US Politics Have No Left Wing

This is the first time that I’m aware of the US primary elections. I’ve never been very interested in the news, having at best a hazy idea even of Swedish politics. Blogging is entirely responsible for my heightened awareness of US political matters over the past two to three years. I’ve taken to reading US blogs and hanging out in web forums dominated by Americans. And what I’ve learned scares me.

US politics often look absurd from a European perspective, since the entire bipartisan system maps onto the conservative half of European politics. A case in point is that the US “Left” is called “the liberals”, while the Liberal Party in Sweden is part of the Right wing. How could it be otherwise? Liberalism is about free-market capitalism, small government, low taxes, all Right-wing ideals. Yes, both US parties advocate low taxes. Normal taxes are 30% to a Swede. And that’s rock bottom, before adding the effect of progressive taxation. That’s how we can afford universal health care. Hint, hint.

So, believe me, US politics don’t have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.

From a European perspective, US politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Right and the middle Right. The Republican presidential candidates are really, really scary people in my view. So all of us in the world at large who live under the shadow of US political hegemony are holding our breaths, hoping that Clinton or Obama will make it into office. They’re pretty bad, but the alternative would be unspeakably dreadful.

Update 5 February: Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, chairman of the second-most conservative party in the Swedish Parliament, said today that he agrees with Barack Obama’s policies. This confirms what I said above very nicely. One of the most conservative viable politicians in Sweden is apparently on the same page as one of the most progressive US presidential candidates.

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Comments

  1. No left! that was strange to know. Every economy should have a left side. Indian Politics has a left party and its very active. Intereting post,keep up the good work.

    Indian Equity Investment Guide

  2. #2 Anonymous
    February 3, 2008

    “hoping that Clinton or Obama will make it into office. They’re pretty bad, but the alternative would be unspeakably dreadful.”

    Well, in my opinion it would be cool to see Ron Paul in the office, even tho its very unlikely :D

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    February 3, 2008

    Welcome to our fucking world, dude. Progressives in the US have been bitching and moaning about this for years.

    But please don’t confuse this rightwards skew in the positions taken by politicians with the absence of substantial support for progressive goals among the citizens of the US. One of the major progressive projects in the next decade or so is to (1) understand why the right wing has so effectively dominated electoral politics even though their policies do not command anything close to majority support in the citizenry and (2) to make this stop happening.

  4. #4 Chad Orzel
    February 3, 2008

    From a European perspective, US politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Right and the middle Right.

    Of course, it would be perfectly equivalent to say “From a US perspective, European politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Left and the middle Left.” In fact, right-wing commentators in the US say that sort of thing on a regular basis, and people tend to get pissy about it.

    I don’t disagree with you, mind, but there’s a smug overtone to this sort of statement that really gets up my nose.

  5. #5 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    It’s not just a matter of position on a spectrum, it’s a matter of scope across it. The maximum difference of opinion between members of the US Congress is far less than the maximum difference between party lines in most European parliaments.

  6. #6 Issac
    February 3, 2008

    Liberalism is about free-market capitalism, small government, low taxes, all Right-wing ideals.

    I don’t think this is universally the case. Franklin Roosevelt proudly wore the liberal label and he greatly expanded the role of government and increased the tax rate. It’s that liberal tradition that our current Democratic party tries to pay homage to. I know it means other things elsewhere, but in the US it was originally in line with standard left wing ideology.

  7. #7 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    Thought about the exact same thing this morning, reading the Swedish newspapers.

    All three of the republican candidates seem to take a stance against abortion. These are questions the swedish christian democrats would hardly dare to raise – even though some, or most, of them probably are opposed to abortion. To seriously suggest a prohibition would be too costly, in terms of votes and co-operation. (And the 3 other right wing parties are definately pro-abortion.)

    To see that ALL presidential canditates profess a belief in god, is surprising to. (Personally I can’t believe they aren’t making that up, but maybe that’s presumptous to say.)

    As for the taxes, yes… 30% (base) income tax is just the beginning ;) Then we have the “moms” (vat?) and other taxes on consumer goods (significantly higher than in the US, I think). Not to mention all the “avgifter” which are taxes except with a fancier name…

  8. #8 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Isaac: John Locke, father of liberalism, published Two Treatises on Government in 1689. Franklin D Roosevelt was US president 1933-1945.

  9. #9 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    The maximum difference of opinion between members of the US Congress is far less than the maximum difference between party lines in most European parliaments.

    I think that is just a common misconception. I think you are missing just how right-wing our right wing is. There are congress members who would support a constitutional amendment banning abortion and same-sex marriage. There are congress members who think rounding up and deporting tens of millions of immigrants is a viable policy. The are congress members who would put prayer back in public schools at the drop of a hat. There are congress members (too many in fact) that think torture is acceptable for a democratic nation to torture people.

    And there are congress members who are opposed to all of that, and do oppose the death penalty and support a variety of gun control and environmental conservation measures.

    I wish we were further left, but the differences are huge. The differences are Al Gore vs. George Bush.

  10. #10 revere
    February 3, 2008

    Martin: As a politically engaged person of the Left in the US, you are 100% correct, at least if you are talking about electoral politics. The labor movement has been decimated here and even before that happened it tended to reactionary trade unionism, not industrial unionism. There is a long and rich left wing political tradition in the US but it is invisible in the media and electoral politics. The 60s were its most visible moment in recent history and there are signs it is making a comeback, but even if it comes to full flower it will only be a pale imitation of what is a full player in Europe. This may have served US economic interests in the past but it is a new world now and is hobbling the country. With a significant price of new cars devoted to paying health insurance for workers, US carmakers are becoming noncompetitive and the truly enormous sums the country is sinking into non productive military expenditures is not only bankrupting the country but making it less attractive for its intellectual elite. It never occurs to most Americans that countries have natural histories and the US is past its peak and on the downhill side. It’s quite likely IMO there will be no US in 100 years as the “national system” (which itself is less than 400 years old, dating from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) begins to fade in the face of new supra national structures like the EU. My grandchildren could easily be living in some kind of North and South American Federation or some other structure like the EU.

    Your original point is exactly corrrect, though. The US governing elite goes from A to B, far right to right of center.

  11. #11 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    I was clearly not refering to the original definition. Political terms have a way of been twisted based on historical use.

    My point was that Roosevelt is essentially the modern father of liberalism in America and he certainly supported expanded government and increased tax rates. You can argue that FDR had a twisted view of liberalism, but it’s hard to argue he was right wing or pro-small government. And it is that concept of liberalism that built the modern Democratic party.

  12. #12 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Taxation is just a collective way of funding projects. No Swedish parent wonders if s/he will be able to send the kids to college.

  13. #13 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Isaac: still, the Democrat candidates aren’t looking very lefty. Other than in the sense Mike Huckabee uses the word.

  14. #14 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    I agree that the Democratic candidates are not very left wing. I have a somewhat knee jerk reaction when people say there isn’t much difference between the parties. That thinking got us George Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” in 2000 over Al Gore. There is obviously a difference between the two, but that same thinking could give us President McCain in 2008.

  15. #15 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    No chance of getting a President Chomsky, Dylan, Zimmerman or Newell Osterberg, though.

  16. #16 MartinC
    February 3, 2008

    The situation in the Republic of Ireland might be a useful contrast to the typical European left/right divide. The two main parties that have ruled the country since independence are both pretty much of the centre right. They actually were originally the same nationalistic party that won the first election in 1919 but later split during partition and the subsequent civil war(for nationalistic reasons rather than left right ideology – one party, Fianna Fail, rejected partition while the other Fine Gael (whose forces won the civil war) – accepted it. Ever since then it has been primarily a personality based situation as they both advocate very similar policies. Growing up with a father who was involved in local politics (as an independent) it was very enlightening for me to see voting patterns at the polling stations. The best way to describe it would be tribal – a high percentage of people voted for the party that their parents voted for and virtually nothing could sway them to do otherwise. There is a degree of contingency in how the political situation developed in Ireland (if there was no civil war I guess it would be much more like the standard european model). Once a political situation gets entrenched then it is very difficult to change it – look at the number of successful new political parties started in the US since 1900.

  17. #17 Tag
    February 3, 2008

    You’re misconstruing the use of the word “liberal” in American politics. The definition you’re using is what Americans call “Classical Liberalism” and bears no connection with the beliefs of the modern American liberal movement, of which the mainstream proponent is the Democratic party. The Democratic party advocates positions closer to your assertion of standard Swedish politics – the regularly advocate in favor of gun control, in favor of abortion, in favor of increased government services and lately in favor of universal health care.

    Again, the main issue might be one of definition. Read up on the difference between liberalism and classic liberalism and that should help.

  18. #18 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    So basically the Democrat presidential candidates aren’t representative Democrats, then.

  19. #19 Bob O'H
    February 3, 2008

    On the liberalism debate, in the UK the Liberals are seem as wooly and on the left.

    I think the confusion is because the underlying principle of liberalism is that individuals should be able to (largely) do as they desire. This, I think, has evolved in two directions:
    1. To the right, by arguing from it that the government should keep out of the way of individuals trying to do what they want.
    2. To the left, with the argument that the government’s role is to give the individual the opportunity to do what they want. As in, helping the less fortunate so that they are in a position to take up strange hobbies or become professional idiots.

    In the UK and US, the political system has evolved so that the fiscally liberal are often closely aligned with the morally illiberal, on the right of politics.

    One British Labour politician once observed that the Tories found themselves in sex scandals, whilst Labour MPs had financial scandals. His complaint was that the Tories were having all the fun.

    Bob

  20. #20 The Ridger
    February 3, 2008

    “So basically the Democrat presidential candidates aren’t representative Democrats, then.”

    Oh, my! That person wouldn’t be “a viable candidate”, that person wouldn’t be “electable”, so everyone runs off and supports some centrist who can be. And then gets po’d when said centrist (who usually skews a bit right in European eyes) acts like a centrist. The extreme right in this country has managed to shift the US center pretty far right, to the point where (some? most? a lot of) people here actually think Hillary Clinton is a liberal.

  21. #21 FLC
    February 3, 2008

    You clearly haven’t read up on Ron Paul.
    He’s the saviour for politics in this country.

  22. #22 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    “Saviour”? That word is only really used in churches over here.

  23. #23 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    I would say that the Democratic candidates aren’t representative of American liberalism. They are fairly representative of the party as whole. It’s really sad because the republicans will fight and shout about who is the “true conservative”, but you’d never see Democrats arguing over who is the “true liberal”.

  24. #24 Sergiy Grynko
    February 3, 2008

    It’s just as weird to us Canadians.

  25. #25 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    FLC, a racist anti-choice libertarian is going to save us?

    The guy is the exact opposite of what Martin is talking about, and the exact opposite of what this country needs. He voted against funding the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Racist newletters were published in his name for nearly two decades, and he claims to not know about it even though he’s got endorsements and funds from major white supremicists. He’s against essentially all government spending on scientific research, which would cripple our fading edge in research and technological innovation. He’s against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The guy is a joke. Thank goodness he can’t be elected. He would destroy this country.

  26. #26 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    The Swedish cognate of “conservative” is generally only used as a smear-word. Nobody wants to bee seen as conservative. Our Conservative Party calls itself “the Moderates”.

  27. #27 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    The Swedish cognate of “conservative” is generally only used as a smear-word. Nobody wants to bee seen as conservative.

    You’ve just described paradise to me.

  28. #28 Jeroen Van Goey
    February 3, 2008

    Your point is illustrated in a very nice way visually on this map, where the presidential candidates are plotted on the political compass. As you’ll see, both Democrats as Republicans lie in Right-Authoritarian corner. If you were to take the test, you would find yourself squarely in the lower left corner (Left-Libertarian).

    While Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are depicted on the extreme left in an American context, they would simply be mainstream social democrats within the wider political landscape of Europe. Similarly, Hillary Clinton is popularly perceived as a leftist in the United States while in any other western democracy her record is that of a moderate conservative.

  29. #29 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    It’s a good place to live, though it’s fucking dark & dreary half of the year.

  30. #30 SteveF
    February 3, 2008

    No chance of getting a President Chomsky

    Good! Agree with the rest of what you have written though.

  31. #31 bob koepp
    February 3, 2008

    Marin – You are right about there being no real “left” in US politics. When you say that “Liberalism is about free-market capitalism, small government, low taxes, all Right-wing ideals,” you’re being a bit myopic. Traditional liberalism of the sort advocated by Locke is based on certain moral ideals: freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry, freedom of association — PLUS the notion that freedoms can be legitimately constrained only on a showing that it is necessary for the maintenance of a well-ordered society. It’s all about limiting the role of coercive force in social life. Leftists usually don’t like the stringency of that last bit, since it would prevent them from imposing their view(s) of the good life on the whole of society.

  32. #32 Lulu
    February 3, 2008

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/usprimaries2008

    Here, this should clear things up. Yes, the US does tend righty and authoritarian. It’s much easier to make a contest out of it when the candidates’ positions are /this/ far apart… I’m pinching my fingers together.

    Some like Ron Paul because he’s less authoritarian than many, specifically, fiscally. However, his socially illiberal tendencies are a sore spot for myself.

    Personally, according to the chart, I’m a righty libertarian. I don’t want high taxes, shocking as that may sound. I’m not unequivocally opposed to universal health care, and if push comes to shove, I’ll pay the higher taxes – however, when we’re already paying exorbitant taxes to the black hole that is our failing Social Security system…

    Let me put it this way. Right now, our economy is failing. It is in a slump with our currency failing more and more as our debt to other countries builds. Currently, we are getting more into debt just paying the interest on our national debt. In such a situation, radically conservative fiscal politics are necessary to curtail the profuse bleeding. Then we should talk about letting the hoi polloi of the US what “liberalism” means to the rest of the world.

    Unfortunately, all we’re going to get is another damn centrist.

  33. #33 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Well, in the Swedish context I identify as a left-wing liberal. I’ve voted variously for the Greens and the Social Democrats. I think the technical term in the US would be “pinko Commie”.

  34. #34 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    our failing Social Security system

    Please, describe how our Social Security system is failing? The fact it slashed the elderly poverty rate was failing? Or the fact it has had guaranteed solvency of about 3 decades or so for the last 15 years. That solvency issue would be easily fixed by raising or eliminating the cap?

    I hear how Social Security is failing all the time by libertarian types, but I’ve never read how it is actually failing. I think it is the best social program in US history. It needs a few tweaks, but it is certainly not a black hole or failure.

  35. #35 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    Sorry, I forgot to turn off the blockquote up there.

  36. #36 Lulu
    February 3, 2008

    http://www.federalbudget.com/SSdebate.html

    “- There is no money in the Social Security Trust Fund, it has all been spent. A record has been kept, so we know what’s supposed to be there and who borrowed and spent the money (hint: other government agencies, and it’s part of the National Debt).

    - Currently workers are paying more into Social Security than beneficiaries are taking out. Money going into the program is paying the benefits, and what’s left over is being “borrowed” by government for general budget spending.

    - By 2018, using the current rates, there will less going into Social Security than it is paying out. Then the Social Security Administration will have to call in the debts. [Where is that money going to come from?]”

    It’s failing because when I retire, I’m not going to get a cent. There is no Social Security trust fund left.

  37. #37 chris
    February 3, 2008

    One of the major progressive projects in the next decade or so is to (1) understand why the right wing has so effectively dominated electoral politics even though their policies do not command anything close to majority support in the citizenry (2) to make this stop happening.

    Watch the movie “Spin” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114512/. Watch it 25 or 50 times if you have to. The answer to question number 1 is “Pat Robertson”.

    The answer to question number 2 is “politicizing Jesus”. He basically pushed socialism. These quotes need to appear on billboards, the back of cars … everywhere – progressiveness needs to be promoted through quoting the synoptic gospels from the KJV. Go to redstate or foxnews and read the comments … all of them. Then come back and read this again.

    You still think it’s left field? Turn on your AM dial, your FM dial, go through the stations. Listen to them – entire broadcasts – take notes and go back and read the comments on the main stream news sites. Look at the policies promoted, who gets elected, and the campaigns they run on.

    You can’t fight wars with flowers. The best way is to match in tactic – we have the darn book on our side anyway. Men kissing men and embracing them out number the anti-homosexual passages about 30:1. We need to use them.

    Alright, done.

  38. #38 Annie
    February 3, 2008

    Such an interesting discussion – and one which I wish mainstream Americans would think about. It’s interesting, too to understand that much of American’s views on their alignment with political party is directly influenced by a very limited number of media – almost all of whom are owned and directed by military/industrial corporations with direct profit and market share stakes in the influence and outcome of elections and officials.

    Most of the progressive political discussions and media are now found on the blogs of the internet. The traditional, or mainstream, media does not address the issues and concerns of progressives. In fact, the candidates most closely allied to progressive points of view were deliberatley denied media coverage (Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, Christopher Dodd). The Republicans have successfully managed to influence large swaths of the electorate to vote against their self interests by conflating fundamental christianism religious dogma with political platforms.

    There are millions of Americans who feel fully disenfranchised with the extant government, who are horrified at the de-coupling of the elected officials with doing the will of the people in favor of doing the will of the corporatist/military elite, and who are most aggrieved at the programmatic destruction of the Constitution and the failure of the three branches of government to provide for adequate checks and balances, which is their rightful charge.

  39. #39 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    You also neglect to point out that nothing changes from a practical standpoint in 2018. It only means we have to dip into the Trust fund for a portion of the benefits each year. There would is money for everyone to receive their full benefits into the 2040′s. It’s disturbing because it’s unsustainable, but it’s easily fixed. Ending the borrowing by other government programs was the whole point of Al Gore’s “lock box”. The whole problem is easily fixed by implementing that lock box now, and raising the cap on Social Security taxes.

  40. #40 Lulu
    February 3, 2008

    For fairness’ sake, too, here’s a source with an opposing view. http://zfacts.com/p/784.html

    I’m not saying privatization is the answer. But it sure as hell feels like I’m giving my money to a black hole, supporting a program that’s doomed to fail.

  41. #41 Isaac
    February 3, 2008

    Saying Social Security is doomed to fail when it requires very minor changes to be solvent for the next 60 years, which is how far the assessment looks, and current age of the program is ridiculous. Not to mention privatizing has conservatively been estimated to cost over $1 trillion. Where will that money come from?

  42. #42 John
    February 3, 2008

    A case in point is that the US “Left” is called “the liberals”, while the Liberal Party in Sweden is part of the Right wing.

    “Liberalism” is a word with a pretty complicated history, and you’d have saved yourself some embarrassment if you would have read up on it. Firstly, Folkpartiet are social liberals, not classical liberals. Secondly, the Swedish word “liberal” usually translates more properly to “libertarian”, not to its American homonym. As I said, it’s pretty complicated. At any rate, it’s certainly no obvious “point in case”.

    Other than that, I agree that US politics looks rather weird when viewed through a Swedish lens. Though I would also say that if you seriously think Chomsky would make a good president, you are flirting with political extremism yourself. Someone like him would not be a viable candidate in Sweden either.

  43. #43 Switch
    February 3, 2008

    I don’t quite think there’s enough communication here.

    Yes, the point is spectrum range rather than spectrum placement. There are parties in Europe as far right as the Republicans. They are seen as the extreme right, and on an all-inclusive political scale (including fascists, anarchists, communists, liberals, socialists, libertarians, liberals, conservatives etc) that is where they do indeed sit. See http://www.politicalcompass.org for example. The difference between Europe and North America is that Europe has parties from all over the political map, and the communist parties are the ones seen as on the extreme left. In America, the Democrats – a centre-right party – are seen as the left, and centrist parties are seen as the extreme left. In my native Australia, this has also become the case in recent decades.

    “Liberal” in America and a large part of the English-speaking world refers to “modern liberalism” or less leftist “social democracy”, while in Europe it still refers to “classical liberalism” or “modern libertarianism”. In Europe “libertarianism” often means “libertarian socialism”. In Australia, “libertarianism” can mean classical liberalism or libertarian socialism, and liberalism can mean modern liberalism, classical liberalism or, mostly, conservatism: Our major right-wing party, somewhat equivalent to the Republicans though not quite so extreme (but close!), is the Liberal Party.

    Side note – you’d never get a President Chomsky, because Chomsky believes electoral politics to be fruitless.

  44. #44 Ric
    February 3, 2008

    As an American, you are absolutely right. The right-wing in this country has worked tirelessly– and insidiously– for more than a century to eliminate any actual left wing. There is now a left wing in name only, but truly every politician in the US is a conservative, and most of them frighteningly so.

  45. #45 Luna_the_cat
    February 3, 2008

    Bob O’H says:

    On the liberalism debate, in the UK the Liberals are seem as wooly and on the left.

    To which I says, that depends entirely on where you are and who you are talking to.

  46. #46 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    President Gould would have been good though. Actually, S.J. Gould still being alive at all would have been good. I like to imagine that he would have spoken out against Pope Ratzi.

  47. #47 Barn Owl
    February 3, 2008

    I agree that Martin is correct in his assessment of current US electoral politics, unfortunately. However, revere makes an excellent point that there is a substantial history of Left and progressive political victories in this country, and I’m enough of a cockeyed optimist (most of the time) to think that such policies can gain support here once again.

    From talking with my European and South American friends, I have the impression that people outside the US don’t realize the pervasiveness of narcissism in American culture. Narcissism is a dysfunctional and selfish attitude, and yet it dominates social, environmental, and political decision-making in this country. I suspect it might even drive our economy, which is also in trouble. How did we turn the positive characteristics of individual expression and self-determination into a national personality disorder, in less than a century?

  48. #48 mothworm
    February 3, 2008

    Lulu,

    From your description of why SS is failing, it sure looks like the problem is not SS, but other government agencies raiding SS. The program isn’t a failure, people are just stealing from it. Stop the theft, save SS.

    And privatizing it has got to be, hands down, the most disastrous thing anybody ever proposed. You might have noticed, from time to time, how the stock market isn’t exactly stable? You’d do just as well investing in lottery tickets.

  49. #49 mothworm
    February 3, 2008

    I would totally vote for SJ Gould, even Zombie SJ Gould, at this point.

  50. #50 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    “Taxation is just a collective way of funding projects. No Swedish parent wonders if s/he will be able to send the kids to college.”
    Well in all truth, pretty much anyone in the US can too, if they are willing to take out student loans etc, it just won’t be a Harvard or a Columbia or something.

    As for Ron Paul, he’s a bigoted old nut job creationist who is anti-abortion, not a viable candidate.

  51. #51 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Ursula LeGuin is probably too old now. But R.U. Sirius would be awesome!

  52. #52 John
    February 3, 2008

    Here is a perspective worthing looking into…

    http://www.wsws.org

    And growing…..

  53. #53 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Sweden hasn’t got an Ivy League. Nine million people, less than ten large universities, all of comparable quality.

  54. #54 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Well, in the Swedish context I identify as a left-wing liberal. I’ve voted variously for the Greens and the Social Democrats. I think the technical term in the US would be “pinko Commie”.”

    The Swedish social democrats would definately run the risk of being called communists. Not only when looking at them from an american perspective.

    Quite a few people in Sweden – right wing people, conservatives, liberals – call social democrats communists, and compare their politics with communist politics. Sometimes it’s hard to see much of a difference. Liberal is actually a label I wouldn’t put on social democrats. (Not libertarian either.)

    As for parents worrying about getting an education for their children – yes, parents who didn’t agreee with the social democratic politics have been worried about this for many, many years. Now the situation is somewhat better – there are choices. When I was a kid, the only schools available were the public schools, where socialist propaganda was fed to the children.

    So – for those who didn’t agree with that, where to send the child to school was a huge problem and worry. Social democrats never had a problem with it, though.

  55. #55 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    Well, as someone in the US who has gone to two affordable state universities and one expensive Ivy, I can say that it’s possible to get a good education at the state schools, which really anyone can pretty much afford on loans etc. At Ivy’s you might get some bigger names etc, but what you really end up paying for is a nicer environment and a lot of less bureaucracy and a student body that really wants to be there, at least in my experience.

  56. #56 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Haha, Zooey, you prefer schools with right-wing propaganda? (-;

  57. #57 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Sweden hasn’t got an Ivy League. Nine million people, less than ten large universities, all of comparable quality.”

    Ivy League, no. But it matters a lot were you get your degree. The 10 universities don’t rank as equal, not at all. Maybe they are comparable, but there are definate differences in quality and status. (Some of the most prestigeous schools aren’t even universities – like KS and HHS.)

  58. #58 Stephen Downes
    February 3, 2008

    The same comparison may be made with Canada. From a Canadian perspective, U.S. politics has no left wing.

    The Republican candidates are perhaps similar to our old Social Credit movement, or perhaps the traditionalists of the Reform Party. Obama and Clinton are, at best, more like traditional conservatives. Even people like Edwards and Kucinich could at best be thought of as members of the centerist Liberal Party in Canada.

    There is no American equivalent to the left wing of the Liberal Party, and nothing remotely on the landscape resembling the socialist New Democratic Party (which obtains decent showings in Canadian federal elections and actually governs several provinces).

    Finally, a note to PhysioProf

    > Welcome to our fucking world, dude. Progressives in the US have been bitching and moaning about this for years.

    The hardest thing for American progressives to understand, I have found, is that *they* are right-wing compared to the rest of us. I know you all *think* you are very left wing, but when we do a belief by belief analysis, it turns out that you’d be more comfortable voting Tory in our elections.

  59. #59 AmericanExpat
    February 3, 2008

    There’s real decent candidates in the US, too… people like Kucinich. Unfortunately, they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, but they do exist.

  60. #60 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “Haha, Zooey, you prefer schools with right-wing propaganda? (-;”

    I don’t have children, so it isn’t an issue. The point is, if I did, why would I want to send them to schools where the world and society is interpreted through socialist eyes?

    No, of course I wouldn’t. But that’s what public school was like, 25-30 years ago.

    I’m not a socialist. Lot’s of people in Sweden aren’t. Obviously, if I have to live with any propaganda, I personally prefer right the wing/liberal stuff… it corresponds better to my own views.

  61. #61 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Said Zooey, “Maybe they are comparable, but there are definate differences in quality and status. (Some of the most prestigeous schools aren’t even universities – like KS and HHS.)”

    To my knowledge, the size of your trust fund is irrelevant when you apply to them.

  62. #62 mikey
    February 3, 2008

    It’s practically useless to argue what the labels really mean. Most Americans haven’t the foggiest idea what they mean and, because the corporate media use the labels as wedges, the labels help persuade many Americans to vote against their individual interests.

    The divide in America is not the Individual vs. Big Government. Despite what they say, both sides want Big Government so long as it transfers wealth in their direction. The real divide is the Individual vs. the Corporation. Both parties side with the Corporation. By Corporation I mean cultural and religious organizations as well as the companies that make the toys we love and provide the services we think we need. There really is no political party that sides with the Individual in an important way.

    When the Democrats won the 1992 presidential election with a minority (a third party split the Republican opposition), I had hopes for the progressive agenda. Within a year those hopes were dashed. For example…. Despite their election promises and their best efforts, the Clintons institutionalized the Closet with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — corporate rights of the military trumped individual rights. The Clintons tried and failed to produce a single-payer health plan — again, the rights of insurance companies and the health-care industry trumped those of individuals. It was downhill from there, the Clintons simply adopted much of the conservative agenda while trying to sound progressive.

    For the most part Democrats and Republicans have depended on corporate support. I won’t go so far as to say they are virtually the same party but their similarities certainly outweigh their differences, at least in issues important to me. Worse, they conspire to keep other voices effectively out of the political system. For the most part state legislatures, which are run by the two parties, make it difficult for third parties to enter races, especially at the national level. Petition requirements are very stringent for third parties and successful petitions are often challenged by the Dems and Reps. Again, this is another example of the Corporation over the Individual. I would support the Socialist Party USA but they don’t even have a presence in my state (Delaware) and no socialists at the national level have been on the ballot since I moved here.

  63. #63 Michael B
    February 3, 2008

    > Normal taxes are 30% to a Swede. And that’s rock bottom, before adding the effect of progressive taxation. That’s how we can afford universal health care. Hint, hint.

    Hey, while we’re talking about Sweden, why don’t we look at some other demographics, shall we?

    Sweden has a state sponsored religion, the Church of Sweden? How positively quaint! Oh, and 78% of the population is affiliated with this church. Huh.

    A dominant, all white population, you say?

    A single, dominant language, you say?

    Surely this is just a coincidence, right? And surely the social fabric would not be at ALL upset by the introduction of different peoples and cultures, right?

    Oh, what’s this? According to “Race and crime” in Wikipedia:

    Immigrants are overrepresented in Sweden’s crime statistics. During the period 1997-2001, 25% of the almost 1,520,000 offences were committed by people born overseas, while almost 20% were committed by Swedish-born people with a foreign background. Those from North Africa and Western Asia were overrepresented.[12]

    Huh.

  64. #64 inkadu
    February 3, 2008

    The United States rounded up, jailed, exiled, and politically destroyed the left during the McArthy Red Scare of the fifties. While Europe was rebuilding with a socialist model after WWII, the United States perceived itself caught in an existential conflict with the Soviet Union. This permanent war-time paranoia lead the elevation of religion and militarism. It’s ugly. I read George Orwell (Homage to Catalonia) and think about America in the 20th century, and have to conclude America has much more in common with fascist Germany & Italy than anyone else. Terrorism is the new bogey-man, replacing the Russians, and it has motivated a policy completely unconnected from reality (Iraq war).

    The Social Security issue is an interesting example. Here is the logic: Social Security will be taking in less money than it is giving out. It is therefore “broken.” This is just ridiculous in an atmosphere where money is spent freely. Nobody says, “The Iraq War is costing more money than it’s making for us. We should get out.” Nobody says, “Our military commitments overseas aren’t making us more money than they are taking in.” It’s just insane to me that people complain about a government program that, shit, actually has a net-cost associated with it. I find it particularly ridiculous that such a discussion is taken seriously in the media.

    My only conclusion can be that Americans are some species of fucking morons.

    Look — the United States has been the richest and most powerful country for the past 50 years. What have we done with that power and money? Established a global military empire, implemented some minimal social programs, and had one helluva deficit. No politician (except for Ron Paul — who I am not endorsing) has made any mention of the frightening levels of deficit spending, the wastefulness of our imperial budget, that we are sending far too many people ot prison, and that Universal single-player health care is the only thing that makes any goddamned sense. Our politics have become completely divorced from reality.

    And guess what else: The days of American hegemony are fading. Our dollar is owned by the Chinese, and the rest of the world is not going to keep propping up our currency. America is headed for an Argentina-style economic crash, and when that happens, the politics are only going to become MORE reactive, and MORE regressive. America has its chance to create a socialist, European style system. We blew it. I don’t think we’ll get another chance.

    Which is why I am seriously planning on moving to Canada. I don’t have a lot of hope for American politics. Candidate Hillary Clinton? Plese.

    I apologize for the length, but its something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. It’s not an easy decision to leave the country of one’s birth.

  65. #65 Paul Schofield
    February 3, 2008

    On the liberalism debate, in the UK the Liberals are seem as wooly and on the left.

    Lets be honest. In the UK, all parties are wooly and in the centre. Except maybe for the BNP/UKIP and the Greens (and of those, only the Greens have a complete platform of policies rather than racist slurs).

    That centre is right of most of Europe, but still well left of the USA. Most of the social claims here are true of the UK as easily as Sweden. The economics are closer to America, but you still don’t get people cheerleading for the death penalty.

  66. #66 Anatoly
    February 3, 2008

    How’s Sweden on accepting new immigrants into their country… leftist, secularist immigrants… in droves?

  67. #67 Tomas
    February 3, 2008

    Regards to the social security running out of money crap. That site has to be the stupidest site i have seen in a while. They are quoting Luskin of all people as an authority on SS.

    Its the same lame old argument that just doesnt float: Either the social security trustfund is real and government bonds is still worth something (gosh, if they really were not then some bondtraders and the bankingsystem and the chinese are gonna be sad pandas) and then it doesnt matter 2 cents if more money goes out than comes in in 2018. Guess what, you sell goverment bonds.

    If the trustfund is just a sham and it just part of the general budget then 2018 doesnt matter either. What you have here is not a social security crisis, its the cold fact that the American goverment has been borrowing like a drunken sailor in a whorehouse with a creditcard. If its a general funds problem then why talk about social security. You could argue that you think that social security is the least worthy program it the federal goverment and that you prefer cuts in social security to raising taxes or decreasing military spending. Thats fine.

    But STFU about a “social security crisis”, its profoundly dishonest.

  68. #68 Chet
    February 3, 2008

    There is actually one official Socialist in Congress, you know.

  69. #69 Tea
    February 3, 2008

    Isaac: “I wish we were further left, but the differences are huge. The differences are Al Gore vs. George Bush.”

    This just proves Martin’s point. Here’s an excerpt from Gore’s book Earth in the Balance:

    “Bacon’s moral confusion – the confusion at the heart of much modern science – came from his assumption, echoing Plato, that human intellect could safely analyze and understand the natural world without reference to any moral principles defining our relationship and duties to both God and God’s creation.”

    And Gore is really as far left as one can go in the US. Makes you wanna cry. Instead, he was rewarded a Nobel prize. In Sweden. What the hell…?

  70. #70 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    “To my knowledge, the size of your trust fund is irrelevant when you apply to them.”

    Yes, that’s correct. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t differences in quality, which was what you seemed to suggest by saying that all universities were comparable in quality.

  71. #71 MeltyMan
    February 3, 2008

    Lulu: ” when we’re already paying exorbitant taxes to the black hole that is our failing Social Security system…”

    You do know where most of our taxes go, right? See:
    http://www.nationalpriorities.org/taxchart_iframe/100/%3F and
    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/10/29/business/20061030_ENERGY_GRAPHIC_2.html

    Not on SS, not on healthcare (although that’s significantly more expensive per capita and less efficient than in Europe or Scandinavia), not on energy R & D, and certainly not on education. No, most of our taxes fall under the somewhat euphemistically-termed category “defense”. Our military spending is way out of line with the priorities of the RotW. If I weren’t cynical, I’d have to guess that this reflects a heightened sense of paranoia, even though — until recently — the RotW had nothing but admiration for our nation.

  72. #72 Enkidu
    February 3, 2008

    You have a complete grasp of the political situation here in the United States. Pretty damned depressing, isn’t it? An just think how many nukes President Huckabee would have his hands on!

  73. #73 spike
    February 3, 2008

    In actual practice, the US has one political “party”, the Business Party. It has two factions, the Republicans and the Democrats. They differ mainly in their tactical approach on how to safeguard the power of the rich elites. This is why they expend so much energy on the “Culture War” and its permutations; it’s the only real area of disagreement.

  74. #74 zooey
    February 3, 2008

    tea wrote:
    “And Gore is really as far left as one can go in the US. Makes you wanna cry. Instead, he was rewarded a Nobel prize. In Sweden. What the hell…?”

    The laureates of the Nobel peace prize are decided by a Norwegian committee and the prize ceremony is held in Oslo. The committee members are all Norwegian.

  75. #75 Chefranden
    February 3, 2008

    Thanks for these comments. I’m an American that has been trying to point this out to my friends. They just don’t get it. Maybe your post here will help.

  76. #76 c23
    February 3, 2008

    US politics are not like Sweden’s because the US is not like Sweden. Here in the US, we moved towards Sweden-style liberalism in the sixties, but the result were not so great: a huge crime wave which still puts large parts of our cities off-limits to ordinary people (and they did not feel safe or that they could rely on the police – hence the support for private ownership of guns and the death penatly). Minority interest groups morphed from wanting equality to wanting special treatment, which caused a backlash. And taxpayers seem less inclined to give away 30% of their paycheck to people they perceive as lazy, undeserving, and “other” (Remember Reagan’s successful campaign against implicitly black welfare queens in Cadillacs?) That’s why the US moved away from Sweden-style politics in 1972 with the election of Nixon, which was a backlash against the sixties.

    There’s also a tendency for people who switch from one political side to another over one or two issues to take on ALL of their new side’s views. We saw that a lot in the US recently, when some 9/11-traumatized liberals became war-hawk neocons – and then ended up taking on the non-liberal views on things like social security reform. It’s just a herd instinct, I guess. That explains, at least in part, why the US is more conservative on non-diversity or crime related issues like abortion.

    If the US had been a homogenous, safe, boring country like Sweden, the results would have been better, the left would have probably continued to gain ground, and we’d probably be a lot more like Sweden. That’s so obvious that it’s almost a tautology – if the US was more like Sweden (in one way) it would be more like Sweden (in other ways).

    Likewise, as Sweden becomes more diverse – more like the US – demographically, it’ll probably become more right-wing – more like the US – politically (though it’ll be a decades-long process). It’s not like there’s something magical about the water in either country. We just have predictably different responses to different environments and experiences, which you might be able to understand if you get beyond your shock and horror of our cultural differences and try to just see things as they are.

  77. #77 Dzho
    February 3, 2008

    Nothing is left in the United States. LOL

  78. #78 Tea
    February 3, 2008

    zooey,

    You’re right, I forgot about the peace prize.

  79. #79 Robert V
    February 3, 2008

    Good point, but what’s with the religion-bashing? What does that have to do with left-and-right? Must left-thinkers be atheists? Seriously?

  80. #80 Martijn ter Haar
    February 3, 2008

    The maximum difference of opinion between members of the US Congress is far less than the maximum difference between party lines in most European parliaments.

    That’s not entirely true, there are people in Congress like Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich, but it’s true there are not many of them.
    The cause is the American election system. I guess Sweden has a proportional system, just like the Netherlands. We have 150 seats in the lower house of parliament, which means less than 1% of the vote is needed for a seat. We therefore have a fundamentalist christian party that does not allow women membership (SGP) and the Freedom Party, which wants to ban the Koran opposite green and socialist parties. In the US electoral system it is useless to vote for a candidate out of the mainstream and it’s even completely useless to vote if you e.g. a conservative christian in San Francisco or a left-wing atheist in Salt Lake City.

  81. #81 Luna_the_cat
    February 3, 2008

    Robert V. — you don’t have to be an atheist to be left wing, but the sad fact is that religion (fundamentalist religion, specifically, but they do claim to represent religion in general) has an extremely strong and consistent correlation with right wing stances. And many right wing stances are explicitly and overtly based on religious doctrine. The left does not have this kind of association, at least last I’d heard.

  82. #82 Matt Penfold
    February 3, 2008

    “And Gore is really as far left as one can go in the US. Makes you wanna cry. Instead, he was rewarded a Nobel prize. In Sweden. What the hell…?”

    Gore won the Peace prize, which is awarded in Oslo, not Stockholm if I recall.

  83. #83 Martijn ter Haar
    February 3, 2008

    Likewise, as Sweden becomes more diverse – more like the US – demographically, it’ll probably become more right-wing

    Not likely. New York and California are much more progressive than Montana or New Hampshire, which are actually quite Sweden-like.

  84. #84 ~C4Chaos
    February 3, 2008

    “So, believe me, US politics don’t have a Left. Looking at the presidential candidates, I am frankly appalled. None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden. They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.”

    LOL. exactly!

    i’ve lamented on this same issue on my blog, specifically on universal health care.

    thanks for sharing your observation and confirming my disappointment ;)

    ~C

  85. #85 Martijn ter Haar
    February 3, 2008

    And many right wing stances are explicitly and overtly based on religious doctrine. The left does not have this kind of association, at least last I’d heard.

    Actually here in the Netherlands there is. The Labour Party was partly founded by christians who felt the state had to take care of the poor. After all Jesus was more or less a communist.

  86. #86 mindlessrabble
    February 3, 2008

    The US has a third world political system. Think of us as a banana republic with nuclear weapons. The country is controlled by a small group of oligarchs (think Russia). They do a very good job of generating the heat of an actual political debate with none of the light.

    So people are mad as hell at each other over issues that don’t matter. But no one mentions that the US has fallen from #1 position to last in the industrial world in every meaningful category; but gay marriage, Brittany Spears, latest celebrity divorce — that gets mentioned.

  87. #87 anechoic
    February 3, 2008

    thank you for stating this…I’m an us citizen – live in San Francisco but work in the EU and I have been trying to tell people here this for a LONG time now — and it gets met with either blank stares or comments of disgust/annoyance at my ‘hippie politics’ – citizens in the US are asleep because they DON’T TRAVEL!
    speed the collapse!

  88. #88 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    “Actually here in the Netherlands there is. The Labour Party was partly founded by christians who felt the state had to take care of the poor. After all Jesus was more or less a communist.”

    I don’t think this is as tenable a characterization of Jesus as people would like it to be.

  89. #89 jeffk
    February 3, 2008

    This comment caught my eye:
    substantial support for progressive goals among the citizens of the US. One of the major progressive projects in the next decade or so is to (1) understand why the right wing has so effectively dominated electoral politics even though their policies do not command anything close to majority support in the citizenry and (2) to make this stop happening.

    I think I can answer this:
    (1) because we want to implement progressive politics, but then we’re all swooned by feel-good centrists like Barrack Obama
    (2) stop doing (1)

  90. #90 inkadu
    February 3, 2008

    The cause is the American election system. I guess Sweden has a proportional system, just like the Netherlands.

    I think this explains why the United States is in such a rut politically, but not why it’s so backwards to begin with.

    But, yes, absolutely, our 2-party system is pretty much an absolute disaster. Think how different the American politcal scene would be if Green’s had 10% of the congress thanks to proportional voting…

    But another part of my wonders if the Ku Klux Klan would have an even high percentage, and the libertarian party even higher still, and even the libertarian party might be dwarfed by the Christianist party… the United States is pretty backwards place.

  91. #91 go green!
    February 3, 2008

    GREEN PARTY U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

    *Jesse Johnson
    *Cynthia McKinney
    *Kent Mesplay
    *Kat Swift

  92. #92 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    Of course, it would be perfectly equivalent to say “From a US perspective, European politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Left and the middle Left.”

    Sorry, Chad, but that equivalency doesn’t exist.

    American politics doesn’t map one-to-one onto European politics, and there’s bound to be some oversimplification in what follows. But I’ll try anyway.

    The biggest single difference between youse and us might actually be structural rather than ideological. Here, it’s pretty rare to have just two parties that matter. The mechanics of election usually foster the existence of a panoply of parties, but even the UK, which like the US uses a first-past-the-post system, has a credible third party.

    That said, and if we leave out the fringe parties, politics in Europe runs the spectrum from much-farther-to-the-left-than-would-be-electable-in-the-US-but-still-nowhere-near-hard-left to what would, until the past decade or two, have been seen in the US as the hard right, but now would have to be seen as at the left wing of the Republican party. (To find the European equivalent of the rest of that party, you’d need to look under the rocks at the fringe; they would no longer be in the European mainstream.)

    But it’s not quite as simple as that, and part of the reason is the “liberalism” thing people were discussing above. (Incidentally, whoever said upthread that Euro liberals = US libertarians is wrong. He’s right that the word “libertarian” historically belonged, in Europe, to the libertarian left (anarcho-syndicalists, etc.) But European liberals are not American libertarians. If there is a US equivalent to the European liberal, in would be that endangered or extinct species, the “Rockefeller Republican”.)

    Here in Germany, there is a liberal party, the FDP, that would have to be viewed as “right wing” in the grand scheme of things. Though this wasn’t always the case, under its current leadership it has morphed into a lapdog of the conservative Union; it is sound on the economic part of liberalism (low taxes, a light regulatory hand etc.), but on the keeping-the-power-of-the-state-in-check part, not so much. Note, though, that there are other parties in the European liberal tradition, like the UK’s Lib Dems or The Netherlands’ D66, that are much less right wing. Oh, and here’s another point of disconnect: liberalism (“classical liberalism”) in Europe, including in Germany, has historically been anti-clerical. The German FDP seems to have decided to tacitly de-emphasise this part of its traditional platform, but still, the FDP tends to be cooler towards the churches than are the Social Democrats (SPD).

    So, at least in Germany, the right wing bifurcates into “classical liberals” on the one hand and self-identifying conservatives on the other. Since the economic and the cultural right are decoupled to an extent, it won’t surprise you to learn that there is sometimes little daylight between the SPD and the Union (actually an alliance of two parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union) on economic questions. But the Union is, as you’d also expect, strong on things like carte blanche for the police, a cold welcome to immigrants, deference to the established churches and ideas about “national identity” that are sometimes, emm, uncomfortably about 70 years out of date. It’s the sort of party that appeals to small frightened people who long for the smack of firm government, and I have no doubt that if the American warblogging community were Germans, they’d be voting for the Union to a man. That said, the non-Bavarian part of the Union tends not to be quite so hard-right as the US Republicans. Many (but by no means all) of them would be uncomfortable with the thought of a homegrown Bush or Cheney or McCain at their helm, though Huckabee might pass muster if you could find some way to make him a Roman Catholic. (The Bavarian CSU, though, tends to be a lot farther to the right than the rest of the alliance.)

    This is all complicated by the fact that another of the major national parties, the Greens, are not quite the dirty f*cking hippies one would think them to be. Yes, they like trees and hate atomic energy. But on a number of economic issues they are actually more “liberal” (Euro sense) than either the Union or the SPD.

    On the whole, then, in German terms, the Democrats would be roughly like the farthest-right faction of the SPD plus the leftmost part of the Union; the Republicans are the right part of the Union, plus some of the hard-right fringe. In earlier years, they would also have had an important component corresponding to the liberal FDP, but those people are all but vanished now. What US politics lacks is the left part of the SPD (not to mention the more forthrightly leftist party called simply “The Left”, recently formed from a mixture of the old East German ruling party and leftwing dissident SPD members from western Germany who think their old party has drifted too far to the right; they are not yet important in national politics, but sit in some state legislatures — now including for the first time, following some state elections a couple of weeks ago, two western states). Mainstream American politics also lacks anything like the Greens, who simply can’t be mapped comfortably onto the US political spectrum. Mainstream politics here does include lots of The Left that the US doesn’t have, but it also includes all, or nearly all, of The Right.

  93. #93 JGleim
    February 3, 2008

    Well, just rub it in. We’re not happy that this is a ultra-conservative country, but this is what we got.

    Believe me, no one would be happier to never hear the words “God” and “Jesus” uttered during political or campaign speeches. I find it repulsive.

    But we — the 10% of the country who are pragmatic rationalists — are in the minority here.

    The best we can do is live in “blue” states (I live in California).

  94. #94 Blogosaurus
    February 3, 2008

    I’m a Canadian, and other than the frequent references to God, our political system is depressingly American. Thank god Europe exists – and houses people who appreciate the difference between right and left wing, and who can identify extremism. Living next door to America I think we lose our perspective on these issues. What America does tends to overwhelm everything else for us – which is why we call being their neighbours “being in bed with an elephant.”

  95. #95 boxley
    February 3, 2008

    Interesting, in America the minimum tax paid is 28% including payroll tax of 15% sales taxes of average 7% state taxes floor in most states at 6% city taxes in some places of 4% and excise on things like gas, tobacco alchohol of 5-15% so we meet swedens minimum standards. If you want to understand american politics from the inside visit z.iwethey.org and check the political forum, you will find finns belgii UK and aussies among others all talking about american politics.
    rnjoy

  96. #96 Dave
    February 3, 2008

    I follow European politics somewhat, and I believe that Obama is more progressive, and farther left than most of your politicians. With the exception of his religious stance, he’s more modern, and more progressive. I am atheist. However, the religious nature of out culture is just that, culture. Criticizing a culture for that is somewhat bigotous. He is for heath care for all (al la Europe), and IS against the death penalty. Read up: http://www.ontheissues.org/Barack_Obama.htm

    Having him as president will leap-frog the US past Europe in it’s progressiveness. You are wrong. I’m not asking, I’m telling you, that you are incorrect. It seems that you don’t quite understand our politics.

  97. #97 Nick
    February 3, 2008

    Swedish politics as well as most European politics means nothing to most Americans. That 30% tax sounds horrible, the inability to talk about one’s religious beliefs reminds me of something just short of communism.

    I agree with Chad here.

  98. #98 dsmccoy
    February 3, 2008

    As a left-of-center american, I want to thank you for acknowledging our pain.

    This shows our problem in graphically:
    http://www.politicalcompass.org/usprimaries2008

    And that is a chart with an american definition of left.

    The few politicians who actually place themselves on the left tend to be impractical idealists who actually have the net effect of undermining the credibility of leftist views to the mainstream (Kucinich, Nader).

    During the cold war, the memes of left = communism and socialism = communism got planted into the collective american psyche, and they have been proven extremely hard to correct.

  99. #99 feanor
    February 3, 2008

    none advocates strict gun control
    These are extremist stances.

    You’re very ignorant of the US if you think instituting gun control on the level of European countries would be possible without declaring martial law.

  100. #100 Dave
    February 3, 2008

    If you like socialism, pick Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, better yet, move to England. I don’t want the government “taking care of me”! Ron Paul is the only candidate that has logical ideas, supports the Constitution, and has no “baggage”. He is the opportunity for real change! Join the Ron Paul Revolution!

  101. #101 MartinM
    February 3, 2008

    You’re very ignorant of the US if you think instituting gun control on the level of European countries would be possible without declaring martial law.

    That would be the point, in fact.

  102. #102 bipolar2
    February 3, 2008

    You, sir, now understand the foundations of Empire.

    ** Recessional: the Rotting Legacy of 43 to 44 **

    1. Better-defined imperial limits: in distance, treasury, internal unrest.

    2. Pox Americana harassed at every frontier supply line.

    3. Richer rich, poorer poor, dying middle.

    4. Tyrannical social control at home erases living memory of a democratic republic.

    Those wretched ephemeral babblers lusting after the purple in ’08 notwithstanding, a slide into the abyss can only be slowed, not reversed.

    No reforming political force yet exists which can not be enslaved or aborted by MIXR: the military-investor & xian-right.

    Little Bush, our postmodern Caligula, vigorously catalyzes the rot of Empire. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

    “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make demented.”

    bipolar2
    c. 2008

  103. #103 MartinM
    February 3, 2008

    I don’t want the government “taking care of me”!

    Or anyone else, I’m guessing.

  104. #104 Colugo
    February 3, 2008

    It is true that we do not have major democratic socialist parties. Both of our major parties are liberal (in the classical sense) with elements of social democracy and conservatism. That is because both American conservatism and American liberalism are descended from classical liberalism, with some revisions inherited from the Progressive era of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

    European parties, on the other hand, are the heirs of Marxism and (true) antiliberal conservatism (including volkism), both with some liberal influence: social democrats, Christian socials, Christian democrats, Greens. And while the US does not have major hard left parties, nor does it have hardline ethnonationalist – AKA neofascist – parties that win elections, have seats in parliaments, even form coalitions (e.g. Euronat). No, the Republican Party is not the analog of the NDP, Vlaams Belang, BNP, National Front. Unlike Europe, our versions of those parties almost never win local elections, never less national ones. David Duke has not come close to getting 16% of the votes in a national election as Le Pen has. (Pat Buchanan, who is not as bad as Duke or Le Pen, got 0.4% in 2000.) But even nonfascist parties have a more genealogical conception of citizenship, a blood-and-soil mentality that hinders the assimilation of immigrants.

    In addition to Europe’s political heritage of Marxism (including tamed, watered-down Marxism – social democracy), fascism, and clerical traditionalism, Europe’s electoral and parliamentary systems enable the viability of fringe and extremist parties right and left.

    The US is also more culturally pluralist and tolerant than Europe. The US congress does not consider bans on headscarves and minaret construction as some of their counterparts have done. European Muslims languish in ghettos while in America Muslims represent us at the UN and head the National Institutes of Health. And overall US civil liberties are stronger post-9/11 than Europe pre-9/11. (I could provide many specific examples if you find that implausible.)

  105. #105 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    “If you like socialism, pick Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, better yet, move to England. I don’t want the government “taking care of me”! Ron Paul is the only candidate that has logical ideas, supports the Constitution, and has no “baggage”. He is the opportunity for real change! Join the Ron Paul Revolution!”

    So, blatant religious ignorance and blind bigotry aren’t forms of baggage?

  106. #106 bob koepp
    February 3, 2008

    I think a lot of people don’t realize just how recently the US took a hard right turn. Nixon planned to use his second term to push a universal healthcare plan through congress (and probably would have succeeded if not for the distraction called Watergate). He was certainly no liberal, but he was still well to the left of most of the politicians calling themselves liberals 35 years on.

  107. #107 Inoculatedcities
    February 3, 2008

    The extreme right-wing turn in America is actually a recent phenomenon. As others have pointed out, it was in the 1970′s that American politics and culture announced the death of 60′s idealism, integrationism, and progressivism and ceded control to a powerful core of retarded literalist hellfire-and-brimstone Christians, laissez-faire ultracapitalists, and hostile nationalists (see Bruce Shulman’s excellent book “The Seventies” for more on this). Humiliation in Vietnam, the Cold War, economic recession, the failure of 60′s idealism, increasing cultural vapidity and consumerism, Watergate, etc. all helped to further concentrate power in the hands of the extremist right. The small rational percentage of the population has been too busy pinching ourselves in disbelief to do much about the tide of fascism creeping in this country.

  108. #108 bernarda
    February 3, 2008

    Sorry to see that you too are afflicted with Ron Paul wingnuts. As has been mentioned, Paul is a fanatic anti-abortionist, so much for women’s rights. Ron Paul is also a xian nutcase. He is right about one thing only, Iraq. But even secular libertarians are as batshit crazy as the xians.

    But Dennis Kucinch is also right about Iraq, and most other things as well. In Europe, Kucinich would be a mainstream politician.

  109. #109 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    Dave writes,

    Having him as president will leap-frog the US past Europe in it’s progressiveness. You are wrong. I’m not asking, I’m telling you, that you are incorrect. It seems that you don’t quite understand our politics.

    Dave’s post is correct at least in noting that political observers who do not understand the politics they are observing will, unfortunately, all too often tell (not ask) us things that are quite side-splittingly incorrect.

    Colugo writes,

    No, the Republican Party is not the analog of the NDP, Vlaams Belang, BNP, National Front.

    Remind me once more how Bush’s immigration bill did. Oh, that’s right, it was shot down in flames, a rare defeat for the Money wing of Republicanism. Now, why do you think that happened? Doubtlessly because the David Dukites and Buchananites in Congress outnumber the Republicans.

    The currently ascendant version of American Republicanism does differ from Haider and Vlaams Belang — but only in aesthetics and rhetoric.

  110. #110 scot
    February 3, 2008

    Bob Koepp: Nice try, but wasn’t Nixon the same person who started the HMOs? Hard to believe he would have been the father of American socialized health care.

    And to the author: You clearly have not done adequate research. In your rush to gloat over European superiority, you lump all Democratic candidates into the right-wing, and are either being simply misinformed or do not care about things like facts when you say that every candidate supports the death penalty. Obama has fought the death penalty throughout his political career, and was the consponsor of very serious death penalty reform in Illinois, including things like videotaping all interrogations. He has been against our imperialism in Iraq from the beginning and has also called for many far-left reforms such as the public financing of elections.

    You do true injustice to the real leftist progressives in America like Obama when you blatantly distort facts about them in your rush to lump everybody together for easy judgment.

  111. #111 MikeK
    February 3, 2008

    First, I would like to thank all who are participating for the interesting, and for the most part illuminating (excepting the unwelcome propaganda from the Paul supporters) discussion in response to the post. I would mention that overall economic burdens (although we don’t call all of them “taxes”) are not so different in the US- as pointed out by boxley, above, we already more than meet the minimum level of taxation that you report for Sweden with our 28% minimum and 15% payroll taxes, as well as sales taxes. In addition, I note that most employed folks in the USA who are able also make pre-tax withdrawals for retirement funds (this represents about 15% of my salary)- as there is no pension beyond the inadequate social security payout, and a substantial amount(including company contributions) toward medical care. In total, my net pay represents only about 45% of my gross pay each month, representing a real tax rate toward providing retirement, medical care, social security and federal and state taxes of at least 55%. Of course, there are still substantial out of pocket costs for medical care and education (perhaps 10% of our household income while my son was at a state college, even on a merit scholarship)- all or most of which would have been provided in Sweden from collectively assessed taxes.

    It only seems to me that we pay as much or more for so much less- and then only to support a profit-hungry industries that provide health care management and financial services.

  112. #112 Johan
    February 3, 2008

    There’s so much I would like to address in this discussion, but: there’s little point in having a discussion of the virtues of American versus “European” politics, as you can’t lump together say Ireland, Estonia, Poland, Italy, France, Sweden and Austria. If we look at tax revenue as percentage of GDP, we’ll see that Estonia is much closer to the US than to Sweden or Denmark. Poland had until recently a government perhaps even more socially conservative than the US under the right-wing Republicans, and abortion legislation is far more liberal in the US than in Ireland. Just a few examples all from within the European Union.

    //JJ

  113. #113 Geral
    February 3, 2008

    This comment is going to sound childish really, but coming from an American and speaking from the ‘left’ – the democrats are frankly scared to appear left. That’s what it comes down too. They’ve been demonized since 9/11 and every policy made into a joke by the right. We have people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who are jokes onto themselves, that have large and faithful audiences.

    Then don’t even mention the religious right. The only way the left here can win, by the way they see it, is by going moderate. If you look at our two canidates: Obama and Clinton, Obama is the real moderate guy where Clinton is a bit more liberal. You can see the two extremes playing out.

    Eh. We need help, but nobody will ever admit that because we are the United States of America, the Beacon of Freedom(tm) around the world.

  114. #114 warner
    February 3, 2008

    Yes, the horror of my country.

    Can you believe we think we are “The Greatest Nation On Earth”.

    Obama is our mainstream Liberal, Kucinich is considered a wingnut, and the Green party might as well be Martians as far as they are viewed over here.

    sighhh… say a prayer for us, I’m not Christian but at this point I will try anything.

  115. #115 Johan
    February 3, 2008

    MikeK: the “overall economic burdens”, which aren’t all called taxes, in Sweden are far higher than thirty percent. Swedish tax revenue as percentage of GDP is almost twice as high as in the US, according to the OECD.

    //JJ

  116. #116 Johan
    February 3, 2008

    Both American and Swedish politics look absurd from my perspective, by the way. The former more so than the latter due to the social conservatism, failed warmongering, and protectionism, but not that much more. And the xenophobic anti-abortionist Ron Paul really isn’t as great as many would have you believe.

    //JJ

  117. #117 Luna_the_cat
    February 3, 2008

    People in the US fail to factor in sufficient for local taxes, property taxes, and above all, all the hidden costs of health care, which they end up paying. In truth, the amount of cost to each individual is probably almost as high as in Sweden, but you get less for it.

    I speak as a resident of the UK, who grew up in the US. A few years ago I worked out how much of my pay I ended up spending on not just the official taxes here, but on VAT; then I worked out how much I had spent on Federal and Social Security and State income tax, and all the variable sales taxes, and health insurance contributions and deductibles. I end up with more takehome pay in the UK. And I don’t have to worry about choosing an “in-plan” physician and whether or not treatments will be covered or not, or paying deductibles. That is taken care of.

    As to which system I prefer, the UK one, hands down. The US system is seriously broken, and leaves millions of the population royally screwed.

  118. #118 Bert Chadick
    February 3, 2008

    Fair enough. The difference in Europe would be if Germany had never be de-nazified or de-militarized and carried on as a significant bloc in the EU. It’s not an exact analogy, but captures the place of the Old Slave South in American politics. Also you folks sent all of your surplus evangelists to settle North America.

  119. #119 bigTom
    February 3, 2008

    I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we (US) has become the way we are. I think understanding the dynamics is an important step to correcting course. And a serious leftward turn seems crucial if we are to avoid the fate that inkadu (and I) fear.

    I think there are several factors at work here, which are underappreciated, especially in Europe. The first class is the assmetries in the left/right political battle. The most obvious aspect of this are the well funded political institutions such as the American Enterprise Institute. It seems that a lot of money has been given to institutions whose charter, is to continuously move US politics rightward. I think the assymetry comes differences in the way left-leaning and right-leaning rich people bequeath wealth when they die. The former tend to fund apolitical humanitarian causes, while the later tend to support political causes. The second major assymetry seems to be in political rules of engagement. The US rightwing has no compunctions about uses irrational motivations, and propaganda techniques in the political battle. The left mainly (there are exceptions) beleives the rules of engagement should be more rational and fair. This puts the left at a disadvantage.

    Other important factors: The degree of religiosity is clearly greater in the US. Another is what I would call the big kid on the block syndrome. The US has been in such a strong position that it could impose its views, and dismiss the veiwpoints of foreigners. Europe has been a patchwork of relatively small nations, no one of which can afford to ignore the views of the neighbors. Of course the experience of appearing to have saved the world from evil, in both WW2 and the cold war, creates an arrogant attitude towards others. Ideological, libertarianism. Was Ayn Rand responsible for this? In any case it creates it is a significant force in US politics -and I think it sides largely with the US right.

    Other forces are at work. As mentioned upthread our media seems to be largely owned and operated by right leaning interests. An underappreciated aspect of this is that most communications media budgets are dominated by commercial advertising. With large corporations being the principal spenders. Regardless of ownership of the media, media companies risk losing revenue if they anger their sponsors. Another is an anti-intelectual tradition. This gives inordinate power to politics via sloganeering and emotional identifications to group identity, rather than having voters rationally balance out their competing interests.

    The one thing that I find surprising. At work we have large numbers of engineers on H1B visas. When I ask, why they want to join our failing country (if I were younger I would join Inkadu as an expatriot), they all think that the country is so smart and ingenious that it can surely overcome its problems. So at least a significant number of career professionals from Europe and elsewhere still beleive in the American dream.

  120. #120 Felicia Gilljam
    February 3, 2008

    Someone said,

    Good point, but what’s with the religion-bashing? What does that have to do with left-and-right? Must left-thinkers be atheists? Seriously?

    Religion does not belong in politics. A politician who mentions god has not understood the meaning of the word “secular”. A politician may believe in god all he or she likes, and may even be inspired by god in policy-making. But policies should be defended rationally with arguments everyone can assess on the same grounds. Mentioning a god is alienating all those voters who don’t actually believe in it.

  121. #121 David Marjanovi?
    February 3, 2008

    Instead, he was rewarded a Nobel prize. [...] What the hell…?

    Trying to explain global warming to Americans was a heroic feat, and, better yet, he seems to have been pretty successful. So why not give him a Nobel prize?

    (e.g. Euronat)

    What is that?

    Whatever it is, of course you don’t have a separate party for it in your two-party system! As long as you don’t introduce the separation of president and government, the elections that result in the formation of a government will always end up being a one-on-one contest.

    No, the Republican Party is not the analog of the NDP, Vlaams Belang, BNP, National Front.

    It includes all of them. All their analogues are sitting in the Reptilian Party.

    Pat Buchanan, who is not as bad as Duke or Le Pen

    Less nationalistic, perhaps, but much more theocratic than Le Pen… I’m not sure if he’s “not as bad”. Isn’t that a bit like arguing if (Godwin alert!) Hitler, Stalin or the Taliban were worse for their subjects?

    The US congress does not consider bans on headscarves and minaret construction as some of their counterparts have done.

    Pffft. Where the parties are smaller, you can occasionally find a whole party supporting such unconstitutional ideas. None of those ideas has ever got anywhere.

    European Muslims languish in ghettos

    No comparison to the average US city center, I hear. Also, have a look at the French list of ministers (and remember that Sarko is really no pinko commie).

    And overall US civil liberties are stronger post-9/11 than Europe pre-9/11. (I could provide many specific examples if you find that implausible.)

    Please do.

  122. #122 Kaleberg
    February 3, 2008

    It’s always hard to figure out another country’s politics from the labels. Does “Christian” in the name imply left or right? Was the National Socialist party in Weimar Germany actually “socialist”? The original “left” and “right”, I was taught, came from Metternich’s table after Napoleon’s defeat, and the struggle between the monarchist conservatives and the democratic liberals continued into the 20th century. (Of course, in 1930s Spain, liberals somehow flocked to the Royalist cause).

    In terms of economic and social policy, the United States is generally more “right” than most of Europe. Lately, we’ve been using the terms “red” and “blue”, now that Moscow and Beijing are no longer considered “red” enough. The battle is fought at the state, as well as the federal level. Massachusetts, despite its resistance to opening stores on Sunday, its repressive “blue laws”, its “banned in Boston” censorship, and its Puritan heritage, was the first state to outlaw slavery and legalize gay marriage, granted some centuries apart.

    You can’t understand American politics without remembering that more populous states are bluer, less populous ones are redder. The bluer states tend to be richer than the redder states, though richer individuals are more likely to vote red.

    You also have to remember that the ex-Confederate states are red, a legacy of slavery and racism. FDR pushed his liberal agenda with the cooperation of the then Democratic ex-Confederacy. It was the Republicans who abolished slavery.

    As in Europe, parties can move back and forth in time and experience red shift and blue shift. What color is the nation? That remains to be seen, but I know that my niece who will be voting in her first election tends to think blue.

  123. #123 bigTom
    February 3, 2008

    A couple of other points on the origin of differences. Western Europe still has memories of the religious wars which followed the beginnings of protestantism. Despite the fact that the US’s founding fathers were accutely aware of the dangers of religion and politics, most of the country is unaware of this.

    Another, I think is how the left in America has used the entertainment media to push its social agenda, with in-your-face programs. Rather than seeing this as an attempt to promote tolerance, a significant portion of the population sees these efforts, as attempt to convert their kids to lifestyles they abhor ( homesexuality and secularism ). The result is that these people become easy prey for right wing recruitment.

  124. #124 Colugo
    February 3, 2008

    Some examples of Europe’s more restricted civil liberties. (No links because it might get held up in a filter.)

    Privacy International Press Release
    12/14/05
    What is Wrong With Europe? PI Report Criticises EU anti-terror policies

    “In a report released today Privacy International, a London-based watchdog organisation, compares the anti-terrorism approaches in the U.S. with those in Europe. It finds that on every policy involving mass surveillance of its citizens, the EU is prepared to go well beyond what the U.S. Government finds acceptable and palatable, and violate the privacy of citizens.

    For instance, today the European Parliament is being forced by the Council of the European Union to approve a measure on communications data retention. This ‘directive’ requires every EU country to force telephone companies, internet service providers and other providers of communications services to monitor the logs of the communications made by their clients, no matter if they are being investigated or not. These logs will be retained for varying periods of time: the directive calls for up to two years but permits greater periods, e.g. Poland is calling for 15 years, Ireland three years.

    There is no similar policy in the U.S. In fact, lesser surveillance policies are heavily debated and scrutinised, covered widely in the media, protested against in public demonstrations, discussions and court cases. At the European Parliament the debate was limited to a first reading.

    This is endemic in all the policy debates within the EU on such policies. Though both blocs try to limit debate and deliberation using a number of strategies, the European governments are the most successful at doing so.”

    According to Privacy International’s Senior Fellow Dr. Gus Hosein:

    “It is no surprise that governments introduce harsh laws after terrorist attacks. But what is surprising when you compare the surveillance laws in Europe and the U.S. you find that the EU always goes further. The EU plans to fingerprint all of its citizens, monitor all communications transactions, surveil all movement and travel. All these policies have been rejected by the U.S. but are now law in Europe. The EU and some of its member states may paint the U.S. as a monster when it comes to anti-terror powers and civil liberties but they need to look into the mirror every now and then.”

    ——————-

    Olofsson claims Sweden has tapped phones ‘for decades’
    9th March 2007
    The Local

    “Deputy prime minister Maud Olofsson has added a new twist to Sweden’s divisive surveillance debate. The Centre Party leader claims that defence minister Mikael Odenberg’s proposed legislation would merely codify practices that have already been in operation for decades.

    Previously, at a time when all telecommunications were state-operated, Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Frsvarets Radioanstalt – FRA) regularly tapped telephone lines in and out of the country, says Olofsson. … “Sweden has always listened in as a means of ensuring that we have had the information necessary to protect national security.” …

    “All I know is that we do not currently have any surveillance on the cable network. For six decades we had a surveillance system with no regulation and absolutely no protection for private individuals. I think that is forgotten sometimes in this discussion,” said Odenberg.”

    —————————

    Newshour With Jim Lehrer, 8/15/06:

    MARGARET WARNER: So, Bob Leiken, how different are the U.S. and British authorities when it comes to — when they confront a potential terror plot, in the investigatory phase?

    ROBERT LEIKEN, The Nixon Center: I think, as Secretary Chertoff said, to use his words, the British can be more nimble, both because of their laws and because of the politics. They’re allowed to get a wiretap without a court order. They can detain a terror suspect for as long as 28 days before he has to be charged.

    MARGARET WARNER: As opposed to 48 hours here in the States?

    ROBERT LEIKEN: Yes, although that can be overridden by a judge, but yes. And in England, if you visit England, you’ll see cameras all over the place, television cameras. Everything is on film. …

    TOM PARKER: …there is a difference in the way that we apply for telephone intercepts in the United Kingdom. In the intelligence sense, these are authorized by the home secretary, by a political figure, not by a judge. …

    ROBERT LEIKEN: … This plot, this latest airline plot, was basically intercepted by infiltration. In the United States, if we want to go to a mosque, infiltrate a mosque, we have to get a court order. We have to go before a judge. You have to show at least reasonable suspicion. It used to be probable cause.

    MARGARET WARNER: So in other words, that U.S. law enforcement has to depend more on, say, informants, rather than sending one of their own agents essentially undercover to pretend to be part of some group?

    ROBERT LEIKEN: Or rather than, as happens in France and in Britain, getting a convict, not one of your own agents, but someone who you can turn in prison to work for you. ..

    JEFFREY ROSEN: Yes, we have a very strong suspicion of domestic intelligence because of the scandals in the 1970s involving Martin Luther King and President Nixon’s political opponents. We’ve refused to let the FBI engage in domestic surveillance and have left that primarily up to the CIA abroad. …

    That’s a tremendously important difference for the British because it allows them to delay arrests to allow investigations to proceed because they don’t have to develop probable cause. They know that they can swoop down and detain someone without cause at any moment.

    JEFFREY ROSEN: …as we’ve discussed, in Britain you can detain someone without charge for 28 days. In America, generally you have to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours.

    Once you are formally arrested in America, there are more protections at trial, greater access to lawyers. You can challenge your conviction as unconstitutional under the writ of habeas corpus, which Britain very interestingly has cut back on since 9/11. …

  125. #125 David Marjanovi?
    February 3, 2008

    Having him as president will leap-frog the US past Europe in it’s progressiveness.

    Please explain. I’ve read everything on that page up to and including “Energy & Oil”, and I can’t see how he wouldn’t be an unspectacular mainstream Social Democrat in Austria (which is really not the leftiest country in Europe). Point taken, he would not comfortably fit into the conservative party, but “leapfrogging Europe” would be something else.

    Except for one thing: according to his own book The Audacity of Hope, he is not completely (!) against the death penalty. This would put him on the really extreme right fringe in Austria — even the precursor of our now two foaming-at-the-mouth xenophobic parties shut up about the death penalty something like 20 years ago. (As far as I understand, having abolished the death penalty is a prerequisite for joining the EU.)

    The currently ascendant version of American Republicanism does differ from Haider and Vlaams Belang — but only in aesthetics and rhetoric.

    Especially in religious rhetoric. Haider’s minions occasionally try to mention Christianity, but they get laughed at every time — not just by godless pinko commies, but also by Christians who point to “love thy neighbour”.

  126. #126 David Marjanovi?
    February 3, 2008

    This ‘directive’ requires every EU country to force telephone companies, internet service providers and other providers of communications services to monitor the logs of the communications made by their clients, no matter if they are being investigated or not.

    Yes, this comes from not having enough democracy at the EU level.

    Olofsson claims Sweden has tapped phones ‘for decades’

    Sweden.

    “the British can be more nimble, both because of their laws and because of the politics. They’re allowed to get a wiretap without a court order. They can detain a terror suspect for as long as 28 days before he has to be charged.”

    That’s bad of the Blairites, and probably violates the European Declaration of Human Rights. Fortunately it hasn’t spread outside the UK.

    As opposed to 48 hours here in the States?

    <sing>Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera, Guantanameeeeraaaaa…</sing>

  127. #127 bob koepp
    February 3, 2008

    To Scott – Nice try? Check your history. And no, Nixon did not start HMOs. That was strictly a private sector initiative. Again, check your history.

  128. #128 Alicia
    February 3, 2008

    Your view on conservative v. liberal is so dramatically different than the dominate view in the USA. In American, only those considered in the “far-left” would agree with you. In fact, I have never heard talk like this in the mainstream. I think most Americans would be as scared to have one of your politicans leading our country as you are at the thought of one of our politicans running yours; we have totally different mind-sets.

  129. #129 Mark Grilli
    February 3, 2008

    It was months I haven’t red such an interesting discussion. Just to point out that Europe and US aren’t so different: http://www.politicalcompass.org/euchart

  130. #130 thadd
    February 3, 2008

    “Your view on conservative v. liberal is so dramatically different than the dominate view in the USA. In American, only those considered in the “far-left” would agree with you. In fact, I have never heard talk like this in the mainstream. I think most Americans would be as scared to have one of your politicans leading our country as you are at the thought of one of our politicans running yours; we have totally different mind-sets.”

    I think there a good deal who would love someone from the far left, but there just aren’t enough who can get past the centrists we call the left.

  131. #131 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    Once you are formally arrested in America, there are more protections at trial, greater access to lawyers. You can challenge your conviction as unconstitutional under the writ of habeas corpus, which Britain very interestingly has cut back on since 9/11.

    You’re right, Colugo. And that is all down to the US constitution, which — as amended by the US Bill of Rights and several of the subsequent amendments — is one of the signal achievements of world political history.

    This fundamental charter starts from the assumption that one can never fully trust powerful people, and so sets up structural barriers to any one faction amassing unchecked power. No doubt for that very reason, your country’s Republican junta has been assiduously betraying and hollowing out the constitution since being appointed to power by the five Republican members of the Supreme Court in 2000.

    BTW, you’re also right that the UK, while under the leadership of Bush’s poodle, did to its shame damage many of its historical liberties. But Americans should probably refrain from criticising the UK for cutting back on habeas corpus. Pots, kettles; glass houses, stones.

  132. #132 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Michael B: the Church of Sweden is no longer affiliated with the State. Since separation sa few years ago, membership has dwindled fast. We do still have a king though, which is really embarrassing. (He’s entirely symbolic.)

    Michael B, Anatoly: As for immigration, integration is of course not effortless or perfect, but we don’t see any radical islamism. I try to do my bit: my first wife was second-generation Finnish, my current wife is Chinese, and we live in an ethnically diverse area. My kids’ school is mixed. Come to think of it, my kids are mixed.

  133. #133 Martin R
    February 3, 2008

    Said Robert V: “but what’s with the religion-bashing? What does that have to do with left-and-right? Must left-thinkers be atheists?”

    The problem with religious politicians is that they are never universally religion-friendly or tolerant. They are as partisan in religious matters as they are in politics. But religious issues, unlike political ones, can’t be settled by rational deliberation. Therefore, the two should be kept apart.

  134. #134 PeteK
    February 3, 2008

    Well, if Americans don’t like the system, they have Canada, or Europe. Their ancestors went west, with primitive transport, so they can head back east..

    Or better yet, we could have one world government. One language, currency etc…

  135. #135 Diane Rittenhouse
    February 3, 2008

    Keep in mind that Sweden, as a nation, goes back at least 800 years. There are churches in your country that are older than the Iroquoian Longhouse Charter that our Constitution took some of its cues from.

    I have to wonder what the Vikings would think about modern-day Sweden? Speaking as the descendant of that august group, I have the ultimate respect for Sweden as a nation and would love to see America hew in that direction.

    It’s true, we don’t have a true left-wing party. I’m slightly grateful for that because I don’t want to get peer-pressured into giving up my spiritual beliefs (which, by the way, are NOT Christian. Hail to Thor!), nor do I want my cat and horse seized as contraband, nor do I want my government to tell me what I can or can’t eat. Yes, there are left-wingers who would do the same thing as the Christian Right, with the exception of replacing “Jesus” with “Mother Earth.” I agree, we need to literally clean up our act in terms of the environment, but there are other ways of doing that besides going vegan and foreswearing contact animals in any way, shape or form. In fact, I submit that if 350 million Americans went vegan, the environment would be in SERIOUS trouble, even if we adopted subterranean hydroponic, vertical and rooftop farming.

    I believe strongly in liberty but there is a dark side to it. I found this out while driving across Pennsylvania, the “Birthplace of Liberty.” I turned off the CD player and turned on the radio, and was hit with an Abrahamic fundamentalist diatribe that made me spring several grey hairs.This guy was screaming that anyone who ever listened to rock music, danced,read a book other than the Bible, had an abortion, thought about having an abortion, looked at someone that had an abortion, was written out of the Book of the Lamb and was irrevocably on the path to Hell. This is the ugly side of the First Amendment granting freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

    America is great I’ll defend the Bill of Rights in its entirety with my last breath but that much freedom that borders on anarchy (Thomas Jefferson was a benevolent anarchist) has become a breeding ground for some really crazy philosophies.A trip through downtown Berkeley, CA during a demonstration will tell you that the Left make use of tactics that the extreme Right are perfectly okay with. I’ve seen cars surrounded, flipped over and set on fire, storefronts smashed, the flag used as a latrine, “if you’re not with us you’re against us” rhetoric. It’s phrased as “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem” but really, it all boils down to “Join Us or Die.” The Berkeley fire department had to take the flag off their trucks because they didn’t want them to get desecrated when they go on a call.

    Just so we end on a high note, here’s what I’d like the U.S. government to do:
    - Universal health care,
    - Scrap No Child Left Behind and come up with a REAL education standard, that would allow Americans to compete in the world,
    - Give every American child a solid education, just the facts,
    - Treat sexuality as a health issue instead of a moral issue,
    - Severe sanctions on corporations that ship jobs and manufacturing overseas,
    - Maintain current troop levels. Recall 90% of the troops and keep them Stateside with a Defensive mission statement; the National Guard and Coast Guard DO NOT leave the country under any circumstances; and the five branches of the military train elite cadres that focus on high mobility and self-sufficiency, to go after the international bad guys,
    - National Guard undertakes the training of the citizenry in proper firearm use, and takes over from the BATF in licensing citizens to be able to purchase firearms,
    - License the users, register the guns, register the ammo, all gun sales must include a trigger lock, gun manufacturers implement smart trigger technology, all other gun control laws rescinded.

    In short: give the People healthy bodies, protect them, educate them well, and the People can take it from there. I’m supporting Barack Obama because he’s a break in the pattern of politicians that this country’s been raped by. He’s a statesman, in the sense that Jefferson, Adams, Washington and Franklin were statesmen. I’ve been watching the politics of this country since 1974, as a 12-year-old, and I can’t remember seeing a true, Founding-Fathers type statesman running for the Oval Office or Congress. Obama comes closest to that. It’s time this country grew up and entered into its inheritance as a Democratic Republic.

  136. #136 Doug
    February 3, 2008

    Europeans aren’t the only ones who think this. Here in New Zealand I often have exactly the same reaction – the liberal wing of the Democrats would be regarded as right wing compared to our mainstream political parties. Not to mention that some policies/concerns that all US politicians avow would be beyond the pale for anyone other than the lunatic fringe (American attitudes towards religion come to mind).

  137. #137 Alex Jones
    February 3, 2008

    Learn about Ron Paul, do not put him in the same box as the other criminal candidates and start thinking again:
    http://www.ronpaul2008.com

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/february2008/030208MTV.htm

  138. #138 CMAC
    February 3, 2008

    Gun control is a horrible idea. The last thing we need in this country is to surrender our right to own guns to the fascists that run this country. You all are lucky in sweden that you don’t have to worry directly about such corruption, however it should be acknowledged that your country undoubtedly reaps the benefit of our poor humanitarian decisions.

  139. #139 Chris
    February 3, 2008

    Yes, we do have a left wing and a right wing, they’re OUR definitions of theses two symbols of political ideology. We’re not Sweden, nor have we ever been Sweden. To suggest that our politicians are extremists is very tactless and insensitive to different cultures from totally different parts of the world.

  140. #140 Johnny Canuck
    February 3, 2008

    And what has Sweden ever done? Who would notice if Sweden disappeared tomorrow from the world map? Has Sweden landed on the Moon? Did Sweden liberate Europe? Swedes. Underwear models and Mats Sundin. I hate Sweden.

  141. #141 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    I hereby nominate Johnny Canuck as a worthy potential apprentice to Floyd Alvis Cooper. Really, Johnny that was pretty well done, for an amateur.

  142. #142 David Orazine
    February 3, 2008

    Have any of you read a US history book. We are a Christian nation. Even if you�re not Christian, for the most part, your beliefs and morals are heavily based on Christian ideas (If you�re American that is). So it�s not that surprising. Most democrats belong to a religion as well.

    Sorry America isn�t a crazy leftist nation.

  143. #143 wakawaka
    February 3, 2008

    You’re forgetting one big difference between Europe and the U.S. The U.S. was never leveled to ground by fascists. I think this plays a big part in how European politics work today (vs. US). Had the U.S. been trampled by Hitlers or Mussolinis, maybe we’d have a different system than we do now.

  144. #144 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    David,

    US history books are well and good. But of course, there are lots of them, and the peculiar take of any one of them will often be in contradiction to that of others.

    But US history books, though doubtless interesting, aren’t really very important. What does matter is the US constitution. Tell me, have you ever read it? That’s OK, we have all the time in the world; go and read it now.

    (Tick, tick, tick.)

    Uh huh, do you see now? The majority of Americans have certainly been at least nominally Christian, and will probably remain so, at least for the next 50 years or so. But to the constitution, that doesn’t matter. The majority at any given moment could be Christian, Jewish, atheist, FSMist or ancient Greek polytheist. It’s all irrelevant, because religion is not supposed to have any influence on the life of the state (or what part of “no law respecting an establishment of religion” do you fail to understand?)

    This is the point at which I would ask, “Are you really as stupid an arsehole as your comment suggests you are?”; but I shall refrain from doing so, because that would be impolite.

  145. #145 Paul
    February 3, 2008

    What scares me is how Leftist you Europeans are, and how your Rightists are often similar to our moderate Democrats.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, my friend. :)

  146. #146 wakawaka
    February 3, 2008

    David Oranize: In what history book did you read that the U.S. is a “Christian nation”? Maybe you should also read a history book that will tell you that those Christians came from Europe. European culture is likewise shaped by Christianity. Yet, somehow, they don’t ram it down people’s throats. Again, I submit that this stems from the fact that they were blown to smithereens in WWII. After that, religion took a nose dive in Europe. Existentialism grew. Faith in God disappeared, I guess, because faith, the church, and God did nothing to save them from that horrible era.

  147. #147 jakelson
    February 3, 2008

    That’s what I love about American politics. We pretty much rock. Europeans generally don’t believe in anything, so what do they care. God is Real. God is Love. Without him, we might as well…well, the end is near anyway.

  148. #148 Fred Camino
    February 3, 2008

    The United States is a conservative country. That’s why it exists. The revolution that created the U.S. was a rebellion against government control. The Constitution that outlines the Supreme Law of the Land of the U.S. is a document that defines a government with extremely limited powers. Thea basic values of socialism and the Constitution of the United States are at odds with each other. Despite what you say about no “true left”, this country has moved far from its small government roots. Of course, this is what has created many of the issues that face the U.S. today. A population raised on the ideals of freedom and the Constitution but at the same time growing complacent with the socialistic additions to those ideals. It explains how the country is eager for “free” universal health care but unaccepting of any tax increase. U.S. Citizens have grown to want their cake and to eat it too. Most would say there’s no true Constitutional conservatives left.

  149. #149 wakawaka
    February 3, 2008

    Fred: I would agree with you. so long as you admit that the military is a HUGE part of socialism in the U.S. Tons of tax money goes towards the military. Everyone makes the same amount of money (of like rank). Everyone gets healthcare. Everyone gets a roof over their heads. Everyone gets clothes. Everyone gets fed. Everyone gets a pension (so long as they do their 20 yrs). Sounds a lot like socialism to me. Communism even.

  150. #150 Iarlaith
    February 3, 2008

    You’re comment about liberals in the American context is thoroughly incorrect, to be frank. Liberalism applies to both the social and economic aspects of life. Social liberalism is generally associated with the left wing and economic liberalism with the right wing though classic true liberal parties aspire to both, thereby ending up somewhere in the centre. In American politics ‘liberalism’ is reserved purely for the social sense and applies to people who believe in a social welfare system, gay rights, high quality public education etc the more liberal they are described as being, the more left wing they are considered to be. Its considered to be the opposite of conservative. In Europe ‘liberalism’ is almost exclusively used in an economic sense and generally applies to right wing parties hence you need to be very careful about the word’s national/continental context before jumping to any conclusions based on its use alone.

  151. #151 Mrs Tilton
    February 3, 2008

    Jakelson,

    that’s what I love about American State Shintoists, erm, excuse me, Republican Christians: they’re pretty much hopeless dipshits like yourself. But hey, no worries, because (as you point out) the rapture is near.

  152. #152 anonymous
    February 3, 2008

    I’m from the United States and I totally agree, and yes it is very scary. We do not have a left.You can choose between the right and the far right. In debates politicians often argue over plan A1 and A2, but rarely ever talk about plan B. I feel like we will soon become a fascist society. We have a never ending military industrial complex, and the war on drugs created a prison industrial complex as well. There’s a few good candidates but they get blackballed. Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich were no longer allowed to attend public debates, so Kucinich had to drop out of the race. Ron Paul is a good candidate as well, he is a libraterian conservative though, but the best shot we have. Even if we voted for him though, it would not matter. Our voting machines are easily hacked, voter fraud is common. My country is losing it’s logic and reason. I can go on and on about how extremely corrupt we have become, but instead you should just see for yourself. Watch these documentaries on google video: America freedom to fascism, hacking democracy, Jesus Camp, Zeitgiest. research operation REX 84, we are building concentration camps. research VeriChip, the Patriot Act, how the NSA spies on us illegal, the growing irrational evangelical antiscience religous movement. The federal reserve and how it bankrupts our economy. Operation Cointelpro, the Iran-Contra affair, how Osama Bin Laden worked/works for the CIA, how we blacklisted communist, how we tried to assinate Chavez, the bay of pigs, we have always been extremely corrupt i can go on and on but now it is starting to get scary. Europeans should pay alot closer attention to American politics. we may be at war with each other someday.

  153. #153 Boojah
    February 3, 2008

    Im from Norway, so i have pretty much the same perspective as you do. but you miss a BIG point when you talk about the taxation. remember that our countries don’t have any debt. we can afford universal health care.

    USA has over 9 trillion in debt, and they are waging a war that costs them over 1 trillion each year. What scares me, and it should scare most europeans, is the way they are printing up money to keep the wheels running.

    If it wasn’t for the booming economic growth in asia, the world would be in big trouble.

    When i hear candidates over there promising all this stuff, i get really sceptic. only candidate i’ve heard thats actually talking sense is Ron Paul imo.

  154. #154 LeisureSuitLarry
    February 3, 2008

    One of the things you have to recognize is that the US was founded primarily by people so whacked-out crazy in their religion that no country in Europe would have them. So it makes sense that all of our candidates would profess belief in the christian god. They can’t get elected otherwise. Sad but true.

  155. #155 ajv
    February 3, 2008

    What you’re missing about Ron Paul and libertarianism is that it’s the only way to effectively achieve leftist goals like social freedom and some amount of economic equality without everyone being equally destitute. Sweden’s form of socialism is only successful because of the massive revenues generated form their natural resources. Countries like the US where individuals have to produce their own wealth can’t follow that route. To understand what true liberty is and where Ron Paul is coming from, watch this:

    http://selfownership.org

  156. #156 Evan Carroll
    February 3, 2008

    Many Americans, myself included, would state the following:

    The Republican presidential candidates are really, really scary people in my view. So all of us in the world at large who live under the shadow of US political hegemony are holding our breaths, hoping that Clinton or Obama will make it into office. They’re pretty bad, but the alternative would be unspeakably dreadful.

    So don’t isolate yourself, (the Sweedish) from all Americans. Unfortunately, the best thing you can do with your non-existant military is continue to be rational, live by example, and cross your fingers that your influence on the internet rubs off on our illiterate, uneducated, and bible-thumping youth. Or, that we go bankrupt in our pursuit to tell Europe why they are wrong with force.

  157. #157 David Orazine
    February 3, 2008

    A nation of Christians is a Christian nation. There is one flaw to the constitution. It is impossible for any man to not judge with prejudice, no mater how small a prejudice.

    Due to this flaw, there will be laws respecting an establishment of religion. I�m not a rightist either, just a realist. By the way, I am also an agnostic.

    I’m not saying America will remain Christian forever. But no matter what religion the majority is, the country will be of that religion. That religion will also play a major influence on laws enacted in that time.

    From a realist point of view, the USS parts constitution does not mean anything. Of course its extremely important because it outlines our rights. But it looses its importance when leftists and rightists exploit it. These parts will continue to change throughout time,

    At the sighing there were parts that weren�t even practiced. For example, all men are created equal.

    You tell a person that dose not believe in god that he is wrong. Ok, but prove it. For people who believe in god, prove that as well.

  158. #158 Petter Olsson
    February 3, 2008

    This blog entry just shows how little Europeans understand about US politics and Swedes in particular who how have taken it upon themselves to act as if they were the worlds conscience. Truly sad.

  159. #159 Jester
    February 3, 2008

    If you are scared of US politicians, think of us poor canucks just north of the border. Thing is, I’d love to see the US go down in flames. It has reached an impasse in my opinion, and the only way to get the crooks and liars out of Washington is to do it all over.

    Ron Paul is a breath of fresh air in the political landscape, as going back to the fundamental principles that made the US great (read “constitution”) is the alternative to a revolution in force. But lets face it, he has no chance (yes I know if everybody thinks like that we’re going nowhere, but look at the primaries, the internet isn’t gonna make us win this one, not this time).

    And Obama is probably all talk (cynicism is a fact of life now).

  160. #160 caroline
    February 3, 2008

    I lived in Germany for a long time and I agree 100% with you. BUT….do not believe that all Americans are defined by the spin of what you are able to read. I completely agree that HOPEFULLY Barack Obama can be elected, because he is the only candidate that is in touch with our specific problems and can begin to address them. I am a proud and embarrassed American….a veteran,…and I am ashamed of our country right now. The righe wings ARE scary, will say and will pander anything to get a vote, while Americans are slaving away at their jobs, too tired to read, no vacation time or health insurance, afraid of losing their jobs at anytime, and living in a society that says ‘we are going to give you a check to help the economy, so make sure you go and shop with it’. So- our system rigth now is so screwed up, but please do not think that all Americans don’t see it, it is just that we have to take the 1st step in changing how it operates and take special interests out of the equation. I am also disappointed in all the candidates that church and religion is even mentioned in politics. It does not belong in church or in politics. BUT–the sad fact is that right now, the candidate needs the vote to proceed. It is sad, I know. Right wings are scary and control freaks that are uneducated, nonprogressive, and worried about their own pocket books–and VERY SCARY. They believe the FOX news Spins nd Bill O’Reilly Factor propoganda. SAD SAD SAD SAD. But we are going to change, Barack Obama, bless him, has a tough job to cleanup this terrible mess and I think he is the ONLY person that is even capable.
    Thanks for your thoughts and for reading mine.

  161. #161 Joey
    February 3, 2008

    The reason you’ve noticed that is because it’s not about political ideals anymore. It’s ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!.

  162. #162 caroline
    February 3, 2008

    TRUE THAT
    A nation of Sheep
    A nation of “Having” instead of “Being”
    I am moving to Bulgaria if it doesnt change soon. It trully scares and depresses me.

  163. #163 Casey S
    February 3, 2008

    I consider myself quite strongly liberal and I shudder at the thought of President Kucinich or Chomsky and I support the death penalty. Dennis Kucinich has publicly stated that war should NEVER be used. Now I am as critical of the American military as anybody but this statement is naive. I am for universal health care, am a militant atheist, pro-choice, socially liberal, would love to see stronger government control of environmental regulation, etc.

  164. #164 jblobz
    February 3, 2008

    “David Oranize: In what history book did you read that the U.S. is a “Christian nation”? Maybe you should also read a history book that will tell you that those Christians came from Europe. European culture is likewise shaped by Christianity. Yet, somehow, they don’t ram it down people’s throats. Again, I submit that this stems from the fact that they were blown to smithereens in WWII. After that, religion took a nose dive in Europe. Existentialism grew. Faith in God disappeared, I guess, because faith, the church, and God did nothing to save them from that horrible era.”

    and just how is religion being rammed down your throat? In the U.S., you can worship a religion (or choose not to).

    Also, I would never vote for a president that is against our freedom of speech. Obama publicly came out against Don Imus and supported his firing. I can’t imagine what a disaster he will be if and when he ever gets into office.

    and universal health care? Sweden has a population of around 9 million…I would like to see an example where universal health care was successful in a country the size of the United States (>= 300 million).

    Everyone who supports universal health care should take a look at this link:

    http://www.liberty-page.com/issues/healthcare/socialized.html#britain

    Here is a preview:

    1) “Smokers and the obese banned from UK hospitals”
    2) “UK health service “harms 10 percent of patients”
    3) “5,000 elderly ‘killed each year’ by lack of care beds”
    4) “British boy to go to India for operation”
    5) “One in eight patients waiting over a year for treatment, admits minister”

    Does this sound like a great system?

  165. #165 caroline
    February 3, 2008

    do YOU have health care? I bet you do. Do YOU have to worry about YOUR child going hungry or being able to fix his/her teeth, I bet you do not. Europe IS NOT a FAITHLESS nation. You just don’t know what you are talking about. Sorry bub, you just do not have a clue about what is really going on under your own noes. Like I said, careless nation of sheep.

  166. #166 Brian Macker
    February 3, 2008

    “That’s how we can afford universal health care. Hint, hint.”

    Well, no actually. You can afford it because the US basically pays for your military protection, and medical research. Besides, everyone knows that liberal theory holds that the consequences of socialist programs take a long time to manifest themselves. It will take several human lifetimes for the effects of the US social security system to come back to bite us. Same goes with your social programs.

    I don’t know why you are worried about religion in US politics when your own country is going to Islamic long before any Christian is going to drop a nuke on you. Your descendants will be wearing burkas in the future the way things are going.

  167. #167 Kate R
    February 3, 2008

    I don’t think you’ll get so far down to read this, but what do you think of Kucinich?

  168. #168 Elliott
    February 3, 2008

    Ever thought that Europe doesn’t have a right? And the reason the Democrats are called Liberals is because Socialists has a bad history in America, so being the shrewd salesmen that the are, they stamped on a name the exact opposite of what they really are…

  169. #169 Greg L
    February 3, 2008

    “They’re pretty bad, but the alternative would be unspeakably dreadful.”

    Since John edwards was excluded from consideration by the media I have come to feel exactly the same.

  170. #170 dave c.
    February 3, 2008

    The US government is supposed to be a Classically Liberal Republic. The Federal government was never designed to provide education, retirement, or health-care. The Federal government should be as small as possible and those previously mentioned programs should be run and paid for by the individual states. The states would implement the programs listed if the Feds didn’t steal and waste so much of our money. Sweden has a population of 9 million which is one million less than Michigan. So, you cannot compare Sweden to the US government. Imagine if Sweden had pay all of those taxes to the EU and then appeal to Brussels for every program.

  171. #171 Andrew
    February 3, 2008

    well, the US isn’t Sweden. If you like your way of life thats fine with me. but our country was founded by an armed revolution and it shows. We want our freedom. maybe not as much as Benjamin Franklin who suggested an armed rebellion every 20 years or so to remind the government that they work for us though. Its in our declaration of independence and out constitution.

    -guns = freedom. hate to say it, but its true. The 1st thing the brits did to us is try to take our guns. thats why the politicians want to take them, because they are scared of the PEOPLE having the power.

    -universal health care is pretty much the exact opposite of freedom.

    and you say Sweden is about small government, then how do you explain strict gun control? that is government control at its finest. Like the all pervasiveness of security cameras in Britain too. texas and florida have pretty much said anyone who isn’t a felon or insane can carry a pistol if they want. and there are no bloodbaths or gunfights. they tend to happen in places that you can’t carry guns, like schools. Why are there no mass shootings at military bases or shooting ranges?

    I hate to talk only about guns, but they are like a litmus test for me on who really values freedom or who will just decide they can imprison anyone they like by calling them terrorists like our current president thinks he can.

    i am holding my breath for anyone but clinton or obama because its pretty much guaranteed that they will take away our much valued freedoms if given the chance by congress. sorry, but i dont think other republicans will be like bush. and if i’m wrong we won’t know for a few years anyway. i absolutely dislike bush just like many people because he is a “republican” who want MORE power for himself, claiming executive privledge and torturing people who look middle eastern. hillary herself has pretty much said that if a country is not for us, they are against us and are our enemies. and to me, That is scary. there is a little known party here called the libertarians which are pretty much for less government all around. but they never get elected. so the ideal republican would be the next best thing in my opinion. well nothings perfect unfortunately. if it was we wouldnt need our guns or elections because we wouldnt need governments to protect us or provide health care or whatever governments do these days.

    No offense, but you aren’t an American citizen, so you have no say in our elections. From what i’ve seen, people vote for who They think will be the best for them, so if you have a problem with our new leader, its pretty much the choice of most of Americans who actually care enough to vote. and unfortunately our economy is more important now than our freedoms to many people.

  172. #172 John W. Bales
    February 3, 2008

    The writer has a point. As bad as American politics is, we’re not as bad as the Europeans.

  173. #173 John from Cincinnati
    February 3, 2008

    I will have to agree with you on saying that there is no “left” in US politics.

    I am a Nepali student studying in the United States, and I laugh at people when they tell me that the Democrats are the “left” and the Republicans are the “right”. To me, I see very little difference in the policies among those two parties. If given a choice to vote, I would definitely vote Democrat, not because I love them, but because to me they’re the “lesser evil”.

    I mean, a close-minded and highly conservative society like Nepal, abolished the “death penalty” nearly half a century ago as soon as we got our first democratic government. But, living in the U.S., I’m appalled when I see people being executed everyday. I ask myself every now and then: How did this country become the “best” democracy in the world? How did they become the carriers of the bastion of democracy?

    If the United States truly wants to see what a “left” political party looks like, I think it should go visit European democracies like Sweden or Norway.

  174. #174 Tim Abbott
    February 3, 2008

    From where I’m sitting, it is the Republicans who are depressed about their prospects for winning the coming U.S. presidential election, not the Democrats. Bush is poison and has left an economic, military and diplomatic shambles for his successor; Romney is fickle, untrustworthy and hated by many in his own party; and maverick McCain (pro-life, anti-torture) has conservatives foaming at the mouth and some even talking about sitting this one out if he is the nominee. As long as Obama and Clinton do not consume each other, to hear the things many Republicans say to each other, unless things change soon they are afraid they are looking at a Democratic juggernaut with coatails.

  175. #175 David Orazine
    February 3, 2008

    Caroline: Why are you an expert on my income? I’m defined as low to middle class, and went threw periods were I didn’t know if I was going got eat sometimes. I learnt to fend for my self and not depend on my government.

    Fascism didn’t just affect Europe. Let me remind you that it was the US and Russia that had to save Europe. Millions of US and Russian civilians died in doing so.

    Universal health care wound not work in the United States because we can take care of ourselves. We are a capitalist country.

  176. #176 Bob
    February 3, 2008

    Jblobz,

    Religion is being rammed down my throat when I can’t get a beer on a Sunday. It’s being rammed down my throat when the president of the United States says that atheists shouldn’t be considered patriots or citizens. It’s being rammed down my throat when my child is forced to pledge to “one nation under god”. It’s being rammed down my throat when I have to fight to ensure that a girl who gets raped will always have the option of an abortion and when I have to fight to keep the nonsense that is Intelligent Design (or whatever the latest guise of creationism) out of schools.

    And no, this wasn’t always a christian nation. Many of the founding fathers were not christians (it only takes a moment on google to find numerous quotes from many of the founding fathers that indicate such a position), and only about 17% of the colonists actually belonged to churches (The Church in America, 1776-1990, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark).

    For all your NHS statistics: http://www.circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/101/16/2015

    “Ten years ago, the US healthcare system was declared “broken,” and it has not improved. Fixes promised by managed care have not materialized. Premiums are rising. Hassles for patients and physicians abound. Nearly 45 million Americans are uninsured.”

    45 million uninsured. As of July 2007, our population was estimated to be 301,139,947 (per the CIA World Factbook. You say 10% of patients are harmed by the NHS? 15% of our population is uninsured. 5000 elderly die each year from lack of beds? How many of the 45 million uninsured die each year from the same thing? Yet you trot out information about a single boy who went to India for an operation (I wonder how many articles can be found of Americans seeking treatment in countries outside the US).

    It’s okay though. I’m sure many of those 45 million who you would deny healthcare are christian, so when they die they’ll go to heaven and be repaid for their pains here on earth, right? Or maybe they’ll get lucky and a good samaritan will come along and help them. Or maybe they’re just too lazy to do for themselves, and everyone knows god helps those who help themselves (unless they have one of any number of chronic conditions that insurance companies will refuse them coverage for having – oh, but that’s their fault for letting their coverage lapse).

  177. #177 Mohammad
    February 3, 2008

    I believe that the terms “Left” and “Right” describe the relative position of a group to the constitution of the country. If the group generally advocates principles in the constitution directly, then it is a “right” movement; otherwise, it is a “left”/liberal movement.

    For example, the US constitution heavily advocates small government, which is what the Republican party is (or used to) be known for. Hence, they are part of the “right” wing. I think this is why you find these variations across countries, so they are perfectly normal.

    Regarding the death penalty. It is by no means an indication of whether someone is good or bad. It is a divisive issue and in my opinion, there are crimes that are so horrible, that the only just punishment is death.

    I understand that most anti-death-penalty advocates argue that the irreversible nature of the punishment is damaging to the legal system. But I think that is a very big abstraction, as in the majority of cases, the individuals sentenced to death are 100% guilty.

  178. #178 n
    February 3, 2008

    no left wing is slightly incorrect, there has not been a successful left wing presidential candidate in a long time. Clinton was one of the earliest that i can think of to appease the middle and get votes from both sides. and it seems like you haven’t heard of Mike Gravel, which proves my point further that the left wing or fully extreme in one direction isn’t popular anymore. I personally don’t care which political party they are associated with and more about who is sponsoring them financially and religiously. that’s where i start to look for another candidate.

  179. #179 Barius
    February 4, 2008

    Mohammad: “…as in the majority of cases, the individuals sentenced to death are 100% guilty”.

    So, what is a ‘majority’ of cases? Is it 99% or 51%? If the justice system wrongly executes just one human being, should that not be considered an inexcusable injustice? In a democratic nation, it should be and that’s why Canada does not have a death penalty.

    If you’re a religious person, then you should be against the death penalty as any innocent blood shed by a justice system you support is also on your soul.

  180. #180 John Smith
    February 4, 2008

    Been to Sweden at least 3 times. Once with my Canadian girlfriend who remarked it is the Swedes that seem like fascists. We say this because the Stockholm arts and music scene is pretty much dead. When we found live art or music it always seemed unorignal or copied. Swedes also have an unhealthy obsession with health, longevity and safety. In addition, the amount of foreign restaurants located in the capital is bleak compared to Toronto or New York. In this regards, Swedes seem to be ethno- or xeno-centric in nature. In my opinion, I think you would be much less likely to see a Swede begin a career in a creative field. In contrast, Swedes seldom produce any original or trailblazing music, art or fashion. Instead, fashion and art seems a stage for conformism. Politically, Swedes are left of center but in business, society and art they seems to be a very conservative people to me. That being said, I know I have very little knowledge of Swedish cutlure but these are mearly first or second impressions. I don’t beleive the Swedes to be creative, enterprising individuals the way we Americans are.

  181. #181 Mohammad
    February 4, 2008

    Barius,

    Yes it is horrible if an innocent man is sent to prison, let alone to the death row. But a single failure does not warrant abolishing the entire system. Based on your argument, an innocent man falsely sent to prison justifies abolishing the entire correctional system.

    If on the other hand, if there was a significant number of failures in the justice system, then yes, the death penalty must be halted in that case. However, I don’t think that is the situation in the US.

    “If you’re a religious person, then you should be against the death penalty as any innocent blood shed by a justice system you support is also on your soul.”
    This would only be true if I knew he/she were innocent and I did not do anything to stop his/her sentence; or, if its too late, did not do anything to push for stricter evidence gathering. This is why sometimes judges become very strict when it comes to the collection of evidence.

  182. #182 Matt
    February 4, 2008

    Am I missing something? Is the suggestion of this article that America is not as progressive because its politicians want a leaner, more efficient federal government?

    With a population 30 times smaller that America’s (10 million compared to 300 million), a GDP 30 times smaller ($300 billion compared to $13 trillion), and a much more homogeneous population, Sweden is able to implement a welfare state that COULD NOT work in America, with our size and complexity. A political spectrum should be judged by the circumstances of that nation, and not based on comparisons with a completely different, tiny, and irrelevant state. Why not compare our political spectrum to that of Lichtenstein or Qatar? It is naive to suggest that America should imitate Sweden’s model. And it is equally stupid to suggest that the ONLY way to raise more Americans out of poverty and attain universal healthcare is to raise taxes and centralize things on the federal level.

    I would LOVE to see Swedes handle the complex demographic, political, and economic challenges that face the US.

  183. #183 BlueMako
    February 4, 2008

    “European culture is likewise shaped by Christianity. Yet, somehow, they don’t ram it down people’s throats.”
    Only because they did it to their heart’s content a few centuries back, methinks…

  184. #184 Mark Jaquith
    February 4, 2008

    pragmatic rationalist majority

    Selling yourselves into slavery to the State doesn’t sound very rational to me.

  185. #185 Tray
    February 4, 2008

    The day you see a 30% tax in America, is the day you the Constitution torched in the streets. If we started a revolution over a 2% what in the heck do you think we would do over a 30%.

  186. #186 Ray
    February 4, 2008

    The US has no left/right parties at all. Horrifyingly, all we have is centrist parties, and that’s a consequence of us not having a parliament and having a 1st-past-the-post election system. I.e. of having a 2 party system (which is the inevitable result of the above).

    When I say “centrist”, all I mean by that is that the parties in the US are both very similar, and both very close to the middle of American politics. It’s just that we have a very conservative (in the US sense) population.

    Two-party systems have a lot of flaws, but they have 1 very nice advantage, which is that the balance of power between the 2 keeps them very close a moderate stance WRT the population. One party gets pulled on by the more left-leaning people, and the other by the more right-leaning people, but neither can go very far out of the mainstream without a third party coming in and taking their position (and a therefore a signficant chunk of their power) away from them for a term or two until things correct back. Not by *winning*, as that’s essentially impossible barring rare political inversions. By spoiling their chances in the elections.

    Some 70% of Americans are very religious (compared to most of Europe), and it’s not surprising that that pushes our politics around in that direction. Luckily, it’s at least not all the *same* religion, because a theocracy would be the inevitable result of our political and electoral system if it were.

    That thing that’s both obviously a result of our system but also extremely surprising, I think, to most Europeans, is how close almost all of our elections are. What other country in the world has 55% being a complete *landslide* in an election?

  187. #187 Rimbo
    February 4, 2008

    “They all support the death penalty, none advocates strict gun control and all make frequent mention of their religious beliefs in public. These are extremist stances. Not even the tiny Christian Democrat party mentions God publicly in Sweden, for fear of alienating the pragmatic rationalist majority.”

    One thing to note is that Sweden only had legal separation of Church and State as of 2000, and even then, it’s not the utterly complete kind that the United States has had since the the first 10 Amendments (the “Bill of Rights”) were ratified in 1791. The ironic result is that God is taboo for Sweden, but American Politicians can mention God all they want; it’s an ingrained part of U.S. culture that it won’t have any effect on what the rest of us are allowed to believe, or where our money goes, or where it comes from. Mentioning God is pandering in most cases, but we consider it harmless pandering as long as the line continues to never be crossed. Since the USA is the only country in the world that’s had this kind of pure and absolute legal separation between church and state for so long, it’s really tough to understand if you aren’t living here why nobody (other than the peculiar “fundamentalist” atheists who get apoplectic at any mention of “God”) gives a crap.

  188. #188 Bachalon
    February 4, 2008

    Mohammad wrote

    Yes it is horrible if an innocent man is sent to prison, let alone to the death row. But a single failure does not warrant abolishing the entire system. Based on your argument, an innocent man falsely sent to prison justifies abolishing the entire correctional system.

    No. The difference is that lives are at stake. While the case could be made that sentencing someone to a life in prison is a different sort of death, you can’t let an innocent dead man out of jail.

    How many innocent people have to die before you admit that too many innocent people have died?

  189. #189 Morghus
    February 4, 2008

    No wonder the majority outside the US cheers for Obama and Clinton when they look like the least nutty people out of all of them. If you get down to the bare impressions the republicans do tend to come across as borderline extremists here, while Bush comes across as a complete daft nutjob.

  190. #190 Bruce Doxey
    February 4, 2008

    The United States are not united. My country has been corrupted by the military industrial complex. Politicians have been fed by the war industry since WWII. The cold war was perpetuated simply for the profit it generated. The corrupt politicians have become the norm, to the point that they do not even realize they are corrupt. They have fully adopted the role of corporate mouthpiece. New politicians, from day one take campaign contributions from corporations. Now, the defense industry, the oil companies, the churches, insurance and pharmaceutical companies OWN out government and set the agenda.

    The churches are used to set up phony hot topics such as “gay marriage.” They can convince the ignorant poor to vote against their own self interest, by convincing them that gay marriage will destroy their culture.

    The decay of the educational system, and the corruption of tax free churches acting as right wing agents all conspire to support the right wing agenda through propaganda.

    The churches are allowed to expand their profits and power in exchange for their tax free status. They remain unregulated and are allowed to sell nothing for something, which in any other industry would be simple racketeering. But poor education and low wages keep the lower class turning to the churches for help and comfort.

  191. #191 bob
    February 4, 2008

    UMMMM you forgot Ron Paul!!!

  192. #192 Mathias
    February 4, 2008

    We dont have a Liberal alternative in Sweden. No party supports free markets, individual freedom, propertyrights. We have the highest taxes in the world, I have 40% left of my salary after the state robbs then we have shit like this Inflation 3-3.5%, 25% tax on consumption goods, 6$ for a pack of ciggarettes. We are truly not a free people, free to 40% maybe. The Swedish system is created by and for a socialist one party system. We have seven parties in the parlament but they all have the same agenda, 1. Big government through high taxation 2. Multiculturalism, 100 000 iraqis per year and growing. Media doesnt question this shit at all they want even more of it..
    The wellfare state is doomed, it will be crushed under its own weight. Im a conservative libertarian, and I think that Ron Paul is the best that has happend to the world in a LONG time. fuck 60% in taxes, fuck socialism, fuck fake liberals who dont know the meaning of the word and its principles.

  193. #193 andy
    February 4, 2008

    I’ve just been scanning the comments here and it seems that no one has mentioned the big issue that prevents the US from shifting away from an extremist political environment: A progressive, preferential electoral system.

    The same problem is present in the UK to a lesser extent. Surely no one really loves Labour anymore, but… well, you’d hardly elect a Conservative government and the Liberal Democrats are just amusing. But the reason that they’re amusing is because they have NO power and no hope of acquiring it, because in a first-past-the-post system, you can’t get the ball rolling. Which is why the US is dominated by Democrats and Republicans and the UK is dominated by Labour and Conservatives.

    Australia’s progressive system at least ensures minor party representation in the Senate, allowing those groups supported by 15% of the population (Greens) to have a voice in legislative review and, in some cases, negotiate deals that prevent the kind of full-throttle radical craziness that you otherwise get from a clear winners and losers battle.

  194. #194 Chris
    February 4, 2008

    It is currently unconstitutional to “infringe” upon a citizens right to “bear arms” in the United States (even though the government does this all the time, an idea it got from across the pond). Also, the only form of punishment explicitly prohibited in the Constitution of the United States in any form is “Corruption of Blood” (That I am aware of). The Fifth Amendment also upholds the death penalty as long as the condemned has had due process and is not currently serving as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Therefore, capital punishment is solely in the realm of the sates except in uniformed services cases, where the accused is held to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.C.M.J.), and not to State, Territorial, and National laws. The exceptions to this are National Guards People, NOAA and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who are only subject to the U.C.M.J. when either Activated (as in the case of National Guards Persons, who are normally subject to their own state’s U.C.M.J.), or a serving with a military unit. It would make no difference which point of view the politician had on the subject of Capitol Punishment, because to change it they’d have to ratify an amendment to the Constitution, which is solely held within the State’s powers (directly through State Legislatures, and indirectly through the state’s respective Senators and Representatives, Article V of the United States Constitution). On this point, even if it were illegal, a jury can still hand down a sentence of death if they were to deem it necessary in the interests of justice. And lastly, I’d like to point out, that European politics look absurd from an American point of view. Just take a look at the United Kingdom’s House of Commons to see what I mean.

  195. #195 Dwight
    February 4, 2008

    I admit.

    I’ve dreamed what it would be like to be in a European country where I wouldn’t be on the far left but instead find myself in the middle if not right of the spectrum.

    I’m fairly conservative personally, am religious, but being against torture, for universal health care, against the Iraq war makes me a commie to many folks.

    I’ll be voting for Obama, worked to restrict the death penalty in Illinois (and who happens to be my senator). I hope the recklessness/arrogance of the Bush years is over soon.

  196. #196 Mike
    February 4, 2008

    “None of them would be a viable politician in Sweden.”

    Mona Salin. I don’t really think anything else needs to be said. Enjoy your slow cultural self-genocide, swedes.

  197. #197 Johan
    February 4, 2008

    NEWSWEEK: Europeans were shocked by George. W. Bush’s re-election. What aren’t they getting about America?

    NORQUIST: They think the United States is Europe moved west. The United States is a distinct culture that decided to not be Europe. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, World War I and World War II were all wars to not be part of Europe. The cold war–not to be part of Europe. The whole country is filled with people who decided to not live in Europe. We had people who really wanted to live in Europe but didn’t have the energy to go back. We call them Canadians.

    Newsweek.

    //JJ

  198. #198 johannes
    February 4, 2008

    > I read George Orwell (Homage to Catalonia) and think about
    > America in the 20th century, and have to conclude America has
    > much more in common with fascist Germany & Italy than anyone else.

    Hello Godwin!

    >> No, the Republican Party is not the analog of the NDP, Vlaams >> Belang, BNP, National Front.
    >
    > It includes all of them. All their analogues are sitting in the > Reptilian Party.

    David,
    National Front analogues, probably yes. Separatists like the Vlaams Belang, probably no. National socialists like the North Korean inspired NPD, most definitely no.

    > (Of course, in 1930s Spain, liberals somehow
    > flocked to the Royalist cause).

    Kaleberg
    Most definetly not. Spain was the last European country, perhaps the last country in the world, where 19th century masonic liberalism survived well into the 20th century in its original anti-clerical, anti-monarchist, radical form. This might be the reason why there was a civil war against fascism in Spain. The Spanish liberals sided with the socialists and anarchists, the Spanish monarchists and conservatives with the fascists (the Basque countries, where even conservative catholics backed the republic, might have been an exception). Spanish liberalis in the thirties were generally more leftist than the stalinst communists, who actually tried to roll back social revolution in Catalonia.

    > Unfortunately, the best thing you can do with your non-existant
    > military

    Evan,
    Non-existant military? A nation of ten millions that designs and builds its own main battle tanks, jet fighters and stealth warships can hardly be accused of that!

  199. #199 Anthony
    February 4, 2008

    Good perspective Martin. I’ve often felt that people in the US fail to realize just how similar the two legitimate parties (i.e. Democrats and Republicans) really are.

    However, I think it’s a bit presumptious to assume that there is some kind of political spectrum that applies to world. Especially when you compare a very large, diverse (economically speaking) country, to a rather small, rich country. It’s all relative baby.

    Rock on bud

  200. #200 BSD
    February 4, 2008

    I have been to Sweden (1992) and my first impression was how clean, organized, and orderly everything was. If you have seen the movie “Stepford Wives” that is sort of how I would categorize Swedish society: the people look good, the place looks good, but it seems a bit unreal, like a museum in that you can look but are not allowed to touch anything and after seeing the price tags on simple things like bread you don’t want to buy anything either because you feel like you are being ripped off.

    What you Swedes and other Europeans should realize, you who have been sitting smugly in your lands for over a thousand years, many of those years in slavery (serfdom), is that America is a nation founded by your distant cousins who wanted to be FREE. Your distant cousins left in large numbers from Sweden and other countries to get away from the constant warfare and oppressive government-sanctioned religions.

    Liberalism is socialism, which is the government saying you have to work not for yourself but to pay healthcare costs for some lug who boozes his health away and needs a new liver. It is free handouts from the government to people who are too stupid or lazy to pay pick up their own burdens and bear them. Liberalism is the government saying you cannot stand up for what you believe in, to stand on truth and principle lest [oh the horror!] you cause someone to feel uncomfortable about their worthless, gutless behavior.

    You Europeans have shown quite well the filth of socialism by your Hitlers, Stalins, Mussolinis, all of whom took guns away from the people and stomped on freedom. And you wonder why many Americans nearly want to puke at the very idea of socialism which, in this election, is embodied in the form of Clinton and Obama? Go figure.

  201. #201 Nan
    February 4, 2008

    Great discussion. Lots of unintended irony, though. Martin points out that higher education is both available and affordable in Sweden; Americans respond by saying we’ve got it, too, if you take out loans, i.e., if you’re willing to go into debt and spend the first 20 or 30 years of working life paying off the loans. Not quite the same thing, folks.

    I’ve been to Sweden. I have friends who live there. I never noticed a Stepford quality. What I did notice was public transit that worked, highways in good repair, universal health care — if you get cancer in Sweden your friends don’t have to hold bake sales and spaghetti suppers to help you pay the bills — and in general a much more livable country than the U.S.

    As for who came to this country from Europe? It wasn’t all people longing for freedom. Like every other area settled by Europeans, the nascent U.S. wound up with its fair share of criminals (I seem to recall the state of Georgia began as a penal colony), low-lifes and adventurers who thought they could make a quick buck here (Jamestown), people too fucking rigid and intolerant to live around anyone who disagreed with them (the Puritans in Massachusetts). . . the Puritans didn’t come to establish religious freedom; they came to end it. Try reading some history, BSD, you might learn something and stop parroting chauvinistic myths.

  202. #202 Metaphysical approaches
    February 4, 2008

    I undertook the arduous task of reading through this entire thread, for better or worse, and feel compelled to add a few thoughts I had while reading. There are times when the collective intelligence of the internet is very intimidating to me, and times when the dogmatism it can produce is terrifying. Truly even the most repugnant people can find like minds.

    At times I like to close my eyes and imagine that I am not restricted by my embarrassingly small head, and instead exist in some sort of Einsteinian space-time continuum, where all action exists simultaneously. Extremist movements almost become horrifyingly beautiful explosions of isolated creativity, forays into new ways of thinking. Their rise and fall occurring simultaneously with the inevitable rise and fall of powerful cultures, appears in my mind as some sort of sine curve folded in on itself. Progress in time becomes irrelevant and only the general position of human existence matters.

    Open my eyes and things appear in different context. Safely situated in temporal progress, the human race seems to me to be moving forward, with punctuations of gross mistake, and spectacular brilliance doing more to chart our course then any sort of rational, and slow dialog. Our modern punctuation, the Nazi regime, has perhaps done more to mold the current European state than anything else. Probably for the better. Personally I see much of Europe’s progressivism stemming from the holocaust. Yet who wouldn’t go back and prevent it from happening? It is a strange conundrum.

    It comforts me to think this way, and perhaps puts a different perspective on global politics. I am diametrically opposed to so many republican positions, yet I think the pluralism they provide to Global power politics is perhaps valuable. History seems to say to me that their rarely anything more dangerous than consensus. I certainly come nowhere close to understanding the intricacies of economics, and have my doubts about the tautologies of capitalism, but feel that it is almost arrogant to take, say an extreme Marxist position. Look at Europe now. Many of the European centralized economies are almost beautiful in their effectiveness, but they are mixed economies, and undoubtedly ride the benefit of the American capitalist juggernaut, and have learned from its exploitative power. To dogmatically decry capitalism is a little silly.

    Yet these mixed economies are the children of both free-market capitalism, and the Marxist extremes, which leaves me intrigued by the benefits of pushing individual societies to extremes, almost as social experiments. It seems to me however that history has found these extremes to be the worst societies. In a long term perspective are extreme positions worth it considering their potential to be subverted into horrible tragedies? Is it the only way to revolutionary progress? I don’t know. Certainly I support an internationally centrist position,(which is what I believe a country like Sweden is), so I can’t even myself admit to advocating extreme positions.

    Perhaps though this is one reason why I am intrigued by hardcore libertarians. Frankly I am disgusted by Ron Paul, and find his policies abhorrent (elimination of welfare, social security, and the tax system? Horribly regressive stances on social issues? Come on, these are preposterous, no? They are viable and beneficial only to the privileged(whether they know it or not)middle whit class)Maybe more than anything else I am disgusted by his supporters and want to vomit all over my computer when I read their dumb entreaties. Recently though I read some of Ralph Nader’s opinions, who almost humorously supports Paul as “an enema for the nation.” The idea being that he would fuck everything so hard, that we would have to be rebuild, perhaps better. It is an interesting solution to a stagnant political system.

    But forget Ron Paul and look at other staunch libertarian positions. Take calls for the elimination of all border controls, free exchange of people. I think this is probably untenable, but can’t think of any precedent. Perhaps horrible policy, but a grand experiment, no?

    I do believe the elevation of Sweden represents an entrenched Eurocentrism. I think there is a desire to idealize European life. I think that many Europeans are incapable of releasing the idea that Europe is the cultural center of the world, leaders on everything. America certainly isn’t, personally I would argue that in a globalised world, cultural centers don’t really exist, and it is a strange diaspora. Frankly though, currently living in Europe, there is a tendency from Europeans to ignore their own faults. When diverse it is a horribly racist place, much more so then Minneapolis where I grew up. Neo-nazi’s are constantly present. A friend of mine, arguing that America was just as bad, cited an aura of political correctness in the US, which masks the racism that is present, and that in Europe it is just worn on the sleeve. I think she was right, but that is an important difference, which is drastically reducing racism in the US.

    I have always found the demonization of the US a little troubling, and a little ignorant. I think in some ways US Liberals (in the American colloquial sense) are perhaps the most progressive or at least conscientious people, because they are constantly confronted with their faults, while in Europe it seems to be a back-slapping fest.

    I am getting sick of rambling, but if anyone made it this far I wanted to address a few issues specifically.

    The Death Penalty: From the position of a realist the whole debate is very superfluous. Morally I think it is quite wrong, but on average about 40 people are executed each year. You could the make the argument that having a state-supported death penalty is damaging to the psyche of a culture, but you are stretching policy into the realm of philosophy. The fact of the matter is 40 people a year is negligible compared to some of the other ape-shit policies developed countries have. More than anything else it is only mobilizing rhetoric for the republican party, and from a statistical position is unimportant.

    Gun control: Can anyone envision a situation in which people actually rise up against the government with guns today? Wow, I absolutely cannot. All I have to do is look at murder rates, to support gun control. Does anyone else remember that hand-in-hand with the right to bear arms, was the idea of a tiny standing army?

    Sorry for such a long diatribe about basically nothing. I hope some people vehemently disagree with me, because contrary to the strange vitriol in most political argument today, having your mind changed is perhaps the greatest intellectual victory.

  203. #203 Jason
    February 4, 2008

    Thanks for your article. I think there are a few things at play here.

    First, the definitions you use may be slightly different. In other words, what you can liberalism and what we use are probably different. Democrats typically don’t support the death penalty, support women’s right to choose, believe in gun control, etc. Now to the degree that they support those agendas is probably not as much as in Europe. See the next statement…

    Second, I think it would be fair to say that America is a right leaning country. The fact that every candidate mentions a belief in God is true, because after all this is a country where 85% of the population believe that! (although 85% of them do not act like it!) Democratic candidates practically have to mention that to have a chance. But I do believe that all of them believe in God to some degree. I actually appreciated John Kerry’s candor last election when he said he was a Catholic, but also a politician… and he would make decisions based on the common good, not on his religious beliefs. I though that was a great stance. The honest truth is that America would not elect an atheist at this point in time.

    Thirdly, I think the critical flaw that America is facing right now is that of religious legalism. We harp on Arab countries for making laws around the Koran, when we really do the same thing with the Bible. I am a Christian, and I have to say that the topics at hand in most US elections (Abortion, Homosexuality, Gun Control), are those fuzzy areas in the Bible. So you get the right saying they will make laws against it, and the left saying they’ll support it, etc. The question is, do any of those topics have any place in politics? I understand that there may be a religious moral code, but should that be woven into politics? I personally don’t believe it should be. You can not force people into faith.

    So the underlying fear of right-wing republicans is this… they are afraid of losing the greatness of a country that fought WWII, a country that was decidedly Christian, powerful, wealthy. They feel by not having a Christian foot in the white house door will mean utter disaster. But this is only because they are looking to the past, and not the future. These are Christians too afraid of the world to change it, and instead rely on the government to enforce it. The truth is that Christianity in a America needs to change, not go away, but come to terms with what the Bible says we should be.

  204. #204 Dunc
    February 4, 2008

    I don’t think this is universally the case. Franklin Roosevelt proudly wore the liberal label and he greatly expanded the role of government and increased the tax rate. It’s that liberal tradition that our current Democratic party tries to pay homage to.

    Way to totally make the point dude. FDR was a liberal, not a leftist, and certainly not a communist. He did not want to socialise the means of production. The fact that you cite him as an example of the breadth of American politics merely demonstrates that you have no idea of what the word “left” means in European politics. If FDR were running for election today in most of Europe, he’d be described as a centre-right candidate.

  205. #205 BSD
    February 4, 2008

    It is true, Nan, that not all came to America for freedom but most did, especially for economic opportunity denied to commoners by the established monarchies.

    Sure, some were criminals but most were not, and sure, many came to make a quick buck but that is called economic freedom –capitalism! opportunity! Great!
    Now a person with brains and ambition could succeed whereas in Europe that would be nearly impossible due to the old order of things.

    The Puritans, a people who held that the Bible is the Word of God, were called Puritans because they wanted to reform and purify the corrupt and stagnant state-sanctioned Church of England (basically the English version of the Medeival Catholic church). This challenged the king’s authority and they were persecuted severely so they came to America and set up their own governments in New England. It wasn’t perfect of course, and sure there were abuses and silliness, but the Puritans did contribute to America’s prosperity.

    And I’m not parroting anything. I am stating my own opinion. I do not think it a myth that America is the greatest nation on earth.

  206. #206 Phoenix Woman
    February 4, 2008

    One of the major progressive projects in the next decade or so is to (1) understand why the right wing has so effectively dominated electoral politics even though their policies do not command anything close to majority support in the citizenry and (2) to make this stop happening.

    The answer to #1: A concerted push by the moneyed conservatives to:

    a) kill off public education by lying about its effectiveness (Why? Because the baby boomers were the first big beneficiaries of FDR’s universal public education push, and they were the most lefty generation in American history) and

    b) assert conservative control over those entities in charge of relaying objective reality (i.e., truth) to the rest of us: Schools, colleges, research faciilities, think tanks, and of course the media. The late William Simon, a member of Nixon’s cabinet who wanted revenge for Nixon’s downfall in Watergate, was one of the prime movers behind this push: “Funds generated by business…must rush by the multimillions to the aid of liberty…to funnel desperately needed funds to scholars, social scientists, writers and journalists who understand the relationship between political and economic liberty. [Business must] cease the mindless subsidizing of colleges and universities who departments of economy, government, politics and history are hostile to capitalism.”

    Now you know why the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987. That move made possible the right-wing takeover of talk radio, and also led to FOX News.

    The answer to #2: Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. Getting big-money liberals to walk their talk and invest in sane media, especially broadcast media (where most Americans still get their news). Supporting progressive online media.

  207. #207 DaveS
    February 4, 2008

    I thank my lucky stars I do not live in a stultifying nanny-state government such as Sweden or any of the northern European countries!

  208. #208 windy
    February 4, 2008

    What you Swedes and other Europeans should realize, you who have been sitting smugly in your lands for over a thousand years, many of those years in slavery (serfdom)

    “Sitting smugly in serfdom”? Amusing image, but in case you aren’t merely trolling, serfdom was never established in Sweden.

    Your distant cousins left in large numbers from Sweden and other countries to get away from the constant warfare and oppressive government-sanctioned religions.

    “Constant warfare” in Sweden? Not since a couple of centuries back (after losing an important source of cannon fodder, lol). And if Swedes went to North America to escape Lutheranism, why did they trouble to import it there as well?

  209. #209 BSD
    February 4, 2008

    I did not know Sweden was not part of the serfdom Feudal system. I stand corrected.

    Is your reference to cannon fodder a little jab at the Finns, perhaps?

    Not all Swedes are or were Lutherans who emigraged, and there were Lutherans who recognized Jesus Christ, not the king of Sweden, as head of the church.

    *In the 1600s conversion to Catholicism was punished with loss of all civil rights and perpetual banishment.

    *The government of Sweden was connected to the State Lutheran Church, and, until 1858, people who practiced another religion faced being fined, put in jail, or exiled from the country.

    *The Church of Sweden Act of 1686 provided that the secular state, especially the King, should be responsible for and should regulate the Church.

    *Until a law was passed in 1860 recognizing dissident churches, any attempt to get a Lutheran to change his confession was a penal offense, and apostasy from the state church made a Swede liable to banishment for life.

    Generally, Swedes left Sweden for America because of an increasing population and the lack of land, religious persecution, required military training, the lack of social mobility, political reasons, as well as one’s own personal reasons, many Swedish migrants sought out new lives in the United States.

    Most Swedes didn’t try to escape Lutheranism (although some did) but in America Lutherans could worship as they pleased without paying homage to a king.

  210. #210 bernarda
    February 4, 2008

    From scot above, “You do true injustice to the real leftist progressives in America like Obama”.

    Sorry, but it somehow escapes me haw Obama is either leftist or progressive.

  211. #211 Martin R
    February 4, 2008

    Kate R asked: “I don’t think you’ll get so far down to read this, but what do you think of Kucinich?”

    I know very little about him since he’s not likely to get anywhere near the preidency. I’ve gathered that he has admirably progressive ideas but also believes in flying saucers.

  212. #212 Martin R
    February 4, 2008

    Said Andrew, “and you say Sweden is about small government”.

    Certainly not, quite the contrary. Sweden has been ruled by social democrats for most of the past century. Our system is largely about social engineering.

  213. #213 Will Von Wizzlepig
    February 4, 2008

    Wow. You got some comments here.

    I think what a lot of people elsewhere don’t understand is the disconnect many people feel between their country and the absurd nonsense that is played on television which refers to itself as politics.

    I go to the store, for a walk, out to dinner- I see normal, regular people. They dress themselves. They speak coherently. They don’t attack you.

    Where, I wonder, are the people who think that our currently very messed up political system is a good idea? Where are the warmongers? Where are the brainless followers? How can the nonsense in the media be real?

    It’s beyond most of us. We’re trying to live, trying to just get by. Some clever people have captured the control of a very powerful entity, and they are not good people.

    If the next election means anything at all, if any real change comes from it, I just hope that it is this nonsense stopping. No more war-for-the-profit-of-the-shareholders. No more destruction of our constitution. No more presidents who think they are kings. And no more of this fake war on terror.

  214. #214 windy
    February 4, 2008

    Is your reference to cannon fodder a little jab at the Finns, perhaps?

    You can also interpret it as a jab in the other direction…

    Anyways, it is wrong to imagine Sweden as some sort of collectivist dystopia, because lately they even allow people to put two toppings on the same sandwich!

  215. #215 Martin R
    February 4, 2008

    Said Trey, “The day you see a 30% tax in America, is the day you the Constitution torched in the streets. If we started a revolution over a 2% what in the heck do you think we would do over a 30%.”

    No Trey, that wasn’t you. The people involved died 200 years ago.

    Diane R said “Keep in mind that Sweden, as a nation, goes back at least 800 years.”

    That’s not relevant. For most of those 800 years, Sweden was a pretty awful place seen from a political perspective. Enlightenment political philosophy became available to Sweden at the same time as the US.

  216. #216 Martin R
    February 4, 2008

    “Australia’s progressive system at least ensures minor party representation in the Senate, allowing those groups supported by 15% of the population (Greens) to have a voice in legislative review”

    Sweden has a single-house parliament where the cutoff is 4% of the votes. All parties that make it past that level are given seats in proportion to their percentage of the votes nationwide.

  217. #217 karl
    February 4, 2008

    poster, your an idiot. perhaps you should look at the european and american parties and try to understand what part in their believes the liberal’ applies to.

  218. #218 Luna_the_cat
    February 4, 2008

    Not to mention the fact that people in the US are already paying >30% tax. National income tax base rate is 25% for the majority of the middle class (rising to 35% for the top bracket), but there are state and local taxes and payroll taxes on top of that. The tax brackets are more stepped in the US — but taxation starts at a lower real income. And then, as several people (including myself) have already pointed out, you have health insurance costs over and above that, which are non-trivial. We don’t.

    It’s not that people in the US are paying less; they’re just paying to more places.

  219. #219 Mattias
    February 4, 2008

    “The Swedish cognate of “conservative” is generally only used as a smear-word. Nobody wants to bee seen as conservative. Our Conservative Party calls itself “the Moderates”.”

    Well, it depends on which circles one moves in, I think. I call myself conservative and is generally met with respect and open-minded curiosity from most people (although I cannot of course exclude the possibility that they may be offensive behind my back).

    I think many voters find it easier to imagine a bipartite than a tripartite political balance – that is why swedish social democrats have difference telling liberalism from conservatism while many conservatives in the U.S. seems to struggle with the distinction between liberalism and socialism.

    / Mattias

  220. #220 Mattias
    February 4, 2008

    “I is”? It is clear that I do not deserve the mentioned respect.

  221. #221 Martin R
    February 4, 2008

    Yeah, you’re an exception in many ways, Mattias. (-;

    I believe we can agree though that for instance our prime minister, who is also chairman of the Moderates, would not call himself conservative.

  222. #222 CS
    February 4, 2008

    “…none advocates strict gun control…”

    Of course not. The right to bear arms is granted in the Constitution and the president cannot change that; any gun control must be relatively weak to avoid being struck down by the courts. A presidential candidate advocating strict gun control is going to (1) upset those that support gun rights and (2) be unable to actually implement any strict gun controls, looking weak or ineffectual to everyone else. So of course no candidate is going to make it a major issue.

    Whether or not strict gun control should be implemented is a different point. But amendments to the Constitution come about at the state level, not by the president, and require a higher level of approval than regular legislation. Americans generally do not approve amendments that take away rights: Prohibition is the only one I can think of, but that was reversed by a later amendment.

  223. #223 Moritz B
    February 4, 2008

    This is almost the same from a German perspective.

    The liberal party (FDP) is the most non socialist party in Germany. But even the FDP supports equal chances for everybody in education all the way to university level.

    The CDU (Christian Democratic Union, currently the largest Party in Parliament) has a lot different opinion about religion in politics. Most German Christians think about the Bible as a book filled with guidelines, instead of absolutes, and they think about the Old Testament as a collection of fictional stories with a true core. (it is a FACT that the Bible has been written by humans, and the collection of stories, which became part of the Bible, have been selected by flawed humans.) The CDU bases its ideas on Judo-Christian Values, but not necessarily on Christian belief, which is the reason why many Moslems vote for this Party without ideological conflict.

    We have a mix between public and private healthcare system, so the problems of both systems are visible to us. The main problem of healthcare systems, both public ore private, is the lack of competition because of the indirect payment for the services. This problem cant be solved by any known system. The second problem is the conflict between the moral obligation to always offer the best possible treatment on the one hand, and the ability (and willingness) of an individual or the society to pay for this treatment on the other hand.

    We have a lot stricter gun control, and a lot less people are killed in germany (total and per capita). The crime rate is far below the american crime rate and it is constantly decreasing. But i dont think, that this can be connected directly to gun control. Swizerland have something similar to the 2nd amendment but this does not mean, that anybody can carry a pistol (as it is nearly useless in a militia), but this means that many swiss men HAVE to have an assault-rifle. But this rifle must be stored in a sealed box at a safe place. it is not allowed to open the box exept for (mandatory) practise at certain locations, or in case of war.

  224. #224 David Marjanovi?
    February 4, 2008

    I’ve seen cars surrounded, flipped over and set on fire, storefronts smashed, the flag used as a latrine, “if you’re not with us you’re against us” rhetoric.

    One of these things does not belong with the others.

    And why are there flags on the fire department’s cars? ~:-|

    Even if you�re not Christian, for the most part, your beliefs and morals are heavily based on Christian ideas (If you�re American that is).

    Just the same over here. “What you have done unto the least of your brethren you have done unto me”. Temple, moneychangers. Camel, eye of needle. “Love your neighbor like yourself”. The conservative parties in Europe like to call themselves “Christian Social” and/or “Christian Democratic”, and many of them were founded after Papal encyclicas that said things like Christian entrepreneurs have the duty to pay a just wage.

    I often get the impression that American Christianity is the version without the Sermon on the Mount and without “And if I had faith so that I could move mountains, yet did not have love, I would be an empty noisemaker”.

    Sorry America isn�t a crazy leftist nation.

    We feel sorry for you — tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance, and the rest pay for it like crazy and then have to negotiate hard to get anything paid.

    —————–

    The United States is a conservative country. That’s why it exists. The revolution that created the U.S. was a rebellion against government control.

    The first sentence contradicts the third.

    —————–

    I consider myself quite strongly liberal [...] and I support the death penalty.

    Why?

    —————–

    and universal health care? Sweden has a population of around 9 million…I would like to see an example where universal health care was successful in a country the size of the United States (>= 300 million).

    So what? Then do it at the state level. The EU has 450 million inhabitants, and each of its 27 countries has universal healthcare…

    —————–

    Does this sound like a great system?

    The UK has tried to combine US-style tax levels with European-style social services. It’s not working great.

    —————–

    Well, no actually. You can afford it because the US basically pays for your military protection, and medical research.

    Protection from whom exactly? Remember, the Cold War is over… you could have your peace dividend, too.

    Several big pharma corporations are headquartered in Europe. What do you mean? The fact that the top universities in the USA are incredibly — and admirably — rich?

    I don’t know why you are worried about religion in US politics when your own country is going to Islamic long before any Christian is going to drop a nuke on you. Your descendants will be wearing burkas in the future the way things are going.

    Get a grip, dude. I live in a suburb of Paris. I don’t see anything of what you’re talking about. Do you really believe Western culture — McDonald’s, Levi’s, Coca Cola & Pepsi — somehow has no impact on people born south of the Mediterranean?

    You’re making a fool of yourself.

    —————–

    The US government is supposed to be a Classically Liberal Republic. The Federal government was never designed to provide education, retirement, or health-care.

    But it should be. That’s even justified by the Constitution itself: “to provide for the general Welfare”.

    This is the only reason why governments need to exist at all: because there are things everyone benefits from that have to be done in common because individuals or corporations aren’t powerful enough to do it.

    —————–

    -guns = freedom. hate to say it, but its true. The 1st thing the brits did to us is try to take our guns. thats why the politicians want to take them, because they are scared of the PEOPLE having the power.

    That’s laughable. Under Saddam, every man who considered himself one had a Kalashnikov. What happened? Saddam led a paranoid but well-sheltered and luxurious life.

    This is so silly to believe you personally can wage war against a modern army.

    -universal health care is pretty much the exact opposite of freedom.

    Yes, it deprives you of the freedom to die for being poor.

    Is that what you wanted to say???

    —————–

    and went threw [sic] periods were I didn’t know if I was going got eat sometimes.

    See, when we read this, we think “third-world country”. A rich country has no reason to let anyone be hungry.

    Fascism didn’t just affect Europe. Let me remind you that it was the US and Russia that had to save Europe. Millions of US and Russian civilians died in doing so.

    Yes, tell your grandfather my heartfelt thanks next time you see him.

    Universal health care wound not work in the United States because we can take care of ourselves.

    Ah really. Is it the fluoridated water? ;-)

    ——————

    Regarding the death penalty. It is by no means an indication of whether someone is good or bad. It is a divisive issue and in my opinion, there are crimes that are so horrible, that the only just punishment is death.

    Ah. “Just punishment”. Let’s think about this.

    So, the just punishment for murder is death. Right? Then how do you punish a murder who has killed two people? Do you kill him twice? Didn’t think so. Did you kill him once? That would be unfair…

    Or consider a rapist. Wouldn’t it be just to rape him? Who would do that? (Who would kill him, when I am at it?)

    Now consider a child rapist. Surely the just punishment for him would be to rape one of his innocent children…? (Hey, in the Old Testament it happens all the time that someone’s children are killed to teach him a lesson.)

    Forget “just punishment”. There is no such thing. That’s why prison was invented.

    Besides, one single executed innocent is IMNSHO too much.

    —————-

    Yes it is horrible if an innocent man is sent to prison, let alone to the death row. But a single failure does not warrant abolishing the entire system. Based on your argument, an innocent man falsely sent to prison justifies abolishing the entire correctional system.

    When someone is falsely sent to prison, they can be freed and — although nobody can give them their lost years back — they can be paid money in recompense.

    When someone is falsely sent to death…

    Again: yes, I really do think that one is too much.

    —————-

    “European culture is likewise shaped by Christianity. Yet, somehow, they don’t ram it down people’s throats.”
    Only because they did it to their heart’s content a few centuries back, methinks…

    Yep. The Thirty-Years war (1618 — 1648) was like Rwanda 1994 in terms of sheer devastation and bloodshed. That seems to have taught the survivors a lesson on what religious wars are like.

    —————

    Two-party systems have a lot of flaws, but they have 1 very nice advantage, which is that the balance of power between the 2 keeps them very close a moderate stance WRT the population. One party gets pulled on by the more left-leaning people, and the other by the more right-leaning people, but neither can go very far out of the mainstream without a third party coming in and taking their position (and a therefore a signficant chunk of their power) away from them for a term or two until things correct back. Not by *winning*, as that’s essentially impossible barring rare political inversions. By spoiling their chances in the elections.

    This works, if at all, in inverse. Let’s for the sake of the argument subscribe to the hilarious idea that Nader spoiled Gore’s victory. What did you end up with? Not Gore, not Nader…

    ——————

    That thing that’s both obviously a result of our system but also extremely surprising, I think, to most Europeans, is how close almost all of our elections are. What other country in the world has 55% being a complete *landslide* in an election?

    What? No. Where I come from, 40 % are a landslide (five parties in parliament = over 5 %). In 1999 the difference between 2nd and 3rd was 415 votes (population 8 million).

    —————–

    Since the USA is the only country in the world that’s had this kind of pure and absolute legal separation between church and state for so long, it’s really tough to understand if you aren’t living here why nobody (other than the peculiar “fundamentalist” atheists who get apoplectic at any mention of “God”) gives a crap.

    You don’t give a crap when the cre_ti_nists are so powerful that evolution is not taught in schools? That I wanna see.

    ——————-

    It would make no difference which point of view the politician had on the subject of Capitol Punishment, because to change it they’d have to ratify an amendment to the Constitution, which is solely held within the State’s powers (directly through State Legislatures, and indirectly through the state’s respective Senators and Representatives, Article V of the United States Constitution).

    Isn’t it enough when You The People start regarding the death penalty as “cruel and unusual” (like all other countries with indoor plumbing)? Wouldn’t the 8th Amendment forbid it then?

    ——————

    The cold war–not to be part of Europe.

    See? That’s why it’s so funny to quote Grover “Somalia” Norquist.

    ——————

    David,
    National Front analogues, probably yes. Separatists like the Vlaams Belang, probably no. National socialists like the North Korean inspired NPD, most definitely no.

    Good point. (The people who fly the Confederate flag aren’t separatists — they want to drag the whole country with them, AFAIK.)

    ——————

    What you Swedes and other Europeans should realize, you who have been sitting smugly in your lands for over a thousand years, many of those years in slavery (serfdom), is that America is a nation founded by your distant cousins who wanted to be FREE. Your distant cousins left in large numbers from Sweden and other countries to get away from the constant warfare and oppressive government-sanctioned religions.

    Yes. And?

    Hint: opinions are neither inherited, nor are they taken up from the soil (by what, roots?). The constant warfare is over, and the government-sanctioned religions are also over. It’s history. Our ancestors learned.

    Liberalism is socialism, which is the government saying you have to work not for yourself but to pay healthcare costs for some lug who boozes his health away and needs a new liver.

    Because you yourself can never ever get into the situation of needing any kind of halfway expensive healthcare.

    It is free handouts from the government to people who are too stupid or lazy to pay pick up their own burdens and bear them.

    And that coming from a country where people can have three jobs and still be poor. American Dream my ass.

    Liberalism is the government saying you cannot stand up for what you believe in, to stand on truth and principle lest [oh the horror!] you cause someone to feel uncomfortable about their worthless, gutless behavior.

    I have yet to see such a postmodernist country. Hey, where were those silly experimental Mohammed caricatures published? In the Land of the Brave? No, in Denmark.

    You Europeans have shown quite well the filth of socialism by your Hitlers, Stalins, Mussolinis,

    “Socialism”?

    all of whom took guns away from the people and stomped on freedom.

    While under Saddam every man who considered himself one had a Kalashnikov.

    Besides, if you want to accuse (…some of…) our grandfathers for having fallen for the totalitarian propaganda 70 years ago, be our guest. To do that with us is… slightly… insulting.

    Why are so many Americans still patriots who refer to their distant ancestors, and to their present government, as “we”? The vast majority of Europeans grew out of that mindset something like 40 years ago. (And, yes, I know it had been invented in Europe 200 years ago.)

    —————-

    Neo-nazi’s are constantly present.

    Where? In eastern Germany perhaps? Haven’t seen any here in Paris, a city with the full spectrum of skin colors. In Vienna, I do occasionally see a swastika on a wall among other graffiti, but that’s it. Sure, sickening xenophobic parties exist, but how different are they from the vigilante wing of the Republicans? “Waaaah, the immigrants are taking our jobs, and their culture is so horrible, and waaaah!!!” here like there.

    —————–

    I have always found the demonization of the US a little troubling, and a little ignorant.

    I agree. It’s always easy to find an enemy.

    I think in some ways US Liberals (in the American colloquial sense) are perhaps the most progressive or at least conscientious people, because they are constantly confronted with their faults, while in Europe it seems to be a back-slapping fest.

    Recent developments in Europe — slight reductions of the welfare state over the last 10 to 15 years, and the drifts of many Social Democratic parties to the right (i. e. to somewhere around Obama and Clinton), have made many previously apathetic people think around basic issues.

    —————-

    So the underlying fear of right-wing republicans is this… they are afraid of losing the greatness of a country that fought WWII, a country that was decidedly Christian, powerful, wealthy. They feel by not having a Christian foot in the white house door will mean utter disaster. But this is only because they are looking to the past, and not the future. These are Christians too afraid of the world to change it, and instead rely on the government to enforce it. The truth is that Christianity in a America needs to change, not go away, but come to terms with what the Bible says we should be.

    Louder, please. Much louder.

    —————–

    Now a person with brains and ambition could succeed whereas in Europe that would be nearly impossible due to the old order of things.

    Correct. Those were the times…

    The Puritans, a people who held that the Bible is the Word of God,

    Which Christians don’t?

    (And what do you mean by “a people”? They weren’t an ethnic group…)

    were called Puritans because they wanted to reform and purify the corrupt and stagnant state-sanctioned Church of England

    That’s one way to put it. Another is: “Puritanism — the nagging suspicion that someone somewhere might have some fun.”

    —————-

    Doesn’t Switzerland have the highest murder rates in Europe? (I assume Russia wasn’t counted as “Europe”, though…)

  225. #225 B McManus
    February 4, 2008

    The worst thing about prominent American politicians isn’t their bizarre views on policy, but their virulent anti-intellectualism. They are, without exception, successful millionaires, but apparently, the search for mass appeal dictates that they have to hate and distrust science like all the other good, wholesome Christians.

    American politics are infuriating to any intelligent observer due to the fact that most Americans are aggressively ignorant. Most American voters have no idea where candidates stand on the issues, they vote based on the candidates’ ostensible party affiliations and, even more importantly, the candidates’ personal appeal. Case in point: in a survey of Iowa Democrats who voted for Obama in the primary there, substantial numbers (>30%) said they voted for him in part because he is “pro-life” and “in favor of remaining in Iraq.” What!?! Americans don’t bother to learn where candidates stand on the issues, they simply take the candidate they find to be the most personally appealing, then they ascribe their own views to the candidate.

    As an American who has lived in Sweden, I think that some of the policies which have succeeded so well in Sweden would be lamentable failures in the US due to the fact that Swedes and Americans have somewhat different mindsets with respect to governmental institutions. (Okay, I’ll come clean; where American politics are concerned, I’m an extreme liberal in Swedish terms, or close to Libertarian in American terms.) Sweden is ridiculously successful (heck, reasonably close to an utopia) as a welfare state, but beware of the fallacy that what works in Sweden will work in the United States.

    So I guess my messages are:
    1) Compared to the average Swede, the average American is an intentionally ignorant, religious fundamentalist, anti-intellectual idiot, and their mainstream Presidential candidates reflect this.
    2) The US has much to learn from Sweden, particularly in the realms of foreign policy and domestic social policy, but I think that most Swedish domestic fiscal policy would fail if implemented in the US.

  226. #226 windy
    February 4, 2008

    “Doesn’t Switzerland have the highest murder rates in Europe?”

    Homicide rate in Finnish Lapland higher than in Central Africa

  227. #227 windy
    February 4, 2008

    (although I wouldn’t necessarily trust that bit about Central Africa, Finland has the highest rate of EU countries)

  228. #228 dave
    February 5, 2008

    “Liberalism is about free-market capitalism, small government, low taxes, all Right-wing ideals.”

    In the US the meanings of the terms have shifted. The ideals that you are referring to are now called “Classical Liberalism” which is what conservatives now represent.

    Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism

    Now see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_liberalism

    Looks like you Swedes may have been a bit late to the party and missed the shift in the late 1930′s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden#Modern_history

    Glad to see your interest in American politics. The good news is that people are actually paying attention and getting involved again. Also, since the US has such a large influence, it is nice to have the rest of the world watching us peacefully work through our differences. We’ve always got the guns though. ;-)

    Cheers!

  229. #229 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “Of course, it would be perfectly equivalent to say “From a US perspective, European politics are an ongoing battle between the extreme Left and the middle Left.” In fact, right-wing commentators in the US say that sort of thing on a regular basis, and people tend to get pissy about it.”: Chad Orzel

    Chad, the difference is that there are genuinely right wing parties of various types in Europe including, for example, the
    Free Democrats in Germany and the Conservatives in Britain.

    They may not get votes in sufficient numbers to form governments but their views are presented to the public on a regular basis.

  230. #230 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “Good point, but what’s with the religion-bashing? What does that have to do with left-and-right? Must left-thinkers be atheists? Seriously?”

    The Australian left is overwhelmingly made up of Christians.

    The key difference when compared to the US is that even those Christians on the left here who are opposed to homosexuality and abortion don’t believe the Government the right to impose their religious views on others.

  231. #231 johannes
    February 5, 2008

    > So what? Then do it at the state level. The EU has 450 million
    > inhabitants, and each of its 27 countries has universal healthcare…

    Germany – the biggest state in the European Union – has not.

    > The UK has tried to combine US-style tax levels with
    > European-style social services. It’s not working great.

    The highest standard of living of the large EU states, and remember the UK was the sick man of Europe thirty years ago.

    > Do you really believe Western culture — McDonald’s, Levi’s,
    > Coca Cola & Pepsi — somehow has no impact on people born
    > south of the Mediterranean?

    Dialectics, my friend, dialectics. Remember that the first skinheads
    were Afro-Caribbean blacks. Yet white racists tried to infiltrate the skinhead subculture, and were so frighteningly successful in many places that skinhead became a byword for neo-nazism for many people.
    Western popular culture will produce anti-western or anti-modern stereotypes, if they sell – and they do sell, because they appeal to an often subconscious but strongly felt need to regress. That’s why there are cars called ‘Cavalier’, but none called ‘Ironside’.
    You can get your daily dose of what Marx has called ‘German ideology’ from hollywood movies: Antisemitism (everybody who works in the circulation sphere is usually a crook in a mainstream hollywood movie), conformist rebellion (everybody who wears an uniform and holds a position of authority is usually a crook), shortened or misguided egalitarism (everybody who is well-educated or well-dressed is usually a crook) and so on. Eating hamburgers doesn’t makes a person pro-western. Reading Adorno or Postone does, but how many people do that?

    > Yep. The Thirty-Years war (1618 — 1648) was like Rwanda 1994 in
    > terms of sheer devastation and bloodshed.

    The Thirty-Years war compares better with Congo than with Rwanda. Rwanda was not about unpaid mercenaries plundering a passive population. It was a frighteningly modern thing, involving a computer-based id-card system and a massive propaganda campaign by the cultural industry. It was also designed to involve as many members of the civilian population as possible, so that almost everybody on the Hutu side – even women and children – ended up with blood on his or her hands. Such a system must have been the product of years of planning by an objective Max-Weberian bureaucracy. It was an abomination, but it was a product and a perversion of modernity, not a relapse into the days of the Thirty-Years war.

    >> Neo-nazi’s are constantly present.

    > Where? In eastern Germany perhaps? Haven’t seen any here
    > in Paris, a city with the full spectrum of skin colors.

    The people who made LePen the runner-up in a presidential election must live somewhere…

    > In Vienna, I do occasionally see a swastika on a wall
    > among other graffiti, but that’s it.

    The same applies for those people who voted for Haider and the FP�.
    How far away is Bratislava – seat of the Slovakian nazi/postcommunist/populist coalition goverment – from Vienna? 50 km?

    > Sure, sickening
    > xenophobic parties exist, but how different are they from
    > the vigilante wing of the Republicans? “Waaaah, the
    > immigrants are taking our jobs, and their culture is so horrible,
    > and waaaah!!!” here like there.

    American discussions about immigration are about wether illegal immigrants can get social security. German discussions about immigration are about wether the german-born grandchildren of legal immigrants can get citizenship. The former German minister Otto Schily – a social democrat and a former green – has appealed to the goverments of Marocco, Algeria and Lybia to detente all black African immigrants to prevent them from entering the EU, and a Lybian detention camp will probably make Guantanamo look like a rather nice place in comparision. European policies on immigration would look as alien and exotic to Americans as the death penalty looks to Europeans.

  232. #232 Luna_the_cat
    February 5, 2008

    johannes says, re. UK: The highest standard of living of the large EU states…

    Higher than France? That would be nice. But I don’t think so.

  233. #233 Luna_the_cat
    February 5, 2008

    Oh, and David Marjanovi?, B McManus, both of you, bravo. Yes, thank you.

    (Although johannes is correct in one thing, there are still neo-nazis kicking around.)

  234. #234 David Marjanovi?
    February 5, 2008

    What do you mean, Germany doesn’t have universal healthcare? It has public health insurance, of which you can opt out and instead pay for a private one (more expensive, preferred by doctors because it pays them more), right?

    The German tradition of ius sanguinis is highly unusual. It’s something unique like the lack of speed limits on the best highways. Even in Austria legal immigrants can get the citizenship after a few years. Hey, even in Switzerland you can get a citizen after 10 years. The French car-burners were all French…

    Not every ignorant little xenophobe, let alone every protest voter (“I’ll show the big established parties what happens when they stop caring about me!”) is a neonazi. Let’s not make that latter term more harmless than it is.

    The French election of 2002 was a quite interesting example. On the one side, there were the conservatives. On the other side, there was an incredibly splintered left (three tiny Trotskyist parties, for example!). Lots of people were fed up with both the conservatives and the Social Democrats, both of which had held power for a long time and had their share of corruption scandals and whatnot (Chirac personally has a corruption scandal). Le Pen managed to gather the protest voters, and so he managed to overtake each of the left parties. The result was a shock. Because none of the candidates had over 50 %, the elections were repeated with just the top 2 candidates — Chirac and Le Pen. The result was predictable: 80 % ran screaming into the arms of Chirac. “Votez escro, pas facho”, they told me in the following summer — vote crook, not fascist.

    Bratislava is 60 km from Vienna. Me?iar is gone, and since then I didn’t follow the situation there… in the minds, and in transportation, the Iron Curtain is still there.

    Good point about the 30-Years War.

    And, yes, Schily is a wacko. I don’t understand why the SPD didn’t kick him out 10 years ago.

    Western popular culture will produce anti-western or anti-modern stereotypes

    Yes. But never enough of them to make a threat. Look at the Turks around you — where is the Caliphate that Brian Macker expects to break loose any minute now? Sure, two or three wackos around Mehtin Kaplan wanted to build one up, but that’s it. Sure, honor killings happen once every few years on average, but they are (rightly) treated by the media as incredibly heinous crimes… haven’t they already become rarer? (In Turkey, too?)

    ——————–

    As an American who has lived in Sweden, I think that some of the policies which have succeeded so well in Sweden would be lamentable failures in the US due to the fact that Swedes and Americans have somewhat different mindsets with respect to governmental institutions.

    What exactly? The widespread mindset that da gubmint is the enemy, seemingly carried over from before 1776?

  235. #235 johannes
    February 5, 2008

    > What do you mean, Germany doesn’t have universal healthcare?
    > It has public health insurance, of which you can opt out and
    > instead pay for a private one (more expensive, preferred by doctors
    > because it pays them more), right?

    This applies for people who got regular employment with a private corporation. It does not applie for civil servants (Beamte), not for students, and not for people who are self-employed. It is not much of a problem for Beamte: The state pays one half of their bills, so they can get very cheap private insurance. Students can share the insurance of their parents up to a certain age. For the small self- employed bussinessman, shop owner, or those people who try to winter unemployment as long-time students, things can be very grim indeed; their choice is between private health insurance (expensive), public health insurance (even more expensive if there is no employer that pays the other half, and the doctors treat you not very well), and no health insurance at all.

  236. #236 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “What exactly? The widespread mindset that da gubmint is the enemy, seemingly carried over from before 1776?”

    Ir never ceases to amaze me that Americans elect politicians who hate and despise government and who cut taxes and services to the bare minimum and then complain about the poor standard of public services.

    Here in Australia we pay slightly higher taxes than in the US and we generally have exceptional public services.

  237. #237 Colugo
    February 5, 2008

    johannes: “German discussions about immigration are about wether the german-born grandchildren of legal immigrants can get citizenship.”

    I am one quarter German-Austrian.

    Have the Germans learned a goddamned thing in 75 years? Same blood and soil garbage.

    Germany’s first genocide of the 20th Century was not the Holocaust but the mass murder of the Herero in Namibia. Then the Germans started World War I and assisted their Turkish allies with the genocide of the Armenians. Later the Germans enabled Stalin to invade Europe from the East, started World War II, and perpetrated a genocide of the Jews along mass production lines. And they still have this blood citizenship ideology?

  238. #238 Doug L
    February 5, 2008

    When we attempt to plot the political spectrum on a one dimensional line we inevitably get little more than a shadow of the complex, multidimensional reality. When we plot the political spectrum onto a 2 dimensional graph we begin to see that what we call left and right is really more about how we decide to graph our perspectives, and that those terms reflect the coincidental relationship to one another and not true ideology.

  239. #239 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “Germany’s first genocide of the 20th Century was not the Holocaust but the mass murder of the Herero in Namibia.”

    That doesn’t count – much like the Moro Massacre and the genocide in the Congo Free state don’t count.

    The first genocide of the modern era is and always will be the Armenian Genocide – because the victims were white and Christian and the perpetrators were Muslim.

  240. #240 SabrinaW
    February 5, 2008

    Thanks a lot; here I was trying to get all optimistic about taking the first steps out of this damn hold we dug ourselves into, and you had to remind me how much more civilized Europeans are.

    On a side note, I love listening to a German podcast (“Dialogue”) that discusses religion because it shows that it is possible to have maturely handled, sane religious issues. What I wouldn’t give to have some of that sanity over here. Think you guys could bottle some and send it over? Please?

  241. #241 Colugo
    February 5, 2008

    Speaking of the Congo genocide – 10 million dead, according to RJ Rummel – just a few miles away from EU headquarters is an equestrian statue of Leopold II. Now that Europeans have their own lucrative genocides out of the way they can wallow in self-righteousness – even as their corporations make oil deals with Sudan during its genocides in Southern Sudan and Darfur. In the United Nations European representatives make sure that the Darfur genocide is not labeled a genocide. And French complicity in the Rwanda genocide is increasingly being exposed.

  242. #242 windy
    February 5, 2008

    David:

    The German tradition of ius sanguinis is highly unusual. It’s something unique like the lack of speed limits on the best highways. Even in Austria legal immigrants can get the citizenship after a few years. Hey, even in Switzerland you can get a citizen after 10 years. The French car-burners were all French…

    This sounds like you are implying that a legal immigrant can’t be naturalized in Germany. Perhaps that wasn’t your intention, since it is of course false.

    Colugo:

    Have the Germans learned a goddamned thing in 75 years? Same blood and soil garbage. … And they still have this blood citizenship ideology?

    Um, what? Citizenship laws based mostly on nationality of parent(s) are not unusual. One can argue that European countries, especially those with a large immigrant workforce, are misusing these old traditions, but this is just silly.

  243. #243 johannes
    February 5, 2008

    > the Moro Massacre

    This happens when you try to engage a rifle-armed enemy with melee weapons. The same thing happened to the British when they tried to charge the Boers with bayonets. In such cases, you are a victim of dumb leaders and officers, not a victim of genocide. This said, losses during the Phillipine – American war, especially among the civilian population, were frighteningly high, probably up to one million dead or more. To single out one rather insignificant battle, however, makes little sense to me (it might have made sense for a victorian public, because the Moros, in their spanish renaissance armour, were a more ‘noble’ and spectacular enemy than the average Phillipino peasant).

  244. #244 GOP
    February 5, 2008

    Reading this post scares me. To believe that 30% taxes is normal is mindbending. How could anyone be so simple-minded to actually want to work 30% of the year so the government can take every penny.

    I don’t want Universal Heathcare if the government is organizing it. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “The nine most feared words in America are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    Without Christian principles, a heavy handed government is needed. With Christian principles a small unintrusive government is needed.

    If you are living under the shadow of US hegemony, quit holding your breath and take the bull by the horns. Spineless wimps are the doormats of the world and destined for the archeaology dig.

    I love the US because I have freedom to:
    Worship God
    Not worship God
    Shoot guns
    Not have guns if I don’t want them
    Make high wages
    Make low wages
    Mention God publicly without fear of alienating anyone
    Not mention God publicly without fear of alienating anyone
    Thats just a start — We don’t have millions if immigrants because of our lack of freedoms.

    Being alienated simply because someone mentions God is an extremist stance.

  245. #245 Martin R
    February 5, 2008

    The reason we’re fine with the government taking our money is that the government is us.

  246. #246 Luna_the_cat
    February 5, 2008

    Without Christian principles, a heavy handed government is needed. With Christian principles a small unintrusive government is needed.

    *snrk* Bwahahahahahahahahahaha ha ha ha *gasp* hah ha ha ha ha

    Wait…

    Were you serious?

    You’ve GOT to be kidding.

    Would those be the “Christian principles” of “we will tell you who you are allowed to fall in love with, who you can sleep with and when, what birth control anyone has access to, and what medical technologies can be investigated”, or are these merely the more traditional, historical “Christian principles” of what flavor God anyone is allowed to pay allegiance to, and which heresies which must be kept completely out of public education because they are an offense against God?

  247. #247 tomh
    February 5, 2008

    GOP wrote: Not mention God publicly without fear of alienating anyone

    You can’t be serious. Try running for public office without proclaiming undying love for god. You couldn’t get elected dogcatcher. Heck, there are still five states in the US that prohibit anyone holding public office who won’t affirm a belief in a Supreme Being. Try going to almost any small town in America and deny god in the public square. You’re likely to be run out of town on a rail.

  248. #248 Martin R
    February 5, 2008

    A cool thing about blogging is that the internet does reach the public square in all small American towns, yet a blog can’t be run out on a rail. (-;

  249. #249 Oliver
    February 5, 2008

    @Martin R: re:”The reason we’re fine with the government taking our money is that the government is us.”

    You are perfectly right, but having lived in Texas of all places for several years, I have come to realize that this very basic tenet of democracy is one a lot of people in the US are fundamentally unaware of. Instead of realizing that the government is an agent of the people, hired by the people to do a job, especially the die-hard conservatives conceive of the government as not just a necessary evil, but an evil, period.

  250. #250 Magnus W
    February 5, 2008

    Damn it I missed the party!

    Well as an outspoken atheist pro-choice and pro homo marriage and elected Christian democrat we clearly can se that there is a difference… however much is up to the system where the US quite frankly killed all but to parties and the possibilities for new to rise. However if you map the Swedish party leaders on the compass they don’t differ more then the US candidates. And also we for example have no party opposed to Abortion or stem cell research… However I do think that our system is better because it gives the public a wider choice at the election day. I mean if you adjust just one small part of the welfare system down 0,5 % the media go out in frenzy…

    And as for the words liberal and conservative you could argue all you want abut that… and in Sweden also make a good point about the fact that the social democrats are the most conservative party…

  251. #251 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “The US is also more culturally pluralist and tolerant than Europe. The US congress does not consider bans on headscarves and minaret construction as some of their counterparts have done. European Muslims languish in ghettos…”

    You know, it’s easy to forget that American exceptionalism – the belief in the innate moral superiority of the United States – is spread right across the political spectrum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Muslims#Politics

    * Hseyin Kenan Ayd?n is a Labour and Social Justice Party MP in Germany
    * Baron Ahmed – Member of the House of Lords (UK)
    * Dr. Lale Akgn is the SPD MP for Cologne (Germany)
    * Nebahat Albayrak is the Labour Party State Secretary for the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.
    * Waheed Alli, Baron Alli – Politician, Labour peer, media mogul, and one of the few openly gay Muslims in public life anywhere in the world
    * Emine Bozkurt is the Labour Party MP representing the Netherlands in the European Parliament.
    * Sevim Da?delen is the Left Party MP for Duisburg (Germany)
    * Rachida Dati, French justice minister
    * Ekin Deligz is a Green Party MP in Germany

    * Professor Dr. Hakk? Keskin is a Left Party MP for Hamburg (Germany). He is a a professor of Political Science and was the first person of Turkish descent to become a member of a the German parliament.
    * Zalmay Khalilzad – Current US Ambassador to Iraq. Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan
    * Sadiq Khan is the Labour MP for Tooting (UK)
    * Khalid Mahmood is the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar (UK)
    * Shahid Malik is the Labour MP for Dewsbury (UK)
    * Vural ger is a SDP MP representing Germany for the European Parliament.
    * Cem zdemir is a Green Party MP representing Germany in the European Parliament.
    * Mohammad Sarwar is the Labour MP for Glasgow Central (UK)
    * Sayeeda Warsi is the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party (UK)
    * Manzila Uddin, Baroness Uddin – Peer in the UK

    I edited this list slightly to remove non-Europeans. There two American and two Australians. Australia has around 1/15th the population of the US and a smaller percentage of Muslims.

    At this point, having pointed out that it is possible that the US is not superior to every other country in the world in every single way, I will of course be denounced as an anti-American bigot. 9-11 may get a mention.

  252. #252 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    I’m fascinated how religious persecution in 19th century Sweden is apparently a perfectly fair and valid basis on which to attack modern-day Sweden.

    Now about those slaves you Americans used to own…

  253. #253 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “This happens when you try to engage a rifle-armed enemy with melee weapons. The same thing happened to the British when they tried to charge the Boers with bayonets. In such cases, you are a victim of dumb leaders and officers, not a victim of genocide.”

    I see, so when Teddy Roosevelt and McKinley defended wiping out entire villages they were lying?

  254. #254 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    My last post was a case of shooting from the lip.

    I was using the Moro Massacre as short hand for the entire Filipino campaign and was remiss in not reading Johannes’ post correctly.

    Sorry Johannes.

  255. #255 Ian Gould
    February 5, 2008

    “We don’t have millions if immigrants because of our lack of freedoms.” GOP

    There are more immigrants in the EU than in the US.

  256. #256 Colugo
    February 6, 2008

    “it is possible that the US is not superior to every other country in the world in every single way”

    Possible? It’s the truth. It’s true of all countries.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_Cronulla_riots

  257. #257 johannes
    February 6, 2008

    >>”Doesn’t Switzerland have the highest murder rates in Europe?”

    > Homicide rate in Finnish Lapland higher than in Central Africa

    Finland indeed has a high rate of private gun ownership – huge quantities of Russian and German equipment were captured by what was, pound per pound, perhaps the best army in the world at the time, and much ended up in private hands. It also has a very high homicide rate for a protestant country without a culture of honor. There is, however, no connection between the high rate of gun ownership and the high homicidal rate. The average Finnish homicide happens when drunken people stab or batter each other to death. As everyone reasonably acquainted with the iconography of the Russian revolution (Lenin on an armoured car, Trotski on an armoured train, etc.) knows, a Moisin-Nagant is a notoriously unwieldy weapon. You don’t carry it around with you if you go on a drinking bout.

  258. #258 Christina
    February 6, 2008

    Martin is not Swiss. He’s Swedish, as am I. Don’t blame us for the Swiss, please (having said that, I have nothing against Swiss people except for maybe one or two of their past political leaders – I am, however, very fed up with continuously being mixed up with them.) Having lived in several countries, I agree 100% with Maritn’s post. No matter how much you say you’re left wing in North America, you’re still positioned to the right of the Europeans, and I miss the value I got for my Swedish taxes (which, at this point, were no higher than what I pay here, but get much less for).

  259. #259 Rob in CT
    February 6, 2008

    I for one am thankfull that we don’t have viable leftist (by the European definition) parties here in the states. I’m registered Democrat and I’m quite liberal (in the US sense anyway) on social issues (gay rights, abortion, death penalty, gun control) but am also quite fiscally conservative (imagine my dismay for the past 8 years!!). Foreign policy is more complex, as you have interventionist Dems and Repubs, and isolationist Dems and Repubs. I’m not strictly in either corner, but lean isolationist.

    On balance, that makes me a moderate, or center-left here in the states (depending on how you weight the various issues). In Europe, no doubt I’d be center-right. So be it. This isn’t Europe, for better or worse. I do despair at times, sure. The day after the 2004 election was very, very dark.

    It’s all well and good that Sweden is doing things its way. It’s an example of what socialism can do. Bravo. We’re an experiment of another sort, and there are some key differences between our nations. Size (both geographical and by population), ethnic/cultural diversity, history (big one, that), and of course religion.

    Anyway, enjoy your smug superiority. You’re welcome to it.

  260. #260 Martin R
    February 6, 2008

    If you read the blog entry again, you may understand that I am not feeling smugly superior. I’m fucking scared. Because your opinions are not very common in the US.

  261. #261 Nomen Nescio
    February 6, 2008

    i’m glad i’m not the only person to come to this particular conclusion (that there is no political left in the USA). i agree with a few of the earlier posters that American leftism has been dead at least since, and possibly due to, the McCarthyist purges. (i wasn’t alive then, so i’m going on what i’ve read of history here.)

    a number of other bloggers have opined that the political center in the USA has been drifting rightwards for quite a while, due to concerted framing efforts on the republicans’ behalf. i think this, too, is likely to be true. i’ve seen the tactic in use in practice — propose something utterly ludicrously extremist, fight for it tooth and nail, grudgingly accept defeat after the democrats are near exhausted, then propose something only merely extremist and pass it easily. next year, take that latter extremism as what’s always been true and accepted, and repeat with “extremism” redefined even further rightwards.

    in fact, after having lived here as a European expatriate these past nine years, my only real beef with the original article’s points is about gun control. i’ve begun to think that the USA might actually have that point right, after all. the states can be a dangerous place to live, true enough, but i really don’t think it’s because American civilians are trusted to own guns. they’d be a dangerous bunch even if you put ‘em all in straitjackets, and they tend to act MORE recklessly whenever one patronizes them for their own good.

    (i’d point to U.S. legislative developments over the past twenty years or so, as more and more states have made access to firearms easier to get by the law-abiding, without any discernible effect on crime or accidental death rates. but that’s U.S.-centric law geek eggheadedness to the rest of the world, so i shan’t bore y’all.)

  262. I agree with the author. The american left, the liberals, are still right looking in from the outside. None of the parties are advocating a large public sector or socialism in any sense. Not saying this is a negative thing. I myself is a firm believer in liberal ideals and market economy.

  263. #263 johannes
    February 7, 2008

    > i agree with a few of the earlier posters that American
    > leftism has been dead at least since, and possibly due to,
    > the McCarthyist purges.

    What most posters consider leftism or socialism here is essentially social democratism. Most European social democrats of the early cold war years hated the stalinists just as much as McCarthy (Joseph – Mary McCarthy hated stalinism, too, but that’s another story) did. After all, they had experienced the period of ultra-leftism in the late twenties and early thirties, when Stalin considered the social democrats rather than the fascists the main enemy, the Hitler-Stalin pact and, in the case of Scandinavia, the Winter War, when Sweden was at the brink of open warfare with the Soviet Union. Unlike the amateur McCarthy, however, they were professionals, so they used the police, the secret services and the courts to harass communists, not drunken rants and smear campaigns.
    Whatever might have been the reason that Western Europe – with the possible exception of thatcherist Great Britain – tried to retain the post-war welfare state with varying degrees of success even after the collapse of fordism in the mid-to late seventies, while the US abandoned it – cold-war anticommunism is not to blame.
    Anti-communism and the welfare state went together just fine in the fifties and sixties.

  264. #264 mc2
    February 7, 2008

    I think that Magaret Thatcher (UK conservative prime minister) summed it up best at a Republican national convention.

    In the UK we have two parties: one you would call the communist party and the other you would call the communist party.

    This illustrates just how skewed to the right the whole of the US system is. Even what every one else calls right wing the US refers to as communism (ie extreme left)

  265. #265 Tony
    February 8, 2008

    Manual trackback … couldn’t agree more though. I think that corporate power has been running things for so long in the states that it shifted what people define as the middle.

  266. #266 Marcus
    February 10, 2008

    Just as you can say that there is no real leftwing in America, you could with the same logic say that there is no real rightwing in Sweden.

    But for some reason I dont think Martin or other swedish leftists would agree with that notion.

  267. #267 Marcus
    February 10, 2008

    “The reason we’re fine with the government taking our money is that the government is us.”

    Uh.. no. First of all, not all swedes are fine with the government taking our money. And amongst those that claim they are fine with it, a huge portion do all they can to cheat the taxauthorities, by working black themselves, hiring black workforce etc. So in other words, most swedes are nothing more then hypocrites that needs to come down from their high horses.

    Second, the governemt is not “us”, they are the elite, the “upper class” of our society if you prefer. Just as an example, ask Martin how the daughter of the new socialdemocratic partys leader Mona Sahlin got her placement at the Washington Embassy two years ago..

  268. #268 Nomen Nescio
    February 10, 2008

    Marcus, when you speak of “hiring black workforce” in the presence of an American audience, you really need to explain you’re speaking of under-the-table, black-market labour. you could be misunderstood in several highly offensive ways… which, ironically, would smear you with prejudices the political right wing in the USA is also often smeared with.

  269. #269 Marcus
    February 10, 2008

    oops, thanks for pointing that out Nescio. Yes, Im speaking about the black market, not black people.

  270. #270 Dax Michaels
    February 21, 2008

    I feel that the US election is like a compilation of I Love Lucy, South Park, Rambo and Dumb and Dumber. I am waiting for Barack to come-back to Hillary with “Hillary, you ignorant slut”!!! MY GOD, IS THIS THE BEST (Y)OUR COUNTRY HAS TO OFFER! AND MCCAIN???? You almost want to give him the presidency ’cause he has tried so loooong to get it AND…he was a POW!

  271. #271 Dax Michaels
    February 21, 2008

    Music says it all!!! US rap sounds like one continuous bitching session but Swedish pop is “happy music”! thank god, when I am in the USA, I do have satellite so “Svenska Favoriter” is always with me!!!

  272. #272 HairySwede
    March 10, 2008

    There it is again – that Swedish self-assured sense of superiority, a sense of liberal self-righteousness.

  273. #273 Dax Michaels
    June 26, 2008

    Jeg elske Sverige!!!
    HOWEVER THE USA HAS EXCELLENT FOOD, GREAT ROADS, STILL AFFORDABLE GAS, AND… FABULOUS TEXAS (JEG ELSKE TEXAS!!!)

  274. #274 timothy moriarty
    September 29, 2008

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  276. #276 Jack Zarnett
    February 22, 2009
  277. #277 macedwards
    July 19, 2009

    pitifully weak in your attempt at trying without success to define what left is. However, you have failed to see with your blinders on something much more important and beyond liberalism…the new groups that fall under the “well armed ultra left wing Constitutionalists”…and they rare talk, whine, or complain…they have been and now continuing on with handling what takes place in almost every post war environment…

  278. #278 Michelle Ortega in California
    September 24, 2009

    Liberalism is a MENTAL DISORDER JUST LOOK AT OBAMA digusting COMMUNIST THAT HE IS…….

  279. #279 Low On Prozac
    November 22, 2009

    You don’t understand the history of the “Liberal” label in the US. It originally meant the same thing as it does in Europe and the rest of the world – “free markets, free minds”. It was stolen by the Progressives in the early 20th century. See my post:
    http://lowonprozac.blogspot.com/2009/11/progressives-master-revisionists.html

    BTW – I’m both a Conservative and an Atheist. You lefties have a bad habit of stereotyping.

  280. #280 Karl Kenett
    December 29, 2009

    The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.
                — Hannah Arendt

    That being said, to you, Euro-trash: “Not to the Left, not to the Right, but square in the middle can you kiss my a__.”

  281. #281 Schuyler
    August 8, 2012

    Our parties are all talk and once they get into office they do tend to follow their ideologies. But once election season rolls around, they go “moderate” because most of the American public (about 60%) identifies moderate, or swinging from between the Democrats and Republicans. It may seem like we have a lot of whack job-conservatives and this is because we do! But we also have crazy liberals. It’s just conservatives tend to say and do things more provocative because they realize they’re losing political power (mainly ever since the religious right). Extremists think they are right and everyone else is wrong, but moderates tend to mull over the information given to them from SEVERAL sources, not biased single sources like that abomination Fox News. We’re tending toward left-wing policies as the old white farts die off.