November 14, 2018

Democratic Socialism as Name it and Claim it Theology

By In Articles, Economics, History

Democratic Socialist (which is distinct from Orthodox Marxist Socialism) politicians often market themselves simply by declaring their vision as the policy prescription itself. For instance, they juxtapose their position on healthcare or college funding with the alleged capitalist one by saying that they want “free college and free healthcare for all.” Without discussing the means of attaining this end, they simply declare the utopian reality as the policy.

In this way, they are sort of reminiscent of the horrendous Name it and Claim it Theology of the 90s. Indeed, the democratic socialists come across as secular Namers and Claimers. They disregard means and focus only on ends, only on what they would like to see in the world— they put this grand goal as the policy prescription and believe that, via their role in the government, they can legislate a better reality into existence. If the Keynesian miracle was alleged to be the ability to use inflation to turn stones into bread, the democratic socialists seek to create bread ex nihilo.

But if life were that simple, I don’t think capitalists— aside from the moral arguments against, say, stealing and forcing people into arrangements they don’t choose— would oppose free things.

After all, economics teaches us that at a lower price, more is demanded. Other things equal, a lower price is better than a higher price for the same good/service and therefore free (no cost), is better than any other price (excepting, of course, some sort of negative price).

In any case, the problem is that the democratic socialists in the government, in the campaigning world, in the media, in the education industry, and on social platforms act as if capitalists just hate free things.

But the capitalist, aware of the laws of economics, scarcity, resource restraint, variation in consumer preference, and the inability for allocators of the means of production to make rational decisions under socialism, points out that the problem is not that we don’t want free things. The problem is how we are going to pursue, as a society (so to speak), the following:

1. Lower prices that allow for increased access
2. Higher quality
3. Goods/services that most adequately meet the needs and wants of users

We can’t just declare that we are going to have free things. We have to consider what system best approaches those three components (among others). It is not as if socialism’s ends (the flourishing of mankind) is unique to the socialist. The capitalist too would like to see such flourishing. But the disagreement is over the means of attaining that end. What system is most likely to achieve rising standards of living for mankind?

Socialism, in declaring utopian ends but using the state or a complete extinction of the private property order to achieve these ends, will result in death, despair, and a sharp reversal of the standards of living that have arisen all around us since the industrial revolution. Socialism names the goal, claims the goal, and then undermines the goal.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to