Power and politics: Socialism on the rise

tsj column writers - power and politicsBy Zachary Toillion

In recent years, socialism has gained significant support as a political and economic ideology in the Western world. After decades of negativity associated with the concept, there are new signs that it is becoming more mainstream, as faith in capitalism continues to plummet.

Perhaps the most vocal opponent of unfettered capitalism is Pope Francis, who recently stated, “Wealth inequality is the root of social ills” and has called modern-day capitalism a “New Tyranny that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few.” Francis has even stated that money is the new idol being worshipped by many. In another speech, Francis argued the capitalist system sees human beings as consumer goods to be exploited and is a system that continually rejects ethics. The Pope reiterated these points on his visit to the U.S., stating in an address before Congress, “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money—money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” The Pope’s blistering critiques haven’t tanked his popularity either—just days before his visit the Pope had an favorability rating of 63 percent.

In the U.S., Sen. Bernie Sanders routinely draws out the largest crowds of any candidate from either party, has a solid lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and is tied with the former Secretary of State in Iowa. Sanders argues for massive redistribution of wealth from the wealthy, continually speaks of the problems of income inequality and wants the state to fully subsidize higher education and health care. Polling shows him leading or competitive with many Republican candidates.

In the United Kingdom, the liberal Labour Party elected socialist Jeremy Corbyn with an overwhelming 60 percent of the vote, beating his nearest rival by a margin of 40 percent. Corbyn has advocated nationalizing schools and public utilities as well as raising taxes on corporations. He favors further national involvement in the U.K.’s health care system and an expansion of welfare programs.

Democrats are just as likely to view socialism favorably as capitalism. According to polling by YouGov, both systems have 43 percent favorability. The same poll found similar results among millennials across the political spectrum. Such results would be seen as unfathomable a generation ago.

Is the rest of the Western world going to follow in the footsteps of social democracies like Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, or is it simply a passing phase?

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