Get into an argument for any length of time with a progressive on matters economic, and (in the spirit of Godwin) your probability of hearing some form of “not-real-socialism,” either in dismissal of past failures or in disconnect from the formal state-ownership-of-means-of-production definition, grows with time and vehemence. And, indeed, by the letter of the law, what they advocate isn’t “real socialism,” whether according-to-Hoyle or per the examples of history.

What they propose is far more in line with the economic elements of fascism, but the “f” word is more typically associated with nationalistic aggressiveness than with its “tight government control of privately owned businesses” economics, and it would be quite an uphill battle to hang that word on our progressives, no matter its accuracy.

They’ve branded themselves “democratic socialists” and cobbled together a rose colored glasses set of handwaving ideas to peddle to the eager masses, who’ve been conditioned by a biased educational system to blame capitalism for all the injustices, real and fabricated, in the world (and ignore the truth that most of those injustices can be traced to government meddling, not supposed failures of capitalism). But, what exactly is this “democratic socialism” they glow about?

Buried in the carefully crafted language of the party’s platform are telltales that it’s the same old, same old, including a back-door approach to state ownership of business. Whereas they advocate elimination of the corporate model in favor of communal ownership of businesses by workers, they acknowledge and “lament” that some capital-intensive industries might require state ownership. Yeah, quite a lament there. Show me a business that doesn’t require capital for start-up.

But, most who are sympathetic to Bernie and AOC and the rest of the Democratic Socialists probably haven’t read the fine print with that critical an eye, and instead are content with the hand-waving vagueness that includes more justice, more fairness, making sure that the top few people don’t get paid too much, and making sure that the government’s benevolent, wise, Best-and-Brightest are in charge of things. They look at the “gimme” side of the Northern European welfare states and figure “why can’t we have free health care, free college, cradle-to-grave safety nets, paid family leave, paid sick leave, guaranteed housing, and a guarantee of a dignified wage?”

They ignore, either out of head-in-the-sand denial or because their idols tell them otherwise, the flip side of the European model whose gimmes they so admire and covet: that all those gimmes are funded by massive taxes on the people they benefit. That, to emulate the European model in the US would require a flattening of the American tax code’s highly progressive rates so that the lower and middle income groups pay a whole lot more than they currently do, and an imposition of a nationwide consumption, sales, or value-added tax (which is itself regressive, hitting the lower income taxes harder). Both these would hoover up a much, MUCH bigger chunk of their paychecks than is currently the case.

Fact is, the poor, working, and middle classes of Europe pay for the “gimmes” they receive via massive taxation. For all that forced largesse, they get weaker economic growth, lower living standards, rationed medical care, and rationed tertiary education.

Our progressive Presidential hopefuls don’t bother mentioning this aspect of the much-admired European model, and actually purport/pretend that they have a way to pay for all the gimmes without taxing the snot out of the people whose votes they desire. They also ignore other elements of that model, including the friendliness to capitalism and market economics, the 100% voucher system for primary and secondary education, and the Northern European work ethic (take a look at how well the Euro model has been working for the Mediterranean nations, and you won’t wonder why our socialists always point at Denmark instead of Greece).

There’s an insidiousness to the soft and vague definition of Democratic Socialism: it allows those eager to like it latitude to “fill in the blanks” and adjust the reality to fit their preferences. It’s a variant of the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory, which espouses criticism of existing systems without offering concrete alternatives, and thus enabling people to engage in nirvana fallacies, motivated reasoning, and personal preference. It enables people to deflect criticisms rooted in history and past examples as “not relevant.” It also fosters belief in all sorts of fantastical possibilities, themselves resistant to criticism because the softness enables dismissal of those criticisms based on whatever minutiae of the moment the motivated reasoner can concoct.

In a culture where sound bites, memes, slogans, gotcha-politics, and 280 character tweets have largely replaced substantive dialogue and long-format debate, putting forth a malleable and vague philosophy is a clever strategy, and it’s one reason that the murderous ideology that is socialism has regained traction. The problem these socialists will face lies in the reality that, if they manage to win, they’ll have to actually govern. That’s when the reality of socialism will kick in and gob-smack all the fools who supported. But, by then, it’ll be too late for them to wake up.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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