Democratic Socialism Threatens Minorities
Earlier this month, Conor Friedersdorf wrote a critique of democratic socialism as defined by a recent article in the leftist magazine Jacobin. “Socialists,” he argued, “are attuned to the ways individuals are vulnerable in capitalism but blind to ways that it frees us from the preferences of the majority. Nearly all of us would hate abiding by the will of the majority on some matters.”
I read Conor Friedersdorf’s article on young people and socialism with great interest. In assuming that the only way for marginalized groups to access needed goods and services is to pay for them, he reveals his blind spots. One, he doesn’t engage with the fact that markets are frequently coercive, with different prices and expectations depending on your gender and race (just look at the wealth of research on job discrimination against applicants with “black names,” for instance).
More importantly, he seems not to realize that other options besides buying things exist. He presents a false dichotomy between dystopian majority control and “free” markets. But there are real historic and present possibilities for the production of goods and services for reasons other than the profit motive, from egalitarian community “time banking” to Wikipedia’s open community of editors to groups like the Four Thieves Collective that make their own medicines in resistance to Big Pharma. These aren’t market solutions. Indeed, they will continue to thrive—and, quite likely, thrive better—in a society with a strong social safety net for all its citizens.