February 14, 2020

FROM “NOT REAL SOCIALISM” TO “NOT A SOCIALIST”: Ed’s post below is amusing to me given that I have a book about socialism in America coming out this summer. It’s astonishing how often socialists deny* socialism or being socialists.

In one example, socialists regularly says that actual existing examples of socialism aren’t and never were socialist. As Kristian Niemietz demonstrates in his brilliant book (unpriced download here) Socialism: The Failed Idea that Never Dies, the progression goes:

  1. Avowed socialists set up brave new socialist world
  2. The wheels start to come off. This is blamed on “wreckers” and foreign agents. The economy seizes up. Eventually people starve and the gulags get set up.
  3. Socialists explain this was never a real socialist system in the first place

Krugman’s intervention appears to be a different form of denial that I identify in the book:

  1. Socialists set out to win an election
  2. Recognizing the unpalatability of a socialist platform, socialists claim they actually only want to be “like Denmark or Sweden.”
  3. Socialists deny desirability of a thriving Nordic free market model that includes things like school choice in Sweden.
  4. Socialists unveil a platform that looks more like traditional socialism than anything currently on offer in Scandinavia.
  5. People who point out the discrepancy between 3 and 4 are vilified as supporting inequality, racism, etc.

If the socialists-but-not-socialists-really then win an election, expect things to progress as in the first progression.

Or, as Toby Young puts it, “socialism always begins with talk of the international brotherhood of man and ends with having to eat your own pets.”

*And of course, the only real “deniers” are climate deniers.

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