The Myth that Socialism “Looks Good on Paper” Needs to Stop
It’s something you hear a lot. Fans and critics alike will all say that socialism hasn’t really worked yet but it looks good on paper and thus one day could work with the right people in charge. This is a lie and a scary one at that. The notion that a society run entirely through the State without regard for individual liberties is a good idea is absurd. There is no socialist utopia, there is only that which socialism brings: the most suffering and impoverished societies the world has ever known.
We don’t even have to look far back in history to find evidence of the failure of socialism. One only has to look to Venezuela today to see the utter failures of socialist policies. In 1998 under Hugo Chavez and the “Bolivarian Revolution,” the United Socialist Party of Venezuela gained control of the country and almost immediately the negative effects could be felt.
According to the index of economic freedom, Venezuela ranks as one of the worst and least free economies in the world. Despite having more oil then they know what to do with, they are as poor as can be. There is no economic diversity and the government has control over most industries. Their government centrally plans and dictates markets in order to guarantee food and health services to every citizen, and that has resulted in shortages and bread lines the likes of which Bernie Sanders would be proud of.
The government spends billions of dollars they don’t have in order to keep themselves rich. This has led to one of the largest devaluations of currency in the world today. As of December 2015 the inflation rate for their currency hit an all-time high of 180%. Their currency has such little value that people have started counting money by weight as opposed to value.
People hardly have any access to basic needs. The price of a basic food basket has risen 615% since 2014. Smuggling has become a routine practice, and the government spends billions of dollars trying to stop it. Of course, this isn’t the case for the leaders of the country who continue to live comfortable lives because they are the only ones with any power in their system and always have the threat of military violence to keep dissenters at bay, like when they imprisoned a leader of an opposition party after violence broke out at a rally.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Fine. Then just take a look at the number of Venezuelans who have left Venezuela since socialism became the way of life there. Between 1998 and 2013 an estimated 1.5 million Venezuelans (between 4-6% of the population) have fled their country. Their reasons stated were because of a lack of freedom, lack of a feeling of security, and a lack of opportunity.
Indeed, the economy was not the only thing that has been in free fall since the socialist revolution; the social fabric of the country has been in steep decline as well. Crime is a rampant problem. In 2013 it was ranked as the least secure country in the world. It was reported that 98% of crimes do not even result in prosecution, largely due to the government having a monopoly of police enforcement and being short about 20,000 investigative officers. Before the Bolivarian Revolution the murder rate had been constant around 20 per 100,000 people. By 2003, however, the number was up to 44 per 100,000. Today, it’s at about 80 per 100,000. For context, America’s rate is 5 per 100,000. All of this is terrible.
The people of Venezuela are literally suffering mental illness as a result. According to studies done by the top three universities in the country, 29% of respondents said they were living “in anguish” and 23% said overall they felt “sad.” The doctors, of course, can’t do much because of the scarcity of medicines and services they can provide. According to doctors, they used to have around 60 different psychiatric drugs to choose from whereas now they have 2 or 3,. It is tragic and sad that a country that at one point was on the rise like many South American countries, now is in such a horrible place and it is directly because of socialist policies.
This is what real socialism is. There is no utopia. An increase in the power of the State has always lead to totalitarian regimes and a society of people that suffer. Every time. Soviet Russia under Stalin and the millions dead from famine and death squads. Even more millions dead in China under Mao. Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia. Cubans being executed under Castro for trying to leave their oppressive government. The list could go on. Never has a single country that operated under a socialist system ever prospered and seen innovation like that of capitalist countries. Never has a socialist country ever even had a basic regard and respect for the lives of its own citizens.
Even in America, the socialist policies we’ve attempted to build here have been disastrous. Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that is nearly depleted of funds and basically guarantees that our generation will have no benefits left when we’re old. Obamacare was the first step towards single-payer healthcare and the only result from that has been premiums sky-rocketing and making it nearly impossible for poor and middle-class people to afford healthcare, and when they don’t want to pay for it they are penalized by being forced to pay a fine. Our corporate tax rates are the highest in the world and it’s lead to billions of dollars from businesses being stashed overseas as opposed to staying here where it can be invested and allow the economy to grow. The Federal Reserve has been bailing out big banks that hand out government guaranteed loans that have consistently lead to bubble-and-bust industries like housing in 2008, and now a rapidly approaching similar problem with student loans and college tuitions. So, even the quasi-socialist policies we’ve implemented here have done far more harm than good.
Socialism relies on an all-powerful State that can control people and force them to bend to the arbitrary rules that they establish, rules that have to be enforced at gunpoint. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t go along with what the socialist leaders want you to do (providing for the “greater good”) then you are punished until you do. The idea that the people are more represented under socialism is possibly the biggest lie to ever exist. People have no power when the State controls everything. The average person has no choice, no control, no freedom. This is what socialism is on paper. Death is what it leads to in practice. There is no underlying altruism involved. When a system relies on some people being forced to do all the work for everyone else, people are going to get angry and stop working. The fact that droves of people attempt to leave socialist countries should be enough proof that these countries are living hells.
Yet, there is a culture here in America, especially among our educational centers, that socialism works or at the very least works on paper and that is the most frightening thing. Thomas Sowell said it best, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore it.” Socialism doesn’t look good on paper, unless you think having no freedom and allowing the government to run every aspect of your life at gunpoint is a good thing.
Is there an attraction to a society based on universal equality and fairness? Of course. But, socialism is not that. Making everyone give up individual natural rights under the guise of “equality” is not fair. After all, equality of opportunity is what matters, not equality of outcome. Once people start to realize this unequivocal fact then the ideas of socialism will finally die out in the West, as it should have 70 years ago.
* Erik Picone is a marketing major at Emerson College with a minor in political communications. He enjoys making political commentary on various social media sites to help spread the message of liberty.