“T]o me, capitalism at its core … is the absolute pursuit of profit at all human, environmental, and social cost. … To me that is not a redeemable system.” Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Feb. 4, 2022
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), US Representative (14th district of New York) holds that capitalism, the economic system in our United States that people from all over the world risk life and limb to enter any way they can, is “irredeemable.”
Her contempt for capitalism is matched only by her love of socialism: “The emphasis in socialism is on democracy. … It’s just as much a transformation about bringing democracy to the workplace so that … we don’t check all of our rights at the [workplace] door because … as workers and people in society, we’re the ones creating wealth.”
For AOC, capitalism is “essentially” about greed and dictatorship over the workers. By contrast, socialism is not concerned with anything so mundane is attempting to make working conditions cleaner, safer or better paying. Socialists are concerned about something much grander, namely, a “transformation,” almost like the miraculous transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, from the mundane real world in which we live into a completely new and better world in which wealth and creativity spring up like mushrooms from the fertile socialist soil.
One might be tempted to respond immediately that AOC has it backwards, that, in fact, capitalism is about freedom and socialism is about dictatorship. However, it is worth examining closely the precise words in which current socialists like AOC express their grandiose visions. For, AOC actually does not say that capitalism is a greedy irredeemable system. What she says is that capitalism is a greedy irredeemable system to her. Unfortunately, what capitalism is to her is of no interest whatsoever. What is important is what capitalism actually is.
Similarly, when, in 2020 AOC asked black gay “democratic socialist” Jabari Brisport (New York’s 25th State Senate district), about his beliefs, he replied,
“[F]or me, it’s really about getting people out from underneath the thumb of capitalism, and freeing them from the very small group of people that … mismanage our economy and our society for their own wealth and benefit. It’s about freeing people to truly experience all the joys in life by making sure they [have the necessities of life].”
Once again, it is of no interest whatsoever what socialism is “to” Brisport. What is of interest is only what socialism is in reality. Unfortunately, Brisport’s characterization is not even close to a correct description of socialism. What Brisport provides is a series of feel-good sentiments, getting people from underneath the thumb of oppression, freeing people to experience all the joys of life like a home and health care. There is nothing specifically socialistic about that.
For some mysterious reason, socialists do not seem eager to tell us what capitalism or socialism really are, namely that capitalism is about individual freedom to chart one’s economic course in life while socialism is really all about big government control of people. Rather, socialists feel much more confident telling us what capitalism and socialism are “to” them. This kind of relativistic language was introduced into the Left by the post-Modernist movement that discovered that selling unattractive political programs is much easier once one abandons the limiting (and disciplining) notion of truth. For post-Modernists, instead of truth one gets different “narratives”. AOC’s and Brisport’s narrative, their script, is that capitalism is bad and socialism is good. Everything is very simple. Even a child can remember such a simple script.
In reality, capitalism can do for people precisely what AOC and Brisport think socialism will do for them. For example, Humberto Lopez came legally to the United States, speaking no English, from Mexico at age 12 after his father passed away, a very rough start in life. However, after working his way up the ladder, Lopez is now the Chairman of the Board of HSL Properties, Inc., and Independent Director of Pinnacle West Capital earning about $433,000 a year. The whole point of capitalism is that it enables people like Lopez, via their own individual initiative, to better their lot in life. Lopez puts it best: “The American dream is still attainable in as long as we have capitalism [but] big government … [is] … making it harder and harder.” No socialist government raised Lopez up. Lopez knows that big government holds people down!
AOC and Brisport do not understand capitalism. They do not even try. Both present caricatures of capitalism as a system of greed they memorized in privileged classrooms in the Ivory Tower. For, in fact, Lopez was not greedy in prospering in the capitalist system. Quite the contrary, by raising himself up, he is at the same time, by creating jobs and wealth, helping other people, including immigrants, raise themselves up. No small group of evil capitalists from AOC’s and Brisport’s socialist fairy tale prevented Humberto Lopez from prospering. Why should they when Lopez was creating wealth (and happiness) that can benefit them too?
“The bourgeoisie [capitalist] … has accomplished wonders, far surpassing Egyptian Pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic Cathedrals… [D]uring its rule of scarce of one hundred years, [it] has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than… all preceding generations together… [W]hat earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?
Karl Marx said many things about capitalism, some of them very positive and some of them very negative. However, history has shown that many of the positive things that he said about capitalism have turned out to be true and most of the negative things he said about capitalism have turned out to be false. Marx’s vision of the inevitable collapse of capitalism in a glorious socialist revolution never came to pass. Instead, capitalism has shown itself to be a wealth-creator to a degree that even Marx could not have foreseen.
If one teaches the transparently false doctrine to people that in capitalism a small group of evil men rig the system against them, one creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. People, having been given a splendid excuse for personal failure, will decide that there is no point even in trying to succeed, which ensures that many of them will remain in poverty. That may be the socialist’s real aim. By pushing the self-destructive socialist caricature of capitalism, that is, by limiting people’s possibilities to improve their life in free markets, which hurts them, socialists are helping the Left expand its angry numbers, thereby, helping themselves to additional wealth and power. Pushing socialism helps the socialists, not “the people”.
Promoting socialism has been great for AOC. As a consequence of her emotional marketing campaign, she has become quite wealthy. She just purchased a $35,000 Tesla and has been seen flying first class. No economy class with Marx’s oppressed “workers of the world” for important socialists! It is ironic that socialism, or more precisely, deceptive visions of socialism, sell very well in capitalist markets to people who have been taught to feel guilty about their good lives in capitalist countries. It is too bad that socialism damages both the country and its duped customers.
By Richard McDonough
Richard Michael McDonough, American philosophy educator. Achievements include production of original interpretation of Wittgenstein’s logical-metaphysical system, original application Kantian Copernican Revolution to philosophy of language; significant interdisciplinary work logic, linguistics, psychology & philosophy. Member Australasian Debating Federation (honorary life, adjudicator since 1991), Phi Kappa Phi. Richard is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative.
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