Socialism, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Its expanded definition includes its position in Marxist theory as well: the transitional phase between Capitalism and Communism. It is a political paradigm as radical as it is divisive, truly testing a believer’s faith in the collective.
Generally speaking, socialists justify their cause as a moral one by claiming to support the poor and disadvantaged through programs provided by the collective. In the modern political climate, socialism is generally considered to be a cause that satisfies the needs of the needy, and allies itself with the poor. However, broadly speaking, is socialism what the poor and needy really want?
Advocates of socialism likely see themselves as Karl Marx’s proletariat: the oppressed masses rising up against the oppressive downward force of capitalism. With only their labor to contribute to society, they might as well be slaves to their employers, right? Considering the economic status of most socialists, this is untrue.
In his address on how he became an anarchist, Murray Rothbard recounted this experience with fellow students at his private school: “All these extreme liberal types would be taken back and forth to school in Rolls Royce limousines…and I would trudge back and forth to this crummy apartment, increasingly individualistic and pro-capitalist.” Even in the first half of the 20th century, when Rothbard was in preparatory school, a division could be seen between the middle-class, largely unschooled supporters of capitalism, and the elite, often highly educated socialists. A similar phenomenon can be seen today in the first world; specifically the United States, Canada, and Europe.
United States maps that graph voting patterns against geography reveal that rural areas tend to swing more to the right, while more populated, urban areas swing left in terms of politics. Especially in the US, this creates a divide between two groups that see each other very differently than they see themselves. While rural conservatives tend to view liberal voters as government-loving pansies, urban liberals tend to portray their right-wing counterparts as ignorant and racist. However, there is an inherent problem in these conclusions, especially for socialists. How can they claim to support the oppressed proletariat while at the same time disparaging the ignorant trailer-park masses? If those people are not America’s proletariat, who is? If first-world socialists took a step back to examine the economic status of people in America, they might discover that the poor might not want socialism after all.
This assertion brings up a valid point from a left-wing perspective. Wouldn’t this data also prove that socialists are generally more educated than libertarians and conservatives? That would be correct. However, education is not necessarily a gauge of how correct someone’s political beliefs can be. In fact, education is an indicator of economic privilege. Students who turn to socialism in college tend to be insulated from the economic systems around them. Many pay for their education through grants from the government or their parents’ money, eliminating much of the intense pressure of the workplace. As media sources on both sides of the aisle point out, it is mainly the rich who have the opportunity to ponder the benefits of socialism. The poor are too busy working.
But considering these lower-class Americans do know that socialism exists, why do so many of them refuse to accept it? Do they truly not believe it would help them? In order to answer this question, we must take a look at the poor communities that have been more supportive of socialist policies. For example, liberals often consider themselves advocates for minorities, and are so accepted as such that all ethnic minorities in America are more likely to vote for left-wing candidates. Therefore, cities with a high minority population tend to elect more left-leaning political officials. These cities also tend to have the highest crime and poverty rates in America, with St. Louis, Detroit, and Flint leading the list.
It is in situations like these that, to secure the continuity of their political narrative, the left can be just as racially discriminatory as the right. Instead of admitting that their policies may be responsible for a continued cycle of poverty in minority communities, leftists would rather claim that minorities are just less capable due to racial discrimination. While racism may not be an entirely unrelated factor, it certainly does not provide the whole story, and by using these people as their pawns, these socialist lawmakers subject them to more economic disadvantage than they otherwise would receive. So even for the poor who do support socialism, things don’t pan out in the long term. If anything, the high taxes and webs of restrictive laws created by these administrations only serve to perpetuate racial discrimination in America.
But what of the socialists who do not fall into any of these categories? The middle-class adults who supported Bernie Sanders? The political outliers? The reality is, compared to the rest of the world, they are still the 1%. They will experience privileges that the vast majority of people never will. While the people of socialist Venezuela are now forced to breed rabbits for food, these first-world socialists enjoy access to the largest variety of commodities the world has ever known. Even while occupying this place of extreme economic privilege, the socialists of America and Europe choose to compare themselves to the only people on earth richer than them. Perhaps this is easier than admitting that, in the broad scope of things, they are not the oppressed proletariat. Their privilege guarantees their undeniable status as the bourgeoise.