A ‘democratic socialist’ agenda is appealing. No wonder Trump attacks it.
by Joseph E. Stiglitz – May 8, 2019
Through much of this spring, President Trump has made a big deal out of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling themselves democratic socialists. He likens them to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. But no one in the United States is advocating a government takeover of coal mines or oil fields — not Ocasio-Cortez, not Sanders, not anybody. Trump is merely engaging in an old-fashioned smear campaign, hoping to turn voters against democratic socialism by conflating ideas.
I prefer another name, “progressive capitalism,” to describe the agenda of curbing the excesses of markets; restoring a balance among markets, government and civil society; and ensuring that all Americans can attain a middle-class life. The term emphasizes that markets with private enterprise are at the core of any successful economy, but it also recognizes that unfettered markets are not efficient, stable or fair.
It is no surprise that the extremes of capitalism and its dysfunction have given rise to questions such as: Can capitalism be saved from itself? Is it inevitable that the materialistic greed that it breeds will lead to ever-increasing pay packages for chief executives? Or that those with money will use their political influence to shape our tax system so that the richest pay proportionately less than everyone else? Progressive capitalism can, I believe, save capitalism from itself — if only we can get the political will behind it.