As Hellworld 2019 continues apace, one of the biggest political misconceptions is that you are either a Democrat or a Republican. In fact, dear neoliberal subject, there is another, perfectly respectable way to align oneself.
I am, of course, talking about socialism.
Socialism, to whatever degree we find acceptable to enact in public policy, comes down to the amount of power the average person should have in controlling their own lives, whether that be the ability to bargain collectively with one’s fellow workers or dismantle institutions that work against the common good. (See: The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the New England Patriots.)
What we know to be socialist policies are actually quite popular, like removing money from politics, a Green New Deal, Medicare for All and reducing rampant income inequality. These are all policies the majority of America wants, according to Thomas Frank in “Listen, Liberal.”
The lag time between public opinion and policy is real, however, and these have yet to be seriously considered despite the support that the vast majority of the country has for these ideas.
In today’s political landscape, the only political option on the table is rising liberal star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her ilk. She is not a socialist. She is a New Deal Democrat from New York with modern-day identity sensibilities. She is social-ish.
But she still rocks. The last 40 years have seen the Democratic Party move further and further to the right as a result of the corporate coup d’état that has diminished it into another political tax haven for Wall Street. DNC or RNC, there is still a revolving door between those who are in charge of governing the world and those who are actively destroying it. AOC is one of the few politicians who seems concerned about this.
Two main criticisms against socialism are usually ladled out to the Fox News viewership. The most timely is the example of Venezuela. The internal problems of the South American state gripped by petromania relate more to the overvaluing of the bolívar and internal corruption than the scareword “socialism.” Venezuela’s market-based economy looks nothing like the centrally-planned Maoist regime that Sean Hannity’s brainworms tell him it is.
And we would be remiss to forget our own history, with the CIA-sponsored coup in the ’50s that installed a military dictatorship in Venezuela friendly to American oil interests. When Venezuela was led by President Hugo Chávez, it fared significantly better than most other South American countries who followed the World Bank’s economic instructions to a ‘T.’
Consider Brazil and Argentina, which now see some of the grossest levels of income inequality ever, with orgies of ritz and glitz concentrated in the cities while the underclasses are interned in ramshackle favelas.
The other argument employed against socialist policies is that countries like Norway and Finland can only enact such legislation because they are extraordinarily oil-rich and have very low populations. This, like the others, falls apart at a cursory glance.
Because we are richer and have more people, it would be easy for the U.S. to enact similar policies. To that end, a Koch-brother-funded study came out over the summer, admitting that Medicare for All would actually save $2 trillion over the current system.
Note that no one who has ever put forth an argument against universal healthcare has ever had their child die due to inability to afford insulin, or been bankrupted by the bloodsucking administrative nightmare that constitutes the current healthcare system, or even struggled to pay monopoly-bloated medical bills.
In fact, there’s no country that has universal healthcare whose citizenry wants to give it up. Not a single one.
We are not dealing with moderate times. These are times of extremes, with the very future of human survival at stake. Therefore, we have no use for moderate solutions. We must make radical changes in order to ward off the looming dangers we face.
Just consider how many economists worry we are entering a new feudal state with an unimaginable degree of income inequality, with all the wealth concentrated in the hands of a lucky few and 80 percent of American workers living paycheck to paycheck.
Or consider climate change, which never ceases to deliver jaw-dropping statistics. Due to carbon-induced ocean acidification, scientists estimate that the oceans will be fish-less in 30 years. You read that right.
We know the culprits — 100 corporations emit 70 percent of all fossil fuel pollution. That’s capitalism, working at peak efficiency. Conservatives do not have answers for these imminent dangers, and the Democrats have shown that they do not either.
Remember that economies are created by humans. A truly democratic society can make the rules and regulations that govern our markets. There are no natural laws of economics. A system of commerce without regulation would fall apart within minutes and devolve into some kind of paramilitary mafia-run Miloševićian wet dream.
One of the biggest criticisms of “leftist college radicals” is that they’re all insufferable, ungrateful rich kids who want everything for free. My experience is that some of the most devoted and selfless activists on campus have come from backgrounds much less privileged than the average Claremont student. As for a guy like me, who inherited the fruits of Massachusetts’ Route 128 state-subsidized miracle, the complaint is a bit more apt. To that end, I believe the punk band Propagandhi said it best in their song “Resisting Tyrannical Government”:
“And yes, I recognize the irony. The system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds. That’s exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream. Yes, until everyone has everything they need.”
I’d rather use my privilege to help people who need it than sit on my ass, blissfully complacent about the suffering in this world, a choice that seems to be what the right-wing media circuit would prefer.
Sean Burke PZ ’21 did not profit off of the Iraq war. He can be reached on Twitter @RachaelRaytheon.