Should We “Relax About Socialism?”

As the floods of praise and condemnation for David Bentley Hart’s recent New York Times Op-Ed on socialism flowed through my twitter timeline in equal portions, I made up my mind to finally sit down and read it. By the end of the first paragraph I could not help but ask myself, who was this article written for? I am a fan of David Bentley Hart’s theology and much of his social commentary, so I am used to his writing style, but for those who, “believe a higher marginal tax rate is…one step away from the gulags,” as Bentley described them, his style, tone, and content could not have been more offensive. So in the process of trying to get people to “relax about socialism” he most certainly made the term more inflammatory.

I have been so sympathetic to the goals of Socialism over the years that it has often resulted in people asking me whether I am a socialist myself. I am not a socialist, but I do agree with Hart that American’s have a near pathological phobia of the term. Hart accurately points out that it is the “totalitarian statism” of nations like the former Soviet Union, North Korea, and Venezuela that should be feared, and not Socialism itself. Even as I typed that last sentence I know there are people who will read it and instantly become angry that I am not willing to forcefully condemn their ideological opponents. I would ask that if you believe Socialism is, in and of itself, evil, please hear me out, the reasons I am not a Socialist are the same reasons I do not support Donald Trump, but I believe Trump is far more dangerous.

Like Roosevelt and the Mugwumps of the late 19th century, Donald Trump came to power as a populist reformer, but despite his bluster and bravado, his platform is remarkably similar to that of the GOP establishment over the past fifty years: deregulate, lower taxes, expand the military. Socialists, on the other hand, want to regulate, increase taxes, expand social programs, and decrease the rapid growth of the military. I reject both platforms for the same reason, they don’t go far enough. Wall Street doesn’t need regulated, it needs torn down. We don’t need to slow the growth of our Military Industrial Complex, it needs to be dismantled. If you think these sound like the crazed ramblings of an Occupy Wall Street protester you need to read more of Thomas Jefferson. So yes, I agree that people should “relax about Socialism,” but at the same time, we should be much more angry about this dicephalic (two-headed) beast of empire. And that’s why Trump is more dangerous. Socialists want to tame the beast, I think we should starve it to death, and the president wants to set it loose!

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