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Archive for the ‘Socialism’ Category

I want people to understand the intellectual and empirical case against socialism, as summarized in my three-part series (Part IPart II, and Part III).

But I also recognize that most people aren’t that excited about nerdy economic-themed articles.

Which is why I also use satire as a weapon against collectivism. And updating our collection of collectivism humor is the focus of today’s column.

Our first item combines economic issues such as tax rates and redistribution with basic notions of fairness (properly defined).

Our second item points out how socialists are generally huge hypocrites.

Once they accumulate some money, they magically decide that their knee-jerk policy of “tax the rich” somehow only applies to the people who have even more than they do.

Needless to say, they almost never voluntarily give away their money, either to government or directly to poor people.

Our third bit of humor for today’s column shows how our statist friends are at war with facts, evidence, and the real world.

Speaking of real-world evidence, @iowahawkblog brags that the Chicago Cubs have a better track record than socialists.

Per tradition, I’ve saved the best for last.

Here’s a meme showing that socialism is capable of solving one societal problem.

P.S. For those who want to understand more about socialism, particularly how it compares to capitalism and redistributionism, my five-part series from 2019 on “socialism in the modern world” looks at Venezuela, Nordic nations, Greece, and France.

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I’ve made the case for capitalism (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V) and the case against socialism (Part I, Part II, and Part III), while also noting that there’s a separate case to be made against redistribution and the welfare state.

This video hopefully ties together all that analysis.

If you don’t want to spend 10-plus minutes watching the video, I can sum everything up in just two sentences.

  1. Genuine socialism (government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls) is an utter failure and is almost nonexistent today (only in a few basket-case economies like Cuba and North Korea).
  2. The real threat to free enterprise and economic liberty is from redistributionism, the notion that politicians should play Santa Claus and give us a never-ending stream of cradle-to-grave goodies.

For purposes of today’s column, though, I want to focus on a small slice of the presentation (beginning about 2:00).

Here’s the slide from that portion of the video.

I make the all-important point that profits are laudable – but only if they are earned in the free market and not because of bailoutssubsidiesprotectionism, or a tilted playing field.

This is hardly a recent revelation.

I first wrote about this topic back in 2009.

And many other supporters of genuine economic liberty have been making this point for much longer.

Or more recently. In a new article for City Journal, Luigi Zingales emphasizes that being pro-market does not mean being pro-business.

The first time I visited the Grand Canyon many years ago, I was struck…by a sign that said, “Please don’t feed the wild animals.” Underneath was an explanation: you shouldn’t feed them because it’s not good for them. …We should post something of this kind on Capitol Hill as well—with the difference being that the sign would read, “Please don’t feed the businesses.” That’s not because we don’t like business. Quite the opposite: we love business so much that we don’t want to create a situation where business is so dependent on…a system of subsidies, that it is unable to compete and succeed… This is the…difference between being pro-market and being pro-business. If you are pro-business, you like subsidies for businesses; you want to make sure that they make the largest profits possible. If, on the other hand, you are pro-markets, you want to behave like the ranger in the Grand Canyon: …ensuring that markets remain competitive and…preventing businesses from becoming too dependent on a crony system to survive.

Amen.

Cronyism is bad economic policy because government is tilting the playing field and luring people and businesses into making inefficient choices.

But I also despise cronyism because some people mistakenly think it is a feature of free enterprise (particularly the people who incorrectly assume that being pro-market is the same as being pro-business).

The moral of the story is that we should have separation of business and state.

P.S. There’s one other point from Prof. Zingales’ article that deserves attention.

He gives us a definition of capitalism (oops, I mean free enterprise).

We use the term “free markets” so often that we sometimes forget what it actually means. If you look up “free markets” in the dictionary, you might see “an economy operating by free competition,” or better, “an economic market or system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government.”

For what it’s worth, I did the same thing for my presentation (which was to the New Economic School in the country of Georgia).

Here’s what I came up with.

By the way, the last bullet point is what economists mean when they say things are “complementary.”

In other words, capital is more valuable when combined with labor and labor is more valuable when combined with capital – as illustrated by this old British cartoon (and it’s the role of entrepreneurs to figure out newer and better ways of combining those two factors of production).

One takeaway from this is that Marx was wrong. Capital doesn’t exploit labor. Capital enriches labor (just as labor enriches capital).

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When I share examples of socialism humor and communism humor, I sometimes wonder whether we should laugh about ideologies that have imposed so much death and misery on the world.

For instance, I’ve shared some jokes about the horrid consequences of Venezuelan socialism.

Including jokes dealing with widespread hunger.

But now I feel a bit guilty.

Not because I’ve been mocking communism and socialism. Both are evil and deserve endless scorn.

Instead, I feel a bit guilty because I’ve actually encountered real victims of Venezuelan statism.

I’m currently in Medellin, Colombia, where I’ll be speaking tomorrow to the Liberty International World Conference.

But I first spent a week with some friends in Cartagena, a beautiful colonial city on the Atlantic Ocean.

Great food, nice beaches, friendly people, and perfect weather, but I noticed there were quite a few beggars. But these were not like the well-fed panhandlers you can find at suburban intersections in the United States, or the bums in cities like New York, San Francisco, or Washington.

Many of them were gaunt mothers with young children, and I was told they were all from Venezuela.

I had no way of confirming that information, of course, but we were only a few hundred miles from the Venezuelan border. And since millions of people have fled that nation’s horrific conditions, it makes sense that some of them wound up in Cartagena.

The most heart-wrenching part of my experience is when we left a pizza restaurant one evening. I had a box with about six leftover slices (a nutritious breakfast for the next morning).

But within two blocks, I gave them all away to various children who must have sensed I was a soft touch.

And I couldn’t help but compare their suffering with the multi-billion stash of stolen loot amassed by Chavez’s daughter.

The bottom line is that I still plan on sharing satire about the misery that socialism has caused in Venezuela. But I’ll be very cognizant of the fact that there are countless stories of horrible suffering because of big government.

P.S. I wish Bernie Sanders and the other leftists could see (and understand) how Venezuelan socialism has caused so much human misery.

P.P.S. And I wish reporters from the New York Times had enough sense (or integrity) to recognize that the misery is a consequence of socialism.

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Economists widely agree with the theory of “convergence,” which is the (mostly true) idea that poor nations should grow faster than rich nations.

This means that we can learn important lessons by looking at examples of “divergence,” and I provide 20 examples in this presentation.

The above video is an excerpt from a presentation I made earlier this week to a seminar organized by the New Economic School in the country of Georgia.

While it seems like I was making the same point, over and over again (and I was), I wanted the students to understand that the real-world evidence clearly shows that good policy is critical if less-developed nations want convergence.

And I also wanted them to realize that there are many examples of free market-oriented nations growing much faster than anti-market countries.

But, by contrast, there are not examples that go the other way.

I’ve challenged my leftist friends to cite one case study of a poor nation that became a rich nation with big government.

Or to cite a single example of an anti-market nation that has grown faster than a market-oriented country.

Especially when using decades of data, which means there’s no ability to cherry-pick the data and create a misleading impression.

Needless to say, I’m still waiting for them to give me an answer.

Here are the background stories from the examples of divergence in my presentation.

My last example showed important examples of convergence.

  • Example #20: United States vs. Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland

And here are a few other examples of divergence that I didn’t include in my presentation.

Shifting back to convergence, my column on breaking out of the “middle income trap” also has very interesting data on how Hong Kong, Singapore, Ireland, and Taiwan have closed the gap with (or even exceeded) the United States.

I also recommend this column which looks at a wide range of nations that are converging with, diverging from, or staying flat compared with the United States, as well as this column showing how Ireland has caught up and surpassed other European nations.

The moral of the story is that there’s a very simple recipe showing how poor nations can become rich nations.

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When writing about economic policy in Latin America, Chile gets lots of attention because it’s a remarkable story of success.

Similarly, Venezuela gets lots of attention because it’s a remarkable story of failure (with Argentina also deserving condemnation for its downward slide).

But we can also learn from other Latin nations.

For instance, I wrote back in 2016 that Peru was one of the world’s “overlooked success stories” because of a big increase in economic liberty back in the good ol’ days of the Washington Consensus.

The huge increase in economic liberty that began in the mid-1980s has subsequently been followed by a period of stability.

Policy is not perfect in Peru, especially with regards to regulation and the legal system.

But it is #29 in the world according to the most-recent edition of Economic Freedom of the World, which puts the country in the “most free” quartile.

Not bad for a nation that was in the “least free” quartile as recently as 1990 (and among the five-lowest-scoring nations in 1985).

Perhaps more important, the economic liberalization in Peru is paying dividends.

Looking at the Maddison data on per-capita GDP (adjusted for inflation), you can see that living standards have basically doubled this century.

In this case, “not bad” would be an extreme understatement. Peru deserves to be viewed as a success story.

Now for some bad news.

While Peru has made great progress in recent decades, the nation may be on the verge of slipping into Venezuelan-style economic mismanagement following the recent election of Pedro Castillo, who campaigned on a far-left platform.

Surprisingly, the Washington Post has a superb editorial on this topic.

Now, the question is whether Mr. Castillo will seek to undermine…the country’s free market economy, or pursue or a more moderate course. At stake is whether the South American country of 32 million will follow the disastrous example of Venezuela, whose autocratic socialist regime has destroyed its prosperity, or continue what, until the covid-19 pandemic, was a record of steadily rising living standards. …Mr. Castillo, who was nominated by a Marxist-Leninist party founded by a Cuba-educated hardliner, says he is not a Communist. He campaigned on nationalizing the mining companies that are the foundation of the economy and summoning a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, the political tactic pioneered by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. But the head of his economics transition team has said there will be no nationalizations, expropriations, or exchange and price controls, and Mr. Castillo has indicated he will leave the conservative president of the central bank in place.Given that the president’s party lacks the parliamentary majority it would need to authorize a new constitution or change foreign investment laws… Venezuela’s implosion, which has caused 5 million people to flee the country for its neighbors — including 1 million in Peru — has demonstrated the consequences of leftist misrule for the region.

Wow, that’s a great defense of free markets that shows a great understanding that statism is a recipe for disaster.

I only wish the Washington Post was similarly concerned about “leftist misrule” in the United States (a.k.a., the Biden-Bernie agenda).

But I’m digressing. For purposes of today’s analysis, let’s simply hope that soon-to-be President Castillo doesn’t wreck Peru’s progress.

After all, we know the recipe for growth and prosperity, so it makes sense to worry when politicians want to do the opposite.

P.S. Let’s similarly hope that Chile’s progress isn’t undone by a new, dirigiste constitution.

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I like cross-country comparisons – such as North Korea vs South Korea and East Germany vs. West Germany – because they can be very informative when comparing the results of socialism vs. markets.

One of the most dramatic examples is Cuba vs. Hong Kong.

More than 60 years ago, back when Castro took power, the two jurisdictions had similar living standards.

But as Cuba tried socialism and Hong Kong chose free enterprise, there was a stunning divergence. Cuba is a basket case and Hong Kong is rich.*

In a column for Human Progress, Neil Monnery compares the two jurisdictions.

As the world entered the turbulent 1960s, two men, half a world apart, one a doctor and the other a classicist, both foreigners far from home, were charged with bringing human progress to their adopted countries. …One, Che Guevara, the well-known Argentinean revolutionary, was the architect of Cuba’s communist economic system. The other, Sir John Cowperthwaite, was born in Britain and is largely unknown today. He was central to Hong Kong’s post-war recovery and to its unique laissez-faire, free-market economic policy. …Hong Kong and Cuba had similar GDP per capita in 1960. Since then, Hong Kong’s has grown 14-fold, Cuba’s just twice, leaving Hong Kong seven times more prosperous than Cuba. In 1960, Hong Kong’s GDP per capita was a third of its old mother country, Britain. Now, it is 40 percent higher, matching the United States and Switzerland. …Cuba and Hong Kong demonstrate the compound effect over six decades of state planning versus market forces.

Some folks on the left, when presented with this data, will admit that Cuba has fallen behind in terms of economic development.

But cranks like Bernie Sanders claim that’s okay because Castro and his cronies instead focused on human development.

But that’s a very weak argument. In an article for the Foundation for Economic Education, Hans Bader analyzes Cuba’s track record on education and health.

Castro did not give Cubans literacy. Cuba already had one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America by 1950, nearly a decade before Castro took power, according to United Nations data… Cuba has made less educational progress than most Latin American countries over the last 60 years. …Cuba led virtually all countries in Latin America in life expectancy in 1959, before Castro’s communists seized power. But by 2012, right after Castro stepped down as Communist Party leader, Chileans and Costa Ricans lived slightly longer than Cubans. Back in 1960, Chileans had a life span seven years shorter than Cubans, and Costa Ricans lived more than two years less than Cubans on average. …Today, life spans are virtually the same in Cuba as more prosperous Chile and Costa Rica—if you accept the rosy official statistics put out by Cuba’s communist government, which many people do not.

There are good reasons to doubt official numbers from Cuba.

People who visit the island have sad stories to tell.

For instance, in a column last year for the Wall Street Journal, Andy Laperriere explains what he saw on his church-sponsored trips to Cuba.

It’s astonishing some people still cling to a romanticized version of Cuban life under communism. It bears no resemblance to reality. …people who don’t have children’s Tylenol and cheap reading glasses probably aren’t getting world-class medical care. Another striking feature of Cuba is the pervasive idleness. Everywhere you look, people are standing around. They aren’t working, because they get paid almost nothing. …Even the buildings a few blocks from the seat of government in Havana are crumbling. It’s obvious to a visitor that Cubans live in abject poverty. …there are three classes of people in Cuba. The governmental elite live in gated communities and enjoy what Americans would regard as middle-class living standards. The average person who relies on his own income lives in desperate Third World conditions. In between are people with generous relatives in the U.S. They have more disposable income, but their living conditions are comparable to those of the poorest Americans.

What a depressing analysis.

I wrote a few days ago that Cuba may have done a good job of eliminating inequality, but only because everyone was poor.

But that wasn’t right. Like in many socialist regimes, there’s a tiny sliver of the population that enjoys decent living standards.

Or, if you’re the dictator, you live like a king. Here are some excerpts from a 2014 report in the U.K.-based Guardian.

Fidel Castro lived like a king with his own private yacht, a luxury Caribbean island getaway complete with dolphins and a turtle farm, and travelled with two personal blood donors, a new book claims. In La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro (Fidel Castro’s Hidden Life), former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, a member of Castro’s elite inner circle, says the Cuban leader ran the country as his personal fiefdom like a cross between a medieval overlord and Louis XV. …the vast majority of Cubans were unaware their leader enjoyed a lifestyle beyond the dreams of many Cubans and at odds with the sacrifices he demanded of them. …In 2006 Forbes magazine listed the Cuban leader in its top 10 richest “Kings, Queens and Dictators”, citing unnamed officials who claimed Castro had amassed a fortune.

Let’s close by addressing the argument that Cuba is only poor because of the U.S. trade embargo.

Professor Art Carden addressed that argument in a column for the American Institute for Economic Research.

I think the embargo…should be lifted immediately, as it has given Cuban communists a convenient scapegoat for their country’s problems. The embargo, however, is not what causes Cuba’s woes, and people blaming the embargo overlook the fact that Cuba trades pretty extensively with the rest of the world–how else do you think Canadian and Mexican merchants get the Cuban cigars they hawk to American tourists? It’s not because a Cuban Rhett Butler is smuggling them past a blockade. It’s because Cuba trades freely with the entire world.

You may be thinking that’s just one economist’s opinion.

But it turns out that Art’s view is widely shared by other economists, as you can see from this tweet from Professor Jeremy Horpedahl.

Wow, these results are even stronger than the survey showing that economists disagreed with Thomas Piketty’s class-warfare hypothesis.

P.S. Let’s enjoy some Cuba-themed humor. First, our friends on the left sometimes claim free trade exploits developing nations. But, it that’s true, why do they claim Cuba is hurt be an absence of trade with the United States?

Next, here’s a t-shirt suggesting we swap freedom-seeking Cubans for statism-seeking Americans.

I’m in favor of that trade, though I suspect American leftists wouldn’t actually want to live in a socialist country.

P.P.S. I have great disdain for the “useful idiots” who concoct arguments to make Cuba’s repressive regime look good.

*Let’s hope China doesn’t ruin Hong Kong’s economy.

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Part I of this series looked at socialism’s track record of failure, while Part II pointed out that greater levels of socialism lead to greater levels of misery.

For Part III, let’s start with this video on the economics of socialism.

If the world was governed by logic, there would be no need to address this topic for a third time.

After all, the evidence is overwhelming that capitalism (oops, I mean free enterprise) does a better job than socialism.

But it seems that we don’t live in a logical world. We have too many people who have an anti-empirical belief in bigger government.

And, if the polling data is accurate, the problem seems especially acute with young people.

I’ve wondered whether sub-par government schools are part of the problem. Are they mis-educating kids?

I don’t know if that was a problem in the past, but Richard Rahn warns in the Washington Times that it will probably be a problem in the future.

Recent polls have shown rising support for socialism and an increasingly negative view of capitalism, particularly among the young.  …Most of those who say they support socialism are probably unaware that it has failed every place and time that it has been tried. …They may also not be aware that socialism relies on coercion to function… By contrast, capitalism relies on the voluntary exchange of goods and services… Last week at the NEA’s annual meeting, the delegates demanded that the union issue a study criticizing, among many things, “capitalism.” Has anyone thought through the alternatives – a system based on slavery or serfdom…? Under capitalism, investment and productive labor are allocated by individual consumer choice. …Under socialism, there is no good mechanism for meeting consumer demand; the socialist leaders decide what the people should have. There is no mechanism for creating and encouraging innovation – that is why socialist states normally only produce something new after it has already been produced in a capitalist country… So why then are the teachers’ unions advocating that capitalism be attacked, and socialism be applauded? The answer is simple, willful ignorance.

I’ve always supported school choice because I want better educational outcomes, especially for poor and minority students.

In recent months, I’ve wondered we also need school choice because of what teacher unions are doing on issues such as critical race theory and school re-openings.

Now it seems we need choice simply to protect kids from the risk of being propagandized.

P.S. Or protect kids from nonsensical forms of discipline.

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Socialism has a track record of failure.

And that’s true whether we’re using the technical definition of socialism (government ownership of the means of production), the fascist version (nominal private ownership but government control), or the Bernie/AOC version (confiscatory taxation and pervasive redistribution).

But the silver lining to the policy disaster is that we get some amusing memes to augment our collection.

Such as this observation on voting habits.

And here’s a good depiction of those who realize government doesn’t do a good job at anything, but nevertheless think it should have more power.

Since socialism and big government have never produced a single example of success, I think this meme is spot on.

I almost didn’t include this joke because the idiots holding the sign incorrectly equate Trump with capitalism, but the applause from Mao and Stalin makes it worthwhile.

This next meme is also a good way of describing Keynesian economics.

I don’t know if this next claim is completely true since there are example of defecting spies, but it’s safe to say that the entire flow of ordinary people is away from socialism and toward (relative) capitalism

I mentioned at the start of this column that there are different definitions of socialism, at least from a policy perspective.

Well, here’s the common theme for all of them.

As usual, I’ve saved the best for last.

This one strikes home for me since I’ve dated some left-of-center women over the past couple of decades.

I confess I generally don’t try to convert them, especially early in a relationship.

Though I have eventually shared copies of Atlas Shrugged in hopes of turning them into future Margaret Thatchers.

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Back in 2016, I created a 2×2 matrix to illustrate the difference between redistributionism (tax Person A and give to Person B) and state planning (politicians and bureaucrats trying to steer the economy, either through direct ownership or industrial policy).

The main point of that column was to show that countries should try to be in the top-left section, where there is less redistribution and less government control.

But I also wanted to help people understand that redistributionism and socialism are not the same thing.

For instance, Sweden (in the bottom-left box) is a capitalist economy with a big welfare state, whereas China (in the top-right box) doesn’t have much redistribution but government has substantial control over economic activity.

From an American perspective, the good news is that the U.S. currently is in the top-left box.

The bad news is that President Biden wants the country in the bottom-left box. So, if we want to be technically accurate, we should not accuse him of socialism.

Instead, as Antony Davies and James Harrigan explained in a column for the Foundation for Economic Education, the real threat to the nation is “transferism.”

Socialism is state control of the means of production. …By contrast, capitalism is simply private ownership of the means of production. …more than four in ten Americans think “some form of socialism” is a good thing. But what is “some form of socialism?” A society is either socialist or it isn’t. The state either owns the means of production or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground. …It appears that what Americans really have in mind when they think about socialism is not an economic system but particular economic outcomes. …they are advocating what we should really call “transferism.” Transferism is a system in which one group of people forces a second group to pay for things that the people believe they, or some third group, should have. Transferism isn’t about controlling the means of production. It is about the forced redistribution of what’s produced.

Davies and Harrigan are correct.

Moreover, they deserve credit for predicting the future since they wrote the column in 2019!

Now let’s consider whether redistributionism (or transferism) is a good idea.

I’ve previously explained that a big welfare state causes economic damage, even if a nation otherwise is very pro-capitalist.

Consider, for instance, the remarkable data showing how Swedish-Americans and Danish-Americans generate much more prosperity than Swedes and Danes who still live in Scandinavia.

Or consider the income data showing how average Americans enjoy much higher living standards than their European counterparts (either in Nordic nations or elsewhere).

What’s worrisome is that Biden wants a much bigger welfare state and he doesn’t seem to understand that European-sized government means anemic European-style economic performance.

This is the message that Bret Stephens shared in one of his recent columns for the New York Times.

He starts by describing Biden’s agenda.

President Biden charts a course toward the largest expansion of government since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. After signing a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill in March and proposing a $1.5 trillion discretionary budget in April (a 16 percent increase from this year, on top of what’s likely to be at least $3 trillion in mandatory spending on programs like Medicare and Medicaid), the president wants $2.3 trillion more for infrastructure and $1.8 trillion for new social programs. That’s $7.5 trillion in discretionary spending. To put the number in perspective, we spent $4.1 trillion in inflation-adjusted dollars over nearly four years to wage and win the Second World War. What will America get for the money?

He then points out the potential consequences.

…before the U.S. takes this leap into a full-blown American social-welfare state, moderates in Congress like Senator Joe Manchin or Representative Jim Costa ought to ask: What’s the catch? …The real catch is that massive government spending has hidden costs that are difficult to capture in numbers alone. Take another look at Europe. Why does R&D spending in the European Union persistently lag that in the U.S. …Why does Europe’s tech start-up scene…so notably lag its competitors…? Perhaps…social safety nets typically come at the expense of risk-taking and economic dynamism. And why is France, which, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, spends more on social welfare than any other nation in the developed world, such an unhappy place, with chronically high unemployment, endless labor unrest, a decades-old brain drain, rising political extremism, a wealth tax that failed and a medical system that was on the brink of collapse long before Covid struck? …Beyond the gargantuan cost, Congress should think very hard about the real catch: transforming America into a kinder, gentler place of permanent decline.

Amen.

Biden’s agenda inevitably will erode societal capital, leading to less work (because of lavish freebies such as per-child handouts) and lower levels of entrepreneurship (because of tax penalties on investment and risk-taking).

And this can lead to a tipping point, which is illustrated by my Theorem of Societal Collapse.

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How should Nazism be classified, particularly when compared to socialism? Are these ideologies at opposite ends of a spectrum, or are they simply different sides of the same collectivist coin?

In my humble opinion, both views are correct, which is why I think this triangle is the best way to classify various ideologies.

Nazis are motivated by race hatred and the socialists are motivated by class hatred, so they basically are at opposite ends at the bottom of the triangle.

But both ideologies are against free markets and both put the state over the individual, so they are far away from libertarianism (or classical liberalism) when looking from top to bottom.

These different ways of looking at the issue explain why Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post created a controversy when he decided to “fact check” this statement from gadfly Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

According to Kessler, Greene deserved “four Pinocchios” for asserting that Hitler and the Nazis were socialists.

The full name of Hitler’s party was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. In English, that translates to National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But it was not a socialist party; it was a right-wing, ultranationalist party dedicated to racial purity, territorial expansion and anti-Semitism — and total political control. …the 1920 Nazi party platform…there are…passages denouncing banks, department stores and “interest slavery.” That could be seen as “a quasi-Marxist rejection of free markets. But these were also typical criticisms in the anti-Semitic playbook …Hitler adamantly rejected socialist ideas, dismantled or banned left-leaning parties and disapproved of trade unions. …We suggest Greene brush up on her history… She earns Four Pinocchios.

This is remarkable. The Nazis called themselves socialists, yet Kessler says Greene is lying for saying the same thing.

I’m not the only one to notice this bizarre example of media bias.

Professor Hannes Gissurarson from Iceland debunked Kessler’s hack analysis.

A ‘fact-checker’ at Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, asserts that a Republican Member of the House of Representatives is wrong in a recent comment on Hitler’s national socialism. It is not, as she had said, a branch of socialism. Kessler writes that the German Nazi Party, despite its name (the National-Socialist Workers’ Party), ‘was not a socialist party…’ In support of his case, Kessler quotes the first eight of the 25 points in the 1920 Nazi political programme… He lukewarmly concedes that in the Nazi programme there were also passages denouncing capitalism. But why does he not quote them as well? …It is hard not to discern the socialist overtones in these points. Why did the Washington Post fact-checker not quote them in full like the first eight? …according to Hayek national socialism could be considered to be the rebellious socialism of the lower middle class… Traditional socialists, democrats as well as communists, shared with Hitler’s national socialists the belief that conscious organisation had to replace the spontaneous order… Hayek is certainly right that there are strong family resemblances between traditional socialism and national socialism. Both are totalitarian creeds.

Professor David Henderson also eviscerated Kessler’s sloppy column.

Glenn Kessler, the Post‘s official fact checker, …analyzes various statements and claims to determine whether they are true. If he finds them false, he awards them Pinocchios, with the number of Pinocchios depending on the degree of falsehood. The highest number of Pinocchios he awards is 4. On May 29, Glenn Kessler earned his own Pinocchios. …Nazis…really were a socialist party. …Kessler attempts to buttress his case by listing the first 8 of 25 planks in the 1920 Nazi Party platform. Those planks do help his case that the Nazis were anti-Semitic (duh) and nationalists (ditto duh). But what about the other 17 planks? …pretty socialistic.

Here are some of those planks that Kessler conveniently omitted.

11. Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery. …

13. We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).

14. We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.

15. We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare. …

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.

Henderson also zings Kessler for using a misleading quote from Martin Niemoller.

By the way, the Nazis didn’t merely advocate for socialism in an early platform. They also implemented statist policies once they took power.

Back in 2007, Michael Moynihan wrote about the Nazi welfare state in a book review for Reason.

…the Nazis maintained popular support—a necessary precondition for the “final solution”—not because of terror or ideological affinity but through a simple system of “plunder,” “bribery,” and a generous welfare state. …Requisitioned Jewish property, resources stolen from the conquered, and punitive taxes levied on local businesses insulated citizens from shortages and allowed the regime to create a “racist-totalitarian welfare state.” …To understand Hitler’s popularity, …”it is necessary to focus on the socialist aspect of National Socialism.” …Adolf Eichmann viewed National Socialism and communism as “quasi-siblings,” explaining in his memoirs that he “inclined towards the left and emphasized socialist aspects every bit as much as nationalist ones.” As late as 1944, Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels publicly celebrated “our socialism,” reminding his war-weary subjects that Germany “alone [has] the best social welfare measures.” Contrast this, he advised, with the Jews, who were the very “incarnation of capitalism.” …Hitler implemented a variety of interventionist economic policies, including price and rent controls, exorbitant corporate taxes, frequent “polemics against landlords,” subsidies to German farmers…and harsh taxes on capital gains, which Hitler himself had denounced as “effortless income.”

The bottom line is that the Nazis are justifiably hated for reasons that have nothing to do with economic policy.

But it’s also true that their economic policy was a version of socialism (fascism involves government control rather than government ownership, but the result is the same).

Here are two videos from Prager University for those who want more information. First, we can learn about communism and Nazism.

Second, we can learn about the history of fascism.

Let’s wrap up by quoting George Will on the interrelated ideas of fascism, Nazism, and socialism.

Fascism…was a recoil against Enlightenment individualism: the idea that good societies allow reasoning, rights-bearing people to define for themselves the worthy life. …Mussolini, a fervent socialist until his politics mutated into a rival collectivism, distilled fascism to this: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” The Nazi Party — the National Socialist German Workers’ Party — effected a broad expansion of socialism’s agenda…

Last, but not least, here’s a reminder that we should be very wary of demagogues who promise goodies.

P.S. Kessler should have “fact checked” the last part of Rep. Greene’s statement. As much as I dislike “democratic socialism,” today’s Democrats are not trying to impose a totalitarian system.

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My approach during the Trump years was very simple.

Other people, however, muted their views on policy because of their partisan or personal feelings about Trump.

I was very disappointed, for instance, that some Republicans abandoned (or at least downplayed) their support for free trade to accommodate Trump’s illiteracy on that issue.

But those people look like pillars of stability and principle compared to the folks who decided to completely switch their views.

Max Boot, for instance, is a former adviser on foreign policy to Republicans such as John McCain and Marco Rubio, who has decided that being anti-Trump means he should now act like a cheerleader for high taxes and big government.

Here’s some of what he wrote in a column for today’s Washington Post.

Republicans accuse President Biden of pursuing a radical agenda that will turn the United States into a failed socialist state. …It’s true that Biden is proposing a considerable amount of new spending… But those investments won’t turn us into North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela or the Soviet Union — all countries with government ownership of industry. …with proposals such as federally subsidized child care, elder care, family leave and pre-K education — financed with modest tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals — Biden is merely moving us a bit closer to the kinds of government services that other wealthy, industrialized democracies already take for granted. …That’s far from radical. It’s simply sensible.

Part of the above excerpt makes sense. Biden is not proposing socialism, at least if we use the technical definition.

And he’s also correct that Biden isn’t trying to turn us into North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, or the Soviet Union.

But he does think it’s good that Biden wants to copy Europe’s high-tax welfare states.

…by most indexes we are an embarrassing international laggard. …the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as a percentage of gross domestic product than do other wealthy countries… The United States is also alone among OECD nations in not having universal paid family leave. …Our level of income inequality is now closer to that of developing countries in Africa and Latin American than to our European allies. …it’s possible to combine a vibrant free market with generous social welfare spending. In fact, that’s the right formula for a more satisfied and stable society. In the OECD quality-of-life rankings — which include everything from housing to work-life balance — the United States ranks an unimpressive 10th.

Mr. Boot seem to think that it’s bad news that the United States ranks 10th out of 37 nations in the OECD’s so-called Better Life Index.

I wonder if he understands, however, that this index has serious methodological flaws – such as countries getting better scores if they have bigger subsidies that encourage unemployment? Or countries getting better scores if they have high tax rates that discourage labor supply?

But the real problem is that Boot seems oblivious to most important data, which shows that Americans enjoy far more prosperity than Europeans.

And he could have learned that with a few more clicks on the OECD’s website. He could have found the data on average individual consumption and discovered the huge gap between U.S. prosperity and European mediocrity.

The obvious takeaway is that big government causes deadweight loss and hinders growth (as honest folks on the left have always acknowledged).

P.S. I can’t resist nit-picking four other points in Boot’s column.

  1. As show by this Chuck Asay cartoon, you don’t magically make government spending productive simply be calling it an “investment.”
  2. Like beauty, the interpretation of “modest” may be in the eye of the beholder, but it certainly seems like “massive” is a better description of Biden’s proposed tax hikes.
  3. It’s worth noting that Europe became a relatively prosperous part of the world before governments adopted punitive income taxes and created big welfare states.
  4. America’s excessive spending on health is caused by third-party payer, which is caused by excessive government intervention.

P.P.S. I’ve wondered whether the OECD (subsidized by American taxpayers!) deliberately used dodgy measures when compiling the Better Life Index in part because of a desire to make the U.S. look bad compared to the European welfare states that dominate the organization’s membership? That certainly seems to have been the case when the OECD put together a staggeringly dishonest measure of poverty that made the U.S. seem like it had more destitution than poor countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Turkey.

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Socialism may be a miserable failure, everywhere and anywhere it is tried, but at least it provides comic relief.

Such as this Remy video.

Speaking of miserable failure, we have an example of Crazy Bernie trying to teach economics.

Though that could also be a depiction of spending policy under Trump and Biden.

This next meme is for the head-in-the-sand types who want us to believe that “real socialism has never been tried.”

This next meme should be shared with all deluded young people.

My favorite item from today’s collection is this bit of satire about redistribution from Arthur Chrenkoff. But not tax-and-spend redistribution.

…generations of radicals, socialists and progressives inspired by his vision have fought for a better world animated by egalitarian values; a classless world without the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, where from each it is taken according to their ability and to each given according to their needs. …but in its pursuit the Marxists have seemingly overlooked and done nothing about the even more glaring inequalities between men and women and the hot and the not. Sure, the control of the means of production is important, but what about the means of reproduction? …Shall we tolerate this outrageous situation where some people monopolise the attention and attraction of the opposite sex (or the same sex – we, progressives, don’t judge) while the great majority fight for scraps? Surely, it is not just and it is not equitable that a small minority of those with an unearned privilege (the good looks) should lord it over the aesthetically poor masses. …I now call for the redistribution from the few to the many. …the distinctions between the attractive and those less so will be abolished forever. Everyone will have an equal access to attention and love and everyone will be expected to be attracted to everyone else, without distinctions and discrimination.

Very clever. And akin to this mockery of Elizabeth Warren class warfare.

But there’s a serious point to be made. As noted by Prof. Robin Hanson, there is a great deal of attractiveness inequality yet nobody seriously (at least so far!) is proposing government-coerced redistribution of sex.

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Two years ago, I explained that socialism is an economic failure, regardless of how it is defined.

In today’s follow-up column, let’s start with an excellent video from John Stossel.

Before addressing the three myths mentioned in the video, it’s worth noting that there’s a technical definition of socialism based on policies such as government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls, and a casual definition of socialism based on policies such as punitive tax rateswelfare state, and intervention.

I don’t like any of those policies, but they are not identical.

That’s why I came up with this flowchart to help illustrate the different strains of leftism (just as, on the other side of the spectrum, Trumpism is not the same as Reaganism is not the same as libertarianism).

Now that we’ve covered definitions, let’s dig into Stossel’s video. He makes three main points.

  1. Socialist policies don’t work any better if imposed by governments that are democratically elected. Simply stated, big government doesn’t magically have good consequences simply because a politician received 51 percent of the vote in an election.
  2. Scandinavian nations are not socialist. I’ve addressed this issue several times and noted that countries such as Sweden and Denmark have costly welfare states, but they are based on private property and rely on private markets to allocate resources.
  3. Socialism has a lot in common with fascism. Stossel could have pointed out that Hitler was the head of the National Socialist Workers Party, but he focused on the less inflammatory argument that socialism and fascism both rely on government control of the economy.

By the way, Stossel also narrated an earlier video on this same topic that addressed two other topics.

First, he countered the argument that we can’t learn anything from the failure of nations such as the Soviet Union and Cuba because they did not have not “real socialism.” My two cents on that topic is to challenge socialists (or anyone else on the left) to answer this question.

Second, he addressed the specific argument that Venezuela can’t teach us anything because its collapse has nothing to do with socialism. The New York Times may want people to think Venezuela’s failure is due to factors such as low oil prices, but the real reason is that economic liberty has been extinguished.

The bottom line is that socialism doesn’t work. Regardless of how it’s defined, it’s both immoral and a recipe for economic decline.

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The economic disintegration of Venezuela is a powerful example how socialism fails. Even in a nation with massive oil wealth.

This video from Reason tells the tragic story.

I think long-run data is especially valuable when assessing a nation’s economic performance.

And Venezuela definitely looks terrible when looking at decades of data on per-capita economic output.

Especially when compared to a pro-market nations such as Chile.

Not that we should be surprised. This is what we find anytime capitalist-oriented counties are compared with statism-oriented countries.

And there are many other case studies.

But let’s re-focus on the problems of Venezuela. In one of her Wall Street Journal columns, Mary Anastasia O’Grady analyzes the government-caused crisis. She starts by describing what happened.

Efforts to guarantee outcomes are at odds with what it means to live in a free society where equality under the law is the guiding principle. …Hugo Chávez…promised to make everyone in his country equally well-off. The concept sold in a nation that believed it was infinitely rich because it was swimming in oil. …stick it to the haves. When he did, they packed their bags and left. …it is the flight of the knowledge worker that has done the most harm to the nation. …The Bolivarian revolution’s earliest large-scale assault on know-how came during a lockout at the monopoly oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) in December 2002. …the regime used it to purge at least 18,000 PdVSA and related-company employees, gutting the industry of most of its experienced personnel. By replacing fired workers with political loyalists, Chávez believed he was protecting his golden goose. …In 2009 the regime expropriated Venezuelan companies that served the oil industry.

And she concludes by describing the consequences.

as long as oil prices were high, the costs of such recklessness was hidden. The party ended when prices tanked in 2014, government revenues dropped precipitously, and central bank money-printing led to a mega-devaluation of the bolivar. …another wave of oil engineers—this time led by a younger generation—went abroad to work. In the years that followed, more oil technicians threw in the towel on life in Venezuela. This vicious circle of declining revenue and human-capital flight has brought the once-mighty Venezuelan petroleum powerhouse to a standstill. 

In other words, exactly as depicted in the video at the start of this column.

No wonder Venezuelans are eating their pets.

Or joining gangs simply as a strategy to get food.

The bottom line is that socialism doesn’t work. Even in a country that has massive reserves of oil.

Sooner or later, the attempt to achieve coerced equality will mean that too many people are on the dole and too few people are producing. Which brings to mind Margaret Thatcher’s famous observation.

P.S. The New York Times actually wrote a big story about Venezuela’s collapse and somehow never mentioned socialism.

P.P.S. Here are four other videos about the impact of socialism in Venezuela.

P.P.P.S. The situation has become so dire that even some socialists are disavowing Venezuela.

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As I wrote last November, the one good thing about socialism is the endless opportunities it creates for satire.

Indeed, I have an entire collection of socialism humor (along with jabs at communism, its authoritarian cousin).

We’re adding to that page today and our first item involves some commentary on the taste preferences of bees and flies.

For what it’s worth, I think the meme should have targeted Bernie Sanders (a true believer) rather than Joe Biden (a run-of-the-mill careerist politician).

Speaking of Sanders, he and AOC have a starring role in this joke.

Sticking with that theme, the Babylon Bee satirically explains that our socialist friends are incapable of learning from real-world experience. And not just in the field of economics.

Local socialist man Brandon Paul was doing some gardening in his front yard this morning when he had a really good idea: to step on a rake. He’d previously stepped on 79 other rakes, each time resulting in the gardening implement smacking him in the face. But those times weren’t “real stepping on a rake,” he insisted. …Paul stepped on the rake, and sure enough, the handle came flying up and conked him on the face. …At publishing time, Paul had decided he would try democratic stepping on a rake, where his friends all vote on whether he steps on the rake, and then he steps on it and smacks his face.

Ouch, figuratively and literally.

Socialist nations are famous for empty shelves in supermarkets. As this next meme illustrates, they also have empty bookshelves.

Some of my left-leaning readers are probably saying, “Wait, what about Denmark?” And my response is, “Well, what about it?”

As per my tradition, I’ve saved my favorite example for the conclusion.

What makes this final meme both amusing and unfortunate is that it does capture the inherent problem in systems where the link between effort and reward is weakened or broken.

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I’ve written about how our friends on the left represent the rich, and pointed out how big parts of their agenda are designed to help people with above-average incomes.

Today, let’s have some fun with that issue.

Bernie Sanders has three houses, yet complains about the supposed excesses of capitalism. I wonder if he applies that analysis to his Mini-Me, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

But that $3,500-plus ensemble is chump change compared to what she wore for Vanity Fair‘s obsequious cover story.

Next, we have the irony of “AOC” augmenting her financial status by selling $58 “tax the rich” t-shirts.

By the way, just in case you think I’m making this up, here’s AOC’s tweet.

In other words, we have one rich person selling over-priced products to other rich people so they can virtue-signal about how awful it is that some people are rich.

The Babylon Bee has some satire on other products AOC could sell.

In an Instagram live video recorded in her posh D.C. apartment, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced today she is now selling Tax the Rich Caviar for just $10,000 a can. “Show everyone how bad the rich people are with this delicious caviar,” the website reads. “All our Tax the Rich caviar is responsibly sourced, with all proceeds going to help Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tax the rich.” …Many people are criticizing the products as tone-deaf and out of touch, but Ocasio-Cortez says she is making a list of these people for some future purpose.

Let’s close with Crazy Bernie, joined by fellow millionaires (and fellow hypocrites) Elizabeth Warren and Michael Moore.

I don’t know if they were actually discussing inequality when that photo was snapped, but all three of them definitely enjoy the blessings of capitalism while pushing policies that would prevent other people from becoming similarly wealthy

 

P.S. Let’s not forget about other left-wing millionaires, such as Joe Biden, John Kerry, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Governor of Illinois, all of whom want to atone for their wealth by raising taxes on the rest of us.

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I’ve written a couple of times about a disturbingly large share of young people support statist economic policies.

A good example can be seen in this polling data from the Pew Research Center (relevant data circled in red).

Christopher Ingraham wrote about this survey in the Washington Post.

According to the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of adults younger than 30 support the view that people whose personal fortunes exceed $1 billion “is a bad thing,” while 16 percent say billionaires are good for society. …These attitudes were likely sharpened by the Democratic presidential campaign, which at one point pitted a multibillionaire (Mike Bloomberg) against a socialist senator who says that billionaires shouldn’t exist (Bernie Sanders)…the Pew data…suggest that young Americans are concluding that billionaires have amassed their wealth “through their rigging of the tax code, through legal political bribery, through their tax avoidance in shelters like the Cayman Islands, and through lobbying for public policy that benefits them privately.” …“The billionaire class is ‘up there’ because they are standing on our backs pinning us down,” Giridharadas said. …Among respondents 50 and older, just 15 percent say billionaires are a bad thing.

This is depressing data, just like the views of America’s young people in the GIEM survey I wrote about recently.

Some of them don’t like capitalism and wealth even when they’re beneficiaries.

The New York Times has a report on “socialist-minded millennial heirs” who want to use the money they inherited to undermine free enterprise.

“The wealth millennials are inheriting came from a mammoth redistribution away from the working masses, creating a super-rich tiny minority at the expense of a fleeting American dream that is now out of reach to most people,” said Richard D. Wolff, a Marxist and an emeritus economics professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst…he has been professionally arguing against capitalism’s selling points since his teaching career began, in 1967, but that his millennial students “are more open to hearing that message than their parents ever were.” …an individual act of wealth redistribution does not, on its own, change a system. But these heirs see themselves as part of a bigger shift, and are dedicated to funding its momentum. …In short, this means using their money to support more equitable economic infrastructures. This includes investing in or donating to credit unions, worker-owned businesses, community land trusts, and nonprofits aiming to maximize quality of life through democratic decision making, instead of maximizing profits through competition.

Here are three examples from the story.

Sam Jacobs has been…trying to gain access to more of his $30 million trust fund. At 25, he…wants to give it all away. “I want to build a world where someone like me, a young person who controls tens of millions of dollars, is impossible,” he said. A socialist since college, Mr. Jacobs sees his family’s “extreme, plutocratic wealth” as both a moral and economic failure. He wants to put his inheritance toward ending capitalism.

Rachel Gelman, a 30-year-old in Oakland, Calif., who describes her politics as “anticapitalist, anti-imperialist and abolitionist.” …“My money is mostly stocks, which means it comes from underpaying and undervaluing working-class people, and that’s impossible to disconnect from the economic legacies of Indigenous genocide and slavery,” Ms. Gelman said.

Pierce Delahunt, a 32-year-old “socialist, anarchist, Marxist, communist or all of the above,” has a trust fund that was financed by their former stepfather’s outlet mall empire. (Mx. Delahunt takes nongendered pronouns.) “…I think about intersectional oppression,” Mx. Delahunt said. There’s the originally Indigenous land each mall was built on, plus the low wages paid to retail and food service workers, who are disproportionately people of color, and the carbon emissions of manufacturing and transporting the goods. With that on their mind, Mx. Delahunt gives away $10,000 a month, divided between 50 small organizations, most of which have an anticapitalist mission.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with giving away one’s inheritance.

Since I’ve (sadly) never inherited any money, I haven’t had any reason to ponder the issue, but one of my dreams would be to use a windfall of money to help finance school choice so poor kids could escape failing government schools.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t finance anti-capitalist groups, like the folks described above.

But I’m digressing. Let’s return to the issue of misguided young people.

In a column for Law & Liberty, Professor John McGinnis offers suggestions about how to rescue them from statism.

…young voters are America’s future, and even if a few years in the workforce brings some greater political wisdom, many people still stick with their youthful paradigms unless some political shock disrupts them. For those who would try to change the mind of this generation (and the following one), it is important to understand how our education, occupational licensing, and entitlement policies are driving them to socialist views which break sharply with America’s political traditions of liberty. …It is not surprising that this structure prompts some young people to demand that the government pony up money for them… More generally, why not vote for radicals in the hope of shaking up the system on the assumption that it can’t get worse for them than it is now? …The classical liberal alternative is clear: reduce the transfers from the young to the old and eliminate those unnecessary barriers to career entry that privilege incumbents.

Here are the reforms that Prof. McGinnis believes would make young people more favorable to liberty.

Reform of the universities thus must be a priority. But it is very difficult. …they are getting worse by the decade if not by the year. Alternative institutions are probably the only answer. …Online education will allow for new challengers to rise, ones who are not as likely to be wedded to political correctness as the incumbents.

…our entitlement structure is currently designed to take from the younger generation and give to the elderly. Social security is a pay-as-you-go system. And given that social security is not actuarially sound, most of the current elderly will get more than they pay in. It is the payment of the young that makes up the difference. Medicare too is a government program from which the elderly benefit at the expense of the young.

The costs of occupational licensing also fall disproportionately on the young. Of course, that burden occurs in part because their elders already have their licenses. But more importantly, the barriers to entering many occupations have grown more expensive over the years.

Since I’ve written about the failures of higher education, the need for entitlement reform, and the downsides of licensing, I obviously have no reason to disagree with any of his suggestions.

But there’s something else that’s needed, especially when you contemplate the Pew data cited at the start of today’s column.

Supporters of free enterprise need to go after cronyism. And not just because the economy will perform better, but also because it’s morally offensive for people to line their pockets thanks to government coercion.

Indeed, half of the main message to young people (and everyone else) should be that honestly earned wealth is great, because that means (as Walter Williams sagely observed) someone accumulated lots of money by serving the needs of others.

And the other half of the main message is that it’s bad to have rich people who obtain loot with subsidies, handouts, protectionism, and other forms of cronyism.

P.S. Before giving up and wondering if young people are simply too stupid to vote, watch this video showing that young people reject socialism when they understand the implications.

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Whether we’re looking at the technical definition of socialism (government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls) or the casual definition of socialism (punitive tax rates, welfare state, intervention), the ideology has a track record of failure.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it is easy to mock socialism.

And that’s the focus of today’s column.

We’re going to start with a cartoon strip that exposes the silly notion that government can give us “free” goodies.

Next we have Crazy Bernie telling us that “democratic socialism” is much better than Marx’s original version (he’s actually correct, but this image is still funny).

Our third item compares socialism in theory and socialism in reality.

We’ll close with my favorite item, though it applies to millennials as well as teenagers. Heck it applies to almost everyone who thinks there is some magic source of money for endless government-provided goodies.

Some of you may ask why I didn’t write “everyone” rather than “almost everyone”?

I included a qualifier because I think many leftists are guilty of well-meaning naivete. Basically they think like Chris Hayes of MSNBC, who infamously tweeted that we can afford bigger government because, “We’re a very rich country. We’ll figure it out.”

But some folks on the left actually do understand Thatcher was right, but they still push endless redistribution because they care more about short-run political power rather than the long-run interests of the nation.

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Given my complete and utter disdain for socialism, I’m obviously a big fan of this discussion between Rand Paul and John Stossel.

In the video, Paul and Stossel draw a distinction between market-friendly welfare states in Scandinavia and genuinely socialist nations such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and modern-day Venezuela.

That’s because, from a technical perspective, the defining feature of socialism is government ownership and control of the “means of production” and government-directed allocation of resources. In the most extreme cases, you even get policies such as state-run factories and collective farms.

Usually accompanied by central planning and price controls.

On this basis, Scandinavian nations are not socialist. Yes, they make the mistake of high tax burdens accompanied by lots of redistribution, but there’s very little government ownership and control. Markets drive the allocation of labor and capital, not politicians and bureaucrats.

And it’s also fair to say (assuming we rely on the technical definition) that politicians such as Obama and Biden aren’t socialist.

But what if don’t use the technical definition?

YouGov did a survey late last year to ascertain what ordinary Americans think. Here is their view of the policies that are (or are not) socialist. As you can see, the most-socialist policy is government-run utility companies and the least-socialist policy is separation of church and state.

I’m fascinated to see that so many Americans view government-run schools as socialist, much more so than a wealth tax or income tax.

It’s also interesting that Republicans and Democrats have somewhat similar opinions, other than on the topic of gun control.

But my main takeaway is that ordinary people aren’t that different than economists. They think – quite correctly – that socialism means control rather than redistribution.

But they had a better understanding after World War II, as noted by James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute.

When someone calls themself a “socialist” or says they think “socialism” has a lot of good ideas, what do they mean? …Back in 2018, Gallup updated a question it first asked in 1949: “What is your understanding of the term ‘socialism’?” …23 percent of Americans today understand socialism as referring to some form of equality vs. 12 percent in 1949; 10 percent think the means something about the public provision of benefits like free healthcare vs. 2 percent in 1949; and 17 percent define socialism as government control of business and the economy vs. 34 percent in 1949. …this idea of “control” is an interesting one. …The danger this view holds for human freedom and progress is obvious to us today — or should be… Skepticism of applied socialism — or any socioeconomic system without political freedom at its core — stemmed from harsh experience, not learned ideology. For many people, “socialism” meant “control,” with that control inevitably leading to terrible outcomes. One should hope these lessons do not need to be relearned.

Even some folks on the left draw a distinction between market-accepting left-wing policies (redistributionism) and market-disdaining control-oriented policies (socialism).

A few years ago, Jonathan Chait made those points in an article for New York.

…in the United States, liberalism faces greater pressure from the left than at any time since the 1960s, when a domestic liberal presidency was destroyed by the VietnamWar. While socialism remains highly unpopular among the public as a whole, Americans under the age of 30 — who have few or no memories of communism — respond to it favorably. …Meanwhile, Jacobin magazine has given long-marginalized Marxist ideas new force among progressive intellectuals. …Sanders’s success does not reflect any Marxist tendency. It does, however, reflect a…generational weakening of the Democratic Party’s identification with liberalism over socialism. …Years ago, he supported the Socialist Workers Party, a Marxist group that favored the nationalization of industry. Today he…holds up Denmark as the closest thing to a real-world model for his ideas. But, while “socialism” has meant different things throughout history, Denmark is not really a socialist economy. …it combines generous welfare benefits…with highly flexible labor markets — an amped-up version of what left-wing critics derisively call “neoliberalism.” While Denmark’s success suggests that a modern economy can afford to fund more generous social benefits, it does not reveal an alternative to the marketsystem.

David Brooks of the New York Times started out as a socialist, but he figured out that government-controlled economies simply don’t work.

I was a socialist in college. …My socialist sympathies didn’t survive long once I became a journalist. I quickly noticed that the government officials I was covering were not capable of planning the society they hoped to create. It wasn’t because they were bad or stupid. The world is just too complicated. …Socialist planned economies — the common ownership of the means of production — interfere with price and other market signals in a million ways. They suppress or eliminate profit motives that drive people to learn and improve. …Capitalism creates a relentless learning system. Socialism doesn’t. …living standards were pretty much flat for all of human history until capitalism kicked in. Since then, the number of goods and services available to average people has risen by up to 10,000 percent. …capitalism has brought about the greatest reduction of poverty in human history. …places that instituted market reforms, like South Korea and Deng Xiaoping’s China, tended to get richer and prouder. Places that moved toward socialism — Britain in the 1970s, Venezuela more recently — tended to get poorer and more miserable. …Over the past century, planned economies have produced an enormous amount of poverty and scarcity. …Socialism produces economic and political inequality as the rulers turn into gangsters. A system that begins in high idealism ends in corruption, dishonesty, oppression and distrust.

And, from the Wall Street Journal, here are George Melloan’s first-hand observations on the track record of socialism.

All economic systems are capitalist. A modern economy can’t exist without the accumulation of capital to build factories and infrastructure. The difference lies in who owns the capital—individuals or the state. …Having first visited the mother of socialism, the Soviet Union, in April 1967, I can extract a few historical nuggets… The Soviet state owned everything. State enterprises compensated their workers with rubles. …And those rubles bought very little, because the command economy produced very little (except weapons), and most of what it produced was shoddy. …stores were short on goods. …Rents were cheap, if you didn’t mind squalor. …Prices and production quotas were set by a huge Soviet planning bureaucracy called Gosplan, staffed by thousands of “economists.” Free-market pricing efficiently allocates resources. Price controls created waste as factories produced a lot of what nobody wanted. …Britain, where I was living at the time, was conducting a socialist experiment… After World War II, the Labour Party of Prime Minister Clement Attlee had nationalized coal, steel, electricity and transportation, with damaging and wasteful consequences. …I interviewed a steelworker in Sheffield who lived with his wife and two children in a “back to back” house with only a single door, at the front. …He didn’t own a car and had few other conveniences. A worker for U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh would have been appalled at such conditions.

Based on the above excerpts, which come from the right, left, and center, it would seem that capitalism has prevailed over socialism.

I like to think that’s true, but I do wonder whether there’s a point when redistributionism gets so extensive (and the accompanying taxes become so onerous) that it morphs into control. In other words, socialism.

And I also worry that there are indirect ways for government to control the allocation of resources.

In a column for the Washington Post, George Will wisely frets about backdoor socialism from the Federal Reserve.

…the Federal Reserve has, Eberstadt says, “crossed a Rubicon.” Wading waist-deep into political policies, the Fed is adopting, Eberstadt says, “the role of managing and even micromanaging the American economy through credit allocation, potentially lending vast sums not only to financial institutions but also directly to firms it judges suitable for government support. …It is by no means inconceivable that the current crisis will propel it to a comparably dominant position in domestic commercial credit.” If socialism is government allocation of economic resources (and hence of opportunity), …in the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve launched “creditor bailouts, propping up asset prices to keep investors from losing money, buying unprecedented assets.” The risk of moral hazard — incentives for reckless behavior — is obvious. …Central banks buying trillions of assets are thereby “allocating credit.” Which is the essence of socialism. The Fed buying government and corporate debt creates something difficult to unwind — what Cochrane calls “an entirely government-run financial system”: an attribute of socialism. …Near-zero interest rates…create, Eberstadt says, “zombie companies” that “can only survive in a low-interest [rate] environment.” The result is rent-seeking and economic sclerosis, because “America cannot succeed unless a lot of its firms fail — including its largest ones. Bankruptcy and reallocation of resources to more productive ends are the mother’s milk of dynamic growth.” The pandemic has propelled government toward promiscuously picking economic winners and losers. As has been said, governments are not good at picking winners, but losers are good at picking governments.

Let’s close by returning to the YouGov survey.

Here’s a look at the nations that the American people think are (or are not) socialist. Their top choices are correct, but they’re wildly wrong to have the Nordic nations ranked as more socialist than France, Spain, or Italy.

It’s also bizarre to rank New Zealand below the United States when the Kiwis routinely score higher than the United States in the major measures of economic liberty.

I’m equally baffled that people Mexico and India have more economic liberty than Canada.

The moral of the story is that the countries with the biggest welfare states are not necessarily the nations with the most government control over the allocation of labor and capital.

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Like beauty, socialism is in the eye of the beholder.

In either case, though, you get ugly results. You’ll wind up somewhere between Venezuela and Greece.

But we’re not going to add to the already voluminous research on the failures of socialism in today’s column. Instead, we’re going to laugh at this evil ideology.

For starters, I shared a satirical video in 2018 that showed the nations where socialism doesn’t work. This Amy Coney Barrett meme takes the reverse approach. It lists the examples of where socialism is successful.

Next, we have some mockery of some protesters who mistakenly think big government is how you save the planet.

Last but not least, here’s some helpful advice for vapid millennials.

To be fair, you can see someone who became rich from socialism if you scroll to the bottom of this column.

P.S. You can enjoy the entire collection of socialism and communism humor by clicking here.

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Every so often, I’ll grouse about media sloppiness/media bias, most often from the Washington Post or New York Times, but also from other outlets (Reuters, Time, ABC, the Associated Press, etc).

Let’s add to the collection today by perusing an interesting – but frustrating – article in the New York Times about Venezuela’s near-decimated oil industry.

Authored by Sheyla Urdaneta, Anatoly Kurmanaev and , it provides a thorough description of how the energy sector in oil-rich Venezuela has collapsed.

For the first time in a century, there are no rigs searching for oil in Venezuela. Wells that once tapped the world’s largest crude reserves are abandoned… Refineries that once processed oil for export are rusting hulks… Fuel shortages have brought the country to a standstill. At gas stations, lines go on for miles. …The country that a decade ago was the largest producer in Latin America, earning about $90 billion a year from oil exports, is expected to net about $2.3 billion by this year’s end… More than five million Venezuelans, or one in six residents, have fled the country since 2015, creating one of the world’s greatest refugee crises, according to the United Nations. The country now has the highest poverty rate in Latin America, overtaking Haiti.

But here’s what shocked me. The article never once mentions socialism. Or statism. Or leftist economic policy.

Instead, there is one allusion to “mismanagement” and one sentence that refers to government policy.

…years of gross mismanagement… Hugo Chávez, appeared on the national stage in the 1990s promising a revolution that would put Venezuela’s oil to work for its poor majority, he captivated the nation. …Mr. Chávez commandeered the country’s respected state oil company for his radical development program. He fired nearly 20,000 oil professionals, nationalized foreign-owned oil assets and allowed allies to plunder the oil revenues.

Almost 1800 words in the article, yet virtually no discussion of how maybe, just maybe, Venezuela’s hard shift to the left (as illustrated by the chart, economic freedom has steadily declined this century) may have contributed to the collapse of the country’s major industry.

This is journalistic malpractice. Sort of like writing about 2020 and not mentioning coronavirus or writing about 1944 and not mentioning World War II.

For those of you who do care about facts, it’s worth knowing that Venezuela has the world’s lowest level of economic liberty according to Economic Freedom of the World and second-to-lowest level of economic liberty according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

In a column for USA Today, Daniel di Martino writes about the awful consequences of his nation’s drift to socialism.

All my life, I lived under socialism in Venezuela until I left and came to the United States as a student in 2016. Because the regime in charge imposed price controls and nationalized the most important private industries, production plummeted. No wonder I had to wait hours in lines to buy simple products such as toothpaste or flour. …My family and I suffered from blackouts and lack of water. The regime nationalized electricity in 2007 in an effort to make electricity “free.” Unsurprisingly, this resulted in underinvestment in the electrical grid. By 2016, my home lost power roughly once a week. …The real reason my family went without water and electricity was the socialist economy instituted by dictators Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. The welfare programs, many minimum-wage hikes and nationalizations implemented by their regimes resulted in a colossal government deficit that the central bank covered by simply printing more money — leading to rampant inflation. …I watched what was once one of the richest countries in Latin America gradually fall apart under the weight of big government.

And he issues a warning about what could happen to the United States.

…neither Medicare for All nor a wealth tax alone would turn the United States into Venezuela overnight. No single radical proposal would do that. However, if all or most of these measures are implemented, they could have the same catastrophic consequences for the American people that they had for Venezuela.

The good news, so to speak, is that it would take many decades of bad policy to turn the U.S. into an economic basket case. There’s even a somewhat famous quote from Adam Smith (“there is a great deal of ruin in a nation“) about the ability of a country to survive and withstand lots of bad public policy.

But that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea to see how quickly the U.S. could become Venezuela. As I pointed out when writing about Argentina, it’s possible for a rich country to tax, spend, and regulate itself into economic crisis.

P.S. If you like gallows humor, you can find Venezuela-themed jokes here, here, here, here, here, and here.

P.P.S. I speculated about the looming collapse of Venezuela in both 2018 and 2019. Sadly, it looks like the regime will last at least until 2021.

 

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Back in 2017, I shared this video explaining why capitalism is unquestionably the best way to help poor people.

I’m recycling the video today because it’s a great introduction for a discussion about how best to help poor people.

As part of my Eighth Theorem of Government, I made the point that it’s wrong to fixate on inequality. Instead, the goal should be poverty reduction.

And the best way to help the poor, as I noted when criticizing Pope Francis’ support for statism in a BBC interview, is free markets and limited government.

Now we have additional evidence for this approach thanks to a new study from the Hoover Institution.

Authored by Ed Lazear, former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, it uses hard data from Economic Freedom of the World and the Index of Economic Freedom to see how poor people do in capitalist nations compared to socialist nations.

If you’re pressed for time, here are the key passages from the introduction.

This study analyzes income data from 162 countries over multiple decades, coupled with measures of economic freedom, size of government, and transfers to determine how various parts of society fare under capitalism and socialism. The main conclusion is that the poor, defined as having income in the lowest 10 percent of a country’s income distribution, do significantly better in economies with free markets, competition, and low state ownership. More impressive is that moving from a heavy emphasis on government to a free market enhances the income of the poor substantially. …Changing freedom from the Mexico level to the Singapore level is predicted to raise the income of the poor by about 40 percent. All income groups benefit from the change, but the change typically helps the poor more than other income groups.

For those interested, let’s now dig into the details.

The study specifically looks at the degree to which state ownership (i.e., textbook socialism) has an impact on income.

As one might suspect, more state ownership means lower income.

A number of measures of free-market capitalism and socialism have been suggested. The analysis starts by examining the metric that most closely matches the dictionary definition of socialism, namely, the amount of state ownership of capital… The basic approach in this section is to examine the relation of income of three groups to state ownership. …All coefficients on the state ownership index are positive, strong, and statistically significant. For example, using the coefficient in column 4, a one standard deviation increase in private ownership increases median income by about 19 percent of the mean value of the log of median income. Also interesting is that the lowest income groups benefit as much or more from private ownership as the highest income groups. …The cross-country correlation between private ownership and income ten years in the future is positive and strong. It is also true that median income seems to rise over time within a country as the country moves toward more private ownership and less state ownership.

The study highlights several interesting examples.

For instance, it shows that poor people immensely benefited from China’s partial shift to capitalism, even though inequality increased (something I pointed out a few years ago).

Here’s the data on Chile, which shows both rich and poor benefited from that nation’s shift to capitalism.

By the way, I have several columns (here, here, here, and here) documenting how poor people have been the big winners from Chile’s pro-market reforms.

Next we have the example of South Korea.

That data is especially powerful, by the way, when you compare South Korea and North Korea.

Last (and, in this case, least), we have the data from the unfortunate nation of Venezuela.

Chavez’s family personally gained from socialism, but this chart shows how the rest of the nation has stagnated.

So what’s the bottom line?

Lazear summarizes his results.

…there is no evidence that, as a general matter, high-income groups benefit more from a move toward capitalism than low-income groups. The effect of changing state ownership and economic freedom on income is not larger for the rich than for the poor. Second, income growth is positively correlated across deciles. The situation is closer to a rising tide lifting all boats than to the fat man becoming fat by making the thin man thin. Finally, there is no consistent evidence across the large number of countries and time periods examined of any strong and widespread link between income growth and inequality. There are examples, like China, where income growth was coupled with large increases in inequality, but others like Chile, where strong income growth came about without much change in inequality, and South Korea, where inequality declined slightly as economic freedom and income grew over time.

Amen. This analysis underscores my oft-made argument that inequality is irrelevant and that policy makers instead should have a laser-like focus on economic growth.

Assuming, of course, that they want poor people to climb the economic ladder to prosperity.

P.S. The Lazear study points out that Scandinavian nations are definitely not socialist based on measures of state ownership.

Some might define socialist economies as merely being those that have high levels of redistribution, meaning high taxes and transfers. …It is certainly true that the Scandinavian countries have higher taxes and transfers than non-Scandinavian countries… Scandinavian countries all have low state ownership index values…and high values of the economic freedom index. The values for Scandinavia look much more like those for the United States than they do for pre-1985 China or post-2000 Venezuela. …Perhaps a more accurate description of Scandinavia is that the countries rely primarily on private ownership and markets but have chosen to have a large government transfer program, which implies not only high transfers but also high taxes.

I’ll simply add that the high transfers and high taxes have negative consequences for Scandinavian nations, but those countries at least have very pro-market policies in other areas to compensate for the damage caused by bad fiscal policy.

P.P.S. For my friends on the left who may suspect that Lazear cherry-picked his examples. I’ll simply challenge them to show a contrary example.

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Part I of this series featured Dan Hannan explaining how the emergence of capitalism led to mass prosperity, while Part II featured Madeline Grant explaining how competition and cooperation make markets so successful.

Today, in Part III, Andy Puzder compares capitalism with socialism.

The core theoretical argument in the video is that capitalism is based on serving the needs of consumers.

As captured by one of my favorite quotes from Professor Walter Williams, you only make yourself better off in a free market system by serving others.

In a socialist system, by contrast, the only people who get rich are the government elites who plunder the people.

I also like that the video explains that Nordic nations are not socialist. As I’ve also pointed out, there’s no government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls in nations such as Sweden and Denmark.

Those countries do have higher tax burdens and more costly welfare states, which is the main reason they generally rank below the United States in measures of national economic liberty.

More important, the larger fiscal burden in Scandinavia help to explain why Americans enjoy higher living standards.

Indeed, my one complaint about the above video is that it didn’t show any of the data about relative levels of prosperity.

Yes, I want people to understand that Nordic nations have market-based economies, but I also want them to understand that those countries could be significantly more prosperous with less-onerous fiscal policy.

The most powerful data in that regards comes from a Swedish researcher who put together data showing that Americans of Scandinavian descent are much richer than their counterparts who are still in Scandinavia.

So the moral of the story is not only that capitalism is better than socialism, but also that capitalist nations with medium-sized governments do better than capitalist nations with large-sized governments.

P.S. Needless to say, capitalist jurisdictions with small-sized government do best of all.

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When I write about socialism, I often point out that there’s a difference between how economists define it (government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls) and how normal people define it (lots of taxes, redistribution, and intervention).

These definitions are blurry, of course, which is why I created a “socialism slide” to show how countries oftentimes are an odd mix of markets and government.

But one thing that isn’t blurry is the evidence on what works. Simply stated, there is less prosperity in nations with big government compared to nations with small government.

And it doesn’t matter whether socialism is the result of democracy or tyranny.

Kristian Niemietz is with the Institute of Economic Affairs in London. He explained for CapX that mixing democracy with socialism doesn’t fix anything.

Mention the economic failures of the former Eastern Bloc countries, or Maoist China, or North Vietnam, or today, of Cuba or Venezuela or North Korea, and the answer will invariably be: “But that was a dictatorship! That’s got nothing to do with me, I’m a democratic socialist!” …“[S]ocialism means ‘economic democracy’… But the…economic failures of socialism never had anything to do with a lack of democracy. Democratisation improves many things, and is desirable for many reasons. But it does not, in and of itself, make countries richer. …The empirical literature on this subject finds no relationship either way between economic development, and the system of government. …If socialists want to make the case that democracy was the magic missing ingredient… How exactly would democracy have closed the economic gap between East and West Germany, or North and South Korea, or Cuba and Puerto Rico, or Maoist China and Taiwan, or the People’s Republic of Angola and Botswana, or Venezuela and Chile?

Meanwhile, Kevin Williamson pointed out in National Review that post-war socialism in the United Kingdom failed for the same reason that socialism fails anywhere and everywhere it is tried.

History counsels us to consider the first adjective in “democratic socialist” with some skepticism. …the socialism that reduced the United Kingdom from world power to intermittently pre-industrial backwater in the post-war era was thoroughly democratic. …In the United States, we use the word “democratic” as though it were a synonym for “decent” or “accountable,” but 51 percent of the people can wreck a country just as easily and as thoroughly as 10 percent of them. …The problems of socialism are problems of socialism — problems related to the absence of markets, innovation, and free enterprise… Socialism and authoritarianism often go hand in hand (almost always, in fact), but socialism on its own, even when it is the result of democratic elections and genuinely democratic processes, is a bottomless well of misery. …rights — property rights and the right to trade prominent among them — also find themselves on the wrong side of majorities, constantly and predictably. But they are…necessary for a thriving and prosperous society. Socialism destroys societies by gutting or diminishing those rights. Doing so with the blessing of 50 percent plus one of the population does not make that any less immoral or any less corrosive.

Thankfully, Margaret Thatcher saved the United Kingdom from socialism.

But other nations haven’t been so lucky. Democratically elected governments adopted socialism in Greece and Argentina, but neither country found a savior to restore economic liberty (or maybe voters didn’t want to reverse the failed policies).

What about the United States? Will we vote ourselves into socialism?

Given the wretched track records of Wilson, Hoover, FDR, Nixon, Obama, etc, I’m tempted to say that we’ve been doing that for more than 100 years.

But I don’t want to be unduly pessimistic. America hasn’t slid too far down the socialism slide. Indeed, we’re actually ranked #6 in the world for economic liberty.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are lots of proposals for additional bad policy and plenty of politicians clamoring to move in the wrong direction.

To see what that might mean, I’ll close with some polling data that the Washington Examiner shared earlier this year. Here are things that might happen if socialists (however defined) get power in the United States.

And here are things that the American people say would qualify as socialism.

Ugh, that’s a recipe for the Venezuela-fication of the U.S. economy.

P.S. For what it’s worth, notwithstanding his statist platform, I think Joe Biden only intends to incrementally go down the slide (whereas Bernie Sanders would have greased the slide for a rapid descent).

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Not all bad city governments are alike. In places like Chicago, local politicians generally impose bad policy because they’re buying votes (especially the votes of bureaucrats), not because they’re motivated by ideology.

But as you can see from this video, some Seattle politicians are genuinely crazy.

And those crazy local lawmakers are very serious about their class-warfare tax agenda.

The Wall Street Journal recently opined on the proposed tax hike in Seattle.

Seattle’s…City Council has decided this is the perfect moment to slap businesses with a large new tax on employment. …Recall that in 2018 Seattle passed a $47 million annual “head tax,” only to repeal it after a furious public realized it penalized job creation. No matter, the socialists who dominate the City Council passed a new iteration this week that’s more than four times bigger and punishes employers for paying good wages. Beginning next year, some 800 businesses with a payroll over $7 million will pay a tax of between 0.7% and 2.4% on all salaries over $150,000. …Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda says the tax will create a “more robust and resilient economy,” but how taxing job creation accomplishes that is a mystery. The tax will stifle economic upward mobility, since employers will have an incentive not to raise pay above $150,000. …the new tax has veto-proof support on the City Council, which passed it 7-2.

What’s especially absurd, as explained by Brad Polumbo in a column for the Foundation for Economic Education, is that Seattle’s politicians want to exempt government bureaucrats from the tax.

…the tax could seriously hurt the economy… “As the region enters a deep recession and faces near-record job losses, the city council will be sending tax bills to companies across multiple sectors that have their doors closed and have been forced to layoff employees,” the business organization Downtown Seattle Association said… in an infuriating but sadly typical twist, the Seattle City Council exempted all government employees from their new tax. That’s right: The supposedly benevolent socialist city officials who thrust this upon their constituents made sure to carve out a giant exception for their peers on the taxpayer dime. …the city council’s new tax is…imposed on working people by politicians who made sure to spare the government class from sharing any of the burden.

By the way, this is a repeat fight.

Seattle lawmakers tried to impose a similar tax back in 2018 but were thwarted by opposition from private-sector workers and businesses (it’s also unclear whether such a tax would survive a legal challenge since the state’s constitution bars taxes on income).

If the tax ultimately is approved and implemented, it’s easy to predict the consequences. Businesses and workers will migrate to surrounding communities without the tax.

Not all of them, of course, but enough to make a difference. And that difference will get bigger with the passage of time.

What Ms. Mosqueda and Ms. Sawant don’t understand is that this cartoon only partially explain why socialism doesn’t work.

To be fully accurate, it also needs a door called “Escape” for the geese that fly away with their golden eggs.

I realize this is a perverse thought, but part of me wants this tax hike to be implemented just so we’ll have some powerful new evidence about why statism is a bad idea.

P.S. The proposed tax hike is just one reason why investors, entrepreneurs and business owners should be leery about creating jobs in Seattle. There’s also the big increase in the minimum wage and the recent (failed) experiment in autonomous socialism.

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As a libertarian who focuses on public finance, the 21st century hasn’t been fun.

  • Bush made government bigger.
  • Obama made government bigger.
  • Trump is making government bigger.
  • And I fully expect that Biden will make government bigger.

To be sure, we still have a long way to go on the “socialism slide” before the United States becomes Greece, or some other nation that might be considered socialist (however defined).

That being said, I don’t like the current trend. Which is why, in addition to my serious columns about the failure of socialism, I also like mocking that evil ideology.

Here are three new additions to the satire collection.

Our first example is partly based on the “not-real-socialism” excuse.

Next we have some satire about the left doesn’t learn any lessons from grocery stores in capitalist societies (to be fair, an American supermarket did change at least one mind).

As usual, I’ve saved my favorite item for last.

Venezuela is a tragic case study of what happens when economic liberty is smothered, But at least we get some clever humor.

I am surprised, for what it’s worth, that I haven’t seen more Venezuela-themed humor (here’s my only other example).

And I’ll close with the serious observation that I’m genuinely mystified that so many (especially young people) are attracted to an ideology with a wretched track record. Makes me genuinely worried that statism is on the winning side of history.

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I periodically share tweets that have some sort of remarkable feature, either good or bad.

Clever counter-tweets are especially appreciated. I even started giving recognition to the most brutally effective response each year.

But I may have been too quick to assign a winner for this year.

That’s because a Twitter account called @architecturpic published this tweet yesterday.

While it’s accurate to point out that highway exits don’t produce scenic architecture, is this an indictment of capitalism?

Not if you compare it to the slums of socialism, which is the message in this devastating response from @BrentCochran1.

Ouch. As the announcers might say at a tennis tournament, “game, set, and match for Brent Cochran.”

Suffice to say that there will have to be co-winners for the best counter-tweet of 2020.

By the way, it’s normally quite easy to find both nice and ugly architecture in any nation.

So to add a bit of hard data to today’s column, I’ll simply note that the average poor American has more spacious housing than the average middle-class person in Europe.

That doesn’t mean the housing will be architecturally significant, but it does indicate that people are better off in countries with smaller government and more economic liberty (indeed, it’s also worth noting that the average poor American enjoys higher overall living standards than middle-class folks in most other industrialized nations).

Which is why any tweet comparing socialism and capitalism has a foregone conclusion.

P.S. At some point, I’ll probably set up a special page for “Remarkable Tweets.” But since that hasn’t yet happened, here are the other tweets that I found to be noteworthy.

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Like most libertarians, I support decentralization and federalism. Under the right circumstances, I’m even sympathetic to the idea of secession (hooray for Brexit!).

This is why I have no problem with a community based on voluntary socialism. History tells us that approach doesn’t work (largely for the reasons captured in this cartoon), but people should be free to try over and over again.

Which brings us to “CHAZ.”

For those who haven’t been following the news, protestors in Seattle (motivated in part by legitimate concerns about police misbehavior) have seized control of a neighborhood and declared it to be the “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone.”

Some people see CHAZ as an example of self-government based on a strange mix of libertarian impulses (pro-gun, for example) and leftist impulses (anti-cop, for example).

The Washington Post has a rather sympathetic report about the group, written by Gregory Scruggs.

For the past several days, Ochoa, 28, has been serving as an unarmed volunteer “sentinel,” or guard, in the protest zone. Ochoa, a self-described leftist libertarian recently furloughed from the Seattle International Film Festival, and other volunteers have been serving four-hour shifts to help to keep the peace. …Core to the zone is a vision of a self-governed community with no formal policing. Instead, volunteers, many of them avowed police abolitionists, have begun to organize their own safety force. …Volunteers say this work is a way to highlight what a city without police might look like. “We have a chance to really build something here, so I have a vested interest in defending that as a part of my community,” said Ochoa, who lives in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. …Markinson describes himself as an anti-fascist, anti-racist community defense advocate. He is a gun owner… Markinson views Seattle’s ongoing experiment as part of a lineage of anarchist neighborhoods… a sentinel who gave his name as James Madison stood at the southern barricade with an AR-15 draped over his chest, as he has done on other nights. …“There are a few of us who are armed.” …a hand-painted sign approaching the barricades offers watchwords: “In a world without cops we must never again become the cops ourselves.”

If nothing else, CHAZ is anti-authority, at least if traditional city government is the definition of authority.

But is it a viable system?

Robert Tracinski, in an article for the Bulwark, discusses potential problems.

…the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, endearingly nicknamed CHAZ…is the product of anti-police protests in Seattle that led the mayor to order the abandonment of one of the city’s downtown police precincts, ceding a six-block area of Seattle’s downtown to the protesters, who have turned it into a kind of anarcho-socialist utopia, with free food, free music, no cops, and lots of peace and love, man. …CHAZ certainly set a record for socialist utopias when it comes to running out of food. Within the first day, they were already sending out the alarm: “The homeless people we invited took away all the food at the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. We need more food to keep the area operational…” I’ve checked to see whether this is parody, and as far as I can tell, it’s not. …Another area where they are well ahead of schedule for a socialist utopia is in putting up walls and establishing checkpoints with internal passports. …This leads us to the big question about the “autonomous zone”: Whose “autonomy” is it? Certainly, it’s not the autonomy of the people who actually live there, who did not invite the protesters and never had the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to reject the protection of the Seattle PD and establish new protectors. …With leadership seemingly up for grabs, CHAZ is the scene of sporadic petty scuffles, which activists are asking people not to film because it might make them look bad. Yes, well, I’m sure the Minneapolis PD felt the same way. …My favorite description of CHAZ is from a Seattle Times article which says it has “mostly been peaceful.” That’s a favorite bit of journalistic spin. “Mostly peaceful” is how you describe something that’s violent when you don’t want the reader to draw that conclusion.

Tracinski certainly is correct that existing property owners haven’t consented to the new system.

And he’s probably correct in that the new form of authority in CHAZ may be even more arbitrary and unfair than the old system (time will tell).

But he only scratches the surface of the issue that is of greatest interest to me, which is whether CHAZ has a viable economic system.

Ideally, local businesses will be free to operate and to transact with the outside world. And if there are no taxes and nobody to enforce red tape, we might almost see an example of anarcho-capitalism.

For what it’s worth, I’m guessing Seattle bureaucrats intend to retroactively collect taxes and take other steps to make sure there is no long-run reduction in the burden of government for CHAZians.

What about in the short run? In a column for Spectator USA, Ben Sixsmith suggests that authorities should adopt a hands-off attitude and let CHAZ sink or swim.

A group of anarchists and leftists collected in Capitol Hill, known for its hipster and LGBT scenes, they have barricaded themselves into a small area and established an anarchic intentional community… Seattle’s aspiring revolutionaries had only just announced the creation of CHAZ, as a place in which progressives can live free of corporate consumerism and police violence, when a local rapper-cum-warlord named Raz Simone began stalking the place with an armed militia. …I believe that the state and federal authorities should leave them alone. If people are being raped and killed in CHAZ then the officials will have to get involved, of course, but otherwise they should be left to their own devices. …for radical leftists to establish their own territory is, frankly, refreshing. For years they have been insisting that the culture, communities, education, religious beliefs et cetera of their fellow citizens be transformed in accordance with their own idiosyncratic ideas. Everyone has had to conform with their progressive beliefs. The CHAZers? They aren’t trying to reshape America. They are trying to build a place of their own. How is that not preferable? …Of course, I think CHAZ will be an embarrassing failure. I suspect it will collapse in a heap of shortages, grievances and recriminations… If it all collapses of its own accord, then a lot of radical progressives are going to have a tough, useful lesson in the value of civilized institutions.

In other words, let’s allow CHAZ to be a test case.

If it adopts a bunch of leftist policies (which seems likely), then we’ll almost surely see another example of socialism failing, even when it’s voluntary.

Though I’m crossing my fingers that the CHAZians adopt a libertarian approach to economics.

Given that Seattle has a very left-leaning government, we then might finally get an example to disprove Jacob Leddy.

Sadly, I don’t think that will happen. The city’s crazy politicians will be more than happy to tolerate CHAZ if it’s a socialist experiment, but they’ll send in the cops if it morphs into a libertarian experiment.

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Assuming the Democrats also win the Senate along with the White House, we may be poised to take a big leap in the direction of bigger government and more statism (which is why I explained a Clinton victory in 2016 would not have been the worst possible outcome).

As such, we may as well enjoy some laughs about our potential socialist future.

We’ll start with a creative reinterpretation of a scene from King of the Hill.

Looks like we’ll have to figure out other ways of rescuing young people from socialism.

Here’s a clever tweet from @ClassicLiberal.

Having visited Moscow shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I can assure you that socialist economies do a terrible job of producing goods that consumers actually value.

I’ve written many times about people on the left not understanding the real definition of socialism (government ownershipcentral planning, and price controls), so this next meme appealed to me.

And it also will appeal to me left-leaning friends since it shows that some folks on the right also don’t understand that the debate over socialism is not the same as the debate over redistributionism.

Last but not least, here’s the humorous version of my full-socialism-vs-full-stomachs column.

Very similar to the last memes in this column and this column.

Though, given what’s happening in Venezuela, we probably shouldn’t laugh.

P.S. For more examples of socialism humor, here’s a link to my collection.

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When making the case against socialism, I’ve pointed out how that coercive ideology is an evil and immoral failure.

But maybe the best argument is contained in this very short video that was shared by a group of Tory activists in the United Kingdom.

Ms. Badenoch is now a member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, and she was describing what it was like to grow up in Nigeria, a country where capitalism was not allowed to flourish.

Given the upside-down incentive system created by socialism, it’s no surprise that she endured hardship.

And while her story is just an anecdote, there is overwhelming evidence that nations with more economic liberty generate much better outcomes for ordinary people.

If you’re interested in learning more Ms. Badenoch, the U.K.-based Daily Mail profiled her back in 2017.

Kemi Badenoch is black; although British-born, she was raised in Nigeria by African parents, returned to England when she was 16 and rose from impoverished first-generation immigrant to parliamentarian in just 21 years. …Kemi, 37, married with two young children, won her safe seat in rural Essex with a 24,966-seat majority after Sir Alan Haselhurst, 80, stood down after 40 years. …What’s more, she was chosen ahead of Theresa May’s special adviser Stephen Parkinson, a Cambridge-educated white male. Kemi’s maiden Commons speech…marked her as a rising star. She spoke of her African childhood, saying: …‘Unlike many colleagues born since 1980, I was unlucky enough to live under socialist policies. It is not something I would wish on anyone, and it is just one of the reasons why I am a Conservative.’ …Kemi has a refreshing view of politics. …She supports Brexit — ‘the greatest ever vote of confidence in the project of the United Kingdom’ — and her heroes are Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher…she made a last-minute decision in favour of Leave. ‘And since, I’ve felt more and more confident that it was the right one,’ she says. ‘Many people who voted Brexit warmed to me because they felt I wasn’t a typical Leave voter. I’ve no time for those who say, “Brexit is all about racism.” That’s offensive. ‘It’s about sovereignty, bureaucracy and how we make our laws. …Kemi is fired up by the patriotism of the emigre who chose to live in Britain. ‘I’m Conservative because of the experiences I’ve had,’ she says. ‘I know what it’s like to live in a Third World country run by a regime with Socialist principles. It shaped my outlook and helped me appreciate how great Britain is.’

She was on the correct side on Brexit and Thatcher was one of her heroes. And she got the seat after beating out an ally of Theresa May, who was on the wrong side of Brexit.

That’s a very nice combination, but I want to zoom out and make a big-picture observation about how Ms. Badenoch’s move to the United Kingdom is part of a global pattern.

Simply stated, people vote with their feet against socialism.

People didn’t try to escape from West Germany to East Germany.

There are no caravans marching toward Venezuela (notwithstanding this satire).

Refugees aren’t in ramshackle boats trying to go from Florida to Cuba.

By the way, people also vote with their feet against big government inside the United States.

Needless to say, there’s a lesson to be learned from these migratory patterns.

P.S. If you like first-hand accounts of what it’s like to live under socialism, I recommend these videos from Gloria Alvarez, Thomas Peterffy, and two Venezuelans.

P.P.S. Ms. Badenoch’s video is only 37 seconds, but you can also learn about socialism in videos that last 10 seconds or less.

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