In a recent Wall St. Journal editorial, Fred Barnes writes:

a vast Green New Deal would propel America in a socialist direction

Is this a believable consequence of the aspirations and goals of The Green New Deal? How might proposals to limit climate change, which undeniably would require a large investment today, also solve the same problems in the same way as socialism?


4 Answers 4


If you mean Socialism as in European style Social Democracy, then yes, it will make the USA more "Socialist".

However, if you mean actual "Socialize the means of production and abolish Capitalism" Socialism (be it in the form of either state or market socialism), then the answer is no, not really.

Now a Socialist (as in not a Social Democrat) may vary well like the idea of the Green New Deal, and in some ways it would establish what they want given how it would increase the degree to which the economy is organized around government control (state socialism) and worker run firms (market socialism), but the fact that it doesn't actually eliminate the core problems of Capitalism in their eye (the inherently contradictory relationship between worker and owner), it wouldn't be enough to permanently sate them.

Of course, all of this hinges on the assumption that we can all agree on what a "Socialist" is. Personally I've always seen it that Socialism is about making the economy explicitly democratic, either by extending democratic governments' involvement in the economy, or by making companies explicitly democratic. If you disagree with this, by all means, just know that for this answer that's what I'm working off of, with things like the Soviet Union being largely dismissed as merely dictatorships pretending to be Socialist to legitimize themselves (Stalin's first victims were Trotsky and the original Soviets after all).


There is a difference between "socialism" and "a socialist direction."

  • In just about any country, the state owns some means of production and/or infrastructure. In a socialist country, they own most or all means of production.
  • In most countries, individual people own some means of production and/or infrastructure.
  • The Green New Deal could lead to the state owning more of the means of production. Starting from a relatively low baseline, more state ownership isn't the same as mostly state ownership.

That's a more socialist direction, it isn't even close to a fully established socialism. One could argue that the Green New Deal is the first step on a slippery slope, or one could argue that characterizing it as socialism is a mere distraction and that the state has owned e.g. the Post Office or Amtrak without changing the fundamental nature of the state and bringing socialism.

  • 1
    Nitpicking comment: in some forms of socialism (i.e. libertarian socialism) there is no state at all that can own anything.
    – liftarn
    Feb 19, 2019 at 7:39
  • @liftarn, I don't believe in society without state. The state can be more or less formalized, but it will be there.
    – o.m.
    Feb 19, 2019 at 17:18
  • Do the particulars of the Green New Deal that entail more than just energy-regulation result in a greater increase in state ownership than an energy-overhaul alone? Feb 19, 2019 at 18:06
  • @elliotsvensson, depends on which version of a Green New Deal you talk about. There are about as many versions as there are writers. Some require no state ownership as long as industry meets emission standards. Others don't believe that industry can make a good-faith effort.
    – o.m.
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:57
  • @o.m., I don't get the feeling from any aspect of "Green New Deal" that simply establishing strict CO2 emission standards was ever an option... do you have some collateral material to show where this is given as an option? Feb 19, 2019 at 18:59

To start, let us establish that "socialist" in this case refers to the set of ideas that relates to the government controlling the economy or sectors of the economy instead of private individuals or companies. Or, in other words, socialism is the condition where the state owns the means of production. Let's stipulate that up front, so we don't get distracted by questions of what is socialism vs. social democracy vs. the US Post Office.

I will quote parts of the Green New Deal resolution, which is available directly from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's website here: https://ocasio-cortez.house.gov/sites/ocasio-cortez.house.gov/files/Resolution%20on%20a%20Green%20New%20Deal.pdf

(4) to achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization, a Green New Deal will require the following goals and projects— (A) and leveraging, in a way that ensures that the public receives appropriate ownership stakes and returns on investment, adequate capital (including through community grants, public banks, and other public financing), technical expertise, supporting policies, and other forms of assistance to communities, organizations, Federal, State, and local government agencies, and businesses working on the Green New Deal mobilization;

"The public" is typically another way of saying "the government" in these contexts. Thus, this section implies that the government will have ownership of these activities and the entities working on them, that the government will own the means of production of green infrastructure.

... directing investments to spur economic development, deepen and diversify industry and business in local and regional economies, and build wealth and community ownership, while prioritizing ...

Again, the concept here of "community ownership." "The community" is not a clearly identifiable private person or company. "The community" will need to be represented by someone if it is to have ownership, the implied vehicle for this is the Federal Government of the United States (though the document also gives a bunch of carveouts for special groups, e.g. labor unions and indigenous peoples).

So, yes, it is believable to read the document and assume that socialism is a consequence of attempting to adopt it. That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also described herself as a socialist who is interested in using the Green New Deal to achieve "social justice" in addition to reducing greenhouse emissions is also a reason to believe that the goals of the plan are socialist.

That does not imply that every conceivable thing that could be done to limit climate change is intended to or would naturally lead to socialism. There are many proposals to address climate change that do not aspire or require "community ownership" of large parts of the economy, too many to list concisely as an answer to your question.

  • 2
    You make a decent case about the GND leading 'in a socialist direction' (OP's wording). However your conclusion is going too far by proposing that socialism is a consequence of GND. 'Appropriate public ownership' of some investments and programs is very far from state ownership of all (or most of) means of production.
    – Evargalo
    Feb 19, 2019 at 8:10
  • @Evargalo One of the stated goals of the project in the document (which I did not quote for brevity) is to retrofit every building in America with Green technology. If the state owns a stake in every single building, that's a lot closer to state ownership of all means of production than you might think.
    – Joe
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:21
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    But even though the document is not extremely precise, it takes a lot of stretching to suggest that it would advocate for the state to have stakes in every buildings.
    – Evargalo
    Feb 19, 2019 at 12:44
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    Evargalo, the track record of governments in general selling off that which they’ve come to own is not good. Retrofitting a building would mean investing in some form of ownership or, in the case of refusal to retrofit by a private owner, taking via some abuse of eminent domain. It’s not inconceivable that this project alone would lead to the government owning many a building and, as just stated, their record of divesting isn’t all that good. Socialism or not, that’s a terrible future imo. Feb 22, 2019 at 15:22

Not really. It’s merely that green issues are seen as an issue that is owned by the left and so to accept its possibility and it’s neccessity is seen to ‘give’ in to the left. It’s no surprise then, that an editorial by the Wall St. Journal is against such a deal. This is skewing their thinking on such global issues as climate change and by doing this, helping to misinform the public on this very issue by helping climate change denial. The Economist, after an one of hottest summers in Europe last year, threw in the towel, and wrote on their front page that climate change was for real. Eventually, I expect even the Wall St. Journal will be forced to acknowledge the urgency of the task at hand rather merely protecting its base - big business - and amongst them, the big energy firms.

It’s worth recalling here that big business is highly integrated. Which is exactly what we saw during the great crash a decade ago when the the entire banking industry looked like it could go under because suddenly the derivative trading bubble burst and they realised no-one could price them properly because they were too complicated to know what they were actually worth. For all anyone knew, they could be worthless. And much of it was worthless. Only Iceland had the guts to actually put a few of the ring-leaders into prison, no doubt because the financial industry was new to them and the banking industry hadn’t enough time to build up political protection for its culpably fraudulent behaviour. Still, fraud on such an enormous scale should not have brought down an entire industry, unless they were too highly integrated. The mantra was ‘they were too big to fail.’ Had no-one heard of anti-trust legislation? Which although it’s aim is to break up cartels and monopolies as they are against the public interest, could have been used to stop banking getting into such an incestuous relationship with each other.

Then of course they weren’t too proud to go to the government, with their cap in hand, for a big bail-out that amounted to two-thirds of a trillion dollars. Since the government is the representative of the people, we should say that they went to everyone asking for financial help to bail out the banking system. I mean, you, me and everyone else.

It should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. It’s only a threat to the fossil fuel industry, but there is such a thing called change management, usually applied to businesses that are being down-sized or under going technology change. The entire industry needs to be wound down, over time, whilst giving people to retrain or move into new jobs. Over a generation this should not cause too much disruption. The main difficulty is knowing what can be done in terms of engineering greener and cleaner energy resources. This is not something we can find out by simply putting our heads in the sand and pretending climate change is not happening. It requires funding on the right kind of scale to find the most appropriate solutions. Whilst the fossil fuel industry has had three hundred years to develop, the same kind of time framework isn’t possible for a new energy framework here, given the kind of warnings that have been given by climate science over the last thirty years.

This kind of technology change is possible, of course. After all, the global internet has been built up in thirty years. What’s required is vision, on the scale of the Manhattan project to build nuclear weapons or the Apollo project to put a man on the moon. It’s not something that business can deliver, their timescales are too small, and their thinking is generally too paraochial. It’s worth remembering that the technology behind the internet was originally all government funded for exactly the same reason. Business didn’t want to do it when it was difficult, but they all piled in when it was easy and they could make a fast buck from it. No doubt after it’s been done, business will want to take the credit for it all. But what else is new - everyone knows them to be boastful and greedy lot.

Business, after all is forever talking about investment. Foreign investment this and direct investment that. They have had thirty years to get their act together, and they haven’t. What little they have done they have been pushed, shoved and forced to. Look at the internet, no-one would allow the kind of pornography - including child porn - onto the high street, and nor the sheer, vast volume of unadulterated misinformation into the that is published there into their schools, colleges and universities, yet so long as these internet companies can make a fast buck of it, they will, they did and they still are. They would, rather you, me and everyone else clean up their mess for free. Apparently that’s not socialism. That’s making a fast buck. Socialise the costs, privatise the profits. That’s big business for you.

If they won’t invest, then it’s time for the money to be taken off them, so that it can be invested responsibly.

  • 5
    This seems like more of a rant about big business than an answer to the question. You sort of answer it in the first paragraph, and then go off on a six-paragraph tangent.
    – F1Krazy
    Feb 19, 2019 at 6:52
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    I was afraid at first that the answer was drifting off-topic, but the 5th paragraph is spot-on and kind of justify the long introduction. I think the point is that the Green New Deal does involve the state in the economy, just like project Apollo, the building of internet structures under Clinton's administration or the bail-out of banks in 2008, and none of these were deemed 'socialist'.
    – Evargalo
    Feb 19, 2019 at 8:01
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    I'm not sure where you get the idea that it's only last year that the Economist admitted that climate change is real. It's easy enough to find articles that take climate change as accepted science from 2013, 2011, or even from 2001.
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:04
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    And unlike in the US, where liberal versus conservative affiliation is a good predictor of belief in climate change, it's not so much in Britain, except for UKIP, of course.
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:15
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    That's not what you wrote, though. Your answer implies that they didn't admit climate change was real previously, not that they didn't think it was as urgent as they do now.
    – Obie 2.0
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:05

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