We Are All Social Democrats Now

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

I know there’s some unhappy history behind the American use of “social democrat” as a political description, but those feuds happened more than a half a century ago and maybe it’s time to let them die. Why? Because life would sure be a lot easier if we could all learn to accept social democrat as the most accurate description of most modern progressives.

I’m perfectly happy with the label, myself. For those of you who are hazy about what social democracy is, here’s a quickie bullet list. Assuming I didn’t bungle anything, it basically follows the work of Sheri Berman, one of today’s foremost scholars of social democracy and author of The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century:

  • Non-revolutionary; accepts democracy as its political foundation
  • Seeks to reform and reshape capitalism, not destroy it
  • Market based, but harnessed to the common good by a regulatory state
  • High progressive taxes to support a generous welfare state
  • Fundamentally communitarian, originally designed to counter the appeal of nationalism
  • Undergirded by belief in both social and economic equality

It’s worth adding that like most political movements, social democracy is both flexible and limited. It doesn’t insist on any particular view of gun rights or abortion, for example, nor will it tell you if recessions are best handled by monetary or fiscal policy. Likewise, although it would certainly point strongly in the direction of universal health care, it easily subsumes everything from the British model to the Swiss. (Or, in American terms, everything from the VA system to Obamacare.)

For more, check out Berman’s “Understanding Social Democracy,” a short paper that mirrors the history and exposition of her book.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate