A common argument that many liberals and other leftists use to support their positions is pointing to nations that have enacted the policies they advocate. Whether it be welfare, universal healthcare, education, there are a variety of examples of nations that have enacted these things successfully. However the nations that tend to stand out are those in Scandinavia. They often used not only because they are arguably the furthest left wing nations on the planet, at least without authoritarian tendencies, but that they are so widely successful. Policies and services such as free higher education, top notch public transportation, and the widest safety nets on the planet. It is not as if these things are a burden to these nations, if anything they are a supplement. Not only do Scandinavian nations dominate quality of life measurements, they also rank at the least above the average when it comes to education and safety as well.
Whenever Scandinavia is given as an example it is almost always accompanied with the follow up question, “Why can’t America enact such policies?” When this question is asked there is a response that consistently follows, specifically with the more educated crowd. “Scandinavia is a very homogenous place, the people have incredibly similar cultures, backgrounds, and makeup.” This argument boils down to the fact that in society otherization often occurs as people are divided into categories. In Norway for example well over ninety percent of the population is Norwegian, with another five percent or so being white. This diverges quire radically from America, a nation in which more minority babies are being born than white babies. Could this be the source of why Americans tend to be much more phobic of social service programs? It is no secret that an individual of ethnicity X would be more reluctant to help out an individual that hails from ethnicity Y as oppose to X. Just how much would one’s opinion diverge if presented with a certain policy and just changed the demographic that said policy was supposed to aid. I decided to buckle down and look up some information on the topic.
The book Why Americans Hate Welfare explored this very point. The novel’s author, Martin Gilens, looked at poll after poll to seek the answer. He found a very strong correlation between one’s support for welfare and who they think is getting the welfare. It found that support for welfare and the thought to be recipient’s race were highly correlated. There was also the discovery of a mass propaganda campaign of an overwhelming majority of welfare going to minorities, especially blacks. Amy Bartels does a great summary of the book.
The thing that tickled my interest the most was the topic of affirmative action. It is no secret that many white college aged young adults are distasteful of some of the aspects of the admission process. However when sociologist Frank Samson went to UCLA and handed out a survey asking people how they felt that the admissions process should work, the results that followed were pretty surprising. They were divided into two groups, one in which the survey was simply handed to them and the other in which it was pointed out that Asians were vastly overrepresented in the school system. It comes to little surprise that the former group was distasteful when it came to policies like affirmative action but the latter group showed strong support for it.
If you look at the result of Samson’s study and think of yourself, “Wow, I guess these people have taken a position just as far left as affirmative action supporters”, then you are wrong. This is even further to the left. The argument of affirmative action, at least the most common one, is that it is to help disadvantaged groups climb up socio-economic ladder. It is to help those downtrodden in society. This however isn’t what many of these people seem to be advocating. They seem to feel that it is unfair that Asians are overrepresented in the higher education system and therefore reduce their chances in getting into certain institutions so that other demographics, even those that are amongst the most privileged, have an opportunity to attend those institutions. They do not favor fair representation in higher education but equal representation.
This entire entry may seem like a “no shit Sherlock” entry. However I felt that this is an issue that needs to be given more attention. It seems that educating people about social programs is not enough, but there also needs to be more effort on integrating people with other demographics.