Socialism is So Last Season

Socialism is So Last Season

Published: May 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Pia Varma

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”- Thomas Jefferson

Oh how I wish Paris Hilton would endorse free market capitalism! It would be the “must-have” economic philosophy of the season. She has to think its cool, right? After all, her Great Great Grandfather, Conrad Hilton, amassed his fortune in the markets by envisioning, building and growing one of the largest hotel chains in the world! Five-hundred and thirty-three hotels to be exact! Three generations later (and several shades of blonde lighter), Paris has made her own name for herself. The “Paris Hilton” brand has been used for the marketing and promoting of a television series, movies, beauty products, books, music all made possible by the free market system which we, capitalists, champion so fanatically. Do you think Paris would have reached this type of ‘International Pop Culture Darling’, ‘Undisputed ‘It’ Girl’, ‘Mega-Media Mogul’ status in the Soviet Union? I think NYET! The most she could have hoped for is a life as a liberated factory proletariat, earning an extra rationing of bread from a smitten officer of the Politburo. Yuck. Sounds so drab and dreary and so not the type of environment that would bring out her eyes or brighten her complexion. But in the United States of America, Paris Hilton is the ultimate, shining capitalist on the hill; Beverly Hills! So, why is it that so many celebrities brush aside or even condemn a system which has spread wealth, prosperity and sunshine to so many people around the world, instead touting a system which has brought nothing but human suffering?

I think it all boils down to marketing. Let’s face it, socialism sells. Whether you are watching the ‘Live Aid’ concert, or window shopping at a Gap retail store or just skimming the pages of an ‘US Magazine’, helping the poor, the starving and the weak is the ‘trendy’ thing to do. Finding the most efficient way to create the environment where there are no poor, starving or weak is rarely discussed and capitalism is outright demonized. When capitalists reject the notion of a hand-out culture (giving a fish rather than teaching to fish), they are labelled as cold-hearted and greedy.

Admittedly, listening to Bono belt out ‘In the Name of Love’ as images of emaciated young children float in the background, their bellies protruding with hunger, is a powerful call to arms. And yes the idealistic fantasy of changing the world by condemning the wealthy might sell t-shirts. But we cannot afford wait for the inevitable harsh reality of socialism to kick in before we start educating the young. Someone has to make the case for free market capitalism in a way that grabs their attention. Lets see…giant buckets of popcorn at the movie theatre, new Nike shoes and ipods versus bread rationing and dreary attire. Tricky….very tricky. Ask a college freshman if they can imagine the whole country being run by the government. Tell them to ponder this: every part of their lives being run like the DMV. The lines, the terrible service, the forms – then watch them curl into the fetal position. They would probably ask for a root canal instead.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even need to think about re-branding freedom. You would think that ‘freedom’ would be a product that sells itself, much like the Chia Pet. After all, I imagine that most people will tell you that it was the desire for freedom that jump-started the American engine and brought this country to life. But what freedom is exactly, continues to remain sort of, umm, muzzy. Its definition has been stretched and ‘silly puttied’ to include all things ‘free’; free health-care, free homes, free education, free money for Pete’s sake. When the founding fathers used the word “free” they meant “personal liberty and rights,” they didn’t mean “without cost.” There is sort of a MEGA difference there.

And so, over the years, the seemingly impregnable walls of liberty have been eroded by the greedy, idealistic or, oftentimes, just plain ignorant and uninformed hands of the masses. But why is freedom failing in the war of ideas? Why is this ‘given,’ this ‘obvious,’ this ‘fragile absolute’, slipping from our hands like a soapy baby? To put it bluntly, our PR machine has failed miserably! We have allowed capitalism to be branded and re-branded for us, like a Hollywood relationship thrown to the paparazzi piranhas. Capitalism’s rep has been viciously chewed up, morphed, twisted and then spat onto the front page of every tabloid in town. We are no longer seen as the progressive, freedom-fighting rebels who freed the slaves and defend the most revolutionary document in the history of the world. Instead, we are the selfish, gun-clinging, bible preaching, homosexual-hating, anti-woman and minority, war-loving, environment-hating, anti-education, backwards, stupid, bigoted, evil but nerdy traditionalists who tout a failed system and will stop at nothing to prevent society from changing and moving forward.

How in the world did that happen? Why and how and when did free market capitalism start to sound so… disgustingly grotesque! Take the word capitalism, for instance. Capitalism was a word coined by Karl Marx to give the free market system a bad name. So, of course, we adopted it! Or the word, ‘liberal.’ That was our word before it was snatched from under our noses along with the sheep’s clothing! So, there you have it. Why is capitalism losing out in the war of ideas? Because we are allowing it to!

Capitalism is losing in the war of ideas primarily because proponents of the philosophy are not branding and promoting these ideas correctly and, more importantly, are allowing others to brand it for them. We must come to grips with the reality that we do live in a branding and image age and if we don’t, if we continue to opt for sweater sets and pearls, pocket protectors and suspenders, “IBM blue” suits and briefcases, our philosophy will continue to be the last one picked for the team. It will join ‘Judy’s’ and ‘Napster’ in the pile of brands that I swear were popular at one point! But I think that if Steve Jobs can resuscitate the dying ‘Apple’ Brand and turn it into the powerhouse it is today, we can do the same for capitalism. After all, this cryptic philosophy is actually one of the most revolutionary, rebellious and forward-thinking concepts of all. A very sell-able product!

It is so much richer and more engaging than many people realize but that has gotten lost, as the ‘instant gratification’ generation opts for Celebrity tabloids over the books of leading free market minds like, Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, Alexis Di Tocqueville, Edmund Burke, Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, or Friedrich Hayek. For many people, particularly those in fashionable, ‘image-oriented’ urban centers, it is much safer and cooler to be liberal. It’s a socially acceptable brand name. MoveOn.org, Rock The Vote and countless celebrities and organizations have been instrumental in furthering the cause, employing innovative marketing campaigns, repeating simple messages accompanied by music, imagery and fashion to prevent capitalism from infiltrating the daily conversations of America’s youth. Unless, of course, it is to back-stab it and than by all means, chatter away!

This is my attempt at making capitalism cool again. I want capitalism embraced rather than rejected by younger generations. My goal is to lay out my plan to get these ideas represented in the tabloid pages…to get free market principles endorsed by mainstream celebrities! To get young urbanites to wear “Mises” t-shirts instead of Che Guevara t-shirts! To get Sean Penn to say “I’m a freedom-loving capitalist!” the next time he wins an Oscar.

I am a woman on a mission and if I have to dress up like Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro or shake my tail feather like the flirtatious Whig salonniere, Georgina Spencer, to make a point than so be it! If I have to beg and plead on my hands and knees to get Puff Daddy to Rock the ‘Republic’ rather than the ‘Vote’ I am not too proud! OK, so shaving my head and starting an underground rebel force may be too extreme and I will just keep the trusty hunger strike as an ace in my back pocket. But this is about marketing. This is about fighting fire with fire.

It will take nothing short of a full-fledged, Apple-like marketing campaign, which is ferociously smart, loudly aggressive, sparklingly enlightening, wickedly witty, refreshingly stylish and bursting with powerful, rebellious energy, to re-introduce America to the philosophy on which she was founded on and with which she became the most prosperous and moral nation the world has ever know. As our country continues to follow the path of Rome, replacing freedom for socialism, high taxation, inflation and a treasury that has become a free for all, it is more crucial than ever to educate younger people about the principles which made America great; the same ones that could make her great again. In a nutshell, my goal is to prove that capitalism is ‘way hotter’ than socialism.