Opinion: The empty promises of socialism

By Patrick Tyrrell and Anthony B. Kim | The Daily Signal

What are the costs of adopting socialism? It’s a good question, and one not asked frequently enough.

But a recent report by the Council of Economic Advisors at the White House does ask the question. The answer? Socialism destroys lives and societies.

The historical record is clear: Everywhere it has been tried, socialism has done harm. It’s a cautionary tale that should be taught to every new generation.

Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Menendez

Vladimir Lenin with a shopping bag.

American socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez overlook the misery socialism has wrought in countries like the U.S.S.R., North Korea, and Venezuela. They maintain that they want socialism without dictatorship or state brutality.

But even if that were achieved, socialism would still fail. As the White House report points out:

[P]eaceful democratic implementation of socialist policies does not eliminate the fundamental incentive and information problems created by high taxes, large state organizations, and the centralized control of resources.

In a socialist county, most of the wealth created by workers is controlled by the government, not by those who toiled to create it. The incentive problem is obvious: If what you earn is going to be spent by the government rather than by you, why bother to earn it in the first place?

Secondly, as pure-hearted as government bureaucrats might be, are their spending choices likely to be as beneficial for workers as if they had made the decisions for themselves? That’s a big leap, even if you discount completely the possibility of bureaucratic greed or corruption.

Again, the historical record is instructive. When small family farms were taken over by the government and repackaged in giant government administered cooperatives in China and the U.S.S.R., less food was produced, not more, and both countries suffered mass starvation.

Moreover, when government taxes wages at exorbitant rates, workers take a direct hit and are more likely to lose their jobs. The more people are able to retain the fruits of their labor, the more they will be able to improve their own lives and the lives of their families.

Economic freedom is connected to a host of other benefits. As documented by The Heritage Foundation, countries with higher levels of economic freedom enjoy higher per capita gross domestic product, lower levels of poverty, educational and technological advancement, cleaner natural environments, business dynamism and innovation, better health outcomes, longevity, and social progress.

But socialism works directly against economic freedom, and therefore threatens each of these accompanying benefits.

The historical record does not look kindly upon socialism. During the 20th century, millions of people starved to death in socialist systems, and millions more were exterminated by socialist leaders desperate to maintain control.

Socialism promises much, but delivers little. The proven solution for eliminating poverty and creating sustainable prosperity is to adopt free market reforms. Capitalism is the way to go.

Kay Coles James, the president of The Heritage Foundation, recently wrote:

From Albania and Angola to Vietnam and Yemen, socialism has produced little but violence, starvation, and misery. … Contrast that with the experience of those who live in capitalist societies, where rights are protected, life spans are longer, and people enjoy a higher standard of living.

The allure of socialism is a mirage that each new generation will be tempted to run toward—unless they are told the truth about its legacy of failure.

But instead, young Americans are bombarded with disingenuous portrayals of the failures of capitalism, as recently seen in Teen Vogue magazine and frequently depicted in cartoons, movies, and throughout pop culture.

The White House report concludes:

The  [Council of Economic Advisors] does not expect that socialist policies would cause food shortages in the United States, because socialists are no longer proposing to nationalize food production. Rather, the historical experience with agriculture is relevant because it involved economic disincentives, central planning, and a state monopoly over a sector that was large when socialism was introduced similar to health care today. The historical evidence suggests that the socialist program for the U.S. would make shortages, or otherwise degrade quality, of whatever product or service is put under a public monopoly. The pace of innovation would slow, and living standards generally would be lower. These are the opportunity costs of socialism from a modern American perspective.

An old expression says, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” That may soon apply to economic freedom in the United States unless truth-tellers begin pushing back on the narrative coming from our cultural elites who favor socialism.

The White House report is a worthy effort toward that end.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Mark Dixon and Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Menendez

9 thoughts on “Opinion: The empty promises of socialism

  1. DEM/PROG Legislators and RE Proponents of carbon taxes are using socialistic schemes and global warming scare tactics to set up government programs that provide subsidies to RE companies, and other RE entities, and to help the poor and various other favored groups.

    All of it is done to get votes and stay in power.

    RE zealots (living and traveling off other people’s money) are proposing energy solutions that would make the world’s energy supply system, from source to user, have a footprint on the world’s surface at least 3 times greater than the present system.

    To avoid that disaster, the world’s primary energy would have to be at least 75% from nuclear, with the rest from wind, solar, hydro, bio.

    Mankind screwed up big time by allowing the world population to increase from about 1.0 billion in 1800, before fossil fuels, to the present 7.5 billion.

    With 9 to 10 billion in 2050, many of them refuge seeking, the tripled footprint of the world energy supply system will be rolling over and damaging much of the remaining flora and fauna.

    No one is talking about that at the COP24 in coal-loving Poland.

    Serious population reduction is 200 years overdue.

    “We can use the transition to 100 percent renewable energy as the vehicle to truly deliver and establish economic, social, and racial justice in the United States of America,” she said during a Dec. 5 panel discussion alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.


    Dem/Prog/Socialist climate change fighting = MORE government programs for the undeserving, tax-consuming poor.

    Free electric vehicles for the poor

    Free deep energy retrofits of the housing of the poor

    Free heat pumps, solar systems and batteries for the poor

    Free highly insulated/highly sealed housing for the poor

    Free healthcare for the poor

    Free education for the poor

    Free energy for the poor

    • One thing socialists don’t understand, If everything is free, who’ll work! Your existence is provided for. The money printing presses won’t be able to keep up with the inflation rate. Stock up on precious metals.

  2. One need only study the field of Self Determination Theory to realize the difference between Socialism (i.e. collectivism) and Free Market Capitalism (i.e. individualism). Extrinsic Motivation vs. Intrinsic Motivation respectively.

    And don’t conflate the sophistry of ‘State Capitalism’ or ‘Democratic Capitalism’ with Free Markets. The profound difference is in the word ‘Free’. ‘State’ or ‘Democratic’ Capitalism is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Be it ‘State’ or ‘Democratic’ Capitalism, they are Socialism.

    When Marx proclaimed that resources should be distributed ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his need’, he never defined ‘ability’ or ‘need’. Only that the government should define the terms.

    The irony is that that the Self Determination inherent in a ‘Free Market’, e.g. Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’, is the most elegant governance methodology ever conceived by human-kind that best achieves the fair and prosperous distribution of resources that improve our collective standard of living.

    Again, remember the caution cited by Benjamin Franklin. “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” This is why American governance is a Constitutional Republic and not a ‘pure’ or ‘direct’ democracy.

    The question I have trouble reconciling with today’s debate is why anyone would promote Socialism of any kind when its inherent failures are so obvious.

  3. Having recalled this episode in history I found the following article when working on our Towns Property rights this year, it reinforced my belief in the importance of these rights, but had I no point of reference would I have even been concerned about such rights?

    By Ilya Somin
    November 27, 2014

    There is much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. One lesson of the holiday that we should try not to forget is how the Pilgrims were saved from starvation and misery by private property rights. Economist Benjamin Powell summarizes the story here:

    “Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.
    In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that “young men, that were most able and fit for labor, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.” Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.
    Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves….
    This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior….
    Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.”

    Socialism is currently being installed at a very feverish pace in every community in Vermont, has your town been asked to install a full time recreation director lately to create programs that do not currently exist for a population of 2000? Or put charging stations in for the electric cars that are not here yet?

  4. “Capitalism is defined as an economic system in which a country’s trade, industry, and profits are controlled by private companies, instead of by the people whose time and labor powers those companies” – the Teen Vogue article begins with a patently false premise. Trade, industry and profits are controlled democratically by the people. They buy a product or they don’t, they buy it if they consider the benefit exceeds the cost and they buy it from the producer that gives them the most of what they want at the best price. As Facebook is discovering.
    The origin of Capitalism is private property. Not just land, all property. The freedom to keep what you make, to barter it for something you value more made by someone else, to grow corn on your land, sell it, buy more land to grow more – when this was protected by mutual assent and cooperation you had capitalism.
    There are two principle ways value changes hands – they are barter and theft. The value of money is extrinsic – it is representative of value, a means of exchange facilitating trade. Taking value by force or by edict against the will of the holder is theft, even if what is given in return has higher value. It’s what funds the government. Paying the income tax is “voluntary.” Try not doing it. (O.K., Al Sharpton is an exception).
    Harry McClintock’s song “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” epitomizes Socialism. It entices people to commit themselves to the self-destructive pursuit of promises made by hucksters, political carny barkers who promise you the wonders of the age for the price of only seventy five percent of everything you can earn. In truth, they are pathological controlling personalities leading you back to Feudalism. Did anyone believe Obama was going to deliver more health care for less money? Economic analysts predicted exactly what happened.
    “Individual capitalists are typically wealthy people ” – Capitalists are people who become wealthy by using their labor and talents to create what people want to buy – and by investing the returns in making more of what people want to buy. And the democratic buying public forces them to compete with other people trying to make what they’re marketing even better and at a lower price to the consumer (despite government manipulation – Chevy Volt, for instance). The rise and fall of auto manufacturers is a good example of the democratic nature of Capitalism.
    MLK: ““One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’” – Taxes, maybe? Why doesn’t Venezuela even have a middle class anymore? Why do Communist nations veer toward a Feudal state of the exorbitantly wealthy elite with dachas and mansions and vast number of the impoverished starving beggars?
    When government gives you everything you need but takes from you everything you make, why make anything? Unless the government imposes worse consequences if you don’t. National Feudalism. Capitalism is what drives so many people to want to come to America.

  5. I don’t know if Alexandria is stupid or just ignorant and indoctrinated. There’s a difference. There’s hope for ignorance but not for stupid.

  6. The ” Historical ” record is clear: Everywhere it has been tried, Socialism has done harm !!

    Socialist Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I guess that they didn’t get the news
    about Socialism is harmful to a Country ??

    Maybe Bernie is just senile, but Alexandria is just stupid…..Two shining stars for the DNC.

    • It’s not senile he’s been preaching the same since he got thrown out of the commune for not doing his share of the work. Isn’t it always those who never did any always claim to represent workers. Marx was the same and refused to work while spending his days in the library in England. It got so bad his wife and kids sold the furniture to buy food. He mooched off others all his life. A account of his life can be found in the book The Naked Communist. The similarities between the two is amazing.

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