Socialists like to complain that its critics don’t comprehend it. In this case, we have the reverse, in which one of the more well-known advocates of socialism apparently doesn’t comprehend what it opposes. Sean Spicer tweaked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) yesterday after news reports about her launch of a merchandising operation that trades on her notoriety for fundraising purposes. “Using capitalism to push socialism,” Spicer sniffed.
AOC sniffed right back, claiming that selling merchandise isn’t capitalism:
Not sure if you know this Sean, but transactions aren’t capitalism.
Capitalism is a system that prioritizes profit at any & all human/enviro cost.
But fwiw our shop is unionized, doesn’t operate for profit,& funds projects like free tutoring, food programs,& local organizing.🌱 https://t.co/RPnMlg0mpS
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 19, 2021
Is this capitalism? Let us consider. Ocasio-Cortez had to invest some money — capital, if you will — into this venture to get it started, right? She made a free-will choice to risk some capital into a venture that produces goods, merchandising that she hopes will fetch a price in the market that will at least cover the manufacturing costs and produce enough over that baseline to fund her political campaigns. That amount over the baseline of overhead is profit in its basic economic sense, no matter what use Ocasio-Cortez makes of it.
In fact, the entire purpose of merchandizing is to capitalize on a popular concept, or in other words, to draw out its value in cash. That’s true whether the merchandise is Star Wars figurines, Brady Bunch lunchboxes, Barack Obama Si se puede T-shirts, or AOC’s products. AOC is monetizing her fame by literally selling it.
In any sense, this is clearly a capitalist enterprise. Ocasio-Cortez put her capital to work in a business she selected on the basis of meeting perceived demand in the market. She took that risk — albeit a small one, given her donor base — and now has to compete in the political-merchandise marketplace for support. How is that not capitalism? Perhaps AOC’s reluctance to admit her participation in the capitalist economy reflects a sense that she’s sold out in more ways than one.