NEW CASTLE, Pa., Nov. 23, 2015 – Socialist Bernie Sanders continues to be a serious presidential contender against Democratic establishment favorite Hillary Clinton. It would appear that a rebirth of socialism may be in the works.
In the summer of 2009, Wired magazine published an article by Kevin Kelly entitled “The New Socialism,” in which he looked at the effects of social media and projects like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Open Source and concluded that a stateless form of socialism has developed.
If Kelly’s premise holds true, Bernie Sanders may well owe his political success to the rise of an Internet culture that has indoctrinated people to accept a lack of financial reward for hours’ worth of wealth- generating activities.
That said, Kelly failed to fully explore the evolution of capitalism. Profiteering in the modern world is not the same as it once was.
An individual can contribute to the economy with at least three forms of capital: labor, novel intellectual property and financial wealth. Although hard work and innovative ideas are more equitable in the cyber world, public policies have focused on the latter form of capital over the past few decades, which has helped make some very rich and many others poor
In essence, the Internet economy provides an exchange of services, ideas and social connections, which serve as their own reward, while excluding financial profiteering for large swath of individuals. The Internet dynamic could therefore be considered socialism, as much of the activity is free. However, this form of information bartering is also a form of new capitalism.
A lack of financial reward for cyber labor is a problem for people living in reality with real world expenses. In fact, this has probably helped increase the appeal of a socialist like Bernie Sanders. Instead of building an Internet economy to pay for the realities of the world, socialism becomes an easy means to subsidize the cyber world.
For those who fear the rewriting of the Cold War, however, it is important to recognize the kind of socialism that can survive in the 21st century must complement, not compete against, capitalism. Liberal and democratic American ideals, which very much value the individual as a unique person, have infiltrated the vast majority of the modern world to the point servitude to an elitist class is a notion that would be met with great resistance.
When U.S. political leaders rally against socialism, they are attacking the superficial use of the term. All governments, including the U.S., have embraced and always will embrace some socialist policies. The question is how much of U.S. public policy will be “capitalist” in nature and how much will be “socialist” in nature.
With Bernie Sanders in the political spotlight, the world is learning how much America’s views on capitalism and socialism have changed since the Cold War ended and the cyber age began.