‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Finland

“No one would argue that the Nordic countries are full-blown socialist countries, whatever that might mean. But it is also folly to pretend the only thing they have proven is that high taxes and large welfare states can work. Even on the narrow understanding of socialism as public ownership of enterprise, the Nordic countries are far more socialistic than most commentators seem to realize. American socialists who draw inspiration from their successes do so rightly.”
~Matt Bruenig, Nordic Socialism Is Realer Than You Think

Finland vs America is simply socialism vs capitalism. The Finnish are running their public education system according to the model of democratic socialism (in case you didn’t know, democratic socialism is what Marx was advocating).

In Finland, their social democracy doesn’t encourage or prioritize capitalist competition but instead encourages and prioritizes democracy in its best sense. In America, on the other hand, capitalism has had a long history of undermining democracy and hence public good.

It’s not even that Finland is an absolute perfect example of socialism any more than America is an absolute perfect example of capitalism. Rather, the point is that America strives toward a more capitalist worldview and Finland strives toward a more socialist worldview. Two different strivings leading to two very different results.

By the way, if you want to see where children get the best public education in America, just look at the states with high percentages of Scandinavian ethnicities. For example, check out the education data on the Upper Midwest; and while your at it look at the history of culture and politics. In America, the stronghold of democratic-socialism/social-democracy along with progressivism has always been the Upper Midwest.

“The governments of Norway and Finland own financial assets equal to 330 percent and 130 percent of each country’s respective GDP. In the US, the same figure is just 26 percent.

“Much of this money is tied up in diversified wealth funds, which some would object to as not counting as real state ownership. I disagree with the claim that wealth funds are not really state ownership, but the observation that Nordic countries feature high levels of state ownership does not turn upon this quibble.

“State-owned enterprises (SOEs), defined as commercial enterprises in which the state has a controlling stake or large minority stake, are also far more prevalent in the Nordic countries. In 2012, the value of Norwegian SOEs was equal to 87.9 percent of the country’s GDP. For Finland, that figure was 52.3 percent. In the US, it was not even 1 percent.

“Some of these SOEs are businesses often run by states: a postal service, a public broadcasting channel, an Alcohol retail monopoly. But others are just normal businesses typically associated with the private sector.

“In Finland, where I know the situation the best, there are 64 state-owned enterprises, including one called Solidium that operates as a holding company for the government’s minority stake in 13 of the companies.

“The Finnish state-owned enterprises include an airliner called Finnair; a wine and spirits maker called Altia; a marketing communications company called Nordic Morning; a large construction and engineering company called VR; and an $8.8 billion oil company called Neste.”

* * *

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success
by Anu Partanent

Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

“In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.

“Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

“Yet Sahlberg doesn’t think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country — as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

“Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation’s education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.

“Indeed, Finland’s population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state — after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.

“What’s more, despite their many differences, Finland and the U.S. have an educational goal in common. When Finnish policymakers decided to reform the country’s education system in the 1970s, they did so because they realized that to be competitive, Finland couldn’t rely on manufacturing or its scant natural resources and instead had to invest in a knowledge-based economy.

“With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.

“Is that an impossible goal? Sahlberg says that while his book isn’t meant to be a how-to manual, it is meant to be a “pamphlet of hope.”

“”When President Kennedy was making his appeal for advancing American science and technology by putting a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, many said it couldn’t be done,” Sahlberg said during his visit to New York. “But he had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King a few years later had a dream. Those dreams came true. Finland’s dream was that we want to have a good public education for every child regardless of where they go to school or what kind of families they come from, and many even in Finland said it couldn’t be done.”

“Clearly, many were wrong. It is possible to create equality. And perhaps even more important — as a challenge to the American way of thinking about education reform — Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity.

The problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.”

No, Finland Is Not a “Capitalist Paradise”
by Matt Bruenig

For starters, the Finnish government owns nearly one-third of the nation’s wealth. For the United States to match that amount, the US government would need to move about $35 trillion of assets into public ownership.

The Finns also have a large public sector, meaning that it’s not just wealth that is much more socialized but also production. Around one-fourth of Finnish workers are employed in general government services like child care, education, and health care. Another 7 percent are employed in state-owned enterprises like the country’s nationalized airliner, Finnair.

The United States would need to shift 24.7 million workers out of the private sector and into the public sector to match Finland. It would also need to expand its state-owned enterprise portfolio beyond the postal service, Amtrak, and the Tennessee Valley Authority to include things like American Airlines, Exxon Mobil, and Verizon.

Outside of the explicitly socialized areas of public ownership and public production, Finland also has a large and powerful labor movement that clearly gives Finnish workers significant power over the economy. Around 90 percent of Finnish workers are covered by a union contract. To get America up to Finnish levels, it would need to unionize an additional 119 million workers.

As we learned a couple of weeks ago, unionized Finns are not mere paper members either. In November, as a response to 700 postal workers receiving a pay cut, as many as 60,000 workers (in a nation of 2.2 million workers) went out on strike in solidarity, shutting down ports, railroads, buses, and airlines. The pay cuts were cancelled, and the prime minister resigned after misleading the public about the matter. Another 100,000 Finnish workers are expected to go on strike this week, causing production losses of hundreds of millions of euros, as part of contract negotiations in the industrial sector.

None of this is to say that Finland is a full-blown socialist society, whatever that might look like. It definitely could and should be more socialized and left wing than it is. But in saying this, we should not lose sight of how different Finland really is from the United States. To match the Finnish economic model, the United States would need to not only build a social-democratic welfare state, but also socialize $35 trillion of assets, unionize 120 million workers, and move 25 million workers into the public sector.

Class Struggle Built the Finnish Welfare State
by Tatu Ahponen

Is Finland more capitalist than socialist?

Partanen and Corson aren’t entirely off base. If by socialism we mean the state socialism of the Soviet Union, it would be silly to call Finland socialist. The Nordic business sector is alive and well, as are electoral democracy and the press. Nor can we say that the Nordic countries have achieved democratic socialism. While unions are strong and the public sector accounts for a much larger share of the economy, it’s not as if workers own and control the means of production.

Finland and the United States are both mixed systems, with doses of socialism and capitalism. Yet Finland is clearly more socialistic than the United States. […]

Partanen and Corson express shock that the Freedom House think tank rates Finland as freer than the United States, apparently associating lack of corruption and ease of bureaucracy with capitalism instead of socialism. But this assumes that graft and red tape are inherent to more socialist systems — and that their absence indicates a pro-business regime. Surely any self-respecting socialist would look at things like public ownership and union density as clearer indices of the “level of socialism” in a society than the existence of a private sector.

Crucially, the authors also get the history of the Finnish welfare state wrong. The pair acknowledges the role of the socialist left in Finnish history, but they also underplay it — noting Finland’s failed socialist revolution and the recent weakness of the Finnish left. Yet during the most active phrase of the welfare state’s construction, the Left was considerably stronger, with the Social Democrats and the Finnish People’s Democratic League (effectively the Communist Party of Finland’s electoral organization), often claiming about half of the country’s MPs.

Most important was labor militancy. So strong is the country’s history of strikes, in fact, that the recent walkouts — which brought out 60,000–100,000 people and triggered the fall of a government — were mostly taken in a stride: that’s what unions do, they go on strikes. And even those strikes were small compared to the great walkouts of yesteryear, including the general strike of 1956 (involving half a million workers) and a ten-day metalworkers’ strike in 1950, both of which demonstrated the labor movement’s potency and forced major concessions from capital. Finnish capitalists ultimately agreed to annual national negotiations that set the wages for all union workers.

The collective agreements were just one of the fruits of the decade from 1966 to 1976, the fastest stretch of development for the Finnish welfare state. A huge swath of the programs considered essential to the welfare state were passed during this period: universal elementary education, minimum pensions for families, universal day care, laws on occupational health and safety, and countless others. All were won through constant pressure from the labor movement and socialist parties, whether inside or outside the government.

95 thoughts on “‘Capitalist’ US vs ‘Socialist’ Finland

  1. As a Finn and a product of Finnish and US school system I largely agree with the article. I did not see a big difference studying in Washington State high school and in Finland. In the US students can select less demanding subjects, but everyone had the opportunity to study almost free in both countries. Teachers were generally better educated and somewhat more demanding in Finland. In Finland you also got a lot more homework. The big difference was that college level education in Finland was fairly cheap, even the Unis (if you got in).

    I grinch when people call Finland socialist or anything like Marx advocated. Finland fought wars against Marxist ideas and after WW2 Finland was not part of the socialist block behind the iron curtain. Finns would not identify Finland as socialist country. “Democratic socialism” perhaps, but that does seem right either. Finland is a parliamentary republic so why do people think it is a “socialist”?

    • Your comment is so sadly ironic. Your country is closer to what Marx advocated than nearly every other country in the world. You are living proof that Marx was right. But your response is to ignorantly criticize Marx. You are making Finland look bad just by demonstrating you are as ignorant as Americans.

      Why do I think Finland is socialist? Because I actually know what socialism is. lol

      Read Marx or don’t, but I don’t give a shit. Ignorance is a personal choice that some prefer, some even take it as a lifestyle. If you want to know what socialism is, then just do a search for the topic in my blog. I’ve written some posts on the ignorance about this subject just recently.

      I’m sorry to not treat you with more respect, but I’ve lost my tolerance for ignorance. I have to deal with ignorant Americans on an almost daily basis. I just don’t have it in me to also deal with ignorant non-Americans as well. I realize your worldview has been formed by propaganda just like that of most Americans. I feel sorry for you. It truly is sad, but it just isn’t my role in life to educate you. I simply offer the facts and you are free to do with them what you will.

      • Wow, a bit rough reply…. so definitions:

        “Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system.”

        Finnish government owns very little these days and industries where they are/were involved have now competition (post/telecommunication/airline/power/rail/ports/health/education). Pretty much all “government companies” are now stock market listed and government has minority share if anything. My high school in Finland was actually privately owned and in the US state owned.

        So there is no cooperative management of the economy as far as I know or maybe you could show that it is the case.

        “According to Marxism in a socialist society private property in the means of production would be superseded by co-operative ownership.”

        This has never been the case in Finland or perhaps you can point out the period of time when “co-operative ownership” happened? Or which industry do you think is run by co-operative ownership now?

        I wonder if you know much about the economy of Finland.

        • “Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.”

          All of those things could be privatized and deregulated toward capitalist markets (i.e., where the capital ownership of schools becomes concentrated), but as far as I can tell this hasn’t happened yet. Socially owning schools and socially providing services is socialism, that is why you have such great education.

          If you knew even the slightest bit about socialism, you would know that socialism doesn’t oppose free markets. What it opposes is capitalism where ownership of the capital is concentrated into the hands of the few. As far as I can tell, Finland has capital ownership that is less concentrated than in more capitalist countries. This is why Finland has prioritized equality and so has a low economic inequality which is the complete opposite of what has historically been found in more capitalist countries.

          Socialism doesn’t require that the economy be cooperatively managed by a large, centralized government. All socialism requires is regulation of free markets in keeping capitalism from taking over along with the providing publicly owned and operated public services such as education and health care, both of which the Finnish government guarantees to all Finnish citizens. This is cooperative in the sense that all of this is being regulated and guaranteed by the cooperative government (social democracy just being the opposite side of democratic socialism).

          Socialism will actually tend away from centralized governments in that stronger forms of socialism have only proven to be possible in small countries and communities. Take the sewer socialists of Milwaukee. They ran that city for decades. They made the economy grow by regulating the economy in order to encourage free markets and to decrease crony capitalism. They also collectivized many things such as sewers that had never before been collectivized in that way before, and so they became the model city for the entire country. Their socialism has become accepted as the norm and so many people forget that such public utilities are a socialist idea.

          There is also anarcho-syndiicalism. For example, there are the Basque anarcho-syndicalists who are very successful and there are some successful anarcho-syndicalist communities in the US. Anarcho-syndicalists are owned and operated by the community, but they are businesses like any other business that operate in markets. Germany takes elements of anarcho-syndicalism in their economic system in that they require union members to be half of the members of corporate boards.

          It sounds like the Finnish government has somewhat been moving away from the socialist model that has made Finland so successful. For example, economic inequality is increasing which is always higher in capitalist countries and is always a sign of increasing social and economic problems. As another example, a few articles I noticed point out that the Finnish government is increasing privatization and deregulation.

          It isn’t just about private vs public ownership. Socialists can own something both communally and privately, i.e. private communities or local governments. Also, something like schools can be privately owned and yet highly regulated within a non-capitalist free market which is one possibility under socialism. Only capitalism, not free markets, are contrary to socialist principles. So, if the ownership of the schools become entirely privatized and deregulated so that the capital ownership becomes concentrated, then it would no longer be socialism. Until then, it is socialism.

          • Finland (as a central government) does not provide schools (except Unis) or meals. Cities, municipalities and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto in Finnish) are responsible of providing most schools. Some of the schools are private, some are publicly owned. Schools can use government workers (hire people) or people from private sector to provide health care and psychological counseling (typically an on-site nurse and shared counseling service), and same with meals. Municipality decides for their area public schools, private schools decide themself. So there is deregulation and private sector competition in schools, school meals and health services.

            So “Socially owning schools and socially providing services” is not the reason why Finland has such great education. And socially owning schools, police, fire department, customs, military, federal highways, national parks and socially providing services like schools, police, fire department, customs, military, federal highways, national parks does not make a country a socialist country. All countries regulate their radio frequencies extremely tightly but that does not make countries socialists. Social ownership of the means of production (1) and cooperative management of the economy (2) makes country a socialist country.

            I agree that socialism doesn’t oppose free markets (like old Hungarian model), but if you don’t have the any social ownership of the means of production then a country is hardly a socialist country.

            Finnish (and the US?) police force is also cooperative in the sense that all of this is being regulated and guaranteed by the cooperative government. Does that make country a socialist country?

            I do agree with your last paragraph about socialism, but that is irrelevant as the topic was if Finland is a socialist country. And it is not.

          • Regional authorities are part of government. Besides, socialism doesn’t require government at all in the normal political sense. Socialism can be run by a state government, by a local government, by a non-governmental grassroots organization, or by some combination of these.

            A school is a means of production. Schools create products, i.e. the educated individual. Road crews create products. Parks create a product. All of these can be privatized for profit and sometimes are in some countries. That is socialism, no matter how much you irrationally and ignorantly deny it.

            Your embracing of propaganda leads to the punishment of banishment from my blog. If you ever educate yourself further and free yourself from indoctrination, please come back and we can then try to have an intelligent discussion. Until then, don’t let the front door hit you on the backside when you go.

          • Translating from Finnish, from the Finnish Wikipedia:

            Private schools in Finland, despite their name, are economically wholly dependent on public financing because of regulation (tuition forbidden) and they need public financing or fundraising for investments.


            Suomessa yksityiskoulut ovat nimestään huolimatta taloudellisesti täysin riippuvaisia julkisista varoista niiden varainhankintaan kohdistettujen erilaisten rajoitusten (kuten kiellon kerätä oppilailta lukukausimaksuja) vuoksi, ja erityisesti investointeihin ne tarvitsevat yleensä julkista rahoitusta tai erityisiä rahankeräyksiä.


          • Thanks for the translation. I didn’t know what it meant to call a school private in Finland. Even private schools in the US can get public funding for certain things and are of course regulated by the government, such regulation requiring taxpayer money to fund it.

        • The problem was that you were taking a part of definition out of context. You apparently got your definition of socialism from Wikipedia or someone quoting Wikipedia. Here is the text that directly follows what you quoted:


          “”Social ownership” may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises, common ownership, direct public ownership or autonomous State enterprises. Socialist economies are based upon production for use and the direct allocation of economic inputs to satisfy economic demands and human needs (use value); accounting is based on physical quantities of resources, some physical magnitude, or a direct measure of labour-time.

          “As a political movement, socialism includes a diverse array of political philosophies, ranging from reformism to revolutionary socialism. Proponents of state socialism advocate for the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange as a strategy for implementing socialism. Social democrats advocate redistributive taxation and government regulation of capital within the framework of a market economy.”

          Even this simple definition points out that not all socialism includes nationalisation of the means of production. In the case of Finland like many countries, it includes a mix of some means of production being nationalised and others being privatized and others still being somewhere between these two. But Finland includes a much higher portion of nationalisation than does the US.

          It’s widely acknowledged that there are many types of socialism beyond state ownership of everything:


          Here are some distinctions within socialism:


          There are the reformists such as the social democrats, the sewer socialists being an example. There are the revolutionaries like Marxists and anarchists who mistrust the government and seek change from the bottom up. There are revolutionaries like Leninists and Trotskyists who seek take over the government through an elite vanguard. Revolutionary syndicalists seek change through private trade or industrial unions. And there are more idealist socialists who believe socialism will develop naturally without need of political intervention or political organization.


          Among these, the main distinction is whether socialism should or will come from above or below. Marxists and Anarchists opposed those who saw socialism as coming from above as they saw this as elitism. They thought it morally wrong and politically ineffective to try to force change from above through controlling the national government.


          One of the practical arguments of this distinction come about in terms of whether socialism should implement market socialism or central planning, the latter being what many people mistakenly think all socialists advocate. The lack of knowledge about socialism lead many misinformed people to mistakenly assume Marx was seeking the same thing that was sought by Lenin, Stalin and Mao. These two types of socialism represent the difference between those who have faith in democracy and those who don’t. A similar difference can be found between free market advocates and capitalists, the former seeing markets as a part of social democracy and the latter often fighting against democracy that empowers average people to make their own decisions.


          That then relates to the issue of equality which is the main difference between a more capitalist country like the US and a more socialist country like Finland.

          “Proponents of equality of opportunity advocate a society in which there are equal opportunities and life chances for all individuals to maximise their potentials and attain positions in society. This would be made possible by equal access to the necessities of life. This position is held by technocratic socialists, Marxists and social democrats. Equality of outcome refers to a state where everyone receives equal amounts of rewards and an equal level of power in decision-making, with the belief that all roles in society are necessary and therefore none should be rewarded more than others. This view is shared by some communal utopian socialists and anarcho-communists.”

          The equal opportunity of Finnish schools is precisely what is advocated by a particular type of socialist, Marx being the most well known example. This is why Finland proves Marx correct. Marx argued that offering equal opportunity would lead to attaining more equal results. Many American capitalists have argued against this, either on practical or moral grounds. Nonetheless, on a practical level, Marx was right about this. The last recourse of the capitalist is to argue that it isn’t moral because it is unfair of the poor getting equal education to the rich since the rich have to help support the education system that treats everyone equally. Socialists, of course, argue that capitalism is immoral by the fact that it concentrates wealth in the first place.




          Marx wasn’t statist in the way that the Leninists and Stalinists were and the Maoists are, but there were and are many socialists who are anti-statist such as the mutualists and social anarchists. Many contemporary Marxists have turned more toward anarchism. A popular form of anarchist socialism these days is anarcho-syndicalism which is advocated by Noam Chomsky, probably the most famous socialist alive today.


          Anarchist socialism is related to libertarian socialism.

          “Libertarian socialism is a non-hierarchical, non-bureaucratic, stateless society without private property in the means of production. Libertarian socialists oppose all coercive forms of social organization, promote free association in place of government, and oppose the coercive social relations of capitalism, such as wage labor. They oppose hierarchical leadership structures, such as vanguard parties, and most are opposed to using the state to create socialism. Currents within libertarian socialism include Marxist tendencies such as left communism, council communism and autonomism, as well as non-Marxist movements such as Left anarchism, Communalism, Participism, and Inclusive Democracy.”


          What Marx specifically advocated was an economy where the means of production was owned or effectively controlled by the workers instead of by capitalist owners. This is a difference between a more equal ownership of capital vs a more concentrated ownership of capital. What should be noted is that workers owning the means of production doesn’t necessarily mean government ownership and especially not state ownership. This worker ownership or control would require a very direct democracy where decisions are made on the local level among workers in businesses and residents of communities where those businesses are located.

          Here is the basic argument.


          Most socialists and most capitalists seek free markets, but they don’t agree about what defines freedom and how it is best attained. On the socialist side, there is a disagreement also between market socialism and traditional socialist economy, but this is complex and I only mean to point it out to show that there is much beyond the socialism of the variety where the state decrees a state ownership.

          As for me, my interest in Finland and the sewer socialists has to do with the following:


          “Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation. Democratic socialism is contrasted with political movements that resort to authoritarian means to achieve a transition to socialism, instead advocating for the immediate creation of decentralized economic democracy from the grassroots level, undertaken by and for the working class itself. Specifically, it is a term used to distinguish between socialists who favor a grassroots-level, spontaneous revolution or gradualism over Leninism – organized revolution instigated and directed by an overarching Vanguard party that operates on the basis of democratic centralism.

          “The term is sometimes used synonymously with “social democracy”, but social democrats need not accept this label, and many self-identified democratic socialists oppose contemporary social democracy because social democracy retains the capitalist mode of production.”


          “Traditionally, social democracy is an international political movement seeking a gradualist path to socialism through ameliorative reforms made on behalf of the working class. It relies on the use of the democratic process to achieve its aims as opposed to revolutionary means. In terms of modern social democracy, one view presented calls for the profound reformation of capitalism to align it with the ethical ideals of social justice while maintaining the capitalist mode of production, rather than creating an alternative socialist economic system.”


          “Sewer Socialism was a term, originally more or less pejorative, for the American socialist movement that centered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and existed from around 1892 to 1960. The term purportedly was coined by Morris Hillquit at the 1932 Milwaukee convention of the Socialist Party of America, as an ironic commentary on the Milwaukee socialists and their perpetual boasting about the excellent public sewer system in the city.”

      • Socialism is the ownership of the means of production and property by the state.

        But what constitutes ownership? I would say control constitutes ownership. With all the taxes and regulations imposed by governments they indeed ‘control’ most of the means of production and property in both Finland and the US.

        As far as education, Finland has what percent of their population as minorities?

        Hell, Finland has what 6 million people at the most? Take our 6 million best and we would kick your ass in every category. If you had 25% of your population as minorities you would fair no better.

        So get off your high horse asshole and put on another Jacket it must be cold there.

        • “Socialism is the ownership of the means of production and property by the state.”

          Actually, socialism just means collective ownership of the means of production.

          This collective ownership can be by a state, the federal government in the case of the US. An example of this is the infrastructure such as the interstate highway system, the infrastructure being the most basic means of production in a national economy.

          This collective ownership can be by a smaller local state government, the way ‘state’ is used in the US. The public bank of North Dakota is the perfect example. It is a bank owned and operated by the local government, having no ties to the federal government. Unlike private for-profit banks, the ND public bank isn’t even backed by the federal government and has never been bailed out.

          The collective ownership can be even more local such as county or city government. Public schools in the US are mostly run at this most local level. Local infrastructure is also funded locally such as county roads, except in the poorest areas that are dependent on federal funding such as in the rural South. The most interesting example of local socialism is that of Milwaukee’s municipal socialists or sewer socialists that governed the city for more than a half century. Like the ND public bank, Milwaukee sewer socialism had strong public support.

          All those are the government forms of collective ownership the means of production. There are just as many varieties of non-government, private forms of this.

          On the simplest level, every tribe or village that does some activity together as a community and reaps the benefit as a community is implementing proto-socialism. People have a natural instinct to collectivize the means of production in order to achieve some greater public good that wouldn’t be possible by private individuals. Humans, after all, are social animals who are born with an impulse to think, plan and act socially. Modern socialism is pretty much trying to figure out how to apply this natural instinct to modern society.

          One type of this are worker cooperatives and anarcho-syndicalism.

          The Basque in Northern Spain have built up their Mondragon Corporation. It is a federation of worker cooperatives. Each worker cooperative acts independently and is run democratically by the workers. They also educate and train their own employees which adds to their autonomy.

          In the Missouri Ozarks, there is the East Wind Community, they own and operate a number of businesses. They have been operating for a few decades. They are smaller than the Mondragon Corporation and maybe more community-oriented. There companies are run according to a system that sounds like New England town hall democracy.

          Mondragon is an international corporation and East Wind is more localized, but both democratic. The government examples in the US also are or were run democratically. I would imagine that the most successful examples will usually be run democratically, but one could try to do the same without democracy. I do find it interesting that the more one democratizes a government or a corporation it almost inevitably leads to various forms of socialism.

          “But what constitutes ownership? I would say control constitutes ownership. With all the taxes and regulations imposed by governments they indeed ‘control’ most of the means of production and property in both Finland and the US.”

          I think that is a good definition.

          I think this is why socialism only seems to operate well under democratic conditions. If the people don’t control a government through democracy, then there is no actual collective ownership. A non-democratic elite claiming they represent the people could at best be socialism in name only. There has to be clear evidence of control for their to be ownership. I could claim I own all kinds of things, but what proves my ownership is my demonstrating control.

          So, I would extend your argument. It isn’t whether the government controls the means of production. What matters is if the people control the government that controls the means of production. We have many Banana Republics in the world right now. Fake democracies lead to pretenses of public good.

          “So get off your high horse asshole and put on another Jacket it must be cold there.”

          Are you talking to me? I’m an American. I’ve never left this country in my entire life. I’ve spent my life split between the Midwestern Heartland and the Deep South. I’m as red-blooded American as they come. You’ll notice that I tend to use American examples of socialism because that is what I’m familiar with.

      • Marx never had a single job. He lived off of others good graces and spouted off bullshit that has gotten MILLIONS of people killed. Then you tell someone from a country that practices the model and has seen it first hand that they are arong in their assesment. Fuck you. Puece of shit know it all liberal fuckstick American. Once again telling the world that you ARE in fact more intelligent than them. And you wonder why people dislike Americans. It’s ignorant dipshits like you.

        • Well, as a liberal, I’m not a Marxist and I don’t particularly care about Marx. He wasn’t a liberal nor, as far as I know, ever defended liberalism. Likewise, I feel no need to defend him and his ideology. But I do believe in defending the truth.

          I wouldn’t entirely dismiss your comment, as a general criticism. I’ve pointed out that both left-wingers and right-wingers are on average middle-to-upper class. Libertarians, for example, are the single wealthiest and well educated demographic in the United States. So, right-wingers are as much a part of the intellectual elite as are left-wingers. There are plenty of right-wingers in academia, think tanks, journalism, etc.

          That can be problematic. I’ve recently been describing these problems. I’m a working class guy, but I’m also a writer. I must admit my working class job is a thousand times easier than trying to make a living as a writer. Many writers live in poverty. Writing, like being a minister, is a calling. Even though I wouldn’t entirely dismiss your comment, I also wouldn’t dismiss the intellectual careers. I was raised by conservative parents, my father having been a professor and my mother a public school teacher. They taught me a love of learning and a respect to those who are dedicated to learning and teaching or communicating what they’ve learned.

          Yet I’ve spent my entire life doing low level non-intellectual work. I’ve worked in fast food, delivering newspapers, mowing lawns, doing general manual labor, in housekeeping, as a janitor, and as a cashier. I have no college degree, but I do love to read. I’ve ended up being a cashier in a parking ramp because it gives me time to read. I’m a working class self-taught intellectual, an autodidact who loves learning for the sake of it. I could have gone the path of my parents, but severe depression and learning disability forced me into the life I have. My mom was raised working class and so I always was raised with working class values. It doesn’t bother me to be working class. It’s just work, not my identity.

          As for Marx, he spent his life working as a writer and journalist. That involved long hours of work for little pay. He didn’t just research in libraries. He traveled around investigating firsthand how economies and factories operated. If you think that is an easy life, I dare you to try it. He never became rich doing that work, and he faced persecution and censorship. I’m glad people like him are willing to sacrifice their own comfort and security in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. It’s a noble vocation.

          By the way, did you know that as a journalist most of Marx’s writings were published in an American newspaper? It was a Republican newspaper, specifically giving voice to the early Republican party. It was regularly read by Abraham Lincoln. People forget that the Republican party originally included many radicals, often referred to as the Red Republicans. Lincoln had a Marxist in his presidential administration, which is probably where Lincoln got his ideas about the labor value of capitalism.

          As for your other accusation against Marx, I would clarify several points that you entirely got wrong.

          Marx never was a socialist. He was highly critical of socialists who were, like Sanders, mostly just social reformers. It was intentional that his most famous work was called Communist Manifesto and not Socialist Manifesto. Marx never advocated a specific political and economic system, as his writings were mostly an analysis of the present system. He assumed that when capitalism failed, something new and unknown would replace it. He did support a free market, although he had a different notion about what freedom meant.

          Marx also was highly critical of authoritarianism. He never would have approved of either Stalinism or Maoism. Blaming Marx for later authoritarian statists is like blaming Thomas Paine for the present US system of plutocracy and corporatism. It’s neither a fair nor honest accusation.

          Now let me turn to your incoherent anti-intellectual ramblings thrown at me. I’ve never claimed to be smarter than the ‘world’. I’m not even sure what that means. How does someone get smarter than the ‘world’? Anyway, it’s not about being smart. It’s simply an issue of informing oneself. All that I know is because I’ve chosen to learn about it, as anyone could choose to do, but I’m not special. And it has nothing to do with my being an American. There are autodidacts and ignoramuses found in countries all over the world.

          I will tell you this much. When an ignorant person calls me ignorant, I take that as a compliment.

    • The difference is that Finland has only 5.4 million people almost all of which are racially and ethnically homogenous. What will work there does not work here, cannot work here. Finland has less than 600,000 students, the US has millions. They employ only 40,000 school teachers. What they do is not doable on the scale we have in the US.

      • There is some truth to that. But it is also a misleading perspective. The Devil is in the details.

        The US is still a highly segregated society in many ways. Many states are relatively homogenous, such as in New England and the Upper Midwest. Even within more diverse states, many specific schools are highly homogenous.

        Also, Finland has areas of the country that are highly diverse. Some schools there have high numbers of immigrants and those not of Finnish descent. Even those non-homogenous schools in Finland do far better, just like the homogenous schools.

        This is also seen in certain Asian countries that have high rates of diversity and yet score well in education results. Obviously, homogeneity doesn’t fully explain the differences between the US and other countries.

  2. The above Finnish guy ask me why I think Finland is socialist? This type of thing frustrates me. It slowly grinds away at my sense of hope for humanity and it makes me lose patience. I could look at it as an opportunity to share knowledge, but there are so many ‘opportunities’ that I feel overwhelmed by the lack of accurate information in the world.

    Finland is one of the most socialist countries in the world. In particular, Finland is in Marx’s tradition of democratic socialism. This Finnish guy even went so far as to say that Finland fought the Marxists that came to form the socialist block behind the Iron Curtain. Whatever the USSR may have been, it for damn sure wasn’t Marx’s democratic socialism. Stalin wasn’t even following the vision of Lenin, much less Marx.

    It appears that, despite one of the best public education systems in the world, the Finnish people have experienced the exact same kind of anti-communist propaganda that was used to indoctrinate Americans. The global corporatocracy has been absolutely successful if they’ve even managed to indoctrinate the most socialist people in the world. Socialism has a major PR problem. How do those with lots of knowledge but little wealth and power fight those with lots of lies along with lots of wealth and power to promote those lies?

    It also frustrates me because the left has been constantly fighting a retreating battle. The word ‘liberal’ has become meaningless in that so many people assume it means socialist. And the word ‘socialist’ has become meaningless in that so many people assume it means totalitarianism, even sometimes grouping it with fascism as if they were the same. Despite Marx promoting free markets as an antidote to capitalism, the corporatist propaganda has conflated free markets with capitalism. So people think that socialism is totalitarianism that opposes capitalism as free markets, but they couldn’t be further from the truth.

    This Finnish guy demonstrating the success of propaganda has pushed me further over the edge than almost anything before. I gave up on using the word ‘liberal’ lately because it has lost meaning. I thought of starting to call myself a ‘socialist’ since that is what people think liberals are anyway, but that word has also lost meaning. When words have lost meaning, how is communication possible? When language has become empty of meaning, how do we fight against the forces that seek to make the possibility of social-democracy/democratic-socialism itself empty of meaning?

    • I did not say that Finland fought the Marxists that came to form the socialist block behind the Iron Curtain. Finnish civil war in 1918 was fought between whites (farmers, middle class, and capitalists) and reds (socialist, communists) who were supported by Lenin’s Soviets. Reds lost and Finland completely turned against socialists and communists ideas. Finland got stock exchange, private banking, financing and insurance industry. Finland rejected the social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy. Stalin advocated both of these (read about his centralized 5-year plans) and converted private production properties to co-operative ownership (Marxism). Finland fought two wars against Stalin, and never adopted these mains principles of socialist countries. Of course USSR wasn’t Marx’s democratic socialism, but this has nothing to with the topic. Same with Marx promoting free markets; free markets don’t make Marxist countries.

      • You continue to demonstrate you know almost nothing about socialism. It’s because of people like you that I feel so frustrated. I gave a long explanation of socialism and yet you continue with your ignorance. Because of this, you are now banned from my blog. I don’t have the time to waste with people who embrace ignorance.

        The fact that Finland has enacted many socialist policies is everything to do with the topic. If you don’t want to question the propaganda you were indoctrinated with, that is your free choice. But I won’t allow you to spread your propaganda here.

        I’m glad that you had the opportunity to experience the benefits of socialism. Too bad you aren’t worthy of what you benefit from.

        • As a Finn I can relate a bit to the person you banned. You see, after having barely survived the 2nd world war allied w/the Axis, you can perhaps understand the amount of propaganda we have been put through.

          It is also a phenomenon worthy of note that the Finnish people were quite divided after our civil war. It was the world war that had us so close to losing our land that it brought our people together again. Differences were put aside when all we had and all we were was under grave threat.

          There is another precursor for the way us Finns are. We used to be poor farmers a hundred years ago. We had been under the power of the Swedish and Russian crowns for hundreds of years. When we declared our independence, there was nothing remotely comparable to the ruling classes here akin to the rest of the Europe. In a sense, the privilege that some Finns had, was quite minor. This is one thing that worked towards unity.

          Finally, when our schooling system was brought about a hundred years ago, it was built upon the furthering of well-being for all. I believe this is the last crucial component. The reform in the 70’s also worked towards these ends.

          Summing it up, Finns have an egalitarian society that, even w/all of its problems, is, I believe, a shining example of what socialism can achieve. Yet, us having identified and labeled communism w/the Soviet Union that tried to crush us under Stalin’s iron heel, you can understand why the word has a bitter taste here. It brings to mind all the land we lost and all the people who fell in defense of our freedom.

          Interestingly, I think that the Green Party has somewhat worked around the problem. The Finnish Greens are basically the liberal end of the Social Democratic Party in the way of their policies. I know many people who have been indoctrinated against communism and who are sometimes fiercely nationalistic, yet they vote for the Greens of whom some are clearly left anarchists. I can also see the Left Alliance in Finland turning towards liberal socialism (as well) and in this sense there is already overlap in the goals of these two parties as well as those of the Social Democrats. The Greens is the party in Finland that the indoctrinated people can vote for. It’s not a perfect solution, but it seems to work.

          Also, the Finnish National Coalition Party that is what we call a right-wing party here in Finland is basically a moderate party. There are very few hard right-wingers in our country and we have a culture of consensus and compromise. Right now when we’re facing financial troubles we have a government that is comprised of six parties: The National Coalition Party, The Social Democratic Party, The Greens, The Left Alliance, The Swedish Peoples’ Party and the Christian Democrats. Because we have had to balance our economy, we have had almost a 50/50 split between tax raises and public spending cuts, while we have also tried to support the growth of the economy via government subsidiaries. This very much tells the story of how the Finns operate. We’ve learnt to compromise when the common good calls for it. Especially when things get too serious for political deadlocks, us Finns have always known how to find a way to pull together.

          Even the right-wing elements in our country are mostly pro public schooling and the left-wing elements most oft pro small business ownership. It is, in fact, quite interesting, indeed. We’re also basically hard-working because of our recent agrarian background which entailed hard work which was strengthened by the Lutheran religion which promotes working hard as a virtue. Yet, this is balanced by our understanding that well-being isn’t just about money and that the well-being is a common phenomenon that can be seen in the winter war ethos of “no-one left behind” that you can still see as a part of our national heritage.

          You see, socialism doesn’t work if people aren’t willing to work. We are. We gripe about the taxes, yet we really wouldn’t have it any other way, at the end of the day. And again, working too hard just makes you miserable and reduces productivity. We recognize this as well. It is interesting how even many of the business owners here recognize the importance of paying their part to uphold the common good, as much as they gripe about having to do so.

          • Two further things: While we are making cuts to the public spending, we actually raised the spending to help the segment of people who are the worst off. This is an important point. The idea is that we take care of those who can’t take care of themselves that well right now while simultaneously those who can will pay more because we need to balance our economy. Remind you of Marx at all? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”.

            The other thing I failed to mention is the issue of the True Finns party. This party has been seen to be a nationalist party of the kind that have been on the raise around Europe. However, I beg to differ, up to a point.

            You see, this party is somewhat comprised of conservative and sometimes quite intolerant people. On one hand you can see the nationalistic components derived from the war we had against the Soviet Union. Therefore this party is opposed to communism, in word. However, in reality, their policies remind those of the conservative Social Democrats and the Agrarian Party that came before and despite having a couple of loud mouths, they are, as a party, quite moderate.

            I think that the True Finns is a party that is a moderate national socialist party, mostly in the sense of actually being more nationalistic than social democrats, yet not much at all in the sense of fascism. Maybe a bit, but quite moderately.

            So, what I’m trying to get across here is that the True Finns is actually a conservative moderate left/agrarian party which is quite nationalistic w/just a pinch of fascism mixed in.

            It is a far cry from what people sometimes might make it up to be – they are no party of fascists proper, at all. I think that they do flirt w/racism, though, to get a few extra votes and this seems to work only because all other parties are against racism of any kind, period, and we have had the issue that the problems related to immigration have been a taboo that couldn’t have been talked about. As always, not talking about real issues in a sensible manner has backfired a bit in this regard, leaking votes to a party that could have better policies. However, the common view of things is so strong in the Finnish people that even the party attempting towards fascism can only try to do so in the slightest manner to not to lose votes.

            The differences we have between parties are so minor that I don’t think that people w/backgrounds outside of Scandinavia are likely to appreciate how mono-cultural our political landscape actually is.

          • Yeah, I certainly couldn’t claim to have any significant understanding of Finnish and Scandinavian politics. The mono-cultural aspect, though, does remind me of US politics. In order to find innovative thinking in America, you have to look outside of the party system. The two main parties agree more than they disagree. Nothing significantly changes when the government switches from one party to the other.

          • I appreciate your explaining Finnish history. The background is helpful in understanding the social context.

            Finland reminds me of the socialist tendencies of the American Midwest, in particular the upper Midwest. The example that I often think of is the Milwaukee Sewer Socialists.



            Sewer Socialism or Municipal Socialism isn’t a radical revolutionary socialism, rather more just socialism that seeks the common good through community and cooperation and through investments into the public good and public health, specifically infrastructure such as public utilities. The idea of publicly creating sewer systems was first strongly promoted in the US by socialists, and so in this sense all US governments (federal and local, Democratic and Republican) have adopted basic socialist policies.

            I agree with you that socialism only works if people are willing to work. The same can be said about democracy or capitalism as well. If you assume most people are inherently lazy and selfish, then the obvious response is to create a society based on slavery or totalitarianism or plutocratic aristocracy. But I think it is obvious that most people aren’t inherently lazy and selfish because if they were civilization would have collapsed long ago. Based on what we know of human nature through social science research, humans are inherently social and cooperative under normal circumstances, although it is obvious that a society can be created that causes normal human nature to become dysfunctional which is the problem much of the world is facing right now especially in the capitalist West.

            In the US, the attempts at socialism such as in Milwaukee did indeed work. They were successful because they brought out the best in people rather than bringing out the worse. Capitalism is built on greed and selfishness and so that is what it promotes. I personally don’t think greed and selfishness are a good basis for a healthy society. It’s not that I’m against all possible forms of free markets, but obviously capitalism has so far not led to free markets. Instead, as many socialists and others have predicted, capitalism has led to monopolies and corporatism.

            I apologize for having little tolerance toward propaganda. Like most people these days, I grew up on such propaganda. Growing up in the Cold War era, it was almost impossible to avoid such propaganda. The generations born during and after the World Wars were practically bottle-fed on such anti-communist propaganda, at least here in the US. I have little tolerance for many reaons besides the fact that propaganda is based on lies and creates an ignorant population. Obviously, propaganda is destructive to all that is good in society. On a personal level, though, I’m just plain tired of it.

            I was born during the height of the Cold War and my whole life has been dominated by propaganda of many sorts. Besides anti-communism, there was Drug War propaganda and now, with the Cold War ended, there is the War Against Terrorism propaganda. It never ends and it always seems to be promoted by the same people who change the rhetoric slightly but never change their basic agenda against democracy and the public good.

            It isn’t just about being for socialism. The label ‘socialist’ is just a word. Besides, I’m not an ideological person. I’m certainly not proposing a socialist utopia. I just want to live in a society that isn’t dominated by greed and ignorance which I don’t think should be too much to ask for.

    • Two things come to mind:

      #1. Push the issues separately from the labels.

      If it’s not a good selling point that something it socialism, just explain the thing and you’re likely to get people behind the thing anyway.

      #2. Educate others via dialogue

      If you want to get anything through to people, it’s better to listen than to push. In other words, getting someone to see what socialism is about takes a lot of patience and a lot of time. I think I have one of my friends probably beginning to understand my position despite his strong background in the owning class. I wouldn’t say that we’d agree on some of the important topics, but we do on others. Also, I believe that we’re both beginning to finally understand each others way of thinking. We all too often fall into the trap of labeling other people as something or the other while the effective way to go about it would be to approach things more in a bridge-building manner.

      I think it’s worthy of note that not all entrepreneur, at all, are somehow great proponents of the Machine. Many are just trying to make a living and they actually value greatly what they can provide to the society as a by-product. To put it differently, there are good guys on both sides of the fence. I believe there is something that can be achieved through the dialogue of these parties.

      • #1. Most definitely. I couldn’t care less about labels.

        I wouldn’t even necessarily consider myself a socialist. I’d prefer just to call myself a liberal if it weren’t for the fact that I have to constantly explain that liberal simply means ‘liberal’ as in how it is basically defined in the dictionary; it’s surprising how few people look up definitions of words in dictionaries. Liberal means to be liberal, to think liberally, to act liberally; to be open-minded, generous, etc; it all can be found in any basic definition of liberlalism.

        Anyway, as a liberal-minded person, I’m open to socialism and see much good in it. Still, that doesn’t make me an ideological socialist. I believe in social and historical context. Idoelogies shouldn’t be forced onto societies. That is the problem the US has with trying to use military in their nation-building project as if such methods will actually make the world more democratic and free. Socialism is only useful to the degree that it arises out of local culture, community and grassroots activism.

        #2. I try my best to educate others via dialogue. However, I have my limits.

        When dialogue doesn’t work, I quit trying to promote dialogue. I’ve been known for bashing my head against brick walls for extended periods of time, but even I eventually stop such pointless activities. I will always offer dialogue, a standing invitation to anyone who is respectful of both me and the facts. But if all I get is propaganda in return, there is no point in continuing for there is nothing to be accomplished besides my further frustration.

        I also think it’s worthy of note that many, if not most, people in a capitalist society are simply trying to get by and do what they think is good. I have no interest in demonizing the average person, but I will gladly demonize the propagandists who intentionally and cynically manipulate the average person.

        The best way to promote dialogue is by fighting the propaganda and those who propagandize, never give even an inch to the propagandists. One thing is clear. Propagandists don’t care about dialogue and will do anything in their power to undermine dialogue, including the tactic of alleging that anyone who challenges their propaganda is closing down dialogue. Beware of those who will use free speech in their war against those of us who defend freedom for all.

        The challenge of opening dialogue is that there is no way to open dialogue to propaganda. By its nature, propaganda closes down dialogue. There is no way to rationally confront propaganda for the way propaganda works is by being undermining rational analysis and dialogue. This is a major predicament for democratic societies and there is no easy solution.

    • you said ” the word ‘socialist’ has become meaningless in that so many people assume it means totalitarianism,”

      It is indeed. The only way to force people to give up their wealth and property for the common good is at the point of a gun and that is what socialism is. Why? Because many of us would take up arms rather than accept it.

      • “you said ” the word ‘socialist’ has become meaningless in that so many people assume it means totalitarianism,””

        See my other response to you or read the dozen other comments I’ve left here explaining the actual history of socialism, both in theory and application. It is because most people are ignorant about socialism and yet think they know what it means that the word itself has become, if not entirely meaningless, not overly useful in most discussions such as this one.

        “It is indeed. The only way to force people to give up their wealth and property for the common good is at the point of a gun and that is what socialism is. Why? Because many of us would take up arms rather than accept it.”

        All the examples of socialism I gave were democratic forms where the people willingly gave up their wealth and property for the common good which included their private good as well. You can collectivize major aspects of means of production or even an entire corporation, but that doesn’t mean the individual doesn’t gain profit or other immense benefits.

        Why did the Milwaukee residents keep voting for socialists for more than a half century? Why did outsiders consider socialist-fun Milwaukee the best governed city at the time?

        If you had tried to take the socialism away from those Milwaukee residents, they likely would have taken up arms to fight you. Do you naively believe the indigenous groups calmly accepted capitalists stealing their land, polluting their water, and cutting down their forests? There is a long history of people fighting for their autonomy against capitalists and capitalism. Even many Southerners portrayed the Civil War as a fight against capitalism.

  3. I think you showed your lack of knowledge of Finland, As Finish people have clearly shown you they are not socialist.

    In the USA/UK far left radicals always claim there is a socialist state outside the USA/UK that works, well there is not.

    Socialism is about the state planned economy. It has nothing to do with public services, Schools, health etc, it is about who controls none public services, factories, farms, resturants and copyrights.

    North Korea is a state planned economy as is Cuba, both have failed.

    Finland is a mixed economy, the alternative to a state planned economy. The alternative to socialism.

    So Finland is a good example of an alternative to corrupt states planning an economy, and the massive corruption and state greed that comes with it.

    The states job is to run public services, health, schools etc, but let people run businesses and none public services.

    Finland is a mixed economy, not a socialist economy.

    Greece has tried socialism in a developed nation as have Spain. Massive borrowing and taxation, massive greed in the state sector and state owned banks and housing projects that have failed and bankrupted a nation.

    In most of Scandanavia welfare is cut after 12 months, so no dependancy culture there. People work and work hard. Nothing is for free in Scandanavia.

    A good mixed economy works far betetr than socialism.


    • All that you’ve demonstrated is that your are utterly clueless about what socialism is. Socialism is about collective ownership, whether public government or private organization. When workers own the business they work in, that is socialism, specifically what is called syndicalism. Technically, churches are a form of socialism. Even gated communities operate on a basic form of socialism.

      Yes, all of the world is a mix of things. That is because theoretical ideologies don’t exist in the real world.

      Nonetheless, you can categorize by what predominantly defines a society. In the case of Finland, the society is more defined by socialism than most countries in the world. Finland is one of the best examples of how socialism works well.

      Even in communist countries, not everything is collectively owned. Communist governments even allow certain amount of market forces such as collectively owned factories being given some freedom to barter with other factories. How you define a socialist country, at least in terms of economics, is that the government plays a more direct role in businesses and markets. The sewer socialists ran a socialist government even though they allowed a well regulated market. On the opposite end, the Chinese government has fully become fascist at this point.

      There are many things that define socialism or types of socialism. Most socialists would see worker control as necessary. This is how communist countries aren’t socialist. They use socialist rhetoric but not socialist practices, at least in regards to worker control. It’s similar to how governments like the US use democratic rhetoric even as they become decreasingly democratic in reality.

      Let me respond to one specific comment of yours:

      “Socialism is about the state planned economy. It has nothing to do with public services, Schools, health etc, it is about who controls none public services, factories, farms, resturants and copyrights.”

      Either you aren’t very well informed or you are very well indoctrinated. Even the US government plans its economy through regulations, laws, taxes, subsidies, trade agreements, corporate charters, copyrights, etc. Such things as public services, schools, health, etc ar part of markets. When the government involves itself in these matters, they are planning the economy to varying degrees. You have to be stupid beyond belief to not know this.

      All of this is complex, of course. The distinction between socialism and fascism is slight. Chinese rhetoric about communism easily became fascism in practice. Similarly, US rhetoric about democracy easily became fascism in practice. The issue isn’t so much who the government controls but who controls the government. If the people control the government, that is democracy and it naturally leads to socialism for people owning the government is the same principle as workers owning a factory. If an elite controls the government, that is something else entirely: fascism, monarchy, theocracy, etc.

  4. You are clearly a fantasist and attention seeker I will noit give you much more of my time.

    Socialism is a state planned economy. Where the state owns none public services aswell as public services, any private, none state ownership is a free market or mixed economy, or even capitalist.

    “When workers own the business they work in, that is socialism”…No this is a co operative and part of the free markets. There are many co op’s in the USA, UK, Finland, none in North Korea or Stalins USSR.

    There are no rules preventing co op’s in the USA or Finland, there are in socialist countries like Cuba and North Korea.

    Again like all extremists you tell lies.”Even the US government plans its economy through regulations, laws, taxes, subsidies, trade agreements, corporate charters, copyrights, etc.”

    No the USA does not own copyrights, people do. The higher tax rates of corporation tax in the USA than Finland has damaged the USA economy yes.

    So NO the USA and Finland do not have state planned economies in any way shape or form. Public services are not in the free markets and hence do not create growth.

    In Finland and the USA people are free to open businesses, sell products at the the price they decide, own copyrights, buy property [in socialism only the state can own property].

    “You have to be stupid beyond belief to not know this. “..either that or just an attention seeker, which is what I guess you are.

    Most people in Finland and the USA work for none state owned businesses, around 60%. The free markets thus creates all jobs in one way or another, not the state.

    Thus all jobs are paid for by taxes indirectly and through employment by the free markets, people owned, private owned businesses.

    The state does not control these businesses, own them, decide their wage structure or decide prices.

    Free markets…

    “A free market is an economic system that allows supply and demand to regulate prices, wages, etc, rather than government.[1] Free markets contrast with controlled markets in which prices, supply or demand are directly or indirectly controlled by government ”

    Socialism = controlled markets.
    Mixed economy = free markets

    The debate is closed. I understand you socialists, like all extremists, simply want money and power and often just attention.

    Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Gordon Brown, Nick Griffin are all socialists. None believed in the mixed economy.

    Democratic mixed economy = Finland, Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland, Iceland.

    Socliast economy = Greece, Cuba, North Korea, Spain.

    Case closed

    • Are you as stupid as you act or are you just a troll?

      Cooperatives are a type of socialism. That is a simple fact. Yes, there are other types of socialism as well, but that doesn’t change that simple fact.

      Those on the right have very little understanding of socialism. This is understandable given all the Cold War anti-communist propaganda. Unfortunarely, propaganda doesn’t make for intelligent discussion.

      Like there isn’t a single type of socialism, there isn’t a single type of free market either. Capitalism is one type, but you could also center a free market around land or labor which are the other two main parts of any economy. A free market centered around labor could even be socialist. The problem most socialists have with capitalism isn’t that it is a free market but that it isn’t a free market, inevitably turning into monopolies and fascism without massive regulation.

      The US government ‘owns’ copyrights in the way that they create them and enforce them. Copyrights are an extension of government. By the way, the US actually has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in terms of the actual tax income of the government because corporations have so many deductions, tax havens, etc that some of the wealthiest US corporations pay few taxes at all.

      In the US, the largest part of the economy is the arms industry which gets contract work from the government. The other big business is oil and nuclear which get subsidies and other benefits from the government. Big business is so entangled with big government that they are inseparable, at least in countries like the US. Also, the government regulates businesses in numerous ways including setting minimum wages, overtime pay, safety conditions, etc. Some of the bills passed in the US congress are written by corporate lobbyists.

      I’m not the extremist here. I’m the opposite of an extremist. You are the one defending an dogmatic ideology, not I. I don’t even identify as a socialist or any other specific ideology. Socialism has some good ideas, but so does other ideologies such as libertarianism. I look for truth where I can find it rather than declaring my opinions as truth.

      • Are you as stupid as you act or are you just a troll?…Clearly you are an extremist and cannot debate properly, I guess thats a win.


        Socialism = state ownership or price control of none public services.

        Free markets = people deciding prices of none public services.

        Co ops are people power, socialism is state power.

        You have lost the debate, and clearly are some kind of troll, extremist and not worth any further pasting.

        You have been dealt with.

        • You demonstrate the problem of propaganda. Your strawman argument about socialism doesn’t fit the system proposed by most socialists in the real world. But you don’t care because you have no answer to offer in response to anything other than Cold War boogeymen.

          I understand that, in your own mind, you have already won every argument. If that makes you happy, then more power to you. However, I’d rather deal with the real problems in the real world. Ideological rhetoric doesn’t mean much to me.

          • “Ideological rhetoric”…is all you have.

            So by having a mixed economy Finland have equal oppurtunity but not socialist state planned economy.

            The people in Finland, like the USA, have freedom.

            “To each what they need”…in Finlan people work for what they get and they decide what they need, the state does not decide what they should have.

          • Reality doesn’t change to fit your ideology. Yes, Finland is a mixed economy. Capitalism mixed with socialism with a greater mix of socialism than is found in few other countries. You’d have to look at a non-Western country to find another country that is more socialist.

          • “Capitalism mixed with socialism with a greater mix of socialism “…now you are simply rambling.

            Socialism is a totalitarian policy of a state planned eocnomy, so it cannot be mixed with anything I am afraid.

            Finland has lower corporation tax than the USA and like all of scandanavia it has a 12 month cap on welfare, people in Finland work.

            Greece, Italy, Spain, are more socialist than scandanavia. They have higher taxes on businesses, more welfare depandancy and more restricted markets, protectionism.

            Capitalism is a word not an ideology.

            I prefer the mixed economy and as in Switzerland and scandanavia it works.

            State planning in southern Europe or Cuba and North Korea, does not work I am afraid.

            64% of of all new jobs in Sweden were created by small/ medium businesses, not by the state.

            The mixed economy is the alternative to socialism.

            Finland is a mixed economy.

            Thats the end of it, extremist.

  5. Jay – I understand that some people like you are ignorant. You have been misinformed by the media and that in itself isn’t your fault. However, denying facts when presented to you isn’t something I will accept in my blog. I won’t abide willful ignorance. You are officially banned from my blog.

    Socialism means to socialize, to make something public. In a socialist system, the cost and benefits are socialized. To have universal healthcare or public education provided by the government is socialism in that both the benefits and the costs are socialized.

    For reasons of rhetoric, you are making a simple thing complex. Socialism is the reality of something being socialized. It doesn’t matter what strawman you or anyone else invents in order to scare people.

    What you call a mixed economy is simply social democracy. It closely relates to municipal socialism or sewer socialism. If you want to know what socialism means on a practical level, then look at the example of the socialist mayors of Milwaukee. They socialized many things, including the sewers which is why they were referred to as sewer socialists. Prior to them, cities didn’t provide sewer systems and clean drinking water to all citizens. That is a socialist idea.

    Socialism has become so common in modern society that we have forgotten what it is.

  6. Ok, i have been reading this for a while.

    I am member of National Coalition Party, and i work for finnish government. (Cant tell what i do, i like to be anonymous.)

    1.Is Finland a socialist country?
    Because means of production are not state owned, Finland cannot be considered to be a socialist country. However, being a Nordic welfare country, Finland has socialist characters in the form a large public sector.

    2. Calling finland socialistic is something what most of us fins bitch about. It,s an old habit caused by our wars against soviets.Officially, we are not socialist, but we have some socialist characteristics.

    • As always, the problem is this. The only way someone could make a comment like yours is if they didn’t know what socialism is. Socialism doesn’t necessarily mean no markets exist at all. It just means there is some collective ownership in important ways which can include public education or universal healthcare or similar services, also infrastructure such as trains.

      All of these things are produced. Education is produced and the educated person is the product, the school being the means of production. Healthcare is a service that is produced, a hospital being the means of production. Transportation of people and goods is a service that is produced, trains and railways being the means of production.

      So, the fact of the matter is Finland is socialism, by definition, whether or not most Finnish are ignorant of this fact. It’s one type of socialism, more similar to what is called municipal socialism or sewer socialism as was also practiced in Milwaukee. That model of socialism was so successful that every major government has adopted it to varying degrees. It is a subjective judgment to choose which countries one wishes to assign with such labels.

      Even the US is relatively socialistic compared to many less developed countries. We have public education. We have a massive interstate system that is government funded. A large part of the US healthcare system is government funded and so is a lot of the most important scientific research. The internet was developed through government funding. All of these things are various aspects of the means of production in the US economy. Our economy would collapse over night if the government funding of all these things instantly went away.

      To have some socialist characteristics is to that degree to be socialist. There is no absolute socialism in the same way there is no absolute free market. The USSR government allowed markets to operate to varying degrees, even though it was officially illegal. Government is about compromise, not ideological purity. Ideologies as absolutist systems only exist in propaganda and academic discussions. When I speak of socialism, I’m talking about reality rather than dogmatic ideology or abstract theory.

        • It’s not about changing my mind… or for that matter, changing your mind. It’s about continually learning about the world, i.e. being open-minded and curious, in particular when new info challenges old assumptions.

          Like most people (apparently including you), I was raised with Cold War propaganda about communism and socialism. I was taught the standard anti-communist definition of socialism that you seem to have been taught. It took years of study before I finally understood the broader meaning of socialism, especially as it relates to the actual socialists today who promote socialism.

          If not for my cynicism, I’d be raging mad at having been taught propaganda in my public education. Nonetheless, my cynicism doesn’t lessen my annoyance when I continue to see this propaganda being promoted.

          I realize it’s not your fault. Those who learn propaganda tend to teach that propaganda to the next generation, and on and on and on. That is how propaganda works and why it is so effective. Only new information or new experience can cause one to see the reality beyond the propaganda.

          This is why I value knowledge and truth so much. Only broad education and experience can lead to greater freedom, even it is only the freedom to see clearly outside the constraints of the status quo. I’ve never thought ignorance is something to be ashamed of, except when its willful. In your case, I don’t think it is willful, it is just inherited from mainstream media and culture (and probably your country’s education system).

          Usually, ignorance isn’t a big deal. That is just the fate of humanity. We all are ignorant about most things in life for potential knowledge is infinitely vast. Maybe this usually doesn’t matter for everyday life or for seeking greater freedom. I accept this state of affairs for the most part, but sometimes ignorance really does matter and in those cases lessening ignorance by promoting knowledge can make a big difference.

          For example, a few years ago I realized how little I actually knew about American history and culture. This seemed to be a problem as history and culture have such a massive impact on society, especially in terms of politics and economics. Our knowledge of history and the particular cultural worldview we inhabit will determine what we see as possible and desirable, such as in the context of cultural understandings of communism/socialism. Because I realized how fundamental and central all of this is, I’m in the process of systematically educating myself. Even after years of such study, I’m still fairly ignorant about certain areas such as my realizing I knew little about how African culture via slaves had a surprisingly large influence on American culture, beyond just music.

          So, when I speak of some people maybe being ignorant, it isn’t just a dismissive slur. I’m challenging you to educate yourself about this important topic. I’d hope that, when I mention municipal/sewer socialism, your curiosity would be immediately enticed and you’d do some research to find out more.

          That is always my hope. I want to feel inspired to better inform myself and better understand the world around me; and if possible, I wouldn’t mind inspiring or at least provoking the same in others. That is why I write this blog.

          • I have nothing to say to you anymore.

            Please tell me if you know more about finnish government and history than master of political science (my university degree) who is specialized in political history.

          • Please tell me if you know more about socialism than socialists who spend their lives studying socialism, promoting socialism, and when possible practicing socialism. Are you saying socialists aren’t socialists because they don’t fit your narrow-minded anti-communist ideology? If your university degree only taught you Cold War propaganda, you didn’t get a very quality education.

            Anyone who loves truth and knowledge is always welcome to comment in my blog. But I would understand why someone who doesn’t love truth and knowledge might decide to say nothing more to me in my blog.

            That is sad. You could have simply done some research on municipal socialism and you might have learned something new. What were you afraid of? Do you fear your ideological reality tunnel would fall part if you were to take seriously new info?

            There are tons of articles about municipal socialism that can be found online. It would only require a few minutes of study for you to be able to grasp the basic concept and maybe an hour or so of reading to learn a bit about the history of its practice in the real world. But you gave no indication of even understanding or wanting to understand municipal socialism, one of the most successful forms of socialism ever implemented in politics. Maybe socialism isn’t as scary as you’d been taught.

  7. I just want you all to realize you debated this for a year, yet you don’t realize that when someone has a strong opinion, it’s not going to be changed easily. I do not have a strong opinion regarding whether Finland is a socialist country or not, I just think it’s interesting to see how long you all have been posting on this. Aren’t there better things to do?

    -An “ignorant” American currently paying $30,000/year to attend college in California

    • I’ll give you my perspective.

      I’m not an ideologue. I couldn’t even begin to know what system might ultimately be the best system. I’m neither for or against socialism in any absolute sense.

      All I care about is truth. The misinformation and propaganda about socialism is older than I am and it will continue long after I’m gone. But as long as I’m in the world, I will always defend truth. I don’t care what the truth is. Truth is truth.

      As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing better to do than defending truth. Just my opinion. But if you have something better to do with your time, more power to you.

  8. Excellent blog and funny discussion below! Though I’am bit ashamed that my countymen didn’t quite grasp what you meant with socialism here although you explained it very well. Some people just know it all and don’t want to listen…

    Keep up the good work!

    • Yes, it is funny. I have to laugh about it just to keep from crying. Lord Almighty! What a world we live in…

      You have to give me credit for persistence. I’m a dogged fool, a martyr for truth. I used to get in long discussions with any random idiot. Exasperation finally got the better of me.

      When someone is in my blog, they better be prepared to deal with truth or else they can fuck off. I ain’t going to take anyone blowing smoke up my ass. If they want to blow smoke up their own ass because they like he way it tickles, they are free to do so by starting their own blog.

      Shame seems almost pointless. You and I can feel ashamed for our respective countrymen. But sadly too many others feel no shame. I point out the truth again and again because I hope to shame the indoctrinated to educate themselves, not that it seems to do much good.

      The worst that can come of it is that such interactions might help inform those not fully indoctrinated and closedminded. As for people like you, I guess I a least help to amuse.

      Thanks for the comment of encouragement. I have to admit that I was almost afraid to look at your comment in expectation of yet more ignorance from the peanut gallery. I’m a mere mortal. I can only take so much. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by your kindness… simple kindness on the interwebs, oh what a rare flower!

  9. I am not sure where to start in this dialogue without causing an uproar from Mr. Steele. I grew up in the upper Great Lakes region for most of all the Cold War period from October, 1949 to the fall of the Berlin Wall/U.S.S.R. at the beginning the last decade of the Twenieth Century. The last thirty-one years of the post-Cold War period has been spent in Texas–Houston/College Station/Dayton, Ohio– working for a software/hardware computer company that provides business consultation product services to the Automotive dealership industry. Yes, Mr. Steele, I have been pounded with political propaganda labels from within the American educational system and the work sector for the past fifty-one to three years of my intellectual growing years.

    The point of a year long plus digital dialogue arguing political label connations by some writers may be considered a time consuming waste. I do not. The underlying quarrel whether the educational system in the United States should utilize features that have more capitalist traits than socialist is the more contemporary subject argued. It was good that Finland’s mixed public/private educational system was cited early in the dialogue as an alternative example on how to instruct students in the new century. Finland’s school system and those in the other Nordric nations–Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and maybe Iceland–are only examples and not flashpoints in an on-going dialogue’s electronic digital transmission exchanges by generation(s) of post World War Two propganda informed driven “want to be” mixed capitalist and socialist “reform” debaters. The historical labels signifiance of the Marxist Lenin and Trotsky on societal reform in the United States has lapsed from the collective memory of today’s youth. The question is on the assumption that educational system in the United States require reform boils to the point what is in the schools and professional instruction needs correction that is ‘political/cultural possible?

    I do not think that many of today’s American youth brought up on audio/video technology culture(s) of the past twenty-five years have a care for debates on political labels. It is not certain how much interest the youth have for educational system reform. Education as always have been considered “a means to an end” by American contemporary youth. The “end” appears in youth’s minds as a successful chain of careers that make up a life style that is an idealized concept of prosperity to be found in an imperfect economic global economy. It is doubtful that contemporary American youth are concern whether Finland practices less or more balanced capitalism or socialism in their educational system than does The United States [either at the Federal, states, or local school district levels]. A side question: how many American youths are able to find Finland on a world map, globe, or by utilizing Google’s Map application?

    Mr. Steele, the above four paragraphs are not a criticism against you or your views. It is rather a beginning of a discussion by all bloggers on the utlization of historical political and cultural labels in the digital world. Do we as blog contributors and readers many times miss the central point of a respective message and choose to argue for or against something that we think we know? I was interested in overall differences of interpretations produced in Mr. Steele’s blog. I came to read this blog about what in reality is needed to prepare the current educational system for the requirements of the twenty-first century. The pick of either a political and or cultural label does not do the trick.

    Michael Fay, College Station, Texas

    • Going by this comment, I already like you. You are my kind of people. For damn sure, you are a welcome contributor to the discussion.

      The comments under this post aren’t representative of my blog. Generally speaking, my blog doesn’t attract many indoctrinated people, but this particular post was drawing them like flies. As for my responses, there is almost no other issue that makes me feel so exasperated.

      I’m mostly a calm intellectual type. Present me with a calm intellectual comment worthy of my time and I will respond in kind. I don’t provoke easily i normal everyday life, but my love of truth is both my strength and my Achille’s heel.

      I take seriously the gist of your comment. I’ve been recently talking to a friend about the issue of framing. I go back and forth about whether or not it matters to define terms clearly and accurately. It isn’t just a matter of counting the angels on a head of a pin as wordsare the basis of all communication, but in the end I’d rather push the debate to toward deeper and more fundamental issues.

      People afraid of socialism can call it bread pudding for all I care. It still is what it is.

      Someone just the other day pointed out to me that one of the Republican voting farm states has had a socialist style government owned bank for a long time. Do the Republicans there know they have socialism right at home? No. If that socialist institution were attacked, would they defend that socialism like it was the most American thing in the world? Probably. Does it matter if people supporting socialism even know what socialism is? I don’t know.

      Socialism is as socialism does. Whatever…

      • Mr. Steele I am attempting to return a comment or two before having to stop and walk over to the laundry room to move linen and clothes from the washers to the dryers. The blog that you are maintaining is one of the more interesting that I have seen on-line by an individual who is not a national newspaper/radio/telvevision personality. It is your commentary overlay that I like. The subject matter of the commentary is understood by the respective blog writer. The writer argues in a convincing matter in a way that the on-line public is encourage to participate

        Yes, the reading interests expressed in another part of the Web Site is on the realm of being at a point that is beyond exhaustive for an young American man in his thirties who is not a scholar-educator somewhere in the Collegiate/University system. It does help to be on-line to read customed portions of other writers. Mr. Steele I do commend you for this activity.

        Michael Fay, College Station, Texas

        • My parents taught me a love of learning. I find life interesting and I have many interests. I would hope that would translate into a blog that is interesting at least to some others. I do what I can, what I’m wont to do anyhow.

  10. Mr. Steele, the linen and clothes have been moved to the dryers. I do desire to follow up on the comment that certain”Red” states have a tradition of retaining their own banking systems. I suspect that Republicans in North Dakota do not see their state bank as “socialism”. The State bank is means for citizens of North Dakota to invest and borrow locally without inccuring additional financial institution costs owed to strangers in St. Louis, the Twin Cities, Dallas, Houston, or New York City. A characteristic of contemporary Republicans are to keep their community local whether or not it makes sense. The question is whether the state bank has chosen to sell its reserves [debt?] to the Federal Reserve banking system as a means of “insuring” the liquidity of its clients’ deposits? Federal Reserve’s back up in this case may be characterized as real “socialism”.

    Michael Fay, College Station, Texas

  11. I found in review of my morning comment Sunday April 14, 2012 of my that I should have completed research on the state bank in North Dakota. The institution was designed to serve economic interests of North Dakota. The economic interests are both public such as student loans and private investment financing like agriculture and mineral recovery within North Dakota. Retail services banking [personal checks and savings accounts] are about one and half percent of the total of the deposits held by the Bank of North Dakota. The state bank is characerized as independent of being a member of the Federal banking deposit insurance regulation agencies. The state of Dakota acts as a “self-insurer” of deposits made by clients to its bank. My assumption is “self-insurance” references wholesale banking deposit services as well as retai [Reference:”Google”-Search Engine server(s)].

    Tne original issue of the value of having a financial institution “owned” by people through government is one of where a citizen is on the political economic scale in the place of whether a state is “red” or “blue”. yes, it can be argued that “socialist” attributes can work in the upper Middle West as originally invisioned as “co-operative” ventures whether it is for “general safety interests” of all the people or growth development by local agricultural, business, and mineral recovery interests. The question that is common to the people and numerous local commercial interests in North Dakota is whether its state bank is able to challenge the big outside financial interests for the local commercial business. The answer is in the affirmative. The State Republican Party in North Dakota would have worked over the years to close the bank or reformed the services offered from competing with the private owned banks. It is another question whether other states including those in the upper Middle West should establish development banks on the “socoalist” co-operative model that exists in North Dakota.

    Mr. Steele it is hope sometime in the future that you and your on-line dialogue community return to the question of “Capitalist” vs Socialst…” as it pertains to joint public sponsoredn activities with private investment ventures within the American states. I do realize that you are busy with severfal ventures of your own that includes blog writing and moderation as a side non profit occupation. I shall continue to follow the blog and the “Marmalade” as time permits.

    Michael Fay, College Station, Texas

    • I find it all interesting.

      Different solutions for different problems according to local conditions and cultures. I’m not a one-size-fits-all kind of guy. I am for experimentation and finding out what works. And I suspect what works is a diversity of solutions, Plus, what worked in the past may not work again. It’s best to keep one’s options open. That is why I like democracy, especially social democracy with plenty local self-governance.

      I have a strong aversion to dogmatic ideologies. As Ken Wilber is fond of saying, “No one is smart enough to be wrong 100% of the time.”

      I’ve had some fruitful discussions about socialism with my highly conservative, libertarian-leaning father. I’ve even helped him understand my perspective and we agree about much. So, I’m definitely a fan of dialogue. I can be in short supply of patience at times, but if you stick with me I’ll always be fair to any discussion participant.

      The only thing I demand is respect for knowledge. It is the closest thing I have to a religion. Without truth, it becomes talking points, empty rhetoric, propaganda, etc. I’m not into debate as a power game. I want truth and only truth, a standard I hold myself up to as much as I hold anyone else. If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. I have nothing against changing my mind and considering new perspectives. If you think you have something worthy to add, then challenge me with truth.

      Feel free to join again with other blog posts. I have no loyalty to topics as I follow my curiosity wherever it leads. But if you stick around, you’ll see that I often return to certain topics and connect various topics together.

      I’m sure I’ll return to socialism in future posts, but I have no specific plans at the moment. I don’t identify as a socialist and so feel no particular need to defend it as an ideology. Right now, I’m doing some more genealogy research. I’m also in the middle of a bunch of books, most of them about American history, culture and regionalism. It’s quite possible that, somewhere in the mix, socialism will come up again.

      I do appreciate your joining in with this discussion. I like discussions, even when there is disagreement. If I was too rude to any of the participants, I apologize. I can be passionate in my value of truth. It’s a INFP dominant Fi thing, if you’re familiar with MBTI.

  12. Well, one thing is for sure. Mr. Benjamin David Steele needs to study the proper use of the written English language…especially as it relates to grammar.

    Oh…and I really like how he uses his middle name fully spelled…it makes him sound so sophisticated and elite. I’m sure impressed!

    • You had an opportunity to contribute an intelligent comment, but instead you chose to be a troll. What purpose does that serve? It neither demonstrates your intelligence nor raises the level of discussion.

      It’s ironic that you didn’t use English properly in your comment. In standard English usage, instead of an elipsis, a comma would be used to separate “especially” and the words following it from the rest of the sentence. I sometimes use an elipsis in a similar way, but I do so knowing it is casual use of the English language (my blog isn’t formal writing for I purposely go for a conversational style). If you want to be anal about it, though, a comma would be more proper. In general, an elipsis is only used in proper formal writing in order to indicate, for example, words having been omitted from a quote.

      I must say you went a bit overboard with the whole elipsis thing, even for my taste… or to translate it into your casual use of the English language… even for my taste… but I must admit elipses are fun… is that better?

      That is my middle name. My parents gave it to me. There are many people on the internet going by Ben Steele or Benjamin Steele, but few going by Benjamin David Steele. It makes rational sense to use my full name as it indicates who I am. It’s my name, after all. Take your name for example. Mark Lane is a fairly well known American lawyer, author and conspiracy theorist. I looked at your facebook page and it doesn’t seem you’re the same Mark Lane. There might be thousands of Mark Lanes who go by that name on the internet. It would make more sense for you to go by your full name. I personally like to do things that make sense.

      That was a rather pointless interaction. I feel dirty after dealing with idiots like that. I thought of not approving his comment. But I figured if he isn’t ashamed of his own idiocy, then who am I to deny sharing his idiocy with the world. I’m usually willing to tolerate at least one idiot comment per commenter. That is my idiot quota for the day.

    • Okay. So, Finland is only superior to the US in terms of real world application of education. I was worried there for a moment that the US education system was inferior. I’m glad to know that we are doing well in the real world inapplicability of education.

    • It is probably a practical matter. Europe has many languages for such a relatively small area. The European Union has made travel between these linguistic regions very easy and common. Social interactions and business dealings involving other languages leads people to be interested in learning other languages and ensuring their kids learn other languages.

    • You show no evidence, going by your comment, of necessarily knowing what anything means. We could have an informed and intelligent discussion about freedom, but I doubt you are up to the task. You could try to prove me wrong and I’d gladly allow you to make your case, assuming you were willing and able to make a case worth considering.

      If you actually want to grapple with such a difficult ideal, you could look at previous posts about freedom. I’ve written about it in a fair amount of detail over the years, based on my diverse readings (with great focus on the early modern revolutionary era, most especially the American Revolution). Just use the search function below to find those earlier posts.

  13. I think you should write shorter comments, matched to the approximate length and effort of the original comment. You’re overwhelming the people you might have a good debate with, and shutting down their interest in engagement with walls of text, and wasting your time.

    • Most of my comments are short, a few paragraphs long and not even long paragraphs. Anyway, my purpose is informed and intelligent debate. If you consider that a “wall of text,” then you’re in the wrong place. And if people feel overwhelmed by informed and intelligent responses, then they also are in the wrong place.

      I’m not wasting my time, but you might be wasting my time. Many people read my blog. I have several hundred followers and numerous regular commenters. Some people like what I write and some don’t. I’ve never forced anyone against their will to read my blog.

  14. You too easily dismiss the small population and homogeneity of the population. Most failing schools are in the large urban areas with not only a diverse population unlike anything Finland has ever experienced, but schools with vast minority populations who are poor and uneducated. The main problem with education in the US is that parents of children who do poorly don’t make education a priority. All three of my children have been honor roll students, not because they are inherently smarter than other children but because my wife and I make sure education is a priority in our home.

    I am finally glad to see a socialist admit that the state does not have to own the means of production to be socialist. Regulatory and tax regimes perform the same function. It is not about ownership, but control. Control and ownership are synonymous. As a libertarian I cannot abide socialism, My default position on all issues is individual freedom. Socialism is incompatible with being a libertarian.

    • I don’t dismiss homogeneity. That is one factor to be considered. But obviously there is more going on. That was a major point of my post. Here is what I quoted:

      “Pasi Sahlberg goes out of his way to emphasize that his book Finnish Lessons is not meant as a how-to guide for fixing the education systems of other countries. All countries are different, and as many Americans point out, Finland is a small nation with a much more homogeneous population than the United States.

      “Yet Sahlberg doesn’t think that questions of size or homogeneity should give Americans reason to dismiss the Finnish example. Finland is a relatively homogeneous country — as of 2010, just 4.6 percent of Finnish residents had been born in another country, compared with 12.7 percent in the United States. But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn’t lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

      “Samuel Abrams, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has addressed the effects of size and homogeneity on a nation’s education performance by comparing Finland with another Nordic country: Norway. Like Finland, Norway is small and not especially diverse overall, but unlike Finland it has taken an approach to education that is more American than Finnish. The result? Mediocre performance in the PISA survey. Educational policy, Abrams suggests, is probably more important to the success of a country’s school system than the nation’s size or ethnic makeup.

      “Indeed, Finland’s population of 5.4 million can be compared to many an American state — after all, most American education is managed at the state level. According to the Migration Policy Institute, a research organization in Washington, there were 18 states in the U.S. in 2010 with an identical or significantly smaller percentage of foreign-born residents than Finland.”

      I also already responded to one person about homogeneity:


      Many schools in the US are underfunded and teachers aren’t paid well. In Finland, they are highly paid and the profession attracts the best minds in the country. Teachers there are taught at universities that are equivalent to American Ivy League. Only one in ten who apply for the teaching profession get a job. It is a highly respected profession in Finland, unlike in the US. They also don’t spend more than the US. They just waste less money on bureaucracy, standardized testing, and extracurriculars (e.g., sports). Opposite of the US, Finnish schools that do worse get more money. On top of that, the Finnish teachers are unionized and are given immense independence in how they teach. Everything that right-wingers claim should make a failing education system is precisely what Finland does.

      I’m not a socialist. Not that I care if someone wants to call me a socialist. I’m really more of a liberal of a radical and independent variety. In that light, I’ll borrow as easily from socialist views as libertarian. I’m not an ideological dogmatist. Part of what my ‘liberalism’ means is an intellectually honest and compassionate attitude of open-mindedness, considering all views and information.

      It’s one of those words that means many things. Socialists don’t need to own the means of (national) production. They also don’t need to control the government. There are socialists who are anarchists, minarchists, libertarians, communitarians, etc. Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist.

      I’d probably agree with you on many things. My father is a libertarian-leaning conservative. As a professor, he taught me much about how to think clearly. I’ve spent my life debating with him and more often than not we end up finding common ground. I’m actually more libertarian than him, although my tendencies are left-libertarian.

    • Let me put it simply… without the “wall of text” that so concerned Kuroneko.

      In Finland, there is less diversity over all. But there are still communities in Finland with high diversity, including diversity of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin of immigrants, etc. Even these highly diverse schools in Finland are doing well. So, it would appear that you are too easily asserting diversity as the cause of problems.

      As for your last comment, I came across something recently. Some rich guy adopted a poor neighborhood, as an act of philanthropy. He agreed to send every kid in that neighborhood to college who wanted to go. The college attendance of local high school graduates shifted from 25% to 100%. Nothing changed about the families, their values, their culture, their genetics, or anything else. They simply realized that something was within reach that they formerly thought was out of reach. Also, it was someone helping them, showing them that they too mattered. It inspired and motivated them to do well.

      Larger conditions do matter, from the makeup of a population to the availability of opportunities. Yet we have to understand what precisely matters, under what conditions, and for what reasons.

    • It’s hard for many people to understand the power of environmental influences. That is obvious in government policies, as in comparing public education in different countries. But it is also true in less obvious ways.

      One of the best examples of this is stereotype threat.

      When whites and blacks are given a test for sports ability, blacks do better than whites. But when they are told it is for some other purpose, whites do as well as blacks. It was the environmental conditions that changed, not the participants’ inherent ability.

      The same thing has been found with academic testing. When race is brought up as a question before a test, blacks do worse. But when race isn’t brought up before a test, blacks do equally well. This pattern is also found with gender and math.

      This has been researched to a great extent. It is a proven social phenomenon. The opposite of it is what is called the Pygmalion effect, which also has been heavily researched. With the Pygmalion effect, if you treat kids as smart, they tend to act as though smart and end up doing better than other students.

      I’ve never met a right-winger who could explain this, much less take it seriously. I think many right-wingers make good points about many things, but on issues like this they often seem unwilling to fully look at all the evidence.

  15. IN the context of Finland, the reason why that Finnish national was so defensive was likely due to their nation’s history – particularly standing up to the USSR.

    Actually if you think about it, Finland and the Nordic nations were never really socialist (as defined by true ownership of the means of productive by the general public and by extremely egalitarian). They were more Social Democratic, which is to say, more egalitarian than capitalists, with public ownership and a welfare state that shielded the worst excesses, but never completing the transition.

    • Well, it all becomes rather vague. I don’t generally care about labels. But we can consider the details.

      Like the US, the means of educational production is controlled by the government. Also, in Finland, the means of production of such things as healthcare are controlled by the government. There is a lot more government controlled means of production via greater social democracy, welfare state, infrastructure, public transportation, etc..

      All of those things could be privatized and marketized, as could everything else. The point is that in countries like Finland far less is privatized and marketized than in the US.

      As social democracy increases, there seems to be an increase of certain areas of socialism, i.e., greater control by the government of certain kinds of production. If a country ever became completely socially democratic, would capitalism as we know it operate at all?

      It seems to me that social democracy tends toward democratic socialism, and a certain kind of socialist has defended social democracy precisely for this reason. Even some right-wingers fear social democracy because they sense the socialist implications of it.

      Anyway, people get so caught up in words. The real world implications, however, are always more complicated. In the coming centuries, ideological labels such as socialism and capitalism might entirely stop being relevant. They are too mixed up in old Cold War propaganda.

    • My point would be to look at the even larger historical context. Finland fought the Soviet Union when the latter had a pact with the Nazis. This also led Finland to be at war with the other European democracies. Then Finland ended up fighting the Nazis.

      The Finnish people with their former alliance with fascists have more to fear from that side of the spectrum. That is a dark corner of Finnish history. I imagine there is much shame and mixed emotions in siding with the Nazis against the Soviet Union when it was because of a pact with the Nazis that the Soviet Union sought control of Finland in the first place.

      Not exactly a point of Finnish national pride.

      It seems to me that this shows a greater danger of right-wing ideologies, not socialism. Anyway, conflating democratic socialism with authoritarian communism is the same as conflating free market capitalism with authoritarian fascism/corporatism. It is simply ignorant.

      More than a half century of Cold War propaganda hasn’t helped to promote intelligent and informed discussion. I get tired of all the Cold War bullshit. The Cold War is over. It’s time for people to remove the propaganda from their minds.

      It’s a new century and it is time for a new thinking, if not an entirely new paradigm. Do we really have to wait for all the old people to die before we can move forward?

    • In the context of this thread, how the Finns see themselves may be more important than actual history. Generally most small nations have that sort of pride.

      We Canadians do too.

    • “In the context of this thread, how the Finns see themselves may be more important than actual history.”

      I’m not so sure. Probably not any more than it matters what Americans think of themselves. All kinds of people think all kinds of things about themselves. I judge people based on behavior, choices made and actions taken. The rhetoric doesn’t matter much to me, not even the rhetoric people tell themselves.

      It is generally important in terms of understanding human nature and society. But I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to my blog post here. The topic at hand is about ideology, politics, and economics. It isn’t about culture, sociology, or whatever…. although it is true that I often write about the latter.

      “Generally most small nations have that sort of pride.”

      Most nations have pride. Americans are among the most proud people in the world. Citizens of wealthy and powerful countries tend to be overly proud. By itself, pride is neither good nor bad. It’s just a normal human experience.

    • “No by that I mean there is a certain level of insecurity that smaller nations have.”

      I guess it depends on what one means by small.

      Macedon was a small kingdom, until Alexander the Great. Before that, the Greek city-states fought off the Persian Empire. Then they were later defeated themselves, after neighboring societies adopted their social and political systems. The final victor for a long time were the Romans. But Rome began as a small city-state that wasn’t even strong enough to defend against the Gauls, until it became the Roman Empire.

      Britain was several separate warring small countries on small islands, until the British Empire. As you know, both Canada and the US began as part of the British Empire. Another set of small Islands in, Japan was able to form an empire and conquer one of the largest nations on earth, China.

      Many of the small countries of Northern Europe were once colonial empires. They competed with the great empires of their era. Icelanders were even the first Eropeans to colonize North America. Many of the Scandinavian empires had colonies in the Americas and in Africa. They committed genocide and were involved in the slave trade, just like all the other empires. The Norse Vikings were traveling and trading, conquering and settling all over the place when most other Europeans were living in isolated tribes and small-scale societies.

      I was looking at historical maps of Russia. About 500 years ago, there was a small country there. It is what became the Tsardom of Russia, then the Russian Empire, and later the Soviet Union. It just kept growing century after century with only occasional territorial loss. But none of that was inevitable from where it began.

      Consider Genghis Khan, as another interesting example. He was part of a bunch of disorganized rural tribes. In a short period of time, he conquered much of Eurasia.

      “Canada does too with the US. New Zealand with Australia may be another example.”

      It’s all relative, of course.

      Canada is small in some ways, such as in terms of population density. But it is still one of the largest populations in the world (#37). And it is the territorially largest country in North America and the second largest in the world, after Russia. Territorial size is important for wealth and power when it represents vast natural resources, as is the case with Canada.

      I’m not sure there is any particular reason Canada doesn’t have a larger population. When the Canadian Confederation formed, the population was about the same as the United States when it formed. Over the following century and a half, Canada’s population grew ten times the size. But in its first 150 years, the US grew 35 times its original population number.

      The US only grew because of mass immigration, which for some reason didn’t happen in Canada. There is no lack of territory and resources for a larger population in Canada. I assume there were political reasons for not embracing immigration to the same extent. It does seem even to this day that Canada is much more discerning about immigrants than is the US. Canada apparently prefers to consider the quality of immigrants while the US has tended to go for quantity, despite centuries of native-born Americans complaining about this.

      So, to the degree that Canada is small, it seems to have been based at least partly on intentional public policy. That is maybe a good comparison to some of the Northern European countries, including in Scandinavia. They have tended to also be more controlled in their immigration policies, which is of course easier to do the further north a country is. Anyway, this has allowed them to avoid too much diversity, but that has the adverse effect of making them vulnerable to the ethno-nationalist populism of ideologies such as fascism.

      As for Finland, I would point out that it isn’t small by either European or global standards. It’s about average. It only seems small because of being close to Germany and Russia. Plus, in terms of wealth and power, Finland is no weakling. They probably would be an even greater country at this point if they had never sided with the Nazis. Having been on the losing side led them to ceding vast territory and paying huge war reparations. Imagine if they had sided with the Allies and how much greater a country they would have been.

      Even with the losses of war, Finland is doing fairly well for itself. They paid their debts and have maintained their democracy all the while. No one is pitying the fate of the Finnish, as they seem perfectly fine taking care of themselves.

  16. Finnish politics is complex.

    As one Finnish national above has pointed out, there is the rise of parties like the True Finns (now “The Finns), which are nationalistic and in some ways, fascist.

    But to their minds, they are very proud of being an independent nation. The Norwegians too are quite proud of their independence as well.

    • I’ve come to see everything as complex. The more I learn of anything, the more complex it seems. I assume the complexity is always there. It’s just we are usually oblivious to it.

      Finland is not unusual in many ways. I don’t think they have any more fascist tendencies than the US. But comparing oneself to the US isn’t much of a compliment.

      Most who belong to an independent nation are probably proud of it. I must admit, being part of a proud nation, I’ve come to not put much value on pride. I don’t mean to dismiss what seems of value to others. But my point in this blog is simple and straightforward.

      The Finnish economy is more socialized than the US economy. There is no such thing as pure socialism or pure capitalism. Pure ideologies only exist in the mind as abstract theories and ideals. Still, we can make relative comparisons.

    • I’m sorry if my comments come off sounding harsh. It’s just as an American I deal with so much ignorance, often in combination with national pride. I get enough of that kind of crap from the society I live in. My blog is a safe haven from all of that.

    • It is. Although unfortunately, it has been in the grip of austerity for some time and all of the Nordic nations are seeing inequality rise at an alarming pace.

      The problem is that although public support is very much in favour in most cases of keeping the Nordic model in all of the nations, it seems like the politicians and the overwhelming economic trends are pushing the opposite direction.

      Also, due to the influx of refugees, we are seeing an alarming amount of xenophobia in all of the Nordic nations. These parties have made some pretty rapid electoral gains. Likewise, in Franc,e the National Front seems to have made quite a few gains too, which is not good at all.

    • “It is. Although unfortunately, it has been in the grip of austerity for some time and all of the Nordic nations are seeing inequality rise at an alarming pace.”

      Maybe that is even more problematic for countries like Finland than for countries like the US. Despite the terrible problems in my country, I don’t think we are prone to the kind of fascism as seen in Europe’s history. We have our crony capitalism and corporatism, but the greater diversity here disallows ethno-nationalism to fully take hold.

      The US is too large and divided, especially considering that US state governments still maintain a considerable amount of power in self-governance. That endless division and divisiveness is irritating, but it has its advantages as well.

      “The problem is that although public support is very much in favour in most cases of keeping the Nordic model in all of the nations, it seems like the politicians and the overwhelming economic trends are pushing the opposite direction.”

      The strength of those countries are their homogeneity. And at the same time that is their Achille’s heel. I sense the public in those countries have more trust in their governments, and considering recent history they have good reason to look favorably upon the government. Those are nice countries to live in, relative to most of the world. They are high trust societies all around, and that makes them a formidable force even as smaller countries.

      “Also, due to the influx of refugees, we are seeing an alarming amount of xenophobia in all of the Nordic nations. These parties have made some pretty rapid electoral gains. Likewise, in Franc,e the National Front seems to have made quite a few gains too, which is not good at all.”

      France is a different kind of country. I’m not sure I understand the French. In some ways, there is less of the kind of bigotry that is common in the US. But there is another kind of demand for assimilation in France. The US has its history of oppression and yet there remains quite a bit of tolerance for diversity. Regional and state identities are as powerful as national identity in the US, which creates a different kind of social and political dynamic.

      It is the diversity in the US that makes possible for socialists to govern a major city like Milwaukee for a half century and makes possible a state-owned bank in North Dakota, even as the anti-communist pro-capitalism/privatization Cold War propaganda was emerging as a powerful force. The city and state governments operate in significantly different ways. This is why states can at times defy the federal government such as with cannabis laws and so force the federal government to change policies. The US federal government is powerful in some ways but weak in other ways.

      National governments in European countries don’t seem to operate this way at all. The only equivalent to the US federal system in Europe would be the European Union. The main thing that differentiates US federalism and the European Union is the size of their respective militaries and their ability to use them. Anyway, this makes it difficult to compare the US to separate European countries. It would make more sense to compare separate US states to separate European countries. Or else to compare the US to the European Union, which is a comparison that one rarely sees.

  17. I’m not sure about America being less prone to fascism. The rapid rise of Trump is certainly cause to be concerned about.

    There is a large underclass in France especially that has caused unrest. They are denied the opportunities that are available for the French born. That has been a source of resentment, especially for those who come from the nations that France colonized.

    • I’m using the term ‘fascism’ in its more technical sense. The definition of it typically includes such things as ethno-nationalism. The US is too diverse and divided for ethno-nationalism to fully take hold. Fascism, in its original form, required an ethnically homogeneous society. I’m sure France could be ripe for fascism in its ethno-nationalist form.

      We could speak of ‘fascism’ in a more broad sense, though. Sometimes, when people are talking about it as political and economic ideology, they’ll call it corporatism (not that the name we give it is necessarily all that important). Others argue that what exists in the US is more accurately described as inverted totalitarianism. Such distinctions may or may not matter.

    • I do think there was a time when the US was more prone to ethno-nationalist fascism.

      The Second KKK, of course, had fascist aspirations. But it had to contend with competing ethnic groups with their own powerful groups (Italian Black Hand, German Bund, etc). No single group was dominant enough to completely shut the rest out of power.

      The closest moment when fascist became most possible was mid 20th century, after decades of limiting immigration and forcing assimilation. But now we have returned to high immigration and the population is in some ways more diverse than it was earlier last century.

      Considering that whites are already a minority among kids, I don’t see how ethno-nationalism is going to take over. Even the US government has slowly become more diverse. A half century ago, you’d never or rarely have seen politicians who were black, Hispanic, Jewish, female, etc. The US is the least dominated by WASP culture than it has ever been.

      I’m not arguing that authoritarianism and totalitarianism couldn’t come to power. But it would probably come in an entirely different form than was seen with European fascism in the past. We should keep our eyes open to the new forms it might take, as they might not initially be obvious.

  18. https://thebillfold.com/finland-is-testing-basic-income-but-not-for-the-reasons-you-think-138b2cf3bddc#.ufam58y9k

    “First, increasing numbers of Finns are working part-time, or on a temporary or freelance basis. These people don’t qualify for work-based benefits and, because they’re working, they don’t get unemployment benefits either. They’re caught in the middle. “One thing is to make our social security more responsive to those changes in the labor market,” says Kangas, who is also the research director at the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA).”


    “The idea is to see what happens to a community under a basic income, rather than just to individual people. Having a whole town get benefits could have cascading effects as households escape poverty, as some people use the income guarantee as insurance so they can take risks and form companies, as universities see increased enrollment from people better able to afford supplies, etc. “If people in a smaller area are getting the benefits, their behavior vis-a-vis other people will change, employers and employees will change their behavior, encounters between clients and their street-level bureaucrats (social workers, employment offices, etc.) will change, and the interplay between different bureaucracies will change,” Kangas says.”

  19. Yes when it comes to social progress, the left in the US does look to the Scandinavian nations (and Finland, although it’s not Scandinavian) for leadership.

    Another example:

    So yes, it seems like progress is mixed. Economically the Nordic nations are all in a recession right now. Finland is in the grips of austerity. The European economy remains weak and the sanctions against Russia have hurt the Finnish economy disproportionately (owing to trade and geography) compared to the rest of the Western world.

    • Well, most national economies in the world have been dealing with problems in recent years. I wouldn’t necesarily see that as a major sign of concern. It depends on local conditions. I don’t know enough about the Finnish economy. But I’m impressed that even while allying with Nazi Germany the Finnish maintained their democracy and protected their Jewish population. It’s a country that has seen tougher times than the present and made it through.

  20. Every so often I end up back at this post. It is one of the all time favorite posts on my blog. It gets tons of views every day. And it obviously has received many comments. I can’t help but feel amused by it all. There were plenty of worthy comments here. And plenty not so worthy. As for the latter, it’s amazing that people can have such a strong reaction to a word that they have little if any understanding about.

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