The heirs of Rousseau: Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders in New York City, October 2019
Andrew Kelly / Reuters

We are living, so we are told, in a neosocialist moment. From politicians such as the Briton Jeremy Corbyn and the Americans Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders leading the charge, to celebrated academics inveighing against the sins of capitalism, to the hipster chic of the Jacobin crowd, a growing movement on the far left is trying to revive and rehabilitate a long-dormant ideological tradition.

The movement’s obsession is the pursuit of greater equality, expressed primarily through punitive leveling. Things that contribute to inequality, such as income or profit or wealth, are considered public harms that need to be controlled—by taxes, regulation, and other government policies. The consequences for other priorities, such as sustainable revenue, economic growth, technological innovation, and individual freedoms? Not part of the equation.

Capitalism has strengths and weaknesses, and critiques of it are familiar—they’ve circulated widely ever since market-based economic systems started gaining

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