Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Three (Burkean) cheers for Social Democracy

It occurs to me that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, no need to endlessly ponder about alternatives, sensible middle ways to replace unjust, irrational free market plutocracy or bloody, irrational state socialism. We already have the sensible middle way: the Nordic social democratic state that combines healthy, dynamic economy with strong safety nets, significant income redistribution and in addition has open and liberal political structures. The Nordic social democratic society is based on a web of many powerful influences: the market, the unions, the civil society, the government. You still can get rich, create fortunes and jobs, but if you are poor your children still will go to the same high quality schools like everyone else and they can easily afford university education: they can compete fairly with more fortunate age mates. No wonder social mobility is much higher in the Nordic countries than in the USA or the UK.

Well, I suppose I can still, just barely, speak in the present tense. This reasonable, compromise based society of many interests and influences was created by a unique historical and cultural constellation. It is not fundamentally based on reason but chance and circumstances. And circumstances are changing: our irrationality and greed are breaking through and much control is already given up to market forces - and they surely will end up destroying the structures that keep social competition both strong and fair. But at least we have a model that has functioned in real life, that is reproducable. Unlike, one might add, any "pure", Randian free market fantasies.

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