Episode 94 – What's the Matter with Socialism?


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Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis offers a conservative critique of socialism.

It’s hardly news that socialism is gaining in popularity among younger Americans. Yet it’s more difficult to ascertain what Millennials have in mind when they express support for socialism or socialist candidates. Do they mean Marxism or the numerous varieties of Communist authoritarian regimes tried over the past century, European-style “socialism”, democratic socialism, having the state seize the means of production and abolish private property, bolstering labor unions, or some complex web of worker-ownership cooperatives? Or do they simply mean “whatever we have now, I don’t like that” with some vague idea that “the rich are not paying their fair share” thrown in for good measure?

Millennial support of socialism likely has less to do with an embrace of socialist arguments than with a frustrated search for answers. Socialism is winning by default, not persuasion, in much the same manner some candidates win elections not because they are liked, but because they are less hated than their opponent.

Just as it’s hardly news that younger Americans are becoming increasingly supportive of “socialism”—however defined—it also goes without saying that American conservatives have—generally speaking—opposed socialism and supported capitalism (or, more accurately, the free market). And while most conservatives will tell you this is for the sufficient reason capitalism “works” and socialism doesn’t, if pressed further they are likely to give additional moral reasons the former is superior to the latter. And that moral reason would be that capitalism allows for a flourishing of liberties that socialism impairs or, in some cases, obliterates.

But before we can untangle the merits of capitalism and how it is superior to socialism, both economically and ethically, we have to first come closer to understanding what we mean by the terms “capitalism” and “socialism”.

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