The Specter of Socialism’s Slow Collapse.

So says The New York Times, writing on how the Socialist and left wing governments in Europe are being trounced by Conservatives.

There is now a right-leaning government in Germany, France and Italy. Portugal’s Socialists lost their absolute majority. In Britain and Spain, the last two major countries with left-leaning governments, the left is getting hammered and will most likely lose in the next election.

Why do you think Socialism is failing in Europe? And how does this affect the Obama Administration’s foreign policy? It will be a strange turn of events if America moves to the left of Europe. It’s already moving to the left of Canada. This could have profound implications for the political dynamics of the world and the relationships between countries.

It’s just swings and roundabouts in European politics. The socialist parties now out of government will do a bit of rebranding and win future elections when people get sick of the current governments. The British Labour government was completely unelectable in the eighties but rebranded in the nineties and won a majority so big that people questioned whether the conservatives would ever form a government again.You had righties in power in say France and Germany, D’ Estaing and Kohl and they got voted out and replaced by the left, who are now being replaced by the right. In time they’ll get the boot and the NYT will write a thumb-sucker about how the new left is going to remodel Europe etc. The article says that the main objective of European right parties is to cut taxes. Well, we all know how well that worked out for America. I therefore confidently predict a future return for the lefties.

Every electable European conservative or right-leaning party would fit happily into the Democratic party if they were American, and in time even the GOP will resemble a European-style conservative party. The article points out that European righties have only become electable by embracing large chunks of the left’s agenda like socialised healthcare, the welfare state, global warming etc. And unlike their American counterparts they hold sane views on financial regulation too. Eventually the GOP will have to do all this too, in a few decades they’ll be indistinguishable from a European right party.

I don’t see America moving to the left of Europe (or Canada). There’s a right leaning government in Germany, France, and Italy, and Britain and Spain might elect right wing parties soon (and Canada has what’s looking like the permanent Conservative minority government), but none of these parties are reactionary parties. You’re not going to see homosexuality get criminalized, you’re not going to see the universal health care systems in the above countries get privatized. The political spectrum in most of these countries is to the left of the United States, so even if conservative parties get in, they’re still willing to accept political ideas that aren’t acceptable here.

And I don’t think it’ll have a big effect on foreign relations. Look at France, for example. Mitterand, who was a socialist, got along much better with US Republican presidents Reagan and Bush than the right wing Chirac got along with Republican George W. Bush. And in Britain, Tony Blair and George W. Bush got along very well.

Democracy has cycles. After being in power for say 12 or so years, parties loes their appeal. The electorate feels that they have been in power too long and gives them the boot. In the mid ninties in Europe it was the conservatives who were on the recieving end of the stick, now the tables have turned.

It’s funny when people think, “whew! My party is finally in. Smooth sailin’ from here on out.” And I include those who seem to think it’s a given that the Democrats will hold all of their congressional seats and Obama will be re-elected in 2012.

Don’t forget that the mainstream ‘conservative’ parties in Europe are more, in American terms, Democrat than Republican.

The question could just as easily be asked, why has Conservatism already failed so abysmally that it is merely the opposition in almost every European state? Socialist (ie. socially focused) parties have been in power for three consecutive terms in some cases. The real question will be, will the coming Conservative turn last anywhere near as long? In the UK at least, the Consevatives will have to show that they will not fuck up the public sevices which have received greater investment under Labour if they are to win a second term. If anything, that suggests that social focus is now the ‘job description’ of government, and Conservatives must show some socialist colours if they are to be the successful applicants.

And this …

… simply beggars belief. Obama is way, way to the right of European Conservatives who, if they ever hypothetically gained power in America, would immediately enact legislation which US Conservatives would find utterly horrifying: large tax rises, capital punishment, gun control, single-payer govenment healthcare, vastly scaled-down military spending, environmental programmes, intellectual property, public transport, election spending - almost every aspect of US law and public life would undergo an enormous leftwards shift to bring it into line with the current European right. You honestly think that US Conservatives will soon move to Canada because it will be more conservative than the US?

You can’t do direct ‘conservative/liberal’ comparisons between countries, because each country’s politics are different. For example, Canada has public health care, which is certainly more left-wing than America’s health care system. On the other hand, Canada has been shrinking the size of government for years, and the U.S. is about to surpass Canada both in overall tax burden and the overall size of government compared to GDP.

In addition, the U.S. is about to put more regulations on businesses than exist in Canada, and business taxes will be much higher - Canada is lowering its business tax each year until 2012, when it will be 15%. In the U.S. it will be 40-45%. Canada’s tax system will also be less progressive.

On the other hand, we have more gun control and some restrictions on ‘hate speech’ and the like which wouldn’t be tolerated in the U.S.

The same is true of Europe. They are mostly to the left of the U.S. socially, and will remain so. Economically, it’s entirely possible that Europe will have a lower-tax, more business friendly environment than the U.S. within the next decade.

But ultimately, I pretty much agree with Dick Dastardly. This is just the pendulum swinging in the other direction. The governments that presided over the collapse are being punished. Eventually, they’ll come back. As will the right in the U.S. That’s why I framed the question more along the lines of how this changes the near future rather than what this means for Europe 30 years from now.

Is it meaningful to conclude that a measure of government spending as a fraction of GDP or tax rates will determine which government is further left? It seems that the Canadian government(s) are generally still more leftist philosophically than the US government(s) in terms of the sort of laws they focus on. That they can be both more leftist and have lower government spending and taxation can be a combination of two factors. A) There is not actually a meaningful “left vs right” divide on the spending/size of government issue because the right is not any less willing to spend and expand the government than the left and B) perhaps Canada’s government is structurally superior in some way that accounts for this.

It’s not really meaningful to say that the US is left of Canada because it spends a greater portion of its GDP through the government. Are corporate welfare, arigicultural subsidies, a huge military, etc. leftist policies? The right in this country is doing a fine job of spending us to death when it gets the chance. It appears that Canada is more fiscally conservative even while being more philosophically leftist - which is, quite frankly, probably superior to what we’re doing on all counts.

And you have yourself commented on the structure of the US government and how it is set up so that handouts and quid pro quo agreements are the rule. It means that every controversial bill that gets passed essentially has to bribe everyone who’d oppose it sufficiently to reduce their opposition. Which results in more pet projects, more government spending, more riders, more caveats, etc. An inefficient right-leaning government could outspend a structurally efficient leftist government this way.

In no way is this intended to be construed as a defense of the US government. It seems like we’re getting screwed from all ends - Canada has shown greater fiscal responsibility than we had, and hence, enjoyed the good aspects of conservatism, but is philosophically leftist and hasn’t had to suffer the downsides of neocon/theocrat type “conservatism”. Bravo. You are a counter-example to the clusterfuck we’ve created in the US.

That seems fairly unlikely. I am uncomfortable with the simple More State / Less State basis of comparison on Right versus Left relative to Europe.

A fundamental difference between the North Americans and Europe is the Statist tradition in the right, that well predates socialism, etc. I rather think this wrong foots most North Americans thinking about European politics. Statist intervention in the economy (and favouritism to “national champions” or rather big influential firms) is not a bit of “left” integrated into the “right” in Europe, in particular continental Europe, it is a fundamental cornerstone of the illiberal wing of the Right in Europe.

Seeing this as “Left” entirely misunderstands the Right and the rather old roots of Statism. It seems to me that Stone keeps looking at these things through his North American “libertarian” prism.

That gets me to Senorbeef, while certainly in American terms, state intervention in the economy is thought of as Left, I think highlighting differences (such as state intervention to support favoured enterprises from a State Interest rather than Popular Welfare point of view, which is not Left at all in my opinion) is important.

I also would object to the mislabelling - abusive in my opinion - of Social Democratic movements as Socialists. France has genuine socialists, but Labour? (well they’re around) Soc. Democrats are not the same breed as the actual socialists, and it is an annoying American habit to be unable to distinquish the two.

You declare universal health care as left wing. That is interesting. It says the left wing cares about the lives of the citizens. It says that the well being of the people is a left wing concern. Conversely it says the right wing does not care about the well being of the masses. It says the right wing does not give a crap about those who are not well established. That is some selling point for recruiting. Come to the right. We will strip all programs that help the poor .We will fight for your right to allow people to go bankrupt and get into foreclosure when they are ill.
Your definition of the right in Europe is convenient for you, but it is not equivalent to the American righties.

But, the Socialist Party in Spain (which Sam says is about to get the boot – I haven’t researched that) has only been in power since 2004. And Angela Merkel (Christian Democrat, center-right) has been chancellor of Germany since 2000 and just got re-elected.

It says absolutely nothing of the sort.

What it says is that from a “right wing” (or at least American) point of view, there is a belief that government would do a poor job of providing said health care. While doubtless there are some callous people who do not care a whit for their fellow citizens, it does not follow that this is the reason for opposition. I think rather more generally it is a skepticism, certainly not without real foundation, that government can properly provide health care for the population, and a belief the end result would be worse.

You can certainly argue that this is an incorrect point of view (and I grant there is an argument there), but the straw man you’re setting up is fundamentally dishonest and typical left wing smearing.

No straw man. . Read post 8. He says Canadian Health Care is certainly more left than our system. Would that be describing UHC as lefty or righty?

I know that your own reading skills would benefit from polishing, however let me point out that your reply is a complete non sequitor. My note was taking to you to task for your ridiculous proposition regarding “caring” - not the discussable Left / Rightness of government sponsored health care. So, please do try to read more carefully.

I find this badly researched.

  1. There are 10 official European political parties, which include:
  • European Socialists
  • Party of the European Left (which includes Communists)
  • European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party
  • European Green Party

There is no sign of any of these socialist parties failing.

  1. Yes, there are swings from Socialists to Conservatives and back again. This is usual, since almost every Government runs out of ideas / gets corrupt / gets lazy after a while.
    In the UK, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservativism was very successful for a while - then it all went wrong and Blair took over for just as long.

  2. ‘It will be a strange turn of events if America moves to the left of Europe.’

This statement is particularly silly. :smack::rolleyes::confused:

Consider these policies of a major UK party and quotes from its Leader (favourite to form the next Government):

  • **for Universal Health Care ** … “The National Health Service is one of the 20th Century’s greatest achievements”

  • for near-complete Gun Control … “Gun crime is out of control” N.B. handguns are not allowed for self defence (or anything else) and even the beat police are not armed

  • against Capital Punishment … “I just don’t honestly think that in a civilised society like ours that you can have the death penalty any more”

Of course these are the views of David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.

There are 3 major political parties in the UK.
By US standards they rank as:

Labour = ‘Communist’
Liberal Democrat = ‘Socialist’
Conservative = ‘Left Wing’

Sam, using your own standards, the evidence for the US Republicans’ having a much faster and more complete collapse is far stronger. But you know that, don’t you?

(Neither is true, of course)

Also, to keep this all in its proper perspective: There is no “Socialism’s Slow Collapse” in Europe because there is no “socialism” in Europe, not even in countries where the currently ruling party has “socialist” in its name. (Social democracy is not the same thing.)

How much of U.S. size of government made up of military spending? It would seem silly to say the U.S. is more lefty than Canada because it spends more on the military.

  1. Business taxes in America are actually the lowest of any major economy. Officially they’re high but in practice well over half of US businesses pay no income taxes at all as the tax code is one big loophole. The actual rate is in single digits so Canada actually has a far higher business tax rate. This is one of the nonsense talking points the GOP and their media constantly repeat in their neverending quest to reduce business/income/capital gains taxes.

  2. European governments have bigger debts as a proportion of GDP than the US and all political factions in Europe agree that government is something that has to be paid for, you’re not going to get a bunch of idiots elected who claim that deficits don’t matter, something that we know isn’t impossible in America. And depending on how you define it, business-friendly isn’t always a good thing either. The monetary and financial regulatory policies in the US over the first eight years of the decade were business-friendly.