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Len Cabrera: Democratic socialism puts lipstick on a pig

The recent surge in popularity for “democratic socialism” is the latest evidence of the failures of our national education system, especially when it comes to economics and our nation’s founding.

While the party leaders probably know exactly what they intend (the centralization of government power with the camouflage of popular will), a simple YouTube search demonstrates that the followers can’t even define the terms that make up the name.

When opponents point out the obvious historic failures of socialism — which always results in tyranny and poverty — the party leaders are quick to claim they’re not socialist in the sense of the Soviet Union, Cuba or Venezuela. They claim they don’t want government ownership of the means of production, but simply seek to redistribute the wealth created by capitalism to make it more “fair,” like the “socialist” Scandinavian countries. This retort is classic bait-and-switch since these countries are not socialist, but have free market economies with heavy redistribution. When you read their formal party platform, it becomes clear that this response is an outright lie.

The Democratic Socialists of America‘s website is an incoherent hodgepodge of utopian progressive fantasies and nineteenth-century Marxist theology mixed with modern intersectional social justice rhetoric to pander to female, minority and LGBTQ voters. If you can stomach sifting through the website, you’ll eventually find their definition of “economic democracy,” which includes “direct ownership and/or control of much of the economic resources of society,” including “control over private resources… land, raw materials, and manufacturing infrastructure.” Direct ownership would be textbook socialism. If DSA prefers to control the private resources, that would be fascism.

For all their supposed forward-thinking, the DSA’s economic policies are just a restatement of John Dewey‘s economic determinism from the 1930s, which is itself a restatement of Karl Marx‘s misunderstanding of free markets. Like all socialists before them, DSA policies will fail because they ignore basic economics, especially the incentives created by market prices, private property, and profit-seeking behavior. Socialist academics like to assert that they know how to run society when most haven’t even run a business. Visit or and ask yourself if any politician or bureaucrat you’ve ever met is capable of producing and distributing “simple” products like bread and pencils.

If we ignore DSA’s lie and accept that they simply want to redistribute income, history still shows this does not work. California is arguably the most progressive state in the nation, with heavy redistributive policies that provide benefits to people with incomes 200% above the poverty line. According to the Census Bureau, California has only 12% of the nation’s population, but is home to about one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients. Despite all this government assistance, the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure ranks California as the worst state in the union, with more than one in five residents living in poverty.

The new ideas of the DSA include pandering to identity groups (other than simply the proletariat) and adding “democratic” to their title. They use the term to imply there is popular will to centralize government power. They will be kinder, gentler tyrants.

This insistence on popular will sounds nice, but it’s just a ploy to convert envy into political power. It’s easy to get majorities to vote for more government when they don’t have to pay for it. (The top 50% of tax filers paid 97% of all income taxes in 2015.) If the Constitution didn’t prohibit seizure of private property, it’s not hard to imagine DSA getting 51% of the people to vote to take everything from the other 49%. “Democracy is not freedom,” wrote Marvin Simkin in the Los Angeles Times. “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.”

In addition to being economically illiterate, the DSA’s policies ignore the principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. With Constitution Day coming up on September 17, maybe budding democratic socialists should read the Constitution so they can learn that we are a constitutional republic, based on the sovereignty of the individual and subject to the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.

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