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Welcome to the Era of Late Socialism




What about late socialism? Peter Suderman coins a new term:

We’re all familiar with the follies of late capitalism. But what aboutlate socialism?

The left has increasingly embraced the idea—or at least the label—of democratic socialism, along with an ambitious agenda of big government programs: single-payer health care, a jobs guarantee, free public college, and so on and so forth. But that agenda comes with a price tag so large that it is hard to imagine much of it becoming reality, even with the ascent of actually-we-don’t-need-to-pay-for-itism. (You can get away with saying that deficits don’t matter for a while. The problem is that at some point, they do.)

In practice, then, the socialist agenda, or at least the agenda of those Americans who call themselves socialists, is rather less grandiose. Even a brief glance at the handful of urban enclaves where left-leaning interest in democratic socialism is concentrated suggests that socialism, such that it is, has entered a tired and decadent phase of its own.

Here I am thinking of the recent wave of plastic straw bans, the profusion of restrictive zoning rules, caps and bans on ride-sharing services, minimum wage hikes targeted at service industry workers who earn tips, and so on and so forth.

As exercises in petty bureaucratic tyranny, these policies are connected in character: They limit individual choices and force businesses into support roles for social crusades. More importantly, they are pointless at best, and counterproductive at worst. The straw bans don’t address the primary sources of plastic waste (presuming that’s the goal) and may even result in the disposal of more plastic overall; urban ride-sharing caps are likely to curtail service in poor neighborhoods first; minimum wage hikes for tipped employees were broadly opposed by the very service workers they were supposed to have helped. […]

[W]here the American left finds itself in power, it ends up pursuing penny-ante restrictions on individual freedoms, one straw, balloon, and scooter at a time. This is not socialism, precisely speaking, but it is what socialism breeds in practice, at the local level, when practiced by those who understand politics entirely as a means of control.

[Peter Suderman, “Welcome to the Era of Late Socialism,” Reason, September 5]


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