Socialism’s three-legged stool: Envy, ignorance, and faith
Religion & Liberty Online

Socialism’s three-legged stool: Envy, ignorance, and faith

When democratic socialists were asked what they would build in place of Amazon’s HQ2 now that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had chased it out of Queens, the response was “a guillotine.” That reply, contained in an insightful and in-depth portrait of young socialists in New York magazine, perfectly illustrates the difference between the worldview of secular collectivists and those who believe in the free market.

One may take from Simon van Zuylen-Wood’s thorough essay that today’s socialism is built on the three-legged stool of envy, ignorance, and faith.

As their casual embrace of decapitation may insinuate, for all their talk about solidarity with suffering humanity young socialists disregard the fundamental human dignity of their opponents. The guillotine comment is no mere aberration. “The magazine Jacobin — named for the insurgents who led France’s murderous Reign of Terror during the Revolution — has only grown in influence since its 2010 founding,” writes van Zuylen-Wood.

Escorting Jeff Bezos to the gallows for the crime of offering people jobs seems unduly harsh unless one has polarized the world into hermetically sealed camps of oppressors and liberators. One hears this contempt echo in the counsel of Chapo Trap House podcast host Will Menaker. He warned young socialists that they must come up with “a smart response” when asked how they plan to pay for their policies:

“The smart response is: ‘All the numbers are correct. All this is true about the deficit. But, f–k the deficit because it’s not real and it doesn’t matter.’” The audience whooped. Another option, he said, is to “turn all the existing billionaires into millionaires. Or Soylent.” (The original article did not censor the curse word.)

His comments betray not only a chilling inhumanity but a widespread ignorance found among socialists – not only of economics but of exactly what socialism is.

Widespread acceptance of command economics is due in part to the fact that a nebulous socialism has become most popular with those born after the end of the Cold War. “[T]he word had lost its meaning by the time it got hot again,” writes van Zuylen-Wood, and its idealistic adherents eagerly project their hopes and desires onto it. A recent Gallup poll showed only 17 percent of Americans properly defined socialism – and the confusion is not merely limited to everyday Americans but also on popularized by its most ardent proselytizers.

Ash Sarkar – the young British polemicist lionized by Teen Vogue for screaming “I’m literally a Communist” at Piers Morgan – promotes a brand of “fun Communism” to her followers. “Communism is a belief in the power of people to organize their lives as individuals – their social lives, their political and their economic lives – without being managed by a state,” she told fellow leftist Owen Jones. In another context, she explained that Communism is “the desire to see the coercive structures of state dismantled, while also having fun.”

To describe a totalitarian philosophy that systematically starved, enslaved, and murdered hundreds of millions of people for a century as a minimal state is, to put it mildly, ahistorical. To characterize Communism as “fun” reveals either the depths of one’s ignorance or sadism.

…Or faith. Van Zuyen-Wood concludes his article by noting that he attended a recent Democratic Socialists of America meeting where, before the members could endorse a candidate, they had to engage in a convoluted and boring bureaucratic process. (This should give them a tiny window into life under socialism.) However, he writes the comrades sat through the ordeal enthusiastically, “[l]ike devoted members of a social club, or a church parish.”

Engaging with today’s young socialists begins with the realization that their proposals are not merely unrealistic, but that they are deliberately so. The thirst for communion with God and man, placed in the heart by our Creator, is ineradicable. When belief in religion wanes, faith seeks new vessels of adoration. Socialists vulgarize the communion of saints into “solidarity” with the proletariat. They swap asceticism aimed at purging their sinful passions for political activism on behalf of those they deem historically oppressed. (The article humorously notes the DSA’s “demographic makeup, as usual” is “considerably whiter” than the neighborhoods its members purportedly represent.) They switch a reasoned dialogue to discover the good, the true, and the beautiful with an endless array of censorious codes aimed at curbing the expression of proscribed thoughts.

Socialists’ proximate exchange of productive, good-paying jobs for publicly beheading billionaires reflects their offering an economic idol in place of their deeply religious yearning for their meaning, purpose, and significance as children of God. They replace their hungering to enter the kingdom of Heaven with fantasies of erecting an earthly Utopia – and tragedy inevitably follows.

Faiths that have historically rejected socialism encourage humanity to build. They want to see businesses open, new ventures attempted, and individuals peacefully coexist politically and economically through free exchange.

Free enterprise, if far from perfect, respects the individual dignity of every child of God by assuring his or her agency. Virtue constrains that agency – which is just another term for “free will” – within socially beneficial outlets. And faith is so apparently the surest ground for virtue that Gouverneur Morris, one of the most virulent opponents of slavery among the Founding Fathers, wrote that “[r]eligion is the only solid basis of good morals.”

Those who believe in the free market, irrespective of whether they believe in a higher power, should hope that the mass of their fellow citizens do. And adherents of true faith should do all in their power to gain adherents before their religion is eclipsed by a misguided, and barbarous, pretender.

(Photo credit: David Shankbone. This photo has been cropped. CC BY 3.0.) 

Rev. Ben Johnson

Rev. Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is an Eastern Orthodox priest and served as Executive Editor of the Acton Institute (2016-2021), editing Religion & Liberty, the Powerblog, and its transatlantic website. He has extensively researched the Alt-Right. Previously, he worked for LifeSiteNews and, where he wrote three books including Party of Defeat (with David Horowitz, 2008). His work has appeared at, National Review, The American Spectator, The Guardian, Daily Caller, National Catholic Register, Spectator USA, FEE Online, RealClear Policy, The Blaze, The Stream, American Greatness, Aleteia, Providence Magazine, Charisma, Jewish World Review, Human Events, Intellectual Takeout,, Issues & Insights, The Conservative,, and The American Orthodox Institute. His personal websites are and His views are his own.