Gallup has a new poll out, and the results are pretty remarkable. Socialism is clearly more popular on the left than capitalism. Per Gallup:
Positive views about capitalism
Positive views about socialism
As you can see, the change isn’t necessarily a surge in the popularity of socialism (although it’s clearly more widespread than it was during President Obama’s first term), but a decline in support for capitalism. If you are a liberal aghast at these figures, and are wondering how this could happen, I’m a perfect test case for this dynamic.
I used to be a capitalist. In 2016, I supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. I did sales for nearly a decade—proudly calling myself one of the “foot soldiers of capitalism”—until I felt burned out and shifted to writing full-time when Paste hired me shortly after Trump’s election. It was here that I found time to really pontificate on what I truly believed, and I realized that I had fallen prey to propaganda. What Americans typically define capitalism as, is not capitalism. The first half of this incorrect tweet is how most of us have come to understand “capitalism.”
That's not capitalism. That's supply and demand, which has existed far longer than capitalism has. For example, the barter economy is about as pure an expression of supply and demand as it gets. Capitalism is about private ownership controlling the means of production for the express purpose of profit. We have come to believe that the pursuit of profit is a noble exercise, but one look at reality belies that fairy tale. For example, it's far more profitable for a factory to dump excess mercury into the local water supply than it is to dispose of the deadly material safely. What the Soviet Union was to unabashed fealty to a warped version of communism, America has become to capitalism. We're brainwashed, but are becoming less so by the day.
I realized that I had really never challenged my beliefs on capitalism, and I simply just accepted much of American propaganda as fact. I wrote 3,000 words confronting my beliefs, and came to the conclusion that I am not a capitalist. This past month, I took it one step further and joined the Democratic Socialists of America, despite still not considering myself to be a socialist (I may be a Democratic Socialist, but I'm still thinking through it). What we have been taught as “socialist” has also fallen prey to Cold War propaganda, and I realized that I had already supported most of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's agenda before my most recent shift left.
Capitalist propaganda has convinced us that America is and always has been a full-blown capitalist country, and that's why our economy is as strong as it is—however, this history conveniently erases one of the most successful government programs ever: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. It wasn't allowed to achieve its true endgame thanks to the Supreme Court and ultimately World War II, but FDR's massive government expansion still reverberates positively to this day. For example, if you hate socialism so much, rip up your social security checks—it literally has the name “socialism” in it.
Americans think of propaganda as something that happens to other countries, but we are inundated with the most powerful propaganda in human history. Propaganda is at its most powerful when people don't believe it to be manipulative, and we have just assumed that the permanent message of “buy X and you will be happy” is just the normal way of thinking. It's not. That's capitalist propaganda at work, and as wages continue to stagnate for the rest of us while owners of capital get richer and richer, we have begun to reverse course on our collective brainwashing.
America has experienced small doses of socialism in its past, as we have copied plenty of European policies, and they have mostly rejected laissez-faire capitalism for some time now. We used to think that our embrace of free market radicalism was what made America exceptional, but reality has forced us to accept that it simply lines the pockets of executives to a truly grotesque degree at the expense of the common man. These charts tell the story of American capitalism.
Capitalism inherently believes that the rights of shareholders should supersede that of citizens, and our unequal American society is the result of that maxim. When everything is getting more expensive while wages stagnate, and executives get richer, who cares what you call that system? It sucks, and the left is finally waking up to the con espoused by an economic system whose logical conclusion is oligarchy.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.