The ahistorical commentary of The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig in her recent column “It’s time to give socialism a try,” would be almost comical if it were not for the tragic array of 100 million human corpses that lined the pathway of modern man’s flirtations with government controlling the means of production.
“Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture,” Bruenig writes, in one sentence ignoring the utter horrors wrought by a German Führer who was democratically elected to lead the Nazis (a shortened word for National Socialists), the vast array of evidence showing rising American inequality has not come at the expense of the poor, as well as Supreme Court case law supporting freedom of political speech in Citizens United.
Bruenig is young, and sadly, like so many of my generation, seems unaware of humankind’s economic history as she continues: “[C]apitalism seems to be at odds with the harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams.”
Yet Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution University explains the polar opposite reality of Bruenig’s claims: “On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick — flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries. Without specialization and trade, our ancient ancestors only consumed what they could make themselves.”
Her follow up column, “Let’s have a good-faith argument about socialism” ignores the inconvenient truth often told by Margaret Thatcher. The supposed Nordic paradises she extols are generally less well-off on a per-capita basis than the United States. They also spend less on a per-capita basis on social spending than the United States and are also generally in the same neighborhood of economic freedoms in the “Index of American Freedom” created by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation.
While Bruenig’s concern about the decline in social capital is valid, she seems unaware of books like “Two Cheers For Capitalism” and the Conscious Capitalism movement that seek a healthy approach to capitalism, not her hostile, myopic pathway.