Perhaps the biggest obstacle socialism is currently facing in its fight to gain a toehold in America, other than years of elite hatred of it, is the cloak of inevitability that capitalism has wrapped around itself. Capitalism has gone from being a radical economic theory famously laid out in Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nation’s to being seen in the U.S. as the be-all and end-all of economic thought. Anything that is not capitalism is seen as nothing more than theory or hypothesis that must be proven to be better or stronger than capitalism. This economic framework, fortified in no small part by post WWII cultural and educational institutions, has hampered the development of the socialist/communist movements in the U.S. in a huge way.
It is important to note that capitalism is only a theory. Theories, by their very nature, are just guesses. Generally very good guesses but guesses none the less. Theories must also be constantly tested and improved upon and other solutions looked for. The Theory of Relativity is not just left alone by physicists who trust it to be correct. It is constantly being tested and morphed, worked so that it can more accurately show how the world works. That same process needs to happen with our economy. While there have been changes within the system—19th century capitalism looked nothing like our current form—the system itself, especially since the end of WWII, has hardly changed at all. Unlike nations such as France, Germany, China, or Russia who have all gone through fairly major shifts in their entire economic system, the U.S. has not, and it is to it’s detriment. To steal a phrase from the demons of Silicon Valley, “disrupt, disrupt, disrupt.”
It is also important to remember, when discussing the economy, that it is not just numbers and macroeconomic truisms. Any capitalistic economic system describes values to certain actions, creating a moral framework wherein certain actions, say the accumulation of capital, are worth more than others, like providing for the poor. The economy effects our moral decision making often without us knowing, and many people simply act as if that is the way it has to be. It is important to those working to destroy the myth of capitalism to re-couple the economy and moral systems in people’s minds. They are not two separate things, and should not be treated as such.
Of course, changing the way the vast majority of a country thinks about our economic system is no small task. It is often referenced as The Economy, capital “T” capital “E." It constantly occupies a least some small part of most people’s minds as something that must be dealt with. In the U.S. an ineffable concept such as the economy can often seem to be a solid very physical weight, taking up valuable space. And when such an incredible weight is hanging over your head all the time, any action taken against it seems futile. But this is not the case. It is important to chip away at capitalism’s respectable façade and work to reveal its ugly bleeding failed theoretical core.