“But, fortunately, there is an antidote to Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist wave and its underlying mindsets: it is the hard work and dedication that Jordan Peterson so importantly describes.”
In the preface of their 11-volume set of books entitled The Story of Civilization, Will and Ariel Durant make mention of a remarkable patten that repeats—time and again—throughout all of human history: whenever wealth inequality occurs, the mass finds a way to acquire the wealth held by others by any means necessary, including violence. This is a point that must always be treated with the utmost seriousness, and it is one that has been raised by Jordan Peterson, as well.
Our current debates surrounding income inequality are, of course, very complicated and multifaceted. It requires entire teams of experts to report and analyze the economic concept of inequality, and there are still no easy answers. In the midst of steroid-fueled social media campaigns and surface-level rants by media personalities (all working in for-profit industries disguised as objectively reporting the news), the facts of the issue tangle with emotions and anecdotes, while practical suggestions are few and far between.
Thomas Piketty undertook an extensive study to research the effects and outcomes of capitalism, as compared to European socialism, the latter of which appears to be the inspiration that drives Senator Elizabeth Warren’s economic plans. Although Piketty’s 2013 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, investigates the root of inequality of outcome in the market economy, he implies throughout that—somehow—capitalism is doomed.
In academia, it is perennially interesting to have these debates and compare economic data. And, in tandem, it would be amazing to have a media climate that actually investigates all of the aspects surrounding the inequality debate. However, there is often a rush to judgement. Take, for example, the study of U.S. politics and the influence of elites, which was conducted in 2014 by Princeton University professor Martin Gilens and Northwest professor Benjamin I. Page. Many media outlets simply jumped on the findings and suggested that the United States is not a democracy but, rather, an oligarchy. There was little in the way of parsing through the study’s findings and examining it closely.
The main drivers of socialism and a more expansive welfare system in current American politics include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Their enthusiasm for socialism is so passionate that it has spread to nearly all of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Even though some of the presidential candidates may not fully believe in the socialist policies supported by Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders (and they may, all the while, see the falsehoods in that narrative), they nevertheless espouse it in order to remain competitive to Democratic primary voters. For example, candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who has spent a career in politics and could in no way endorse socialism as a system of government, are bowing to the pressure coming from the Ocasio-Cortez contingent and rolling with the socialist wave.
What is missing in the contemporary conversations about socialism and expanding the welfare state is the absolute and abundant evidence of its failed realties throughout history. Ocasio-Cortez may not be able to see the dangerous chain of events her and her “Squad” are setting in motion, but Jordan Peterson can and does. In his descriptions of, for example, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, along with the failures of collectivism in East Asia, Peterson could not be more clear that socialism, even if it starts with high hopes, nourishes only a precious few and sends most into the abyss.
As political scientist Sheri Berman has observed, fascism was not only about hate; it was also about “robust social welfare.” Today, socialism primarily appeals to the part of society that feels under-appreciated. These are the people who might be well-served to take to heed the advice to, “Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today.” But, creating a welfare system for a society is like an individual beginning to take drugs; you throw away a whole life of possible fortune for a few short moments of ecstasy. Some segments of society love socialism since it is income with no effort, but the real tragedy begins for the generation that comes after the implementation of socialism: a generation that only demands but offers no sacrifices of their own and no practical ways of getting ahead in life. Despite the robust social welfare systems in other countries, there is only one country in the world that can give rise to SpaceX.
But, fortunately, there is an antidote to Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist wave and its underlying mindsets: it is the hard work and dedication that Jordan Peterson so importantly describes. As Jordan Peterson and Senator Ben Sasse have both indicated, it is meaningful work that saves us.
Ocasio-Cortez and her crowd might mesmerize one portion of a society, but it is just the people waiting for a handout. What Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders leave out is that their message has been tested time and again and has not worked. The fact of the matter is that we have no perfect system anywhere, and we likely never will. All we have is what works most of the time. The false utopia of communism and equality of outcome cannot go hand-in-hand with the sense of competition that has marked all of human history. No matter how much beautiful, hopeful literature surrounds these utopian visions, they only look good on paper.
The real lessons lie in rediscovering dedication, discipline, and hard work. The people who are already doing this are the ones we seldom hear from. They are taking care of their families, working hard, studying hard, sacrificing for a better future. They are not spending their time on Twitter and Instagram showing themselves working in their second or third job; they are not putting up pictures of themselves taking care for elderly parents or children with special needs. They are not sharing how they have to deal with the minimum amount of pleasures today to be able to afford a better life. More than anything, they are doing their work humbly and without the need to boast or demand grand social change. It is the spirit of Jordan Peterson’s Rule 6 in his book 12 Rules for Life: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.”
What these people have in common—apart from not glued to social media or featured in news stories—is that they understand life is not fair. They understand that life is hard and that you have to work hard. That is the lesson we need to have to live with each day instead of lofty promises of socialist “emancipation.” The glare and flare of Sanders’ socialism may sound appealing, but you cannot daydream all day. Eventually, you have to wake up, face the realities of life, and stick with the “12 Rules for Life” Jordan Peterson so excellently prescribes.
Kambiz Tavana is an Iranian-American journalist and writer.