Liberal capitalist democracies have failed, says Elizabeth Bruenig in the Washington Post, in this era of Trumpish immorality. It is time to accept that the idea of an “unceasing rise of Western-style liberal-democratic capitalism” since the collapse of the Soviet Union is dreamy-eyed fiction shattered in stunned “liberal disquietude”. It is time to accept, she posits, that the problem with liberal capitalism “lies at the root of the thing, with capitalism itself”.
Capitalism, it seems, only prospers when trading partners are cheating each other. “Nobody gets rich off of bilateral transactions when everybody knows what they are doing”. This promotes an environment where Americans possess a “self-interested disregard for the other” and are “spiritually shallow”. Even worse, everything in capitalism is commoditized. This does not just mean people and resources, but also “creativity” and “love”. Thus “there is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality”. What is Bruenig’s conclusion? “It’s time to give socialism a try”.
Don’t worry folks, she doesn’t mean those vaguely unpleasant totalitarian socialist regimes like that of the alluded to but not mentioned Soviet Union. Nope, her vision is a sort of socialist utopia where democratic elections provide a mandate for “decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture”. She concludes with a sigh and eyes aflutter that “we still have the chance to shape the future we want”.
“We” presumably are liberals, and not conservatives or moderates. That conservatives and moderates make up at least 50% of the U.S. voting population seems to be an inconvenience that can be overcome. Perhaps those people will just stay home in embarrassment during elections so that the grown ups will responsibly shape the country’s future.
Ah yes, socialism. Where, as George Orwell remarked in Animal Farm, everyone is equal–although some are more equal than others. Chief among equals, no doubt, will be Liz Bruenig and her husband Matt Bruenig, crusading lawyer, blogger, liberal paragon, and admirer of Scandinavian economic models. Joining them, of course, will be Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos–who also owns the Washington Post where Bruenig works as assistant editor. After all everyone knows that Amazon champions its workers and fights commoditization, promoting creativity and love all around.
The root raison d’etre of socialism is the worker, of course. Even the Nazis knew that. What does socialism have to do with the Nazis? “Nazi” is an acronym which stood for the National Socialist German Workers Party. No question the Nazis broke capitalism’s stranglehold over politics and culture. And everyone had an equal chance at being shoved into a furnace, poisoned in mock showers, or taking a bullet to the back of the head.
No, no, no, you say. That’s not what Ms. Bruenig means at all. Utterly ridiculous. She said “democratic” socialism. Like in Venezuela, for instance. All kinds of decommodification of the worker in that country. Wait, the socialists lost their mandate through democratic elections? No worries, just change the structure of the government to stay in power. That way all that benevolent socialist policy can forge the destiny it deserves. The people really can’t think for themselves anyway. Just ask Xi Jinping, Emmerson Mnangagwa, or Kim Jong-un.
And where has Ms. Bruenig accumulated all this moral and political authority? Mocking Donald Trump in Washington Post blog posts, naturally. That this is fairly low hanging fruit doesn’t necessarily invalidate her work, of course. But perhaps arguing that Vanity Fair staffers shouldn’t be driven out of their jobs for saying or doing offensive things in one post and suggesting Trump should be driven out of Washington for saying and doing offensive things in another blog post might be grounds for invalidating it. Or perhaps for suggesting that all those that have accumulated wealth didn’t work for their riches and should redistribute their unfair winnings to the poor, who of course all unfairly labor unceasingly and fruitlessly. Or possibly for arguing that socialism should be given a try in one blog post after admitting in an earlier blog post that the Nazis used a socialist platform as a particularly evil means to an ends rather than as an ends to a means.
There is no question it is painful to watch Trump stumble from political gaffe to political gaffe. And the president’s mercurial buffoonery makes the gaffes even worse. But does this justify a rejection of the regulated market economics envisioned by this country’s founders and carefully marshaled by every sitting Congress and executive administration since? Of course not. Perhaps it would just be better if Ms. Bruenig emigrated to a Utopian socialist society of her choosing instead.