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Socialism And Social Conservatism

A professor told me that he thinks my planned book about the danger that a resurgent socialism poses to American life is really important. After reading E.J. Dionne’s column yesterday  [1]predicting that Trump’s criticism of socialism will fail, I see why the professor said what he said. From Dionne’s column:

The Soviet Union, however, has been dead for nearly three decades. China is communist on paper but a wildly unequal crony capitalist dictatorship in practice. Young Americans especially are far more likely to associate “socialism” with generous social insurance states than with jackboots and gulags. Sweden, Norway and Denmark are anything but frightening places.

The 2018 PRRI American Values Survey offered respondents two definitions of socialism. One described it as “a system of government that provides citizens with health insurance, retirement support and access to free higher education,” essentially a description of social democracy. The other was the full Soviet dose: “a system where the government controls key parts of the economy, such as utilities, transportation and communications industries.”

You might say that socialism is winning the branding war: Fifty-four percent said socialism was about those public benefits, while just 43 percent picked the version that stressed government domination. Americans ages 18 to 29, for whom Cold War memories are dim to nonexistent, were even more inclined to define socialism as social democracy: Fifty-eight percent of them picked the soft option, 38 percent the hard one.

Now, I completely agree that establishment conservatism — that is, the GOP and its think-tank archipelago — is failing to respond meaningfully to the social trauma and dislocation caused by this stage of capitalism. The liturgical repetition of Reaganist platitudes are no substitute for real thought. I wish to associate myself with Tucker Carlson’s remarks here. [2] Excerpt:

One of the biggest lies our leaders tell us that you can separate economics from everything else that matters. Economics is a topic for public debate. Family and faith and culture, meanwhile, those are personal matters. Both parties believe this.

Members of our educated upper-middle-classes are now the backbone of the Democratic Party who usually describe themselves as fiscally responsible and socially moderate. In other words, functionally libertarian. They don’t care how you live, as long as the bills are paid and the markets function. Somehow, they don’t see a connection between people’s personal lives and the health of our economy, or for that matter, the country’s ability to pay its bills. As far as they’re concerned, these are two totally separate categories.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, come to the debate from the opposite perspective, and yet reach a strikingly similar conclusion. The real problem, you’ll hear them say, is that the American family is collapsing. Nothing can be fixed before we fix that. Yet, like the libertarians they claim to oppose, many social conservatives also consider markets sacrosanct. The idea that families are being crushed by market forces seems never to occur to them. They refuse to consider it. Questioning markets feels like apostasy.

Both sides miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming.

More:

What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it. For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point.

But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.

Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders. They’ll have to unlearn decades of bumper sticker-talking points and corporate propaganda. They’ll likely lose donors in the process. They’ll be criticized. Libertarians are sure to call any deviation from market fundamentalism a form of socialism.

That’s a lie. Socialism is a disaster. It doesn’t work. It’s what we should be working desperately to avoid. But socialism is exactly what we’re going to get, and very soon unless a group of responsible people in our political system reforms the American economy in a way that protects normal people.

If you want to put America first, you’ve got to put its families first.

Read — or watch — the whole thing.  [2] My proposed book does not bring “socialism” up as a way to frighten people from questioning the status quo. In fact, the first chapter of my book (after the introduction) will talk about why a leadership class that ignores or downplays structural economic problems that cause the kind of despair we’re seeing in America today drives people to consider socialism as a real alternative.

Last week, we had an argument in this space about socialism as an economic system, and social progressivism in terms of moral beliefs and political policies that emerge from them. Many of you insisted that it is wrong to conflate socialist economics with identity politics and the woke agenda. I conceded that it is theoretically possible to be socially conservative but in favor of some form of socialism (say, a welfare state), but that in the real world, these socially conservative socialists don’t exist.

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may prefer to emphasize economics, but they are down-the-line progressive in their views on abortion, LGBT rights, race, immigration, and the rest. Can you think of a single democratic socialist who doesn’t also endorse the full-spectrum progressive social agenda?

Over the weekend, I read America: The Farewell Tour [3], a 2018 book by the socialist journalist Chris Hedges. I had seen Hedges in the new Amazon documentary Generation Wealth (about which I’ll post separately), and agreed with just about everything he said. So I bought his book, to better understand what I, a social and religious conservative, have in common with a socialist who also describes himself as a Christian (see Hedges’s Wikipedia page [4]). By the way, Christians like Elizabeth Bruenig and Kevin McKenna also identify as Christian socialists, but as McKenna’s 2011 Guardian essay [5] points out, they are part of a political movement that often demonizes Christianity.

Anyway, I found Hedges’ book to be pretty frustrating. In tone, most of it is written as if it were meant to be read aloud from a balcony to the restive masses below. Hedges’ style is to hector his opponents into submission. That said, the people he writes about in the book are truly suffering, and no decent political economy can write them off. Hedges takes a tack that we see with other serious socialists: criticizing left-wing identity politics as an obstacle to achieving economic socialism. He writes:

As a political strategy, this strikes me not only as sound, but as straight-up common sense. But Hedges is on board with the progressive agenda. For example, he denounces “the myth of whiteness,” “the lie of whiteness,” and says “whiteness is a dangerous concept” (“It is about the self-delusion used to justify white supremacy,” he writes). Elsewhere, he condemns

Trump’s move to restrict abortion, defund Planned Parenthood, permit discrimination against LGBT people in the name of “religious liberty”…

And:

Trump’s ideological vacuum, the more he is isolated and attacked, is filled by the proto-fascist forces of the Christian right. This Christianized fascism, with its network of megachurches, schools, universities, and law schools and its vast radio and television empire, is a potent ally for a beleaguered White House. The Christian right has been organizing and preparing to take power for decades.

Hedges writes with straight-up fanaticism about Christian conservatives, all of whom he seems to believe are bunkered down reading Rushdoony and waiting on the bat-signal to launch the coup to come over the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Seriously, it’s unhinged, and gives the socialist game away: ordinary churchgoing conservative pro-life people are the “proto-fascist” enemy. It is also very hard to credit Hedges’s sympathy for working-class white people when he also indulges in rhetoric and ideological concepts that frame them as oppressors, simply by virtue of their skin color. It’s really schizophrenic.

Granted, Chris Hedges doesn’t speak for all democratic socialists (I’m guessing that he’s democratic; I could be wrong), but his book dramatically undermines the pie-in-the-sky idea that you can be a socialist on economics without also being a social radical. People who consider socialism as a solution for America’s very real problems of political economy had better not be fooled.

Similarly, conservatives and free-market oriented liberals had also better not be fooled into thinking that all they have to do is yell, “Socialism!” and people will be frightened away from the concept. E.J. Dionne is right. We are going to have to educate younger Americans about what actual, existing socialism meant in the 20th century (and means for Cubans and Venezuelans today). For that matter, look at the advanced social democracies of Europe, and ask yourself: where among them is religion, the traditional family, and the idea of defending the nation (its borders and its distinct cultural traditions) strong? In fact, socialist parties are always the strongest (though not the lone) advocates for open borders, as well as the strongest opponents of the traditional family and the Church.

True, we Americans, though not a social democracy, are also struggling with those things — but Europe’s experience tells us that socialism — both the hardline Soviet model, and the softer social democratic model — only makes things worse.

UPDATE: To clarify, when I said, “As a political strategy, this strikes me not only as sound, but as straight-up common sense” — I also mean that it’s bait-and-switch. Don’t talk about the progressive social agenda, only economics, and then smuggle the social agenda in.

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191 Comments To "Socialism And Social Conservatism"

#1 Comment By Rob G On February 12, 2019 @ 8:04 am

This new book looks like it might be quite helpful in the discussion. The reviewer is Eric Miller, who wrote the excellent Christopher Lasch biography Hope in a Scattering Time.

[6]

#2 Comment By Ted On February 12, 2019 @ 8:08 am

Brian in Brooklyn: “totalitarian conservatism” is a contradiction in terms. Hitler was as radical as any Leninist. He just was smart enough not to alienate the middle class. Had he taken Britain in 1940 that radicalism would have come to the fore, I believe. At the very end, in 1945, he lamented that he hadn’t followed the left in his party (Goebbels) and eliminated the European bourgeoisie by design.

#3 Comment By Roy Fassel On February 12, 2019 @ 8:09 am

Rod, me thinks!!!!! you should do a bit of studying of Angela Merkel and her politics and party in Germany. Germany has had an experience the past 100 years that is quite different than America’s.

I think Germany, which many on this page would call a “socialist” country has some guidelines for capitalism that seems to work. It seems….I might be wrong!!!!…that their capitalistic corporations have boards of directors made up to represent the interest of the capitalists, the labor and the government. They seem to try to bridge the coordination of all three ….capital, labor and government to make the business corporations help all of society. That might be a kinder, gentler form of capitalism. BTW, they had a form of national healthcare eons and eons ago!

#4 Comment By KD On February 12, 2019 @ 8:32 am

Problems with the Socialism/Capitalism dialectic is as follows:

1.) What do we mean by socialism? NEP under Lenin, Stalinism, Maoism, Chavez, Castro? Or Nordic social democracy?

2.) How do we distinguish between socialism and fascism? If we consider a figure like Juan Peron, is he a fascist, is he a socialist, or is he something else? Actually corporatist economics has been out of vogue for decades, but state capitalism and dirigisme are sometimes associated with fascism, but probably are closer to how economics works in more “hard” socialist regimes (say China).

3.) What is “capitalism”, and in what way is America “capitalist”? Burnham discussed the Managerial Revolution and viewed the New Deal as ending capitalism in America. In many ways, neoliberalism could be seen as a counter-revolution by the ownership class, co-opting managerial institutions and using them to serve the interests of owners, without actually destroying those institutions. Perhaps this is capitalism, or late-stage capitalism, but should we distinguish between mixed-economy managerialism (even if used primarily to serve the interests of capital) from the old days before the New Deal?

4.) American conservatives are always up in arms about social insurance and the “welfare state” but the welfare state was the creation of Bismarck, who was hardly a Leftist. Historical progressivism and the New Deal was a program to introduce Bismarckian-style reforms, which was sold dishonestly after WWI because of the negative connotations with Prussia. The Left wanted to pretend that their program was “socialism”, and the Right wanted to pretend that the program was “communism” but it was always at heart Prussian in a disguise.

5.) The truth is whatever attitude people have toward “socialism”, they generally like forms of social insurance that they perceive benefit themselves, and dislike programs that they perceive as benefiting others. Hence, why the discussion around “socialism” is often a polite way to discuss ethnic and racial dynamics, but also why “socialism” and “anti-socialism” are inherently connected with the politics of identity in contemporary America.

6.) I see this as demagoguery on both sides. Democrats promising things they can’t deliver, and Republicans attacking the substance of the Democrats proposals, even though they will never see the light of day. But if we are in an era of “socialism”, it is demagogic socialism, not democratic socialism, and not revolutionary socialism.

7.) The Liberal Democratic Order purports to be formless and permissive of pluralism. Liberal ideology on its face is depoliticized, it does not readily admit the existence of internal enemies. Certainly, an actual liberal democratic order in fact defines internal enemies (enemies of liberal democracy) but that is a second order phenomenon, after the articulation of “universal” principles.

8.) The point here is that liberal democracy, as a social order, is not actually formless. Liberal democracy, by having no form, only procedures, obtains its form via those who manipulate its procedures, who are necessarily private entities. We can discuss Soviet totalitarianism, but Soviet totalitarianism was a form imposed on society by the State. America, to the extent it might become totalitarian, will be driven there by private entities using the means of the state. In fact, state may only be a passive means, allowing concentrated economic actors to cooperate and create a private Chinese-style social credit system without legal interference.

9.) The current private interests controlling liberal democracies are different from past influences in that they are mostly multinational capitalist operations, and the point of their efforts is to form people in a manner that serves the interests of multinational capitalism. I don’t think they care about identity politics, and “socialist” schemes to rob Peter to pay Paul will be tolerated so long as they don’t attack multinational capitalist interests. Further, I don’t see this system going anywhere, I don’t think it can be reformed, I don’t think it is vulnerable to revolutionary threat, it will go as far and as long as it goes, until it collapses.

10.) Oligarchical imperialist “liberal democracy”, whether it has “socialist features”, e.g. Bread, or “capitalist features”, e.g. Circuses, will grind on like the late Roman Republic.

#5 Comment By Liam On February 12, 2019 @ 8:38 am

I share the caution of a number of commenters here and would also note that including Socialism in your title or subtitle or lede would be the equivalent of creating another situation where your intended reference will invariably trigger misunderstanding that you will get defensive about and frustrated by, which in turn will get in the way of your message. In other words: either kill your darling hook or acquire much more equanimity about dealing with the consequences of failing to do so. You the author, yours the choice.

#6 Comment By Haigha On February 12, 2019 @ 8:51 am

Building on the comments by Logan52 and Youngamconreader, the hypothesis that insecurity caused by modern global capitalism is behind the breakdown of family and community just doesn’t fit the data.

Pick any metric you want: Our ancestors lived far, far more precarious lives, with a far greater probability of a devastating bolt from the blue, than we do. They also spent much more of their time working (in and out of the home) than we do. And yet they found the time and motivation to attend church, reproduce, and participate in civil society.

Life in America was perhaps particularly chaotic, with people moving around constantly as the frontier expanded. But even a European peasant who never went more than a few miles from his birthplace could have his life upended by things like crop failure, disease, fatal accidents, or death in childbirth.

And yet, if we were constructing a hypothesis by induction, we’d come up with something close to the opposite of the claim that uncertainty causes family and community breakdown. Tocqueville was impressed by the level of organic civil society and religiosity in relatively chaotic America. Family and community have broken down as life has become safer and more stable.

What are positively correlated with family and community breakdown? Government involvement in the economy, and the size and comprehensiveness of the government safety net, as well as abundance and wealth generally.

Social conservatives really do have to choose between social conservatism and economic progressivism. But it’s not because the economic progressives, for some mysterious reason, also happen to be social liberals. It’s because a robust safety net is incompatible with family and community cohesion, as everyone scatters to live the Life of Julia.

#7 Comment By Brendan On February 12, 2019 @ 9:07 am

Socialism, based on our social nature, the dignity of the poor, and the public realm is surely closer to the idea of the person and common goods – and therefore to a certain understanding of Christianity ?

Only one that is materialist in its core.

There are people who consider themselves to be Christian socialists, but there is a large degree of tension inherent in any such alignment. The reason is that socialism is a derivative of Marxist thought — one road from Marxist thought leads to communism, and another one leads to socialism. Their common parent, Marxism, is inexorably materialist in its worldview, and views transcendent things like religion to be, at best, distractions “from what is really important” — which is defined in strict materialist terms. The hostility towards religion is baked into the cake — it takes a more extreme, militant form in the communist variant, that’s true (communism is in general the more militant version across the board), but socialism is no friend to religion, including Christian religion. If religion doesn’t get in the way of its materialist goals, it is capable of tolerating religion within relatively narrow bands … if it does get in the way, it is also capable of aggressively marginalizing it in order to get its way in materialist terms.

This is also why socialist parties tend to go hand in hand with left social radicalism. If one is a materialist at base, left social radicalism much more easily follows than if one is a non-materialist/religious person, at base, because religion supplies values around human behavior that are not rooted in materialism. (I use “at base” here deliberately — there are plenty of Christians of right and left persuasions who are “materialists at base”, in that their baseline worldview is materialist, and therefore materialist concerns, whether right or left, take precedence over metaphysical/religious ones).

One can be a Christian who supports certain policies that socialism supports because, as a Christian, one values supporting the poor and the marginalized due to Christian moral values concerning charity and assisting the poor (which are themselves not based on the idea of eradicating poverty per se — to the contrary Christ specifically notes in the Gospels that the poor will always be with us — but based on the need for charitable treatment of others, especially the poor and marginalized). Being a Christian who supports “socialism”, per se, is a different thing, and is much harder to do because of the conflict between the materialist worldview that underlies socialism and the metaphysical/religious one that underlies Christianity.

#8 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 12, 2019 @ 9:18 am

anon_the_second Feb 11, 10:03 pm) makes a good suggestion to Rod Dreher. I second the suggestion:

“The confusion here is instructive. Listen to what this highly educated group of YOUR READERS are telling you. Don’t include the word ‘socialism’ in the title or subtitle of the new book. It’s dangerously misleading, sending people off on tangents that will detract from your message, as seen in this thread. If I grasp your thesis correctly, you want to highlight the experiences and views of ex-Soviet Bloc individuals to illuminate the perils facing the West, which primarily stem from what you call ‘Woke Capitalism’ (good moniker). This connection urgently needs making! But use the phrase ‘Softcore Totalitarianism.’ Or more provocatively, ‘Rainbow Totalitarianism.’ This gives a much better idea of what you’re driving at.”

#9 Comment By Werd On February 12, 2019 @ 9:45 am

You can tell just by reading the comments that very few who read your blog have ever actually been on any social programs, or have actually had friends who they spent time with who lived their entire lives on welfare. I received every form of welfare available to a single male with no children in the State of Georgia in 2011 when I was 18 and in a halfway house due to my drug addiction. Not including my $250/ month EBT card, I must have received around $1200 a month in benefits. I could’ve gotten Medicaid as well, but I was on my parents health insurance and obviously chose to keep that. I grew up around and intimately know people who spent their entire lives on welfare, and although they weren’t living in luxury, they had/ have a place to live, a car, an iPhone, TV’s, PS4’s, etc. We already have massive subsidies for poor people in this country, even in “Red States”, as well as subsidies for those who are just literally “unwilling to work”. I may have gotten more benefits than your average person on welfare, because people who live in halfway houses are technically considered homeless, but the point still stands. Being a poor American citizen still means having an apartment, a car and a freaking iPhone. I interact with recovered addicts and active drug addicts on a daily basis, most of whom receive some form of government assistance. The people who can’t afford healthcare can’t afford it due to their own decision making, they spend their money on drugs/alcohol or material goods they can’t actually afford. I seriously cannot understand where all of this “we need more welfare” stuff is coming from. Do any of you know anyone on welfare? I could definitely get behind restructuring the welfare state to start subsidizing socially desirable outcomes (marriage, workfare, etc), but the stuff “proggressives” are pushing is insane. The problem isn’t the welfare state, or society at large, it is the decision making of people on welfare. Maybe I’m biased because of the people I interact with, but I just don’t see what people are complaining about. How hard is it to not have children out of wedlock and to put away money for health insurance instead of buying the newest IPhone? The destruction of marriage is responsible for everything people are so concerned with, encourage marriage and 90% of these problems disappear in a generation.

#10 Comment By soliton On February 12, 2019 @ 10:24 am

ROY Fassell says

America has a MUCH GREATER RISK OF BECOMING AN AUTHORITARIAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT THAN A SOCIALIST FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

Judging by the Green New Deal, the two forms seem inseperable.

#11 Comment By Kung Fu Jayhawk On February 12, 2019 @ 10:34 am

To underscore what other commentators have said, just writing an election year screed against “Wokeness” and “socialism” would be a lost opportunity. There will be no shortage of right-wing pundits decrying both in 2020. What we don’t have nearly enough right now in this country is pundits who are passionate advocates for both the traditional family and the traditional culture of rural communities, on the one hand, and economically fair policies for working class parents and families on the other. I’d love for you to focus your work on a book about the tradition of Christian Social Democracy, and the urgency from moral, demographic and economic grounfs for embracing this viewpoint in both America and the Eurozone. Following on from “the Benedict Option,” I think you may have a unique opportunity to develop a receptive audience in the American Public for this tradition.

The state by itself can’t create morality, but it’s a false view that it can’t have many positive impacts on preserving family and traditional community. France has long been a bete noir for American economic conservatives, but the hard truth is that its birth rate has now overtaken that of the U.S., the UK and the rest of Europe, including the former Soviet Bloc states like Hungary often held up as examples by the “alt-right.” This differential probably applies even after allowing for the differences in birth rate between native-born and immigrant families in all the countries above. And it has held up at the same time that the government of France has maintained subsidies for farmers and rural communities allowing them to maintain traditional ways of life, and subsidies encouraging child birth.

In recent years in France, it’s been the ostensibly left-wing or centrist but in reality Neo-liberal governments of Hollande and Macron who have ended up cutting family spending, with predictable declines in birth rate ensuing, in the face of opposition from the National Rally and forces on the further left. Getting the reality of these facts in front of the American public could shift the conversation in both the Post-Trump Republican and Post-Trump/”Wokeness” era Democratic Parties in positive directions.

#12 Comment By Jefferson Smith On February 12, 2019 @ 10:44 am

[NFR: I’m not planning to write a policy book. — RD]

If you’re criticizing and rejecting certain policy directions, as Tucker Carlson does, then you’re addressing policy. And the problem with the Tuckersonian approach is that evades questions about this by claiming that the problem is just “leaders” who happen to be evil and uncaring. Tucker says these leaders destroy American communities for their own profit and amusement (presumably while cackling and twirling their mustaches). The closest he comes to specifics is complaining about “market fundamentalism.”

Well, guess what — nobody’s going to admit to being one of those “leaders,” nor will anyone own the phrase “market fundamentalist.” It’s like the well-known neocon I remember hearing Terry Gross interview some years ago who insisted up, down and sideways that he wasn’t a “neocon” and that there’s no such thing as neocons. Once a term means something bad, nobody’s going to agree that it describes them.

So, Tucker notwithstanding, every actual American leader — and those contending for leadership — will swear that of course they care very deeply about America’s families and communities, that they want nothing more than to build them up and Make Them Great Again, and that they just think their program happens to be the best way of doing that. Sure, it may be market-based and totally opposed to taxes and government intervention, but that’s not because they’re “market fundamentalists,” it’s because these are the only policies that work — so they’ll say.

What absolutely NOBODY will ever say, or believe, is that themselves are “ignor[ing] or downplay[ing] the suffering of the economically and culturally dislocated.” So a warning to conservatives not to do that will be talking to thin air. The only way around this is to be at least moderately clear about what counts as ignoring and downplaying suffering, i.e. what policy directions tend this way whether by mistake or design. At that point, you are necessarily advocating some different direction, whether you say so explicitly or not.

#13 Comment By Perichoresis On February 12, 2019 @ 11:08 am

Jefferson Smith: “If you’re criticizing and rejecting certain policy directions, as Tucker Carlson does, then you’re addressing policy.”

I disagree. Policies flow out of worldviews. The liberal worldview (in its classical and progressive versions) is the root of the problem. And socialism is just a cousin of the liberal worldview (note how quickly all of the “liberal” democrats fall over themselves to endorse the ideas of the “democratic socialists” AOC and Sanders). They all stem from the same quasi-religious faith in “progress” and then need to defeat or “evolve beyond” (in the West) the traditional Judeo-Christian worldview.

#14 Comment By Lee On February 12, 2019 @ 11:30 am

@ Werd
“The people who can’t afford healthcare can’t afford it due to their own decision making, they spend their money on drugs/alcohol or material goods they can’t actually afford.

Maybe I’m biased because of the people I interact with, but I just don’t see what people are complaining about. How hard is it to not have children out of wedlock and to put away money for health insurance instead of buying the newest IPhone?”

I live in an area considered “ground zero” for opiod abuse so I get a lot of what you are saying but your own experience is as limited as those you criticize.

What about the adult with down syndrome or severe autism who can not work and requires 24 hour care? What about the person in her late 50s who lost her job having worked her whole life but has been unable to get another job, even a minimum wage one, because she is past 55? What about someone who has an elder with dementia that must be cared for or a child with special needs or even multiple children with special needs? People with disabilities make up the poorest demographic in the US, not drug addicts. Medical conditions are the number 1 reason for personal bankruptcies in the US. Disasters such as floods, tornadoes and fires are devastating even if someone qualifies for FEMA but if they don’t because the disaster wasn’t big enough, well, they are just SOL.

Yes, there are people who do not deserve the help that they get but your sweeping statement that all of the do not is just wrong. Life is hard and there are a lot of ways for it to pound the life out of people.

#15 Comment By Khalid mir On February 12, 2019 @ 11:31 am

@Brendan,

I’m not a Christian so I can’t really comment ( please cut me some slack here).

I don’t think socialism starts with Marx. Haven’t read him but there’s Wycliffe and the Levellers ( the brilliant Christopher Hill on the latter). And for the 20 th c. Christian Socialists the Incarnation was central to their attempt to recover a kind of socialism that opposed capitalism.

And I don’t think it’s always had a material basis. Ruskin was very much about beauty and an ordering of desires. There’s always been a spiritual element to the demands for equality..and one to the idea of fraternity as well. I fully take on board your point when it comes to a lot of state socialism ( and the horrors of communism). But even here I think the former was based on ideas of dignity ( for ordinary working people). Health and education for the poor is not simply a materialist aspiration. I’m quite in agreement that those things can also lead to the nanny state and work against autonomy. But I don’t think that’s the whole story as you seem to be suggesting.

Before Marx there was Aristotle. We are social beings. Or in other words: what if love was at the beginning ( of political and economic theories) and not the atomised, self- centred individual that results in a war of all against all ?

I would have thought that Christians in particular would gravitate to relationality, common goods, and mutuality. Those ideas and experiences underlie the civil economy tradition and – this is my main point in case I’ve bored you to death- socialism as well.

@ Rod, thank you for your gracious reply. Makes me sound even more mean – spirited than I probably am. Cut it out, man !

#16 Comment By JonF On February 12, 2019 @ 11:36 am

Haigha, the greater precarity of life in times past was due mainly to acts of God: pestilence and famine. That yields a different moral dynamic than precarity due to acts of men. Also medieval people did not work more than we do (though of course their labor was much more physical than ours). Farm work is very intensive during sowing and harvest, but far less so during the fallow season. And almost no one except the occasional night watchman worked after dark. As well, there were frequent feasts and holy days in the calendar when nothing not absolutely vital got done. The modern world is much more workaholic.

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 12, 2019 @ 11:57 am

The people who can’t afford healthcare can’t afford it due to their own decision making, they spend their money on drugs/alcohol or material goods they can’t actually afford.

I beg to differ. I have NEVER been on welfare, and the ONLY direct subsidy I have ever received is the refundable tax credit to pay for health insurance. Without it, I simply didn’t have health insurance. The tax credit amounts to three fourths of my income. I have never been addicted to any drugs, I don’t drink alcohol, I sometimes have a TV — it was a real luxury to splurge $100 on a new one, once. My friends consider me a tightwad, and most of the time, I am.

If I grasp your thesis correctly, you want to highlight the experiences and views of ex-Soviet Bloc individuals to illuminate the perils facing the West, which primarily stem from what you call ‘Woke Capitalism’ (good moniker). This connection urgently needs making! But use the phrase ‘Softcore Totalitarianism.’ Or more provocatively, ‘Rainbow Totalitarianism.’ This gives a much better idea of what you’re driving at.

Kurt already repeated this once, but its hard to read a comment and have to go back and look and see what the latest comment is responding too. This is much more accurate language. I hate Rainbow Totalitarianism from the left as much as anyone does from the right. It has nothing to do with the working people of the world controlling the means of production. It is obviously compatible with capitalism and all its attendant evils.

In fact, it shows that totalitarianism is an approach that can be applied to almost any social or economic paradigm. Capitalism can be totalitarian, socialism can be totalitarian, feudalism, although hierarchical in nature, can be a good deal more or less totalitarian. (A feudal lord MAY take their mutual obligations and responsibilities seriously, even to the point of dying for their people, but often they don’t and it CAN become utterly totalitarian.) And there are ways to to capitalism that is not so totalitarian (although it tends toward oligarchy), and ways to do socialism as a cooperative commonwealth.

#18 Comment By Noah172 On February 12, 2019 @ 12:00 pm

JonF wrote:

Except that “status quo bias” doesn’t seem to be operative when it comes to our healthcare or college financing system. There people want change

“Change” in the abstract. Particular changes, which have costs as well as benefits, costs unevenly spread across political constituencies, can be very unpopular. This is not theory. It’s history and current reality.

You know what kind of “change” is popular in politics, generally speaking? Change which offers (or, rather, seems to offer) something for nothing, or which expands individual choice. Change which is unpopular imposes cost, or restricts choice.

The Affordable Care Act was a long, complicated bill which included lots of different provisions of widely varying political popularity. Popular: guaranteed issue, community rating, young adults staying on parents’ policies, Medicaid expansion (with promise of little to no cost for states). Unpopular: individual mandate, taxes, people losing policies they had freely purchased, changes to Medicare provider payments, exchange policies too expensive without subsidy, the 1099 business mandate. The law started off unpopular because it was a major change to the status quo, arousing the ire of those on the losing end of the change. (Go ahead and blahblahblah me how Obamacare was unpopular only because of racism and Faux News.) Some of the unpopular parts of Obamacare were never implemented (tax on high-cost employer plans, 1099 requirement). Later, when the Republicans tried to repeal or restrict the popular aspects of the law (especially guaranteed issue), they got their turn for a political pounding. But they did zero out the mandate penalty, and allow more choice in individual-market plans, both popular moves.

The M4A bill, as currently written and promoted by Presidential candidates, will be very unpopular. Forcing more than 150 million people to give up their current coverage is unpopular. Banning private supplemental insurance for Medicare is unpopular. Taking a meat cleaver to provider incomes is unpopular (as Senator Sanders himself knows, as he has voted throughout his career against modest cuts in Medicare Part B payments to physicians).

As for college financing, remember that the college business is a Democratic constituency. Will gummint “free” college impose price controls on schools, forcing them to lay off or cut pay for (Democratic-voting) staff, and cut amenities which middle-class students and parents like? Without price controls, “free” college won’t work, but price controls will arouse a fierce political backlash. Also, bear in mind that that the Republicans put a very modest endowment tax in their tax law, which encourages schools to spend their wealth on student aid, and Democrats and the colleges howled.

#19 Comment By PA Moderate On February 12, 2019 @ 12:06 pm

Similarly, conservatives and free-market oriented liberals had also better not be fooled into thinking that all they have to do is yell, “Socialism!” and people will be frightened away from the concept. E.J. Dionne is right. We are going to have to educate younger Americans about what actual, existing socialism meant in the 20th century (and means for Cubans and Venezuelans today). For that matter, look at the advanced social democracies of Europe, and ask yourself: where among them is religion, the traditional family, and the idea of defending the nation (its borders and its distinct cultural traditions) strong? In fact, socialist parties are always the strongest (though not the lone) advocates for open borders, as well as the strongest opponents of the traditional family and the Church.

Rod, I agree that those of us that favor Capitalism can’t just try to scare (or insult) people by calling them Socialists. However, the above paragraph reads like you think that young Americans need Socialism conservasplained to them. I think we need to understand why these young people think Socialism is worthwhile.

Look at a couple of things that have occurred the last dozen years or so. The following is by no means complete. The Great Recession was largely a result of regulators over a period of decades and across the political spectrum looking the other way because of belief that the Free Market wouldn’t allow what happened to happen. Certain conservatives labelled Obama, a self-made millionaire, a Socialist (among other things). The conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act were fictitious things like “death panels”. There were certainly legitimate criticisms of Obama and his various policies. However, some conservatives largely ignored these and made stuff up.

When Republicans regained control of the House, Senate and eventually the Presidency they have shown no ability to govern. Their solution to almost every issue is tax cuts, particularly for corporations and the wealthy. It pretty much is a deeply held religious belief in the GOP.

Capitalism works, but it arguably isn’t working for enough people. Generally speaking, conservatives don’t seem to acknowledge this. These young Americans that are embracing Socialism have grown up seeing the things mentioned above. As a result, conservatives have little to no credibility with these folks.

If you want to educate these folks and limit it to “Socialism bad economically because Venezuela” and ignore the economic successes of the quasi-Socialist democracies in Europe they won’t take you seriously. If conservatives and other people that are free market fans want to steer these folks away from Socialism, we need to take a serious and honest look at how to make Capitalism work well for more than the wealthiest 1%. Then conservatives will regain some credibility with these folks. Democrat Joe Kennedy III has talked about embracing “moral capitalism”. Perhaps a deep dive needs to be taken into what that would look like.

While I am mostly referring to fiscal conservatives above, the marriage of fiscal and social conservatives, plus other reasons, means social conservatives don’t have credibility either. The Venn diagram between the two groups has lots overlap. Fiscal moderates like you, Rod, are an outlier amongst social conservatives. Do you think that your social conservative allies should be less fiscally conservative?

#20 Comment By KD On February 12, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

We are witnessing the dissolution of sovereign states, and sovereign territories, and distinctions between citizens and noncitizens, and the emergence of international economic zones.

Capitalism and socialism are in many ways anachronisms, as they presuppose a sovereign nation-state, either acting as a neutral empire or a commander. We are witnessing the rise of transactionalism, notions of personal rights and responsibilities dissolving into impersonal exchanges.

#21 Comment By KD On February 12, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

I would guess, long-term, decline of the nation-state, rise of the imperium, decline of meaning of citizenship, the emergence of a system more like the ancient estates, and increasing distance between decision-making and democratic procedures (people will still vote, the votes will still be counted, but will be of less and less importance, as technocratic and judicial over-rides will cancel any hostile change of direction). But people at the top will still be making piles of money.

#22 Comment By JohnInCA On February 12, 2019 @ 12:49 pm

@werd

[…] encourage marriage and 90% of these problems disappear in a generation.

How?

That’s a serious question. How do you “encourage marriage”? ’cause busy-bodies have been freaking out about the marriage and divorce rates for decades, and nothing they’ve tried has actually worked.

The simple reality appears to be that after suffrage, there is a significant number of women who will decide that they don’t need a man, and given the men available, they don’t want a man. How do you “encourage” them to make a choice they’ve already rejected without undermining their rights and freedoms?

#23 Comment By grumpy realist On February 12, 2019 @ 1:03 pm

Rod–unless you are willing to do a heck of a lot of research and spend a LOT of time examining your own biases, I suspect that whatever you produce will not find an audience on the left.

In other words–you’ve already made up your mind and we can already see that. It’s going to be about as impressive a piece of scholarship as Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism”, where the author failed to learn either of the languages in which the bulk of historical research on fascism has been written in. And then he claimed his research was “complete”.

[NFR: I’m a conservative who plans to write a book about the real and present danger of cultural Marxism within our liberal democracy. What on earth makes you think I anticipated having an audience on the Left? — RD]

#24 Comment By Brendan from Oz On February 12, 2019 @ 4:25 pm

“Before Marx there was Aristotle. We are social beings. Or in other words: what if love was at the beginning ( of political and economic theories) and not the atomised, self- centred individual that results in a war of all against all ?

I would have thought that Christians in particular would gravitate to relationality, common goods, and mutuality. Those ideas and experiences underlie the civil economy tradition and – this is my main point in case I’ve bored you to death- socialism as well.”

Before Marx there was Sextus Empiricus, whose Cultural Constructivism rejected the Universal Reason of Aristotle (see Antilogic).

That Reason is communal (see Metaphysics: Alpha the Lesser) and people are social beings is well catered for in Reason.

Social Constructivism rejects Reason, and has done since the beginning. All of Prussian and Marxist Socialism, Fascism and Communism is based upon this Skeptical rejection of the Logos and adoration of Social Construction.

Simple historical facts, well attested and stated by the protagonists themselves in most cases.

#25 Comment By TA On February 12, 2019 @ 4:34 pm

@grumpy realist

I’ve gotta agree with Rod on this. You’re thinking like an academic or teacher, not a publisher or marketer.

Readers of non-fiction books on politics or current events skew very heavily towards old (45+), male, and white. A book talking about how “socialism” (however defined) is coming to get them and is responsible for all the ills in the world is bound to be very popular with that demographic. Further segmenting and positioning the book to conservatives within that demographic gives the book clear positioning in a group that already skews conservative.

This doesn’t mean what Rod will write isn’t true (though I think his use of the word “socialism” is a stretch to say the least, but nevertheless good marketing). It does mean that a publisher will look at it and have a good chance to determine that they will have a decent return on investment for publishing it.

Or, much shorter, you’re not the target audience for this product so don’t be surprised when the marketing for it doesn’t appeal to you.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 12, 2019 @ 4:34 pm

What on earth makes you think I anticipated having an audience on the Left? — RD

Crunchy Cons. We were being nostalgic.

#27 Comment By Jefferson Smith On February 12, 2019 @ 4:43 pm

@Perichoresis:

Policies flow out of worldviews.

Yes, and from worldviews flow policies. It’s the expression of it in policy that makes a worldview dangerous. Nobody would have cared how Adolf Hitler viewed the world if all he’d done was sit around talking about it in Vienna cafes. The problems arose when he acquired power so he could translate his worldview into policy, i.e. applications of actual power to compel or restrain people in various ways.

In the present case, we’re talking about a proposed book that would compare the experiences of people under a particular kind of policy regime (Communism) with developments in America and the West today, all of which involve agencies that make policies that affect people’s lives, potentially creating compulsions and restraints: the government, big corporations, schools and their accrediting agencies, church-related organizations, workplaces and their managements, etc. We’ve also already got a name floating around for the bad thing to be avoided: “socialism.” There’s a worldview behind socialism, but it’s certainly also (to most people) a name for certain broad policy approaches that a modern nation might or might not adopt. Part of the debate here is which policies happen to fit the label, and whether this is clear enough to make that choice of terms helpful or confusing.

#28 Comment By JonF On February 12, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

Re: “Change” in the abstract. Particular changes, which have costs as well as benefits, costs unevenly spread across political constituencies, can be very unpopular. This is not theory. It’s history and current reality.

I could easily turn that around on your own favorite issue. Lots and lots of people want our immigration system fixed– but there’s no agreement as to the particulars (and certainly costs to any reforms). So is that an excuse to brush the matter aside and accept the status quo?

#29 Comment By Haigha On February 12, 2019 @ 6:03 pm

Good blog post by Kevin Williamson today touching on these topics:

[7]

Excerpt:

“The ‘race to the bottom’ story of globalization is a lie. Global-investment capital is not disproportionately seeking out opportunities in poor countries but in rich ones: The United States was by far the largest recipient of foreign-direct investment in 2018, taking in twice as much as China. Most of the top ten FDI recipients are rich countries: the United States, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong. The only poor countries on the top ten are China (which remains for this purpose statistically distinct from Hong Kong), Brazil, and, at the bottom of the list, India. Trade and investment have made important contributions to these countries, of course, but in terms of global capital flows, the rich countries dominate. Sure, wages are low in Haiti. Want to try building BMWs there?

“Globalization is making people richer — and that absolutely includes the American middle class. The economic insecurities most relevant to the interests of middle-income Americans have to do with defective markets that are, not coincidentally, those most shielded from the effects of globalization: health care and health insurance, higher education, and housing. Most of those defective markets are dominated by state-created cartels and semi-cartels; the exception is housing, which federal, state, and local governments have intentionally made more expensive as a matter of public policy.

“It isn’t Ahmedabad textile exports making software developers house-poor in the Bay Area or causing the schools to stink in Philadelphia.”

#30 Comment By Haigha On February 12, 2019 @ 6:07 pm

JonF:

“…the greater precarity of life in times past was due mainly to acts of God: pestilence and famine. That yields a different moral dynamic than precarity due to acts of men.”

Perhaps. But I’m not talking here about the moral dynamic, but about whether precarity can be blamed for the breakdown of family and community.

“Also medieval people did not work more than we do (though of course their labor was much more physical than ours).”

I don’t think this is true. Think of all the things that they did for themselves that we don’t have to do: Building their houses, fetching water daily, heating, clothes-making, candle-making, and a thousand other things, constantly. Focusing only on work actually planting and tending crops, or actually herding animals, overlooks all of that.

#31 Comment By Noah172 On February 12, 2019 @ 6:47 pm

JonF wrote:

I could easily turn that around on your own favorite issue. Lots and lots of people want our immigration system fixed– but there’s no agreement as to the particulars (and certainly costs to any reforms)

Immigration is a tricky analogy because that policy necessarily involves people who are not part of our political community (foreigners), but by importing them we permanently alter the composition and character of our political community. It’s a more fundamental, existential issue than, well, anything else. It’s the issue that sets who decides all the others, such as health care.

As for status quo bias in immigration, many citizens simply are not well-informed of what the status quo is (versus everybody with health coverage knows what it costs him and what he gets for it, or what getting health care means if he doesn’t have coverage; and everyone who works in health care knows what his income is, etc.).

#32 Comment By Khalid mir On February 12, 2019 @ 7:15 pm

Brendan from oz,

Thank you for the references. I’m particularly interested in the social aspect of Reason ( Tomasello, from a non – religious perspective, writes about this in his Natural History of Human Thinking). A great read if you haven’t come across it.

I think we’re broadly in agreement so there isn’t much else to say. Except I think it is attested to in life and not just Reason. The fact that we think for, with and about other people already points us in that direction. And if we were blessed to be brought up by parents then we know – not via Reason- that the loving glance expresses something irredeemably ‘social’ about our being. Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride captures this wonderfully.

#33 Comment By Lizzy1980 On February 12, 2019 @ 7:24 pm

Rod said: [I]t is theoretically possible to be socially conservative but in favor of some form of socialism (say, a welfare state), but > . . in the real world, these socially conservative socialists don’t exist.

Then, I said:

The bolded part above . . reveals the true source of the problem: people who are socially conservative, by and large, do not favor economically progressive policies. . . The true, but unstated problem here is that the only way to enact economically progressive policies is to elect socially progressive politicians because, by and large, those are the only politicians who are also economically progressive.

To which Rod replied: You’re wrong about social conservatives not favoring more progressive economic policies. What do you think Trump’s nomination was about? Whether or not Trump has *governed* as his voters would have wanted on economic issues is a different question, but the idea that social conservatives are zombie Reaganites is very, very pre-2016.

Based on this exchange, I think we’re actually in agreement: we both think that in the real world there aren’t meaningful numbers of social conservatives that favor economically progressive ideas.

Further, there is no evidence Trump was elected because of a desire among social conservatives for economically progressive policies. We know this not only from the continued strong support for Trump among social conservatives, but also from Trump’s campaign platform, which promised a $1 trillion tax for the top 10%, the elimination of Obamacare and opposition to increasing the minimum wage.

In July, 2017, Pew conducted a survey that measures support for the safety net and government regulation among conservatives and liberals. Contrary to your claim that support for Reaganite policies is “very, very pre-2016,” conservative/GOP support for the safety net and lax governmental regulation is essentially unchanged since 1994.

[8]

In other words, conservatives were no less supportive of Reaganite policies in 2017 than they were when Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House and every conservative running for office at any level swore fealty to Ronald Reagan’s economic views.

#34 Comment By lizzy1980 On February 12, 2019 @ 8:00 pm

Haigha, quoting Kevin Williamson: ““Globalization is making people richer — and that absolutely includes the American middle class. The economic insecurities most relevant to the interests of middle-income Americans have to do with defective markets that are, not coincidentally, those most shielded from the effects of globalization: health care and health insurance, higher education, and housing. . . It isn’t Ahmedabad textile exports making software developers house-poor in the Bay Area or causing the schools to stink in Philadelphia.”

Kevin Williamson is being glib. It’s unquestionable that globalization has dramatically reduced poverty and even made many people richer. That, however, is not the complaint from those on the right or the left who are currently critiquing the system.

The central complaints are (1) too few Americans have enjoyed their proportionate increase in wealth, and (2) globalization (i.e. outsourcing) reduces job stability and suppresses wages. There are fair arguments to be made regarding the solutions to these problems, but anyone who reduces today’s economic challenges to complaints about Bay-area housing costs and a regulated healthcare market plainly isn’t serious.

The most efficient solution to these problems is income re-distribution. The wealthy should pay substantially higher taxes in order to subsidize a much, much stronger safety net. The speed with which this solution can be implemented depends on the willingness of conservatives/GOPers to subordinate their social concerns to their economic concerns.

#35 Comment By Harve On February 13, 2019 @ 3:29 am

[NFR: I’m a conservative who plans to write a book about the real and present danger of cultural Marxism within our liberal democracy… — RD]

Just a thought on the iron rice bowl:

F. A. Hayek, “The Road to Serfdom,” 1944

John T. Flynn, “The Road Ahead to Socialism,” 1949.

“The Decline of the American Republic,” 1955.

Max Eastman, “Reflections On the Failure Of Socialism,” 1955.

Ditto lots of books.

Jonah Goldberg, “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change,” 2008.

More books. —->

Trump.

Really want to roll those dice again?

#36 Comment By JonF On February 13, 2019 @ 6:32 am

Re: I don’t think this is true.

If you’re going to start including all the extras of life then you have to include those in our lives, like our commute times, errand running, housework and the rest. Life involved a lot more physical exertion before the mid 20th century, on that I’ll agree with you. But the time present working and doing necessary chores was less– in part before a low tech lifestyle has less that needs to be done. You don’t have to wash your car, or your windows, if you don’t have such things.

#37 Comment By JonF On February 13, 2019 @ 12:59 pm

Noah, “not well informed” describes some substantial fraction of the population on just about everything. And in fact many people don’t know what their health insurance, or even actual care, costs: the system is extremely opaque. In fact I only know what’s coming out of my pay check, I don’t know what the full premium is. They don’t tell us that where I work.
Anyway I am very leery of a politics that proclaims “just trust everything to the experts”. There is certainly a place for experts, but if we want to be anything other than some sort of gnostic oligarchy the top level of decision making needs be open to all of us

#38 Comment By Haigha On February 13, 2019 @ 2:42 pm

Lizzy1980:

Well, we’re all being glib, I suppose, if we’re not writing at least an essay. There are a lot of people who define the “problem” with the modern American economy, or with “globalization”, in different ways, and KDW is responding to some of them, such as those who claim that globalization has been a net loser for the middle class as a whole, rather than for specific people who worked in or invested in specific industries or businesses.

Anyway, I wanted to respond to your phrasing of one of the complaints, that “too few Americans have enjoyed their proportionate increase in wealth”. It’s bizarre to me that anyone would think that it’s natural, fair, or right that increases of wealth would be evenly distributed. If someone else founds a business that provides something that people want or need, or invents a new technology, or facilitates the movement of productive assets to places or hands where they will be more productive, and by doing so creates a pile of new wealth, it’s not clear to me why I, who haven’t moved, am entitled to a piece of that.

A lot of people (not necessarily you) seem to be trapped by the metaphor of “distribution” into visualizing a big pot of money that’s being ladled out to each of us in varying amounts, which is of course fundamentally false, since people earn money by creating new wealth, not by seizing existing wealth.

(I do agree, though, that if something has to be done, redistribution is a much better way to go than interference in trade, the employment relationship, or the economy generally.)

#39 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On February 13, 2019 @ 3:49 pm

Haigha says:
And yet, if we were constructing a hypothesis by induction, we’d come up with something close to the opposite of the claim that uncertainty causes family and community breakdown. Tocqueville was impressed by the level of organic civil society and religiosity in relatively chaotic America. Family and community have broken down as life has become safer and more stable.

What are positively correlated with family and community breakdown? Government involvement in the economy, and the size and comprehensiveness of the government safety net, as well as abundance and wealth generally.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that correlation does not equal causation. The number of things correlated to family and community breakdown are astronomical. I think that abundance and wealth would be a better correlated than the government safety net, though they both play some role. It is choice and the ability to live an atomized life that play the biggest role in my opinion. Family and community were not really breakable for much of human history, now more and more people can be independent. We as a people try to make it easier and easier to break family and community apart with technology and changes in mores. Both parties embrace this as good in different ways. Your laissez faire capitalism teams up with SJW demands to break all forms of oppression to accelerate this process. There is no way to put the genie back in the bottle regarding our ability to be atomized if we want short of destroying civilization as we know it. We can still change mores regarding whether we should be atomized though. Encouraging people to pursue economic success at all costs is just as bad in this regard as telling them their is no good reason a child should have married parents.

[NFR: I’m a conservative who plans to write a book about the real and present danger of cultural Marxism within our liberal democracy. What on earth makes you think I anticipated having an audience on the Left? — RD]

The fact that you have one here. You also had one with some of your previous books.

TA says:
I’ve gotta agree with Rod on this. You’re thinking like an academic or teacher, not a publisher or marketer.

Readers of non-fiction books on politics or current events skew very heavily towards old (45+), male, and white. A book talking about how “socialism” (however defined) is coming to get them and is responsible for all the ills in the world is bound to be very popular with that demographic. Further segmenting and positioning the book to conservatives within that demographic gives the book clear positioning in a group that already skews conservative.

I agree that it is an easier sell to write partisan cheerleading for one side or the other (election year or not). That doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile thing to do. I thought the Benedict Option was a very worthwhile endeavor despite being aimed exclusively at Rod’s in group because it challenged the thinking of many in that group. Writing a book for the Right about how socialism is bad and the Left is reminiscent of socialism is like writing a book for the Left about how Jim Crow was bad and Right secretly misses those good old days. How is Rod’s proposed book going to challenge any readers on the Right? If it’s just targeted for the Right then it will just be a come to Jesus cry for populists on the Right to come back to market worship. If Rod wants to do that to pay for his kids college, that is understandable, but it makes his complaints about the Left demonizing the other less effective. There are lots of ways a book about totalitarianism could be of value to both those on the Right and the Left, that would be a much more difficult book to write though, and almost certainly would have a smaller guaranteed audience.

#40 Comment By Brian On February 14, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

It seems like you are moving the goal posts with your arguments against socialism. More Americans likely identify socialism as the softer “social democracy” because that form of socialism is what conservatives have railed against for decades. Any effort to expand income distribution or universal healthcare or education is met with cries of “socialism!”. So of course that is what Americans identify with now.

So this fear of dark, hard socialism rearing its head in America is merely a straw man. Would any American, besides the fringe left, say that they would like a Soviet style system? That system is at odds with the very foundations of the United States. To say you want a Soviet style of socialism is to give all personal liberty. Who would want that?

You are doing yourself a disservice by treating every person who talks about socialism as if they are yearning for the good old days of Stalin. That is not the case for a majority of Americans. You are stereotyping much the same way this Chris Hedges who you criticize stereotypes about the right.

Both sides stereotype its impossible not to. And neither side can see that they are actually doing it, because they are always “right”.

What I think the average American wants is better opportunity which is harder and harder to come by. The means to create better opportunities such as education, healthcare, personal safety, and stable housing, are increasingly out of reach for more and more Americans. Then they see the upper 25% with large amounts of wealth and opportunity, some with more than what they know what to do with, and they see a system that is broken.

#41 Comment By Stein On February 19, 2019 @ 12:52 pm

Today the Norwegian center-right government introduces a proposal for a minor restriction to women’s right to abortion.

Even if socialism has becom an integral part of culture and society of Norway, it is still evidently possible for the Christian Democrats to have enough influence to get their new coalition partners to propose a restrictive reform of abortion rights.

I should add that on economic matters and also on matters of immigration and foreign aid, the positions of Norwegian Christian Democrats are largely socialist, but of the Nordic high tax Welfare state variety.

They come close to the notion of a culturally traditionalist and economically socialist party.
(While the official Conservtive Party or “Right”/ Høyre is at the capitalist and market-oriented end of the Norwegian political spectrum, which by global standards would still be leftist, but not traditionalist on substantive cultural issues such as abortion and gender issues)