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The Republicans have clubbed Democrats with the charge that they're for "socialism" for so many years that Dems just reflexively run away now from promoting any kind of social policies that could be tarred that way without even properly evaluating the benefits that social democratic (rather than purely market-based) solutions can bring.

Author and labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan asks, "So what's so bad about the social democratic policies that people in European countries enjoy?":

GEOGHEGAN:  You know, this is the time of year we should be sitting around a lake drinking a few Beck‘s beers.  If you like that kind of life and think your employer should pay for it, check out European socialism.

HAYES:  That would be the reference to the six or seven weeks‘ paid vacation, right, that is standard in the social democracies of Europe?

GEOGHEGAN:  Chris, in Germany and France, the average work time per year is about 1,500 hours.  In the U.S., it is closer to 2,000.  That leaves 500 hours of extra free time for Europeans.  I mean, you only have one life to live.

HAYES: ... But you know, the response from the right when you bring up vacation like that is that, "But look, they are an economic basket case, right?  Yes, they get this vacation but, you know, they don‘t produce very much and they have high unemployment and the whole thing is going to, you know, go bankrupt soon."

GEOGHEGAN:    But Chris, ... Germany is the most competitive country in the world.  We are the world‘s biggest debtor.  They are the world‘s - one of the world‘s biggest creditors. Since 2003, Germany has either been tied with China or the leading exporter in the world.  And Germany and France together just wallop China in terms of export sales.  So they do it through, actually, unions, high wages, worker control of - or more worker control than we ever dream of here, of the corporations and a commitment to manufacturing that has completely disappeared in this country. ..

GEOGHEGAN:  What makes it work is that the fact that the Germans have intense worker involvement.  In fact, it‘s probably got the most worker control of any economy in the world.... It encourages people to invest in themselves.  It holds together...human capital, high skills, in a way that flexible labor markets don‘t....

I really am convinced that giving working people a kind of role in running the corporations that they work for, albeit limited, putting them on corporate boards, putting high school graduates on the boards of big global corporate organizations precisely because they are high school graduates, you know, is one of the reasons that Germany has kept a commitment to manufacturing and being competitive while we‘ve turned into a casino-type capitalist society.    

It's long past time for Democrats to stop flinching at the attacks from the right wing and embrace the things that made the party great in the past and will recapture the enthusiam of those who had a flicker of hope in 2008 that things could be better if everyone had a place at the table. Time to stop kowtowing to the religion of the marketplace and start putting into place policies that help build up the skills, education, and engagement of the people.

The Dems could start by getting behind the Employee Free Choice Act, supporting the public option, and properly funding public education instead of trying to privatize it. That would be a great start. But it would just be a start. The U.S. has a long way to go...

Originally posted to Th0rn on Thu Jul 29, 2010 at 01:30 PM PDT.

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