Is Socialism Evil?

Dinesh D’Souza has written another book that is wrong about many things.

Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book United States of Socialism is subtitled “Who’s Behind It, Why It’s Evil, and How To Stop It.” As the author of a book called Why You Should Be A Socialist, I object rather strenuously to the suggestion that I, along with my friends and editorial colleagues, am “evil.”

It is hard for me to think of myself as evil. Flawed, yes. Possibly even “intolerable” occasionally. But “evil” is an epithet I cannot accept. Still, one must remember that very few of the world’s evil people thought of themselves as evil. They thought of themselves as good. So it is entirely possible that I am delusional.

I have tried, then, to consider D’Souza’s case fairly.

And so: does it articulate a compelling critique of socialism? No. In fact, substantial parts of D’Souza’s book are almost completely irrelevant to a discussion of socialism. Long passages attempt to vindicate Trump associate George Papadapoulous and show the Mueller investigation was groundless. Whereas I end my own book with an appendix offering other literature and resources for those interested in the study of socialist ideas, the appendix to D’Souza’s book is an excerpt of a court brief from his 2014 criminal case on felony campaign finance violations. It contains various legal precedents and is meant to show that D’Souza’s one-year prison sentence was unfair. 

Most leftists, reading this part of the book, will think:

“But I couldn’t give a crap about any of that. I want to eliminate class division. How is this a refutation of anything I believe?”

We on the left have generally been fairly uninterested in the “Russiagate” stuff, and in fact have been critical of liberals for obsessing over aspects of Trump’s presidency that have fewer consequences for working people’s lives, instead of talking about his cruelty to immigrants, his elimination of workplace safety rules and labor protections, his assault on abortion rights, and his catastrophic rollback of environmental regulations and worsening of the climate crisis

But D’Souza, like many conservatives, does not grasp the gulf between liberals and leftists, because he lumps them together as part of the same ideological tendency. He uses the phrase “Democrats,” “the left,” “progressives,” and “socialists” basically interchangeably. To explain away the fact that people like Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi declare themselves proud capitalists, D’Souza says that this is essentially false. They are socialists whether they know it or not. For D’Souza, there is simply a spectrum, with Bernie Sanders being “very” socialist and Pelosi being “socialism lite,” but the differences are very small. I am not sure how to square D’Souza’s theory with the fact that the institutional Democratic Party hates Bernie Sanders and did everything it could to keep him from getting the nomination; D’Souza’s best explanation is that Democrats are embarrassed by Bernie because he says openly what they all mostly believe privately. (“Their protest against Bernie Sanders seems to be against his candor.”)

D’Souza has developed, over the course of several books, a theory of what the left/socialism/the Democratic party/progressivism is. He argues that “Progressivism, Communism, and National Socialism” were all “variations on a single theme” pushing us “away from free market capitalism and toward a collectivist society with the state as the instrument of the common good.” To socialists, this is ludicrous beyond belief, because while Nazi nationalism and Sanders socialism could, in the most abstract possible sense, both be said to care about “the collective,” one of those dreamed of building an anti-Semitic militarized ethostate filled with Aryan ubermenschen, the other is trying to institute a universal health insurance program and reduce the reach of militarism and the police state. D’Souza always tells people to read the NSDAP’s original 1920 platform, but if you follow his instructions you find that it’s actually full of the kind of racist, nationalist horrors that socialists loathe. (“We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich”)

To say Nazis and socialists are similar because both believe in “the collective” is like saying “Hitler and Martin Luther King were part of the same tendency because they were both leaders who spoke to crowds,” or that D’Souza’s book and my book are indistinguishable because they are both printed on paper, or that George Clinton and Tony Blair are functionally identical because they both led parliaments. You can identify a feature that two entities have in common (doorknobs and limes are both round) while they are still complete opposites (i.e. one is racist and one is anti-racist, one is for mass incarceration and executions while the other is for prison abolition and eliminating the death penalty).

I am sorry to treat you like a child by reminding you that all round things are not alike, but this book has five stars on Amazon and it’s the #1 bestseller on its subject so some substantial number of people clearly do still have to work on their capacity for differentiation and categorization.

D’Souza frequently defends his batty thesis by pointing out that pivotal progressive figures from FDR to Wilson to LBJ were actually racist. Social Security was originally “deliberately crafted to exclude domestic workers and farm workers, the two occupations in which blacks were the most heavily concentrated,” and FDR praised Mussolini (that “admirable Italian gentleman) and put ex-Klansman Hugo Black on the Supreme Court. This, in his mind, is evidence progressivism, racism, fascism are all part of the same thing. (And the relevance of D’Souza’s own criminal prosecution is that it shows one more example of “the left” behaving thuggishly: to him, it is Barack Obama wielding the state against his political opponents in the same way that an authoritarian communist regime would.)

The first thing I would point out to D’Souza, as I did in my review of his Big Lie is that he is totally ignorant of the nature of the conflict between socialists and liberals, or between Sanders supporters and Clinton/Biden supporters. It’s no surprise to leftists to find out that Roosevelt praised a fascist; you’ll also find these critiques in the works of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. His lumping together of neoliberals and socialists leads D’Souza to bizarre comments like “typical of the new type of socialist is Stacey Abrams,” even though Abrams is someone who has listed her favorite book as Atlas Shrugged and came out to publicly defend Michael Bloomberg’s campaign spending. D’Souza even cites Pete Buttigieg “appear[ing] on talk shows bashing Christians for taking seriously the biblical passages disputing homosexuality” as an example of contemporary socialism, even though the Venn diagram of “people who like Pete Buttigieg” and “people who are socialists” is a pair of non-intersecting circles, several miles apart.

He really tangles himself in some knots as he tries to show that contemporary socialism  is no longer rooted in class” and would be “unrecognizable to Marx” because it is a kind of “identity socialism,” and “it’s all about identity politics now.” As an example of this, he cites Hillary Clinton’s “jibe at Bernie” that “ ‘if we broke up the big banks tomorrow, would that end racism?” Today’s socialism, he says “seeks to demonize white male heterosexuals” and so “poor Bernie and Joe Biden” seem “out of place.” 

I don’t encourage you to try to follow this argument. Hillary Clinton’s criticism of breaking up banks was an example of socialism? Pete Buttigieg, despised by socialists for being a McKinseyite who bashes universal healthcare, is a socialist? Bernie Sanders, the most famous politician in a contemporary socialist movement constantly criticized for being too white and too male, is “out of place” in it because he is a white male? But you can see why D’Souza gets himself into this mess. He needs there to be a left conspiracy, with all Democrats part of an evil socialist plot. So even though many socialists (see, e.g. Adolph Reed, Briahna Joy Gray) are strongly critical of politics that prioritize identity and neglect class, D’Souza has to say that today’s socialism is all about identity. This way, identity-emphasizing politicians like Buttigieg and Kamala Harris can be put in the box, and the conspiracy theory can be salvaged.

Of course, when D’Souza turns to attacking Bernie Sanders, once again socialists are supposedly driven by all of the old Marxist economic dogmas. He adopts the working definition that socialism is when “the economic affairs of society belong to the public and not to the private sphere,” saying it has been “embraced by virtually all self-described socialists” and its most “recognizable historical application” is “nationalization of industry.” Now, I do not in fact embrace this definition, because it leaves out a key aspect of socialism, which is against having a hierarchy of economic classes. You could have fully nationalized industries in a monarchy but that wouldn’t make them socialist. (Actually, funnily enough, even though D’Souza places nationalization at the center of socialist ideology, at one point he actually under-states what socialists want here. He says he “ha[s] not been able to find a single socialist in America who advocates a government takeover of grocery stores, or retirement homes, or urgent care centers… nor can I find a single voice calling for the nationalization of, say, mail delivery or the phone companies or even space travel.” I for one certainly think that space travel and urgent care should be state-run, and as for nationalization of mail service, nobody tell him about the radical institution known at the United States Postal service.) 

Just Compensation 

But let’s leave aside D’Souza’s esoteric definition of socialism and concentrate on an argument that forms a core part of his book: the defense of free markets as producing just outcomes. D’Souza criticizes some other conservatives here, because he says they seem to admit that capitalism isn’t fair. He cites Friedrich von Hayek, who said:

“In a free system, it is neither desirable nor practicable that material rewards should be made generally to correspond to what men recognize as merit, and… an individual’s position should not necessarily depend on the views that his fellows hold about the merit he has acquired.” 

For D’Souza, this is unacceptable. If material rewards don’t correspond to any common standard of “what men recognize as merit,” the system is failing. D’Souza says that whether capitalism is defensible depends on showing that it gives people what they deserve. If he can prove this, he says, he will have shown that it is justified. But if he can’t, he will have to concede the socialists are right: 

“The central question for me is whether capitalism truly distributes its rewards in proportion with what people actually deserve. If it does, it’s just. If it doesn’t, it isn’t… If it fails to give people their due, it fails the basic test of justice… it must be reformed or abolished.” 

D’Souza’s way of proving that capitalism gives people what they deserve is to attempt to show that it hands out economic rewards in proportion to people’s productivity. To show that it does this, he gives the example of a parking attendant at a Trump hotel. The parking attendant may be miffed that he only earns $100 a day to park cars, when the hotel makes $3,000 a day on parking and Donald Trump himself is a billionaire. 

“We have to show where the other $2,900 went. If other words, we have to show that he is being paid commensurate with what he is producing. If we can, we will have shown that the rewards of the free market system are not only efficient but also fair. If we cannot, some socialist-type redistribution becomes not only plausible but also irresistible.” 

D’Souza then says that what the parking attendant does not realize is that the capitalist makes vital contributions to a business. Recounting parts of Trump’s career in the hotel industry, D’Souza shows how a hotel impresario selects a location, purchases a building, staffs a business, and builds a brand. A parking attendant does none of this. So, he concludes, because Trump made the greatest contribution to the hotel having its high prices, and the parking attendant did not, Trump deserves his money:

“Someone—in this case Trump—had the idea for that resort. He organized it… His brand attracted the clientele. He took all the risk. The parking guy did none of this. So Trump, not the parking guy, deserves the lion’s share of the profit. Both of them—the boss and the menial laborer—are getting their just deserts.” 

Let us zero in on the word “so,” because it’s where the sophistry is happening. D’Souza argues that Trump did a bunch of things to aid the success of the enterprise. He concludes that therefore, Trump “deserves” to be a billionaire and the parking guy deserves $100. But this is merely assuming the conclusion. Why does being the one who built the brand create this entitlement? A person earning a hundred bucks a day may struggle to pay their rent and raise their children. A billionaire could easily help them by taking less of the profits. The hidden premise here is that you deserve to live in obscene luxury if you can be shown to have contributed the most to the market value of an enterprise. But I don’t accept that premise at all, and D’Souza does not make an argument for it. 

Often, the first instinct leftists have when they hear arguments like “the CEO contributed more to the profits, so the CEO deserves their share,” is to show as an empirical matter that the CEO or capitalist did not in fact make such a contribution, that workers are the true source of value. But I think we need to emphasize that even if “productivity” determines what material rewards people get, we will not have shown the system is justified. This is because “distribution based on productivity” is a totally indefensible principle. 

Think about what it means to say that “people’s material rewards should be distributed in accordance with their relative contribution to the production of those material things.” It means that the disabled, the sick, children, and the elderly do not deserve any portion of the collective wealth. Anyone who cannot generate market value is, if we apply this principle consistently, left to starve. It is a Social Darwinist mindset that says the weak can suffer and die while the healthy and productive should reap the rewards. One could go further and say it sounds outright fascist: to the Strong, Healthy, and Productive go the spoils.

Now, I am sure if you are a defender of the principle, you will say “Oh, no, of course I believe that we have an obligation to take care of the weak and old and sick.” But this means that you do not subscribe to the principle that productivity should determine compensation. You subscribe to at least one other principle, one that says that if people need things, they should be given them, even if they cannot produce. So some things should be given “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” rather than “to each according to their marginal contribution to the social product.” (You are, in other words, a little bit socialist.) 

D’Souza simply takes his Social Darwinist, let-the-weak-perish distributional principle as a given. But there is no reason that we should, because accepting it would lead to a monstrous situation in which the weak all ended up in poverty. In fact, that is precisely what happens in the United States, where most of the poor are disabled people, children, students, old people, full-time carers, and sick people. (According to the Brookings Institution, less than 30% of the American poor are working-age adults who could be in the labor force.) Even if American capitalism does compensate people in accordance with their productivity, that would mean an impoverished underclass of involuntary non-producers, which is revolting to the basic moral instincts of every compassionate person. 

Let me illustrate further with an example from my own experience running a “business,” namely this magazine. (It’s funny, because D’Souza says that one reason leftists have disdain for capitalism is that they do not understand what it takes to run a business or what entrepreneurs do. Well, I actually have done precisely the thing D’Souza says I have not done, so I know exactly why all of this is bollocks.) If I co-founded Current Affairs and hatched a good deal of the early creative vision, it might be true as a factual matter that without me, the present-day income of Current Affairs would be much lower. Why, though, does that justify me getting rich if the other employees of Current Affairs struggle? If making a product requires both somebody to come up with the idea, and somebody to actually make it, why does the one with the idea deserve more? It is not enough to say “because without the idea, there would be no product.” Without my parents there would be no me but they are not entitled to my life savings. We are not in search of an argument that I did things, we need an argument that my doing things justifies a vast wage differential. 

Now, the empirical claim about productivity determining compensation also happens to be false. Having had to set salaries, I know that in many enterprises it is almost impossible to actually figure out what each employee produces. Our own employees’ salaries are set according to a murky combination of what we feel we can afford and what seems relatively fair. David Graeber, in Bullshit Jobs, writes about how objectively even completely unproductive jobs can persist; for example, one publisher hired a front desk secretary not because they needed one, but because having one made them feel important. The story told by free market types is that these inefficiencies “will not” continue to exist, because the market will punish those who waste money on nonsense. But the story is speculative fiction, a hypothetical capitalism of the mind. It is at odds with reality. 

Even if productivity could always be determined, however, the relative amounts people are paid would still be a choice, and that choice needs to be defended. Let us say we can figure out exactly how much an employee contributes. The people at the top are still deciding how much to take for themselves versus how much to pay their employees. They could make a different decision. That is, after all, what Dan Price, CEO of the payment processor company Gravity, did in 2015. He decreed that all of his employees would received a minimum annual salary of $70,000 and cut his own pay from $1 million annually to $70,000. Price had been moved by a conversation he had with an employee who said that he was being “ripped off” by Price, who was then paying him $35,000. Price had responded with the classic free market argument: that he was paying the market rate for the employee’s labor, and thereby giving him what he was worth. But the employee pointed out, correctly, that Price was making a choice to give himself far more. Nothing was forcing him to pay only the market rate. The conversation haunted Price, who then decided on his “radical” experiment in pay equity.

Tellingly, some conservatives were enraged by what Price did. Rush Limbuagh commented:

Pure, unadulterated socialism… I hope this company is a case study in MBA programs on how socialism does not work, because it’s gonna fail.”

I am fascinated by this statement, because what Price did occurred purely within the context of a free market. He was a CEO making a voluntary decision about the contracts to offer employees. But I understand why conservatives would be horrified: Price showed that choosing to take more for yourself because you are the CEO is voluntary, and that there is no reason it has to be that way. (Five years later, according to Price, “revenue is up, attrition is down, and we’ve been able to grow headcount by 75 percent.” He says that the difference it has made to his employees’ lives has been well worth the cut to his own pay.) 

D’Souza concludes of the parking attendant: “If he wants to know why his work isn’t being paid more, the answer is that his work isn’t worth more.” But this ducks the entire question, which is whether the choice of CEOs to pay themselves more and employees less is morally justified. Market worth is a measure of how little employers can get away with paying. You can produce just as much in April as you did in January but your employer might give you a pay cut because unemployment is higher in the economy at large and you fear losing your job more. When a person will work for a slice of bread and some soup so as not to starve, is it justified for a millionaire to pay them nothing more? Under D’Souza’s framework, the answer is “yes, it’s justified,” because the wage an employee is willing to work for determines what they are “worth.” I do not see any compelling reason to accept this. 

Far from seeming to provide “just deserts,” rewards under capitalism run completely contrary to human moral instincts. The people who work the hardest often get the least, and wealthy heirs who produce nothing can live off capital income while dishwashers and fruit pickers work from sunup to sunset and can barely survive. The only way D’Souza can possibly hope to defend any of this is by asking us to suspend our morality and embrace the circular reasoning that if people are paid in accordance with their market value, which in a market they are (by definition), justice has been done. 

So D’Souza has failed in his attempt to justify capitalistic distribution. In fact, he has not even attempted a justification: he has simply defined price as value, and thereby made the justice of capitalism true by definition. And since he told us that if he couldn’t justify it, capitalism would need to be abolished or reformed, we have no choice but to conclude that capitalism must be abolished or reformed. 

The Nordic Countries

One of the interesting things about The United States of Socialism is that D’Souza notices how muddled other conservatives are when they talk about the economic system in Nordic countries. Some argue that Norway, Sweden, and Finland are “actually capitalist” and have low taxes, limited regulations, and no minimum wages. Others say these economies are “actually socialist” but are failures, and have very high taxes that Americans would never tolerate. D’Souza is perceptive enough to realize that if conservatives say these societies are “capitalist,” they open themselves up to being challenged: “Well, if they’re capitalist, why can’t we import their model and have universal healthcare and paid family leave and such?” So D’Souza encourages his fellow conservatives to for the love of God stop saying this in case people start to realize welfare states are reasonable and also compatible with productivity, and say that the Nordics are socialist instead.

Interestingly, D’Souza does not then do what you might expect him to do, which is to try to show that Nordic socialism “doesn’t work.” Instead, he says: 

“I’m not denying the existence of Nordic socialism. Nor do I deny that this type of socialism works to a point. What I deny is that it can be imported here. We cannot have Scandinavian socialism because we don’t have the conditions for it. Our type of society doesn’t permit it. 

So it exists, and it at least partly works (D’Souza admits that “Finnish healthcare costs less than American healthcare” but says it is “inferior,” offering nothing to justify this contention.) But even though it is good, we just can’t have it. D’Souza does not make an argument that the benefits Nordic countries offer their citizens do not make them better off (he is smart enough to realize that they do). So he resorts to the peculiar argument that it is simply impossible for Americans to have nice things. The Nordics, he says, are able to have socialism because they are ethnically homogenous. It was “developed for people named Sven.” The United States is not ethnically homogenous. Fewer of our people are named Sven, and “no American socialist wants America’s racial landscape to resemble that of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, or Finland.” Thus we cannot have socialism. 

This seems awfully convenient; why would ethnicity make the difference over whether a certain kind of healthcare system works? What does “percentage of Svens” have to do with economic policy? D’Souza says that the important thing to understand is that the homogeneity is not just ethnic, but ethical: there is a nationwide “imagined comradeship,” a “sense of solidarity among the citizens.” “The operating principle of Scandinavian socialism is that we’re all in this together.” He says that their type of socialism has nothing in common with the identity-based socialism of the United States. Theirs is “unification socialism” whereas ours is “division socialism”:  

“The motto of unification socialism is that we are one people; we are all in this together… Socialism in America means forcing groups defined as ‘oppressors’ to submit and pay up to groups defined as ‘victims.’ Nothing could be more alien to the spirit of Scandinavian socialism… The whole template of leftist politics that we are familiar with in this country, rooted in identity politics, is pretty much inapplicable to Scandinavia.” 

I am going to be generous and assume that this poor man is simply confused. In fact, if you watch Bernie Sanders’ campaign ads, you will see exactly the kind of appeal for an “imagined comradeship” that D’Souza says today’s socialists do not have. They are striking calls for solidarity across all identity groups. Sanders tried to cultivate an ethic of unity and condemned those who seek to divide working people against one another. I would encourage Dinesh D’Souza to pick up a copy of Jacobin magazine and see where he finds “identity politics” that “demonizes” white people. It isn’t there.

Of course, talking about the 99% and the 1% is kind of inherently “divisive,” because it points out a difference between what two different sets of people possess. But the only reason there isn’t as much of a class struggle in the Nordic countries is that it was already waged long ago. Interestingly, D’Souza comments at one point that there is no “literature of leftist political pilgrimage to Norway and Sweden” and says it’s “striking” that we do not see “reports” from Nordic countries by leftists. I find this funny, because one such report, by Ty Joplin, appears in the exact same issue of Current Affairs as this article. Joplin notes that in Norway, it took labor militancy to achieve the kinds of gains today’s socialists seek for the U.S. Yes, it’s true, there is a national ethic of solidarity and mutual aid. But there is no evidence to believe that is only possible because they are white. It is because generations of people tried to build that collective spirit, to bring to their country what American socialists are currently trying to bring to the U.S. 

What I like about D’Souza’s commentary on the Nordics is that it essentially admits we are right. These countries work, their models are good, and the only difference between us and them is that we do not have the necessary spirit of solidarity… yet. But so long as you do not believe that solidarity is only possible among Svens, this is an argument for pressing forward, not for giving up. 

Ignorance on Every Subject: Identity, Climate Change, Immigration

I have thus far treated D’Souza’s arguments quite seriously, but it is worth noting that much of the book is far more ignorant than I have conveyed. He makes idiotic misstatments (Socialism “dates back to 1917, when Lenin founded the world’s first socialist state”) and his arguments are frequently absurd. (He says that if Walmart workers thought CEOs earned too much they could leave and start their own Walmart, which shows stunning ignorance of the way concentrated corporate power operates to crush potential competitors.) He says that “the central principle of democracy is majority rule,” which is false, and then proceeds to show how absurd strict majority rule is (the central principle of democracy is participation in power, which is different). He compares being transgender to thinking you are a toad, repeating the usual conservative mistake of thinking that transgender people are denying biology rather than denying the value of existing conceptual categories. He is a climate change denier, who delights in posting individual news stories about particular glaciers that are growing rather than shrinking in order to mislead people into thinking that glaciers as a whole are expanding. He flat out lies about the accuracy of climate models. He says that “if the climate change literature was persuasive one would expect the price of coastal properties worldwide to plummet…. But, in fact, nothing like this has happened.” In fact, there is research from the not-exactly-socialist McKinsey & Co. on the effect of climate change on coastal asset values. 

He says that “the consumer votes with his dollar bills” making the market a pure direct democracy, though the entire critique made by the left is that the market is like a democracy where some people get 0 votes and some people get fifty billion. He says that “we live in a society of black and brown privilege” in which it is “now customary, if not obligatory, to tiptoe around blacks and other people of color, to express deference if not subservience to their demands,” ignoring gigantic piles of social science research on racial inequality. He cites Jussie Smollett and Emma Sulkowicz as somehow representing socialism. Online, naturally, D’Souza has bordered on outright Covid-is-a-hoax material, retweeting things like “the Left is FRANTIC this morning to keep the economy shut down, because wrecking the economy has been their premise all along.” 

There are enough bad arguments in this book to write four more books refuting them. You may ask: “Why bother?” to which I’d give my usual answer. People read this stuff, and it’s important that we understand what conservatives are going to say and exactly where it goes wrong. I promise you this book will sell more copies than my own, which is sad, but socialists need to know what our counterarguments are, because D’Souza is an intelligent sophist whose works are often fun and loaded with footnotes, and can appear superficially persuasive to the politically naive. 

I’d like to finish with one final D’Souza argument that I think exemplifies what conservatives are oblivious to that the left understands. Here, after talking about why the Founding Fathers were wonderful, he once again turns to lambasting identity politics: 

It may seem surprising that, in this account of the American founding, I have given so little emphasis to what the founders thought about race, gender, and sexual orientation. In other words, I seem to have neglected “identity” issues all together. For progressive historiography, this is something of a scandal. Progressive scholars across a range of disciplines talk of little else. They write as if the founders cared about little else. Yet the truth is that the founders gave little attention to the politics of race, even less to the politis of sex, and none whatsoever to the politics of sexual orientation. Why? Not because the founders were racists and sexists. Rather, they were concerned with the norms of society, and in constructing these, they emphasized the typical or normal case. They were not unfamiliar with the anomaly of race. They understood that their wives and daughters were part of the novus ordo seclorum… So why not build a society keeping minorities and outliers foremost in mind?… For the same reason that a dinner host organizes a party keeping the general tenor of the guests in mind. The basic principles are those of normalcy and inclusion. Now imagine that one of the invitees is a dwarf.

D’Souza says the dwarf will be “annoyed to discover that the chairs are too high for him to climb into” and that he cannot see, but it’s 

“…very hard for the dwarf to understand that the guests are actually indifferent to height. This is not a party organized by dwarves for dwarves…. The organizers have made room for him to be part of the festivities like everyone else. But the operating principle is one of universality, not of difference. This is the aspect of the American founding that identity socialists hate.” 

One could start here by pointing out that the Founding Fathers were, in fact, racists. (Jefferson: “The blacks… are inferior to the whites in the endowment both of body and mind…) But D’Souza is also illustrating exactly why conservative “color blindness” rhetoric is so wrong. The Founding Fathers didn’t let women and people of color vote! This wasn’t “universality”! The failure to “see” race means overlooking colossal racial injustices! D’Souza’s dwarf example shows this quite well. The party organizers think that by treating everyone “the same”  they are creating equality. But one person is having a miserable time, because their differences are not being accommodated. That is because the party is being organized by someone like D’Souza, i.e. a complete dick who cannot even be considerate enough to get a little person a higher chair, and instead comments that “it’s very hard for the dwarf to understand that the guests are actually indifferent to height.” D’Souza’s hypothetical ends with the little person getting enraged and screaming at the other guests that they are being inconsiderate (perhaps this has happened to D’Souza before), and he chooses to see this as impoliteness on the guest’s part, rather than an illustration of how ignorant you become if your philosophy is to ignore identity and difference.

Socialist dinner parties are less likely to end with differently abled people becoming upset and offended, because we actually care about everyone’s experiences. We pay attention to injustices and we give to each according to their need rather than according to their productivity. D’Souza’s arguments are nearly always bad, but his book shows exactly the ways in which conservative philosophy is oblivious to the conditions of people’s lives and the changes necessary to improve them. 

More In: Socialism

Cover of latest issue of print magazine

Announcing Our Newest Issue


A wonderful spring issue touching on important issues such as child liberation, whether humans really love animals, why Puerto Rico's political status remains a problem, what Islamic finance can teach us, and how 'terrorism' has become a shape-shifting word. Welcome to the Manos-Fair, and enjoy Luxury British Pants, among other delightful amusements!

The Latest From Current Affairs