Zero Sum gains for Identity Politics

A.C. Gleason
6 min readMar 8, 2019

Recently Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tweeted this out:

“The way we reject the 0-sum idea that some communities win at the cost of others is by using opportunities to address issues intersectionally — to highlight that Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all bigotry serve the same ends & that we prevent division by championing one another.”

And the question arises: what does this even mean?

She’s responding to the recent “troubles” of the Democrats in Congress to deal with anti semitism among their members. And her answer is Intersectionality. The issue of anti semitism needs to be addressed intersectionaly according to her.

In case readers don’t know what this funny word means it’s basically the idea that Marxism, Feminism, etc did not go far enough. Marxism was about class, feminism about gender, on and on. Intersectionality claims to be the road map, the theory of everything, that sets the various deconstructing progressive isms into their holistically proper context.

So Marx identified the Bourgeois as the exploiters of the proletariat. But aren’t black proletariat worse off than the white ones? What about women? What about black women proletariat? What about homosexuals? What about the underclass beneath the proletariat? What about plants? What about people that think they’re plants?

Every identity intersects with another and by labeling them we can determine which intersections are hurting the others and which intersections are being hurt. This is what AOC is claiming as the solution to anti semitism. That would mean identifying the “semites” in their intersectional place and responding accordingly. And also identifying the place of the anti-semites in question. It almost sounds scientific, a sort of method for understanding hate crimes.

Once the various interlocutors are identified and intersected AOC, or whoever decides to be the referee, will declare the good guy and the bad guy. Of course this isn’t actually what they’re going to do right? After all she did say that this is actually the way to get rid of zero sum thinking about groups. That almost sounds like she’s a social justice free marketer!

One of the fundamental errors of socialism, identified by Hayek and others, is the claim that wealth is a pie with a limited amount of slices. Every time someone gets a slice that means someone else loses a slice. This is why they believe wealth must be distributed by the government. It’s the only fair way for an economy to function. This is what makes Gordon Gecko, the supposed arch capitalist from Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street, a villain. He wants to distribute the wealth to himself:

“The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy? It’s the free market. And you’re a part of it. You’ve got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I’ve still got a lot to teach you.”

This isn’t a free market where wealth is created. Gecko believes economics works exactly the same way it did during Jesus’ time. In the past wealth just was property, mostly land. In the parable of the prodigal son the inheritance the prodigal received comes from land. Essentially for Gecko, and the socialist, wealth is something to own not create. It’s a wild Wild West where every transaction is a duel over limited resources. This is what they think the free part means in free market, not virtuous creative energy but wild selfish violence.

Unfortunately for the socialist since the time of Adam Smith it’s been pretty clear that wealth has a nearly infinite potential for growth. Wealth isn’t a pie. It’s not a set of things to be distributed in society. New wealth gets created all the time and old wealth disappears. There isn’t a physical law of the conservation of wealth, wealth gets destroyed and created all the time. This is why people who favor market solutions are usually interested in regulatory roll back. Freedom and entrepreneurship grow wealth which grows more wealth which grows more possibilities, etc.

This is also why market solutions are not great for solving every problem, because not every problem has to do with the potentially infinite creativity of market incentives. For example the environment is a limited thing. Conservationism could be aided by market solutions but destroyed areas are often beyond the scope of libertarianism, and it should be noted beyond the ability of socialism to restore. See “The Tiger” by John Vaillant for an example of how the USSR destroyed the ecology of eastern Russia. As Sir Roger Scruton has pointed out Conservatism is at least about the fact that creating something beautiful is extremely difficult and time consuming, but destroying something is easy. This is the fundamental difference between the radical and the conservative.

In any case AOC is claiming that 0 sum thinking about racial politics is the problem. If one person gets a slice of the racial justice pie then it doesn’t starve someone else! We can all be winners in the oppression Olympics if we just use the science of intersectionality! Racial oppression and identity politics are a FREE market!

What’s ironic about this is that intersectionality is the definition of a 0 sum philosophy. For every winner there must be a loser and the intersections map out the contestants’ places. This is why AOC isn’t concerned about the anti semitism of the American left. Because Seinfeld. Because Curb your enthusiasm. Because Spielberg. Because Fiddler on the Freaking Roof!

There’s no Palestinian sitcoms, musicals, or academy award winning directors. But THE JEWS, aka Israel, have what scientist Neil Shenvi calls hegemonic power in western culture. The intersectional power of the Shoah is wearing off for everyone except, ironically enough, George Soros. I mean even Wonder Woman is a Jew! It’s hard to feel sorry for so successful a people.

But “feeling” sorry for someone based on their group identity is a terrible basis for defending them. Anti semitism is wrong because racism is wrong.

This is what makes all forms of identity politics so insidious. Richard Spencer is pro Israel because it’s Wakanda for Jews. And Spencer would love Wakanda if it were real. If you wanted a society just for the whites well it would be awesome to have a place to put all those uppity troublesome blacks. I mean if MLK and Malcom X had a Wakanda to escape to they might still be alive!

Obviously I think Spencer is scum. All forms of identity politics are a disaster.

This is why Paul said in Christ all distinctions are harmonized not destroyed. Difference isn’t the problem, but making our differences everything is. Difference is the basis of familial harmony. Marital fecundity isn’t possible without difference. The Son can’t have a Father if he isn’t the Son and The Father isn’t a Father without a Son. The dividing wall being turn down between Jew and Gentile means nothing if there are no longer Jews…or Gentiles.

As Marcus Aurelius said the obstacle is actually the way. For the Christian death is life, selflessness is the only way to save yourself, and the last shall be the first. Identity politics is the idolatry of identity. Every generation needs to struggle with this enemy. Identity politics is the basic state of man, power plays we make with each other in mercenary social contracts. Something outside the human condition is required to heal this.

The road map of intersectionality is actually a set of directions into Hell. And there’s only one road map out of Hell. It’s a simple map. To the north there’s a crown of thorns, east and west are nail pierced hands.