Socialism: A Ponzi Scheme

By | February 24, 2019 | 2 Comments

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Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Democratic hopefuls Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders promise free health care, free college, free day care, and guaranteed jobs for all. – News reports

Brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in the world. There’s plenty of money in this city. It’s just in the wrong hands. – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

Some time ago I was talking to a colleague. I mentioned the evils of the Soviet Union. As if on cue, he said, “True communism hasn’t been tried.” Really? In 74 years of “building socialism,” the Soviet Union just couldn’t get it right? And Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, and East Germany didn’t do it right, either? What about China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – not to mention the progressives’ old favorite, Cuba, and their new favorite, Venezuela? What about the failed African regimes that rejected Western ideas of democracy and free enterprise, but unwisely chose Marxism to emulate?

Another colleague complained about our “pathologic” fear of communism. I mentioned the 100 million corpses produced by communism. I asked how many dead would be required for fear of communism to be rational. I received no answer. Lenin is said to have remarked that you have to break eggs to make an omelet. If a cook broke 100 million eggs but had yet to produce an edible omelet, would you hire him?

In fact, true communism was tried by the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in 1620. After a few years of near starvation, they gave it up and allowed private ownership of land. This experience was duplicated by communists in the Soviet Union and China, where millions died in famines. But unlike the Pilgrims, it took the Russians and Chinese many years to admit their error.

After centuries of attempts of various sorts by various peoples of various racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, nobody could get socialism “right.” But many liberals still believe that they could get it “right,” if only we nasty old conservatives got out of the way and let them try.

As G. K. Chesterton observed, when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. First it was global cooling and nuclear winter. Now it is global warming. First it was removing mercury from tuna fish, childhood vaccines, and even thermometers. Now it is mandating compact fluorescent bulbs that contain mercury. Yet no matter what other beliefs come and go, one liberal belief remains constant − the belief that they are smarter than all other people and can finally get socialism “right.”

But what does it mean to get socialism “right”?

● Can a system that is inefficient be made to work efficiently?

● Can a system that creates disincentives to productivity be made productive?

● Can a system that rewards conformity be made innovative?

● Can a system that discourages individual responsibility be made to encourage it?

● Can a system that enforces compliance be made to encourage political freedom?

● Can a system that punishes “incorrect” speech be made to encourage free expression?

● Can a system that takes more of our money and makes spending decisions for us be made to encourage economic freedom?

● Can a system based on Marx’s 19th-century notions cope with 21st-century problems?

● Can a system based on lies ever succeed?

Note the admission that ObamaCare could not have been passed without lying to Congress and the American people. There is a direct line from Lenin, who called peasants “cattle,” to ObamaCare guru Prof. Jonathan Gruber, who referred to the “stupidity of the American voter,” to Barak Obama and the “bitter clingers” to guns and religion, to Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” – the “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” The common thread: contempt for ordinary people, who don’t know what is good for them and need the “elite” to rule them.

We can’t get socialism “right” any more than we can get wife-beating “right” or perpetual motion “right.” If something is wrong, both morally and practically, we can never get it “right.” The best we can hope for is to get it less wrong − that is, to compare it with something that seems even worse.

Thus when I criticized his hero, Fidel Castro, my liberal colleague replied, “He got rid of Batista.” Yes, but so what? John Gotti got rid of Paul Castellano − did that excuse Gotti’s Mafia career? And Lenin got rid of the czar. But what if he hadn’t? Despite the oppression and inefficiency of the czarist regime, things in Russia were slowly improving. It is illogical to compare conditions in the Soviet Union before it collapsed in 1991 with conditions in the czarist Russia of 1917. Nothing in the world is the same as it was in 1917.

Similarly, apologists for Castro compare education and health care in Cuba now with conditions when Batista fell in 1959. Progressives fall into the trap of assuming that if the Left hadn’t seized power, conditions in the country in question would have remained frozen in time. This is similar to claiming that if the American Revolution hadn’t occurred, we would still be going around on horseback wearing three-cornered hats and wigs.

Things change whether our guy or the other guy is in charge. The question is how they change. Does freedom increase or decrease? Is the value of the individual enhanced or diminished? Does society come to resemble a community of human beings or an anthill? Are productivity and innovation encouraged or discouraged? Are we motivated to take care of ourselves, our family, and our neighbors, or are we tempted to slough off our responsibilities onto Big Brother?

Socialism isn’t a novel idea worth trying. It is an old idea that has been tried in many forms and many places by many people, and to a significant extent it doesn’t work. We need to take from socialism the idea of a social safety net into which the unfortunate can fall without serious injury. But at the same time, we need to encourage individual initiative and responsibility, because they are necessary for progress – and even more important, because they are essential for human dignity.

Socialism in all its forms is in essence a desire for more – more of what belongs to other people. And in the end, that can be obtained only by force. To leftists, this prospect is attractive. To me, it is frightening.

Bernard Madoff was a respected financial major player and former chairman of the National Association of Securities Dealers. Did he know his Ponzi scheme would collapse, or had he sold even himself on it? It made no difference to the innocent people he impoverished. Do Sanders, Warren, Harris, and Ocasio-Cortez know that socialism is a proven failure, or have they sold even themselves on it? It will make no difference to us, if they succeed in strangling our economy. Madoff belongs in prison. They belong far from the levers of power.

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