The day America will become a true civilization


I shall add that universal healthcare should be viewed as a no-brainer as well.

In a modern technological and wealthy civilization worthy of that name, birth contingencies should play no role whatsoever in the way a sick child receives the appropriate treatment.

In that respect, the USA are really akin to primitive, reactionary and callous states having not yet reached enlightenment.

To my mind, this egregious injustice is far more preoccupying than the prevalence of Young Earth Creationism there.

That many Christians summon the name of Christ to justify these ignoble barbarisms is truly beyond me.

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23 thoughts on “The day America will become a true civilization

  1. Students that get their degrees and find good paying careers are responsible for paying back their loans just as home owners have to pay their mortgages. There are insurance plans for health and life that are affordable for all but those who are disabled and can’t work. There are Medicaid and welfare programs in each State for those who are disabled or can’t work, or weren’t able to save for old age pensions, plus we have social security benefits. The majority of American citizens don’t want some form of socialism and the federal government running and regulating everything. We saw what happened to the Soviet Union after 70 or so years of Communism/Socialism.

  2. I think it’s important to note the cultural homogeneity of the Nordic countries. This doesn’t automagically mitigate all the ways the US does more poorly, but it’s a factor that is frequently ignored. Many people who love pointing to the Nordic Countries don’t seem to understand how much heterogeneity—being a melting pot—affects how things are done, incarceration rates, etc.

    I also wonder whether the US’ crazy military expenditures enable “the other 14 combined” to keep their expenditures artificially low. How much more military spending could the Nordic countries tolerate? According to List of countries by military expenditures, SIPRI numbers, the US is at 4.4% of GDP, while Sweden is at 1.2%, Denmark 1.4%, Norway 1.4%, and Finland 1.5%. Let’s not forget how much military technology the US shares with them.

    Until we understand the specific challenges the US faces, comparisons like this just don’t seem like they’ll do a whole lot of good. I do want universal healthcare and a better way of funding education, but I want to do them intelligently, in a way that really works for Americans. To do this, I cannot avoid learning about the situations “on the ground”, to use a military term. Well, yeah I could just bomb from above, but we all know how well that works.

    • Or perhaps people who live in colder climes realize just how important one’s neighbours really are, and so the notion of ‘socialism’ is simply a wider extension of the same principle: looking out for each other. And I say in regards to the notion that homogeneity may be a significant factor… because we here in Canada are about as multicultural as it gets.

      • I’m sorry, but the US is clearly more multicultural than Canada, by a long shot. Compare Demographics of Canada § Ethnicity to Demographics of the United States § Race and ethnicity. For example, the US is 12.6% African American and 16.4% Hispanic or Latino; compare this to Canada’s 1.04% Spanish, 1.2 Latin America, and 2.9% black.

        What you’ve done here, @tildeb, is come up with a just-so story. I’m the one saying that we should investigate empirical reality and you’re the one providing just-so stories. It is curious that the role of respecting the evidence vs. mythology is reversed from how it’s supposed to be, with Christians and atheists.

        • Oh Lab, you really do just want to argue and then make it a theist/atheist thing, don’t you?

          You spoke earlier of ignoring cultural homogeneity as an important but overlooked factor… as if a lack of cultural homogeneity made it too difficult to establish comprehensive social polices, so I responded in kind; Canada is a rich country in cultural diversity yet has a vast network of connected social policies… so the argument about cultural homogeneity you raise doesn’t seem to work very well.

          There is no similar expectation in Canada of some giant melting pot into one culture as there is in the US; instead, our model is of a mosaic where many different cultures can be not just welcomed but celebrated for its differences. We even have dozens of multi-day events in major urban centers whereby one obtains a ‘passport’ and visits these remarkably diverse cultural centers… enjoying a quick immersion into the culture by tasting the food, participating in the dancing, enjoying the cultural performances highlighting various points of pride and expertise, and so on. It’s not unusual for a school class of children in Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal to have more than a dozen different first languages, for example, or classrooms with children whose parents claim identity from many different religions. Yet – miraculously, it may seem – this is not a source for social problems but, in fact, a source of great strength through diversity. I don’t think there’s a language in use today not spoken at home somewhere in Canada. This model is intentionaland that’s why there’s lots of government dollars available to establish multicultural centers and promote their community role as points of (often competitive) pride. Our police and military forces, and even government bureaucracy try to represent this cultural diversity so it’s not unusual to find a spectrum of cultures represented by these 9usually) second generation men and women.

          Why isn’t this remarkable diversity a social problem?

          Well, as you can imagine, the role that public education plays in all of this is central for teaching children to learning how to not just tolerate and accept but welcome cultural diversity for the various strengths it brings. It doesn’t matter what the home language is when the goalie’s job is to stop the puck, what religion one’s parents believe in when the right math answer needs to be found, what foods are preferred when the experiment requires exacting measurements, what ‘race’ a person might be when the choir needs to sing in balanced harmony. Privatization of school, for example, is a direct threat to this social model and private profit considered a base reason for adversely affecting the value to the public good that comes from the mosaic. We can field a range of experts who speak the language in just about every international concern.

          You, of course, jumped right to ‘race’… as if that term was somehow meaningful in such a social setting as Canada. It isn’t. It carries zero weight in most matters of identity here. In the States, race does matter and people continue to empower it. And it continues to matter long after it has any reasonable justification to exist as a meaningful descriptor of real people. Again, this kind of term indicates the maturity of the civilization and the Sates, again, lags far behind in its global understanding because it views such differences as something that needs to be overcome. This is the thinking of dullards.

          Canada has long since advanced from this barbaric way to view people (our history has shown why its been a problem and why it had to be overcome by social policy through education) and It’s been decades since I’ve heard the term even used. Cultural identity, however, remains very strong… even if it is used to hyphenate the term ‘Canadian’. That’s why Canadians describe their national identity in terms of common social values… the heart and soul of ‘socialism’ properly understood like properly funded public education, properly funded universal healthcare, and so on … regardless of secondary differences of culture, religion, language, gender, race, and so on. … a seemingly difficult concept for many of those who use a different metric entirely for their identity through nationality.

          As you (hopefully) see, my point about homogeneity has nothing whatsoever to do with criticizing religious beliefs… although I can demonstrate how this noxious idea continues to pollute the social scene here in Canada and tries its level best to undermine common social values to the detriment of all ion the name of piety.

          • I stand corrected; I should not have used the term ‘cultural homogeneity’, because “agreeing on what is most important in life” ≠ ‘cultural’, according to how you’ve used the latter term. How you describe Canada is having great homogeneity in what it considers important in public matters, so that any diversity left over is of a very particular variety: a variety which does attempt to establish rival conceptions of ‘human thriving’.

            You’ve stripped from the idea of ‘culture’, the idea of causally impacting how society operates. Instead, how society operates is social, and the appearance—kind of dance, kind of food, kind of religion—is cultural. You’ve defined your terms so that ‘cultural homogeneity’ is not required; all you need is ‘social homogeneity’. Well, working from your definitions, you’ll have to replace my uses of ‘cultural homogeneity’ with ‘social homogeneity’.

          • What constitutes social homogeneity in Canada has to be learned and each immigrant has to undergo this process. Their children are lucky in the sense that they learn its value practically while in public school and so the American phobia against socialism is replaced by practical knowledge of why it works to establish homogeneous social values that have nothing to do with culture. Cultures – and all they entail – can coexist in peace and prosperity through good governance based on those enlightenment values of individual autonomy, legal equality, and the inherent dignity of personhood rather than be set apart by the rugged individualism of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness governance in the US attempts to promote by its political process. Socialism in the Canadian experience works to be a homogenizing process rather than the result of homogeneity you assume exists prior to it.

          • Of course -indoctrination- public education is needed for homogenization. As to your distinction between “enlightenment values of individual autonomy, legal equality, and the inherent dignity of personhood” over and above “rugged individualism of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”: that’s hogwash. Go look at Wikipedia’s Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness: it has ‘Enlightenment’ written all over it. And the idea that the Founding Fathers didn’t value “the inherent dignity of personhood”? Well, they started out with just land-owning males, but if we look at women’s suffrage, we find that women in Canada got it in 1918 and the US in 1920.

            As to “homogeneity you assume exists prior to it”: one can obviously homogenize. In culturally homogenous countries, like the Nordic countries, there is much less need to do that. Nobody here is saying that the US cannot go socialist, that it is logically impossible. Instead, one can ask (a) whether it would be the best route for promoting human thriving in the US; (b) whether it can be done in the US via anything close to the way it was done in Nordic countries. These are extremely relevant questions, when someone starts rattling off comparisons between Nordic countries and the US.

          • I tried to give specific examples how homogeneity is achieved: not by “indoctrination” as you present it but by classrooms and related teams and organizations that are social by nature and require teamwork to achieve. I tried to point out that homogeneity in social values revealed by this kind of social cooperation are achieved by experiencing such teamwork where the differences in culture of those who make up these teams don’t matter. You skipped all of this by incorrectly categorizing the process I mention as “indoctrination” into socialism. No, Lab, it’s real life and demonstrates what ‘socialism’ really is and how it really works to bring about social cohesion… meaning in the Canadian Nordic example peace, order, and good governance.

            I also did not mean to suggest that the American version of government – more geared towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – was not based on the same approach to achieving enlightenment ideals; the Canadian version of peace, order, and good government takes a more social bent to them than the American approach and it seems to enable us to establish social values and create homogeneity without demanding that different languages, religions, ethnicity, races, and so on be submerged in favour of a single replacement as seems to be the American way. Homogeneity of a diverse population can be achieved through shared social values reflective of a functional – and not a dysfunction – caring and compassionate egalitarian society that embraces the notion of ‘socialism’ in matters of social concern.

            Marc suggests that a failure to put into practice typical social programs like universal healthcare and a social safety net for those in need of it (child benefits, the under/unemployed, and so on) is a sign of social dysfunction in a First World country. I agreed with that assessment and the outlier rates for all kinds of social dysfunction and income inequality in the States is pretty compelling evidence for his thesis when we realize the typical excuses for not achieving equivalency with other First World countries in these regards are not sound. Your suggestion about a lack of ‘similar’ cultural homogeneity is a case point.

          • Nobody calls their indoctrination, ‘indoctrination’. You probably believe that if Canadians didn’t do the particular form of ‘public education’ you promote, Canada would head towards various kinds of badness. That’s a foundational aspect of indoctrination: reject it at your peril.

            What I criticize is the idea that one must have homogeneous ‘social values’ in order to have the good results of free education, free health care, etc. You haven’t outright stated this, but I’m not sure your arguments are coherent without it. What if each state in the US had different social values, but still found a way to provide universal healthcare and education to its citizens? There’s no need for these things to be free; if we ensured every citizen can pay for them directly, then they could all know the costs, and perhaps even be encouraged to take part in grassroots efforts to become more efficient so that the state can spend its resources on other matters.

            You must remember, I hold to a religion whose founder died to destroy a social system. He could have rallied the troops and instigated an insurrection, but he didn’t. Instead, he showed that the social system at the time and place practiced scapegoating. His apparent sinlessness was important here, because otherwise one could rationalize the scapegoating. And so, my culture is one of constantly critiquing other cultures, especially ones with a kind of homogeneity which can be antithetical to some legitimate forms of life.

            What you haven’t said, is that all it takes for someone to get arrested in Canada is to express a belief that homosexuality is a sin. Now, the charges were later dropped, but the mere fact that it was thought that mere expression like this is deserving of arrest indicates a precariousness of the social order. You better believe that international backlash against this violation of the freedom of speech helped reverse things. But hey, freedom of speech in Canada is not protected: “so long as the limits are reasonable and can be justified”, they can be enforced. Precariousness.

            I think there’s another way to live, one which doesn’t have people being so weak-willed such that they can be noticeably moved by ‘hate speech’. In this way of living, if a Walmart moves into town and engages in predatory pricing, most consumers refuse to shop there because they believe it’s wrong. But perhaps some don’t. In that case, they can all collect in an area of the country where that’s part of the social values. Those who believe it is wrong can move elsewhere. This way, you can have people who have true power to shape the social values around them, instead of being indoctrinated.

          • Lab, I think you meant to refer to this case rather than the British one behind the link. The federal government has since struck down the responsible legislation that allowed this travesty to unfold as it did.

            Also, your ignorance is showing about supposed social “indoctrination” through schools: in Canada each province is fully responsible for the education system it offers… including special status for ‘religious’ education in the case of Ontario (Catholic school boards publicly funded… a left-over from confederation problems between accommodating the French and English/Catholic and Protestant populations. There is no general conspiracy afloat but, rather, an acceptance of best practices in education that just so happens to have a very strong social component… you know, like real life.

            You are diverting again. My point about Canada was to show that, contrary to your opinion, cultural homogeneity is not a factor in creating and implementing successful public policy… nor a legitimate excuse that a lack of cultural homogeneity makes the task too difficult to implement. The Canadian example offers compelling evidence that even extreme cultural diversity is not an impediment.

          • “You are diverting again. My point about Canada was to show that, contrary to your opinion, cultural homogeneity is not a factor in creating and implementing successful public policy… nor a legitimate excuse that a lack of cultural homogeneity makes the task too difficult to implement. The Canadian example offers compelling evidence that even extreme cultural diversity is not an impediment”

            I intuitively agree with you here.

          • You don’t need to settle for intuiting it; the evidence in its favour is rather compelling so you can safely adduce it ( a much stronger and robust case, I think)!

  3. This may seem like an odd response for a democratic socialist, but I don’t think the Nordic Model will ever work in the USA, at least not for the next century.

    The Nordic Model of social democracy did not arrive where it is overnight; the reason that the Nordic countries have arrived at the model they have is because they have undergone decades of rigorous keynesian investment in their economies, with the prevailing political climate of the time being consistently one of grand democratic socialist coalitions. During this period, there were many times of economic strain and moments when the economy seemed to be going in the wrong direction, but the social democratic model pulled through because of the political culture of Scandinavia.

    Lets look at other nations; it took the UK a massive amount of effort to push through an NHS, even in a majority socialist government in the Westminster model (which allows majority governments to pass whatever they like, due to the fact that the executive is fused with the legislative in the form of the majority party leader/prime minister). Even in the UK, we still don’t operate on the Nordic Model, despite the fact that there is such stringent socialism inherent within our political climate in the form of the NHS, and we’re still flip-flopping between keynesian policies and policies of austerity due to the fact that our First Past The Post (FPTP) system allows for government to quickly change hands, as seats can be won by very few votes and ‘the winner takes all’.

    The US political climate is far from stable: the government (and indeed the nation) is strongly divided between Progressive Liberalism (NOT democratic socialism) and Neoliberal Conservatism. Where the Scandinavian governments are usually single-house centred proportional systems, and the UK system is essentially a single-house FPTP system, the American system is a two-house FPTP system with a separated Executive (the president) who has no legislative power whatsoever (other than veto). It is thus INCREDIBLY RARE in the US system to have a government entirely controlled by one party, as happens in the UK system, but instead it is very common to have a president and one house of congress controlled by one party, with the other house of congress controlled by the other. For example, Obama’s presidency (Democrat) has been characterised by Democrat control of the Senate, but with Republican control of the House of Representatives. This system means that every single bill that passes through congress (with the exception of national security bills like US PATRIOT) need to find a compromise between Liberals and Conservatives.

    All this is rather complex, so to illustrate just why it would be impossible for the Nordic Model of Universal Healthcare/Welfare and a huge Public Sector to pass through Congress I would like to use the example of the Payment Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):

    The PPACA was originally dreamt up as a law to set certain legal standards on the level of health insurance required: requiring everyone to get coverage (as opposed to the old system, where people were not legally bound to get covered). The original bill incorporated the creation of a public health insurance company, offering insurance to citizens at affordable, government-controlled rates so that those who could not afford to meet the standards would be guaranteed a certain level of coverage. However, in order for the bill to pass, it had to be compromised with conservatives. Oddly, the conservatives who asked for an amendment to the bill didn’t come from the other party, but from WITHIN the Democrat party itself; a faction called the ‘blue dog coalition’, who promised their votes only if the public option was amended out of the bill. The issue now was that there was no provision for poor citizens who could not financially meet the standards, and so the bill was amended once again stating that the government would pay for the health insurance for those who could not financially meet the new legal standard (ie, the government will directly pay private insurance companies for the health insurance of the poor), and the monstrosity we all know and love to hate known as “Obamacare” was born.

    What we can learn from Obamacare is that it is impossible for any even remotely socialist bill to pass through Congress without being watered down, even if one party did control Congress and the Presidency. This is why I think that the Nordic Model of social democracy will never work in America: because it requires decades of keynesian investment to forge, and America simply does not have the systemic capability to implement that, not to mention the fact that the massive influence of corporate lobbying would never allow it anyway…

    • Thanks for that very informative comment! I knew there were some important differences, but the 30,000 foot overview you provided was precisely what this blog post requires.


    • Hello John, thank you so much for your wonderfully informative and insightful comment🙂

      What could be concrete solutions for alleviating the suffering of poor people (especially children) in the States?

      I unapologetically recognize you have most likely far better and more practicable ideas than I have🙂

      I am deeply appalled by this unjust state of affair. But my knowledge of politics and economics is too limited for allowing me to make concrete suggestion as to how these vital changes should be enacted.


  4. Lab, I think you meant to refer to this case rather than the British one behind the link. The federal government has since struck down the responsible legislation that allowed this travesty to unfold as it did.

    Ahh yes, I forgot that Canada wasn’t the only country abridging freedom of speech because a person reading the Bible in public might cause unacceptable harm to someone.

    Also, your ignorance is showing about supposed social “indoctrination” through schools […]

    Nope, we just disagree on what constitutes ‘indoctrination’.

    You are diverting again. My point about Canada was to show that, contrary to your opinion, cultural homogeneity is not a factor in creating and implementing successful public policy… nor a legitimate excuse that a lack of cultural homogeneity makes the task too difficult to implement. The Canadian example offers compelling evidence that even extreme cultural diversity is not an impediment.

    Actually, your point about Canada was that there are ways in addition to having homogeneous culture, which allow what you call “implementing successful public policy”. The Nordic countries mentioned in Marc’s blog post have homogeneous culture, and that implies homogeneous values. You implied that there are definitions of ‘culture’ which do not carry with them values; while I am skeptical that you haven’t radically altered the concept behind ‘culture’ in so doing, I can definitely conjure up a concept which describes stuff like cooking the food you like, doing the dances you like, telling the stories you like (sometimes excluding stories that might make a group of people feel bad), etc.

    You also seem to misunderstand the term ‘impediment’; impediments can be overcome, and Canada clearly has. You’ve indicated how: through public -indoctrination- education. In Nordic countries, one needs public education a lot less, because the entire culture exudes the values required for cohesion and taking care of each other.

    Indeed, what you really could be arguing is that it would be more helpful for the US to look to Canada than the Nordic countries, if it wants to take better care of its citizens. It would be a correction to Marc’s post.

    • I keep telling Americans that they are welcome to come and rejoin their better half but they think I must be joking. Better dead than Red, and all that jazz..

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