Social Democracy in the United States

The United States despite being a first world country faces challenges with high unemployment and inability of citizens to earn income to sustain the well-being. For this reason, there is a need for a system of governance that solves the problem of social injustices in society. One measure is to solving social injustices is through the implementation of the social democratic system. However, a critical question arises on whether social democracy will benefit the United States. Social democracy is an ideology that promotes social, political and economic moves that are geared towards the promotion of social justice. Thus, the system favors capitalism over socialism as long as it can fix the social injustices in society. The research conducts a systematic review of social democracy and its application in the United States. Findings show that it is time for the United States to consider social democracy to solve the problems of unemployment, persistent poverty, and high inequality among others.


Social democracy resulted from a split from traditional Marxists that believed there was a need for a political revolution to replace capitalism. Importantly, social democrats through egalitarian objectives can be developed over time with the use of parliamentary democracy. The question then rises of whether the United States can benefit from becoming a social democracy. Presently, capitalism rules the United States (Galbraith). Here, citizens have been commoditized as the vast population depends on the sale of their labor and power for survival. Essentially, people sell their skills and abilities in markets just like any other physical product. Usually, capitalization creates problems for people in society. First, it makes places citizens at a point where they have no control of the market forces that determine the job opportunities as well as salaries and wages. According to Scase the market forces creates a market prison for competitive individualism, a focus on short-term goals, and egotism – all of which limit ultimate happiness (144). Also, capitalism hampers individuals from making moral claims about society. According to Albertus and Victor, happiness helps in determining whether citizens are satisfied with the social programs provided by the government.

Capitalism has numerous inadequacies among them are persistent poverty and increased income inequalities. Essentially, the rise of artificial intelligence and automation reduces the number of jobs available for citizens (Kotler 5). The author further states that capitalism is the reason for economic instability, adverse business cycles, environmental exploitations, and failure of companies to cover for their social costs.

Capitalism is therefore harmful as it treats human beings as factors of production rather than valuing them and treating them with respect. The United States needs a governance system with policies that eliminate capitalism. The implementation of the social democratic system of governance is critical to de-commodification of people as it advocates a shift from free-market capitalism to peaceful transition (Levi-Faur 761). Particularly, the form of governance ensures that individuals that are not able to secure jobs gain minimum wages while at the same time, it limits dependence on income for well-being.

Social democracy thus calls for policies that are against the oppression of underprivileged groups, poverty, and inequality. Instead, it favors policies that allow universality in access to education, child care, and care for the elderly, healthcare, worker’s compensation. According to a report by the United Nations (2018), the countries with happiest citizens are those that have implemented social democracy policies. The report ranked Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland and the top five countries in that order. Importantly, the countries have emphasized good retirement, maternity, health, and education. The same report showed that the United States was ranked 18 in happiness index. Some of the reasons for unhappiness included the high cost of college education, health, widespread depression, job loss, opioid crisis, and obesity. Importantly, social democracy will play a critical role in reduces such social problems. The system of governance alters the government structure to ensures each person has equal rights to basic liberties (Scase). Additionally, the system of governance necessitates the government to align social and economic inequalities in a manner that they are just, consistent and benefit the greatest least advantaged people in society. The economic and social conditions should also be provided equitably to citizens.

Methods: Systematic Review

The governance system in the United States requires principles that guide society to deliver human needs through democracy (Kotler 3). Social democracy currently operates in several European counties and Scandinavian countries. Essentially, the system of governance has helped these countries to significantly reduce the social injustices in society.

Social democracy is midway between socialism and neoliberalism. According to Mirowski and Dieter neoliberalism was a 20th-century revival that advocated for a smaller government, fiscal austerity, privatization, deregulation, and free trade (4). On the other hand, socialism advocates for the private sector as key to solving societal and economic problems. Particularly, they focus on giving maximum incentives to businesses to enable them to gain economic advantage. Social democrats on the hand put preference on payment of higher taxes that allows citizens to get a lower cost college education and better medical care as opposed to paying lower taxes are receiving poor public services. Importantly, they favor measures that ensure higher income from the private sector while at the same time favor higher taxes for these businesses and the rich. Thus, the United States government would require implementing higher taxes for the rich while implementing a measure that is favorable for businesses.

According to Aronsson and Olof, social democracy would require the United States to increase marginal taxes for high-income earners, the imposition of transaction tax on financial trades, consumption tax, carbon tax, and ending mortgage income tax deduction. Particularly, there is a need to have a broader revenue base that will make it possible for the government to serve the poor and the working class. Importantly, Scase states that the United States has enough resources and it is capable of raising sufficient revenue to increase government programs to enhance economic opportunity and provide social insurance.

According to Levi-Faur, social democracy requires that political leaders remain committed to the representative government (34). Usually, citizens exercise the voting rights that allow them to pass desirable regulations like the Environmental Protection Act, Food and Drug Act as well as measures that reduce poverty and income inequality. Nevertheless, the current system has not eradicated social problems in the country; and thus, social democracy would improve its abilities to deal with social injustices.

According to Scase social democracy accepts that private enterprises and privatization of property are essential to producing ultimate goods and services that are needed by the citizens (162). Also, the system of governance is associated with Keynesian economics which holds that the government has a duty of intervening during economic downturns. As such, social democracy necessitates the establishment of an independent federal research board to compress a booming economy that faces risks of busting and prompt the sluggish economy. Particularly, the social democratic system of governance favors a smooth working economy that is not plagued by the classic business cycle.

Social democracy facilitates the government’s measure to increase revenues. The United States government would thus need to collect as much revenue as possible that would be used to fund universal programs. According to to…a sustainable political system that is embedded in social democracy will help in ensuring that the universal program addresses the problems experienced by the least experienced members of the society. These programs income increased infrastructure, wage and health insurance, and universal education among others.

With social democracy, the United States government will be required to provide equitable welfare services to the citizens. According to Béland, such measures are feasible as Danish citizens have guaranteed retirement income, paid maternity leave, healthcare for life, and free college tuition all of which have been made possible by social democracy.

Also, social democracy would require the United States to welcome more trade unions and labor movements. These are essential tools that will support a collective bargaining rights for workers and ensure that their working conditions improve and their wages are favorable. Additionally, trade unions and labor movements are critical to making large companies to share views on how the welfare of stakeholders and employees can be improved.


The welfare system in the United States shows that the capitalistic structure has driven inequalities to higher levels. The governance system allows few individuals to amass wealth and fuel economic development of the country at large. Unfortunately, there are challenges with the governance structure as it increases inequalities in different ways.  First, the country faces high unemployment with tax havens preventing job opportunities from arising. Further, there is high inequality in income as there are pieces of evidence of the rich becoming richer and the poor getting poorer. Importantly, the structure gives power to the rich who in turn make decisions on behalf of citizens.

The persistence of such social injustices necessitates the United States government to implement a social democratic form of governance. The social democratic governance is similar to those in Scandinavian countries, and they constitute elements of capitalism and socialism. Social democracy encourages the inclusion of all individuals and the implementation of programs that support all individuals. Particularly, social democracy helps in reducing all forms of inequality as well as reduces the crisis of joblessness in the country. Importantly, it will prevent the exploitation of the citizens by the labor market forces that determine their salaries and opportunities.

The implementation of social democracy requires the government to take up measures that ensure citizens get access to resources and opportunities equitably. Mostly, the government should make use of strategies such as progressive taxes while at the same time making the business environment favorable for the private sector to collect as many revenues are possible. The collection of higher revenues makes it possible for the government to purchases vast universal programs that address inequality cases in the country.

Works Cited

Albertus, Michael, and Victor Menaldo. "Gaming democracy: elite dominance during transition and the prospects for redistribution." British Journal of Political Science 44.3 (2014): 575-603.

Aronsson, Thomas, and Olof Johansson-Stenman. "Paternalism against Veblen: Optimal taxation and non-respected preferences for social comparisons." American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 10.1 (2018): 39-76.

Béland, Daniel, et al. "The Universal Decline of Universality? Social Policy Change in C anada, D enmark, S weden and the UK." Social Policy " Administration 48.7 (2014): 739-756.

Galbraith, John. American capitalism: The concept of countervailing power. Routledge, 2017.

Kotler, Philip. Confronting capitalism: real solutions for a troubled economic system. Amacom, 2015.

Levi-Faur, David. "Regulatory capitalism." Regulatory Theory(2017): 289.

Mirowski, Philip, and Dieter Plehwe, eds. The road from mont Pèlerin: The making of the neoliberal thought collective, with a new preface. Harvard University Press, 2015.

United Nations. World Happiness Report 2018.

Scase, Richard. Social Democracy in Capitalist Society (Routledge Revivals): Working-Class Politics in Britain and Sweden. Routledge, 2016.

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