Drew Magary

Yes, I Am a Capitalist

I can act reluctant about it, but I am what I am — and I know it’s a problem

Credit: VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Getty

FFor a long time I quietly labored under the pretense that I voted liberally but lived conservatively. I may cry out on this website for free health care and for soaking the rich and for Meghan McCain to be placed in a catapult bucket and launched to the fucking moon. But I also live in the burbs. In a two-parent house. In an affluent school district. When my county bandies about the idea of redistricting, my asshole gets tight. My wife dropped out of the workforce to help care for the kids when they were born and only returned to work a year ago. I am traditional in the weakest sense of the word.

I have fired guns and enjoyed it. I don’t give enough to charity. Come early spring, I open up TurboTax and try to exploit every conceivable loophole in the tax code that can be exploited. And I never deliberately overpay taxes for the sake of the greater good. I use Twitter to yell at people, making me partly responsible for why Twitter is a fucking sewer. I use Google even though I know Google is using my deepest and darkest and most private information to design the robots that will one day kill me. Sometimes I throw out plastic bags because I’m too lazy to stuff them into the recycling bag of bags we have hanging in the closet. I tell my kids not to swear even though I do it all the time. My car is not electric. My house’s power is not solar. I want to give my money to my kids when I die so they can have enough money to go make more of it. I am a professional hypocrite, and what is conservatism but professional hypocrisy?

But I don’t quite have my hypocrisy straight. I’m not all that conservative. I rarely go to church, if ever. I fucking hate country music. Mike Huckabee does not make me laugh. I’m fine with gay people, and women, and black people, and immigrants, and even Kathy Griffin. I am not… ugh… virtue signaling when I say this shit. I hate country music because I really do hate it. So my hypocrisy doesn’t come from the fact that I’m a closeted Republican.

It’s because I’m a capitalist.

I am a capitalist, through and through. I like money. I want more of it. I like making it and I like buying shit with it. I’m writing this post for money, otherwise I wouldn’t write it at all. I’ve never worked for a nonprofit. And I’m an eager consumer, too! I buy food that is neither locally sourced nor sustainable. I buy electronics and clothing made under horrific labor conditions both abroad and, increasingly, right here in America. I use Uber. I did not use cloth diapers for my children. The cumulative total of dirty diapers I’ve thrown out are probably, as we speak, floating in an ocean garbage patch the size of Brazil.

My income went down a year ago and I was profoundly saddened by that fact. That’s not just because I wanted more money to buy more shit, but because I felt as if my work, and therefore myself, were less valuable spiritually because I was less valuable monetarily. I talk a nice game but, on the ground, I am a member of the Damnable Majority that is manufacturing and consuming and shitting out enough waste to murder the world, and murder it quickly.

And it’s not like I’m gonna stop. Every day, I think about how I’d be a better parent and a better human overall if I fucked off to Alberta or something and just WORKED THE LAND. But I’m far too comfortable in my present incarnation to ever do that. In fact, I worry about losing such comforts. I am the worst kind of capitalist because I am timid about it. I’m one of those pocket dipshits who Joe Biden thinks will be the skeleton key that opens the door to the Oval Office.

Out of all the festering issues to choose from — corruption, racism, health care, abortion, war, what happens to C-3PO in The Rise Of Skywalker — the 2020 Democratic primaries, and the 2020 general election, could end up being decided exclusively by semantics. Bernie Sanders is an avowed socialist. Elizabeth Warren says she’s a capitalist, but she has already been grouped with Sanders in the Scary Progressives With a Socialist Agenda by a political media that is A) capitalist by design and B) deeply fucking stupid. This was best exemplified over the weekend by former adman turned professional shitbag Donny Deutsch, who went on — where else? — Real Time with Bill Maher to bitch about how unfair it would be if people poorer than him got free access to decent health care:

Deutsch is a cosseted rich asshole who clearly doesn’t care that Denmark’s system works pretty well and can be quantifiably measured in that country’s polling, which shows it’s one of the happier places in the world. None of that matters. All Deutsch — who gets to play the role of political horse race pundit on television despite never having done a lick of public service outside of crafting the occasional ad for Busch Light — has to do is say DENMARK like he’s saying “Candyman” three times over to dismiss the idea of hundreds of millions of Americans getting free health insurance. Denmark was ideological coding for “socialism,” and merely alluding to socialism is enough to say something is un-American and therefore something we CANNOT ever do.

And you know what? That coding works. It’s an effective bit of shorthand that, for Americans of a certain age, immediately conjures up visions of modern-day China, the ’80s-era Soviet Union, Castro’s Cuba, and anywhere else where socialism and/or communism have been wielded as means of systemic oppression. I was alive to see socialism at its least effective and most destructive, which is how I ended up assuming that socialism can be implemented only in that form, and in no other way.

This is why I’m a capitalist. But, in America 2019, we are now witnessing that ideology at perhaps its most destructive. The problem is that people like me are so used to this being The Way Things Are that it’s very frightening to consider doing things in a new way, especially when the old way of that new way was our mortal enemy for the entire latter half of the 20th century. This is why it took Bernie Sanders DECADES to attract national affection after openly declaring himself to be a socialist. Reasonable people should have accepted Bernie (and Warren’s) ideas of governance ages ago, well before you could put a rose in your Twitter handle and have that come off as cool.

I have tried to convince myself that capitalism can still work so long as it has some goddamn rules. This is why I’m drawn to Elizabeth Warren.

But, on a grander scale, this is not a battle of reason. If it were, Donald Trump — who got elected in part because, throughout his entire public life, he branded himself The World’s Greatest and Definitely Richest Capitalist — wouldn’t be president; you wouldn’t have to worry about hospital bills; public transit would be free; Deadspin would be left the fuck alone; every fossil fuel left in the ground would go unexcavated; and Facebook’s present headquarters would be the size of a Ping-Pong room.

Instead, what we have now is an American political battle in which Republicans, despite all of their open hideousness, essentially OWN the mantle of capitalism. Meanwhile, Democrats are embroiled in an identity crisis over whether or not they, for either philosophical or strategic reasons, should seize that mantle back for themselves. For many socialists and capitalists within that party, one word is dirty to the other. It’s now a litmus test, and candidates like Joe Biden have no problem using “socialist” as a casual slur to get cheap support.

That term on its own is also, as you’ve seen, anathema to the national media, virtually all of which are businesses enterprises first and public services a distant second. That’s how you get Donny D bitching about Denmark on HBO and quietly avaricious citizens at home nodding in approval. Capitalism has defined America for so long that it defines many Americans as individuals, myself included. My money and my sense of self are inextricably linked. Any other way of doings things is either evil or mere fantasy.

I have tried to convince myself that capitalism can still work so long as it has some goddamn rules. This is why I’m drawn to Elizabeth Warren, who has tried to straddle both worlds by touting socialistic policies while also insisting that she’s a capitalist at heart. For all her efforts, and all her campaign’s momentum, she’s been branded as a potential sellout by Bernie Bros and as scary and kooky by Wall Street, whose whims also happen to surreptitiously dictate the views of the political media. This is particularly true of TV pundits who have no shortage of paper invested in the market. They say such policies are too radical, or too unrealistic, or too Danish.

And I wanna tell them all to go fuck themselves, but, well, now… I’d be doing that on my precious iPhone, from the comfort of a house I own that has a security system to keep all the riffraff out. Because, like ol’ Donny, I am a capitalist. I can act reluctant about it, but I still am what I am. I am hoping there is a happy medium where free markets can still bring me prosperity, but massive social safety nets are also in place to help me, and every other American, if those markets cannot. I wanna have my cake and eat it too, and I’m clinging to the idea that that’s still possible. And as long as I cling to that fever dream, I’m probably part of the problem. Not a small part of it, either.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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