When They Reduce It to 'Cost,' Conservatives Lose Fight Against Socialism
The recent primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a golden opportunity to advance capitalism, but conservatives don't seem to realize it. Joe Crowley assumed voters would tolerate the status quo, disdained his opponent, and counted on inertia. This was a bad strategy against an energetic opponent. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez seemed concerned with voters' problems, offered a means of solving them, and stood behind her solution. Yet, conservatives seem intent on channeling the defeated Crowley, despite the fact they could offer a realchoice, instead. The following are poor ways to advocate capitalism: Repeating ad nauseum that socialism always fails, calling her voters stupid, and not challenging the principle that socialism is an ideal. This is unfortunate, because capitalism is the real alternative to our current stagnant mixture of freedom and smothering government control -- and the alternative to the century's worth of slavery, starvation, and death that is socialism.
First came the smug jokes: The Democrats have gone "full Venezuela." "What could possibly go wrong?" "How many times do we have to learn that socialism doesn't work?" Unfortunately, the answer to the last joke is: As many times as we fail to oppose it on moral grounds. Therefore, Ocasio-Cortez can boast of being "courageous" and film part of an ad in a church: She doesn't expect to be challenged. So far, she hasn't been. To say socialism is "noble, but impractical" or offer only "two cheers for capitalism" is to fail to hit socialism where it would hurt the most. America fought a bloody war over a century ago to end the practice of forcibly taking the fruits of one man's labor to feed another. Why wouldn'tAmericans rally against slavery again? Because nobody’s called the bluff of slavery’s new champions, the socialists.
In a republic, winning minds wins elections. Alienating the very people, we might be able to reach is a poor start. It's one thing if interviewers trip up Ocasio-Cortez or her supporters on national news. It's another for her opponents to call her supporters stupid. They’re not. There is a more constructive approach, as Ayn Rand demonstrated in a 1974 essay:
In view of what they hear from the experts, the people cannot be blamed for their ignorance and their helpless confusion. If an average housewife struggles with her incomprehensibly shrinking budget and sees a tycoon in a resplendent limousine, she might well think that just one of his diamond cuff links would solve all her problems. She has no way of knowing that if all the personal luxuries of all the tycoons were expropriated, it would not feed her family -- and millions of other, similar families -- for one week; and that the entire country would starve on the first morning of the week to follow ... How would she know it, if all the voices she hears are telling her that we must soak the rich?
Rather than alienate potential voters, conservatives should stop living up to leftist stereotypes, and show more empathy. This ought to be easy for advocates of the economic system that lifted the West from poverty, as Andrew Bernstein once documented in The Capitalist Manifesto.
And yet, weeks later, only a few conservatives speak of, say, appealing to those millennials who are "undecided" about socialism. The rest are reduced to insults or asking, "How will we pay for it all?" As if the issue came down to money, not principles. Instead, they should condemn socialism’s inherent theft and proudly tout capitalism as the political/economic system that best allows us to pursue our own happiness. That they don't speaks volumes: "What is the moral stature of those who are afraid to proclaim that they are the champions of freedom?" Ayn Rand asked in her 1972 essay, "Conservatism: An Obituary." Not standing behind capitalism makes conservatives seem lazy and out of touch at best, or sneaky and cowardly at worst. As frequently as we hear the word "optics" in conservative commentary, do they not realize how good the optics of capitalism would be if it were given a moral defense?
Regardless of whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lives up to the Democrats' hopes, the new trend of politicians attempting to win elections as socialists is a disturbing development and another visible step toward serfdom. Our country did not become populated overnight by a citizenry that doubted individual liberty, or the freedom to pursue one's happiness, including keeping the fruit of one's labor. Nor can the United States overturn decades of bad policy and precedent overnight. But conservatives would do well to offer what Ocasio-Cortez can only pretend to: real concern for our problems, the freedom to find the best solutions, and a moral commitment to capitalism.