social democracy discussion

Socialism was started as a system to protect the laborer from the economic mechanisms of capitalism. Although it does not allow for citizens to reach the economic heights that they can here in the United States, it also is set up to guarantee that the citizens have certain services available to them at all times.


As you have learned in this section, there are several differences between socialist and capitalist economies. Among the most significant of these differences is the high level of consumerism that exists in capitalist countries. Americans, for example, spend 3 to 4 percent more of their time shopping than Europeans. This consumerism in the United States dates back several decades, when it reached new heights in the mid-twentieth century. The trend even received something of an official sanction in 1953 when Arthur Burns, the Chairman of the Economic Advisors Council under President Eisenhower, said that the American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.

Consumerism received a further boost from advertisements on television, a new medium that exploded in popularity in the 1950s. In the decades that followed, television commercials, radio spots, magazines, newspapers, and, in recent years, the Internet bombarded consumers with advertisements for an endless array of products. The average American views 3,000 ads in a single day. These advertisements have proven highly effective at creating a desire among the public to buy goods and services in ever increasing amounts. Economists have estimated that consumer spending accounts for 70% of the U.S. economy.

Go online and research social democracy, including some specific examples of how it works in various countries, and then consider the following discussion questions:

  1. What examples, such as health care, social security or employment, can you give that may work better in a socialist nation than a capitalist one? What about in a capitalist nation over a socialist one?
  2. Which system do you feel protects the freedoms of the individual better? Given an example.
  3. As you prepare for life outside of high school, whether it be a job or college, which economic system would you prefer to be a part of right now? Support your answer.