A Recommendation

I generally try to be at least a little bit original in these posts – after all, why else would you read them? – but in this case I’m going to make an exception.

For quite some time I have been wondering why it is that so many young Americans seem to be drifting off into what is, to me, self-evidently wrongheaded Socialist utopianism. The worst ideas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – ideas that are antithetical to the cultural and institutional constructs that provided the basis for our country’s unprecedented successes, and that have been directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people – are finding favor among our young.

Is our educational system to blame? Clearly yes, in my mind, but I have been at a loss to pinpoint the deeper currents must also be at work in the reversal of what had been beloved cultural norms.

Somebody figured it out.

I can’t recommend that you read this https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/06/03/socialism-as-substitute-community/ article any more strongly than I am doing by writing this brief, unoriginal post. In a nutshell, the essay’s author, Timothy Carney, posits that Socialism’s gravitational pull has been greatly enhanced by declines in the organizations and cultural circumstances that had traditionally given Americans a strong sense of community. He writes:

“The real reason American socialists are enjoying a moment today is social and cultural poverty. The root cause is something like loneliness.”


“The less we’re connected to one another via community institutions, and the more isolated we are, the more we grasp for something big to protect us. For young Americans, that’s often the state.”

I found Carney’s hypothesis enormously persuasive, and hope you’ll take five minutes to read his essay in full. I know that I’ll be giving his ideas a lot more thought.

The only small addition I dare offer to Carney’s insights is to point out (unoriginally, at that) that internet-based “social media” are surely fuel for the fire that is burning many of the ways that Americans used to come together.

M.H. Johnston

One comment to A Recommendation

  • D Pfeiffer  says:

    Mark, the problem is a real one and I sense that the National Review article is largely correct. But I found it inadequate, mainly because it is for me unconvincing about what the decline of community actually is. It’s hard to analyse when the cause of the problem is essentially asserted. Work needs to be done there.

    I also think it overlooks what is for me a huge factor: real labour rates have hardly risen in decades and returns to capital have been very high. This is one of the causes of a growing disparity in wealth and income in the US at a time when the tax code is at its most lean in terms of “progressivist” if rates. So we have a troubled middle and working class and to the degree that they are not invested or aware that they are through pensions etc., they may not feel that the “system” is working for them to the same degree that their parents or grandparents did. I’d even go so far to say that in a growing, prosperous, balanced America, the word community could mean our country or our society at large. But I’m not sure many would say that today.

    My analysis is that we won the Cold War, and this opened up China, and China has managed to grow rapidly and with a minimum of violence. In doing so, it has engendered a massive economic disequilibrium in Western society and until equilibrium is restablished, there will be little good news for labour markets. Technology and pace of change are a large compounding factor.

    It won’t last forever. But for now, many are worried or confused. This is for me fundamentally economic.

    And I think the leadership of the Republican Party (other than – oddly the President) has failed to articulate any vision at all that speaks to the voters most likely to veer left. If I were them I’d start by acknowledging that there is a problem and promising that: “it won’t last forever but for now it’s going to hurt through no fault of your own and we’ve got your back”. Surely this is as important to our civic fabric as gun laws, abortion and whatever else seems to be the current divisive issue.

    It’s the economy and it’s about having grown-up leaders who know what is actually happening.

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