Socialism is a lot like cocaine. It’s pushed by people who have an aura of self-assurance that makes others think it’s cool to hang out with them. It feels good. And it is responsible for the wreckage of lives on a scale that would make Satan envious of the achievement.
The crash scene in Venezuela is the most immediate example. The election of President Hugo Chavez in 1998 ushered in a socialist regime characterized by laws redistributing land and wealth, government seizures of oil projects, nationalization of the Bank of Venezuela and the state takeover of fuel distributors.
Today, plagued by shortages, starvation and an exodus of millions of people, the collapsed nation is in a state of revolt against dictator Nicolás Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor. As these words are written, Maduro is refusing to step down from power after National Assembly President Juan Guaidó was recognized by the U.S., Canada and other nations in the region as the interim President of Venezuela.
Despite a lot of publicity in the United States, including a Harvard study showing that 33 percent of Americans age 18-to-29 now support socialism, things aren’t going that well for socialists.
Close to home, the tentative agreement to end the L.A. teachers’ strike may have come as a disappointment to the Los Angeles chapters of the International Socialist Organization and the Democratic Socialists of America.
During the walkout, the groups issued an excited joint statement. “As socialists we believe that class struggle is the best weapon working people have against capitalism’s cruelty and inequality,” they said. “Not only are L.A. teachers striking for pay rises, better working conditions and more frontline staff, they are also waging a social justice strike” and fighting the “rampant privatization” of schools
But the tentative agreement to end the strike doesn’t indicate a growing red wave of strength. The teachers’ social-justice demands won them little more than a few task forces to study issues. The union’s insistence on curbing the growth of charter schools resulted only in the right to “provide input” when a charter school seeks classroom space on a district campus.
In presidential politics, Democratic candidates are leap-frogging to the left to win over the voters who supported, but didn’t manage to elect, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders. Many have come out in favor of “Medicare for All,” which Sanders previously proposed. According to an analysis by the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Sanders plan would cost the nation $32 trillion over 10 years, or it might save the nation $2 trillion over the same period.
The different outcomes depend on how much doctors and other providers are paid. If all their payments are cut to the level of Medicare reimbursements, which are about 40 percent lower than fees paid by private insurers, the nation would spend less on health care.
This gets to the heart of why socialism never delivers on its rosy promises.
College-age socialists may want to come down from the ivory tower of academic theory, where people are just so many faceless crash dummies sitting passively behind the wheel, and imagine themselves in a fully socialist state: You work, the state takes all your earnings, and you are guaranteed everything you need in life for free.
How hard are you going to work?
Are you even going to show up for work?
Tell the truth, if you were guaranteed the same level of support whether you worked or you didn’t, would you ever set an alarm clock? Would anybody?
It’s day one of our socialist experiment, and already the crash dummies are getting out of the cars. Next, they’ll quit medical school.
Production requires effort, and effort requires motivation. Businesses, factories, products and services don’t just spring up under the feet of whoever is lucky enough to be standing there at the time.
In a free country, where property rights are protected, you can build and invest and farm and study and invent, secure in the knowledge that when your efforts finally pay off, you will get the rewards. In a socialist state, there’s no motivation to do more than the minimum necessary to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Yet no matter how repressive the government becomes in its effort to force production, the economy of a socialist state gradually becomes stagnant. You can’t force people to think and innovate. Force can only create fear and silence.
Eventually, the socialist who promised prosperity for all finds that there isn’t enough to go around. That’s when you get shortages, starvation and an exodus of people. Sometimes you get a Berlin wall to keep everybody in, or a one-child policy to cut down on the number of mouths to feed.
American socialists insist the failed socialist experiments that dot world history like blood spatters are not evidence of a failed ideology. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected Democratic Socialist from New York, has pointed to Sweden as evidence that socialism works.
But Sweden is not socialist. The L.A. teachers’ union wouldn’t be happy to learn that Sweden has a school voucher system instead of a public-school monopoly, and the Democratic Socialists of America might be horrified at all the privatization reforms Sweden has instituted since the 1980s. By some measures, Sweden has ranked higher in economic freedom than the United States.
In the U.S., President Trump cut taxes, especially for businesses, and now unemployment is at a 50-year low and wages are rising. Say what you will about the president, he is no socialist. One day, history will give him credit for that.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.
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