The un­think­ing and the un­ob­ser­vant

His­tory shows that so­cial­ism brings mis­ery to na­tions that adopt it

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Richard W. Rahn

This past week, Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, a self-pro­claimed so­cial­ist, won the Demo­cratic pri­mary for a con­gres­sional seat in New York. Why would a sane per­son ad­vo­cate a po­lit­i­cal move­ment that was re­spon­si­ble for well over a hun­dred mil­lion deaths in the last cen­tury, as well as un­told mis­ery? By her com­ments, Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez re­vealed a cou­ple of things about her­self. The first is an ig­no­rance of his­tory — be­cause it is un­likely that she re­ally meant to be an ad­vo­cate for a cause that of­ten re­sults in mass death and de­struc­tion — and that she is un­able to think be­yond stage 1, or the first or­der ef­fect of a pol­icy.

Per­haps, she is just so un­ob­ser­vant, un­think­ing, and un­e­d­u­cated not to no­tice the dis­as­ter of mod­ern-day Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea or the for­mer Soviet Union. Many so­cial­ists re­fer to their op­po­nents as Nazis and Fas­cists, in­clud­ing to Pres­i­dent Trump and his sup­port­ers, seem­ingly un­aware that Nazi meant na­tional so­cial­ist.

So­cial­ism, in all its vari­ants (demo­cratic so­cial­ism, com­mu­nism, Nazism, etc.), is all about tak­ing prop­erty from one per­son and giv­ing it to an­other, all in the name of equal­ity. Fam­i­lies prac­tice vol­un­tary so­cial­ism within the fam­ily where the bread­win­ner(s) share in­come and prop­erty with other mem­bers of the fam­ily, most of­ten the chil­dren. Re­li­gious groups and other vol­un­tary or­ga­ni­za­tions share some in­come and prop­erty among their mem­bers and even out­siders — which is a good thing when it is done on a vol­un­tary ba­sis.

But the so­cial­ism ad­vo­cated by Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie San­ders, as well as Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and so on, is not vol­un­tary but co­er­cive. That is; “I am go­ing take your prop­erty, forcibly if nec­es­sary.” The Nazis and Fas­cists were also about tak­ing other peo­ple’s stuff — just a vari­ant of clas­sic so­cial­ism. (For those who have for­got­ten his­tory, Hitler and Mus­solini were not free-mar­ket, lim­ited-govern­ment guys — but men who im­posed in­come re­dis­tri­bu­tion schemes, just like other so­cial­ists.)

All gov­ern­ments tax and en­gage in some re­dis­tri­bu­tion. Most tax­a­tion is co­er­cive and en­forced by the po­lice pow­ers of the state. And most peo­ple un­der­stand that some lim­ited tax­a­tion and govern­ment is a price to be paid for a civil so­ci­ety. Im­plic­itly peo­ple un­der­stand that govern­ment can be an ef­fec­tive means for pro­tect­ing pri­vate prop­erty and per­son, and those ba­sic func­tions need to be paid for.

Few ob­ject to a tax rate of 10 per­cent, and such a low rate has only a small dis­in­cen­tive ef­fect on the will­ing­ness of the pro­duc­tive to work, save and in­vest. But as the tax rate in­creases, the dis­in­cen­tive ef­fect also in­creases even­tu­ally to a point where the pro­duc­tive with­draw so much of their la­bor and in­vest­ment that tax rev­enues ac­tu­ally fall (as il­lus­trated by the Laf­fer Curve).

It is also well known that as govern­ment spend­ing grows as a per­cent­age of na­tional in­come, it tends to both dis­cour­age per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for one’s eco­nomic well-be­ing and be­comes less ef­fi­cient in how it is used, even­tu­ally re­sult­ing in neg­a­tive eco­nomic growth (such as be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in Venezuela at the mo­ment).

The his­toric and mod­ern-day so­cial­ists live in a fairy-tale world where they think peo­ple will pro­duce as much at a 90 per­cent tax rate as they will at a 20 per­cent tax rate, and where all govern­ment pro­grams are ad­min­is­tered with great com­pe­tence, ef­fi­ciency, and hon­esty. This never hap­pens. So in democ­ra­cies, the peo­ple fi­nally get fed up and throw out the big­gov­ern­ment types — the Thatcher rev­o­lu­tion in the U.K. in 1979 be­ing a prime ex­am­ple.

Many so­cial­ists, once hav­ing ob­tained power, even if by demo­cratic means, claim the right to never al­low a re­ver­sal.

Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez, Sen. Bernie San­ders, and the other so­cial­ists ad­vo­cate “free” health­care for ev­ery­one, “free” higher ed­u­ca­tion, and much other “free” stuff. But they are un­able to ex­plain how this is to be paid for. Some mum­ble about higher taxes on the rich — but again they are so un­ob­ser­vant and un­think­ing that they fail to no­tice the flight of rich peo­ple from high-tax states to low-tax states, and from high-tax coun­tries to low­tax coun­tries.

The main­stream me­dia is quick to pounce on Mr. Trump for any of his con­tra­dic­tory and silly state­ments as they should, but many of them give a free pass to the so­cial­ists (in­clud­ing those in the Demo­cratic party) — whose state­ments are of­ten more ab­surd and dan­ger­ous than any­thing the pres­i­dent has said. If more mem­bers of the me­dia had stud­ied the phys­i­cal sciences, eco­nomics and his­tory, they might be bet­ter at think­ing be­yond stage 1. One re­ally needs to be very un­ob­ser­vant and un­think­ing to be in Sin­ga­pore (as many in the me­dia were in cov­er­ing the TrumpKim sum­mit) and to be ob­vi­ously clue­less as to why Sin­ga­pore is so suc­cess­ful.

Can you think of one so­cial­ist ex­per­i­ment that worked in the last sev­eral hun­dred years? There were none: not small utopian com­mu­ni­ties, not mas­sive states — they were all fail­ures. Chil­dren and young peo­ple are at­tracted to so­cial­ism be­cause it seems to prom­ise “fair­ness” and se­cu­rity — but, in fact, this at­trac­tion is prod­uct of an un­ob­ser­vant, un­think­ing and im­ma­ture minds. Richard W. Rahn is chair­man of Im­prob­a­ble Suc­cess Pro­duc­tions and on the board of the Amer­i­can Coun­cil for Cap­i­tal For­ma­tion.


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