In a recent discussion on Facebook, it was pointed out to me that Denmark (and presumably other Nordic countries with similar economies and social programs) are not “socialist” or “democratic socialist” countries. I have to admit, as particularly the descriptor “democratic socialism” has been being used widely in the U.S. to describe the social-economic systems in those countries, I fell into using it. So in an effort to settle the matter once and for all in my own mind, I did what we so often do these days and went searching the internet. I found an article which does pretty conclusively settle the matter: “Scandinavian Socialism: The Truth of the Nordic Model”. In the article the Prime Minister of Denmark makes the following statement: “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore, I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.” He then goes on to add: “Some refer to this as democratic socialism, though this is far from correct. Some economists refer to it as cuddly capitalism, contrasting with what is seen as cut-throat capitalism in other Western countries.”
Ok, I stand corrected, but not dissuaded from my very strong opinion that we in the U.S. need to adopt similar healthcare, educational, and social safety-net programs, programs which are paid for via taxpayer funding, as are in place in Denmark and other Nordic countries. My educational background and a lot of my work history is within social programs, social work, mental health. I tend to primarily reference things from this perspective. because a program works for the wellbeing of society, I tend to think of it as “socialism”. I think I’m not alone in that. However, from an economic perspective, while socialism and communism are not literally the same, they do share some important attributes and tend to be lumped together in the thinking of many in the U.S. That is another discussion.
My message here is that we cannot become so locked into labels, one way or the other, that we cannot move past them to, as a society, do the things we need to do best ensure a healthy populace. A populace that experiences life within the culture as welcoming, nurturing, safe, and that encourages each citizen to be a productive, contributing member within our communities. I would go further to say that as a general rule, if someone wants to be “taking from” society, we should require that they also be “giving to” society. To only be either taking or giving is not a healthy thing. However, for this to be anything other than a cruel, exclusive, policy, there must also be the support and training readily available to help those who need it to find real ways to contribute within their own set of abilities.