Querying types ask me, “have” asked, and over the course of my forty year adult life, why is it the United States can’t embrace a Scandinavian styled social democratic approach to its economy. Presumably my American Finnishness makes me an expert. As a poet I am of course an expert on nothing and though my father was a political scientist I inherited only his curiosity.
The answer as I see it is that American socialism tends toward a fulsome admiration of Eugene Debs whose brand of anti-capitalist rhetoric is compelling if you have nothing. Bernie Sanders is an adept of Debs and as he rails against corporations he imagines investments and payrolls and pensions can be paratactically separated from the financial interest of the country. No one in Finland believes this and that’s the difference. You want industry, the banks, the vast nexus of private sector businesses to be at the table to support social life and the national interest. Insert opinion: I’ve never believed Sanders is capable of understanding this.
No one in Finland runs on a ticket blaming the establishment. Which brings me back to my point, that American socialism is more of Debs than F.D.R.. Here’s classic Debs: “Privately owned industry and production for individual profit are no longer compatible with social progress and have ceased to work out to humane and civilized ends.” Again, hardly anyone in Scandinavia believes this. Instead they believe in a laissez faire economy that’s regulated, supports the welfare state, and allows for profits and liquidity. You won’t hear this much from Bernie who often sounds like a “econ” professor at a second rate college.
Do we need Scandinavian styled social democracy in the US? Yes. If you could put Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt’s ideas together in a coherent platform you might get it.