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Posts Tagged ‘Socialism’

I’m not a fan of Crazy Bernie, to put it mildly.

His policies would turn us into serfs and condemn people to poverty and deprivation.

But the silver lining of that dark cloud is that he is the unwitting source of some great humor. And that’s our topic today.

We’ll start with a brutal tweet. I don’t know @djPaulMarco, but – as the youngsters say – he dunked on the Vermont Senator.

 

Next we have some politically oriented humor.

I like to think this isn’t what really motivates Bernie’s young supporters, but you have to wonder what’s rattling around in their heads.

Sticking with the political theme, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez (who also is a great target for mockery) technically will still be too young to be on the ticket in 2020, but this bit of humor aptly describes the direction America will be heading if the so-called Green New Deal gets imposed on the country.

And since Senator Sanders wants government-coerced equality, I’m sure he’ll support this idea.

Especially since the DNC did this to him back in 2016.

The same principle apparently applies to yard signs as well.

Now let’s shift to public policy, though this next image also illustrates the socialist approach to vote buying.

In any event, it captures the essence of socialist economics.

A good theory, until there’s nobody left to do the buying.

Speaking of drinks, here’s a Bernie special offer.

I’m also a huge fan of this clever satire. Very appropriate to close with this item given what I wrote last weekend.

For other examples of Bernie humor, you can click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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I relentlessly mock socialism, in part because it’s such a target-rich environment. But I’m also hoping that humor is a way of debunking this wretched ideology. I’m worried, after all, that socialism may triumph thanks to a combination of “public choice” and diminishing societal capital.

Today, let review the case against socialism. We’ll start with this short clip from a recent interview, where I recycled my argument that greater levels of socialism produce greater levels of economic misery.

I now have some new evidence on my side, thanks to the just-released Economic Report of the President.

Here are some excerpts from the socialism chapter (begins on page 381), including some analysis about how to define the term.

…economists generally agree about how to define socialism, and they have devoted enormous time and resources to studying its costs and benefits. …we review the evidence from the highly socialist countries showing that they experienced sharp declines in output, especially in the industries that were taken over by the state. We review the experiences of economies with less extreme socialism and show that they also generate less output, although the shortfall is not as drastic as with the highly socialist countries. …Whether a country or industry is socialist is a question of the degree to which (1) the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned or regulated by the state; and (2) the state uses its control to distribute the country’s economic output without regard for final consumers’ willingness to pay or exchange (i.e., giving resources away “for free”). …we find that socialist public policies, though ostensibly well-intentioned, have clear opportunity costs that are directly related to the degree to which they tax and regulate.

The chapter looks at totalitarian forms of socialism.

…looking closely at the most extreme socialist cases, which are Maoist China, the USSR under Lenin and Stalin, Castro’s Cuba… Food production plummeted, and tens of mil-lions of people died from starvation in the USSR, China, and other agricultural economies where the state took command. Planning the nonagricultural parts of those economies also proved impossible. …Venezuela is a modern industrialized country that elected Hugo Chávez as its leader to implement socialist policies, and the result was less output in oil and other industries that were nationalized. In other words, the lessons from socialized agriculture carry over to government takeovers of oil, health insurance, and other modern industries: They produce less rather than more. …A broad body of academic literature…finds a strong association between greater economic freedom and better economic performance, suggesting that replacing U.S. policies with highly socialist policies, such as Venezuela’s, would reduce real GDP more than 40 percent in the long run, or about $24,000 a year for the average person.

For what it’s worth, the International Monetary Fund published some terrible research that said dramatically reduced living standards would be good if Americans were equally poor.

So I guess it makes sense that Crazy Bernie endorsed Venezuelan economic policy.

But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to the contents of the chapter, including this table that shows the collapse of agricultural output in Cuba following nationalization.

The chapter also looks at what is sometimes referred to as “democratic socialism” in the Nordic nations.

These countries don’t actually practice socialism since there is no government ownership of the means of production, no central planning, and no government-dictated prices.

But they do have bigger government, and the report echoes what I said in the interview about this leading to adverse consequences.

…the Nordic countries’ policies now differ significantly from policies that economists view as characteristic of socialism. …Nordic taxation overall is greater… Living standards in the Nordic countries, as measured by per capita GDP and consumption, are at least 15 percent lower than those in the United States. …a monopoly government health insurer to provide healthcare for “free” (i.e., without cost sharing) and to centrally set all prices paid to suppliers, such as doctors and hospitals. We find that if this policy were financed through higher taxes, GDP would fall by 9 percent, or about $7,000 per person in 2022.

The report notes that Nordic nations have cost sharing, so the economic losses in that excerpt would apply more to the British system, or to the “Medicare for All” scheme being pushed by some Democrats.

But Nordic-style fiscal policy is still very expensive.

It means higher taxes and lower living standards

I’ve previously shared AIC data, so regular readers already know this data.

And regular readers also won’t be surprised at this next chart since I wrote about Nima Sanandaji’s work back in 2015.

Here’s the bottom line from the report.

Highly socialist countries experienced sharp declines in output, especially in the industries that were taken over by the state. Economies with less extreme forms of socialism also generate less output, although the shortfall is not as drastic as with the highly socialist countries.

In other words, lots of socialism is really bad while some socialism is somewhat bad.

Let’s close by citing some other recent publications, starting with this editorial from the Wall Street Journal.

Democrats are embracing policies that include government control of ever-larger chunks of the private American economy. Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” …consider the Democratic agenda that is emerging from Congress and the party’s presidential contenders. …Bernie Sanders’ plan, which has been endorsed by 16 other Senators, would replace all private health insurance in the U.S. with a federally administered single-payer health-care program. Government would decide what care to deliver, which drugs to pay for, and how much to pay doctors and hospitals. Private insurance would be banned. …The Green New Deal…, endorsed by 40 House Democrats and several Democratic presidential candidates, would require that the U.S. be carbon neutral within 10 years. …this would mean a complete remake of American electric power, transportation and manufacturing. …as imagined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of this would be planned by a Select Committee For a Green New Deal. Soviet five-year plans were more modest.

The column also mentions government-guaranteed jobs, Washington imposing controls on businesses, and confiscatory tax rates, all of which are terrible policies.

Whether this is technically socialist can be debated.

What can’t be debated is that this agenda would make the U.S. – at best – akin to Greece in terms of economic liberty.

Here’s a look at some excerpts from a column in the Weekly Standard.

…more and more people, particularly young people, tell pollsters they’re open to the idea of voting for a socialist. In a poll this summer, Democrats by a 10-point margin said they prefer socialism to capitalism. …The tide has certainly shifted against free enterprise, an economic system that has lifted countless masses out of abject poverty, and toward socialism, whose track record is far worse, to put it charitably. …The younger generation also seems curiously unwilling to credit capitalism with the creation of modern conveniences they hold so dear. There’s a reason text messaging and Netflix didn’t emerge from Cuba or North Korea. Socialism is traditionally defined as the government owning the means of production, and it just as traditionally leads to authoritarianism. …With a body count in the millions, you’d think “socialism” would be hard to rebrand. But thanks to Bernie, being a socialist is in vogue. …The Sandernistas say that “democratic socialism” is a more benign variant, akin to what is practiced in Scandinavia. Yes, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are clean, prosperous, and beautiful countries…and not particularly socialist. Their tax rates may be high, but they have thriving private sectors and no minimum wage laws. Their economies rank as “mostly free,” the same category as the United States

Most interesting, we also have a column by Cass Sunstein, a former Obama appointee.

President Donald Trump was entirely right to reject “new calls to adopt socialism in our country.” He was right to add that “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion,” and to “renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” …socialism calls for government ownership or control of the means of production. By contrast, capitalism calls for private ownership and control — for a robust system of property rights. In capitalist systems, companies and firms, both large and small, are generally in private hands. In socialist systems, the state controls them. …Socialist systems give public officials a great deal of authority over prices, levels of production and wages. …Whether we are speaking of laptops or sneakers, coffee or candy bars, umbrellas or blankets, markets establish prices, levels of production and wages on the basis of the desires, the beliefs and the values of countless people. No planner can possibly do that. …Those who now favor large-scale change should avoid a term, and a set of practices, that have so often endangered both liberty and prosperity.

Last but not least, here’s a video about socialism.

Narrated by Gloria Alvarez, it looks at the grim evidence from Cuba and Venezuela.

And she also points out that Nordic nations are not socialist.

Indeed, most of them would be closer to the United States than to France on this statism spectrum.

In other words, the real lesson is not that socialism is bad (that should be obvious), but rather that there’s a strong relationship between national prosperity and economic liberty.

Simply stated, the goal of policy makers should be to reject all forms of collectivism (including communism and fascism) and instead strive to minimize the footprint of government.

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There’s nothing funny about communism and socialism in the real-world.

The totalitarian version is horrifying and brutal, while the benign version is “merely” debilitating to economic performance and vitality.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy some laughs by mocking these awful ideologies.

We’ll start today’s collection with a look at socialism vs. democratic socialism.

I actually think there is a real difference between Marxist socialism and liberal socialism, but I also think economic coercion and political coercion are kissing cousins.

Our next bit of satire reminds me of Venezuela. Chavez and Maduro chose the option on the right.

Next we have examples of false advertising (though I’m sure we’ll be told that “real socialism” and “real communism” haven’t been tried.

Let’s close today’s edition with a tribute to Crazy Bernie.

While I enjoy Bernie-focused humor (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), I have to point out that the above image, while amusing, isn’t accurate.

Michael Moore and Chavez’s daughter also have huge bank accounts.

To see the entire collection of communism and socialism humor, click here.

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Socialism is a joke. It doesn’t work. And it is so often a gateway to totalitarianism.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In this interview, I express my concern that the United States has passed a tipping point.

In the discussion, I included my usual caveat about the meaning of socialism.

I prefer the technical definition, which involves government ownership of the means of production, central planning, and government-dictated prices. But most people assume it simply means big government, in which case it’s hard to find nations that don’t qualify.

Regardless of the best definition, the reason for my pessimism is simple. It’s a combination of changing demographics and poorly designed entitlement programs.

For all intents and purposes, we’re on a trajectory (the “most predictable crisis in history“) to become another Greece.

The good news is that we probably have a couple of decades before the crisis occurs. The bad news is that our political class seems to have no interest in the reforms that would be necessary to avert the crisis.

Though maybe the crisis will occur sooner than we think. I wrote back in 2015 that the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was merely a discussion over how fast we should drive in the wrong direction.

Well, Crazy Bernie didn’t get the nomination, but he seems to have won the war for the soul of the party. As I point out in this second clip, the radicals are now in the ascendancy on the left.

By the way, here’s the interview with Thomas Sowell that was used as a lead-in to my interview. He may be even more pessimistic than I am.

Though you’ll notice that Professor Sowell included a caveat, speculating that maybe there will be some unforeseeable development that saves the western world (or perhaps just the United States) from gradual decay.

Let’s close this column with some optimism on that point.

I’m old enough to remember the malaise of the 1970s, which wasn’t just based on the economic mess caused by Nixon-style and Carter-style statism. Many people also thought capitalism was no better than communism and that we needed to find some sort of middle ground (and some economists were horribly guilty of this sin).

Thankfully, Reagan had a different approach (including mockery rather than moral equivalence) and the western world won the Cold War.

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I realize that mocking socialism is like taking candy from a baby, but I have several items to add to our collection.

But today I’m going to follow the advice of some readers who have told me that I should make a serious point with each bit of satire so that readers (especially those not already immersed in these issues) understand why socialism is both laughable and tragic.

Our first example is some humor based on The Simpson’s, and it makes the important point that majoritarian coercion is still coercion.

Which is why America’s Founders did their best to limit the extent of majoritarian democracy.

I like this next image because it’s the satirical version of my column on why the left should be nice to upper-income taxpayers.

Sadly, my friends on the left seem unable to resist killing – or at least driving away – those golden geese.

And when more and more people are riding in the wagon and fewer and fewer people are pulling the wagon, the end result is not pretty.

Speaking of not pretty, this is the R-rated version of a great Michael Ramirez cartoon.

President Eisenhower also had something to say about free stuff.

Moving to our next example, socialists have this romantic notion of a society where everyone pulls together for the common good.

But when they try to set up such systems on a voluntary basis, they inevitably fail because of an unsolvable incentive structure.

Which is what makes this sign funny…and accurate.

Reminds me of this superb tweet.

Our final example just appeared in my inbox this morning, so it’s very well timed.

It makes the all-important point that ever-expanding government power is bad for civil liberties (hence this very powerful poster about gun control) and bad for full stomachs.

While the image is funny, the real-world consequences are not.

Poor people are starving to death in Venezuela.

And don’t forget the tens of millions of deaths thanks to famines in Mao’s China or the Ukraine under Stalin. Or the mass starvation in North Korea (which was portrayed as a triumph against obesity by an especially despicable bureaucrat at the World Health Organization).

To be sure, there’s a big difference between liberal socialism and totalitarian socialism. I’d take the former if forced to choose. And even when considering liberal socialism, there’s are big differences between market-friendly versions and intervention-based versions.

But, all things considered, I prefer freedom and prosperity.

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I have an entire page dedicated to columns that mock the evils of socialism and communism.

But we may need a special section for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her vapid – yet earnest – smiley-face statism.

I’ve already shared some AOC humor, but only incidental examples while making other points.

Today, the entire column is dedicated to the younger version of Crazy Bernie.

We’ll start by mocking things she has actually said. Our first item is self-explanatory, at least for anyone with a passing familiarity with 20th-century history.

Our next example captures her utopian statism.

Just think Green New Deal.

I don’t believe this next example is an exact quote, but she is a rabid climate alarmist (though hopefully not this extreme or this extreme) and did say something about time running out, which makes this next bit of satire rather amusing.

Though we should already be boiling to death according to some of Al Gore’s fevered statements, so you can probably still make long-term plans.

AOC is also amazingly ignorant of America’s system of government (probably on purpose since I’m sure she would be horrified about the views of the Founders), though this doesn’t stop her from pontificating on the topic.

Let’s get briefly serious.

Some people say we shouldn’t be giving AOC so much attention.

I disagree. Her ideas are so nutty that she presumably helps ordinary people realize that big government is a bad idea.

Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal agrees that her radicalism will backfire on Democrats.

The Republican Party has a secret weapon for 2020. It’s especially effective because it’s stealthy… All Republicans have to do is sit back and watch 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez… In a few months she’s gone from an unknown New York bartender to the democratic socialist darling of the left and its media hordes. …Republicans don’t know whether to applaud or laugh. Most do both. …what’s not to love? …She’s made friends with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, who has been accused of anti-Semitism. She’s called the American system of wealth creation “immoral” and believes government has a duty to provide “economic security” to people who are “unwilling to work.” …Ms. Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her vaunted Green New Deal…which AOC is determined to force a full House vote. That means every Democrat in Washington will get to go on the record in favor of abolishing air travel, outlawing steaks, forcing all American homeowners to retrofit their houses, putting every miner, oil rigger, livestock rancher and gas-station attendant out of a job, and spending trillions and trillions more tax money. Oh, also for government-run health care, which is somehow a prerequisite for a clean economy. …The Green New Deal encapsulates everything Americans fear from government, all in one bonkers resolution. …AOC may not prove able to eradicate “fully” every family Christmas or strip of bacon in a decade, but that’s the goal. …Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a freight train gaining speed by the day—and helping Republicans with every passing minute.

Now back to having some fun.

Let’s look at two made-up quotes, both of which are very amusing because you could easily imagine her making these statements.

We’ll start with her proof that socialism is successful.

And here’s a made-up observation about trade policy.

Actually, I don’t recall her supporting protectionism, so it’s possible that there may be an issue where she actually is on the side of economic liberty.

As we begin to wrap up, here’s a satirical video that’s been circulating. Enjoy.

Last but not least, I don’t know if she actually said this next statement, but I’m including it because it made me laugh (though since Venezuelans are eating zoo animals and household pets, I realize it’s not funny in real life).

I also wish the creator of this meme used somebody other than Trump. After all, he’s also guilty of supporting some big-government policies, so he’s hardly the best person to throw stones at socialism since he’s in a house that’s part glass.

But let’s not get hung up on technicalities. I’m for good political satire, even if I don’t agree with the message.

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Over the past four days, I’ve looked at the supposed socialism of Venezuela, the Nordic nations, Greece, and France.

And I chose those nations deliberately because I used them as examples in this clip from a recent interview.

All of them are sometimes labeled as socialist countries, but if you look at the rankings from Economic Freedom of the World, you notice that this analysis doesn’t make much sense.

For example, the Nordic nations have a lot of economic liberty and are only slightly behind to the United States, which is why I explained last year that if those nations are socialist, then so is America.

And there is a big gap between the Nordic nations and France. And then another big gap before getting to Greece, and also a big gap before reaching Venezuela at the bottom. Should all of those nations get the same label?

So where do we draw the line to separate socialist nations from non-socialist nations?

I confess that I don’t have an answer because (as I’ve noted many times) we don’t have a good definition of socialism.

If socialism is central planning, government-determined prices, and government ownership of the means of production, then the only nations that really qualify are probably Cuba and North Korea. And they aren’t even part of the rankings because of inadequate economic data.

But if having a welfare state is socialism, then every jurisdiction other than Hong Kong and Singapore presumably qualifies.

Given this imprecision, I’m very curious to see where people think the line should be drawn.

P.S. This is why I usually just refer to statism or statists.

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