On Tuesday, The Washington Post ran an op-ed from Elizabeth Bruenig touting the possibilities of a new economic system in the United States: socialism. That’s not a complete surprise, given the mainstream media’s sudden interest in Marxism again – The New York Times has run a series of pieces over the last year praising Marxism from the perspective of women’s rights, “inspiring” Americans, the Harlem Renaissance, even from the perspective of having better sex. Bruenig’s piece, however, is a masterpiece of silliness, a veritable cornucopia of evil ideas repackaged in the mildewed bows of revolutionary optimism.
She begins by complaining that capitalism has hollowed out the “liberal” movement — liberals want to praise capitalism for its benefits, but ignore its downside. Instead, Bruenig suggests, “It’s time to give socialism a try.” Why, pray tell, would we try a system of government interventionism that has ended, every time, in heartbreaking poverty and mass death? (No, Sweden and Denmark aren’t socialist countries — they’re capitalist countries with redistributionist tendencies.) Because, says Bruenig, the ills of our society are almost entirely the result of capitalism. She excoriates Andrew Sullivan of New York Magazine for embracing capitalism while lamenting the rise of nationalism. She complains about Joe Biden, whom she says whines uselessly about America being “better than this.” She says that Americans are “isolated, viciously competitive, suspicious of one another and spiritually shallow; and that we are anxiously looking for some kind of attachment to something real and profound in an age of decreasing trust and regard,” and that all of this is “emblematic of capitalism.” Never mind that America’s social bonds remained strong while capitalism was ascendant; never mind that government interventionism has coincided with a breakdown in social cohesion; never mind that government-enforced conformity has a rude way of destroying “attachment to something real and profound.” No, it’s that we shop around for our products at the local grocery store. That’s the problem, obviously.