the possible resurgence of democratic socialism. Its adherents, out to distinguish themselves from the more moderate social democrats — previously the dominant tradition on the progressive left — offer online think pieces with headlines like “Social Democracy Is Good. But Not Good Enough” (from Jacobin ), “Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy” (also Jacobin ) and “It’s not just New Deal liberalism” (from Vox).
.. if the Democratic Party’s left flank shifts from one to the other, it should know about the drawbacks that democratic socialists have historically posed for democracies. In the end, voters and lawmakers need real-world solutions for governing problems, and democratic socialists — with their frequent determination to let the great be the enemy of the good — have a poor record of providing them.
.. As for democracy, these leftists viewed it as fundamentally flawed by its association with “bourgeois capitalism” and looked forward to something “better.” With socialism their priority, and democracy a means rather than an end, this group rejected alliances or compromises with nonsocialist forces.
.. Other leftists dismissed the idea that capitalism was bound to collapse, arguing instead that it was possible and desirable to take advantage of its upsides while addressing its downsides. This camp’s most famous proponent was Eduard Bernstein, a German politician in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who famously argued that “what is usually termed the final goal of socialism is nothing to me, the movement is everything.” By this, he meant that talking about some abstract future was of little value; instead, the left should prioritize concrete reforms that could create a better world. Still, this would require controlling a democratic state. And so Bernstein, like others in this group, viewed democracy as a means and an end. It was “the most effective tool for implementing . . . reforms without bloodshed” and embodied the left’s most important ideals — classlessness, equality and self-rule. Because it prioritized democracy, this camp favored alliances and compromises with nonsocialist forces.
Protectionism, and the promiscuous and capricious government interventions that inevitably accompany it, is , always and everywhere, crony capitalism. But he is spot on about the incompatibility of America’s new darker system and the rule of law:
“Everyone depends on the whim of the administration. Who gets tariff protection? On whim. But then you can apply for a waiver. Who gets those, on what basis? Now you can get subsidies. Who gets the subsidies? There is no law, no rule, no basis for any of this. If you think you deserve a waiver, on what basis do you sue to get one? Well, it sure can’t hurt not to be an outspoken critic of the administration when the tariffs, waivers and subsidies are being handed out on whim. This is a bipartisan danger. I was critical of the ACA (Obamacare) since so many businesses were asking for and getting waivers. I was critical of the Dodd-Frank Act since so much regulation and enforcement is discretionary. Keep your mouth shut and support the administration is good advice in both cases.”
.. Protectionism — government coercion supplanting the voluntary transactions of markets in the allocation of wealth and opportunity — is socialism for the well connected. But, then, all socialism favors those adept at manipulating the state. As government expands its lawless power to reward and punish, the sphere of freedom contracts. People become wary and reticent lest they annoy those who wield the administrative state as a blunt instrument.
.. Tariffs are taxes, and presidents have the anti-constitutional power to unilaterally raise these taxes because Congress, in its last gasps as a legislature, gave away this power.
.. Noting that some Trump protectionism is rationalized as essential for “national security,” Cochrane, who clings to the quaint fiction that Congress still legislates, suggests a new law stipulating that such tariffs must be requested — and paid for — by the Defense Department: “Do we need steel mills so we can re-fight WWII? If so, put subsidized steel mills on the defense budget. If defense prefers to use the money for a new aircraft carrier rather than a steel mill, well, that’s their choice.”
“Sorry to Bother You” and “Dietland” offer something we need at this moment.
When the history of this terrible moment in American life is written, I suspect the surreal and deeply radical indie film “Sorry to Bother You” will be a major cultural marker, like “Easy Rider” in 1969 or “Slacker” in 1990. Watching it — agog that it ever got made in the first place — felt like getting a little glimpse into the future, and not just because its dystopian satire is half a step away from our reality.
.. “Sorry to Bother You,” a sleeper hit, may be the most overtly anticapitalist feature film made in America.
.. If you want to get a feel for the zeitgeist behind the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America, the wave of unionizing in digital media, the striking teachers in red states, and the general broad seething fury about inequality that’s particularly pronounced among people who came of age amid the Great Recession, it’s a good place to start.
.. It’s about an African-American man named Cassius Green — he goes by Cash — living with his girlfriend, an avant-garde artist, in the garage of his uncle’s house, which is facing foreclosure. Desperate for work, he becomes a telemarketer, where his uncanny ability to feign the voice of a confident white man makes him a star, lofting him into a rarefied realm of high-paid, grotesquely immoral salesmanship. The movie includes subplots about unionization, (literal) debt slavery, viral videos, brutal reality television and the cultural worship of sociopathic entrepreneurs. (As well as weird disturbing stuff I don’t want to give away.) I’ve never seen anything like it... In another time, the fantasies of violent leftist resistance in “Sorry to Bother You” and “Dietland” might have caused more of a backlash. But the scary obliteration of limits on the right has also opened up new imaginative space on the left. Donald Trump is trying to destroy liberal democracy, a system that seemed inviolable, before our eyes. Watching it happen, it’s hard not to wonder: what other systems might be more fragile than they seem?.. At least for the duration of “Sorry to Bother You,” capitalism feels evil but also tawdry and preposterous, and labor solidarity seems sexy and exuberant... Americans in their 20s and 30s, after all, are as a cohort poorer and more indebted than their predecessors, while being surrounded by comic-book villain displays of wealth. (Just this week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose family owns 10 yachts, proposed to make it harder for students defrauded by for-profit colleges to seek loan forgiveness.) They are the most diverse generation of adults in history at a time of vicious right-wing backlash from older white people.