto over its policy choices, as Cuba did. Sweden never had slavery, as Cuba did until VERY late...as I recall, 1890. And Sweden was never a monoculture, either.

Life was hard in all Scandinavia a century ago. But the possible ways out far exceeded what is available to Cuba, Nicaragua, or Haiti.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 12 November 2003 03:37 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
(I continue to register my protest at the way in which this thread began. On the other hand, I'm not very familiar with the rules and ethics here, and I find this exchange very compelling, so...)

I agree with JH's comments. In the reordering of the world that took place from the end of the 19th century onwards, it's not surprising that Sweden came out "ahead" of Cuba.

Closer to home, I once had a long exchange with an Argentinian economist who is part of a research group studying the different paths Argentina and Canada took from the early 20th century onwards. A century ago, the two countries were quite comparable, and yet look at the terrible mess Argentina now finds itself in. But, to return to the subject at hand, how far can Canada's experience be compared to that of Sweden? Where does the "Swedish social-democratic model" fit in to this broader panorama? Were Mackenzie King or Trudeau Swedish social democrats at heart? And how do you relate a critique of Cuba post-1959 to Argentina's woes today?

Stockholm suggests that Cuba would look like Mexico had their not been a revolution in 1959. The first thing I ask is what Stockholm would have done to prevent a revolution from happening? Social democracy has been pretty repressive when in power in Latin America. Would you have murdered Castro and Guevara and repress and imprison their hundreds of thousands if not millions of supporters?

The second thing is that, depending on your criteria, it would be hard to argue that Mexico is better off than Cuba. In a region where they have been so sadly absent, equality, universal access to basic goods and services, national unity and sovereignty are precious commodities.

Finally, Mexico itself went through a very radical and bloody revolution from 1910 onwards, followed by a radical process of land reform and nationalization of oil in the 1930s. It is arguable that much of Mexico's progress after WW2 is a result of these radical inroads into the old order -- inroads which the new free-trading neo-liberal warriors have been trying to undo since the late 1980s, to great effect for the country's population and national sovereignty.

So we're back where we started then, aren't we? Given Stockholm's generally conservative bent and schematic approach to history and social change, it's hard for me to figure out exactly what he is prescribing for us -- and how he proposes we get there -- leave alone his recipes for all those countries he rolls of his keyboard in a flurry of self-satisfaction.

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 12 November 2003 03:44 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stockholm:
As a matter of fact it is debatable which country was more advanced economically in 1900. Cuba or Sweden.

Of course from 1900 to 1950, Sweden had the advantage of not being run by the Mafia.
I really don't think it is debatable which country was more advanced when Castro's revolution succeeded, which is the relevant comparison.

quote:
One thing we do know for sure is that in the history of the world whenever any regime has tried to implement a communistic system, the result has been total failure.

I really hate being put in this position--I'm an anarchist, more or less, and I have no particular use for communism--but sheesh, this is silly. Is Castro's regime not communistic? And yet it is clearly not a total failure. For that matter, even the Soviet system was not a total failure. Partial, sure--but that's been true of everything tried thus far; the question is the degree. What was a total failure was trying to run an incredibly massive military-industrial complex on top of the soviet system; it was basically the top-heavy military that really killed them. If the Americans had never started the cold war, the soviets might still be there, although probably in modified form. I don't necessarily think that would have been a good thing, mind you.

quote:
Its true that Cuba has (relatively) good education and health care, but there are also thousands of people in jail as political prisoners

(relatively) you say. Interesting qualifier. Yes, "relative" to any other non-G7 country in the world. What stopped you from just saying "has good education and health care"?

Really? Thousands? As political prisoners? Currently? That would indeed be a damning indictment. Anyone know if it is, in fact, true? Given the major outcry on the left about that little group a few months back that were in the US ambassador's pay and would clearly have been jailed in the US in an analogous reversed situation, I would have thought I'd have heard. But it could be true, and if so it would certainly make me upset.

quote:
Recently the economy there was so bad that people were living off dinner made up of fried grapefruit peels.

Holy context-free observations, Batman!
Any discussion of the Cuban economy which ignores the US trade embargo and the sudden collapse of their main trading partner, the USSR (and, yes, source of aid--but then, most third world countries get aid from somebody) is utterly unrelated to reality.

quote:
Even now the US dollar is the main currency and the economy is highly dependent on money sent back by Cuban expats and money spent by sex tourists.

Gross distortion. Sheesh, you make it seem like Jamaica or something.

quote:
I suspect that if Castro had never happened, Cuba would have a standard of living more or less comparable to Mexico today. (ie: relatively poor, but at the high end for a developing country).

Which is what they have, although with less extreme poverty now that the food crisis has been dealt with, and better access to health care. Which would leave them even, except that your projection is highly unlikely. Haiti is a much more likely comparison. Plantation-based economies run by corrupt dictators taking direction entirely from the US have not tended to develop to any appreciable extent. And the market for sugar is far worse than it was in 1950. And let's not forget that if there were no successful revolution, there would still have been a succession of unsuccessful ones; Castro did not appear in a vacuum. Strife would continue to this day, just like Guatemala and Colombia and Haiti and so on and so forth.

But the major issue you continue to utterly fail to deal with is the massive economic and political distortions created by US embargos and sabotage. Under that pressure, it is utterly amazing that Cuba has managed as well as it has. I have never heard of any other country in the world remaining intact, much less prospering, under comparable pressure, no matter what system they might be using. A comparison would be the sanctions on Iraq from 1991-2003, which devastated the country horribly as everyone here well knows--and the Cubans don't even have any oil to sell. And yet despite all the attempts to crush the country, the standard of living there remains better than pretty much anywhere else in Latin America.

All this said, I like the Swedish model fine. And while it's true that the Swedes themselves have deviated from that model over the last while, moving to the right some, that doesn't necessarily mean the change was because the model didn't work. Near as I can make out, the change happened for the same reason shifts to the right happened various other places, from New Zealand to here: People were duped. A vulnerability of the Swedish model.

In terms of more or less achievable models, I'd be in favour of something along the lines of a mix of the Swedish model and the Chavez Venezuelan model, with a lot of media regulation and insistence on community media added in to stop top-down national media organizations, whether government- or plutocrat-owned, from hijacking discourse. It would be well worth borrowing some Cuban insight on fisheries, agriculture, and medicine to put in that mix.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 12 November 2003 03:53 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Stockholm suggests that Cuba would look like Mexico had their not been a revolution in 1959. The first thing I ask is what Stockholm would have done to prevent a revolution from happening? Social democracy has been pretty repressive when in power in Latin America. Would you have murdered Castro and Guevara and repress and imprison their hundreds of thousands if not millions of supporters?

The second thing is that, depending on your criteria, it would be hard to argue that Mexico is better off than Cuba. In a region where they have been so sadly absent, equality, universal access to basic goods and services, national unity and sovereignty are precious commodities.


and when pray tell has social democracy been in power in any Latin American country? The closest examples i can think of are a few 4 year terms in Costa Rica (now there is a nice egalitarian country with no military and no police state), perhaps the current Ricardo Lagos gov't in Chile (though it is a coalition with Christian Democrats) and Uruguay up until the early 70s.

I am not suggesting that Castro and Co. should have or would been repressed violently in 1959. I'm just speculating about what how Cuba would have evolved had the Cuban Revolution never occurred.

I'm also not arguing that Mexico is better off than Cuba. The overall average standard of living in Mexico is certainly higher, but it is not as equally distributed as in Cuba. Cuba probably has more universal access to health care, but in Mexico there is much more political freedom, governments that change through elections etc...

If the Cuban Revolution had never occurred Cuba would be different from what it is today. Whether it would be better or worse is open to speculation and depends on the standards that you use.

One things for sure, 44 years after Castro took power it is getting very stale that every time I criticize human rights abuses in Cuba, the response is always "well at least its better than it was under Battista". I suspect that even in the unlikely event that Battista had lived to be 120 years old and was still the dictator of Cuba today, somethings might be better now than 44 years ago for no other reason than that global standrads of living have gone up since the 1950s.

Next time anyone criticizes McGuinty, I'll just silence them with "well at least he's better than Eves" end of conversation.

I seem to remember in Orwell's Animal Farm that when the animals complained about how the pigs were lording it over them, the answer was always "surely you don't want Farmer Jones back".


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 12 November 2003 03:59 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
In terms of more or less achievable models, I'd be in favour of something along the lines of a mix of the Swedish model and the Chavez Venezuelan model

Why would anyone look to Chavez in Venezuela for inspiration. he is a FLOP if ever there was one. His approval ratings are in single digits. The country is in a state of total anarchy and living standards have plunged since he's been in power. i agree that he should be allowed to finish his term as their constitution dictates, but them toss him in the garbage can.

Sheesh, next thing you know, someone will be trying to tell us that the ultimate socialist utopia was Mozambique in the 1980s.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 12 November 2003 05:03 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Stockholm wrote:

quote:
and when pray tell has social democracy been in power in any Latin American country?

Are we talking about really-existing Social Democracy -- the Socialist International and its affiliated organizations -- or just an ideal model in the head of some NDP hack?

If the former, two examples immediately come to mind, although I'm no Latin America specialist...

Carlos Andrés Pérez and his SI-affiliated Acción Democrática governed Venezuela in 74-78 and 89-93. Pérez responded with terrible repression (4000 dead) to anti-neoliberal popular protests known as the Caracazo in 1989.

Alan García and his SI-affiliated APRA ruled Peru from 1985 to 1990. The Garcia government was caught up in a number of corruption scandals, and oversaw a period of violence and thousands of disappearances in the country. I believe Garcia himself is or was an honorary president of the Socialist International.

Welcome to the real world.

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Albireo
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3052

posted 12 November 2003 05:20 PM      Profile for Albireo     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: albireo ]


From: --> . <-- | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Cougyr
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3336

posted 12 November 2003 05:27 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
There seems to be a class war in Venezuela. I have no doubt that the US is meddling to cause Chavez as much trouble as possible. Bush and Co. see Chavez as a threat to their oil supply. As is usual in South America, those who suck up to American money have a vested interest in supporting US policy.

As to the communist regimes, I think that a major part of their problem has been the fanatical opposition from the US. How can any country, or population, do well when the most powerful (both economic and military) country sets up against it?

I have no doubt whatsoever that the US will do whatever it sees as necessary to prevent Canada straying too far from the American way. If Canada were to nationalize our oil industry, the Marines would be up here to save us.


From: over the mountain | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 12 November 2003 05:59 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Everytime a Communist regime flops, its always someone else's fault. Excuses, excuses....
From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 12 November 2003 07:44 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I have no doubt whatsoever that the US will do whatever it sees as necessary to prevent Canada straying too far from the American way. If Canada were to nationalize our oil industry, the Marines would be up here to save us.

Gee, how did they ever let us get away with Medicare?


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
arborman
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4372

posted 12 November 2003 07:57 PM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, they haven't given up on health care yet....
From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
HalfAnHourLater
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4641

posted 12 November 2003 08:19 PM      Profile for HalfAnHourLater     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stockholm:
[QB]


One things for sure, 44 years after Castro took power it is getting very stale that every time I criticize human rights abuses in Cuba, the response is always "well at least its better than it was under Battista".
__________________________________________________

Firstly aren't we somewhat confusing issues here, that of political repression and political structure. All forms of government can and have gotten away with human rights abuses with varying degrees of facility, subtelty, and accountability at one point or another.

Now regarding Cuba and the effectiveness of the existing political and system, should it not be analysed in comparison to other systems facing similar important external influences? For example if one were to ask, do capitalism, liberal democracy, theocracy,etc hold up/retain their fundamental principles in the face of enormous outside influences? What are the most 'robust' systems undera given set of circumstances.

Take the US for example in the case of a similar all encompassing embargo, would the present system continue unaltered, would the free market collapse, would dissenters (political and economical) be repressed and imprisoned?

These question of outside influence and circumstance must be asked regarding all models before we can comparitively evaluate robustness and efficiency.

This is not an excuse, just a reversal of roles!

[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: HalfAnHourLater ][QUOTE]


[ 12 November 2003: Message edited by: HalfAnHourLater ]


From: So-so-so-solidarité! | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2777

posted 13 November 2003 01:54 AM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Everytime a Communist regime flops, its always someone else's fault. Excuses, excuses....

Economies are affected by both external and internal factors. However economies that depend on exports are especially vulnerable to external factors...and if you depend on only two or three exports as in most third world countries, you're expecially vulnerable.

Even here in Ontario we're very vulnerable to the ups and downs of the U.S. economy. If the U.S. economy drops, the Ontario economy will usually go with it.

Most third world countries depend on exporting commodities, and commodity prices are set in the international markets. Commodity exporters are "price takers" rather than "price makers" and so may end up exporting products at very little more than the cost of production.

I recall Gwynne Dyer's series on the collapse of the USSR that was aired on "Sunday Morning" on CBC Radio a number of years ago. As I recall he argued quite eloquently that the collapse of oil prices in the late 1980's to early 1990's played a major role in the collapse of the Soviet economy...given that the Soviet Union was depending on oil exports for a large part of its hard currency.

quote:
Gee, how did they ever let us get away with Medicare?

Every now and then the U.S. and big business in general loses the odd battle.

But they fought medicare tooth and nail from the very beginning.

Have you ever heard of the Saskatchewan doctor's strike of 1962?

Now they're trying to kill medicare through a thousand cuts and the gradual privatization of medical services. Sooner or later I'm sure we'll see a "Chapter 11" action against medicare.

You don't need the marines if you can use NAFTA and WTO trade rules.


From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 13 November 2003 11:19 AM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Stockholm asked me to "pray tell" when supporters of the "Swedish model" had ever been in power in Latin America. Spontaneously I could only think of Peru and Venezuela, and posted that information to this thread.

I was just reading about the massive and historic general strike currently underway right now in the Dominican Republic, a country teetering on the brink of a terrible financial and economic crisis. Guess who is in power there, and guess who has been ordering that the protests be repressed severely (seven deaths already, according to Le Monde).

Hipolito Mejía is the president and his ruling party is the PRD, affiliate organization of the social-democratic Socialist International in the Dominican Republic.

And then, of course, there's the role of Social Democracy in the Argentinian crisis...

It's not clear to me, then, what it means to "support the Swedish model" in 2003. Really-existing Social Democracy has been heading in the opposite direction in recent years, and is mired in crisis and corruption in Latin America.

In this neo-liberal era, to get anywhere near to reproducing the golden age of Social Democracy in Sweden or elsewhere, you have to work with the very radicals for whom Stockholm has so much disdain...

[ 13 November 2003: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 13 November 2003 04:20 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stockholm:
Why would anyone look to Chavez in Venezuela for inspiration. he is a FLOP if ever there was one. His approval ratings are in single digits. The country is in a state of total anarchy and living standards have plunged since he's been in power. i agree that he should be allowed to finish his term as their constitution dictates, but then toss him in the garbage can.

Utter crap. You are clearly quite ignorant on this subject. You might want to try reading something other than propaganda. Venezuela is a rare animal: A country where the media are a lying agitprop vehicle for the opposition. That's because the opposition are wealthy oligarchs and the media is owned by those same wealthy oligarchs. As a result, they spend much of their time calling for the overthrow of the government and using fabricated claims, spin, all the way up to doctored photographs to blacken Chavez' image. Recently, for instance, Chavez gave an address to a women's group holding a rose; a major daily doctored a photograph of him to make it appear he was holding a gun, and ran an article on the front page excoriating him for being militaristic. Of course, if he were really what they try to portray, he would have shut them all down long ago. Nonetheless, much of their crap gets slavishly repeated in the North American press.

There have been economic problems. But those have mainly been caused by what come down to a bunch of fascists trying by hook or by crook to destabilize the country.
Despite this, the reforms he has been pushing through are already having positive effects in the barrios. The defining characteristic of these reforms tends to be empowering local groups to improve their own position. The first stage of this was political empowerment with the new constitution and the extremely widespread circulation of same so that everyone would know their rights. The second stage has involved things like microcredit (especially to small-business co-operatives), widespread funding of what amount to community-based NGOs, encouragement of community media.
Much of the talk about Chavez has focussed on his battle with the right (from one perspective or another), but for a look at his actual programs here is a link:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=45&ItemID=4497

Luckily, Chavez' numbers are much higher than you claim; not only are the actual polls around 30%, but it's well known that the Venezuelan pollsters avoid going into the barrios where the poor live and Chavez draws his support from; given the proportion of Venezuela's population that's poor, there's no knowing what his actual popularity numbers are. The opposition are currently coming to the galling realization that there is no way in hell they'll get the numbers for a referendum.

It's believed by pro-government groups that the opposition's plan has been to collect lots of bogus signatures, and then when the electoral commission won't accept them, create turmoil over the claim the government is blocking democracy--possibly trying to trigger another coup. Whether this would have worked or not may turn out to be moot, because Chavez just went public with a threat that if the Central Bank won't disburse $1 billion he wants for agricultural reform (they apparently have $21 billion in reserves), he'll call a referendum himself. If he does, it'll sure take the wind out of the opposition's sails; it'll be like those cartoons where someone's taking a run at a locked door and the other character opens it--Aaaauggghhh splat!

Chavez, among his other qualities, seems to be a very astute politician.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Gaia_Child
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3015

posted 13 November 2003 04:45 PM      Profile for Gaia_Child     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Ironically, I would argue that (possibly) the quality of life is actually HIGHER in Cuba than in either Mexico, or the United States and Canada.

From what I remember reading, Cuba actually has lower infant mortality rates, for instance, than the US. And Cuba certianly has better life expectancy/literacy/infant mortality rates than wealthier, but vastly more unequal, capitalist Latin American states.

Ironically, the material poverty of Cuba may have actually led to a better quality of life than experienced in the US and Canada, because capitalism leads to such material excess, and spiritual pollution.

Americans, and Canadians in many cases, may be far wealthier than Cubans. But we fill our bodies with shit food; we grow obese and diabetic. We flood ourselves with light pollution, and nasty chemicals, and violent video games, and live in artificial environments that our bodies aren't meant for. And we respond with sleep problems and mental illness and plain old spiritual deadness.

Ironically, the technological "backwardness" of Cuba may be an asset to healthy living. And the fact that their poverty has forced them to embrace organic agriculture is probably a boon for their wellness.

I honestly think that the more "advanced" late capitalism gets, the sicker we as humans are getting.

Cuba may be a middle ground in that it includes the many benefits of the 20th Century (like vaccinations and wide-spread schooling), while lacking our 7/11 excess and anomie. We in Canada may have 3,000 square foot homes, but Cubans know their neighbours.

I have never been to Cuba. But from what I hear from non-Marxists (!) who travel there, the people brim with life in a way they don't here in the True North Strong And Free.

I am not going to overly romanticize Cuba, since they do have problems with state abuse of power. I know that Cuba is not Heaven or Utopia.

But, oddly for a world heading ever further and ever more intensely into mass consumption neo-liberalism, Cuba may not be a "backwater" to be ignored, but an example to learn from.


From: Western Canada | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 13 November 2003 05:49 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I was reminded of this old thread where Zatamon talked about his experience living in Hungary, and this one where a "new social contract" was proposed and discussed.

Some food for thought.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 13 November 2003 06:20 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Ironically, the material poverty of Cuba may have actually led to a better quality of life than experienced in the US and Canada, because capitalism leads to such material excess, and spiritual pollution.

Americans, and Canadians in many cases, may be far wealthier than Cubans. But we fill our bodies with shit food; we grow obese and diabetic. We flood ourselves with light pollution, and nasty chemicals, and violent video games, and live in artificial environments that our bodies aren't meant for. And we respond with sleep problems and mental illness and plain old spiritual deadness.

Ironically, the technological "backwardness" of Cuba may be an asset to healthy living. And the fact that their poverty has forced them to embrace organic agriculture is probably a boon for their wellness.


Well than you very much. You have just made a very articulate case for why we are all wasting our time trying to improve living standards for lower and middle class Canadians. Apparently, they are all better off being poor. I have an idea, why don't we do the masses of Canada a favour. We will confiscate enough of their money that they can all have the standard of living of a typical Cuban, and they will all be better off for it because they will escape the decadent consumerism of being able to make ends meet.

I think the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia justified emptying Phnom Penh (and killing millions of people) by saying that the Cambodians needed to get away from the bourgeois materialism of the cities and instead live off the land in the countryside where "the rice is growing and the fish are swimming".

You know rightwing Catholics use very similar arguments to this to advance the idea that we shuld do nothing to reduce the gap between rich and poor and just vote for rightwing parties. If you listen to the rightwing Catholic theology, it is noble to suffer and it is virtuous to be poor. Therefore we should not envy the rich but just accpet the virtue of having less. People who are poor have more time to concentrate on things like spiritualism etc... (Of course this all comes from clergymen living in regal splendour).

This is the biggest crock I've ever read. Has anyone asked the average Cuban peasant if they feel fortunate that they have so little materially?


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 13 November 2003 06:25 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I have never been to Cuba. But from what I hear from non-Marxists (!) who travel there, the people brim with life in a way they don't here in the True North Strong And Free.


I think you will find that people who live in almost any tropical Latin culture "brim with life" (at least on a superficial level) in comparison with the culture of a cold, northern, Protestant culture such as ours. This has nothing to do with the political system. Mexicans "brim with life" too and I have been to a variety of countries in South America and the same is true there as well.

On the other hand, if you wanted to see an example of a seemingly lifeless culture, all you had to do once upon a time was go to Eastern Europe pre-1990. I can assure you that despite being supposedly socialist paradises, the streets of East Berlin and Warsaw were not exactly like Carnival in Rio!


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 13 November 2003 10:25 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The premise of this thread was pretty flimsy to begin with. Stockholm said that if the choice (in the 2003 Toronto municipal elections of all times and places) was between Hoxha's Albania, Castro's Cuba and "the Swedish model", he would choose the latter. Big deal.

And now we're getting into yet another defense of Cuba against the usual accusations. I'm not a great fan of this notion of "the happy natives", and I don't think it serves any purpose to romanticize the difficult situation in which the Cuban people now find themselves or to ignore the errors of the Cuban leadership.

But "the Swedish model" was never on offer in Latin America, and in fact only prospered in Sweden itself for a relatively short time during the exceptional period for Western capitalism that followed the Second World War. During that time, Sweden was able to benefit from conditions that have never been available to any country in Latin America.

In fact, as I have tried to point out in two different posts, which Stockholm himself has studiously ignored, Social Democracy has failed miserably in Latin America.

Judging by his arguments about Mexico, he seems to favour a neo-liberal solution for Latin America with some democratic window dressing. OK, that's fine; that's pretty much what the World Bank, OECD, IMF, G-7 and every other corporate and US-dominated institution has been prescribing for the region.

But what does this have to do with "the Swedish model"? Are we to take it that Salinas, Zedillo and Fox deep down are all Swedish social democrats?

What exactly is the point here?


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 13 November 2003 11:00 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Judging by his arguments about Mexico, he seems to favour a neo-liberal solution for Latin America with some democratic window dressing. OK, that's fine; that's pretty much what the World Bank, OECD, IMF, G-7 and every other corporate and US-dominated institution has been prescribing for the region.

But what does this have to do with "the Swedish model"? Are we to take it that Salinas, Zedillo and Fox deep down are all Swedish social democrats?


I have never said that I consider Mexico to be any kind of model. I think it is a corrupt, inegalitarian, oligarchy. However things are not all bad there. It is relatively democratic (by Latin American standards), has a large a growing middle class and has an anti-clerical tradition (which I like because I detest Catholicism so much).

They seem to have gotten a few things right in Costa Rica. Chile seems very prosperous under Ricardo Lagos - a onetime assistant to Allende. We shall see what Lula can accomplish in Brazil.

The "Swedish model" is as alive and well as ever in Sweden. The social democrats just keep on getting reelected and the cradle to grave welfare state is as generous as it ever was. The standard of living is typically the highest, second highest or third highest in the world, unemployment is almost non-existent and a recent global survey showed that Swedes (along with Danes and Norwegians) were just about the happiest people in the world. What's not to like?


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 14 November 2003 12:53 AM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't have such a sanguine view of Sweden and Mexico. And I am quite amazed at how someone who can find the choicest invectives for Cuba and Venezuela all of a sudden becomes Mr Congeniality in relation to Sweden, Mexico, Chile and Brazil.

Still, forgive me for insisting: what does this all mean? What do the accomplishments of Sweden mean concretely today for the restless and curious billions who inhabit every other country on the planet?

What does Stockholm know that the leaders of every failed Social Democratic experiment in Latin America -- failures when held to an even lower standard than the one he applies to Cuba and Venezuela -- did or do not know?


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 14 November 2003 03:46 AM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Y'know, much though I tend to disagree with Stockholm (and have been vehemently on this thread), I do think Gaia Child is romanticizing lack of technology.
Cuba has some good things--life expectancy, low inequality, medical care, and healthy food.
But I don't think it need be impossible to have all this stuff *and* not be poor--which is where I think they'd be if the US weren't leaning on them. And it would be desirable to have all these things *and* not live under one-man rule.

Meanwhile, living in natural conditions is *not* an advantage--and I'm not sure I see where Cuban houses are more natural than Canadian houses. Life in the natural state is ugly, brutish and short. Lack of technology is *not* a good thing. Lack of wealth is *not* a good thing. Lack of luxuries isn't even a good thing.
Personally, I am quite fond of my personal computer and this high-tech "online forum" thing I can access with it. I like my book collection too. Neither of them impoverishes my life, whether intellectually or spiritually.

And in terms of environmentalism, it's important to remember that with billions of people on the planet, the only way to avoid killing it is with better technology, not less.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Cougyr
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3336

posted 14 November 2003 04:07 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
And in terms of environmentalism, it's important to remember that with billions of people on the planet, the only way to avoid killing it is with better technology, not less.

Rufus, you're right. The natural world will support a maximum of 50 million hunter/gatherers. Mass populations require mass food production which creates mass muck.


From: over the mountain | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 14 November 2003 07:23 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Some notes on Sweden.

I was reading a book printed in 1981 that dealt with the problems with the high inflation of the 1970s, as well as the inability of governments to apply Keynesian "tools" to reduce unemployment.

The book made some excellent points that are still relevant, 20 years later.

First of all, modern economies do not resemble free markets in any way, shape or form. Large corporations exert significant monopoly pricing power over goods and services. Labor unions exert control over the arbitary hiring and firing as well as wage regimes that used to be seen in workplaces (and in some respects, still are).

Furthermore, workers are less "fungible" than they used to be, at least in the industrial nations. This causes problems for people who would like to use one-size-fits-all strategies to reduce unemployment.

What is the key factor underpinning all of this?

In general, in today's economies, corporations tend to cut back production and lay off workers rather than cut prices in recessions. This is true even if the recession is accompanied by an inflationary surge, and in fact can worsen the inflationary impact.

A strict neoclassical or Keynesian approach to economics does not fully take this into account. Neoclassicals, of course, simply ignore all the inconvenient little details and just mindlessly insist that if we busted up labor unions and treated CEOs like kings, we'd all be happy campers.

Keynesians are still working with a basic model that, while it recognized the deficiencies in the classical model that assumed that wages and prices would adjust perfectly at all times and at all places, did not in itself suggest a much broader role for government interventionism than in the familiar tax-policy and monetary-policy realms - tools that are simply not adequate in a world that now has significant distortions away from the ideal free market, and in fact involves many organizations which take on aspects of centrally planned economies - for example, large multinationals, or indeed Crown corporations.

How Sweden is relevant to this discussion is true for other countries in Europe as well. Quite simply, they, unlike the "Anglo" nations of the US, Canada, and the UK, recognized the need for a much more comprehensive policy framework that would go beyond the blunt levers of simply adjusting interest rates or income-tax rates.

For example, Germany's banking system is highly regulated and well-coordinated (or was, as late as 1979 - I don't know what changes have been made since then); the effect is to reduce the misallocations of capital that come from corporations mindlessly deciding to relocate operations, or putting them in the wrong place in light of the government-constructed infrastructure put in place years before.

Contrast this with the situation in Winnipeg, where property developers, by proxy, run the city and thus get all kinds of favorable zoning and traffic laws, with the end result that Winnipeg's traffic is easily the worst in the prairies because of all the ad-hoc mish-mash policies of putting traffic lights anywhere Wal-Mart or Superstore ot Futile Shop wants them, instead of fitting zoning plans into a properly coordinated traffic framework.

The economic impact of this, quite simply, is that the majority of Winnipeggers who drive cars end up wasting a boatload of gasoline.

Anecdotally I can cite a case I read on a web-based rant board about this, wherein one person decided to go about halfway across town, ran into all the red lights possible, and found that he had actually managed to waste a quarter tank of gasoline for what should have been a bare tick in the gas tank.

Now, the problem here is that the loss to pocketbooks isn't concentrated; it's spread out so the deadweight loss of corporations bossing the city around is just kind of hanging ut there, making people spend more on gas and less on everything else.

Again, the contrast between this ad-hoc "planning" and the German or Swedish systems of putting in place a much-more-coordinated framework is evident.

A classic example of the contrast is in what our respective governments do in recessions.

In Canada or the US, politicians go bonkers proposing every sort of program under the sun even though the net effect may be.. well, nothing.

In Sweden, various public works projects and jobs retraining programs are "kept in the pipeline" for just this sort of eventuality, so that all the government has to do is say "go", and boom, people get hired, people are paid to relocate, et cetera and so on, and this high level of coordination means comparatively less dislocation and jarring as people try to adjust to changed economic conditions, because the government has done a lot of the "prep work" in advance.

So. Key point: Sweden is the hallmark of a democratic socialist nation because they have gone beyond us in understanding the basic problems with using blunt economic tools, and solving those problems by developing better ones that preserve job security and can keep inflation and unemployment from getting out of control.

Yes, inflation.

Let's go back to Sweden, or even Japan, for a moment.

Again, the high level of coordination across economic sectors and in the government means that there is the ability to guarantee job security for workers. Once workers have security, they tend to be less likely to focus solely on wages as the vehicle through which to make their demands.

Furthermore, by integrating all the collective bargaining and rationalizing them, it allows the entire country to avoid the wage-price spiral by keeping all the wage increases to a specified level.

By contrast, in Canada or the USA, what made the situation worse in the 1970s was partly because of the ratchet effect of successive, uncoordinated, rounds of collective bargaining - tto use a more or less real life example, let's follow roughly what did happen:

In 1973, collective agreements were negotiated in some sectors but not others based on the old inflation rate of about 4 or 5 percent. In 1974, after the sudden inflation jump, collective agreements up for renewal now factored in the new inflation rate.

Then, in 1975 or 1976, the 1973 agreements that came up for renewal precipitated a round of "catch-up" as unions negotiated for wage increases that priced in the erosion of worker purchasing power in the company or sector.

So it can readily be seen that the net effect of all this was for people to kind of go banging their heads all over the place in separate, uncoordinated agreements, and prolonging an inflationary spiral because just as one sector's collective agreement would be settled, another's would come up for renegotiation, and so overlapping waves of price increases could persist for years to come.

It is abundantly clear that all the different proposed reforms to the Western model of democracy are focussed on a few factors:

1. Better policy framework coordination in advanced economies based on a recognition of monopoly pricing power and the inadequacy of existing fiscal-monetary tools.

2. Enhancing citizen participation and giving them a better idea of what goes on in their governments by use of "bottom-up" strategies deliberately nurtured by governments as a way of providing "citizen check-ups" on how they're doing. This was, ironically, the motivation behind Trudeau encouraging the funding of all kinds of citizen groups in the 1970s, even if some of them later became very strident critics of his government's policies. It's kind of like the better corporations who have guys who aren't afraid of calling some new policy bullshit before it pisses off the workers. Apparently even Billy Graham has a guy who tells him something is bullshit if he thinks it is - although how you say "bullshit" in Baptist I don't know.

3. A reinvigoration of the idea of "citizenship" as opposed to "taxpayer". Citizenship entitles a person to particpate in popular discourse by virtue of being human, when you get right down to it. "Taxpayer" creates the notion of a privileged class of people who "deserve" the ear of government more than those who cannot or do not pay taxes, and reduces the interaction between person and government to the writing of a check and getting, in return, hollow promises.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Cougyr
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3336

posted 14 November 2003 11:56 PM      Profile for Cougyr     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Good post, DrConway.
From: over the mountain | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 18 November 2003 03:51 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Dr Conway's remarks are interesting, but even by his own admission they don't talk about Sweden today (as opposed to the 1970s) -- let alone about attempts to implement the "Swedish model" elsewhere in the world, which is what I understood to be the topic under discussion in this thread.

Never mind the situation in Latin America, which has already been covered in the thread. Social Democracy is or has recently been in power in most of the countries of the European Union, and has often taken the lead in implementing neo-liberal reforms: privatization, deregulation, cuts in social spending, eliminating democratic control over the central bank, and so on. Sweden appears to have resisted this trend a bit better than other countries in the EU, but it has most definitely embarked upon the neo-liberal path too.


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 18 November 2003 06:55 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Models like the Swedish, which is to say mixed capitalist economies with a large welfare state and some government ownership, are a fairly decent model but not politically sustainable.

Whether they ever constituted "Social Democracy" even at their height, much less now, is one of those weird semantic questions we could wrangle over for weeks without saying anything useful. But the thing is that in a mixed economy, there are capitalists, and the government is constraining and regulating them. Capitalists don't like being constrained and regulated, they don't like making less money than they potentially could. But provided they are allowed to continue being capitalists at all, they have to have enough money to continue doing capitalist development--that is, buying things, such as stock and factory equipment and land and stuff.

Problem is, if they have that much money and want to have more (which is after all the point of capitalism), inevitably some of them will figure out that buying politicians and (through media) buying public opinion, so as to rejig the regulatory playing field in their favour, is a cheaper way to get ahead than actually creating useful wealth. And the more this succeeds, the more it is done. Eventually, corporate forces control the polity and you get Enrons and the Prime Minister of Italy being the country's main media baron and that kind of shite. I suspect you also eventually get The Great Depression and stuff like that.

Then maybe you get a backlash and things go leftward for a while, but if there isn't some basic change in the structure of how we go about creating wealth and who gets it, eventually the rich boys take over again.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Gaia_Child
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3015

posted 18 November 2003 09:09 PM      Profile for Gaia_Child     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I post comments on why technology isn't necessarily making us happy, and I get compared to the Khmer Rouge?

Babble, gotta love it!


From: Western Canada | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Gaia_Child
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3015

posted 18 November 2003 09:11 PM      Profile for Gaia_Child     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Or perhaps more accurately in my case....

Babble....

Can't escape criticism with it.

Can't post self-righteous tirades without it!


From: Western Canada | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Doug
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 44

posted 19 November 2003 04:32 PM      Profile for Doug   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Swedes trust IKEA, purveyor of affordable assemble-yourself furniture and Swedish meatballs in 22 countries, more than their own government, politicians, media or trade unions, according to a new poll.

Maybe we should be talking about flat-packed government that requires some assembly.


From: Toronto, Canada | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Willowdale Wizard
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3674

posted 19 November 2003 06:38 PM      Profile for Willowdale Wizard   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
maybe the thread title should be renamed as "The Swedish furniture model"
From: england (hometown of toronto) | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged
'lance
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1064

posted 19 November 2003 06:42 PM      Profile for 'lance     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I post comments on why technology isn't necessarily making us happy, and I get compared to the Khmer Rouge?
Babble, gotta love it!

Try not to let it get you down, Gaia_Child. Our friend here, Gawd/ess be thanked, is hardly typical of local opinion.

We can scarcely forgive him, since he apparently knows what he does. But we can ignore him.


From: that enchanted place on the top of the Forest | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 19 November 2003 07:22 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Models like the Swedish, which is to say mixed capitalist economies with a large welfare state and some government ownership, are a fairly decent model but not politically sustainable.

So what is an example of a model that is "politically sustainable"? Myanmar? North Korea?

People can pick apart the political/economic system in Sweden all they want but I defy you to find any other country in the world that as good a quality of life to such a high proportion of its citizens.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 19 November 2003 07:59 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Gaia_Child:
Babble....

Can't escape criticism with it.

Can't post self-righteous tirades without it!


Man, I know I'd miss that.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 19 November 2003 08:23 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stockholm:

So what is an example of a model that is "politically sustainable"? Myanmar? North Korea?

People can pick apart the political/economic system in Sweden all they want but I defy you to find any other country in the world that as good a quality of life to such a high proportion of its citizens.


You know, if you actually felt like engaging it would be easy. Nobody has offered drastic criticisms of Sweden here.
But the moment anyone suggests that there may yet remain possibilities for improvements in the world, you accuse them of supporting totalitarianism for not admitting that Sweden is the shining city on the hill and the world is readily perfectible because their model can quickly and easily be exported to the world, leaving us all in edenic paradise.

Amazingly, many people on babble don't in fact think that the perfect system has yet been seen (or indeed that it's possible to have a perfect system). And many of us also think that chances are mixed capitalism is not going to be a challenger. Live with it or engage with it, but enough with the idiot baiting.

Now. I said it's not sustainable. I said so for very specific and basic reasons. And indeed the Swedish model has been eroding, much like the New Deal did in the US and the roughly Pearson-through-Trudeau era social contract has here, if more slowly. There's a chance they can push that back, for a while, but the key mechanisms tending to erode that kind of social contract remain. If you want to refute that claim, I suggest you make a stab at actually doing so, if you are in fact capable of anything beyond insult and sidestep.

Or you could just take a deep breath and admit that while it's a pleasant model as long as the capitalists are firmly under control, it is not in fact sustainable because they won't stay that way. Doesn't make it worthless, it's a nice step on the road to other things, but if every country in the world went Swedish tomorrow, many of them would be sliding back to neoliberalism in twenty years.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 490

posted 19 November 2003 08:33 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Rufus, I'm not sure you got the point I was making.

I was pointing out, as illuminated by our illustrious author from 1981 (I'll try to get the name of the book for you; I didn't write it down because I read the whole thing through in about an hour and a half), that Sweden among other European nations had leaders who understood that the way to avoid the problems seen in laissez-faire capitalism of the American variety, was to introduce and embed (yeah, I know, lousy word. Thanks a lot, General Tommy Franks ) institutional checks and balances into their economic system that went beyond simply taking better advantage of the pre-existing "toolbox" of interest rates and government budget/tax policy.

I take the view that the glass is half-full, if one takes into account the fact that such a broadening of institutional involvement in the economic system represents an order of magnitude improvement in stability, both politically and economically.

It is comparatively but a single step to expanding this base to include participatory budgeting and other refinements currently being tried out on a local scale in South America.


From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3308

posted 20 November 2003 03:08 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by DrConway:
Rufus, I'm not sure you got the point I was making.

How can you tell? I don't believe I commented on it. For the record, I liked your post quite a lot and found it interesting.

quote:

I was pointing out, as illuminated by our illustrious author from 1981 (I'll try to get the name of the book for you; I didn't write it down because I read the whole thing through in about an hour and a half), that Sweden among other European nations had leaders who understood that the way to avoid the problems seen in laissez-faire capitalism of the American variety, was to introduce and embed (yeah, I know, lousy word. Thanks a lot, General Tommy Franks ) institutional checks and balances into their economic system that went beyond simply taking better advantage of the pre-existing "toolbox" of interest rates and government budget/tax policy.


I quite agree. I was making the more general claim that this sort of checks and balances get in the way of very rich people getting richer, and as a result they would inevitably seek to nobble the system, buy the leaders and so forth. As long as the system continues to require rich individuals as an inherent structural component owning capital--or even, as a substitute, technocrats just controlling it--there will be a power base and a motive for monkeywrenching the system to destroy those checks and balances. This is a principle that applies to systems as different as the U.S. and the USSR.

quote:

I take the view that the glass is half-full, if one takes into account the fact that such a broadening of institutional involvement in the economic system represents an order of magnitude improvement in stability, both politically and economically.


Half full, sure. Fuller than ours, say. Improvement in stability, certainly--and to be sure, Sweden's checks and balances have been slower to erode than ours. If they can hang on until the next pendulum swing in the G7, which shows some signs of beginning, they may be OK for the next while. But . . .


quote:
It is comparatively but a single step to expanding this base to include participatory budgeting and other refinements currently being tried out on a local scale in South America.

Indeed. In which case, the system will have transformed in a positive way and will still turn out not to have been sustainable. I should perhaps have more explicitly said, the Swedish system must either move forward or slide back. But I think that was present in what I've been saying, despite my focus on debating Stockholm (the babbler, not the city). And to be fair I should add that I think there is the will among many Swedes to move forward; the description of that Swedish school place in Wainwright's "Arguments for a new Left" was inspirational. And there have been some very positive environmentalist ideas out of Sweden as well. It is not only in South America that neat experiments are taking place.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
radiorahim
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2777

posted 20 November 2003 03:40 PM      Profile for radiorahim     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
All western developed countries pretty much adopted Keynsian policies in the post WWII era i.e. social welfare policies, state intervention in the ecomomy etc. to some degree or another.

Sweden and other Scandinavian countries had the most highly developed "welfare states" and the U.S. probably the least developed with Canada being a bit more developed than the U.S.

Nowadays the post-war reforms are being hacked away everywhere... its just a matter of degree.

It seems that countries with highly developed welfare states, a strong labour movement and a strong left/progressive political culture have been better able to resist the tide.

Countries like the U.S. without a well developed welfare state, weak unions and a more or less right-wing political culture haven't been able to resist the cuts.

I don't believe in "models" anyway although I think its useful to draw on the successful experiences of others and see what works in our own unique situation.


From: a Micro$oft-free computer | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stockholm
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3138

posted 20 November 2003 04:45 PM      Profile for Stockholm     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Now. I said it's not sustainable. I said so for very specific and basic reasons. And indeed the Swedish model has been eroding, much like the New Deal did in the US and the roughly Pearson-through-Trudeau era social contract has here, if more slowly. There's a chance they can push that back, for a while, but the key mechanisms tending to erode that kind of social contract remain. If you want to refute that claim, I suggest you make a stab at actually doing so, if you are in fact capable of anything beyond insult and sidestep.

Or you could just take a deep breath and admit that while it's a pleasant model as long as the capitalists are firmly under control, it is not in fact sustainable because they won't stay that way. Doesn't make it worthless, it's a nice step on the road to other things, but if every country in the world went Swedish tomorrow, many of them would be sliding back to neoliberalism in twenty years.


WEll if we accept your logic NOTHING is sustainable! Unless a country wants to go the way of Myanmar or North Korea, it will have to accpet being a part of a global market economy in some way shape or form. Our economies are so interdependent etc.... and our peoples so accustomed to a certain standard of living that i simply don't believe that it is possible for any country in tghe western world to think that it can simply opt out of the world economy and go its own road and think that it can totally ignore the market and the forces of capital 100%.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 21 November 2003 02:38 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
You know, if you actually felt like engaging it would be easy.

Well said, Rufus. This could have been a very interesting exchange, if Stockholm weren't so disingenuous and insulting.

Generally speaking, we all agree that, on the whole and in spite of regressive changes in Sweden over the last decade, it would be nice if the entire world could enjoy similar levels of prosperity and equality.

But, in this thread, Stockholm has demonstrated his inability or unwillingness to show us how this could be achieved. Even worse, in other threads, he has generally been an advocate of going in the opposite direction -- attacking anyone he perceives as being on his left as a nutcase or a stooge of Pyongyang, and making contemptuous remarks about labour and public-sector workers in Ontario. To top it all off, he appears to think that he can silence any criticism of the NDP and international Social Democracy in 2003 by invoking "the Swedish model" -- a model that was born and prospered in a Cold War, pre-neoliberal and pre-Third Way era of Social Democracy...

As far as I can tell, Stockholm is a liberal who has chosen Social Democracy as the best place to pursue his (or her) goals, whatever they may be. Fair enough: Social Democracy worldwide has been moving in this direction for the last decade or two. This adaptation to neo-liberalism has done anything but create more Swedens elsewhere and has eroded the "Swedish model" on its home turf.

I'm willing to debate the circumstances in which the "Swedish model" was able to emerge, and whether these circumstances could have been or can still be reproduced in other times and places. I think that was supposed to be the topic of this thread.

For that matter, I'm also willing to debate whether Social Democracy's adaptation to (and, in most cases, active implementation of) neo-liberalism is the right way forward for the Left, or more generally for those who want a better and more just world.

But it seems to me that Stockholm isn't the person to have a real exchange on either of these issues with.

[ 22 November 2003: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged

All times are Pacific Time  

   Close Topic    Move Topic    Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
Hop To:

Contact Us | rabble.ca | Policy Statement

Copyright 2001-2008 rabble.ca