America’s Drift toward Feudalism

America’s Drift toward Feudalism

by Joel Kotkin (americanaffairsjournal.org/) -

November 23, 2019

America’s emergence in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represented a dramatic break from the past. The United States came on the scene with only vestiges of the old European feudal order—mostly in the plantation economy of the Deep South. There was no hereditary nobility, no national church, and, thanks to George Washington’s modesty, no royal authority. At least among whites, there was also far less poverty in America, compared to Europe’s intense, intractable, multigenerational poverty. In contrast, as Jefferson noted in 1814, America had fewer “paupers,” and the bulk of the population was “fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.”

Yet in recent decades this country, along with many other liberal democracies, has begun to show signs of growing feudalization. This trend has been most pronounced in the economy, where income growth has skewed dramatically towards the ultrarich, creating a ruling financial and now tech oligarchy. This is a global phenomenon: starting in the 1970s, upward mobility for middle and working classes across all advanced economies began to stall, while the prospects for the upper classes rose dramatically.

The fading prospects for the new generation are all too obvious. Once upon a time, when the boomers entered adulthood, they entered an ascendant middle class. According to a recent study by the St. Louis Fed, their successors, the millennials, are in danger of becoming a “lost generation” in terms of wealth accumulation.

This generational shift will shape our future economic, political, and social order. About 90 percent of those born in 1940 grew up to experience higher incomes than their parents, according to researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project. This proportion was only 50 percent among those born in the 1980s, and the chances of middle-class earners moving up to the top rungs of the earnings ladder has declined by approximately 20 percent since the early 1980s. Corporate CEOs used to boast of starting out in the mailroom. There will not be many of those stories in the future.

The Return to Oligarchy

In feudal society, power was exercised primarily by two classes—what the French referred to as the First Estate, the clergy, and the Second Estate, comprised of the warrior-aristocratic elite. Everyone else, even successful merchants, resided in the Third Estate, and most were peasants living at subsistence levels. This was a society, noted historian Pierre Riché, composed of “those who prayed, those who fought, and those who labored.”1

Contemporary society may have little place for orthodox religion, and our military, however impressive, hardly constitutes an effective ruling class. But we are beginning to see the elevation of two very powerful classes—one dominant economically, the other culturally. Meanwhile, the power of today’s Third Estate inexorably weakens.

The ultrarich represent an emergent global aristocracy—or rather, a new oligarchy. Fewer than one hundred billionaires now own as much as 50 percent of the world’s assets—the same amount that around four hundred billionaires owned a little more than five years ago. In the United States, the richest four hundred U.S. citizens now have more wealth than 185 million of their fellow Americans combined. The shift has been dramatic: the top 1 percent in America captured just 4.9 percent of total U.S. income growth from 1945 to 1973, but in the following two decades the country’s richest classes gobbled up the majority of U.S. income growth.

Patterns of property ownership reflect the very same trends that anchored both the medieval aristocratic and ecclesiastical classes. The proportion of land owned by the nation’s hundred largest2private landowners grew by nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2017. In 2007, according to the Land Report, this group owned a combined twenty-seven million acres of land, equivalent to the area of Maine and New Hampshire combined. A decade later, the hundred largest landowners had holdings of over forty million acres. Their holdings are now larger than the entirety of New England. Even in much of the vast American West, where much of the land remains in public hands, billionaires have created expansive estates that many fear will make the rest of the local population land-poor.

In the past, the oligarchy tended to be associated with either Wall Street or industrial corporate executives. But today the predominant and most influential group consists of those atop a handful of mega-technology firms. Six firms—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Netflix—have achieved a combined net worth equal to one-quarter of the nasdaq, more than the next 282 firms combined and equal to the GDP of France. Seven of the world’s ten most valuable companies come from this sector. Tech giants have produced eight of the twenty wealthiest people on the planet. Among the nation’s billionaires, all those under forty live in the state of California, with twelve in San Francisco alone. In 2017, the tech industry produced eleven new billionaires, mostly in California. Only China, home to nine of the world’s top twenty tech firms, presents any kind of challenge to their domination.

Initially many Americans, even on the left, saw the rise of the tech oligarchy as both transformative and positive. Observing the rise of the technology industry, the futurist Alvin Toffler prophesied “the dawn of a new civilization,”2 with vast opportunities for societal and human growth. But today we confront a reality more reminiscent of the feudal past—with ever greater concentrations of wealth, along with less social mobility and material progress.

Rather than Toffler’s tech paradise, we increasingly confront what the Japanese futurist Taichi Sakaiya, writing three decades ago, saw as the dawn of “a high-tech middle ages.”3 Rather than epitomizing American ingenuity and competition, the tech oligarchy increasingly resembles the feudal lords of the Middle Ages. With the alacrity of the barbarian warriors who took control of territory after the fall of the Roman Empire, they have seized the strategic digital territory, and they ruthlessly defend their stake.

Such concentrations of wealth naturally seek to concentrate power. In the Middle Ages, this involved the control of land and the instruments of violence. In our time, the ascendant tech oligarchy has exploited the “natural monopolies” of web-based business. Their “super-platforms” depress competition, squeeze suppliers, and reduce opportunities for potential rivals, much as the monopolists of the late nineteenth century did. Firms like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft control 80 to 90 percent of their key markets and have served to further widen class divides not only in the United States but around the world.

Once exemplars of entrepreneurial risk-taking, today’s tech elites are now entrenched monopolists. Increasingly, these firms reflect the worst of American capitalism—squashing competitors, using indentured servants from abroad for upwards of 40 percent of their Silicon Valley workforce, fixing wages, and avoiding taxes—while creating ever more social anomie and alienation.

The tech oligarchs are forging a post-democratic future, where opportunity is restricted only to themselves and their chosen few. As technology investor Peter Thiel has suggested, democracy—based on the fundamental principles of individual responsibility and agency—does not fit comfortably with a technocratic mindset that believes superior software can address and modulate every problem.

This emerging world is far removed from the democratic capitalism that dominated the era after World War II. Rather than encouraging and accommodating families, today’s oligarchs promote a largely childless college campus environment, where they even pay female workers to freeze their eggs.3

Traditionally companies liked employees with families. Not so much in the brave new tech world, which demands long hours and little time off for such things as raising children.

As for the rest of the population, the prospects are even bleaker. In the tech hub of San Francisco, the middle-class family is almost extinct. The city has lost thirty-one thousand home-owning families over the past decade. It leads the state in economic inequality. The evidence of massive inequality, pervasive homelessness, and social dysfunction fills the streets.

Silicon Valley, located in the suburbs south of the city, has also become profoundly less egalitarian. It is increasingly divided between an entrenched ultra-wealthy class and a dependent poor class, work-ing largely in the service industries. By 2015, some seventy-six thousand millionaires and billionaires called Santa Clara and San Mateo counties home, while many in the area struggle to feed their families and pay their bills each month. Nearly 30 percent of Silicon Valley’s residents rely on public or private assistance.

Wired magazine’s Antonio García Martínez describes the contemporary Valley as “feudalism with better marketing.” In Martínez’s view, a plutocratic elite of venture capitalists and company founders sit above the still-affluent cadre of skilled professionals—well paid, but living only ordinary middle-class lives, given taxes and high prices. Below them lies a vast population of gig workers, whom Martínez compares with sharecroppers in the South. And at the very bottom lies an untouchable class of homeless, those addicted to drugs, and criminals.

Martínez describes a society that, as in the Middle Ages, is “highly stratified, with little social mobility.” High prices make it all but impossible for anyone except the very affluent to own their homes. Workers in the gig economy, much less the “untouchables,” have little chance to improve their lot but struggle to barely pay their rent, or are forced to sleep in their cars, on friend’s couches, or commute long distances from the outlying periphery.

Feudalism with Better Marketing

This new feudal order rests on a new clerisy, which has now taken the cultural and intellectual role exercised by the old First Estate. Although largely secular, these worthies take on the role of ecclesiastical authorities from medieval times, seeing themselves as anointed to direct human society—a modern version of the feudal “oligarchy of priests and monks whose task it was to propitiate heaven.”4

Far larger and broader than the oligarchy, the clerisy spans an ever-growing section of the workforce that largely works outside material capitalist enterprise—as teachers, consultants, lawyers, gov-ernment workers, and even doctors, more of whom now work as employees or contractors than owners. These professions have only grown, while those of the traditional middle class—small business owners, workers in basic industries and construction—have seen their share of the job market shrink.

Estimates of the size of the clerisy vary. Michael Lind estimates what he calls the “overclass” at some 15 percent of the American workforce, far larger than the membership of the old First Estate, which was closer to 1 percent of the French population. Charles Murray, on the other hand, offers a narrower estimate including only those at the top echelon in law, government, and universities—roughly 2.4 million people out of a country of over 320 million.5

At its apex, the clerisy today is dominated by what Daniel Bell would define as the “knowledge class.”6 Made up largely of the well-educated offspring of the affluent, this class has become increasingly hereditary in part because well-educated people marry each other. Between 1960 and 2005, the share of men with university degrees who married women with university degrees nearly doubled, from 25 to 48 percent. “After one generation,” as Bell noted, “a meritocracy simply becomes an enclaved class.”74

The new clerisy is crucially important to the new oligarchs, who need allies in the government, media, and academia to maintain their supremacy. In many cases the tech elite now control the clerisy’s own industries: consider the media, with Jeff Bezos’s takeover of the Washington Post, and the entertainment industry, with the rise of Netflix, Apple, and Amazon in Hollywood.

The political rise of this cultural overclass has been building for well over fifty years. As early as the 1960s, presidential historian Theodore White spoke of the “the new priesthood . . . of action intel-lectuals” that shaped the John F. Kennedy administration. This mingling of intelligentsia and power reached a pinnacle during the presidency of Barack Obama, whose administration was staffed almost exclusively with products of the nation’s elite universities. More than sixty administration officials, roughly a fourth of Obama’s overall appointments, had attended just one school—Harvard. Remark-ably, more top administration officials had degrees from Oxford University than from any American public university.

Like the old First Estate, the clerisy—what the French socialist writer Christophe Guilluy calls “the privileged stratum”—operate from an assumption of “moral superiority” that justifies their right to rule.8 They represent the apotheosis of H. G. Wells’s notion of an “emergent class of capable men” who could take upon itself the task of “controlling and restricting . . . the non-functional masses.” This new elite, he predicted, would replace democracy with “a higher organism,” what he called “the New Republic.”9

Whereas the old First Estate justified its control based on spiritual dogma, the modern clerisy bases much of its power on its reading of “science.” Its members claim that, rather than mere factionalism, they represent an “objective” perspective above personal considerations. “When scientists say they want to live up to their social responsibilities, what they usually say is that they want more power than they have,” once observed Irving Kristol. “It means they want to run things, to take charge. It’s always nicer to run things than to be run by them.”

A shared belief in meritocratic superiority binds the oligarchs and the clerisy. This has led, as in medieval times, to a remarkable sharing and dissemination of orthodoxy. Even professions such as journalism, once at least somewhat diverse philosophically, have become, with few exceptions, boosters of the “progressive” party line. By 2018, barely 7 percent of U.S. reporters stated they were Republicans; some 97 percent of all journalist political donations go to Democrats.

Similar patterns can be seen in other media as well. Once divided between conservatives and liberals, Hollywood and its imitators elsewhere now tilt heavily to the Left. Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait, reviewing the offerings of major studios and networks, described what he called “a pervasive, if not total, liberalism.” In 2018, over 99 percent of all major entertainment executives’ donations went to Democrats.

Universities and the New Clerisy

But the ultimate engine of the clerisy’s power, and the prime incubator of its orthodoxy, lies in the universities. This sector has expanded its influence and scope enormously in the last half century. The total number of people enrolled in college in the United States grew from five million in 1964 to nearly eight million in 1970 and to some twenty million today.

Yet even as the universities have expanded, it’s the elite tier that serves as the ultimate gatekeepers for the upper classes. In his book Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, David Rothkopf compiled a list of more than six thousand members of the “superclass” around the world—including leaders of corporations, banks and investment firms, governments, the military, the media, and religious groups. After drawing a “globally and sectorally representative sample” of three hundred members from the list, Rothkopf and his colleagues found that close to5three in ten attended one of twenty elite universities—with Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Chicago most highly represented.10

As elite universities have become more expensive and more critical to success, they have become, if anything, more socially exclusive, widening the gap between themselves and smaller, less well-posi-tioned institutions.11A National Journal survey of 250 top American public sector decision-makers—a critical part of the upper clerisy—found that 40 percent of them were Ivy League graduates. Only a quarter had earned graduate degrees from a public university. The days of rising up from a minor college to a position of influence and high status increasingly belong to the past.

Equally troubling, the clerisy, again like its medieval counterparts, has adopted a role as an enforcer not of free thought but of “progressive” orthodoxy. These trends are particularly acute in fields that most impact public policy and opinion. Well under 10 percent of faculty at leading law schools, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Berkeley, describe themselves as conservative. Leading journalism schools, including Columbia, have moved away from teaching the fundamentals of reporting and have adopted a “social justice” agenda as their signature approach.

Much like the early Church after the fall of Rome, which sought to suppress the memory of pagan civilization, the clerisy now has turned against the inheritance of modern liberal capitalism. In the schools, they have worked to remove the lodestones of that culture—Homer, Cicero, Shakespeare, Milton, and the founding fathers—from the campus curriculum. Instead they favor more politically correct books that tend to focus on the undoubted failings of our civilization, but rarely support the idea of America as a fundamentally liberal society which has provided unmatched opportunity for millions.

In modern America, the clerisy represents an ascendant class that shapes many of the “progressive” values embraced by the oligarchs and helps legitimate their rule. Imbued with a sense of natural su-periority—whether based on religion or some sense of elevated cognitive abilities, they now seek to shape our cultural, political, and social environments in ways that often violate the standards of liberal democracy, open exchange, and pluralism. Before we cede such power to the clerisy, we may want to consider the old Latin phrase quis custodiet ipsos custodes—who watches the watchers? In the rise of the clerisy, we see a powerful force for hierarchy, social stagnation, and thought control that could rival the role played by its predecessors in medieval times.

The Decline of the Third Estate in America

As the oligarchy and clerisy have waxed, the prospects for the American third estate have either stagnated or gotten worse. In the United States, a country built on aspiration, the fading prospects for the new generation are now painfully obvious. Three-quarters of American adults today will not grow up to be better off than their parents. According to Pew, a majority of parents think their children will be financially worse off than themselves.

Unlike their parents, most of whom joined the middle-class yeomanry, many young people face a future as propertyless serfs. By 2030, according to a Deloitte study of U.S. trends, millennials will account for barely 16 percent of the nation’s wealth. GenXers will hold 31 percent, but even in 2030, when they will be entering their eighties and nineties, boomers will still control a remarkable 45 per-cent of the nation’s wealth.

This erosion of the “American dream” centers largely on property. Since the end of feudalism, the rise of market-oriented democracy has accompanied the rapid dispersion of property ownership. This factor, critical in the earliest development of self-government in ancient Athens and Rome, was critical to the American founders’ conception of a republic. During the middle of the twentieth century, rates of homeownership in the United States expanded from 44 percent in 1940 to 63 percent thirty years later. Yet in the new generation, this prospect is fading. In the United States, homeownership among6the post-college cohort (ages 25–34) has dropped from 45.4 percent in 2000 to 37 percent in 2016, a drop of 18 percent, according to Census Bureau data.

Some pundits suggest the decline of homeownership stems from changing preferences among younger people. Planners, social pundits, and urban intellectuals within the clerisy repeatedly make this assertion—one echoed by investors who seek to create a “rentership” society where people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants. Yet virtually all surveys show that the vast majority of younger people would like to own a single-family home, and most want to raise children. The reason for not doing so lies with high housing costs.

In the emerging neo-feudal world, property ownership is increasingly restricted to older generations, who benefit from expanding home values and rental income, as well as wealthy institutional investors. In this new order, inheritance, notes French economist Thomas Piketty, seems destined to “make a comeback.”12 In the next generation, inheritance may play a role unseen since the nineteenth century. In America, a nation with a mythology disdainful of inherited wealth, millennials are counting on inheritance for their retirement at a rate three times that of the boomers. Among the youngest cohort, those 18 to 22, over 60 percent see inheritance as their primary source of wealth as they age.

The Politics of Inequality

These changes in the patterns of ownership and class will likely reshape liberal democracy, creating “new forms of government,” predicts Stratfor’s Eric Schnurer, “[with] economics and social organization as different from today’s as our world is from the Middle Ages.” The shrinking of the yeoman class of small businesspeople and property owners certainly undermines the ballast of democratic community life, and could well accelerate the already ongoing radicalization of American politics.

This radicalization is clearest among millennials—those faced with limited prospects for upward mobility. Some 40 percent of millennials, notes Pew, favor limiting speech deemed offensive—well above the 27 percent of GenXers, 24 percent of boomers, and 12 percent of the oldest, many of whom recall the censorship imposed by fascist and communist regimes of the past. Millennials are also more likely to be dismissive about basic constitutional civil rights, and are even more accepting of a military coup than previous generations.

This new radical bent extends to both Right and Left. In November 2016, more white American millennials voted for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. But the new radicalism is, for now, most pro-nounced on the left. During the 2016 primaries, socialist Bernie Sanders outpolled Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined. A 2016 poll by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that 44 percent of American millennials favored socialism while another 14 percent chose fascism or communism. By 2024, these millennials will be by far the country’s biggest voting bloc.

Drawing little hope from the private sector, many millennials endorse policies that favor handing control of American economic life to Washington. Some of this tendency rests on environmental con-cerns, but economic inequality drives much of the thinking. As one of the architects of the Green New Deal recently said, “Do you guys think of [the Green New Deal] as a climate thing? Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

The Coming Battle

Ultimately the shift of millennials to the Left could lead to a conflict between the oligarchs and the clerisy over the appropriation of wealth. The way things look now, the battle will be over who pays for an ever-expanding welfare state—not how to expand the middle class. This is likely to shift our politics increasingly in an authoritarian direction. As the great historian Barrington Moore noted, “No bourgeois, no democracy.” In a country where the middle ranks are shrinking, the elites more7powerful, and ideological polarization is on the rise, the prospects for democracy, even in its greatest homeland, could be grim indeed.

In the world envisioned by the oligarchs and the clerisy, the poor and much of the middle class are destined to become more dependent on the state. This dependency could be accelerated as their labor is devalued both by policy hostile to the industrial economy, and by the greater implementation of automation and artificial intelligence.

Opposing these forces will be very difficult, particularly given the orientation of our media, academia, and the nonprofit world, as well as the massive wealth accumulated by the oligarchs. A system that grants favors and entertainment to its citizens but denies them property expects little in return. This kind of state, Tocqueville suggested, can be used to keep its members in “perpetual childhood”; it “would degrade men rather than tormenting them.”13

Reversing our path away from a new feudalism will require, among other things, a rediscovery of belief in our basic values and what it means to be an American. Nearly 40 percent of young Ameri-cans, for example, think the country lacks “a history to be proud of.” Fewer young people than previous generations place an emphasis on family, religion, or patriotism. Rather than look at what binds a democratic society together, the focus on both right and left has been on narrow identities incapable of sustaining a democratic and pluralistic society. The new generation has become cut off from the traditions and values of our past. If one does not even know of the legacies underpinning our democracy, one is not likely to notice when they are lost.14 Recovering a sense of pride and identification with America’s achievements is an essential component of any attempt to recover the drive, ambition, and self-confidence that propelled the United States to the space age. If we want to rescue the future from a new and pernicious form of feudalism, we will have to recover this ground.

To reverse neo-feudalism, the Third Estate—the class most threatened by the ascendency of the oligarchs and the clerisy—needs to reinvigorate its political will, just as it did during the Revolution and in the various struggles that followed. “Happy the nation whose people has not forgotten to how to rebel,” noted the British historian R. H. Tawney.15 Whether we can understand and defy the new feudalism will determine the kind of world our children will inherit.

This article originally appeared in American Affairs Volume III, Number 4 (Winter 2019): 96–107.

Notes

1 Pierre Riché, Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, trans. Jo Ann McNamara (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), 133.

2 Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave (New York: Bantam, 1980), 9.

3 Taichi Sakaiya, The Knowledge Value Revolution, trans. George Fields and William Marsh (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1985), 152.

4 Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, vol. 2, Social Classes and Political Organization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 443.

5 Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (New York: Crown Books, 2012), 19–20.

6 Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 15, 51, 213, 387.

7 Bell, 427.

8 Christophe Guilluy, The Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France, trans. Malcolm DeBevoise (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 2,

9.89 H. G. Wells, Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought, (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Books, 1999), 51, 85–87, 99.

10 Ben Wildavsky, The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 169.

11 Murray, 4–56; Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), 26–27, 84, 421–22, 424–28.

12 Piketty.

13 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

14 Roderick Seidenberg, Post-Historic Man: An Inquiry (New York: Viking Press, 1974), 179.

15 R. H. Tawney, The Agrarian Problem in the Sixteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912), 321.

About the Author

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His next book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, will be published in 2020.

Las Vegas to Become Sanctuary for Criminal Illegals After ACLU Pressure

by JOHN BINDER

11 - 23 Oct 2019

Las Vegas, Nevada will now become a sanctuary city for criminal illegal aliens after the city’s police department announced they will no longer cooperate with federal immigration officials following pressure from open borders group the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo announced Wednesday that his police department will end their cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), known as the 287(g) agreement, whereby criminal illegal aliens are turned over to ICE agents for arrest and deportation.

Lombardo blamed a recent ruling by the Central District of California for the city’s new sanctuary status. In that ruling, a federal judge stated that states like Nevada without specific immigration statutes do not have the authority to hold illegal aliens in police custody for civil immigration violations.

President Trump: 'We Believe America Should Be a Sanctuary for Law-Abiding Citizens, Not Criminal Aliens'“

I am optimistic that this change will not hinder LVMPD’s ability to fight violent crime” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said in a statement. “While the ruling can be seen as a setback, I am determined that through cooperation with our federal partners the goal of removing the worst of the worst can still be accomplished.”

Lombardo said the Las Vegas Metro Police Department would “continue to work with ICE” at a nearby detention center to remove violent criminal illegal aliens.

The decision to end Las Vegas’s cooperation with ICE comes after the ACLU — funded by billionaire George Soros — put pressure on the police department to end their cooperation with federal immigration officials, claiming holding criminal illegal aliens on ICE detainers was a violation of the law.

As Breitbart News reported, about 1-in-14 Nevada inmates are illegal aliens, with about 1,000 illegal aliens in prison for crimes in the state. Nearly half of these 1,000 illegal aliens in Nevada prisons have been convicted of violent crimes.

For example, 150 of the 1,000 illegal aliens in Nevada prisons have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, or attempted murder, as well as 320 illegal aliens who have been convicted of sexual assault, including 240 child sex offenders.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.

Observation of a millennial

Observation of a millennial

by Alyssa Ahlgren

I'm sitting in a small coffee shop near Nokomis trying to think of what to write about. I scroll through my newsfeed on my phone looking at the latest headlines of Democrat candidates calling for policies to "fix" the so-called injustices of capitalism. I put my phone down and continue to look around. I see people talking freely, working on their MacBooks, ordering food they get in an instant, seeing cars go by outside, and it dawned on me.

We live in the most privileged time in the most prosperous nation and we've become completely blind to it. Vehicles, food, technology, freedom to associate with whom we choose. These things are so ingrained in our American way of life we don't give them a second thought. We are so well off here in the United States that our poverty line begins 31 times above the global average. Thirty. One. Times.

Virtually no one in the United States is considered poor by global standards. Yet, in a time where we can order a product from Amazon with one click and have it at our doorstep the next day, we are unappreciative, unsatisfied, and ungrateful. Our lack of appreciation is evident as the popularity of socialist policies among my generation continues to grow.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said to Newsweek talking about the millennial generation, "An entire generation, which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America, came of age and never saw American prosperity."

Never saw American prosperity. Let that sink in. When I first read that statement, I thought to myself, that was quite literally the most entitled and factually illiterate thing I've ever heard in my 26 years on this earth. Now, I'm not attributing Miss Ocasio-Cortez's words to outright dishonesty. I do think she whole-heartedly believes the words she said to be true.

Many young people agree with her, which is entirely misguided. My generation is being indoctrinated by a mainstream narrative to actually believe we have never seen prosperity. I know this first hand, I went to college, let's just say I didn't have the popular opinion, but I digress.

Let me lay down some truths.

The United States of America has lifted more people out of abject poverty, spread more freedom and democracy, and has created more innovation in technology and medicine than any other nation in human history. Not only that but our citizenry continually breaks world records with charitable donations, the rags to riches story is not only possible in America but not uncommon, we have the strongest purchasing power on earth, and we encompass 25% of the world's GDP.

The list goes on. However, these truths don't matter. We are told that income inequality is an existential crisis (even though this is not an indicator of prosperity, some of the poorest countries in the world have low-income inequality), we are told that we are oppressed by capitalism (even though it's brought about more freedom and wealth to the most people than any other system in world history), we are told that the only way we will acquire the benefits of true prosperity is through socialism and centralization of federal power (even though history has proven time and again this only brings tyranny and suffering).

Why then, with all of the overwhelming evidence around us, evidence that I can even see sitting at a coffee shop, do we not view this as prosperity? We have people who are dying to get into our country. People around the world destitute and truly impoverished. Yet, we have a young generation convinced they've never seen prosperity, and as a result, elect politicians dead set on taking steps towards abolishing capitalism.

Why? The answer is this: My generation has ONLY seen prosperity. We have no contrast. We didn't live in the Great Depression, or live through two world wars, or see the rise and fall of socialism and communism. We don't know what it's like to live without the internet and smartphones. We don't have a lack of prosperity problem. We have an entitlement problem, an ungratefulness problem, and it's spreading like a plague.

With the current political climate giving rise to the misguided idea of a socialist utopia, will we see the light? Or will we have to lose it all to realize that what we have now is true prosperity? Destroying the free market will undo what millions of people have died to achieve.

My generation is becoming the largest voting bloc in the country. We have an opportunity to continue to propel us forward with the gifts capitalism and democracy have given us.

The other option is that we can fall into the trap of entitlement and [lapse] into restrictive socialist destitution. The choice doesn't seem too hard, does it?

114 Reasons Why Socialism is Becoming Popular

by: Alexander Zubatov -

November 12, 2019

The newfound openness of large numbers of Americans to socialism is, by now, a well-documented phenomenon. According to a Gallup poll from earlier this year, 43% of Americans now believe that some form of socialism would be a good thing, in contrast to 51% who are still against it. A Harris poll found that four in ten Americans prefer socialism to capitalism. The trend is particular apparent in the young: another Gallup poll showed that as recently as 2010, 68% of people between 18 and 29 approved of capitalism, with only 51% approving of socialism, whereas in 2018, while the percentage among this age group favoring socialism was unchanged at 51%, those in favor of capitalism had dropped precipitously to 45%. The same poll showed that among Democrats, the popularity of socialism now stands at 57%, while capitalism is only at 47%, a marked departure from 2010 when the two were tried at 53%. A YouGov poll from earlier this year showed that unlike older generations, which still preferred capitalist candidates, 70% of millennials and 64% of gen-Zers would vote for a socialist.

The question is why socialism now? At a time when the American economy under Trump seems to be chugging along at a nice clip, why are so many hankering for an alternative? I would suggest four factors contributing to the situation.

Factor #1: Ignorance of HistoryThe first cause of socialism’s popularity, especially among the young, is an obvious one: having grown up at a time after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of Europe’s Eastern Bloc and China’s transition to authoritarian capitalism, “these kids today” — those 18 to 29 year-olds who were born around the last decade of the 20th century — don’t know what socialism is all about. When they think socialism, they don’t think Stalin; they think Scandinavia.

Americans’ — and especially young Americans’ — ignorance of history is well-documented and profound. As of 2018, only one in three Americans could pass a basic citizenship test , and of test-takers under the age of 45, that number dropped to 19%. That included such lowlights as having no clue why American colonists fought the British and believing that Dwight Eisenhower led the troops during the Civil War. Speaking of the war during which he actually led the troops, many millennials don’t know much about that one either. They don’t know what Auschwitz was (66% of millennials in particular could not identify it). Twenty-two percent of them had not heard of the Holocaust itself. The Battle of the Bulge? Forget it. Go back further in time, and the cluelessness just keeps deepening. Only 29% of seniors at U.S. News and World Report’s top 50 colleges in America — the precise demographic that purports to speak with authority about America’s alleged history of white supremacy — have any idea what Reconstruction was all about. Only 23% know who wrote the Constitution. So much for any notion that this is the most educated generation ever.

Closer to the theme — socialism — the same compilation of survey results includes the attribution of The Communist Manifesto’s “from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs” to Thomas Paine, George Washington or Barrack Obama. Moreover, among college-aged Americans, though support for socialism is pretty high, when these same young adults are asked about their support for the actual definition of socialism — a government-managed economy — 72% turn out to be for a free-market economy and only 49% for the government-managed alternative (yes, it looks from those numbers like there are a lot of confused kids who are in favor of both of the mutually exclusive alternatives). As compared to about a third of Americans over 30, only 16% of millennials were able to define socialism, according to a 2010 CBS/New York Times poll. And though I haven’t seen polling on this, I’d be willing to bet that a good bunch of these same students, if asked to say what the Soviet Union was, would have no clue or peg it as some sort of vanquished competitor of Western Union.

Compounding the problem still further is that the history that students are being taught increasingly falls into the category of “woke” history , America’s history of oppression as imagined by the influential revisionist socialist historian Howard Zinn . When socialists are writing our history books, the end result is preordained.Given such ignorance and systematic distortion of history, is it any surprise that millennials who never lived through very much of the 20th century don’t think socialism is all that bad?

Factor #2: Government BunglingWhen we try to explain the socialist urge, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our government keeps interfering in the economy in ways that give people every reason to think the system is corrupt and needs to be trashed.

Take the skyrocketing cost of college, for instance. On the surface, this looks like greedy capitalist universities just keep on raising tuition, and since most college kids and their parents can’t pay the sticker price, almost 70% take out loans , saddling young people trying to start their careers with a mountain of debt (almost $30,000 on average). This results in all those socialist promises of free college or loan forgiveness sounding dandy. Underneath the surface, however, a huge part of the problem is federal grants and subsidized loans. If the government stopped footing a large part of their bill, more students and parents would be forced to pony up, which would mean, in turn, that colleges would not be able to keep hiking their prices without seeing a precipitous drop in enrollment. They would, instead, be forced to price themselves at some level that applicants could realistically pay, making college more affordable for a large segment of the American middle class.

Another simple example of the problem is Obama’s Emergency Economy Stabilization Act of 2008, colloquially known as the big bank “Bailout.” When kids grow up seeing government tossing out free lifelines to businesses that get themselves in dire straits, cause a massive financial crisis and, in the process, lose ordinary folks lots of jobs and homes, we can’t blame them for concluding that the system is rigged.

There are many more examples where these came from — our government frittering away trillions on foreign wars that increase instability throughout the world and end up costing us even more as we scramble to clean up our own messes is one expenditure that comes readily to mind — but the point is this: the more the government interferes in the economy to help out vested interests, the more reason many of us will see to ask government to interfere in the economy to help out the rest of us. The more reason we give anyone to think that capitalism means crony capitalism, the more they’ll clamor for socialism.

Factor #3: Universities’ Ideological MonocultureThe supporters of socialism are not simply the young, but rather, disproportionately those among the young who are college-educated. And the more college they have, the hotter for socialism they get. According to a 2015 poll , support for socialism grows from 48% among those with a high school diploma or less to 62% among college graduates to 78% among those with post-graduate degrees. Those on the left probably stop thinking hard about now and jump immediately to the conclusion that support for socialism is just a natural outgrowth of big brains and elite educations. But there is, in fact, a less obvious but ultimately far more compelling explanation that also manages to account for the general fact that more education correlates with more leftism: something — something bad — is happening at universities themselves to pull students toward the (far) left.3

We have already seen above that what’s not happening at universities, even elite universities, today is a whole lot of education in important subjects like history. What we are getting instead is a lot of groupthink and indoctrination. Universities have always skewed a bit left. But beginning in the early to mid 1990s (for reasons I’ve explained in some detail elsewhere ), ideological diversity began to vanish entirely, as the leftward deviation turned tidal. As documented in a 2005 paper from Stanley Rothman et al., as of 1984, 39% of university faculty were left/liberal, and 34% were right/conservative. By 1999, those numbers had undergone a seismic shift: faculty was now 72% left/liberal and 15% right/conservative. Since 1999, the imbalance has become starker still. A comprehensive National Association of Scholars report from April 2018 from Prof. Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College, tracking the political registrations of 8,688 tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors from 51 of U.S. News & World Report’s 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges for 2017, found that “78.2 percent of the academic departments in [his] sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.” Predictably, given the composition of the professoriate, survey data also indicates that students’ political views drift further leftward between freshman and senior year.

In light of this data, it should not be a surprise to us that students who have gone to college in this age of ideological extremism have come out radicalized and … socialized.

Factor #4: Coddled KidsThe young have always been more inclined to embrace pipe dreams — a lack of familiarity with the complicated way in which the world actually works, coupled with the college fix described above, will do that to most anyone — but there is a reason the mindset of today’s young’uns is particularly susceptible to the red menace. In last year’s The Coddling of the American Mind, the prominent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff describe the species of overprotective parenting and instilling of baseless and uncritical self-esteem by parents and educators alike that came to prevail as kids were growing up in the 90s and 00s. When we are raised in the belief we are wonderful just as we are, we never learn the critical life skills of self-soothing, working through anxiety, facing obstacles and overcoming adversity. The predictable result, as Haidt and Lukianoff observe, is a demand to be safeguarded — safe spaces, free speech crackdowns and so on. The state appears too many as the appropriate institution to provide this sort of “safety.”

If these four are the primary causes of socialism’s rapid surge in our midst, then the next logical question is what to do about it. There is no easy answer, of course, but I would suggest that the radicalization of academia is the lynchpin issue. If we could succeed in reversing that tsunami, many dominoes would fall: we would be addressing the university monoculture that systematically distorts research, sends students veering hard left and graduates generations of left-orthodox clones who find their way into journalism, government, education, entertainment and other influential sectors driving public opinion and shaping the other three downstream issues factoring into socialism’s rise: government policy, educational philosophy and the manner in which history is taught. Many have observed that our universities are in crisis, but that crisis also represents an opportunity to avert the much larger socialist cataclysm that threatens to engulf us all.

Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a writer of poetry, fiction, drama, essays, and polemics.

Gallup Poll Shows 4 in 10 Americans Now Support Socialism

Gallup Poll Shows 4 in 10 Americans Now Support Socialism

from Liberty Planet - May 22, 2019

The free market has definitely seen better days…

A Gallup poll released conducted in April 2019 and released in May shows American attitudes towards socialism have changed dramatically over the decades, with 43 percent of survey respondents saying they favor the philosophy. The poll’s release comes as the Democratic Party’s primary season amplifies with over 20 candidates vying for the nomination.

According to the poll, a majority of Democratic voters have already had a positive view of socialism, and that has been mainly unchanged over the past eight years. The poll also shows that a growing number of Americans are beginning to associate the world “socialism” with social equality, rather than the classical definition that included government control over the means of production.

A deeper look into the poll, however, indicates that socialism isn’t being explained very well — and perhaps that’s intentional. The same survey showed that 75 percent of Americans preferred the free market to lead the way in technological innovation, with 65 percent feeling the same for the distribution of wealth.

Again, the classical definition of socialism — penned by Karl Marx and his own followers — is the redistribution of wealth through a working class-driven revolution. The stated goal of the philosophy is correct historical wrongs based on the misinformed understanding that people are only wealthy because they have stolen resources from others.

Socialism enjoys a lot of publicity in 2019. Not long ago, it was regarded as a fringe ideology, even among the majority of Democratic voters. In 1942, only a quarter of Americans believed socialism was a good thing according to Gallup. Now, the philosophy gets near-constant lip service from mainstream politicians.

Capitalism, to me, is an ideology of capital. The most important thing is the concentration of capital, and it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental cost,” New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once said. “But when we talk about ideas for example like democratic socialism, it means putting democracy and society first, instead of capital first.”

But again, as we just saw earlier, Americans still tend to prefer the free market to take care of almost everything in the economy. The notable exceptions where the reverse is true, according to Gallup, are education and environmental protection. Survey responders were fairly split on healthcare, with just over 50 percent preferring the government, and 44 percent preferring the free market.

What seems like what’s happening is that Democratic politicians are attempting to change what Americans think of when they hear the word “socialism.” For many Americans born after 1990, this isn’t difficult. They grew up without hearing about the Soviet Union’s mass killings of political dissidents. They didn’t witness the failures of communism in Russia, East Germany, Maoist China, and other locations.

Almost every time Senator Bernie Sanders is asked to explain his political ideology, he uses Scandinavian countries like Norway and Denmark as examples, rather than the now-defunct country where he honeymooned. Norway and Denmark are both functionally capitalist countries with generous welfare states — although even those have shrunk in recent years.

So, are conservatives finally losing the socialism v. capitalism debate? It’s hard to tell. It appears that, for many, socialism no longer calls back to authoritarian communism, but to the feel-good European utopias that are anything but.

Conservative thinkers, Republican politicians, and anyone with any sympathy for constitutional freedom at all needs to remember what socialism really means: the abolition of private property, the tyranny of the majority, and the supremacy of the state. When socialism is property defined, there is simply no moral way to justify supporting it.