An increasing number of young people support democratic socialism, but what does that mean?
By Andrew FalloneSo you come home from your first year at college. You wave goodbye to the rear fender of your friend’s beat up 1998 Toyota sedan as it drives away into the distance. You see your parents standing in your doorway smiling proudly, happy to have you back. You walk inside and sit down to a freshly cooked family dinner to reconnect after a year away. Your parents start to ask you about your life, how are the grades, have you locked down a job for the summer yet, do you remember your curfew is still midnight, and for god’s sakes do you have a boyfriend yet? “No,” you reply, no job and no boyfriend yet, but you have started to really like this idea you learned about in your introduction to political theory class; you’ve become a socialist.
Dad dramatically pushes his chair back and storms off to his study to drink scotch straight from the bottle and contemplate where he failed you, while your mother sobs into her apron, and your little brother runs off to alert the neighborhood watch that there’s a dangerous Marxist guerilla living in the area. The white-picket fence has caught on fire and all of the years of wholesome upbringing and money spent on college tuition have gone to waist…or not. Maybe it should not be so shocking that socialism is seeing a resurgence in popularity amongst many young college-age Americans. Now, this is not the socialism of the radical socialism of envisioned by dusty theorists where the government is in direct control of distributing wealth equally to all of its citizen. Instead, this article refers to democratic socialism, which is growing in popularity because it gives the government the tools it needs to administer economic policy and welfare programs, while still maintaining individual rights such as private land ownership and free markets. This allows the enhanced power of the government to be wielded by the larger populace. Indeed, to those who are educated, the ideas that drive socialism are not so foreign or exotic, but are actually reasonable and effective.
Now, in order to evaluate different forms of government, there must be some agreed upon metric by which to do so. For this article, an effective and efficient government is one that can most successfully carry out its laws and directives. Yet this comes with an important caveat, for a truly effective government must also take the best care of its citizens’ needs. In summary, an effective government must be accountable and responsive to its people, while still creating policy that is actually effective at accomplishing a government’s first job—to provide for its citizens—opposed to blindly following every brash impulse of its electorate. While an authoritarian government might be effective, it is not the most humane because large constituency of people are victim to the wants and choices of the small concentration of power in a ruling party or a dictator. A democracy, conversely, while the choices of the electorate might not always be the best or most humane, does have the largest portion of the total populace making the decisions, which is in theory the most humane form of government. Yet that large and theoretically humane electorate is slow to take action and thus is actually not the most responsive or effective in executing its policies. In this article, I posit that a socialist democracy is the best way to execute effective governmental action in the most egalitarian and humanitarian way.
A student of political theory might tell you that an authoritarian or autocratic government is one of the most effective at just directly carrying out its directives. In terms of the economy, a government that does not have to worry about any opposition, nor any approval, can make the changes it decides are the most beneficial for itself much more quickly than if it had to go through more widely accepted democratic routes. While other nations may make economic success more difficult for autocratic governments by punishing them for their system of rule, case in point the embargos that stood for decades against Cuba, authoritarian governments are some of the most capable in terms of implementing their own policy within the confines of their own economy. When speaking about economic development, Modernization theory puts forward the idea that democracy was something for rich and developed nations, and in order to achieve that affluence other less-developed nations had to go through a period of non-democratic rule. Indeed, this idea is supported by London School of Economics professors Timothy Besley and Masayuki Kudamatsu, who illustrate it thus:
[A]utocratic government is not always a disaster in economic terms. Indeed, throughout history there has been growth and development in autocratic systems of government. For example, the British industrial revolution predates the introduction of free and fair elections with mass participation. Modern China is also a case in point with a spectacular growth performance in a non-democratic setting.