The Corner

Economy & Business

The New ‘New Socialism’

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

When I told a friend who works in academia about NR’s renewed attacks on socialism, he shook his head and said: “You’re tearing down a 30-year-old straw man. All the literature on socialism that matters today is post-1989.” And when I asked what makes this New Socialism new, he replied: “It’s all about the internet and social media and people from different places and backgrounds collaborating to erode and bypass existing power structures.”

Sounds great — but by Leftsplaining in this way, he was only showing how far behind the times he is (and no wonder; due to the tenure system, academia is the slowest to change of any major American institution). Internet socialism is old hat; this year’s New Socialism is an Uncle Sam–as–Santa Claus nostalgia act, seen most prominently in the Democratic presidential candidates’ Loud, Proud, Refusing to Be Cowed, At Least Until the Primaries Are Over program of free college, punitive taxation, and DMV-style health care, along with factory workers advocating seizure of the means of production.

Of course, socialism has always been subject to sudden changes, from Lenin’s New Economic Policy nearly a century ago to glasnost and perestroika and “socialism with Chinese characteristics” to the 1990s “stakeholder society” (and I’m sure Jonah could give us a few dozen more). There are as many varieties of socialism as there are of Doritos, most of them just as crunchy.

To be sure, though, there is a recentish strain of thought that envisions a socialist revolution in society based on the changes wrought by the Internet:

The new socialism runs over a borderless Internet, through a tightly integrated global economy. It is designed to heighten individual autonomy and thwart centralization. It is decentralization extreme . . .

Instead of gathering on collective farms, we gather in collective worlds. Instead of state factories, we have desktop factories connected to virtual co-ops. . . . Instead of faceless politburos, we have faceless meritocracies, where the only thing that matters is getting things done. Instead of national production, we have peer production. Instead of government rations and subsidies, we have a bounty of free goods . . .

When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it’s not unreasonable to call that socialism.

There are many things for anyone, left or right, to like about this phenomenon: Decentralization, as noted; plenty of creative destruction (as the article quoted above points out, “mushrooming collaborative sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, the Hype Machine, and Twine have added weight to this great upheaval” — and have since been upheaved themselves); freedom of choice; and enormous amounts of information available to everyone. Of course, there are also Silicon Valley billionaires involved, and big corporations and financiers and mergers and IPOs. Which raises the question: Good or bad, how does all this add up to socialism?

The answer is that for today’s Left, “Capitalism” = greedy, profit-driven inequality, and “Socialism” = Not “Capitalism.” So as capitalism evolves, socialism is continually born anew, each time praised as an even better path to perfection until an even newer new socialism comes along. Which is to say: The socialist Left allows itself the Calvinball privilege of changing the rules of the game as often as it wants — and it still keeps losing.

Most Popular

Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More