When trying to convince someone about the downsides of socialism, I generally make a practical argument. I point out that socialism has universally failed, whether looking at totalitarian versions in places such as North Korea and Cuba or democratic versions in places such as Venezuela and Greece.
Simply stated, the particular strain of socialism doesn’t make a difference. At the end of the day, the greater the level of statism, the greater the level of economic damage.
But our friends on the left aren’t discouraged. Indeed, the support for cranks like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn is a sign that socialist policies still have appeal to some people.
Writing for CapX, Kristian Niemietz of London’s Institute for Economic Affairs contemplates the resurgence of socialism. He starts by citing examples of pro-socialist writings.
Opinion pieces which tell us to stop obsessing over socialism’s past failures…have almost become a genre… Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs, wrote…that socialism has not “failed”. It has just never been done properly… Closer to home, Owen Jones wrote that Cuba’s current version of socialism was not “real” socialism… And Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig wrote an article with the self-explanatory title ‘It’s time to give socialism a try’.
Kristian provides three reasons why the we’ll-do-better-next-time theory of socialism is very impractical.
…articles in this genre share a number of common flaws. First, as much as the authors insist that previous examples of socialism were not “really” socialist, none of them can tell us what exactly they would do differently. …Secondly, the authors do not seem to realise that there is nothing remotely new about the lofty aspirations they talk about, and the buzzphrases they use. Giving “the people” democratic control over economic life has always been the aspiration, and the promise, of socialism. …Thirdly, contemporary socialists completely fail to address the deficiencies of socialism in the economic sphere. They talk a lot about how their version of socialism would be democratic, participatory, non-authoritarian, nice and cuddly. Suppose they could…magically make that work. What then? They would then be able to avoid the Gulags, the show trials and the secret police… But we would still be left with a dysfunctional economy.
Amen to the last point.
I wrote last year that Marxist socialism is disgusting and brutal compared to liberal socialism, but both versions lead to economic malaise.
Which leads to the conclusion of Kristian’s column.
Ultimately, the contemporary argument for socialism boils down to: “next time will be different, because we say so.” After more than two dozen failed attempts, that is just not good enough.
Of course, some people instinctively knew that socialism was a pre-determined recipe for failure. Here’s the great Winston Churchill speaking about statism shortly after World War II.
Spot on. You can’t control an economy without controlling people.
And here’s another voice from the past, courtesy of Reddit‘s libertarian page.
And here’s Mr. Rogers imagining a fantasy world where socialism might work.
Last but not least, let’s close with this gem from Reddit‘s Libertarian Meme page.
This article was originally published at International Liberty.
Latest posts by Daniel J. Mitchell (see all)
- Are Trump’s tax cuts working? - 05/06/2018
- Socialism: a dreary failure, malignantly evil, or both? - 23/04/2018
- The Macron Paradox: internal liberalisation, external statism - 03/04/2018