Two New Books Provide an Antidote to the Virus of Socialism

The coronavirus panic has emboldened the far Left. Bernie Sanders recently said that if there is a “silver lining” to the pandemic, it is that we “start rethinking some fundamental tenets about the way our government and society works.” Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist of course, so this was his way of saying that we should rethink the free market system.

Two high-profile members of “The Squad” have been even more direct. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has complained that America’s “systemic priorities” are all wrong and demanded that “we strip profit motive out of our decisions and reprioritize for the public good and the health of everyday people.” Ilhan Omar has advocated that we “nationalize the supply chain.”

The siren call of socialism -- the economic system that never quite works, but like a vampire, can never quite be killed -- beckons yet again. Two recent books help to explain the enduring appeal of socialism and expose it for the destructive threat that it is: The Case Against Socialism (2019) by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and The United States of Socialism (2020) by bestselling author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

The Case Against Socialism

Sen. Paul’s book is a straightforward expose of the fallacies of socialism. He lays out both the moral and practical case for capitalism. Capitalism, Paul argues persuasively, benefits the middle class and poor, while socialism encourages corruption. He demonstrates how socialism destroyed the once-vibrant economy of Venezuela. 

Paul notes that violence and authoritarianism are not an aberration under socialism but a necessary tool if you want to make society “equal.” The most prescient part of Paul’s book is last part where he directly ties “alarmism” to the rise of socialist sentiment. Paul was referring largely to the climate change “crisis,” but he could have easily been talking about coronavirus, where socialists have used public alarm to agitate for bigger and more authoritarian government.

Paul spends a great deal of the book discussing so-called Nordic socialism, touted by the likes of Sanders. Places like Sweden and Denmark are actually free-market countries with a large expensive social safety net paid for by high taxes (welfarism, not socialism). Policies like socialized medicine and “free tuition,” in other words, are socialist aspects of an otherwise market economy. However, advocates of the big government Nordic model argue that you can have socialistic policies without sacrificing economic growth.

To that argument, Paul offers this rebuttal. First, he notes that Sweden grew wealthy when it was a capitalist mecca, between 1870 and 1936, when the social democrats came to power. Basically, Paul notes, “the capital formed in this era allowed Sweden to afford the ensuing welfare state.” Quoting Swedish policy analyst Nima Sanandaji, “During this time the economic policies of the country were characterized by minimal government involvement, and the Swedish economy grew more rapidly than any other Western European country.” Second, Paul points to Scandinavian culture, rather than socialism as the source of their success. The American Left cites the long lifespans and low infant mortality among Scandinavians, but as Sanandaji notes, “the admirable social outcomes pre-date the welfare state.” Indeed, writes Paul, Scandinavians in America are very successful, with lower poverty and better educational outcomes than the U.S. average. Moreover, he notes, descendants of Scandinavian immigrants fare better than their counterparts in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Culture -- strong institutions, the Lutheran work ethic, and high levels of trust and participation -- accounts for the Scandinavian success story. “We can learn from Scandinavian success,” Paul concludes. “It just doesn’t appear to have anything to do with socialism or the welfare state.”

To his credit, Paul distinguishes free market capitalism from crony capitalism, such as the bank bailouts of 2008. The bailouts, writes Paul, were the very definition of crony capitalism. But, he notes, crony capitalism is more akin to socialism than to real free enterprise. Rewarding some businesses and not others with tax breaks or subsidies is a socialistic practice.

The United States of Socialism

Dinesh D’Souza’s book, released this month, takes a somewhat different tack than Senator Paul. D’Souza essentially exposes socialism as a “racket” -- a self-aggrandizing scheme to empower “wise and enlightened” administrators to take over private resources in the name of the people.

Eugene Debs, the founder of American socialism, proposed transferring the title deeds of the railroads, mines, mills and great industries to the people in their collective capacity. “We shall take possession of all these social utilities in the name of the people,” Debs said.

“Notice who takes possession: not the people but Debs and his buddies,” D’Souza observes. Compare Debs’ statement to the one made recently by Progressive New York mayor Bill DeBlasio, “There’s plenty of money in the world… its just in the wrong hands.” Of course: it should be in his hands!

The socialists, D’Souza notes, “insist that society is in need of a neutral administrative class. Someone to run things fairly, to iron out the inequities, to take care of the needy, to check and penalize the bad guys, to regulate ‘hate’ and ‘intolerance,’ to always keep the public good in mind. Then they anoint themselves to carry out this necessary task.”

Today’s socialists have abandoned the working class and have created what D’Souza calls “identity socialism.” Drawing on the writings of philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the New Left in the 1960s replaced the working class with a new proletariat consisting of blacks, feminists and gays. The campuses became the main target. According to D’Souza,

“Over time, Marcuse believed, the university could produce a new type of culture, and that culture would then metastasize into the larger society to infect the media, the movies, even the titans of the capitalist class itself.”

Marcuse in short accurately foresaw an America in which campus culture would replace bourgeois culture and the part that would be played by Woke Capital.

D’Souza concludes that the goal goes beyond economic confiscation:

“I believe it is nothing less than to make traditional Americans feel like foreigners in their own country. The identity socialists seek an overturning of norms -- a redefinition of the American dream -- that would convert foreigners into natives, and natives into foreigners. An old Marxist concept, ‘alienation,’ is quite appropriate here. They seek to create a new form of belonging and, in the process, a way to alienate us from our own society.”

Like it or not, socialism has been dusted off, given a paint job, and is being sold as something new, especially at the universities. These two books offer good summer reading for a bright student about to go off to college. Think of them as vaccines against bad thinking.

 

You can follow Nicholas J. Kaster on Twitter.

The coronavirus panic has emboldened the far Left. Bernie Sanders recently said that if there is a “silver lining” to the pandemic, it is that we “start rethinking some fundamental tenets about the way our government and society works.” Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist of course, so this was his way of saying that we should rethink the free market system.

Two high-profile members of “The Squad” have been even more direct. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has complained that America’s “systemic priorities” are all wrong and demanded that “we strip profit motive out of our decisions and reprioritize for the public good and the health of everyday people.” Ilhan Omar has advocated that we “nationalize the supply chain.”

The siren call of socialism -- the economic system that never quite works, but like a vampire, can never quite be killed -- beckons yet again. Two recent books help to explain the enduring appeal of socialism and expose it for the destructive threat that it is: The Case Against Socialism (2019) by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and The United States of Socialism (2020) by bestselling author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

The Case Against Socialism

Sen. Paul’s book is a straightforward expose of the fallacies of socialism. He lays out both the moral and practical case for capitalism. Capitalism, Paul argues persuasively, benefits the middle class and poor, while socialism encourages corruption. He demonstrates how socialism destroyed the once-vibrant economy of Venezuela. 

Paul notes that violence and authoritarianism are not an aberration under socialism but a necessary tool if you want to make society “equal.” The most prescient part of Paul’s book is last part where he directly ties “alarmism” to the rise of socialist sentiment. Paul was referring largely to the climate change “crisis,” but he could have easily been talking about coronavirus, where socialists have used public alarm to agitate for bigger and more authoritarian government.

Paul spends a great deal of the book discussing so-called Nordic socialism, touted by the likes of Sanders. Places like Sweden and Denmark are actually free-market countries with a large expensive social safety net paid for by high taxes (welfarism, not socialism). Policies like socialized medicine and “free tuition,” in other words, are socialist aspects of an otherwise market economy. However, advocates of the big government Nordic model argue that you can have socialistic policies without sacrificing economic growth.

To that argument, Paul offers this rebuttal. First, he notes that Sweden grew wealthy when it was a capitalist mecca, between 1870 and 1936, when the social democrats came to power. Basically, Paul notes, “the capital formed in this era allowed Sweden to afford the ensuing welfare state.” Quoting Swedish policy analyst Nima Sanandaji, “During this time the economic policies of the country were characterized by minimal government involvement, and the Swedish economy grew more rapidly than any other Western European country.” Second, Paul points to Scandinavian culture, rather than socialism as the source of their success. The American Left cites the long lifespans and low infant mortality among Scandinavians, but as Sanandaji notes, “the admirable social outcomes pre-date the welfare state.” Indeed, writes Paul, Scandinavians in America are very successful, with lower poverty and better educational outcomes than the U.S. average. Moreover, he notes, descendants of Scandinavian immigrants fare better than their counterparts in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Culture -- strong institutions, the Lutheran work ethic, and high levels of trust and participation -- accounts for the Scandinavian success story. “We can learn from Scandinavian success,” Paul concludes. “It just doesn’t appear to have anything to do with socialism or the welfare state.”

To his credit, Paul distinguishes free market capitalism from crony capitalism, such as the bank bailouts of 2008. The bailouts, writes Paul, were the very definition of crony capitalism. But, he notes, crony capitalism is more akin to socialism than to real free enterprise. Rewarding some businesses and not others with tax breaks or subsidies is a socialistic practice.

The United States of Socialism

Dinesh D’Souza’s book, released this month, takes a somewhat different tack than Senator Paul. D’Souza essentially exposes socialism as a “racket” -- a self-aggrandizing scheme to empower “wise and enlightened” administrators to take over private resources in the name of the people.

Eugene Debs, the founder of American socialism, proposed transferring the title deeds of the railroads, mines, mills and great industries to the people in their collective capacity. “We shall take possession of all these social utilities in the name of the people,” Debs said.

“Notice who takes possession: not the people but Debs and his buddies,” D’Souza observes. Compare Debs’ statement to the one made recently by Progressive New York mayor Bill DeBlasio, “There’s plenty of money in the world… its just in the wrong hands.” Of course: it should be in his hands!

The socialists, D’Souza notes, “insist that society is in need of a neutral administrative class. Someone to run things fairly, to iron out the inequities, to take care of the needy, to check and penalize the bad guys, to regulate ‘hate’ and ‘intolerance,’ to always keep the public good in mind. Then they anoint themselves to carry out this necessary task.”

Today’s socialists have abandoned the working class and have created what D’Souza calls “identity socialism.” Drawing on the writings of philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the New Left in the 1960s replaced the working class with a new proletariat consisting of blacks, feminists and gays. The campuses became the main target. According to D’Souza,

“Over time, Marcuse believed, the university could produce a new type of culture, and that culture would then metastasize into the larger society to infect the media, the movies, even the titans of the capitalist class itself.”

Marcuse in short accurately foresaw an America in which campus culture would replace bourgeois culture and the part that would be played by Woke Capital.

D’Souza concludes that the goal goes beyond economic confiscation:

“I believe it is nothing less than to make traditional Americans feel like foreigners in their own country. The identity socialists seek an overturning of norms -- a redefinition of the American dream -- that would convert foreigners into natives, and natives into foreigners. An old Marxist concept, ‘alienation,’ is quite appropriate here. They seek to create a new form of belonging and, in the process, a way to alienate us from our own society.”

Like it or not, socialism has been dusted off, given a paint job, and is being sold as something new, especially at the universities. These two books offer good summer reading for a bright student about to go off to college. Think of them as vaccines against bad thinking.

 

You can follow Nicholas J. Kaster on Twitter.