Richard Wolff talks about democratic socialism as one of 3 basic kinds of socialism



So let's start with the first one. You can call it "modern socialism" some people
call it "democratic socialism". It has a lot of names but it was that kind
we talked about first in the first half of this program. Namely, when the government is called in,
you leave enterprises in the hands of the private owners and operators (as you have
in capitalism), you leave the market as the basic institution to distribute goods and
services, but the government comes in to regulate and to re-distribute the wealth, because of
the tendencies towards inequality that capitalism without government tends to show us over and
over again. I think the things I would like to stress
there are that on the one hand people in that kind of a socialist society are usually quite
supportive of it. If you look at the Scandinavian countries
and a number of the Western European countries that are kind of prime examples of this sort
of thing, or you look at the image of what Mr. Bernie Sanders wants for the United States
(and he himself refers to Denmark and so on as models, at least in part) you get the impression
that what this means is that working people have kind of two sources well-being. On the one hand they work and earn a wage
or a salary, and on the other hand they have a very generous supply of public services
made available to them by that socialist government. If you look in Europe's history (for example
Scandinavia, or France, or Germany, or Italy) you'll see that it was the socialists who
pushed for the national health service that they have, the unemployment compensation system
that they have, the subsidized transportation, the subsidized public education. These were all ways for the government to
come in and make life better for the average person. So there's a sense of support for the socialists
in those countries and for the socialism they have, which is one explanation for why it
has been so durable over the last century in which it was established there. The problem, if you like (and we have to weigh
the costs and benefits of all of these), the problem for this kind of socialism is that
it is very insecure. Let me explain. If you leave the ownership and operation of
enterprises in the hands of private people then those private people are, in all cases,
a very small minority of the society. They sit at the top of the economic system. They're the ones who own the bulk of the shares,
they're the ones who sit on the Board of Directors, all of that. And they are constantly struggling to use
those positions they have, which includes getting the surplus or profits of the society,
into their hands to diminish the regulations, to be free-er, to do things they're enterprises
lead them to believe will be profitable. They don't want to be hemmed in by regulations
and they don't want their wealth taken from them by a redistributive government. So they begin to push back and they have the
incentive but they also have the resources to push back and so they take away the very
socialist benefits that have been captured in earlier periods of their history, which
means this kind of socialism is fundamentals insecure. Here's a second problem of that kind of socialism,
redistribution: governments that use taxes to move wealth, at least in part, away from
those at the top and spread them that wealth out more evenly across the society. This leads to incredible social tensions. Wherever redistribution happens, that is a
result. I used this example, I'm gonna use it again. If you take your child to the park, and you
have two children, and you take them to the park and now it's time to get ice cream cones,
and if you get the ice cream cones and you get two of them and you give them to one child
and then you say "Oh, this isn't fair. Let's redistribute" and you pull one cone
away from the one child to give to the other, you're creating a level of tension you would
never have had to deal with if you'd given each child one cone at the beginning. When we have a government step in to redistribute
we invite intense social struggle, intense social animosities amongst us as a people. It's not smart. And that kind of socialism is constantly bedeviled
by struggles among people over a redistribution you would not have if you distributed it less
unequally to begin with.




Comments
  1. There should be made a distinction between Democratic Socialist and Social Democracy. Scandinavia is NOT socialist. They are Social Democracies. Democratic Socialist implies no private ownership of enterprise, but within a democratic free market. There are few actualized examples of this, but probably the closest historical example of Democratic Socialism is represented by Rosa Luxemburg and her ideas.

  2. Almost every advance achieved by socialists could have been achieved by the elimination of monopoly privilege existing in every society. Income and wealth in all societies is redistributed from producers to non-producers. Some non-producers are members of a landed aristocracy. Some are members of a corporate elite. Some are members of a state bureaucracy. The just balance between property rights and human rights was detailed not by Marx or socialist writers but by Henry George. George asked how to secure and protect individual liberty and equality of opportunity. He concluded that the key was how government raised revenue to pay for public goods and services.

  3. Richard I agree there will be fights if wealth is redistributed but there are less rich than poor on average in the US today and getting poorer. The burden of all government cost is now on the backs of average Americans with the rich paying nothing and the inter-structure is crumbling. Capitalism only works when you have a intermediate (government) with enough control and power and the interest of the whole instead of the few to pass laws to stop the abuse of the people or slavery is inevitable. We have lost this intermediary to corruption and big money over the years so this proves Capitalism is just as unstable as socialism can be. If the inequality that plages the US today is not changes soon there will be a tipping point when another civil war will start. What do you propose is the solution if not democratic socialism? There is no win win that I can think of but correct me if I am wrong.

  4. The private ownership in Democratic socialism do provides authority. This very minority struggles constantly to regulate their wealth. This is very unstable. They dont want to give their wealth back to Government to redistribute it for poor. This is why it creates tension among those who owns the wealth so It doesnt last long.

  5. Moderate or modern socialism? The subtext said modern when you called it moderate. I don't consider what they're trying to call Democratic Socialism any form of socialism. If they support trade unions, that is Syndicalism, and unions didn't always represent menial labor until Eugene Debs. How is decentralised power supposed to check centralised power? Unless they're afraid to actually fight the capitalists which would make sense considering the spine of the liberals packed in my local DSA.

    Did Bernie Sanders beg the Nordic countries to say "ok, we'll call our system socialism so you can win over stupid American conservatives." Because this is only damaging to those who pay close attention to what we read when it comes to all the political ideology out there.

    https://youtu.be/iLR93hwTHUY

  6. I think you mean "Social Democracy", not "Democratic Socialism", as Democratic Socialist thoughts exist in many forms too. As a Norwegian "Democratic Socialist/Communist", I can tell you that a Democratic Socialist society might very well be a truly Socialist society. You could argue that Socialism in itself is Democratic, but a Democratic Socialist would argue that we need to emphasize the Democratic values of which we want to build a society on, so that we can avoid going into the "Authoritarian Socialist" trap yet AGAIN. Democratic Socialism is, therefore, a reaction to the Authoritarian Socialist-movement that arose during the 20th-century which wishes to emphasize it's Democratic values.

  7. I really appreciate your ideas and videos. I like the model of democratic socialism because it seems to be a nice middle ground to work from. My question is this, when it comes to the ownership class in a democratic socialist society, how do they take power back ? Also, is there a way to redefine ownership in a society to be one that is more altruistic and not concerned so much about just pure profit ?

  8. I think you should really distinguish between socialism and social democracy. In german there is no such thing as democratic socialism. It's always called social democracy. I've noticed that English speaking people (mainly americans) often get confused because of this. I've even seen that on this channel. You once called the SPD the "Sozialdemoktarische Partei Deutschlands" as socialists. They aren't. They are social democrats (sozialdemokraten). And I feel like that distinction is extremely important since social democrats don't strive towards socialism at all. They want to keep the free market and support the working people with social programs like health care, minimum wage, etc. While actual socialists want the workers to take over the means or production.
    It can oftentimes be hard to follow American public discourse when everyone is talking about socialism while they actually mean social democracy. This mix up is also the reason many think that countries like germany, sweden, denmark, norway, etc. are socialists when they are really capitalist with strong policies for the workers. And to get back to germany the notion that germany has a large socialist support is just wrong. If you ask any german if they are socialist they will say no because they are social democrats. They want to keep the free market and the capitalist mode of production.
    I'd even argue that Social democracy (or democratic socialism as you call it) isn't socialist at all because it keeps the means of production in the hands of the privileged few who exploit everyone else thus contradicting most if not all definitions of 'socialism'

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