Defending Social Democracy
“To abandon the labors of a century is to betray those who came before us as well as generations yet to come. It would be pleasing – but misleading – to promise that social democracy, or something like it, represents the future that we would pain for ourselves in an ideal world. But this would be to return to discredited story-telling. Social democracy does not represent an ideal future; it does not even represent the ideal past. But among the options available to us today, it is better than anything else to hand.” – Tony Judt, Ill Fares The Land
Tony Judt is right: social democracy wasn’t and isn’t ideal but rather a pragmatic compromise between capitalism and democracy. History has taught us that incremental reforms don’t accumulate to create Marx’s socialists utopia but it is possible to use capitalism as an instrument to achieve Marx’s desire values instead. While it flourished, social democracy delivered prosperity, security and equality to millions. While social democracy has declined, the fruits of its laborers remain in the form of generous welfare programs, high union density and universal access to health care + secondary education. With the proper articulation, it may be possible to remind the public of the triumphs of social democracy and transform the meta-narrative of liberal progress into a meta-narrative of egalitarian stability.