Norway rejects socialism, re-elects conservative prime minister

 

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(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) from redalertpolitics.com

Norway re-elected conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Monday, guaranteeing a right-of-center government in a country that former United States presidential candidate Bernie Sanders often touted as a model of democratic socialism.

Ms. Solberg and her coalition partners, including the conservative Progress Party – which only four years ago was considered on the right-wing fringe for supporting lower taxes and stricter immigration – gained 89 seats in Norway’s unicameral, 169-seat Parliament. Her main opponent, Jonas Gahr Store, of the left-leaning Labor Party, which won 80 seats, called the results “a huge disappointment.”

Sanders, once argued in a 2015 presidential primary debate in Las Vegas, “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, and Sweden, and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

Millennials supported Sanders by wide margins and polls found it wasn’t because of his polished speaking skills, but because his message resonated with young voters.

A YouGov poll in 2016 found voters under-30 favored socialism over capitalism by more than 10 percentage points. Republican pollster Frank Luntz found similar results, with 58 percent of young Americans viewing socialism favorably, while only 34 percent looked favorably on capitalism.

Sanders is not alone on the American Left in arguing that Americans would fare much better if the U.S. would adopt Nordic-style democratic socialism.

Statistics show that Nordic countries, while having much higher tax rates and larger social safety nets than the U.S., enjoy a greater level of general happiness, higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality rates, and a much broader middle class. To many, it seems these countries prove that democratic socialism can lower economic inequality and provide for all its citizens without sacrificing high living standards.

However, many accuse Sanders and other Americans on the Left of not truly understanding the Nordic model.

As Swedish scholar Nima Sanandaji, president of the European Centre for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform, points out in his book, “Scandinavian Unexceptionalism,” Scandinavian prosperity predated those countries’ adoption of welfare states. Beginning in the 1870s, Sweden developed one of the freest markets on earth, which created the highest economic growth rate in the industrialized world for more than 60 years.

The Nordic economies also benefit from much lower levels of government corruption and freer trade than the U.S. – traits that have nothing to do with tax rates and safety nets.

Solberg’s victory marks the first time in 30 years that a member of the Conservative Party has won consecutive terms as Norway’s prime minister.

As Sanandaji observes, many of these countries have been moving away from socialist policies over the past couple of decades. Of the five Nordic countries, only Sweden is headed by social democrats, and even there, they no longer command widespread support.

At a rally of supporters after the election, Solberg struck a tone of cautious optimism, but added, “it looks as though we will have a non-socialist majority.”

After the Soviet bloc butchered socialism’s reputation, the Nordic nations seemed to point the way for social democrats. But, if Scandinavia turns politically rightward, where will Sanders-style Progressives find their success stories?

Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party was moved to tears remembering how political opponents predicted being able to bully her party in Parliament.

“Absolutely all those predictions are put to shame,” she said.

Read more at http://redalertpolitics.com/2017/09/15/norway-rejects-socialism-re-elects-conservative-prime-minister/#mIFbEWxUksSfKVto.99

What do Democratic Socialists Do about a Problem like Venezuela?

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British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn still refuses to condemn Nicolas Madero’s government in Venezuela for its human rights violations and appears even less willing to admit that the Venezuelan socialist experiment has failed.

Corbyn’s neutrality on the violence in Venezuela, which has claimed 124 lives since April, recently drew criticism from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Andrés Mejía. When asked about the violence in Venezuela, Corbyn replied that he condemned the violence “on both sides,” arguing that violence was not the way to solve Venezuela’s problems. This, despite the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Council has employed “widespread and systematic use” of excessive force, arbitrary detention and other rights violations against demonstrators and detainees.

Mejía told BBC Newsnight that Corbyn “really has to know what is going on here” to make such a statement. Mejía added that it is not only the government crackdown that is a problem, but the 20,000 people killed every year because of crime, disease, and food scarcity. He said, “violence has not been committed by both sides.” Mejía blamed the government for arming paramilitary groups who in turn have taken the lives of millions of people in his country. He added that the mothers and fathers of those who have been killed would love to speak with Corbyn and explain how their children, many of them only teenagers have been struck down by Maduro’s forces for peacefully protesting the direction of their country.

In 2013, Corbyn praised the socialist South American nation, saying, “We salute Chavez and the people of Venezuela for turning the clock of history full circle… I look forward to the development of Venezuela, the efficiency of Venezuela, in providing good services and decency for all the people of that country.” He was not alone among Western politicians on the Left to praise the Hugo Chavez disaster. In 2011, Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders stated, “These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina…” On another occasion, Corbyn said, “Venezuela is seriously conquering poverty by emphatically rejecting neo-liberal policies.”

Praising Chavez’ left-wing populism has become cliché for many on the Left. American actor and filmmaker, Sean Penn claimed Chávez “did incredible things for the 80 percent of the people that are very poor.” Oliver Stone made a positive film about South American socialism and Michael Moore praised Chávez for eliminating 75 percent of extreme poverty. American philosopher, Noam Chomsky even credited Venezuela for creating a better world.

The dilemma Corbyn and many others on the Left face is the question of what to do when a perfect example of socialism implodes before their eyes.
Libertarians often claim no country has ever truly had a libertarian government and a complete, free-market economy, therefore no one can disprove their theory of government. Many Marxists also accuse the Soviet bloc and Asian equivalents of faux Marxism and argue that true Marxism has yet to be put into practice. But, democratic socialists cannot credibly make such an argument about their ideology. Corbyn, Sanders, and others who support government control over nearly every aspect of the economy have their example of populist, democratic socialism in Venezuela. They cannot credibly accuse Venezuela of being a bad example of democratic socialism when they themselves have eagerly praised it as such in the past. The only alternative is to reject their lifelong ideology as a insufficient to deal with human action and global markets and admit the error of their ways.

Corbyn chose neither to accuse Venezuela of corrupting socialism, nor to disavow his former support of the country’s government. He not only refused to recognize the crackdown on protesters, but doubled down on his praise for its economy saying, “we also have to recognize that there have been effective and serious attempts at reducing poverty, improving literacy and improving the lives of the poorest people.”

The Venezuelan government is responsible for political suppression and the deaths of hundreds of its people, not to mention the millions that have suffered through malnutrition, a precipitous drop in living standards, and crime. But, Venezuelans have not always known this level of poverty. Its per capita income in the 1970s was higher than Spain’s and it was among the ten richest countries in the world. Chavez used the nation’s oil wealth to create a massive welfare system, create price controls, and stifle private enterprise. Oil prices rose shortly after Maduro took control after Chavez’ death, which sent the country’s economy into a death spiral.

But, as Corbyn points out, the Venezuelan government has made “serious attempts” to help people, therefore in his logic, the government’s intentions must override its results.

Mejía’s criticism of Corbyn’s ignorance of the situation in Venezuela reveals the disconnect between those who praise democratic socialism and those who have to live with its destructive results. Promising free things through government coercion wins votes and accolades at home. But, as Corbyn’s response to the gripping poverty in Venezuela and Maduro’s increasing totalitarianism reveals, democratic socialists do not know how to handle the situation when a socialist experiment fail.