Must Reads, Politics, recent, Recommended

What My Days as a Marxist Taught Me About Modern Political Cults

There was a time when Das Kapital was my bible. It sits on one of the bookshelves that line my living room, alongside other artifacts from my youthful foray into Marxism. The front cover is worn, the pages slightly frayed. For years, I returned to those words, chewing slow on arguments unspooled in archaic prose about labour-power and the appropriation of surplus-value. I was certain I’d found the key to understanding the modern world; a truth so pure it would end the oppression of man by man.

I’ve thought often about that sense of certainty in the years since. I turn the memories over in my mind, amazed at my erstwhile fervency. The sense that I, a teenager and later a young man, had found the answer to what ails the world in a text of political economy published in 1867….That hubris, in retrospect, is shocking.

Although I would have protested the idea then, it’s become clear to me that my former sense of conviction was a secularized form of faith. My pretense to holding an atheistic worldview coldly ruled by reason was just that: a pretense. Marx may have been correct that religion is the opiate of the masses, but he failed to envision what his materialist conception of history would become to his followers in a secularized world. On an unconscious level, my ideology was fundamentally theistic, my nominal rejection of the supernatural notwithstanding.

The link between religion and Marxism (or, more recently, identity politics) has been remarked upon by many writers, including here in Quillette. Nevertheless, I continue to be struck by how many intelligent and empathetic young people, often on the tail end of a gradual, multi-generational rejection of God, become congregants of the radical left.

I’ll use Christianity and Marxism to illustrate the point, but it holds for other religions and ideologies as well. Jesus steps onto the world stage to bring forth the word of God, before sacrificing himself for the sins of mankind. Marx rises from obscurity after revealing the unfolding logic of history and—by extension—the end point in the social organization of man. The apostles, the closest followers of Christ, dedicate themselves to interpreting and spreading his word. The post-Marx Marxists do the same, although the most revered figures vary depending on geography and personal preference. For some, it’s butchers such as Stalin and Mao; for me, it was Lenin and Trotsky, the architects of the October Revolution of 1917. Perhaps most on the nose: The Czech-Austrian communist theoretician Karl Kautsky, the most well-known follower of Marx and Engels in the immediate aftermath of their deaths, was affectionately called “the pope of Marxism.”

The Old Testament is replaced by Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto, and the New Testament by Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, or Mao’s On Guerilla Warfare, or Lenin’s April Theses. Parsing these texts becomes an obsession for generations of true believers. The rapture, that bloody apocalyptic end of days, is replaced with revolution. And like fundamentalist Christians, many Marxists look forward to it, including the death and terror it would bring. Finally, communism marks the manifestation of heaven on earth. Despite the pretension to atheism, Marxism provides a secularized Christian eschatology, rooted in an unconscious Manichaean millenarianism.

The late British-American essayist Christopher Hitchens was a reformed Marxist. In his 2007 book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he likened his youthful political convictions to religious faith thusly:

When I was a Marxist, I did not hold my opinions as a matter of faith, but I did have the conviction that a sort of unified field theory might have been discovered. The concept of historical and dialectical materialism was not an absolute, and it did not have any supernatural element, but it did have its messianic element in the idea that an ultimate moment might arrive, and it most certainly had its martyrs and saints and doctrinaires and (after a while) its mutually excommunicating rival papacies. It also had its schisms and inquisitions and heresy hunts. I was a member of a dissident sect, which admired Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, and I can say definitely that we also had our prophets…Those of us who had a sort of rational alternative for religion had reached a terminus which was comparably dogmatic.

As I can attest, there is a certain comfort that accompanies this mindset, which I suspect is similar to what religious true believers feel. It also gives one a sense of purpose, for I was a missionary on the hunt for converts. There were times I travelled hundreds of kilometres to participate in demonstrations that had little, if any, connection to my life, except for the hope that one day, perhaps even after my death, my efforts would help usher in the prophesized utopia. There were moments my comrades and I would even acknowledge and poke fun at this aspect of our activism: During a campaign that involved canvassing poor neighbourhoods in a major U.S. city, knocking on door after door, we began referring to ourselves as the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the revolution.

One of the most evident problems with faith-based (or ersatz-faith-based) worldviews is that they arm adherents with a sense of certitude that is corrosive to discourse. It leaves them utterly certain that they occupy the moral high ground on every issue, and so the facts must be on their side. And if the facts prove uncooperative, they are either ignored, distorted, or simply erased. This is something the much-maligned French philosopher Michel Foucault understood quite well, notwithstanding all of the criticism to which he has been subject:

The polemi­cist…pro­ceeds en­cased in priv­i­leges that he pos­sesses in ad­vance and will never agree to ques­tion. On prin­ci­ple, he pos­sesses rights au­tho­riz­ing him to wage war and mak­ing that strug­gle a just un­der­tak­ing; the per­son he con­fronts is not a part­ner in search for the truth, but an ad­ver­sary, an en­emy who is wrong, who is harm­ful, and whose very ex­is­tence con­sti­tutes a threat. For him, then, the game con­sists not of rec­og­niz­ing this per­son as a sub­ject hav­ing the right to speak, but of abol­ish­ing him as in­ter­locu­tor from any pos­si­ble di­a­logue; and his final ob­jec­tive will be not to come as close as pos­si­ble to a difficult truth, but to bring about the tri­umph of the just cause he has been man­i­festly up­hold­ing from the be­gin­ning.

There’s an episode from my own past that illustrates this general principle nicely. I’m young and arguing with my stepfather about politics. In Canada, where we live, our nation’s treatment of Indigenous peoples is a shameful stain on our history. The Indigenous population remains marginalized, their communities being often poor and isolated. We were discussing what needed to be done to remedy this. My stepfather argued that there is only so much the government can do to improve the lot of any group, and that states should create the conditions in which people can lift themselves up, before getting out of the way entirely. It’s a perfectly reasonable position, one I’m sympathetic to now. But at the time, I was having none of it. Not only was he on the wrong side of the issue, he was on the wrong side of history. Frustrated and angry after a lengthy, emotional exchange, I called him a racist, practically spitting the word at him. In fact, my stepfather is nothing of the sort. I’ve never heard him utter an unkind word, let alone one that betrayed an attitude of bigotry. This wasn’t a case of him denying historical wrongs. He simply disagreed what steps could best be taken to address a problem we both recognized as real. Thinking back on the encounter still makes me feel ashamed.

For many of us, such one-off encounters have become a regular—sometimes even daily—form of “debate,” especially on social media, whose dynamics encourage rhetorical stakes-raising. The idea that two people acting in good faith can look at the same set of facts and reach different conclusions has gone from unspoken assumption to exotic claim. People aren’t just wrong on this or that issue: They’re morally flawed. They don’t have bad politics: They’re bad people. On Twitter, you actually find college professors and politicians using Nazi analogies to attack people who disagree with them on mundane points of policy.

My job as a journalist requires me to spend a fair amount of time on Twitter, which I find draining and toxic. My feed is a curated list of North American politicos and reporters, which gives me a front row seat on the outrage mobs. I’ve concluded that many of the most active and influential culture warriors—the ones in the front pews praying the loudest, and the most ecstatically—are mentally unwell.

The Covington Catholic student controversy at the Lincoln Memorial offered an extreme example—perhaps even a wake-up call. People are no longer seen as individuals, but rather stand-ins for group identity. Nick Sandmann, the 16-year-old boy at the centre of things, was depicted as the very distillation of white supremacist, patriarchal evil. Making a single individual, let alone a child, the proxy for centuries of oppression isn’t social justice. It’s insanity. One was reminded of a Christian mob in ancient times that had found a heretic to sacrifice—or a similar mob in modern Pakistan that had seized some poor sod accused of mocking the Prophet Mohammed or desecrating a Koran.

One of the best descriptions of the ideologically possessed mind comes to us from Hungarian-British author Arthur Koestler (1905-1983). In The God that Failed, a 1949 collection of essays written by ex-communists detailing their conversion to, and disillusionment from, Marxism, Koestler wrote: 

Something had clicked in my brain, which shook me like a mental explosion. To say that one had ‘seen the light’ is a poor description of the mental rapture which only the convert knows…The new light seems to pour from all directions across the skull; the whole universe falls into a pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to every question, doubts and conflicts are a matter of the tortured past.

What is needed in the face of such ideological certainty is a phase shift to a more modest intellectual approach. When I look back on my time as a Marxist, I’m struck by how little doubt I experienced. The world is an unbelievably complex place composed of infinite shades of grey. And anyone who thinks they have it all figured out should be mistrusted on principle.

These days, when I see that copy of Das Kapital on my shelf, my mind turns not to its author, but to Socrates. For during my years as a Marxist, I lost touch with the philosopher’s greatest insight: “I neither know nor think I know.” Socrates was the smartest man in Athens because he recognized his ignorance. It is perhaps the oldest lesson that philosophy has to teach us, yet so many of us have forgotten it.

This is not a call for epistemological nihilism. I am not advocating a bottomless appeal to subjectivity that destroys the very idea of truth. Meaning and knowledge, not just aesthetic preference, are possible; and it is incumbent upon us to strive for them. But we must also remember that people of good faith can be divided by politics and religion. Your favorite pundit or political theorist is just that—a pundit or political theorist, not a Moses, Mohammed or Jesus. And there is no one ideology that will lead us to an imagined promised land.


C.K. Ryan is the pen name of a Canadian writer and essayist.

Featured image: A USSR stamp making the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Das Kapital.


  1. JWatts says

    ” When I look back on my time as a Marxist, I’m struck by how little doubt I experienced. ”

    That’s a good quote. Everyone should always be willing to consider that they might be wrong.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Perhaps, but he ends with “Moses, Mohammed or Jesus” as if they were somehow above the cult philosophy status. Just because they were used to found larger, more successful cults that have lasted centuries (even millennia for two so far) doesn’t mean you should be doubtful about big claims.

      • IsiahBerlinWall says

        Quite so, but there is a largely ignored, sometimes proscribed current of doubt in the Christian tradition (I can’t speak for the other two faiths, I’d be grateful if someone else could) and it’s that current that would turn this unbeliever if anything would, not the unwavering mainstream.

        Most of it that I know relates to the ‘no poetry after Auschwitz’ movement post-WW II, but there are no doubt others. Living as I do in Poland, it’s the poetry of Tadeusz Roziewicz and Karol Wojtyla (the future JP2) that leaps most athletically to mind.

      • Watt Bradshaw says

        I can’t speak for most religions but in the Christian faith, with which I do have familiarity, even long-term followers frequently struggle with their faith in ways that followers of, say, doctrinaire environmentalism never seem to.

        • Joe Lammers says

          I agree. One of the primary virtues of Christianity (or at least it should be) is humility, recognizing both that we are imperfect creatures and we don’t have all of the answers. And you are correct, I often struggle with my faith.

        • Marty says

          Much of The New Testament is written in the form of self-critiques.

  2. Utopia is that drug-addled place where magic makes your dreams come true and someone else pays for you visits with your psychiatrist

    • Maximilian says

      Utopia is the pseudo-intellectual’s version of “Live Laugh Love”. Light ambience at best.

  3. Daniel says

    C.K. Ryan,
    Thank you for this. I take your article to be a helpful perspective on understanding differences.

    One thing you wrote was spot on, and I’d like to add on to it: “The idea that two people acting in good faith can look at the same set of facts and reach different conclusions has gone from unspoken assumption to exotic claim. People aren’t just wrong on this or that issue: They’re morally flawed. They don’t have bad politics: They’re bad people.”
    This does a good job of illustrating the problem with our political conversation today. We regularly demonize people who merely disagree with us.
    In some cases, though, the disagreement is in fact rooted in the flawed morality, the bad character, of one of the parties. El Chapo recently blamed drug addicts after his conviction. You’ll never get him to agree to anything, so long as he refuses to accept his moral responsibility in his crimes.

    But let’s all acknowledge the slippery slope of my point: we can’t go around calling everybody El Chapo just because they disagree with us. Although… I can think of some arguments I’ve had with my wife which I later admit were due entirely to my own selfishness. But her calling me El Chapo wouldn’t have helped anything.

  4. Anne O'Nymous says

    “One was reminded of a Christian mob in ancient times that had found a heretic to sacrifice.”

    Can you give details of a Christian mob at any point in ancient times that sacrificed a heretic? A lot of early Christians were martyred, especially in the late 3rd century AD, but the only “sacrifice” they believed in was of Jesus on the cross. In fact the whole point of mass for the early Christians was that it was a bloodless sacrifice.

    In no ancient context is “sacrifice” some vague synonym for killing. It’s a specific form of ritual offering. Mobs can’t perform sacrifices in any religion. Presumably you are talking about “scapegoating” or even “lynching”. There is a serious difference.

    Are you thinking of an example or specific incident from the Eastern Church? Because nothing in the first thousand or so years of the Western, Roman Church sounds anything like this example.

    We like to think of “heretics” as genuinely heroic figures, so we say James Damore, Jordan Peterson or Lindsay Shepherd are “heretics” and think we’re praising them. When you look at actual heresies and the demagogues and narcissists who tried to spread them, you realise that “heretic” isn’t a compliment.

    Good piece, but don’t be loose with words or history like this.

    • Roy K Burton says

      I’m pretty sure that the author is referring to the inquisition.

        • Your link goes to a website pushing an absurd attempt to justify the Spanish Inquisition, laden with Anti-Semitism. The Spanish Inquistion was just one of many sustained, organized and merciless assaults by Christian Church authorities (not just Catholics) and their secular henchmen on the lives and freedoms of anyone who dared to disagree with them, which lasted through most of the second millennium.

        • Skallagrimsen says

          Are you denying that Bruno, Vanini, etc. etc. were tortured and burned at the stake by the Inquisition? If so, I’ll take the trouble to read the link.

    • Nicholas Decker says

      Dear Ms. O’Nymous,
      He might be referring to witches (alleged witches) of whom 40 to 50 thousand where put to death in the middle ages. Perhaps he was referring to the murder of Joseph Smith. I don’t know. Using the word sacrifice is certainly the wrong term, but there are a lot of examples from the western church that sound like that.

      Also, Jesus was a heretic too, wasn’t he? Perhaps he’s a demagogue and narcissist unworthy of praise, but I cannot be certain.


      • Anne O'Nymous says

        The Inquisition is 13th century, so “mediaeval”, not “ancient”. Also, the Inquisition was an organised institution with a structure and judicial procedures in place. No “mob”, no “sacrifice”. You can claim it was a system of kangaroo courts but this needs backup with specific examples. Which should not necessarily be hard to find.

        Witch trials don’t begin until the 15th century, and are not really widespread until after the Protestant Reformation. This makes it basically “early modern”, not “ancient” or even “mediaeval”. Though isolated incidents of individual witch hunts and mob attacks are definitely attested and verifiable from the 14th century (earlier documents are unreliable).

        The trials themselves are mainly (but not entirely) a Protestant phenomenon; witch trials were actually condemned by the Inquisition (!) in the 16th century. You can claim “mob justice” a little bit, but this is basically a judicial phenomenon, which is why you can actually claim specific numbers of victims. Judicial murder is always carefully documented.

        Witches aren’t “heretics”: they’re “witches”. Different kind of scapegoat/victim. Even when they were burned alive or ducked in water as a “test” (which basically ensured their death) still none of this can be considered “sacrifice”. Judicial murder is stupid, absurd and unjust, but not “sacrifice”.

        As for Jesus: heresy involves subversive contradiction of established orthodoxy. Jews can claim Jesus to be a false prophet, and the notion of the Holy Trinity is, from a Jewish point of view, total heresy. But even in antiquity, rabbinical literature very rarely claims Jesus to be, even loosely, a “heretic”. Instead, a “false prophet” (see the book of Daniel).

        • E. Olson says

          Good comment Anne – but of course the author’s point was to try to equate Christians and Jesus with the murderous, corrupt, and unjust Communists and Marx, or Muslims and Mohammad, because we can’t have some group thinking they are morally superior or more socially constructive than other groups, even if they have to reach back many centuries to find some illustrative sins to compare with modern day atrocities.

        • Justme says

          Not arguing with most of your point about the definition of sacrifice or tribunal vs mob, but…the Spanish Inquisition was instituted in 1478, the 15th century, no longer “medieval”. Latin America also had it in the 16th century. The Portuguese one lasted from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Catholic and post-medieval.

          • Anne O'Nymous says

            Thanks Justme — you’re correct about the Spanish Inquisition, no question, though the Inquisition actually began in the 13th century to deal with the Cathars. The institution still exists, though the name has been changed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF). The Chicago mediaevalist David Nirenberg, whose books include “Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages” (1996) and “Anti-Judaism” (2013), may be the coolest head on the subject. Too much recent scholarship on this degenerates into polemic and propaganda (historical research as a battleground for current wars).

    • Gibson Block says

      It’s interesting that you divide the church to be able to say that mob violence did not exist when you probably know that it did exist in places like Alexandria where Hypatia was not only murdered but apparently tortured.

      “One of Alexandria’s most notable bishops, Cyril, led the charge to take down Hypatia. Cyril had not succeeded at directly attacking the government, so he decided to eliminate one of its most powerful assets instead.

      “Thus, the bishop ordered a mob of monks to kidnap Hypatia, and they proceeded to drag her through the streets as they tortured her. The monks burned Hypatia and scraped her skin off with oyster shells. They then took her to a church where they stripped her naked, beat her with tiles, and tore her limbs from her body.

      • Anne O'Nymous says

        Thanks, Gibson Block. Only a fool would dispute that mob violence exists or try to apologise for it. It’s not hard to find examples in history. But we’re talking about different things here.

        Hypatia wasn’t a “heretic”. Political murder is something else. Of course this is “Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to” if you are the one being tortured and killed. But nobody writing in this comments section seems to be at this sort of risk. We can afford to be more careful about language and say that this isn’t a “sacrifice”. Again “heresy” has nothing to do with this.

        Unless I’m mistaken, you’re insinuating that I’m playing word games to hide facts or evidence. The only reason I “divide” Eastern and Western Churches is that I know much, much less about the Eastern Church.

        I highly recommend two books by Edward Watts of UC San Diego: “City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria” (2006) and “Riot in Alexandria” (2010). Watts has also written (2017) a popular biography on Hypatia. I have not read this so can’t comment. But his view has not likely changed since his earlier books.

        If you can find me direct evidence anywhere in the Eastern Church or the Western Church in ancient times of a mob that committed a “sacrifice” of a “heretic” I’m happy to concede the point. Otherwise, this writer has clearly slipped.

      • Song For the Deaf says

        @Gibson Block

        Cyril wasn’t a nice man but he didn’t have anything to do with Hypatia’s death. He wrote about it, mentioning the well known fact that Alexandria was given to mob behavior (which predated Christianity by centuries), and anti-Christians ever since have blamed him for it.

        Nor was Hypatia an “asset” to the government. As patriarch of Alexandria, Cyril was far more powerful than her and had no need to attack the government, which as a superior politician he was already more than capable of pushing around.

    • Nate D. says

      @ O’Nymous
      Anabaptist were considered heretics and hated by both Catholics and Lutherans. They had a very rough go of it. Many were killed via “third baptism”.

      • Anne O'Nymous says

        Thanks Nate D. Though Anabaptists are “early modern”, not “ancient”. If C. K. Ryan were thinking of the Anabaptist persecutions, then his use of “sacrifice” would still be objectionable. At least there are verifiable, well-attested examples of Anabaptist “heretics” persecuted by various authorities going back to the 1520s.

        To my knowledge “third baptisms” were mainly carried out by state authorities rather than mobs. But I have not read the “Martyrs’ Mirror” and am not well informed about this aspect of sixteenth/seventeenth century Protestantism. If you have relevant examples please share!

    • aljones909 says

      “A lot of early Christians were martyred, especially in the late 3rd century AD”. It’s a central part of the story of the origins of Christianity – but may not be true. “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom.” Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.

      • Anne O'Nymous says

        Thanks aljones909. Professor Moss’s book doesn’t say anything particularly new.

        It’s obvious that many stories of early Christian martyrdoms were invented in the Dark Ages. Many “sources” are self-evidently unreliable. But Moss does not have the language skills or expertise in late antique or mediaeval texts to back up many of her claims (even the ones that seem valid), and her reading in source materials is pretty shallow. She applies the usual modern literary-critical theories to texts that she is usually reading in translation to make unsurprising claims about texts that no serious historian would take at face value anyway.

        Historians going back to Gibbon in the 18th century have argued that the scope of persecutions under Diocletian was exaggerated by later authors. Well, obviously. More recent Oxford Marxists like GEM de Ste. Croix think that people are gullible enough to trust sources like the Liber Pontificalis, which claims that at one point 17,000 Christians were martyred in a month. By the 15th century, nobody who could read that book trusted its numbers.

        The most reasonable estimate in terms of numbers is WHC Frend’s. He reckons between 3,000 and 3,500 Christians were martyred in the Great Persecution. To me that’s a lot of martyrs.

    • tarstarkas says

      You need to read up on the Monophysites, the Arians, the Donatists, and the other heretical sects of the Late Roman Empire. Enough blood and martyrdom to satisfy any sadist. I won’t use the example of the mathematician Hypatia though as she was not a heretic and there’s some doubt as to the circumstances of her death.

      • Anne O'Nymous says

        Thanks tarstarkas. Have you got any specific examples? What I’m still trying to find is an example of a heretic before AD 1000 getting “sacrificed” by a Christian mob and nobody has any places, names or dates of actual incidents. The apocryphal story of Arius getting punched in the face by St Nicholas at Nicaea is the best I have right now. Not exactly a mob, and it isn’t even a true story. Help me if you can!

    • James Hamilton says

      Speaking from a Christian perspective, I always find it highly disturbing that Christians were involved in the lynching of people like Hypatia. If you read the anthropologist Rene Girard’s work (for instance, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning), he demonstrates quite convincingly that a very significant component of Jesus’ purpose was to destroy humanity’s mimetic “single victim mechanism” which enables lynching (the “single victim mechanism” resolves internecine feuds within a community by transferring the resentment of the individual feuds onto a single scapegoat who is lynched by a self-righteous mob who believe what they are doing is entirely just. He calls this effect mimetic contagion. The effect is to temporarily unify the community. Girard said that the system is so powerful that people never realised what they were doing was wrong, and the only way the system could be exposed for what it is is was through the direct intervention of God who, because of his / Jesus absolute blamelessness, was able to shield the apostles from the contagion and so expose the system in his crucifixion).

  5. Enoch Lambert says

    Have you considered that much contemporary economics is also a secular faith? Have you considered that what you read in Marx might have had a mixture of truth and falsity and could be revised with further empirical and theoretical work? If not, you are STILL not considering it from a scientific point of view, but rather a purely ideological one. Hope you don’t find yourself stuck in the ideological blinders that this website now represents.

    • Doctor Locketopus says

      > Have you considered that much contemporary economics is also a secular faith?

      Except that it demonstrably works, and Marxism demonstrably does not.

      > Have you considered that what you read in Marx might have had a mixture of truth and falsity and could be revised with further empirical and theoretical work?

      No, no more than I’ve considered whether the Aztec death cult, or the lifestyle of the Fourth Century Huns, could be revised with further empirical and theoretical work and made applicable for modern society.

      100 million corpses is enough, dude.

      • Doctor Locketopus says

        > > Have you considered that what you read in Marx might have had a mixture of truth and falsity and could be revised with further empirical and theoretical work?

        Let’s put it this way: suppose someone said to you “Have you considered that what you read in Mein Kampf might have had a mixture of truth and falsity and could be revised with further empirical and theoretical work?”. What would your reaction be to that?

        Yeah. Same with Marx — except Marx has a much higher body count, and it’s somehow still considered socially acceptable to promote Marx.

        That needs to change.

        • Sheldon says

          It is evident that Doctor Locketopus really knows nothing about the work of Marx and Marxists. I recognize the article’s insight about the political cult of some Marxism. However, there is indeed social scientific insights in Marx’s work and in the later work of Marxists. Many mainstream economists acknowledge some of Marx’s insights, if they don’t have there own ideological axe to grind. I might also add that there is plenty of the entertaining of doubt within Marxism.

          The analogy between Mein Kampf and Marxism, and “body counts” is wholly misguided. For example, where exactly in Marx do you find the reasoning or rationale for Stalin or Pol Pot’s horrific crimes? It’s not there. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, there was no working class seizing political control, but exactly the opposite. Pol Pot lead his “communist” insurgency in an agrarian country predominantly with peasants. They then sought to de-industrialize and de-develop the country. Nothing to do with Marxism.

      • Nakatomi Plaza says

        You’ve proven his point perfectly. Somebody throws out an honest question and you response with Aztecs and 100 million corpses, as though that explains anything.

        There are socialistic mechanisms all through our economy and our society that work very well. Likewise, there are plenty of capitalistic mechanisms that are clearly malfunctioning and need attention. Thinking people recognize this and are not scared to discuss it.

        • K. Dershem says

          Exactly. Public libraries are not a harbinger of the dictatorship of the proletariat. All modern economies are mixed economies. Only free market fundamentalists and full-fledged socialists think otherwise. Mainstream progressives, conservatives and libertarians (i.e., the vast, vast majority of Americans) can have reasonable conversations about the proper balance.

          • Gilbert Green says

            The first libraries were subscription. Ever heard of mechanic’s libraries. Last time I supported public libraries was just before complaining that a mentally ill man was defacing all the expensive art books. “ I can’t stop doing this “ he told me. The manager (female) said “I know but we can’t do anything do about it, we cannot stop people coming in can we”. Oh there was the constant talking, phone calls. People having meetings and seminars (obviously paid for). If they can’t make rules and enforce them due to ‘socialism’ good riddance. Let’s go back to membership.

        • Alistair says

          I think 100 million dead should produce a degree of intellectual humility, don’t you, NP? Socialism’s vast and bloody pattern of failures should produce the most extraordinary caution about “honest questions” from its perspective in “thinking people”. That is, any presumption of good faith has been washed away by blood, just as “honest questions” from a Nazi perspective are distrusted.

          If, in the explicit name of your doctrine, vast tyranny, poverty, and murder have been inflicted on humanity, the obligation is on YOU to go back very carefully and check what the hell you are doing. At the very least, before using a socialist critique, advocates for socialism should understand their own system better than their critiques. You should study every single “Socialist” state that failed (God knows there are enough), understand why it failed (no hand-waving about “not real socialists”), understand the similarities, and come up with a convincing revision of your own doctrines before seeking to inflict them and their critiques on the rest of us. For example, can you explain the difference between Labour Theory of Value and Theory of Marginal Value? Do you even have a grasp of basic economics?

          NP, what really grates your opponents here is that you seem to have no capacity for self-reflection, critique, and improvement in your ethics or economics. Monstrous, real-world failures in your doctrine are ignored in favour of Tu Quoque arguments and moral equivocation; “well, capitalism has its flaws too”. It’s pathological.

          • K. Dershem says

            Please stop equating progressives with socialists and communists! That’s an absurd slippery slope argument, not the reductio you think it is.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          > You’ve proven his point perfectly. Somebody throws out an honest question

          Nonsense. The question was anything but honest.

          > There are socialistic mechanisms all through our economy and our society that work very well.

          And neither is this. I’m not sure where the recently popular argument that anything whatsoever done by a government is somehow “socialism” came from, but it is both patently ridiculous and dishonest. Words have meanings, Nakatomi.

      • Nicholas Decker says

        Dear Dr. Locketopus,
        The lifestyle of Atilla’s Huns raised their standard of living, wouldn’t you reckon? Perhaps from a libertarian perspective, one should be free to pillage.

        Also, I agree with Mr. Lambert that Marx does have an element of truth. He is very good at outlining some of the faults and inefficiencies in capitalism. The system he proposes to replace it is bunk, but some of his ideas, about how wealth is acquired by the powerful by their underpaying of labor relative to the value that the worker produced, and that the worker and the owner will struggle over who gets that surplus value, are pretty good. So, let’s take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        • Charlie says

          People came wealthy because they produced gods and services people could afford. Arkwright and Wedgewood reduced the cost of goods making them available to more people and in doing so became wealthy. Newcomen created the first working steam engine which was able to pump water out of Cornish tin mines and so enabled more ore to be extracted . A Darby learnt how to turn coal into coke which enabled expansion of iron industry and so reduced cost. Brindley designed and built the first canal which reduced the cost of coal by 50-75% . Watt and Boulton increased the power efficiency of the Newcomen engine by four fold.

          The creators of the agricultural and Industrial Revolutions created technological advances which benefitted others who were prepared to pay for them.

          Technological change produces new jobs, sailmakers for replaced by boiler makers and mechanics.

          At least 50% of those who created the Industrial Revolution were Quakers and Dissenters who looked after their employees.

        • Nicholas says

          Wut? No, that’s the most absurd part of marx’ economic theory. It totally denies any value of the firm or capital, both of which the worker values as risk mitigation. His stuff on business cycle isn’t totally backwards (especially for the time of his writing), and he actually has a lot of interesting stuff to say about industrialization, and how capitalism is the only system that is capable of producing a prosperous society.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          > Perhaps from a libertarian perspective, one should be free to pillage.

          Or perhaps you’re simply making a dishonest argument. There are many flavors of libertarian philosophy, but in none I am familiar with is one “free to pillage”.

          > Also, I agree with Mr. Lambert that Marx does have an element of truth.

          Marx is evil nonsense. You’re never going to be able to cover up the stench of those 100 million corpses, dude, so you might as well stop trying.

          • @ Doctor Locketopus, above –

            “Marx is evil nonsense.”

            I don’t think nonsense is quite appropriate for Marx, but the rest of the statement is totally correct – Marx is evil.

            The following is an excerpt from the book Marx And Satan by Richard Wurmbrand.

            Wurmbrand writes –

            In his poem “Human Pride,” Marx admits that his aim is not to improve the world or to reform or revolutionize it, but simply to ruin it and to enjoy its being ruined:

            With disdain I will throw my gauntlet
            Full in the face of the world,
            And see the collapse of this pygmy giant
            Whose fall will not stifle my ardour.
            Then will I wander godlike and victorious
            Through the ruins of the world
            And, giving my words an active force,
            I will feel equal to the Creator.

            Ref – Karl Marx, “Menschenstolz” (“Human Pride”), MEGA, I, i (2), p. 50

            The intent of Marx was to destroy human kind.

      • >>>>
        > Have you considered that much contemporary economics is also a secular faith?

        Except that it demonstrably works, and Marxism demonstrably does not.
        I would agree that Marxism demonstratably does not work but I think claiming contempory economics works is a bit harder.

        Provides a framework to explain many phenomenena – yes. Provide a means to predict or control economic performance – reliably certainly not. I don't think we have anything better but we should not oversell economics.

        • DeplorableDude says

          @AJ Contemporary economics works so well that large number of people don’t work and are taken care of the by the excess generated by those that do.

        • peanut gallery says

          Basic Economics is on pretty solid ground. It gets weird when people decide that they can use it to plan the economy or incorporate sociology into it, which is a pretty socialist thing to do.YMMV.

          Freedom is better. As long as there are rules for fraud, theft and various other behaviors then a free market is a good place. Capitalism isn’t why the hierarchy and systems become corrupt. Avarice and lust for power has been with us before the term Capitalism was coined. It is a Human problem, not a problem with free markets.

      • Doctor L: so, Marxism demonstrably does not work?? But what about Spinozism? Cartesianism? Thomism? Some philosophers got that-ism behind their names, others not (Sartrism, Schopenhauerism, Kantism even not), why?
        And is ” work” the ultimate criterium? What about influence, originality, defining new trends?
        Marx was not an economist, like Engels (no Engelism, though), he studied pure philosophy and law, but noticed a lot of injustices around, such as the proletarianisation of small farmers, factory workers and vineyard owners. Very good of him, compassionate! One can also say: none of my business, I have a reasonably good life, let them eat dry bread.

    • Tersitus says

      Seems to me anything being offered as predictive and comprehensively explanatory qualifies as a “faith.” That’s where science and religion come together. Both vaporize “testing” as a form of “proof.”
      Casting a blanket over a variety of skeptical environmentalists, shadow banning their research, and dismissively labeling them heretical “deniers” for pointing out the obvious about imprecise models and conflicting results and persistent doomsaying may deserve the term secular but it’s hardly science, and calling it settled is vulgar scientism, and itself an act of faith.
      Marxism has been under constant revision since Marx died— starting with Engels— but I can’t tell much has changed. It’s still largely reactive, a negative dialectic given over to creative explaining away of the successes of a more vigorous, more adaptive, more successful “late capitalism” that stubbornly refuses to collapse of its internal contradictions. Talk about stuck in a rut. Though it does appear Trump’s given us a little withering away of the state— “a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
      When you find that unblindered website with the properly scientific point of view, please come back and let us know. We’ll be keepin the faith.

      • Tersitus says

        Make that “””valorize”””— spellcontrol without an edit button is algorithmic tyranny.

    • Nicholas says

      We have the private correspondence between marx and engles proving that marx’ writings were intentionally obfuscated to confound his detractors. Even if you believe marx was a genius of the first order who solved all human tribulations, you’d have to also believe his surviving books are nonsense designed to elicit rhetorical missteps from his political enemies… because that’s what he said they were for when engles asked why his drafts were so bad.

      And sure, Keynesianism and MMT are largely faith-based.

    • deplorabledude says

      I guess we could look at it a 2nd time. Maybe you could figure a way to make we want to be communist without having secret police, sham trials and murder used as a deterrent. It was only 100 million people that Marxism killed. Maybe next time we could up the number to something truly staggering.

  6. K. Dershem says

    “The idea that two people acting in good faith can look at the same set of facts and reach different conclusions has gone from unspoken assumption to exotic claim. People aren’t just wrong on this or that issue: They’re morally flawed. They don’t have bad politics: They’re bad people.”

    I wonder how many people who read this article will recognize that this applies to the demonization of people on the left as much as it does to the demonization of people on the right. A straw-man version of SJWs is a regular target of vituperative mockery in the comment sections at Quillette. There’s very little constructive engagement with the positions that progressive activists actually hold.

    • Doctor Locketopus says

      > A straw-man version of SJWs is a regular target of vituperative mockery in the comment sections at Quillette.

      Oh, my. Mocked in a comment section. Well, that is absolutely as bad as being hounded from one’s job, or being sent to a gulag or concentration camp.

      “Progressive” (read: Marxist) activists have murdered 100 million people within living memory. It is not possible to “constructively engage” with people who are involved in an evil cult of that enormity, any more than it is possible to “constructively engage” with Nazis, or suicide bombers, or a horde of raping, looting, and burning barbarians.

      Marxists should be excised from the academy and polite society altogether. You do have the constitutional right to hold those opinions, but if you insist on holding them, you should be living with your fellow cultists in a compound in Idaho or something, not spreading your evil doctrine in a public university.

      If an institution would not grant tenure to a Nazi, neither should it grant tenure to a Marxist.

      • K. Dershem says

        Thanks for proving my point! Social justice activists are morally equivalent to genodical dictators; losing one’s job for making insensitive comments = being sent to a concentration camp? Progressive activists are part of an “evil cult” who should be held responsible for the worst atrocities of the 20th century? Uh, no. Very few SJWs are doctrinaire Marxists, just as very few conservative activists are racist homophobes who advocate a white ethnostate. Your position sounds *exactly* like the arguments made by Antifa, and it’s equally deranged.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          > Your position sounds *exactly* like the arguments made by Antifa, and it’s equally deranged.

          Umm… those 100 million dead bodies aren’t imaginary, dude.

          > Progressive activists are part of an “evil cult” who should be held responsible for the worst atrocities of the 20th century? Uh, no.

          When you advocate the exact same policies that led to those atrocities? Uh, yes.

          Your “progressive” ideas have been tried again, and again, and again. There is absolutely nothing new about them. And they’ve failed every time. Most recently they’ve failed in Venezuela, and they’re in the process of failing in New York, Illinois, and California as we speak.

          Time to try something else, dude. Even from a purely pragmatic perspective it should be clear by now that the “progressive” economic model is total shite. Clinging to these same ideas in the face of dozens of failed attempts makes it a cult and/or a mental illness, not a practical model for economics or government.

          • K. Dershem says

            Bernie Sanders is as far left as Democrats go … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism, not Soviet-style authoritarian Communism. If you want to see a failed economy, you should visit Kansas: it tripled-down on supply-side tax cuts and experienced catastrophic results. (Voters were so fed up that they elected a Democrat as Governor in the 2018 election. In Kansas!) California, New York and Illinois have their own problems but their economies are far more successful. With all due respect, it seems like you’re blinded by ideology and unable to draw obvious distinctions between a range of different political positions. Reasonable people can debate the pros and cons of single-payer health care systems, publicly-financed higher education and higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy. Ideologues rely on tired stereotypes and hyperbolic slippery slope arguments.

          • ga gamba says

            … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism

            The thing you say exists… it doesn’t exist. Even the prime minister of Denmark told Sanders that he was incorrect, There is no socialism in Scandinavia, not unless you redefine socialism to mean something it isn’t. The Scandinavian economies are not those where labour has seized the means of production from the capital-holding class and have replaced a market-driven economy with a planned, command one. Democratic Socialism is where the ballot box brings forth the change to socialism rather than by gun barrel.

            Ideologues rely on tired stereotypes…

            Eureka! You’ve done so yourself by invoking the tired stereotype of Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism.

          • Nicholas Decker says

            “When you advocate the exact same policies that led to those atrocities? Uh, yes.”

            But we don’t. That’s the thing. I can only speak for myself on specific, exact details, but what I want to do is raise the top marginal tax rate up 4 percent, the rate below that up 2 percent, add a couple more marginal hikes farther up increasing income, (i.e at 1 million, 2 million, and 4 million) have the social security tax go to cover all income, rather than stopping arbitrarily at 132,000, and use the money to fund to 1) expand and refurbish our infrastructure and 2) subsidize renewable energy and the research there in, while continuing basically all the programs we have going on today except for agricultural subsidies, which we will taper down and end in 15 years for everyone.

            Are those the progressive policies that kill people?

            It is absurd to say that anything or anyone that is liberal or progressive is actually a marxist (“Progressive” (read: Marxist) activists “) and that we should not have them in polite society?

            I’m very sorry to say, but that is exactly the same kind of certainty that the author is warning against.

            Please stop and consider yourself and your belief. I am certain that you are very confident in yourself, and I have no doubt that this is the sort of thing you have thought about so much. But, be willing to consider why perfectly reasonable people wanting the best for themselves and everyone, have come to differing conclusions.


        • E Taph says

          Around 20% of university faculty in the US self-identify as Marxist “radicals” IIRC.

        • peanut gallery says

          I think actual amount of extreme progs is probably fairly low, but that doesn’t make dunking on the things they really do or really say they think is a straw-man. But they do control some power levers in our society. They are “making their way through the organs.” That isn’t nothing to sneeze at. The KKK is a shadow of their former self. But they also don’t have a place on FOX or MSNBC to make propaganda. Hollywood and the media is full of progressive agitprop at this point. It’s fashionable and it’s dangerous, because they have some old ideas that we know lead to death. I miss making fun of Republicans to be honest. At least conservatives want to “conserve” society. Our current direction we’re going to be fighting in the streets in a decade or two. A financial collapse would seal the deal.

        • derek says

          How do you know that you aren’t? Where is the line between actually helping people and doing serious harm? Have you seriously digested the lessons of Venezuela where fine intentions turned to misery?

          I see no limits on the left built into the ideology or implementation preventing things from going too far. We are already seeing in the sjw ideology the characteristics of mental illness.

          There is a hard rule in social sciences and psychology that it is very likely that your interventions will not only not work but do harm.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I’m firmly on the right. I also like to demonise SJW ideas which I find silly and useless. But I agree with you that we all like to assume that those with whom we disagree are imoral. But I think you will find this practice far more prevalent on the left, because hyper morality is a feature of leftism. We on the right think that lefties are fools, many on the left think we Tories are evil.

      • Gringo says

        Bernie Sanders is as far left as Democrats go … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism, not Soviet-style authoritarian Communism.

        For a half century, Bernie Sanders has been a fanboy of Latin American despots. When Bernie Sanders Thought Castro and the Sandinistas Could Teach America a Lesson. Listen to Bernie gush about Castro.

        Sanders had a hunch that Cubans actually appreciated living in a one-party state. “The people we met had an almost religious affection for [Fidel Castro]. The revolution there is far deep and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”

        Mayor Bernie thought that the Sandinistas in 1980’s Nicaragua could serve as a model for Latin America, just as Vermont could for the US.

        But despite its aversion to elections, brutal suppression of dissent, hideous mistreatment of indigenous Nicaraguans, and rejection of basic democratic norms, Sanders thought Managua’s Marxist-Leninist clique had much to teach Burlington: “Vermont could set an example to the rest of the nation similar to the type of example Nicaragua is setting for the rest of Latin America.”

        Bernie thought that Nicaragua’s food lines were great.Bernie Sanders Praising Bread Lines and Food Rationing.

        Bernie Sanders: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”

        What Bernie ignored, in his praise of Sandinista Nicaragua’s food lines, is that food lines are a consequence of food shortages. In Sandinista Nicaragua, as in Cuba and in Chavista Venezuela and Allende’s Chile, “land reform” coupled with government controls- including price controls- resulted in a significant fall in food production.

        I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable with Bernie’s praise of food lines and of Latin American despots. What is Scandinavian about Latin American despots or food lines, both of which Bernie praises?

        • K. Dershem says

          I’m not really interested in what Sanders said forty years ago — I’m more concerned with the policies he’s proposing today (some of which I support, others I don’t). Sanders has explicitly said that he views Scandanavia as a model, not Venezuela. The left is properly criticized when it condemns public figures for something stupid they said or did in the past. The same should be true of the right.

          • Gringo says

            I’m not really interested in what Sanders said forty years ago — I’m more concerned with the policies he’s proposing today
            Sanders was very consistent- and also very insistent- in his 20s, in his 30s, and in his 40s in praising Latin American despots. He was also very open about his affinity for Latin American despots when Mayor of Burlington.

            He was relatively silent during his Presidential campaign about cheerleading for Latin American despots – usually refusing to comment when asked- because he realized he wouldn’t gain votes by speaking from his heart. Bernie didn’t change, he just kept quiet.

            Sanders has explicitly said that he views Scandanavia as a model, not Venezuela.
            Sanders has also explicitly stated he considered Venezuela a model for the US. From his Senate website: 2011:Close The Gaps: Disparities That Threaten America.

            These days, the American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, where incomes are actually more equal today than they are in the land of Horatio Alger. Who’s the banana republic now?

            Chavista Venezuela as a model for the United States. What a tool!
            Who in his right mind would have praised Chavista Venezuela as late as 2011? By then it was obvious for those who researched Venezuela that Chavism’s alleged accomplishments were smoke and mirrors. For example, those alleged great inequality figures hid an economy that in spite of hundreds of billions of oil revenue, had an abysmal record for economic growth and had borrowed for consumption, not for investment. But Bernie, just like he did with Castro and the Sandinistas, didn’t bother to look behind the curtain.
            Yes, Bernie called Maduro a dictator. But Bernie also told us of the “almost religious affection” the Cubans had for another dictator.

          • K. Dershem says

            Bernie Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist and has a longstanding commitment to the policies and movements of the anti-imperialist Left. It is therefore unsurprising that his views on Venezuela would attract interest and concern during the 2016 Presidential Election cycle and beyond. However, a comprehensive search of Sanders’s congressional records, speeches, newspaper articles, books, and the weight of opposition research against him, offers a rather different picture to that painted by his political opponents. The condemnation of his apparent praise of the Venezuelan regime, it turns out, is based on unfounded claims, unexamined sources, conclusion-jumping, intellectual laziness, and some pretty shoddy journalism.

            During the presidential primaries, Sanders insisted that “When I talk about democratic socialism, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”


          • K. Dershem says

            Did you read the entire article?

            “Cuba is, of course, an authoritarian, undemocratic country and I hope very much, as soon as possible, it becomes a democratic country,” Sanders said.

            “But on the other hand it would be wrong not to state that in Cuba they have made some good advances in healthcare, they are sending doctors all over the world.

            “They have made some progress in education.”

          • Gringo says

            The condemnation of his apparent praise of the Venezuelan regime, it turns out, is based on unfounded claims, unexamined sources, conclusion-jumping, intellectual laziness, and some pretty shoddy journalism.

            Unfounded claim? From his Senate website ? As they say in Venezuela, “Dime otro de vaqueros.” Tell me another cowboy story. Tell me another fish tale.

            If it was on his Senate website, he endorsed it. I provided the link. When a politician gives a speech, even if he didn’t write the speech, the politician is implicitly endorsing what he said.

            That Quillette article you liked to was unmitigated pettifoggery. As is your reply.

          • K. Dershem says

            Gringo, I think you’re being completely unfair to both Sanders and me, but you won me over with your use of the word “pettifoggery”! Well played. 🙂

          • Gringo says

            I’m not really interested in what Sanders said forty years ago.

            Then consider how Bernie Sanders and Maduro said in 2016 both condemned the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, and likened the impeachment to a “coup” – an impeachment process that followed Brazilian law. Apparently following the law is to a lefty, a coup.

            Here’s Maduro.Venezuela’s left-wing government condemns impeachment of Brazil’s Rousseff as a ‘farcical coup’ and accuses ‘imperial forces’ of overthrowing her as South America rejects socialism.

            Venezuela’s left-wing government has called the impeachment of Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, a mockery of justice and popular will.
            President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party has always been ideologically close to Rousseff’s Workers Party, especially during the rule of their predecessors, Hugo Chavez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
            ‘Venezuela categorically rejects the parliamentary coup d’etat under way in Brazil, which, via judicial farces from the oligarchy and imperial forces, seeks to topple the president and overturn popular sovereignty,’ said a statement from the government in Caracas.

            Here’s Bernie:Sanders Condemns Efforts to Remove Brazil’s Democratically Elected President.

            “I am deeply concerned by the current effort to remove Brazil’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état.

            Both Bernie Sanders and Dilma Rouseff called her impeachment a coup, though Bernie waffled by saying “to many Brazilians and observers.” Birds of a feather? 🙂

          • Gringo says

            At the time Bernie made that speech, Venezuela *was* reducing income inequality. Chavez’ approach obviously wasn’t sustainable, but Bernie’s comment was defensible in its original context.

            You admitted that “Chavez’ approach obviously wasn’t sustainable.That is obvious to everybody today. How did things look in 2011? I suspect that Bernie believed in 2011 that Venezuela could continue that improved inequality figure.
            If one looked behind the curtains back in 2011, it was apparent that the inequality figure was smoke and mirrors, as it was based on a poorly performing economy.

            Chavez was elected in 1998 when Venezuelan oil was selling for ~$11/BBL. How did the economy perform when he was in office? By 2007-2010, oil was fluctuating between $60 -$100/BBL. In 2011, when Bernie made the inequality statement, economic data for 2009 would have been available. Perhaps 2010- but as 2010 was a bad year for the Venezuelan economy, I will use 2009 and compare how Venezuela did from 1998-2009 compared to other countries.

            GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $), % increase 1998-2009
            Upper middle income 72.7%
            East Asia & Pacific 67.8%
            South Asia 66.5%
            Middle income 64.5%
            Low & middle income 61.4%
            Sub-Saharan Africa 32.5%
            World 29.3%
            Latin America & Caribbean 15.2%
            Venezuela 11.00%
            Even with oil rising to ~ $60-$100 BBL in 2007-2009, and all that oil revenue to deal with, the Venezuelan economy’s performance compared to the rest of the world was abysmal-pathetic- near bottom of the barrel.
            The pathetic performance of the Chavista economy would tell most that those improved inequality figures were smoke and mirrors, as they weren’t backed by a good economy.

            Any one who parroted the improved inequality figures of Chavista Venezuela, such as Oxfam or Bernie, was a fool. A quick look behind the curtains – this data is readily available – would have shown this, even in 2011. Improved inequality is meaningless with a poorly performing economy.
            A further point about inequality is that Chavista honchos like Diosdado Cabello or assorted Boliburgués were stealing left and right. Those increased incomes were not reported. Had they been reported, inequality would have been a lot higher.

          • Doctor Locketopus says

            > Cuba they have made some good advances in healthcare, they are sending doctors all over the world.

            Except that, oddly, when Fearless Leader himself got sick, he imported doctors from Spain. No doubt to free up more Cuban “doctors” to provide “free health care” for the masses.

          • Gringo says

            During the presidential primaries, Sanders insisted that “When I talk about democratic socialism, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.”

            Yes, Bernie did say that.
            But Sanders is already on record about informing us on HIS SENATE WEBSITE how the American dream is “more apt to be achieved” in Venezuela than in the US. And it the American dream is “more apt to be achieved” in Chavista Venezuela than in the US, the obvious implication is that Chavista Venezuela is a model for the US.

            Bernie has contradicted himself.
            I am reminded of how three-house Bernie lectures us proles about inequality.

          • Tersitus says

            Just a couple things, KD—
            (1) I’m still waiting for someone to answer the question Chris Matthews (of all pundits) put to DWhatsername Schultz — twice!— and left her so dumbfounded she was speechless. So maybe you can help us out, KD. “What is the difference between a Democrat and a socialist?”
            (2). When (if ever) was the last time you visited Kansas? We’ve had numerous Democrat governors, including the one who later oversaw the ACA and its infamous “rollout.” Talk about a catastrophe….. There’s no catastrophe here in Kansas— certainly nothing like California (from which some of my acquaintance have fled, choosing to live here). What we have is a classic “country vs. city” divide — with large expanses of conservative small town and agricultural areas whose declining wealth is heavily property-based and whose populations feel regularly underrepresented, overassessed, and overtaxed under current funding formulas to pay for more and more difficult to staff ( and increasingly liberal-staffed) schools that often poorly reflect their values. The industrial base of the considerably more liberal cities proves stubbornly resistant to growth, making job growth and tax base growth equally difficult. So the cities and rural areas fight over small pie redistribution. If the blathering class wishes to continue ignoring the difficulty of revenue growth and push their mindless “Redefine the rich and tax them more” plans, they’ll stay stuck on stupid, we’ll stay poorer and conflicted, and you’ll get even more classic Kansas populism and Tea Party fervor.
            (3) Back to #1– So, What is the difference?

          • DeplorableDude says

            You should be concerned about what he said 40 years ago. Do you really think he has changed when he lies about “Scandinavian Socialism”. His favorite socialist example, Denmark, has asked him more than one to stop saying they are socialist. They actually have less control of business than the US does. Always remember, a socialist will lie to the useful idiots to get what he wants.

          • Womba Son of Witless says

            “California, New York and Illinois have their own problems but their economies are far more successful.” Oh.
            Americans tend to vote with their feet, and the traffic from those 3 blue “workers’ paradises” is headed OUT. If you love being taxed to death in a stagnant economy, move there. Don’t spread propaganda.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          K. Dershem: Bernie Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist

          That’s nice. I identify as Czar of All the Russias.

      • Gringo says

        If you want to see a failed economy, you should visit Kansas: it tripled-down on supply-side tax cuts and experienced catastrophic results. (Voters were so fed up that they elected a Democrat as Governor in the 2018 election.

        First let’s check how the “failed economies” of Kansas and Venezuela compare.

        From 2013 to 2018 from 2013 to 2018 Kansas’s GDP per capita went from $45,476 to $46,982, an increase of 3.3%. (2009 chained dollars).
        The IMF estimates that from 2013 to 2018, Venezuela’s GDP per capita went from $17,980.52 to $9,261.78, a drop of 48.5%.(Purchasing power parity; 2011 international dollar)
        It is ludicrous to put both Kansas and Venezuela in the “failed economy” category. An increase of 3.3% is not comparable to a drop of 48.5%- at least for the numerate part of the population. 🙂

        Let’s check how Kansas compared to other states in the US.The implication of “failed economy” is that the Kansas economy has performed poorly compared to other states. LWikipedia: U.S. states by GDP per capita (chained 2009 dollars) provides us with the information. In 2013, Kansas’s per capita income was 95.55% of US per capita income. By 2018, Kansas’s per capita income was 92.89% of US per capita income, a drop of 2.66% relative to the US. So, it is correct to state that the Kansas economy has performed poorly compared to other states- or not as well as other states- as per capita income did increase.

        How did that drop of 2.66% compare to other states? It turns out that Kansas ranked 17th.The worst state was Alaska, whose per capita income relative to the US went from 148.28% in 2013 to 126.48% in 2018, a drop of 21.8%. If Kansas had a “failed economy” relative to other states, by this criteria there were 16 states whose “failure” was greater than Kansas’s failure.

        Once again, “ludicrious” comes to mind.

        State 2018: % of US per capita income/Drop in % 2013-2018
        Alaska 126.50% -21.80%
        Wyoming 116.30%
        Louisiana 86.80%
        Delaware 125.90%
        Oregon 100.00%
        Nevada 86.60%
        Virginia 102.30%
        Connecticut 127.60%
        South Dakota 95.10%
        Maryland 109.50%
        Arizona 76.30%
        West Virginia 71.80%
        Vermont 86.90%
        North Carolina 87.60%
        Montana 77.80%
        Nebraska 105.00%
        Kansas 92.90%

    • Ray Andrews says

      @K. Dershem

      That is unfortunately true. Given what the progressives are up to these days I must throw in my lot with the right, but they (we?) can be just as nasty and prone to staw-manning. I regret the few people of leftist or progressive views who have been hounded away from Quillette — they are the very people with whom the rightist zealots should be engaging. A few have been twits, clearly, but many have been honest and well intentioned.

      • K. Dershem says

        @Ray: agreed. Many commenters don’t seem to be interested in intellectual dialogue; they want to score points against the other team. Fair enough — free speech includes the freedom to hurl insults! — but that approach doesn’t contribute to a constructive conversation.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          > If you want to see a failed economy, you should visit Kansas: it tripled-down on supply-side tax cuts and experienced catastrophic results.

          Really? People are fleeing Kansas to go live in other countries? People are starving in the streets in Kansas?

          Hint: no, they’re not.

          So, no, Kansas doesn’t have a “failed economy”. Not on the Venezuela scale, much less the Cuba, North Korea, or Soviet Union scale.

          > With all due respect, it seems like you’re blinded by ideology and unable to draw obvious distinctions between a range of different political positions

          Marxism has turned to slavery, starvation, and mass murder every single time it’s been implement. That’s not “ideology”. It is simply a fact.

          > Bernie Sanders is as far left as Democrats go … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism, not Soviet-style authoritarian Communism.

          Communists lie, and that is also a fact.

          • K. Dershem says


            Ga Gamba: All modern economies are mixed economies, Scandanavia included. Mainstream progressives (including Sanders) don’t advocate for state control of all industry. They want to move the U.S. in the direction of European-style societies, the best of which combine active and innovative free markets with high taxes, an expansive social safety net, universal health care, tax-payer funded education from pre-school to graduate school, etc. Would these policies work in the U.S.? Maybe so, maybe not. But there’s absolutely no evidence that implementing them would lead ineluctably to a Venezuela-style dystopia. Is it possible to discuss these issues honestly without fear mongering and accusing people who favor higher levels of social spending of being crypto-Commies? On the bright side, commenters like Dr. Locketepus (great handle, BTW) provide a vivid illustration of what the author is warning against.

          • K. Dershem says

            I was comparing Kansas to other U.S. states which have more progressive policies, not authoritarian dictatorships. I can’t help but notice you neglected to address that point.

          • ga gamba says

            @ K,

            Your comment has nothing to do with what I wrote. I didn’t say Scandinavian countries aren’t mixed ones. I didn’t accusing people who favor higher levels of social spending of being crypto-Commies, did I? This is a fabrication of your own. Is it used to manoeuvre those who call you out as some type of extremist and you as the reasonable one? Too soon to tell. I challenged your point that they are Democratic Socialist. They aren’t.

            My comment was a probe to determine whether you’re ignorant or deceitful. If you’re ignorant you’d acknowledge that yes, they aren’t Democratic Socialist, and like Sanders’s your characterisation they are is incorrect. Instead, you walk back your comment by shifting to it “European-style”. You’re trying to spin me. Which European countries? Hungary? UK? Germany? Sweden? Estonia? Ireland? They differ. Until recently America’s corporate income tax was higher than almost all of counties in Europe. Was America practicing European-style whatever you’re going call it?

            I’m going to go with your claim that Scandinavian countries are Democratic Socialist was offered as a deceit. Run it up the flagpole and see whether anyone salutes it.

            There is a ongoing attempt by Democratic Socialists to claim non-socialist capitalist Nordic countries are socialist to put a bright and happy face on socialism. Given all its failures, I can understand why this deception is used. Still, it is a deceit.

            If one desires a more expansive welfare state in a free enterprise economy one can argue for that without calling for socialism, be it democratic or not. I’m pretty sure you know this because you immediately retreated to the motte-and-bailey tactic when challenged.

            But, if your real goal is socialism, which you intend to implement using incrementalism, then you should have the confidence to make the argument without the subterfuge.

          • K. Dershem says

            Ga gamba: Wow, your response is very aggressive and uncharitable. Here’s how Sanders defines “Democratic Socialism”: “Democratic socialism, Sanders said, is not tied to any Marxist belief or the abolition of capitalism. “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal … he wants to implement broad-based reforms, including free tuition at public universities, campaign finance reform and single-payer healthcare.” Obviously you define it differently, but that’s what I was referring to.


            I’m not a socialist myself, and don’t regard myself as either ignorant or deceitful. I’m sorry you felt it necessary to engage in accusations of bad faith. Obviously the principle of charity is in short supply in online discussions — that’s too bad. It’s difficult enough to have discussions about charged political issues without assuming the worst possible motivations on the part of your interlocutors. Regarding the “crypto-Commies” comment, I was referring to Dr. Locketepus’ posts, not yours. Sorry if that was unclear from the context.

          • ga gamba says

            See, you’re bouncing all over the place. First it was Democratic Socialism without the new-and-improved definition. Then you bounced to “European style”. Now you bounce to the Bernie definition. Is this the intellectual discourse you yearn for? Seems very haphazard and messy. Wiggly too. You probably ought tighten up your rigging. Batten down the hatches, if needed.

            Understand this, Sanders has changed the definition of Democratic Socialism.

            We should ask ourselves why Sanders did so.

            I think this was done out of political expediency and also to bamboozle people. It’s a signal to genuine socialists that socialism is the goal whilst appealing to those who are unfamiliar with it by talking about free stuff. The democratic adjective means we won’t do so violently. We’ll use the coercive power of the state to accomplish it incrementally.

            Sanders is an intelligent fella. I’m pretty sure he’s well read and knows about many different economic models. I’d wager he even read and perhaps studied what is genuine democratic socialism. And now he’s going to change the definition. Does that make sense?

            If I changed the definition of Nazism to put a more appealing face on it, say no more Jew killing and added pixie dust and unicorns, would my new-and-improved definition prevail? I don’t think so. I think most people would call me out on my BS. Rightly so. People might even accuse me of hoodwinking them. It might be uncharitable, but it could be accurate.

            Despite the Danish Prime Minister disputing the Sanders’s claim, one which I mentioned earlier, you yourself persist with “When I talk about democratic socialism, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden.” You may think I’m being uncharitable to you, but I’m now certain that you’re deceptive.

            If Bernie wants something different from socialism, he could have used a more accurate and applicable definition. Or, he could have even called it Bernieism. There are Marxism and Maoism, after all. The problem doing so is that he’d have to then have to explain it to the socialists using the jargon they’d expect, which would expose him as being a socialist. And then the jig is up.

          • K. Dershem says

            Ga gamba, we’re obviously talking past each other. I’ve unfortunately concluded that you’re a more erudite version of Locketupus, what Foucault referred to as a polemicist: “the per­son he con­fronts is not a part­ner in search for the truth, but an ad­ver­sary, an en­emy who is wrong, who is harm­ful ….” You obviously enjoy this kind of verbal sparring, but from my perspective it’s a waste of time which produces heat but not light. I prefer a less accusatory form of conversation which aspires to mutual understanding rather than rhetorical victories.
            For what it’s worth, I was never trying to spin, deceive or bamboozle you. I wish you the best.

          • ga gamba says

            I’m not talking past you. I’m talking right at you.

            If neither you nor Bernie actually want socialism, then why persist with the using the label socialism of the democratic kind? If I wanted to define myself as accurately as possible, so that people know what I stand for and what I offer, that last thing I’d do is use terms that stoke confusion.

            I provided you the commonly used definition of it, which is light and not heat. I provided you the statement by the Danish Prime Minister that the Nordics are not socialist. You came back with wiggles to get out of the light. Then you re-iterate Bernie’s erroneous claim of Scandinavian Democratic Socialism. It’s pretty simple to say that Bernie’s label of Democratic Socialism is inaccurate, isn’t it? Because it is. Instead, we are treated to you bouncing around to redefine it. Is asking why this is being redefined heat or light? When we’re provided the new definition of racism = prejudice + power, are we to merely accept it? Or is a challenge warranted? Should we understand the motives for this? Is it permissible to dispute the motives? Perhaps the light may get a bit hot as progressives contort themselves, but the light is still there.

            It appears the word socialism has such value to many progressives that is must be preserved and used. There has to be a reason for this. Is it to destigmatise it? Remove its hard attachment to economic failure by spinning an undeserved tale of success? To me, the effort appears to be one to normalise socialism. If the goal is simply to duplicate the Scandinavian model, which is a capitalist one, why not “Let’s implement Nordic capitalism”? That’s far more accurate.

            No, there’s something more underhanded going on.

            Thanks for the Foucault quote, though. He’s very popular here.

          • In the real world all western economies including in the US are mixed with some state controlled and funded elements, some private elements and regulation by the state.

            Almost no one and no mainstream party advocates taking the means of production into state control. What is argued about is the nature and extent of regulation and control and the nature and extent of the states involvement.

            There maybe differences in goals for example whether a high degree of income inequality is a problem or simply to be accepted, but there is also agreement that overall economic performance is critical in producing the resources needed by everyone. Some policy disagreement is therefore about the best means to improve or sustain economic performance rather than ideologically driven.

            Characterising someone like Bernie Sanders as belieiving in ‘socialism’ defined as full state control/ownership of industry is deliberately mischaracterising him and his policies. This is one half of the polarisation infecting US policies which is preventing any cooperation between the left and right and creating a political system which is arguably disfunctional.

            The political left does the same but if sites like Quillette have any value then it is to allow debate on the issues without the political dogma and ideology.

            Political opponents need to recognise and accept that their opponenst may have genuine differences about teh best means to achieve objectives and even when their objectives differ they are not of such a nature that one side or the other are evil but are within a spectrum which are broadly reasonable. Without this real politicla debate is impossible.

          • Ray Andrews says

            He didn’t say they were starving in Kansas. He said that supply-side tax cuts had unfortunate results. Economics is not binary. It is not either Guatemala or Red China.

            “Bernie Sanders is as far left as Democrats go … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism, not Soviet-style authoritarian Communism.”

            Thereyago. You might say ‘democratic socialism’, I’d shorten it to ‘socialism’ to save keystrokes, but in either case we are not advocating North Korea. All the righties here are in a flap that if the US takes a single step toward reducing the world’s worst income inequality (almost), the inevitable result will be Stalinism. I’m usual on the side of the right these days, but this sort of hysteria forces me back to the other side.

          • ga gamba says

            Characterising someone like Bernie Sanders as belieiving in ‘socialism’ defined as full state control/ownership of industry is deliberately mischaracterising him and his policies.

            OK, let’s take a look, shall we?

            Bernie first joined the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL) when he was a student at the U of Chicago.

            Here is its YPSL’s Constitution, marxists(dot)org/history/usa/parties/ypsl/1919/0504-ypsl-constitution.pdf

            The Young People’s Socialist League of America calls upon all young people who are interested in the emancipation of the working class from the chains of wage slavery to join its rank and through it and its associated organizations of the International Socialist Movement, to work for the overthrow of the present capitalist system in all its social and economic ramifications, and for the establishment in its stead of a worldwide socialistic cooperative commonwealth.

            The rest of the document describes the duties of a member, how the organisation is to operate procedurally, etc.

            YPSL was the youth wing of the Socialist Party of the United States (SPUS).

            This is the National Constitution of SPUS, marxists(dot) org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1922/0502-spa-constitution.pdf.

            The economic basis of present day society is the private ownership and control of socially necessary means of production, and the exploitation of the workers, who operate these means of production for the profit of those who own them. The interests of these two classes are diametrically opposed. It is the interest of the capitalist class to maintain the present system and to obtain for themselves the largest possible share of the product of labor. It is the interest of the working class to improve their conditions of life and get the largest possible share of their own product so long as the present system prevails, and to end this system as quickly as they can. In so far as the members of the opposing classes become conscious of these facts, each strives to advance its own interests as against the other. It is this active conflict of interest which we describe as the class struggle.

            The capitalist state, by controlling the old political parties, control the powers of the state and uses them to secure and entrench its position. Without such control of the state its position of economic power would be untenable. The workers must wrest the control of the government from the hands of the masters and use its powers in the upbuilding of the new social order, tthe Cooperative Commonwealth. The Socialist Party seeks to organize the working class for independent action on the political field, not merely for the betterment of their conditions, but also and above all with the revolutionary aim of putting an end to exploitation and class rule. Such political action is absolutely necessary to the emancipation of the working class, and the establishment of genuine liberty for all.

            To accomplish this aim of the Socialist Party is to bring about the social ownership and democratic control of all the necessary means of production — to eliminate profit, rent, and
            interest, and make it impossible for any to share the product without sharing the burden of labor — to change our class society into a society of equals, in which the interest of one will be the interest of all.

            The rest of the document describes the duties of a member, how the organisation is to operate procedurally, etc.

            If you chose, you may peruse the many documents of the Socialist Part and its youth wing here, marxists(dot)org/history/etol/document/workersparty/youth/index.htm.

            You’ll find that it remains true to its central beliefs that I quoted above. You’ll also find that it refuses to cooperate with the Stalinists because they are “reactionary” and use the “rule or ruin” tactic.

            Through the decades socialism remained unchanged. Even today, this from the Socialist Party, thesocialist(dot)us/an-open-letter-to-congress-on-the-meaning-of-the-word-socialism/

            Dear members of Congress,

            We are well-aware that you have a destructive and malicious view of what the word “socialism” means. As socialists, we thought we might offer a bit of assistance. We know that you’re very busy destroying the planet and its people, so we’ll make this brief and offer some basics.

            Here we go:

            1. At its core, socialism means worker ownership and control of the means of production.

            2. Socialism does not mean anything the government does. We aren’t seeking social democracy / an expanded welfare state.

            3. While we would see universal healthcare and education under socialism, those programs alone do not mean we’ve realized a socialist society. If the end game is social democracy, those programs will always be subject to attack, to privatization, to repeal.

            4. Socialism does not mean a more heavily-regulated capitalism. Socialism and capitalism are in direct contradiction to another. Capitalism must exploit in order to maintain itself. You can reign in certain elements of the system, but exploitation will remain.

            It continues on talking about environmentalism and closes by vowing to emerge victorious.

            We see that the socialists have remain unchanged.

            After he left uni and the YPSL, Sanders helped found the Liberty Union Party in Vermont. He ran as a Party candidate several times.

            Liberty Union is a non-violent socialist party, founded in the state of Vermont in 1970. says its most recent platform,

            Sanders’s campaign platform promoted “programs that included nationalizing all U.S. banks, public ownership of all utilities, ending of compulsory education and establishing a worker-controlled government.” archive(dot)triblive(dot)com/news/a-socialist-in-the-senate/

            In 1980, Sanders served as an elector for the Socialist Workers Party, which is a Trotskyite party.

            In 1983 he formed an association with the Democratic Socialists of America, a close one that lasts to this day.

            When Sanders was elected to Congress in 1990 he declared, “I am a socialist and everyone knows that. They also understand that my kind of democratic socialism has nothing to do with authoritarian communism.” This aligns with what I mentioned above re the schism between Socialist and Stalinists.

            Sanders has also described himself as a democratic socialist.

            What about the Democratic Socialists (DSA), the party that claims Bernie and AOC? I’ll let a member of the DSA tell ya, vox(dot)com/first-person/2018/8/1/17637028/bernie-sanders-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-cynthia-nixon-democratic-socialism-jacobin-dsa

            I’m a staff writer at the socialist magazine Jacobin and a member of DSA, and here’s the truth: In the long run, democratic socialists want to end capitalism. And we want to do that by pursuing a reform agenda today in an effort to revive a politics focused on class hierarchy and inequality in the United States. The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens. . . . But we also want more than FDR did. A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can. . . . Many observers see groups like DSA pushing for policies like Medicare-for-all and decide that we must actually be something like New Deal liberals who are simply confused about the meaning of socialism. That’s not true. Our goal is not to rein in the excesses of capitalism for a few decades at a time — we want to end our society’s subservience to the market. . . . Social democratic reforms like Medicare-for-all are, in the eyes of DSA, part of the long, uneven process of building that support, and eventually overthrowing capitalism. . . . Of course, even socializing a whole industry like medicine wouldn’t automatically lead to the socializing of others. But through the process of the campaign, democratic socialists want to build into the popular consciousness an awareness that the market is not capable of meeting society’s needs. . . . Right now, we think demands for big reforms can dramatically change the political conversation, which means that socialist and robust progressive agendas — including those of the most progressive Democrats (though this topic is up for debate among democratic socialists) — will likely overlap for a while. Maybe they’ll diverge once some of these reforms are won and the political terrain starts to shift.

            He’s spent his entire adult life as a member of or associating with political organisations that explicitly call for a new socio-economic order based on socialism.

            So, if what some commentators believe is true, either Sanders is ignorant of what socialism and democratic socialism are – this I doubt – or he’s using deceit and incrementalism to groom people.

            I’m no fan of socialism for many reasons, but my strongest objection is the Big Lie. If Sanders’s long-term goal is socialism, he ought to be proud enough to say so unambiguously. I suspect he knows he won’t live long enough to see it come about, so he sees his role as building consciousness, and it’s evident to me that the overthrow of capitalism is his goal.

            If he were no longer a socialist, he would say something like the former faithful who claim they once were but wised up. That’s a common enough statement and one that does not damage one’s career and future prospects.

            He’s never done this.

            To claim I mischaracterise Sanders is quite a stretch.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            See, you can’t get these guys to admit that as you say, *all* modern economies are mixed. They have these binary brains. This is very frustrating for me because I’d love to engage in a reasonable way with, especially, ga gamba, who is obviously not stupid. But intelligence is no defense against fundamentalism, and all fundamentalists are binary.

        • Doctor Locketopus says

          K. Dershem: I was comparing Kansas to other U.S. states which have more progressive policies, not authoritarian dictatorships.

          Okay. California has the worst income inequality, the most unaffordable housing, and the largest homeless population of any state by far. All the things that Marxists claim that their ideas will fix are getting worse, not better. As is always the case when Marxist ideas are applied.

          Also, the streets are covered with human waste and there are outbreaks of typhus, normally considered a sign of Third World status.

          None of those things are happening in Kansas.

          • ga gamba says


            Odd comment from you. You and I have frequently exchanged comments and I often recognise that indeed almost all the world is comprised of mixed economies. This doesn’t trouble me. I’ve written often I support taxation, but I don’t support wealth redistribution both up and down to include that provided as business subsidies. I support a limited governmental role. Make sure no one is dumping mercury in the water, organise the building of public roads, man the fire brigade, provide for the judiciary, etc. Then let the people interact with each other in a market economy to create, collaborate, compete, and live their lives as freely as possible with minimal intrusion.

            What I don’t abide by is those who seek to advance the cause of socialism, the definition of which I’ve provided numerous times and is the standard one, by hook or by crook. I also don’t accept the argument that the capitalist system doesn’t provide a welfare state – just about every capitalist economy including Sweden’s does so. I may not like much of the welfare state, but I recognise that it exists and it’s likely going to remain for a while.

            I recognise some people advance socialism’s cause unwittingly. This is the ignorance I discussed earlier – they don’t realise they’re being manoeuvred. I also recognise some people are deceptive. If a person wants socialism they should be upfront; I commend those who are honest about what they want.

            It’s very strange to me all these supporters of democratic socialism profess to prefer capitalism. I’ve provided in a comment above from a member of the DSA who explains capitalism is anathema and the strategy is to use incrementalism to achieve it -consciousness raising. You see that both the socialists and DSA have the same end goal – end capitalism. It couldn’t be more clear. The DSA is more amenable to working with the Democrats to achieve this and uses entryism to accomplish it.

            This strategy is quite similar to the march through the institutions, and we see again and again the craziness that has brought forth. I appears some would like to expand that craziness exponentially.

          • Gringo says

            K. Dershem: I was comparing Kansas to other U.S. states which have more progressive policies, not authoritarian dictatorships.

            Let’s take a look at what you wrote.

            Bernie Sanders is as far left as Democrats go … he advocates Scandanavian-style Democratic Socialism, not Soviet-style authoritarian Communism. If you want to see a failed economy, you should visit Kansas,

            Your sentence before Kansas made two international references- to Scandinavia and to the Soviet-style Communism. It was not unreasonable to conclude that in the next sentence your mention of Kansas was referring to the international arena.

            If you were intending to confine comparison of Kansas to other US states, then you should have written something like this: “If you want to see a failed economy relative to other states in the US, you should visit Kansas,”

            Similarly, I have written sentences that I should have proofread better. Such as:

            Both Bernie Sanders and Dilma Rouseff called her impeachment a coup, though Bernie waffled by saying “to many Brazilians and observers.” Birds of a feather?

            In the interest of accuracy and better proofreading, better I had written this:

            Both Bernie Sanders and Maduro called her impeachment a coup, though Bernie waffled by saying “to many Brazilians and observers.” Birds of a feather?

            BTW, in a previous comment, I pointed that from 2013-2018, Kansas didn’t have the worst state economy, but the 17th worst. For “failed economy” among the US states, you could have chosen a better example than Kansas.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @ga gamba

            You seem at times to be about as reasonable as person could be. Other times you’re wondering if people who challenge you are ignorant or are they evil? What separates us?

            “I support a limited governmental role.”

            Me too. It is always a subject of debate whether the government should be a wee bit bigger or a wee bit smaller. Regulate skateboards or not? Probably not. Regulate driver’s licenses? Yes, probably. Public fire department? Yes. Public cinemas? No, absolutely not. See, it’s a matter of balance not a matter of pure ideology. Some supports for the working poor? I’d say yes, but we have to be careful not to end up bottle-feeding them. Subsidized public transit? Yeah, on balance probably yes, it reduces congestion. Privatized roads? No, absolutely not.

            “the cause of socialism, the definition of which I’ve provided numerous times”

            Ok, maybe here is the problem. Are we just fighting over definitions? Let’s not. All social words have some vagueness in them, let’s live with that. I humbly suggest that ‘socialism’ as the moderates here use the word is not a synonym for Marxism or Stalinism. As I use it it is about identical with ‘democratic socialism’. We don’t need a synonym for Marxism, we just say Marxism. But we do need a word for whatever it is that they do in Sweden, and IMHO we call that ‘socialism’.

            “If a person wants socialism they should be upfront; I commend those who are honest
            about what they want.”

            @K. Dershem and myself and the other moderates here want nothing of Marxism. I and K. have both said we’re to the right of Bernie (free tuition is a lousy idea, universities are diluted with twits too much already). I think what we are saying is that Bernie is not a Stalinist.

            “It’s very strange to me all these supporters of democratic socialism profess to prefer capitalism.”

            Not strange at all. I, just as an example, support the $15 minimum wage, but I also understand that capitalism is the engine that moves us. I love small business and want the government off their (my) backs. I love Musk, a real capitalist and would tax his billions lightly.

            “DSA have the same end goal”

            Dunno. Maybe. You can always find the quote you like. Anyway I hate them too, they are sopping with Victim pandering. Thing is that not every leftie believes in that shit. I abhor it myself. But I do believe in throwing the working poor the odd crust. Let us understand that the woke-SJ ‘left’ is a hijacking of a once legitimate position. Sorry about the Canadian context, but to this day you could call me a Tommy Douglas socialist. But in the current situation I have to side with the right, not to resist honest ‘socialism’ but to resist the Victemocrats.

            I think what I’d ask of you is just that you stop seeming to be saying that anyone who has some concern for the working poor must be a Maoist. Or worse, a SJW, who don’t seem to really care about working people, only about minorities and freaks and perverts and criminals and losers. I hate them.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          And Quillette is perhaps the highest level forum out there (if there’s better, please let me know). If Quillette contributors can’t be reasonable, who on earth can? It’s the zombie apocalypse. The horrible disease has infected the minds of once moderate and sensible folks and turned them into mindless biters of the uninfected.

          All fundamentalists are the walking dead.

    • Daniel says

      K. Dersham, I appreciate your point. I can’t get pomos to talk, though. In the absence of real dialog, I am forced to settle for viewing postmodernism through the rough lens of my own understanding of it. I may create a straw man, but I’m dissatisfied with it, and a steel man is impossible without practice.

      • K. Dershem says

        Gamba: the Foucault quote is from the article. Regarding the rest, I give up. Like I said, I’m not a socialist and have no desire to live in a planned economy. Since we were discussing Bernie Sanders, I was using the term the way he uses it — you evidently think there are ulterior motives underlying that usage. Perhaps you’re right, but not on my part.

        AJ: I COMPLETELY agree. It’s very difficult to have productive conversations on Quillette because there are far-right ideologues who respond to almost every post. So it goes.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          He uses every form of sophistry to avoid honest discussion. Naturally, like all fundamentalists, he says you must be either insane or dishonest or ignorant or stupid or just plain evil if you suggest that Bernie isn’t really Mao in a thin disguise. He knows what you’re up to! It is exactly the same fundamentalism on the other side. How can we draw these people back to reason before they launch nukes at each other?

          Anyway thanks for remaining reasonable yourself, Your posts are a pleasure to read. Like you, I’m far to the right of Bernie as well, but I see the guy as who he is, not some monster in disguise. Stay sane.

          • K. Dershem says

            @Ray: thanks for the kind words – likewise. I appreciate your open-mindedness and your willingness to respond to what people actually write instead of attacking straw men.

            Regarding Kansas, here’s what I’m referring to:

            “Kansas has been a disaster, with giant budget shortfalls, service cuts, slashed education budgets and a brain drain with young people leaving the state. The economy has failed to keep up with growth in the rest of the country and is much weaker in terms of job gains, wage increases and gross domestic product growth than neighboring states with similar economies. In 2015, for example, Kansas had one of the worst job growth rates in the country, at 0.8 percent, adding just 10,900 nonfarm jobs.

            Compare that record with California’s robust economy, increased tax base, balanced budget and job growth that exceeds the national average. The president may criticize the politics of the state, but there is little to find fault with its economy. If California were its own country, its $2.75 trillion economy and would be the world’s fifth largest, after the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.”


            I think it’s obvious from the context of my previous post that I was compared Kansas to other U.S. states, but YMMV.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            “Regarding Kansas, here’s what I’m referring to:”

            No need to elaborate, I took your points as intended and with charity. Of course there is always something to quibble about if one wants to quibble, but I don’t. Those who do want to quibble seem to demonstrate the desire to avoid the thrust of your arguments rather than to engage with them. But democracy is about being able to engage and I’d say that folks like us need to remind those on both poles that honest engagement is a duty, not a option.

          • ga gamba says

            @ Ray,

            Other times you’re wondering if people who challenge you are ignorant or are they evil?

            Firstly, they are not challenging me, I challenged them. I offer them the charity of claiming ignorance, “Hey, I was misled” or “Oh, I should have looked it up” or any other similar excuse. I’ve provided ample evidence of what socialism is by citing the words and platforms of the socialists themselves. This is not my definition. People such as K choose to wiggle around. My question this is: why?

            Let’s replace socialism with Nazism.

            In the 1960s Bernie joined the Nazi Party’s youth wing. For the next few decades he was a member of or associated with a number of parties all calling for Nazism, the most recent being the Democratic Nazi Party of the USA.

            When elected to Congress Bernie declared, “I am a Nazi and everyone knows that. They also understand that my kind of democratic Nazism has nothing to do with authoritarian Hitlerism.”

            Bernie’s definition of Nazism is not Jew killing. His Nazism is to rebuild the state shattered by socio-economic turmoil to establish stability so that people may thrive and find the room to grow. To restore employment he wants to build massive sports colosseums and high-speed motorways, and to provide affordable consumer goods such as the People’s Car so the people may enjoy the fruits of their labour. For the children, he will establish youth groups so they may enjoy the great outdoors by hiking and learning survival skills. This will marshal their efforts into productive outcomes and build solidarity with the people.

            “That’s Bernie’s definition. In fact, some people use it too.”

            Okie dokie. But what about all the other Nazis calling for Jew killing? For example, other Democratic Nazis say this: In the long run, Democratic Nazis want to end Judaism. “That’s not Bernie’s definition.” Do you think it might better to chose a different name for this socio-economic system? “No.” Why not? “Let’s not get locked into labels and definitions. Let’s talk about the colosseums, the motorways, the camping children marching through the forests, and the room to grow,” OK, I understand you want to avoid labels, but why did you choose to start with the call for Democratic Socialism? If labels aren’t important, right?

            Does this make sense? It only makes sense to me if the person is being deceptive.

            If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.

        • Phil Major says

          Setting aside all the definitional discussions about socialism..

          My question is really quite simple, how can one morally justify taking my money from me to give to others? I understand charity, the need for and value of charity, with respect to social stability, etc. but how can one be both concerned with justice, but also an advocate of forced wealth redistribution?

          Stripped bare, the argument is something like, I own my person, thus I own my labor, thus I own that which I can trade my labor for. Just transactions are voluntary – involuntary transactions are unjust (as they amount to the theft of my person). Thus taking my wealth under the threat of violence is unjust.

          Forcing me pay for the services you want to access seems obviously and uncontroversially unjust.

          • K. Dershem says

            @Phil: you’ve provided a good summary of the libertarian philosophy articulated by Robert Nozick. For an alternative view, I would encourage you to read the work of John Rawls. He argued in favor of a theory of justice that supports a limited welfare state. Rawls was definitely a liberal, not a socialist, but he did believe that redistribution can be morally just.

            This essay summarizes Rawls’ critique of libertarianism (it’s not a perfect article, but it’s the best I could find with a brief search):


            “The system that most resembles Nozick’s libertarianism, the System of Natural Liberty, is consistent but wrong, in Rawls’s opinion. It does nothing to correct or compensate for what he regards as morally arbitrary influences on the distribution of goods. The idea is that it’s unfair for your course in life to be determined by your family’s social class or your natural abilities.”

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Phil Major @K. Dershem

            Here’s an anecdote from the frozen north: When most of the Inuit still hunted, not too many years ago, if you went into one of their little towns, guess what you’d see in the middle of it? The community meat locker. A hunter would bring in a kill, take the meat he needed for his own family and hang the rest in the locker for anyone — anyone — to help themselves if they needed some meat. Needless to say, if that same hunter had a bad hunting trip he too was welcome to go down to the locker to grab what he needed.

            This is of course a simple extension of the hunter-gatherer ethic in which everything that is harvested is shared equally by all. Note, the most successful hunter has prestige and maybe catches the eye of more girls than some other hunters, but he does not eat first, nor does his family. Rotten socialism at its corrupt worst!

            I remember seeing a public affairs program in which a white anthropologist was discussing ‘socialism’ with some sort of hard-right ‘greed is good’ ‘altruism is evil’ ‘selfishness is everything’ sort of person and the former explained the above to the latter, and it was almost funny: the latter *refused* to believe that such a thing could possibly work. ‘Why would anyone hunt then?’ He asked. The anthropologist showed him pictures. He still refused to believe it.

            Greed isn’t good. We should help those down on their luck, and they should help us in return. Even if we are rich and won’t get anything back, our humanity should still tell us that we don’t leave folks to starve to death on the sidewalk. Society makes rules for itself and that has been one of them. If you don’t like it you are free to leave, but most of the greed is good folks secretly know that they won’t hesitate to ask for help themselves if they need it. The rest of us know it too, thus we oblige them to pay taxes even if they profess that they neither want to receive help nor offer any to others. It’s hard to have separate rules for each individual so, sorry Phil, you are going to have to play by the rules of society if you want to live in society — or move to somewhere else as you choose of course.

          • ga gamba says


            You’re right. Money is simply the representation of one’s labour, one’s time, and one’s effort to investigate possibilities and choose to accept the risk to pursue them.

            When a group demands that you part with more of your money to give to others, what they are really demanding is you give your labour to these unfortunate ones.

            In the bad ol’ days of Spanish colonialism it had an institution in the Philippines called polo y servicio. Every male over the age of 16 was required to labour for the state (and the monastic friars because the two were intertwined) for 40 days per annum – if one had some money one could purchase his way out of it. This compulsory service so offended the Filipinos that upon the defeat of Spain Filipino leaders told the Americans the lives of the friars couldn’t be guaranteed. This led to the US negotiating with the Vatican to buy friar lands from the monastic orders on condition the friars depart too.

            Historically, religions called on their members to commit good deeds, but most religions are voluntary associations and the good deeds were voluntary acts. There were periods when religions were more authoritarian and were better able to compel membership and coerce acts, and over time many rejected this as overly intrusive. Oddly, there are some free people, now unshackled to the church, who have supplanted that authoritarianism for a new strain of it, one that demands not only tax to pay for common facilities and services such as parks and the fire brigade to be used by all but also tax to transfer wealth to those less well off. So, not only do you have the responsibility to care for your own self and family, an additional responsibility has been attached to you too.

            Some may argue that the majority have voted for this, and this is true, but it’s useful to remind those that democracy is also two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Sophisticated governance endeavours to limit the oppressive demands of the majority so that the two wolves don’t feast on lamb.

        • Productive conversations, K.D., what can that be? Does that exist? O.K., maybe in parlement in some form, with your kids (sometimes), in diplomacy. But in blogs? Between ideologists of long standing? Between christians and muslims? Can’t be, impossible! Leftist and rightists? Forget about it.

        • codadmin says

          ‘California’ and ‘robust economy’ are oxymorons.

    • Hmm you have might a point. I’m an ex progressive and I admit my previous disdain for anyone to the right of me has shifted to the inverse to some degree. I wonder, are you sympathetic/ or invested in it in a way that might make you overly defensive ? That’s not to imply you are by the way, you may be right.
      That said I do think progressivism has a hold on way more people than other ideologies in 2019 and given my concern with some of its fundamental tenants I don’t want to just shrug it off…

      Personally I think I should be less outrage driven in general, so I’ll keep my quillette and other news consumption to a minimum and focus on the realities of life rather than the abstract.

  7. Farris says

    A take down of Christianity disguised as a critique of Marxism. What’s next Christians are Nazis, Jesus is Hitler and the Bible is Mein Kamp? I may have a fundamental disagreement with atheists but I would be loathe to make my points by comparing them to history’s losers. The author admits he was wrong but is incapable of doing so without comparing himself to others he believes similarly situated. “I may have been wrong but not as wrong as these people.”; some self realization there.

    • K. Dershem says

      Comparisons between Christianity and Marxism are commonplace; some scholars have even argued (not very plausibly, but they make an interesting case) that Marxism is a deeply heretical form of Christianity. The author is probably presupposing that Christianity is false, but I don’t think the article is intended as a take-down of Christianity. As he writes, “I’ll use Christianity and Marxism to illustrate the point, but it holds for other religions and ideologies as well.” His target is totalizing ideologies that insulate themselves from conflicting evidence. Fundamentalists come in every variety: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, atheistic, Marxist, environmentalist, libertarian, etc. What they have in common is the absolute certainty that they’re correct and a corresponding lack of intellectual humility.

      • Farris says

        @K Dershem
        So is the article a critique of Marxism or a comparison of Marxism and Christianity or if you prefer, religion?

        • K. Dershem says

          As I read it, it’s a critique of unthinking adherence to ideologies. In the author’s case, he was seduced by the false promises of Marxism. I don’t think he’s opposed to religion per se — that doesn’t seem to be the focus of his article.

          • Farris says

            @K Dershem
            So having never met you and not knowing anything about you, it would be a fair response to your post to write your prose and terminology are reminiscent of communism, therefore you are discredited?
            The author picks something he considers discredited, Marxism, and then compares to something else he dislikes. Apples taste bad so all fruit is bad.
            By the way thank you for engaging.

        • K. Dershem says

          I suspect he chose Christianity because it’s an example which would be well-known to his readers. I think the essay would work equally well if he compared Marxism to fundamentalist forms of Islam or atheism. Again, I don’t think he necessarily intended to discredit Christianity … but I’m not a Christian so I’m less sensitive to criticism than people of faith.

          • K. Dershem says

            Sorry — I should have said “I’m less sensitive to criticism of *Christianity* …”

  8. Sydney says

    This is the story of all of us ex-lefties. This account would have packed a punch if the writer had named him/herself.

  9. Doctor Locketopus says

    Just curious: do people not read Eric Hoffer any more?

    His The True Believer still has many useful things to say about cults in general, including political cults.

    • I learned about this Hoffer’s book and message just 2 weeks ago, here on Quillette, and got one of those seldom AHA erlebnis moments in my life, and it’s already such an old book, should be compulsory in pomo studies and courses.

  10. Luke Warm says

    “I’ve concluded that many of the most active and influential culture warriors—the ones in the front pews praying the loudest, and the most ecstatically—are mentally unwell.”


    • E. Olson says

      The only problem I have with that statement is his use of “many”. It would be much more accurate to say “all” of the most active and influential culture warriors are mentally unwell.

  11. 99 Luft Balons says

    Similar thing happens with some youngsters (though a far smaller number) with Ayn Rand. I feel lucky in that I’ve never been certain about any of these things. I wrestled with Marx. I wrestled with Rand. Before abandoning the central ideas of both whilst trying to hold onto the best in them. I wrestle still with Popper.

    • Popper? Just why? He was one of my old profs at the LSE. His core beliefs on the demarcation of scienctific activity and knowledge from other activities and beliefs are still pretty approachable, surely?

      Regards, Tony.

  12. Nakatomi Plaza says

    “The world is an unbelievably complex place composed of infinite shades of grey. And anyone who thinks they have it all figured out should be mistrusted on principle.”

    Damn straight. Unless you’re a typical Quillette writer or poster, in which case you know everything and are never, ever wrong. Everybody else is a fascist moron and wrong about everything all the time, especially women and anybody to the left of Rand Paul.

    • Doctor Locketopus says

      Don’t give yourself a hernia setting up those straw men, dude.

      • K. Dershem says

        You really don’t see the irony of you making that comment, do you?

    • peanut gallery says

      I don’t really get that impression. Maybe if it were Breitbart…. If you could be more specific I’d be more able to take this assertion seriously.

  13. Num num says

    A secular faith, like Marxism, is still founded on metaphysics, embodied in ethical presuppositions. The notion that there is some true measure of right and wrong is faith in divine truths beyond physical nature.

    There’s nothing in nature that dictates equality of outcome is good, or ‘right’, nor that some men ought not oppress other men. Indeed, if anything, nature seems to favor oppression and inequality.

  14. Song For the Deaf says

    Not a bad article.

    I saw a long time ago that when a liberal and a conservative disagree with one another, the conservative will say the liberal is an idiot or wrong or whatever, but the liberal will say the conservative is immoral (racist, sexist or some other form of evil). This is why studies show that conservative men are least likely to unfriend someone on social media over a political discussion, while liberal women are the most likely to do same.

    You can only experience this liberal moral valuation of political differences so many times before you adopt it yourself and decide there’s something morally diseased about them as well.

    • K. Dershem says

      Please see Dr. Locketupus’ comments above for an example of a conservative (presumably) who accuses all progressives of being part of an “evil cult” which will lead to the destruction of Western society. I think the tendency to demonize one’s opponents is far more symmetrical than you suggest. You yourself call them “morally diseased” … isn’t that roughly equivalent to “immoral”?

      • Doctor Locketopus says

        Your evil cult has murdered 100 million people so far, without ever even once producing the promised utopia.

        That’s enough.

        • K. Dershem says

          Still not a socialist. I’m not sure who you’re arguing against here, but it isn’t me.

      • Song For the Deaf says


        Yes, but my calling them that was a learned behavior that I developed over time, it wasn’t my initial instinct. But I will say that “morally diseased” wasn’t the best way I could have phrased that. I should have said, “Emotionally diseased” or something like that.

        Because let’s be honest with ourselves, pushing for an ideology that led to the murders of 100 million people is a sign of major emotional problems.

  15. Jay Raskin says

    Isn’t the Communist Manifesto still a thrilling call to make a better world (as even Jacques Derrida admitted)? just as Moses gave a thrilling call to “Let My People Go,” and Jesus gave a thrilling call to forgive all sins and live in the present, Marx has inspired billions for a century and a half.
    Isn’t Das Kapital still the best description of European capitalism circa 1870 that we have?
    Wasn’t Hannah Arendt’s critique of totalitarianism a true Marxist critique using his ideological superstructure and economic base to show how all ideology becomes fascist?
    Or am I misreading something?
    By the way, don’t let it get out, but Marx died.

    • Song For the Deaf says


      “Isn’t the Communist Manifesto still a thrilling call to make a better world”

      No, it isn’t. It’s a transparently ressentful polemic that proves the truism that idealism is just a mask for hatred of mankind. The vast majority of the working class never had any interest in it, only Jews and other intellectuals.

      “just as Moses gave a thrilling call to “Let My People Go,” and Jesus gave a thrilling call to forgive all sins and live in the present”

      Neither of those things are particularly thrilling. But you throw that word around a lot. You seem to be easily thrilled.

      “Marx has inspired billions for a century and a half.”

      No he didn’t. He inspired small cadres of bloodthirsty intellectuals who took over their countries and used totalitarian methods to force him on their largely uninterested countrymen.

  16. Closed Range says

    Just a little comment here to our American friends from someone from Europe – I feel sorry that people try to sell you this utopian vision of social democracy. It worked best in Scandinavia due to a largely homogeneous population with low unemployment and youngish age. But those demographic variables are changing rapidly and people are realising that it is unsustainable. Other countries like France are further down the road or high debt, high unemployment, high social costs with an aging population. In france, we are stuck in a situation where working is only barely better than being unemployed after taxes and loss of social benefits attached to unemployment. Another example is that although the system is social democratic, the details of the rules cause perverse scenarios. For instance, having a family gives tax rebates proportional to income, whereas the basic cost of a child is roughly constant, so I know much higher income families with more kids that pay less tax than we do.
    Overall it is fair to say that it has become clear since 2007 that social democracy is broken in Europe because the cost is unsustainable and the favourable conditions are gone.
    It is clear now that social democracy is actually fracturing society as it creates a number of interest groups all competing for the control of the tax pot at others expense. The only form of social dialogue is in having big violent protests that drown out the other groups. The problem we have is that nobody knows the way out without stepping on some interest group’s toes. I think the yellow vests (who are only the latest and largest iteration of the same thing since the early 2000s).

    Overall, forget Bernie Sanders – he doesn’t know the reality of Europe. Don’t make the same mistakes as here, life is not better than in the US.

    • sumpin says

      Thanks so much for weighing in from the front. Your points are easily understandable, but, as shown in the article, those here who need the most convincing are also those who have more of a belief system (one that has been imposed rather than having been developed naturally) than a rational position that is open to consideration or debate. Both sides of the pond have great challenges ahead of us and clear thinking is a necessity. Best of luck to you as well – we’ll need that also.

  17. Fickle Pickle says

    Another typically boring and superficial essay which does not even come close to describing the situation that humankind is now in.
    I much prefer the analysis of the situation described in this truth-telling essay:

    Plus the authors most recent essay titled Worshipping The Electronic Image.
    And other recent essays too.

    • Fickle Pickle:

      When I read the following: “Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.”” I did a double-take.

      Then I looked at the date of publication: 2010. No wonder his analysis misses the mark: he is writing from the Obama era!

      The essay you cite might be truth-telling, but it is out of date.

      • 2010 and already hopelessly out of date, Fred? So, how much more this applies to Karl Marx!

  18. To my surprise I read in my newpaper that quite some columnists and outhors, known for their ultra right stances, started their career as convinced Marxists. None were murderous,fascist or even anti democratic at any moment, but their minds were soaked with Marxist philosophy.

    The logical question then is twofold:
    – What was it at the time (1980s) that attracted these professors and authors so much and so unanimously?
    – Why is it these intellectuas now all have changed 180 degrees, whereas Marx, I think, is a rather classical philosopher, with very thoughtful ideas and reasoning, as was the case with so many other giants of that century, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Humboldt and all those others. These latter never were so much attacked as Marx (though, also rather time dependent), but were they really so much more out of line?? Don’t think so.

    • Just Me says


      “These latter never were so much attacked as Marx (though, also rather time dependent), but were they really so much more out of line?? Don’t think so.”

      The others did not inspire revolutions, civil wars, and resulting totalitarian governments, with their mass murders, incarcerations, dispossessions, etc., the way Marx did.

      • Sounds logical Just Me, inspired by Marx, the Marxists thus, with Kautsky as most famous of them maybe. What would Marx have said, if he would have known of them? From his grave? He was a journalist, in favour of freedom of press, and then see what he inspired? Fascism, totalitarianism,monotheism, Gulag camps, the horrors of the Ukrainian Holodomor (he was a farmer’s son himself, his father had a vineyard), the suffocation of free press! Indeed, where you start to philosophy on political economy, you should be prepared! Those other philosophers, though maybe as original thinkers as himself, and as close or as far from the very truth, can rest in much more peace in their graves. That’s for sure!

  19. E. Olson says

    Very interesting dialog between defenders of Left such as K. Dershem and Nakatomi Plaza, and deplorable types such as Ga Gamba and Doctor Locketopus. The argument on the Left is always that the vast majority of Leftists are reasonable people who don’t want full Communism with state ownership of everything, they just want to fix the problems of inequality and injustice caused by Capitalism through Democratic means (aka Democratic Socialism). This they hope to accomplish by promising “free” healthcare, “free” education, “free” renewable energy, “free” daycare, and a guaranteed “living wage” even for those who don’t feel like working, which will all be paid for through heavy taxation of all the rich people, who “didn’t build that” and/or got their fortunes mostly through fraud or inheritance. Conveniently, the Leftist definitions of the “undeserving rich” are almost always just above their own personal fortunes (i.e. Liz Warren net worth is $10 million – not bad for a Cherokee college professor – and Warren’s proposed wealth tax is on those with $50+ million).

    Not surprisingly, offers of “free” stuff paid for by greedy rich bastards proves to be a popular vote winning formula (aka “the will of the people”), and the Left therefore often win elections, where they can appoint judges who have a flexible attitude regarding Constitutional rights, which allows the plundering of private property, and withdrawal of political and economic freedom in order to support the cause of social justice and equality. Unfortunately, some rich bastards and other privileged groups (aka racists, deplorables, sexists, homophobes, Islamphobes, transphobes, Republicans) often disagree with Leftist policy prescriptions and attempt to hold on to their personal fortunes and freedoms. The rich may attempt to use bribery to corrupt the good Leftist intentions and gain exemptions from governmental confiscation of their property (funny how so many Leftist career public “servants” with lifelong modest salaries living in expensive DC end up retiring as multi-millionaires – perhaps they should share their investment strategies with the rest of us), while those with more modest means may initiate/join/support non-profits, think tanks, and tea-party type protests to promote the preservation of economic and political freedom, and literal interpretations of the Constitution. Some of this freedom promotion might include such interesting observations as the 100+ million deaths attributable to Communism, or the collapsing economies of all countries that have attempted to use coercion to take away large chunks of wealth from the most productive citizens and give it to the least productive citizens (with a cut for administration), or the utter corruption of all totalitarian regimes, or corrosive impact of victimhood narratives on society.

    Of course such threats to the “will of the people” must be thwarted using the mechanisms of government. Perhaps the IRS can use the threat of audits or loss of tax exemptions to shut down or silence non-cooperating think tanks, non-profits, or other wealthy troublemakers. Perhaps Justice Departments and Law Enforcement can put together bogus documentation of “Russian Influence” or “Collusion”, and make some early morning SWAT raids to send a message to those who advocate swamp draining, or silence them by locking them away. Perhaps borders can be opened to let in hoards of future “free stuff” voters. Perhaps public education can be used to indoctrinate children on the benefits of socialism, unisex bathrooms, gay sex, and the history of white/heterosexual/Christian oppression of all non-white/gender fluid/non-Christian groups. Perhaps promises of refraining from anti-trust or privacy laws can be used to persuade social media moguls to deplatform all opponents of larger government. And if these more “reasonable” mechanisms don’t work, history shows that “peaceful” transitions to social justice and equity almost always lead to increasing coercion (aka banning political opponents), political imprisonment, and death camps.

    Larger government always leads to larger, more intrusive, and more coercive government, no matter what the original “good” intentions and “good” people had in mind when they started advocating government solutions to perceived injustice and inequality.

    • K. Dershem says

      Right. Higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy lead inevitably to death camps. People who claim to want a more just society are just fascists in disguise. All progressive social movements are motivated by envy and the desire for power. I think you should take heed of the author’s advice:

      “What is needed in the face of such ideological certainty is a phase shift to a more modest intellectual approach. When I look back on my time as a Marxist, I’m struck by how little doubt I experienced. The world is an unbelievably complex place composed of infinite shades of grey. And anyone who thinks they have it all figured out should be mistrusted on principle.”

      But I’m pretty sure you won’t. So it goes.

      • Nicholas says

        I don’t think you’re a bad person, I think you genuinely want the world to be a better place, and that’s commendable. I do think it’s morally wrong to use (or advocate the use of) the violence of state to make other people buy things *you* want, or try to force them to live the way *you* prefer them to.
        And I think it really doesn’t matter whether you want a marginal tax rate bump or full government ownership of the economy; once you claim the authority to kidnap and/or murder peaceful people who just don’t want to take orders from you, it’s only a matter of degree, not a category difference, to mao.

        And by the way, that’s not a charge exclusively against the left, there are plenty of right statists especially with the rise of the trump republican party.

        • K. Dershem says

          @Nicholas: So, are you an anarchist? Although I find that philosophy appealing (in theory), I don’t think it could ever work in practice. I think the same is true of socialism.

        • In the words of the (truly great) american 70’s show “Good Times”; Right On!

      • sumpin says

        The problem with your stance is that you seem to have blinders on, and are very idealistic. There is a significant amount of recent history that your comments fail to deal with. Tax rates are meaningless if they are not enforced, which they are not on the wealthiest. Obviously, tax rates don’t lead directly to death camps – why even say that, if you are being honest? Do you not see tendencies of those on the left to wish to put Trump and many deplorables into camps, or commit them to death? Are the numerous threats and acts of real violence toward those left-designated “nazis” lost on you?

      • Song For the Deaf says


        “People who claim to want a more just society are just fascists in disguise.”

        “All progressive social movements are motivated by envy and the desire for power.”

        You’re basically stating the truth in a sarcastic voice. Or is there something untrue in either of these statements?

        • K. Dershem says

          @Song: if that’s what you think, then conversation with you is pointless. Left-wing extremists make the exact same claims about conservatives, and they’re equally wrong. I would recommend you reread the original article.

          • Song For the Deaf says


            Like I said, were any of those statements factually incorrect?

            I grew up in a liberal household. I have family who lobby professionally for the Democrats. I have plenty of experience with the psychology that animates liberals. These sixtysomething white liberal activists who spend their afternoons protesting Trump could easily have members of my family among them. I know exactly what they’re like.

            The resentment and anger that result from frustrated idealism (an ideal that has never existed anywhere outside their heads and never can) are the driving force behind liberalism. They talk about wanting a better world and think that’s laudable, but it’s not. They just hate the real world and everyone outside their political tribe.

            Liberal idealism is just glorified misanthropy.

      • E. Olson says

        Thanks K for the link – very interesting. I notice, however, that although you criticize viewpoints you dislike, you never really have an argument or honestly address the key points of your debate/political opponents.

        For example, I never said that Leftists are all bent on power and fueled by envy, but instead that most Leftist want to solve serious social problems, which invariably means an increase in the size and power of government. Without checks, this humble and perhaps even worthy beginning ALWAYS leads to governments that seek more power to “solve” more “problems”, and because problems of human inequality can never be solved this process continues until bankruptcy or revolution. More power ALWAYS leads to corruption, and more size ALWAYS eventually leads to waste and inefficiencies – there are zero exceptions to these rules.

        Unending human problems and wasteful government always needs ever more power to take “needed” resources away from productive members of society, which is why M. Thatcher correctly stated that the problem with socialism is that they eventually run out of other people’s money to spend. As the screws turn, and other people’s money starts to dry up, both the productive who have had their wealth confiscated, and the unproductive who are starting to lose their “free” stuff increasingly protest their unhappiness, and in small homogeneous places with some residual social capital such as Sweden, the government may admit defeat and voluntarily lets go of the economy so that some growth and incentive for productivity return (i.e. they give up on socialism). Unfortunately, places such as Sweden are the exception, as most socialist governments have been corrupted absolutely, and “public servants” invariably end up using ever more coercion to keep the “enemies of the people” in compliance or silent. This is why socialist governments almost always end up with secret police, re-education camps, political prisoners, and in worst cases death camps.

        I can sympathize with a desire to end human suffering and unfairness, but there just isn’t any evidence that socialism actually works and in fact most often eventually ends up increasing human suffering and unfairness. Thus unless you can demonstrate where socialism has actually worked in the long-term without resorting to secret police, re-education camps, political prisoners, and death camps, or ending in bankruptcy or “conservative” military coup/election loss, you have no argument. On the other hand, I have absolutely no difficulty in finding lots of examples where countries have adopted free-market reforms and deregulation (i.e. capitalism), and have consequently brought billions of people out of poverty, drastically increased living standards, and developed and popularized many life enhancing innovations, products, and services (people innovate to get rich, not to support the state). If you need further evidence, just look at which countries are the top choices of immigrants – it ain’t Cuba, N. Korea, or Venezuela.

        • K. Dershem says

          “Although you criticize viewpoints you dislike, you never really have an argument or honestly address the key points of your debate/political opponents.” I obviously disagree, but it’s true that I don’t attempt to provide point-by-point refutations of posts like yours. That’s why I referred to your rhetorical strategy as a “Gish gallop”: you make a rapid succession of claims which strike me as partially or completely wrong. I find your posts to be interesting, in part because they’re very well written, but (to be frank) I don’t care enough about these discussions to devote as much time to composing my responses as you and ga gamba seem to. Sometimes I resort to sarcasm when posts strike me as being egregiously and obviously wrong. We’re obviously not going to agree on anything, and I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of your ideology at this point so I’m not likely to learn anything new. If you want the short version of my objection to your broader argument, I think it’s founded on a combination of false dichotomy and slippery slope fallacies. I don’t agree that any step toward “socialism” will lead inevitably to an authoritarian dictatorship, and (as both Ray and I have repeatedly argued) reject the false choice between free markets and planned economies. All economies are mixed economies; capitalism can’t function without the proper regulations. Reasonable people can disagree about how much regulation is required and about which parts of society should be governed by markets and which should be treated as public goods.

        • @ E. Olson: Your summary is perfect. All you need is a mike drop… I copied and saved it for when I need to explain why Socialism is a sham. The only thing missing was a bit more on the effects of Socialism on non-economic freedoms, how it erodes the individual… Thank You!

          • E. Olson says

            MMS – thanks for the kind words and hope you find it useful in your future debates on socialism.

  20. Yuval Harari on these matters: sovjet communism was no less a religion than islam ( and christianity??). And: over the last 2 millennia, monotheist religions repeatedly tried to strengthen their hand by violently exterminating all competition.

  21. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: What My Days as a Marxist Taught Me About Modern Political Cults – Outside The Know

  22. Pingback: New top story on Hacker News: What My Days as a Marxist Taught Me About Modern Political Cults – News about world

  23. William Knight says

    So many people nowadays get so preoccupied with the tone and polarization of political discourse that they lose sight of the core issue: increasingly toxic levels of economic inequality and the corresponding solution of raising taxes on the rich.

    The world is complex, but when things get sufficiently out of balance, they stand out quite clearly. Technologically-amplified economic inequality is one of those, and it must and will be addressed, sooner or later.

  24. AlexR says

    Hyapatia is one prominent example of killings by Christian mobs in ancient times. She was a philosopher and mathematician, probably the most learned person in Alexandria, and nominally a pagan. She was slaughtered in the street by a Christian mob who tore away her flesh with pottery shards.

  25. Fred LaSor says

    In comparing early Christianity to Marxism, it might be worthwhile to note that the disciples, unlike Mao, Castro, Maduro, and other leaders of the faith, did not die wealthy men. This should lead us to some caution in seeing them in the same light.

    • Maduro died already?, Fred, not so fast, that’s still some time to go. And Castro and Mao died rich? I remember Mao and Nixon shaking hands, not long before the first one died, but was he a rich man at that time? I doubt, but doesn’t matter of course, what can you take with you, in the grave? What I know: material well being, wealth, has never been of any importance for the important , influential and relevant persons in this world, just look only at all those persons in encyclopedias, almost none of them died as a rich man, even Mozart not, they don’t even know where he was buried.

  26. Doug F says

    That quote from Foucault seems to perfectly describe the tactics being used in our times by the social justice warriors. When the facts don’t work just slur the messenger. Again and again and again and….

    • jakesbrain says

      Of course, Foucault’s followers have never really acknowledged that they are subject to the same kind of demagoguery that he condemns.

  27. Jean-Pierre Demers says

    “If you’re not a leftist at 20 you have no heart. If you’re still one after 40, you have no brains.” Forgot who said that…
    In any case, gulags and pyres should be reserved for authors who use “thusly”.

  28. Maduro is not dead yet, but very rich. Chavez, before him, died very rich and his daughters claimed they should be allowed to continue to live in the presidential palace. Mao died very rich. It is not so much whether you can take it to the grave, it’s how you became rich in a society where you claim to seek equality. Material well being and wealth have been important for “important” people: just ask Hillary. Bernie Sanders owns either four or five large houses. And the list goes on — except for the disciples, who were not wealthy.

    Don’t bother to point out to me that right-wing politicians also die rich: my point is that political power is a magnet for wealth.

    • What I read in your remark above, Fred: there is a value difference in the religions/ideologies of christianity and marxism, just look at the disciples, those of the first one die poor, of the latter rich. But is that so? I wonder, Stalin did not like luxury and possession, Mao, Tito and Ho Chi Minh neither, but, of course, if you look at Ceaucescu and some other East European dictators, yes, so, you can’t make any rule out of it. The first Christians stayed poor (small wonder for ex-slaves), but you can’t say that of the Italian renaissance popes. Your logic has much similarity with that of our Olson (though, is somewhat shorter, O.K.)

      • Peter says

        Dream on, dirk. I was in Lenin’s summer residence near Moscow, a small place he inherited from the czars. He had two Rolls Royces, one with tracks instead of back wheels, like a small tank for winter driving. Churchill states that he introduced some of the luxuries he saw at Stalin’s place, like continuously running water in the bathroom, to his own home, but in a more modest way. Tito confiscated the islands of Brioni for his own residence, as well as all the residences of former kings of Yugoslavia, and many additional places and castles. He had a destroyer converted into his own yacht, Galeb. He had his own »Blue train« etc etc.

        • O.K. Peter, that means skip Tito. I put him on the list because remember a black and white movie where he was rowing to Bled Island, (same thing I once did on Bled lake), in a simple rowing boat in sports (and not by gondola), cost me quite some sweat, as it must have done to Tito. But the exuberance you mention, that’s something else.
          In fact, as soon as you are a dictator, talking about rich or poor becomes rather irrelevant, because you can own what you want. Stalin lived quite sobre, though. Ceauscescu (and Tito thus) not (he lived in a Disney palace, and went hunting with friends in the Carpath mountains, killing over 25 bears per tour).
          Main thing remaining: power in a communist country can mean a luxury life and many villas and yachts, but I doubt that ever is the main aim or desire, especially not in the early stages.

          • Peter says

            Sure, the revolutionaries first aim was coming to power. The privileges then come automatically. If you ever lived in a socialist utopia, you would notice the paranoia with which the leadership views anything that seems like a hint of challenge. As soon as more than five persons start meeting regularly, an informant is added or the group disbanded… See also Maduro and his paranoia about foreign help, while people are starving and dying without medicine.

            As for the stories and films about leaders: Schoolchildren in Austro-Hungarian empire learned that Emperor Franz Joseph slept on a simple iron bed and started the day at six in the morning… Hitler in his early days as the leader of Nazi party proudly lived in a very cold apartment, showing how tough he was. When he came to power, he had the luxurious Berghof estate especially built for him.

            As for Stalin, secrecy surrounded his private life – unless you visited him and know better. For Churchill, Stalin’s style was lavish. And Churchill was an aristocrat – I heard in a documentary that Churchill never had to squeeze the toothpaste on his toothbrush himself.

  29. J. L. Hilling says

    “leaves them utterly certain that they occupy the moral high ground on every issue, and so the facts must be on their side.” No it does not. I am a follower of Christ and a financial supporter of Quillette. End the simplistic, it is chic, yet unbecoming.

  30. Tersitus says

    Farris— Intellectual pride and its overweening cousins, arrogance and vanity— the dangers of intellectual enthusiasm, whatever its dress, wherever idea fuses with intense conviction. Sydney has it right— it’s the sin of all us ex-lefties. Our penance, like the author’s, is to witness to the innocent and wrestle with our demons on Quillette.

    • What is the percentage of ex-lefties in Quillette ( commenters and writers of essays put together)? I guess some 75%. Does E.Olson belong to that majority? That I doubt, but would like to know about it.

      • Tersitus says

        dirk— I’d guess your estimate is pretty close. Facebook probably has that data on most of us.
        Changing the subject, the preceding discussion— thoughtful, factful, seriously contended— as it drifts into a debate on “socialisms”— like many before, leaves me fuzzy-headed. Not blaming any of the participants (except maybe myself)— it’s the nature of the subject matter, I think.
        If, as we learned in high school economics, all real-world economies are “mixed economies,” and every political economy is constantly evolving as parties’ power, majorities, policies, programs shift, and technologies and consumer wants change— well, shades of label and -ism seem to matter less and the important concerns for me become something more like “direction,” “balance,” “human cost,” “purpose.”
        To try and clarify by way of examples….(1) as Chávez nationalized (confiscated) one area after another— oil, agriculture, finance, mining, media— the direction became obvious, and the consequences (at least to me) predictable. His purpose, whether power or “the people” or wealth redistribution or “socialism” or whatever, ceased to matter as the economy fell increasingly out of balance and the human costs rose. Whatever the label, it was a trainwreck quickly foreseeable.
        The fact that Mussolini famously “made the trains run on time” and German Nazification catapulted Germany out of the Depression well ahead of other nations outweighed for far too many for far too long the obvious direction and purpose (militarization, territorial aggression, domination) and human cost. National “socialism,” “state capitalism,” whatever— once we see it’s directional tendencies, we have to call it out and shine as bright a light as possible on its parallels and problematic actions.
        Too many of my liberal friends have overenthused on China’s “liberalization” and market turn (I frequently label it “state capitalism” to bring them up short, but you’re welcome to your own -isms), blithely explained away Venezuela and Cuba and half of Latin America, pretended Erdogan’s Turkey is a NATO “ally,” and go jelly in the head dumb on the entirety of Islam’s relegation of half its population to the status of chattels and domestic servitude, even as those same self-styled liberals blather about sexism and feminism and me too and pussyhat politics.
        We owe to Marx and the Marxists this much at least— a much keener understanding of just how much in our lives, political, social, cultural, is shaped and driven by economic forces. That was for me his most fundamental insight— that for every single human, our most basic activities are economic, that we never escape them, and that much of our “superstructural” institutions and concerns are evolved and formed on that base.
        I’m left to wonder just how much of our author’s earlier Marxism he still retains— quite a lot, I suspect.

        • So, Tersitus, that means that you belong to the roughly half of the commenters here that agree that Marx was not a devil or totally negative, but came with quite some relevant and original views on society. I would like to compare him with Freud, also a philospher/thinker that came with a new and unexpected theory, and his on the importance of the unconscious (thereby debilitating the role of the free will, and the idea that we have a firm grip on what to think and to do by our ratio). Maybe, his psychotherapy was not real science, or medically sound, but, nevertheless, it changed directions in psychology, as did Marx for political economy. Of course, what the Marxists lateron made of his original thoughts is another matter.

          • Tersitus says

            Yes, dirk— and I agree with you on Freud— not just a new way of trying to understand the dark inner working of the psyche, but, as importantly, a whole new vocabulary to try and express it. He was wrestling demons in the dark.

      • E. Olson says

        Dirk – your doubt is correct. I’ve never been a Lefty, although I’ve had lots of exposure to Lefty thinkers and proponents as I have lived, been educated, and worked in Leftist dominated places for much of my life. But I’ve also had the pleasure of living, being educated, and working in Right dominated places as well. My personal observation and reading of history suggests that most Leftists aren’t evil, but their desire to fix human nature and God’s “imperfectly” created world always leads to disastrous unintended consequences, that they are almost always unwilling or unable to reverse and instead double-down on their goals and policies until lots of people are dead, in prison, or starving, and virtually everyone is unhappy and poor.

  31. Peter says

    E. Olson, can you explain to me what you think with the statement:
    “in small homogeneous places with some residual social capital such as Sweden, the government may admit defeat and voluntarily lets go of the economy so that some growth and incentive for productivity return (i.e. they give up on socialism).”
    Maybe you refer to the fact that the government sold some of old state owned enterprises. But that would happen even if they were in private hands, as small producers are wiped from the markets. The Scandinavian economies were always capitalist. Private property was never threatened. I read that Swedish rich families are unusually good at staying rich and successful for several generations. As I said, naming Scandinavian countries “socialist” is really dumb and playing into the hands of the leftists.

    In WWII, the Danes rescued many of their Jewish citizens by transporting them secretly to Sweden. They debated about saving similarly their Communists from the Nazis, too, but decided against it. Putting their own lives on risk for saving people that wanted to destroy their democracy did not seem wise.

  32. Pingback: Eseistul C.K. Ryan – Spovedania unui marxist cultural! Deosebit de interesant ce spune tipul… – Veghe Patriei

  33. TheSnark says

    I still cannot understand how anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history can fall for Marxism. The foundation on which Marxism rests is the assumption that men are primarily motivated by class consciousness. In the heyday of its popularity in the early 20th century, Marxists/Socialist confidently predicted that a European war was impossible because the working classes would refuse to fight other workers across national lines.

    But in August 1914 even the socialist parties in each nation voted unanimously for the war, and the workers flocked to the colors to slaughter their fellow worked for the next 4 years. Class solidarity counted for nothing, nationalism for everything. And this pattern repeated many times over the rest of the century.

    If the foundation of the theory (class solidarity) is wrong, the edifice on which it rests, however pretty, is useless.

    • codadmin says

      But, it’s a religion. You can’t beat Marxists with facts. They have to be treated like Nazis. Worse than Nazis.

  34. I guess I learned all I need to know about democratic socialism and anticolonialism from my years in Modern Socialist Zimbabwe, but at least I can brag about being a trillionaire.

    • I wonder what socialism means (for politicians and ordinary citizens) in colonized, subsaharan nations. The struggle of classes scarcely is of influence, because no factories. Of course, this also was the case (though, somewhat less) in Russia, with 80% of citizens being self supporting peasants (two classes in one thus). Tanzania got a lot of development money for their socialist experiment. To no avail, that must be clear. Zimbabwe socialist? Are you sure? Do the citizens know it already?

    • Tersitus says

      Lucky you, Phil— unless you had your family farm liberated.

  35. Too Fearful To Comment Under My Name says

    Perfectly calm, reasonable, well-argued article. The thing that struck me the most however, is that the author is too fearful of some kind or repercussions to publish it under his or her name.

  36. Loran Tritter says

    Marxism is delusional. Belief in the Canadian nation is equally delusional.

  37. Rick Phillips says

    It is good to see the informed and animated discussion here at Quillette. It was quite easy to be drawn to Marxist ideas in the 60’s; before the failures and some of the atrocities committed under socialist/communist doctrines were well known (at least to young impressionable types). Capitalism has also had its share of regrettable interludes.

    I think @Dershem comes closest to my current perspective on relatively successful European and North American economies when he observed that:

    “All economies are mixed economies; capitalism can’t function without the proper regulations. Reasonable people can disagree about how much regulation is required and about which parts of society should be governed by markets and which should be treated as public goods.”

    Let that thought sink in a bit… how indeed could current markets and economies function in the absence of the extensive regulatory framework and societal norms and public infrastructure within which they exist?

    It also seems to be the case that that supportive framework is dependent on a social contract with those that cannot fully participate in the “capitalist” part of the economy. Economists focus on what are supposed to be (at least in theory) instantaneous adjustment from one equilibrium to another… unfortunately, most of life occurs in the dynamic process of that adjustment. This is where those “left behind” are to be found. To my mind it is just good economics and good for the maintenance of the social contract that supports our current market structure to address potential externalities arising out of dynamic capitalism.

    The suggestion that there is a choice to be made between robust capitalist wealth creating markets and the existence of broadly-based social programs to address some of the challenges and externalities created by such markets is indeed a false dichotomy. This does not however, suggest that there is no room for robust debate about what social programs are useful and how they are to be financed.

    • dirk says

      Read yesterday in my newspaper: the more open a society is (and the NL were the example here), the larger and more bureaucratic the government (has to be, if not openness in danger). Source was not Dutch, I think American it was.

  38. Lean On me says

    Thank you, C.K. Ryan, for your article. I believe the reason we see some people in developed countries attach to Marxism, Socialism, and social justice like some attach to other religions is because we evolved to want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to belong. We evolved in small, independent, autonomous groups where every member needed to participate for the group to survive. To help cement the bonds of kinship we evolved to naturally release hormones that made us feel good (a mini high) when we agreed with one another, fought together, worked together on a common goal, and hunted together (especially if we had to run for long distances). These activities gave us purpose, meaning, and involved in something larger than ourselves. This is why communism is so romantic to some people; we evolved to be in small communal groups.
    Today we live in a culture and society that is inconsistent from how we evolved; large anonymous groups, insulated from others in our homes and cars, and rarely have to interact in a significant way with anyone. This is especially true with children who are not needed to participate in any meaningful way in any activities to survive. The result is we are not experiencing those natural mini highs and this makes us feel unbalanced, off kilter, insecure, uncomfortable, weird, (sad, lonely, anxious, &/or depressed) et cetera. For some people this is where religion and pseudo-religion comes into play. Participatory religion, Marxism, SJW, social organizing, etc. provides fellowship/community and makes us feel like we are part of something and we are part of something that is bigger than ourselves.
    Unfortunately, this void can be filled in multiple ways, socially acceptable and otherwise. I believe this explains the opioid epidemic (along with many other addictions) and gang affiliation (all of them). But for those that want to watch the world burn out of anger for their isolation we have school shooters and those that join ISIS.
    In the interest of brevity, I grossly oversimplified my argument.

  39. You are very close to Marx, Lean, he also warned for the dangers of opioids, we should be aware, and go for balance and cohesion.

  40. Bill Haywood says

    The author has good insight into his earlier fixations, but a lot of what he describes is common to youth of any creed. Ayn Rand, charismatic religious groups, Lyndon Larouche — all sorts of groups have a contingent of 17-24 year old fanatics. Most grow out of it and become much more nuanced in their thinking. Glad the author is not stuck at 23. But neither was Antonio Gramsci.

    • As was the case with the young Marx, Bill, the fanatic, the one of all proletarians worldwide and the end of capitalism. The Russian Plekhanov translated this young Marx into Russian, and inspired Lenin, Stalin, Mao and other dictators. But, the older Marx seems to have changed his mind , and slowly got aware that the middle class and capitalism would not vanish. He conseqently believed more in some form of democratic change, without violence, a peaceful adapted legislation and a more humane society, with no more child labour, free educaton for all, progressive income tax, nationalisation of transports etc etc. This moderate Marx is not the one we know best, radical, fanatic thoughts (the ones of Plekhanov and Kautsky) always stick better in the mind. Lamentably.

  41. wallace says

    Why is it that if you dont support wealth redistribution that leftists will call you racists?

    If you supported wealth redistribution for one race only, then I could see how the attack was warrented, but republicans, at least, don’t support wealth redistribution for anyone!

Comments are closed.