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Washington Post Writer Advocates for Outright Socialism

The Monument to the Korean Workers Party showing the hammer, sickle, and writer's brush in Pyongyang, North Korea.


Some wag once told us that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." This definition may as well apply to progressivism, as the left constantly trots out old ideas that have failed, wanting to give them a spin all over again.

Take socialism, for example. For generations, we've heard that socialist policies have failed only because nations haven't properly implemented them. Even after a long track record of collectivism falling apart over and over again—with examples happening right before our eyes—the left refuses to see that the system many of them hold so dear is inherently flawed.

It sure doesn't stop them from advocating for it time and again. Just this week in the Washington Post, writer Elizabeth Bruenig opines that "It’s time to give socialism a try." You may have expected a statement like this from The Onion or UK's Daily Mash, but alas, this is a legitimate, serious consideration of state economic ownership.

Bruenig writes:

Capitalism is an ideology that is far more encompassing than it admits, and one that turns every relationship into a calculable exchange. Bodies, time, energy, creativity, love — all become commodities to be priced and sold. Alienation reigns. There is no room for sustained contemplation and little interest in public morality; everything collapses down to the level of the atomized individual.

But don't get her wrong: Bruenig claims to be no totalitarian. Instead, she preciously advocates for some sort of magical end to "inequality."

I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.

She suggests that capitalism sits at odds with this vague idea of the "harmonious, peaceful, stable liberalism of midcentury dreams," whatever that's supposed to mean. And she offers no practical ideas for bringing about her fantasy of socialism that actually works.

Instead, Elizabeth Bruenig is just one more in a long line of leftists who think that this time socialism is just going to work! All we have to do is take a chance on socialism. Why is Bruenig so flawed in her advocacy, like all the others before her? Because socialism has always been doomed to fail no matter when or how it is implemented.

Why is socialism such a bad idea? There are plenty of reasons, of course, but first among them is that it is an economic system that lacks incentives. In his classic 1995 essay, “Why Socialism Failed,” Mark J. Perry makes this case:

In a capitalist economy, incentives are of the utmost importance. Market prices, the profit-and-loss system of accounting, and private property rights provide an efficient, interrelated system of incentives to guide and direct economic behavior. Capitalism is based on the theory that incentives matter!

Under socialism, incentives either play a minimal role or are ignored totally. A centrally planned economy without market prices or profits, where property is owned by the state, is a system without an effective incentive mechanism to direct economic activity. By failing to emphasize incentives, socialism is a theory inconsistent with human nature and is therefore doomed to fail.