Sunday, May 10, 2009

In praise of socialism

As a reminder, I sometimes cross-post my meager blog offerings over at PostBourgie. Feel free to drop in for the conversation.

Here's my endorsement for the week:

It would be easy to dismiss Dutch society as “socialism gone wild,” writes Russell Shorto, but closer inspection reveals an upside that the United States might consider exploring.

In his thoughtful essay in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Shorto offers another look — one that admittedly relies more on anecdotes than data — at the benefits of going Euro. Early into his stay in Amsterdam as a struggling writer and married father of two children, Shorto spent a lot of time fretting about the 52 percent income tax rate. Until, of course, he started to see the substantial benefits of living in a social welfare state: affordable health care, government reimbursements for day care (as much as 70 percent), four weeks of vacation per year, an absence of the stigma associated with living in public housing.

Sure, Shorto mentions a few drawbacks: most stores are closed by dusk and a strong social bent toward consensus and conformity. And he even asks, “can such a system work in a truly multiethnic society?”

That question, no doubt, is directed at us — Americans. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Europe — let alone Amsterdam. But at the least, I’m willing to explore the alternatives.

I might add that the First Lady and her mother spent a week in Amsterdam last year. They both left promising to return — and to bring me with them. I'm holding them to that, if only to try the Indonesian food and the coffee shops.

Also at PB, Shani-o endorses light-on-carbs cupcakes this week. I'm good with that.

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