Social democracy is an ideology of the political Left that emerged from socialism in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Unlike its cousin Communism which seeks to destroy capitalism by (violent) revolution and replace it with a different social and economic system, and its sister Democratic Socialism which seeks to put all control of the means of production into the hands of government by way of elections, social democracy seeks to regulate capitalism via central planning. This gives the government a prominent role of intervening in order to remedy the alleged deficiencies of capitalism and the power to pervert market norms, which allows democratic or Stalinist socialists to demagogue and increase the role of government.
It is generally considered that the international Left split into two distinct camps after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Members of the more extreme factions around the world, which sought to achieve radical societal change through revolution, became known as communists, while members of the less extreme factions, which were led by Eduard Bernstein and sought to pursue gradual change through the democratic system, became known as social democrats. The roots of these divisions, in fact, long preceded 1917: Marxists, for example, had called for violent revolution in the nineteenth century, while more moderate parties such as the British Labour Party had never espoused such ideas. Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek writing in 1945 observed, "To many who have watched the transition from socialism to fascism at close quarters the connection between the two systems has become increasingly obvious, but in the democracies the majority of people still believe that socialism and freedom can be combined. They do not realize that democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something utterly different – the very destruction of freedom itself.
Social Democracy in Practice
The economic policies of many European countries have been influenced by social democratic principles (the most notable being Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden). While such countries are often touted as having the highest living standards in the world, they also share very high tax rates and slower growth rates as compared to rest of the world (with the exception of Sweden). Germany has been ruled three times by the SPD. The policies of this party have increased the debt. In order to advance their cause, democratic socialists will sell Nordic social democracies in promotion of democratic socialism, even though the two are not the same thing.
Arguably the defining characteristic of all of socialism is a big government monopoly over the means of production. For this reason, the DSA has stated that social democracy is "good, but not good enough". The Foundation for Economic Education also recognizes that social democracy is not democratic socialism, due to the lack of state-run means of production in the Scandinavian countries.
- Road to Serfdom, Friedrich A. Hayek, Reader's Digest Condensed Version, April 1945, pg. 36.
- Democratic Socialism is a Scam, by Giancarlo Sopo, Quillette
- Nordic socialism has always been very nationalist, with the slogan "We take care of our own," up until very recently.
- Social Democracy Is Good. But Not Good Enough.
- The Myth of Scandinavian Socialism