Socialism?

by Rhode

Venezuela should be rich. Instead it’s becoming a failed state.

This article came across my Facebook news feed. The person who shared it asked that if socialism failed in Venezuela, is it wise to try to bring it to the US? He’s a very strong conservative who tows the party line every chance he gets.

I have to ask, does this article scream “socialism”? Is that really what caused the downfall of Venezuela? Or was it cronyism? Does cronyism equal socialism, or can it equal socialism?

Some services (police, fire, ambulance, public education) are all socialist ideas because everyone pays for the service even though they don’t need it or use it. Can other socialist ideas (health services, so-called entitlement programs) exist and thrive in the US? Would we then be a socialist country?

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118 thoughts on “Socialism?

  1. I grew up in a socialist country. It was not by the nature of its people a socialistic place nor was it socialist at the time of independence. It was a grand experiment. People of my parents generation who knew the country prior to socialism understood just how backwards the whole country went. The process of unwinding the experiment continues but in the meanwhile the legacy continues impede progress at all levels. There is always hope that a new administration will accelerate changes but the pace of progress doesn’t match the aspirations of the people. I don’t suggest any country embark on such an experiment.

  2. Louise – When Bernie was in Brooklyn, they asked people who lived in his former apartment building if they were voting for Bernie. One said, paraphrasing, “a Socialist – never. That’s why I came to the U.S.”

  3. It really shouldn’t have been hard for the government to use some of its petrodollars on the poor without destroying the economy. Every other oil-rich country, after all, has figured that out.

    That’s the part I can’t figure out. It should have been easy. Why did they make it so hard? Why the mismanagement?

  4. Socialism is a vague word. There are all kinds of socialism. People will sometimes lecture you not to confuse communism with socialism, but there are no clear boundaries on either word. Socialism is more like a constellation of characteristics rather than a set of specific criteria. Sometimes people mean that the government will own the means of production, or at least big chunks of the economy. Sometimes people talk about socialist collectives where everyone produces X product or service and then splits the profits. Sometimes people just mean a social safety net.

    You can have gross mismanagement in socialist economies and gross mismanagement in other economies. Jane Sanders grossly mismanaged Burlington College and it went bankrupt.

    In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s pointless to talk about “socialism”. You need to be specific about what kind of economic arrangement you mean. And it probably makes more sense to talk about individual programs rather than “socialism”. The U.S. economy is supposed to be capitalist, but in many ways it isn’t. Talk about specific programs instead.

  5. It really shouldn’t have been hard for the government to use some of its petrodollars on the poor without destroying the economy. Every other oil-rich country, after all, has figured that out.

    That’s the part I can’t figure out. It should have been easy. Why did they make it so hard? Why the mismanagement?

    FA Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” provides a good explanation.

  6. ATM – the only country I travelled to before the US was Egypt. I was shocked at how advanced Egypt was at the time. They had dictatorship, but ordinary people were way better off, than where I came from. The other Arab states with oil and monarchies at least were thinking about putting aside funds for future generations, trying to turn their economies away from oil etc. They had their issues but were trying to think about an oil collapse years before.

  7. in my opinion, the biggest issue with socialist/communist economies is that they require extremely repressive governments to work, e.g. the dictatorship in Egypt, the Soviet Union, China. For example, see, the Hungarian Spring, the Gulag, North Korea.

    And they tend to result in mass starvation, e.g the Great Leap Forward, or Jamestown, or the millions who died under Stalin.

    Free market economies are messy, and clearly require some safety nets, because, not all people are capable of being fully responsible for themselves. But the greatest increase in wealth in human history has occurred when people were able to keep the fruits of labors, and to determine how to productively employ their own resources.

  8. FA Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” provides a good explanation.

    It really doesn’t because what amounts to Bolivarian Socialism works great in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco is very well run state owned enterprise, etc.

  9. It really doesn’t because what amounts to Bolivarian Socialism works great in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco is very well run state owned enterprise, etc.

    I don’t think those countries are all that great if you are a woman.

  10. Moreover, the Scandinavian economies haven’t resulted in mass starvation.

  11. I don’t think those countries are all that great if you are a woman.

    It’s great economically speaking. Keeping it to economics why does socialism work so well is some oil rich countries and so poorly in others? What about Venezuelan politics and culture caused it to fail?

  12. From Wikipedia

    “Employment[edit]
    Further information: Saudization
    Further information: Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia
    As of 2008, roughly two thirds of workers employed in Saudi Arabia were foreigners, and in the private sector approximately 90%.[39] In January 2014, the Saudi government claimed it had lowered the 90% rate, doubling the number of Saudi citizens working in the private sector employment to 1.5 million. (This compares to 10 million foreign expatriates working in the kingdom.)[40]

    According to Reuters, economists “estimate only 30-40 percent of working-age Saudis hold jobs or actively seek work,” although the official employment rate is only around 12 percent. Most Saudis with jobs are employed by the government, but the International Monetary Fund has warned the government cannot support such a large wage bill in the long term.[40] [41] The government has announced a succession of plans since 2000 to deal with the imbalance by `Saudizing` the economy, However, the foreign workforce and unemployment among Saudis has continued to grow.[42]

    One obstacle is social resistance to certain types of employment. Jobs in service and sales are considered totally unacceptable for citizens of Saudi Arabia—both potential employees and customers.[43]”

    Not sure having 60-70 percent of your population unemployed is can be characterized as “works great”

  13. Not sure having 60-70 percent of your population unemployed is can be characterized as “works great”

    In what world is 60-70% of the population living in luxury without working bad?

  14. It’s great economically speaking.

    Economics applies to women, too. Marginalizing half the population, preventing them from driving or working in many/most industries will decrease the unemployment stats, but functionally impoverishes a huge proportion of the population.

    As I stated above, social regimes seems to require repressive regimes. Preventing half the population acting as a adult is repressive.

  15. Cordelia – Interesting. My cousin’s husband has been working in Saudi Arabia for probably 15 years and his family lives in the U.S. (they did live there with him for a while and the kids went to an expat school but my cousin couldn’t take living there). So I think after 20 years of service he gets some great pension for life and he’ll move back here.

  16. I agree with RMS about “What do we mean by socialism?” One of the things that surprised me moving here is that some/most grass seed farms don’t have fire protection. It’s too expensive and they simply maintain their own water trucks for grass fires. There is some agreement where roads have fire protection from the nearest town (for vehicles that catch on fire, etc.) but when an RV caught fire and pulled onto a grass seed farm, the fire department rescued the people but let the vehicle burn, in accordance with the agreement that they always take risks for people but not for properties not covered by the fire district. BLM and national forest lands have different rules I’m not familiar with.

    The grass seed farms make that choice in part because they are in an international market with competitors who don’t have fire protection costs that include insurance, pensions, etc. for firefighters.

  17. Cordelia,

    You’re dodging the economic question. Saudi Aramco is very well run while PDVSA is very poorly run. PDVSA being poorly run can’t possibly be solely due to it being a state owned enterprise as Saudi Aramco is a very well run state owned enterprise. There are other factors at work.

  18. This is what happened over time in my country. As factories, banks etc. became government owned or semi government agencies people’s appetite for mobility, risk taking and entrepreneurship dimished. It became very difficult to get approvals to open a business. People preferred to work in safe state jobs with a pension. No one could be fired for poor performance. So, there were hardly any consequences for not doing your job. Same with government run schools, hospitals, airlines and other agencies that served the people.

  19. Rhett,

    It is easier to get to the U.S. from Venezuela than Saudi Arabia. So it is easier for the people who don’t want their goods/services/knowledge expropriated to leave Venezuela. And those people did.

    Also, I suspect that a feudal monarchy might have a tighter grip on its people than a country that at least makes pretense of self government. Also, there are indigenous peoples in Venezuela who have a long history of passive resistance to whatever the current government is.

    And women can drive, work and leave.

  20. “I agree with RMS about “What do we mean by socialism?” One of the things that surprised me moving here is that some/most grass seed farms don’t have fire protection. It’s too expensive and they simply maintain their own water trucks for grass fires. There is some agreement where roads have fire protection from the nearest town (for vehicles that catch on fire, etc.) but when an RV caught fire and pulled onto a grass seed farm, the fire department rescued the people but let the vehicle burn, in accordance with the agreement that they always take risks for people but not for properties not covered by the fire district. BLM and national forest lands have different rules I’m not familiar with.

    In my experience, fire protection is always iffy. And that is ok. You protect people and have insurance for things.

  21. So it is easier for the people who don’t want their goods/services/knowledge expropriated to leave Venezuela. And those people did.

    Right, but why did they drive them out? As the article said, if you have vast oil reserves and you want socialism and a massive safety net that’s totally doable. But, the first rule is don’t kill the golden goose. What about Venezuela’s history and politics made them so hell bent of killing the goose?

  22. Rhett – messy democracy and education programs on family planning vs. strict communist government and enforcement of one child policy (now loosened).

  23. Saudi Arabia is dependent on guest workers, who are generally treated badly, the disenfranchisement of its female population, who are subject to honor killings, and patronage handed out to its male citizens who are too good to work.

    Maybe Venezuela isn’t a harsh enough dictatorship?

  24. Maybe Venezuela isn’t a harsh enough dictatorship?

    It was too harsh as it drove out those who knew what they were doing.

  25. Agreed with RMS. Socialism as a concept in the late 19th-early 20th century was a lot different from socialism in, say, Scandinavia or France today.

  26. There are many articles, some written during Chavez’ life, some after his death in 2012, that describe him more as a caudillo or strongman than a true socialist leader – the heir to Peron, not Castro. I link to one from The National Interest from 2006 – a magazine founded by Irving Kristol, who right wing credentials were impeccable. Interestingly enough, Ross Douthat, the hyper intellectual Eastern conservative Catholic commentator in the NYT, likes to use that term to apply to the presumptive Republican nominee – to explain his appeal and approach. Bill Kristol, Irving’s son and contemporary guardian of the true conservative faith, would probably agree with the application of the term to both individuals.

    http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/hugo-chavez-more-caudillo-than-leftist-1324

    So I guess that the failure could be attributed more to cronyism and mismanagement, rather than to central control, nationalization per se.

    Saudi Arabia is not a socialist country. It is a centralized authoritarian monarchist state with government/royal ownership of major industries. It chooses to provide guaranteed income to its residents out of its considerable centrally controlled cash reserves, in exchange for bringing in outside workers to perform certain high level functions and also for elevating its citizens above a non Saudi guest worker class for low level functions. And as with many non-communist authoritarian regimes, it is allied with an organized national religion.

    The alliance of communist regimes with a orthodox party apparatus that serves the same function as national religion means that life in an authoritarian Marxist or similar state is constrained in analogous was to that in an authoritarian fascist or monarchist state. Women may be forced to work and to have abortions, rather than forbidden to work in most jobs and not have full legal rights. Children may be taken from their families to provide fodder for the Olympic machine.

    Socialist democracies with nationally smoothed income and cradle to grave government services, such as Sweden, might not be to the taste of many US residents, but they are not centrally controlled economies or dictatorships.

  27. DH has experience working in the Middle East and he has predicted the fall of the ruling houses there. Ecomonic efforts alone have not been enough to calm the disquiet that exists and there is a huge gap between the wealth of the princes and other citizens.

  28. When some people talk admiringly about the Scandinavian model “with nationally smoothed income and cradle to grave government services,” are they generally imagining that if it were applied here, and they (we) were all brought to the smoothed median, that the median standard of living would be roughly equivalent to what they have in Norway?

    Are there a lot of Totebaggers who would be comfortable sending their kids to public schools currently rated 5 out of 10 on Greatschools.net?

  29. Milo, I know I have special circumstances, but even assuming that I had the average Totebag NMSF, there is no way I would have even considered a public school in the State of Florida.

  30. I think the problem in the US is that we think we are capitalist, but when push comes to shove, we don’t have the heart to do it and that is where the idea of socialism leaks in. There are many things we value that would not be provided in a purely free-economy to the level that many would find acceptable. For example, if hungry people had to rely solely on non-profits or friends and family, many would be much hungrier than they are. We don’t like to see hungry people, but especially hungry children, so we have food stamps and free and reduced lunches along with some government aid in terms of food surplus that is directed either to school programs or food banks.

    I think the argument comes in when we can’t agree on what government should provide and at what general level. Most people seem to agree that you shouldn’t turn a severely ill or injured person away from and ER because they cannot pay, but when you get down the line to access to routine and preventative care, clearly those states that did not enact the Medicaid expansion have a different view point than those that did. Ensuring you aren’t turned away isn’t socialism to many, but Medicaid expansion is.

    Do we think of large subsidies or tax breaks to certain businesses or industries is a form of socialism? Those business or industries often have strings attached when accepting the subsidy or tax break.

  31. @Milo – Yes, that is true. I know that I personally would probably not have a net benefit from the Scandinavian model. And Norway is a lot different from the US. I’m not necessarily saying that their model is overall better than ours. But it sure as heck right now that they managed oil wealth in a Socialist government in a far better manner than Venezuela. It is hard to imagine this happening in Norway.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/16/world/americas/dying-infants-and-no-medicine-inside-venezuelas-failing-hospitals.html?_r=0

    How did Saudi Arabia – which is a monarchy – even come up as the successful Socialist alternative to what happened in Venezuela? That’s before even mentioning the religious aspect and the life of women there.

  32. (we) were all brought to the smoothed median

    That’s not how it works. The totebag median is $270k which puts us in the top 3% in terms of household income. The bottom 3% are making 10k. In Norway that gap would be smaller but it’s certainly not like everyone is making 50k.

  33. Saudi Arabia nationalized its oil company in 1988. Venezuela nationalized theirs in 1976. So there are 12 fewer years of decay in Saudi.

  34. Saudi Arabia nationalized its oil company in 1988.

    That is not correct: In 1973, following US support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the Saudi Arabian government acquired a 25% stake in Aramco. It increased its shareholding to 60% by 1974, and finally took full control of Aramco by 1980,[20] by acquiring a 100% percent stake in the company.

  35. “In Norway that gap would be smaller but it’s certainly not like everyone is making 50k.”

    If we followed the Norwegian model, I wonder how easily a Totebag family, let’s say an engineer and a CPA, could insulate themselves from, well, the sort of demographics who challenge the success of the public school system — who don’t align with the same academically focused values, as Finn might euphemistically say.

    Maybe they could do still do so if they were willing to live here:

    http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Bethesda-MD/37166073_zpid/37406_rid/400000-550000_price/1434-1972_mp/any_days/39.00918,-77.054244,38.945525,-77.163077_rect/12_zm/

  36. Milo’s point is well-taken, and it’s worth noting that there are much stronger social controls in Norway and Sweden than there are here. Social workers in those countries do things that would have the ACLU’s collective head exploding here. So you aren’t necessarily exposed to the riffraff, because the riffraff are controlled through measures that don’t jive with individual liberties.

  37. Milo,

    How would it be any different? The house in Bethesda would just cost $399k rather than $499k.

  38. Rhett – it’s an illustration of the lengths that people like us are already willing to go to in order to not send their kids to school with the riffraff. Adopting a Norwegian tax code would only make it that much more difficult.

    You might be able to argue that economically forcing the Totebag kids into the same schools as those from less-advantaged backgrounds would improve those schools in general. And I’m not looking to attack anyone on here; I’m thinking, for example, about those who are Bernie supporters because they really believe in socialism, yet they personally might only be familiar with the nation’s most privileged and insular schools. Do they still assume that under a socialist model, they would be able to provide their own kids with the same bubble?

  39. Adopting a Norwegian tax code would only make it that much more difficult.

    How?

  40. “How?”

    Because our after-tax income would have much less comparative buying power.

    “I didn’t realize Bethesda real estate was so insane.”

    It kind of speaks to another anti-Establishment argument asking, bewilderedly, how the hell did we get to where X of the Y (not too much higher) nation’s wealthiest zip codes are DC suburbs? We’re all living off the government teat, in one way or another. It’s like the Hunger Games.

  41. Because our after-tax income would have much less comparative buying power.

    Exactly, and home prices would be lower as a result.

  42. “Exactly, and home prices would be lower as a result.”

    Precisely. Letting in too many of the riffraff. Totebaggers *benefit* from a wider income spread.

  43. I think the Scandinavian model would work (is working?) fairly well in the relatively homogeneous, Scandinavian utopias of Minnesota and the Dakotas. When we had the NY Times discussion of how poor people** fare better in urban coastal cities than in the heartland, Minnesota and northern Iowa were definite exceptions to the NY Times argument.

    I think above the bottom quartile of income, which you remain in only if you have no gumption, it’s family stability/values, not income, that allows life success. (which does not mean that the Supreme Court and Fortune 500 CEO’s won’t continue to come from Totebaggy families. I’m talking WCE family level of success, not high success.)

    PTM, would you send you son to public school in Lake Wobegon?

    **defined based solely on income, excluding SNAP and Section 8 subsidies that allow them to live in urban coastal cities

  44. Precisely. Letting in too many of the riffraff. Totebaggers *benefit* from a wider income spread.

    I’m not following your logic. I can’t really understand how Norway’s income tax system works as it look like it’s a flat 36% tax on income above 10k. So, I’ll go with Sweden instead:

    0% from 0 kr to 18,800 kr (~0 – 2,690 USD)
    Circa 31% (ca. 7% county and 24% municipality tax): from 18,800 kr to 433,900 kr (~2,690 – 62,140 USD)
    31% + 20%: from 433,900 kr to 615,700 kr (~62,140 – 88,180 USD)
    31% + 25%: above 615,700 kr (88,180 USD and up)[4]

    So, it’s 56% above $88k. If we adopted that in the US how would that result in more riffraff in Bethesda?

  45. “So, it’s 56% above $88k.”

    More importantly, it’s 51% above $62k, and then 56% above $88k.

    You think Finn could afford private school on that?

  46. You think Finn could afford private school on that?

    But you were talking about riffraff in Bethesda.

  47. I was pointing out where you might have to live (in what sort of houses) in order to ensure that the local schools meet the exacting standards of this group.

    There are multiple ways to look at the same issue. UMC Americans rely on their relative buying power in order to insulate their families from certain demographics. If you diminish that relative buying power, it becomes harder to do this. We can talk about specifics all day, but that basic point remains the same.

  48. UMC Americans rely on their relative buying power in order to insulate their families from certain demographics.

    In the vast majority of cases by buying homes in affluent towns. Higher taxes wouldn’t impact that.

  49. How do you figure?

    Prices would fall in affluent areas as the affluent would have less after tax income with which to pay their mortgage. However, someone making 89k and paying 56% is still going to be able to outbid someone making 87k and paying 50%. And someone making $270k will still be able to outbid them both.

  50. But not by nearly as much as they can now. That’s the whole point.

    Economic inequality is what allows affluent parents to segregate their kids. A more progressive and robust income tax system would reduce economic inequality. Just because it wouldn’t eliminate it completely doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t reduce it.

  51. But not by nearly as much as they can now.

    And? If they can outbid by $5k or $50k all that matters is that they can.

  52. ” If they can outbid by $5k or $50k all that matters is that they can.”

    No, that’s not “all that matters.” Neighborhoods are not distributed in a binary fashion.

  53. Milo,

    Neighborhoods are not distributed in a binary fashion.

    No, they are distributed by income. With higher taxes home prices would fall to compensate but everyone’s relative ability to buy a home in a given neighborhood would stay the same.

    How, in your mind, would a move to a Swedish style tax system impact anyone’s relative ability to buy a home? Give me a for instance.

  54. The debate is on, folks. Now, out of respect for those who are turned off by the political race, we can discuss this on yesterday’s thread if anyone is interested.

  55. Rhett – I think this has more than played out. It costs extra money to buy a house in an affluent school district. There are also other considerations such as costs of activities for kids, as just one example. If you smooth out the income (which I’m not entirely saying is a horrible thing, and I have sympathy for those stuck in poor performing school districts), it makes it harder for those who are relying on their relative buying power to buy in an exclusive school district.

    I don’t know how many more ways I can explain this. It seems that Ivy and Rocky and PTM understand the idea.

  56. “everyone’s relative ability to buy a home in a given neighborhood would stay the same. ”

    Flat tax, maybe. Progressive tax, no.

  57. Will there even be poor school districts or affluent school districts in a socialist country? Or will the public schools be the same (decreased quality) and the rich send their kids to private school?

  58. A more progressive and robust income tax system would reduce economic inequality.

    And then, in theory, you avoid the riff-raff because there is no riff-raff.

    A lot of what Totebaggers are trying to avoid are certain populations of riff-raff that are much smaller, and not driving factors in Scandinavia. There is no school full of poor urban kids with 95% reduced free lunch, because there are few poor kids, and all schools are 100% free lunch.

    I, too, am worried about Finn’s kids under our coming Socialist overlords. In Sweden, private schools are not allowed to charge tuition. They are more like charters – get a fixed sum per enrolled student. So, Finn’s kids (and their peer group) will likely all be in public schools.

    [to be fair, Scandinavia has had some significant problems integrating refugees into the land of milk, honey and free meatballs – but that is a social justice issue and not an issue about where Dr. Swedish Totebag is sending her kids to school].

  59. If you smooth out the income (which I’m not entirely saying is a horrible thing, and I have sympathy for those stuck in poor performing school districts), it makes it harder for those who are relying on their relative buying power to buy in an exclusive school district

    It simply doesn’t do that at all. I can’t for the life of me figure out why you think it does.

  60. There is a big difference between socialism that creeps up due to a desire to continually increase the safety net, raise the standard of living of the marginalized etc. and socialism that occurs through class resentment, revolution and decades of pent up rage at income inequality. The rage triggers widespread revenge against the “haves” and that triggers flight capital and brain drain. That’s what happens in Latin American countries.

  61. I think what you would see is the prices falling, which would cause some of the lower income people to buy, with a slight bump once they did. And they everything would stabilize. For something like housing, it would probably end up slightly lower than what it is now.

  62. I think what you would see is the prices falling, which would cause some of the lower income people to buy

    Wouldn’t those making $80k still be outbid by those making $96k?

  63. In my area, and in other West Coast cities with low affordability indices, family/parental support allows people to buy houses and afford private school who couldn’t otherwise do so. With higher taxes, existing wealth would become an even more distinguishing factor between the haves and have-nots.

    The question is whether Scandinavia’s success is due more to its economic redistribution or to its cultural homogeneity. I think it’s more the homogeneity.

  64. I am not saying that it is easy, but there are other ways to get into better school districts even if you don’t have an UMC income.

    In the burbs, the federal government had to force some communities such as Westchester to build affordable housing. It took a very long time, and A LOT of lawsuits, but affordable housing is It is slowly starting to be added. I can see the construction in certain communities. There are more apartments that will allow people to live in some of these UMC neighborhoods and attend the schools. We can already see the impact in the district where I live because the numbers for free or reduced school lunch are available, and the numbers are slowly rising each year.

    In the large cities, there are magnet or gifted and talented schools where entry is determined by test scores. The article from a few weeks ago about elite public high schools in NY highlighted that almost half of the student population in some of the schools qualify for free or reduced lunch. There were concerns about the lack of ethnic diversity of the students, but there was no question that there is a wide economic diversity in these public schools in some of the large cities.

  65. You have to remember that people value different things. So, if the prices as a whole go down some, some people who could never have afforded that house might now shift some money to housing and away from something else. Things like housing tend to do that while other things might not.

  66. “I think it’s more the homogeneity.”

    I agree. It’ll be interesting how they handle the influx of refugees and how that changes the social and economic fabric of the country.

  67. Tee, hee, WCE. Sorry to respond so late. I had to pick up Junior at the horrible, terribly expensive private school for special needs kids. Just mentioning the name of Junior’s school to other parents brings looks of sympathy and sometimes a casserole delivered to our house.

    Now if we lived in Lake Woebegone, I suspect Junior like all others would be a NMSF. I wouldn’t need to send him to a private school because he’s so superb that he can overcome even the obstacles of public schools.

    I don’t think anybody can overcome Florida’s public schools. Our Junior Senator, for example, was a superstar in his above average public school. There he learned that the earth was 6000 years old and that most likely his great grandfather was a Cuban brontosaurus. He even got a scholarship to Santa Fe College in Gainesville for a year! How is THAT for laudatory?!!

    But Junior’s lineage was primarily human. And he knows that. He’s learned in school that the earth is like maybe 66 billion years old. Thank heaven for private schools!

  68. Yes, we all know the public schools are the ones teaching creationism, whereas private schools all stick to science recognizable to the NSF.

  69. I agree. It’ll be interesting how they handle the influx of refugees and how that changes the social and economic fabric of the country.

    Sweden had a large influx of immigrants in the 50’s and 60’s from Southern Europe. These were labor migrants – they enticed people to come because they needed more workers. Most would say that these people have integrated quite well.

    It is not the same thing as the Syrian refugees of today, but being a dark-haired Catholic in Sweden in 1970 made you quite “foreign”. I was listening to a Swedish radio program the other day and it was talking about a specific initiative to employ more refugees. The government had called on the municipalities to create jobs that did not require a certification or good Swedish skills. It seems totally rational to me – but I can’t imagine the governor of some state saying, “let’s make up jobs for the unemployed Somalis. I think the libraries can all add an extra cleaning person, and I imagine the schools could use some better landscaping. Perhaps we can even increase the scope of school lunch so that a few more cooks need to be hired”

  70. “Social workers in those countries do things that would have the ACLU’s collective head exploding here.”
    Reading “A Man Called Ove” my book club was stunned at a subplot wherein the social workers take an elderly man off to live in a facility, over the vehement objections of his wife, who wants to care for him at home.

  71. Here’s how schooling went where I grew up. There were three types of schools. Municipal – bottom of the pile for below at the bottom of the ecomonic ladder. Free to kids but awful facilities and terrible teachers. Next, were government aided schools (somewhat like charters) where the middle class and above sent their kids. Totebaggy parents tried to send their kids to the better ones. There were fees to be paid but they were nominal. There were extra expenses for uniforms, no free lunches, so some contribution from parents was required. Then there were private schools which were quite expensive, no government aid and similar in nature to ones here.
    What has happened over the years is that in an effort to reduce academic stress, the government decreed that there would be no exams in the government schools till Grade 8. Standards plummeted and many Totebaggy parents rushed to private schools. Where once were few private schools, now there are a ton.

  72. It’s late afternoon, so completely off-topic: As I’ve mentioned, we’re remodeling the basement. It will have a little sitting room area. On the first floor, we have a living room and a family room. Upstairs, we have a loft area off of which are the three bedrooms. Suggestions about what to do with the loft area? Currently it holds the exercise equipment, but that will be moved to the basement. I feel like YET ANOTHER SITTING AREA is serious overkill, especially for a two-person household.

  73. Music room. Performance space. Meditation zone. Rotating exhibit space. Spa.

    If you go with spa, I could send you my youngest, who periodically sets up a spa in a chair fort in our living room, with spa music playing from his tablet. It kind of takes up the whole living room and also makes eating at the dining room table impossible (reminder, we don’t have a kitchen table so that’s THE table), but I put up with it for limited periods because the fees are very low and he gives pretty good massages.

  74. Actually, music room is an interesting thought. I can put my old clarinet, my sister’s flute, DH’s guitar, maybe my recorder, and the music stand and all the sheet music. And people will ask, “Oh, do you play?” and we’ll say, “No”.

  75. Rocky, if not an Irish Pub, I’d change it into a closet/clothes folding area.

    In Junior’s and my new estate in North Warehouseville, I fully intend to put the dining room table (with table cloth, of course) in the third bedroom. It can hold the folded clothes. With school uniforms, scout stuff, athletic stuff and Junior’s regular stuff we need a room.

  76. RMS, I advise against the spa due to weight concerns. The grand piano would have similar concerns.

    Does it overlook your first floor? If so, I suggest a stack of paper, previously used of course (per your totebag cred), suitable for tearing/cutting and folding into paper helicopters which can be dropped into the space below.

  77. Perhaps my spa advice was not the best. Certain types of spas would have weight concerns, others would not.

    But if you go with my suggestion, that could be expanded to include paper airplanes.

  78. Armory is an excellent suggestion.

    Finn, by “spa” I meant this sort of a space, not a fancy bathtub:

    Of course RMS would have to put in silk plants or something to get the nature feel, and add the soundtrack of birdsong and spa music, but I still think it could work. It probably wouldn’t work to do a combined spa / armory, though.

  79. HM, I realized just after I posted that your probably didn’t mean a hot tub, although I suppose one that facilitates time travel would be cool.

    Another thought is to buy an unframed painting or paintings, an easel, some paints and brushes, and make it look like it’s your studio.

  80. Thanks for the discussion. I now want to go comment on the FB post but it’s a bit old now.

    RMS- I’ve always wanted a library with floor to ceiling book cases and doors hidden in them. It would look like you loft doesn’t lead to the bedrooms. They’d be secret style passages.

  81. In the new basement, there is this fabulous storage area that curves around and would make a GREAT fortress or palace or whatever. I’m tapping my toe waiting for grandchildren. I told DH we might have to adopt so that we have a little one who can appreciate the secret storage area, and he laughed weakly. Very weakly.

  82. But won’t the thrones make it a sitting area, which is exactly what RMS wanted to avoid?

  83. You could tell him you invited the WCE family for an extended visit and then compromise by agreeing to only a single grandchild.

  84. Rhett, you know my abiding love for the worst excesses of Design Toscano. But if she got that then Mr. RMS would have to sprawl in front of it wearing only a linen kilt whenever she sat in it. Of course maybe they’d enjoy that; you never know what goes on in other people’s marriages.

  85. @Rhett – my kids are older now but at one time they did were in nativity plays, needing disciple and saint’s costumes etc. Suggestions of going wrapped in a white sheet were met with disdain.

  86. You guys are funny!  But seriously I find those open loft areas minimally useful because they’re too open for what I would have in mind, like a library or office.

    Regarding Venezuelan socialism, the underlying culture of corruption and the higher level of economic control seem to be factors that would doom countries like that.  Now, I don’t know what came first, the corruption or the type of government.  I’m sure many of you know the history of these countries and could opine on the role of path dependence in what we see today.

    Scandinavian countries score low on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) while Venezuela scores quite high.  There is a culture of distrust and rule breaking in some countries.  I’ve experienced it first hand in my travels to some Latin American countries, where bribes are a normal part of doing business with government agencies.

  87. RMS – massage room! You have your in-home-visit masseuse set up her table there weekly (or more often). Rig it up with great speakers for the pan flute or whatever music she plays. I envision redirecting the $ we are saving for 4 college funds to things like in-home massages. Your DSS is already off the liability column – now is your chance!

  88. The massage room is a great idea — and the table can double as a gift-wrapping center.

  89. Hey, I was at Rhett’s castle pic last summer! It’s an awesome room. I like the armory idea — I can just envision a back wall arrayed with arms, flanked by two matching suits of armor.

    @Rocky — you should totally cover the curving storage area wall in stone, so it could be like a castle dungeon. Or make the entry a hidden bookcase door. Or both!

  90. I don’t think you are a collector, but I would have a perfect use for a loft area to display my collections and my husband’s late mother’s paintings. A lot is stored away, so we could even have rotating exhibits. Too good to discard wood furniture from the basement might even be repurposed. Seriously, you could make it some sort of gallery for whatever it is you want. Perhaps with a table and chair on which never to be completed projects could be artfully strewn.

  91. Halberd included? Oh, that’s awesome. Now I need a new house — NO place for this, which is, quite obviously, a necessity.

    Did I tell you we bought my FIL a suit of armor? Alas, his was only about 5′ tall and halberd-free (but it was also like $200). But FIL has the big wide-open Florida house to put it in.

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