Only in America is the word socialism freighted with so much perceived menace.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New YorkCreditCreditPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

In countries where, since World War II, the principles of democratic socialism have shaped public policy (basically, everywhere in the developed world except here), the lives of the vast majority of citizens, most especially in regard to affordable health care, have improved enormously. This is acknowledged by almost every political faction, whether “liberal” (like Social Democrats), “conservative” (like Christian Democrats) or “progressive” (like Greens). And the preposterous cost projections that American conservative propagandists routinely adduce to prove that “socialized medicine” or a decent public option would exhaust our Treasury are given the lie in each of those countries every day.

Democratic socialism is, briefly put, a noble tradition of civic conscientiousness that was historically — to a far greater degree than either its champions or detractors today often care to acknowledge — grounded in deep Christian convictions. I, for instance, am a proud son of the European Christian socialist tradition, especially in its rich British variant, as exemplified by F.D. Maurice, John Ruskin, William Morris, R.H. Tawney and many other luminaries (including, in his judiciously remote way, C.S. Lewis), but also in its continental expressions (see, for example, Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, with its prescient warnings against the dangers of unfettered capitalism).

I have lived abroad often enough to be conscious of the flaws in various nations’ social democratic systems. But I know too that those systems usually make possible something closer to a just and charitable society than ours has ever been. I can also tell the difference between Venezuela and today’s Germany, or the Scandinavian states, or France, or Britain, or Australia, or Canada (and so on).

One need not idealize any of these nations or ignore the ways in which they differ in balancing public and private financing of civic services. But all of them are, broadly speaking, places where — without any unsustainable burden on the national economy — the cost of health care per capita is far lower than it is here and yet coverage is universal, where life spans are longer, where working people are not made destitute by serious illnesses, where a choice between food or pharmaceuticals need never be made, where the poor cannot be denied treatments by insurance adjusters, where pre-existing health conditions could never be denied coverage, where most people have far more savings and much lower levels of debt than is the case here, where very few families live only a paycheck away from total poverty, where wages generally keep pace with inflation, where every worker has decent vacation time each year, where suicide and opioid addiction are not the default lifestyle of the working poor, where homelessness is exceedingly rare, where retirement care is humane and comprehensive and where the schools are immeasurably better than ours are.

Americans, however, recoil in horror from these intolerable impositions on personal liberty.  We know that civic wealth is meant not for civic welfare, but should be diverted to the military-industrial complex by the purchase of needless weapons systems or squandered through obscene tax cuts for the richest of the investment class. We know that working families should indenture themselves for life to predatory lending agencies. We know that, when the child of a working family has cancer, the child should be denied the most expensive treatments, and then probably die, but not before his or her family has been utterly impoverished.

We call this, I believe, being free. And as long as we have access to all the military-grade guns we could ever need to fight off invasions from Venus, and to assure that our children will be slaughtered at regular intervals in their schools, what else can we reasonably ask for?


Cory Booker Makes ‘Environmental Justice’ Central to White House Bid

“The Trump administration has gutted the EPA, rolled back clean air and clean water protections, and allowed polluters to go unchecked, causing immense harm and suffering by vulnerable communities,” Booker said in a statement.Booker’s plan calls for companies to pay for the pollution they cause, an increase in staffing at various departments of the EPA, doubling the fees on coal mine operators to fund the cleanup of abandoned mines, and “safeguarding the basic human right of safe drinking water” by better enforcing standards set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act .

Booker’s policy rollout came just days after he joined two other lawmakers in forming an Environmental Justice Caucus in the Senate. They said the caucus aims to raise awareness of environmental issues that have impacted low-income Americans and people of color.

Booker has pledged to make “environmental justice” one of the top issues of his campaign. It is an issue he has been promoting since his days as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Earlier this year, Booker pledged his support for the Green New Deal, the ambitious plan that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions and invest in green energy. 

Environmental policy has become a key issue on the campaign trail for Democrats, and Booker isn’t unique in his support for the Green New Deal. Other high-profile 2020 Democratic contenders, including Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, have thrown their support behind it as well.